Cormorant Symbolism and Meaning

Cormorant Symbolism

The cormorant is a large aquatic bird found across the world near bodies of water. With its dark plumage and expert fishing abilities, the cormorant has accumulated rich symbolic meaning across various cultures. This guide will explore the extensive symbolism and significance behind the cormorant.

Overview of Cormorant Symbolism

Cormorant Symbolism

In many cultures, the cormorant is associated with mystery, darkness, diving deep, fishing skillfully, adaptability, intelligence, community, balance, and self-reliance. Here are some of the common symbolic meanings tied to cormorants:

  • Venturing into the unknown
  • Taking risks, being open to new experiences
  • Serving the community
  • Breaking overthinking habits
  • Achieving fame and fortune
  • Letting go of unfulfilling relationships
  • Accessing intuition and arcane knowledge
  • Triumphing over adversity

Cormorant Symbolism in Mythology and Folklore

The cormorant has been featured in myths, legends, and folklore around the world:

Norse Mythology: The god Odin was accompanied by two cormorants that represented wisdom and occult knowledge.

Japanese Folklore: The cormorant represented perseverance and determination.

English Folklore: It was considered bad luck for fishermen if a cormorant perched on their boat.

Native American Folklore: Some tribes believed the cormorant delivered messages from beyond the spirit world.

Example From Norse Mythology

In Norse mythology, Odin, the god of wisdom, poetry, war, and death, obtained his great wisdom partially through two cormorant helpers named Huginn and Muninn (“Thought” and “Memory”). Every day they would fly around the world and return to Odin to keep him informed, representing Odin’s vast knowledge and occult powers.

Cormorant Symbolism By Culture

Cormorant Symbolism

The cormorant holds unique meanings across different cultures:

Chinese Culture

  • Longevity and nobility
  • Diligence
  • Ability to dive deep for fish representing the depth of wisdom

Japanese Culture

  • Perseverance and determination
  • Rising up from adversity

Native American Culture

  • Community cooperation
  • Fishing skills and provision
  • Messenger from the spiritual world

Celtic Culture

  • Family and community ties
  • Emotional depth and intuition
  • The sea and Otherworld

Examples of Cormorant Symbolism in Art and Literature

Cormorant Symbolism japane

Cormorants have made many symbolic appearances in art and literature:

Here is a summary of cormorant symbolism in mythology and literature:

  • In Greek mythology, a sea nymph disguised herself as a cormorant to help Ulysses by giving him a magic girdle to stay afloat after a storm. The cormorant here symbolizes aid and protection.
  • In Norse mythology and folklore, three cormorants flying together were believed to carry messages from the dead to the living. The cormorant was seen as a messenger between worlds.
  • In Polynesian mythology, the demigod Māui used cormorant feathers to make himself handsome to marry the daughters of a chief. The cormorant represents beauty and nobility.
  • In Irish folklore, a cormorant perched on a church steeple foretells bad luck. The cormorant is an omen of misfortune.
  • In England, the mythical Liver Bird of Liverpool combines features of an eagle and a cormorant. It symbolizes protection.
  • In John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Satan takes the form of a cormorant to enter the Garden of Eden and tempt Eve. The cormorant represents greed and deception.

In summary, cormorants have been variably portrayed as messengers, omens, transformers, and tricksters in different mythologies around the world. Their symbolism ranges from benevolent to sinister.

Cormorant Fishing in Japanese Art

Classical Japanese art often depicted the practice of cormorant fishing, where fishermen used trained cormorants to catch fish. The cormorant represented a kind of cooperative symbiosis between man and nature, showcasing Japanese fishing culture.

Cormorant Symbolism By Color


The color of the cormorant also adds additional meaning:

  • Black cormorants symbolize mystery, depth, the shadow self, and diving into the unknown.
  • White cormorants represent purity, nobility, and enlightenment. Rare white cormorants were seen as holy creatures.
  • Blue-green sheen on cormorant feathers signifies the changing nature of water and life.

The Black Cormorant

With feathers darker than the night sea, the iconic black cormorant has come to represent the mysteries of the watery abyss, the shadow self, occult wisdom, and diving into the great unknown void. The black color symbolizes its adaptability and ability to thrive in the depth and darkness of the waters.

Cormorant Meaning in Dreams


When the cormorant appears in your dreams, it carries important messages:

  • Swallowing stones or fish means you must make sacrifices and dive deeper spiritually.
  • Fishing skillfully indicates prosperity coming your way.
  • Drying wings suggests you should embrace your fluid, adaptable nature.
  • Perching on a boat warns of potential disputes ahead.
  • Flying and diving represents overcoming challenges through determination.

Analyzing a Cormorant Dream

If you have a dream where you see a cormorant diving into the water and catching many fish, this may indicate financial success coming your way by strongly focusing on your goals. The cormorant’s excellent fishing skills reflect your abilities to achieve prosperity through determination and focus.

Cormorant Encounters and Omens


Encountering a cormorant can also carry meaning:

  • Crossing paths with a cormorant represents unknown adventures ahead.
  • Seeing a cormorant colony is an omen of community growth and cooperation.
  • Spotting a lone cormorant diving may signal it’s time to search within yourself.
  • A cormorant landing on your boat warns of potential conflicts and turmoil.

Cormorant Lands on Your Boat

If a cormorant were to land on your boat while fishing, this carries an ominous warning. Historically, fishermen viewed this as very bad luck, portending disputes, accidents, or turmoil ahead. To avoid calamity, sailors would quickly shoo the bird away. So remain vigilant if a cormorant crosses your path.

Cormorant Mythology and Folklore

Cormorant head

The cormorant has been featured prominently in mythology and folklore across the world:

Norse Mythology

Odin’s two cormorant companions represented wisdom and occult knowledge

Japanese Folklore

The cormorant symbolizes perseverance and determination

English Folklore

Fishermen considered the cormorant landing on their boat very bad luck

Native American Folklore

Some tribes believed the cormorant was a messenger from the spirit world

Cormorant Spirit Animal


For people who share a deep affinity with the cormorant, it may present itself as their spirit animal with the following meanings:

Personality and Characteristics

  • Adventurous, willing to take risks
  • Loves exploring the unknown
  • Independent yet strongly community-oriented
  • Enjoys serving their neighborhood and helping others
  • Passionate about causes they care about
  • Hard-working and motivated, dedicated to achieving goals
  • Excellent sense of humor
  • Strong intuition and connection to the elements of water and air

Life Challenges and Lessons

  • Learning to balance community and independence
  • Letting go of past hurts or relationships
  • Tapping into their intuition
  • Overcoming fear of the unknown
  • Not being afraid to dive deep spiritually and emotionally

Power and Strengths

  • Fosters very strong family and community bonds
  • Ability to persist through difficult times
  • Comfort in obscure, mysterious, or unknown situations
  • Skill at maneuvering change and upheaval
  • Power to delve beneath the surface for hidden truths

Cormorant Totem Animal


Those with a cormorant as their totem animal share the sea bird’s symbolic attributes:


  • Natural team players, who enjoy collaboration
  • Strongly connected to family and community
  • Find fulfillment in helping their neighborhoods
  • Know exactly what they want from life
  • Imaginative and self-assured
  • Excellent sense of humor

Life Path

  • Value close family ties and friendships
  • Often live near water habitats they resonate with
  • Attracted to exploration, discovery, and the unknown
  • Willing to take big risks to achieve their ambitions
  • Build wealth through focus and determination


  • Fear of the unknown and unfamiliar
  • Tendency to overthink instead of trusting intuition
  • Holding onto past injuries or toxic relationships
  • Maintaining work-life balance


With its black plumage, fishing prowess, and at-home nature in the water, the cormorant has accumulated rich symbolic meanings related to mystery, darkness, adaptability, community, diving deep, and self-reliance across cultures and traditions worldwide. From gracing Norse myths to representing perseverance in Japanese folklore to serving as an omen on sailor’s ships, the cormorant continues to capture the human imagination. Uncovering the deeper meaning behind animal symbolism grants powerful insights into life, so next time a cormorant enters your awareness, contemplate the hidden messages it may bring.

Cormorant close-up


A cormorant appearing in dreams often carries significant messages or warnings. Analyze what the cormorant was doing and your feelings during the dream. Swallowing stones or fish may mean sacrifices ahead. Fishing skillfully can signal prosperity coming. And perching on a boat may warn of future troubles.

Fishermen traditionally saw cormorants landing on their boats as very bad luck, portending accidents, disputes, or other problems ahead. So in that context, it was seen as a bad omen. However, it could also signal upcoming changes or transitions.

For some Native American tribes, the cormorant was seen as an emissary or messenger from the spirit world, capable of traversing between water and air realms. They represented community cooperation, fishing skills, and the interconnectivity of nature.

With their uniformly black plumage, cormorants have been strongly linked to darkness, mystery, and the shadow self. Their exceptional diving abilities connect them to the watery unknown and exploration of the enigmatic depths. Hence, cormorants symbolize comfortably plunging into the obscurities of the unseen.

In Norse myths, Odin, the god of wisdom and death, was accompanied by two cormorants named Huginn and Muninn representing thought and memory. They journeyed across the world each day then returned to inform Odin, symbolizing Odin’s vast knowledge, occult powers, and command over the hidden realms.

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