Featured Photo of the Baltimore Oriole by David Mark
- Physical Description: Orioles have black, yellow, and orange plumage; the female is duller than the male. The bird measures approximately 7 to 9 inches long, has a wingspan of approximately 10 inches, and a weight of 1 ¼ ounces. The oriole has a long slender beak and tail.
- Geographic Distribution: The Old-World oriole family (Oriolidae) is found across Africa, Europe, Asia, and Australia. New World orioles (Icteridae) that live in southern Canada and the northern United States migrate all the way to Central America, a difficult migration that can claim the lives of younger orioles.
- Environment: Orioles are arboreal, meaning they live mostly within treed areas.
Myths, Folklore, and Cultural Associations
In China, the oriole represents music and joy; admired for its song, the bird became a symbol of beautiful music. In Chinese, the written word for oriole is composed of the symbols for “beautiful” and “bird”. During the Ming Dynasty, the oriole was the badge of certain civil officials, and later became the emblem of the court musicians.
The Baltimore oriole became the state bird of Maryland in 1947 and was protected by the state as early as 1882 by a specially passed law. The Baltimore oriole was so named because its colors (black and orange red) are like those of the coat of arms belonging to Lord Baltimore. The oriole is the mascot of Baltimore’s professional baseball team, the Baltimore Orioles, and it is sometimes referred to as a golden robin. A Navajo creation myth has the oriole, along with the mockingbird, selected as the king of the birds.
In Vainakh mythology, the goddess Seelasat, whose name means oriole, is a defender of virgins.
In Poland, if you hear a golden oriole calling, rain is imminent.
An American folk story collected by Florence Holbrook says the oriole was once a hornet, changed into a beautiful bird as thanks for defending the kingdom of the south from a northern attack. This is why the oriole’s nest is shaped somewhat like a hornet’s.
Omens and Divinatory Meaning
If you see an oriole, positive change is coming your way. If you have been having emotional difficulty, particularly lack of joy, the oriole reminds you that happiness is in the simple things of life if you only pause to see them, and that often those simple things are already in your possession. The oriole can represent a new creative venture, or the imminent awakening of a dormant creative ability.
The oriole’s woven hanging nest associates it with handicrafts and creativity. If you see an oriole examine your current level of creativity. This does not mean solely artistic output, although that can certainly be an element. How do you employ creativity in your life? Do you use creative solutions in your career or workplace instead of relying on the same old basic problem-solving strategies? The oriole encourages you to think outside the box, to access your creative ability and activity, and to experiment.
The oriole also connotes domesticity. If you see one, it may be reminding you to look to your home to ensure that it’s serving your needs properly. A home should offer a sense of security, relaxation, and safety. It should nurture your spirit and offer you a space for recreation as well as a place where you may rest and recuperate. Your home also provides a space in which you and your family can grow, share, and develop. The oriole reminds you to take time to appreciate you home, to do any little jobs that have been waiting for completion, to tidy up, and to generally take pride in your space.
Associated Energies: Beginning of summer, new projects, creativity, sunshine, happiness, and cheer; domesticity, positive energy
Associated Season: Summer
Elemental Associations: Air, Fire
Color Associations: Yellow, orange, black
REFERENCE: Birds, a Spiritual Field Guide, Explore the Symbology & Significance of These Divine Winged Messengers by Arin Murphy-Hiscock
I came across this stunning artwork on Redbubble by artist, Divine Passerine. The title of it is called “Black-Naped Oriole in the Clutches of a Qing Dynasty Manchu Woman”.
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I am from Maryland, but have only seen a few orioles in my whole life. They really are amazing birds!
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