A bright spot of red decorates the trees during the winter holiday season, but this isn’t an ornament hanging inside. This is Mother Earth bringing a splash of bright color to the trees with a robin redbreast. These small, plump migratory birds are best known for their red coloring and beautiful song. Robins can be found in countries all over the world, from North America to central Siberia, and they make their biggest appearance in most areas, including the US, during the winter holiday.
But it isn’t just our modern winter holidays that have adopted the robin as a symbol of the season. The robin has been seen as a powerful spirit animal in many cultures over time as it shows up right before spring. Robins bring with them the energy of Ostara, which focuses on the renewal of life.
The history of the robin goes deeper than just their appearance in winter before spring arrives. In Celtic mythology, two kings have eternally battled for power as the wheel of the year turns. The Dark Holly King and his twin, the Light Oak King, fight for dominance each year at the solstices through the waxing and waning cycles of the seasons. The Holly King disguises himself as a wren, while the Oak King disguises himself as a robin. In their battles, the Holly King reigns from Midsummer to Yule, and the Oak King reigns from Yule to Midsummer. The Holly King brings darkness and destruction to the waning time of the year as the earth moves into the colder seasons and the crops die. But the Holly King also represents a quiet inner reflection and the mysteries of the deep. The Oak King brings light and growth as the earth becomes fertile once more and the crops begin to grow once again. They continuously battle in a never-ending loop where the Holly King wins at Midsummer, and the Oak King wins at Yule. As they each overthrow one another, the cycle of the seasons can continue.
But the Celts weren’t the only ones to incorporate robins into their myth and lore. In European mythology, the robin was also a symbol of growth and renewal as it was linked to divine sacrifice and the rebirth of the spirit. Christians associate the robin with Jesus as it was said to have flown down and landed atop his crown of thorns. As it tried to remove the thorns from Jesus, one tore a scratch down its breast. The breast of the bird remained red to honor them for their noble attempt to help Jesus.
However, other paths believe the red markings on the robin are linked to the kundalini (dormant potential force) in man. When spiritual growth has been achieved, the kundalini unwinds from the base of the spine and moves up to create a heightened awareness leading to enlightenment. The red markings on the robin symbolize its dedication to the spiritual world.
While birds are typically considered an element of air, they are associated with fire in some Native American legends and other belief systems. In the Iroquois tale, a pure white robin helps bring comfort to a dying man as he builds a fire within a lodge. While making the fire, the robin’s breast becomes covered with red and brown burnt areas. But the robin frets not as the ultimate joy for the bird was helping to soothe the man’s passage into death. Depending on the legend, the robin can either be the guardian of the fire or the thief due to its red-breasted feathers.
Old British folktales warned of harming or killing a robin as the consequences would be immensely unlucky and bring about pain, sorrow, and heartache. But worse was destroying a robin’s nest, as it could very specifically result in the perpetrator’s home being destroyed by lightning or fire. In Norse mythology, the robin is sacred to Thor as it is seen as a storm-cloud bird but has also been associated with Odin due to the robin’s ancient association with fire.
Robins have traditionally been associated with spring and Ostara because they symbolize new growth. This growth can occur in any area that has become stagnant or outdated, from our personal perspectives on issues to our wardrobes. Their song is lighthearted and happy, reminding the listener that moving forward can be done with joy in the heart. The musicality they bring reminds us to let go of the drama and remember life is full of learning and should be accompanied by a lot of laughter.
The eggs of a robin are a light powdered blue. The color blue is associated with the throat chakra and is also linked to inspiration. As a symbol of both the sun and the moon, the masculine and the feminine, the egg represents new life and new beginnings. The throat chakra focuses on expression, and the robin egg can be a reminder of expressing ourselves in a creative, unique, and positive way in any aspect of our lives.
The robin can teach us many valuable lessons about how to approach life and all its interactions. Part of growth is learning to deal with conflicts maturely. Male robins handle their territorial disputes by singing to one another back and forth rather than engaging in any type of physical altercation. Their song is their way of communicating to solve their dispute. We can also meet conflict with our own song to remember that communicating directly without aggression can help solve more problems than becoming hot-headed.
The robin is a strong ally during the winter months. They can actually live year-round in an area if there is an abundant food supply and do not have to migrate. So when you see a robin, it is always a sign of good luck and abundance. Just know that when you spot one during the winter or spring, luck and good energy are quickly flying your way!
Spell for Growth
Growth is a natural part of life for all living things. From infancy to maturity, we continue to grow both physically and emotionally. As we continue to age, our physical growth may be over, but growth in knowledge can continue forever. During the season of renewal, as we see the earth once again producing new life and new growth, we too can learn from the patterns around us. Each year, robins can be seen around the winter holiday. They are powerful animals as they are able to nurture themselves into adulthood and simultaneously become excellent parents. These birds are full of energy and ring in new growth with their song of spring to come.
It is often hard to make progress when our past experiences hold on to us very tightly. In order for new growth to occur, we must sometimes unburden ourselves from our memories and pain so that we are free to nurture and serve ourselves to the best of our ability. This ritual will help you let go of the past and move on so that you can begin to heal and grow from the experience.
- robin (item/photo of a robin)
Begin by finding a comfortable space and settling in. Make sure you are in an area where you will not be disturbed by two or four-legged creatures. Take a few deep breaths and let the worries of the day fall off of you as your space becomes a sacred area for your journey.
Place the image of the robin where you can see it easily. Relax your body as you focus on the image. Feel yourself slowly becoming the robin. You stretch your wings, peck at the trees, and make a beautiful song. Soar over the land from above, observing life around you. The wind carries you along on your journey and back into the past. Fly as the robin back into your past and find a place where you may have become stuck. As the robin, untie the strings that hold you to the memory. The strings will always remain a part of your nest, but they no longer have to attach you to the pain. When you are ready, fly back and land in the present.
With the power of your robin, create a mantra to help you move forward. Use characteristics of the robin as a guide for your mantra. Write down what you desire most for positive growth right now. Turn it into a declarative, affirmative statement by imaging you already have what you are looking for. Always use the first person because your mantra should be personal to you, so go with “I have” and “I am” statements. Avoid negative words like not and never as you want your statement to be positive. Write it down and repeat it as often as you need! Remember the way you speak to yourself can move you forward or keep you stuck, and your mantra is there to help you reframe your thoughts for growth.