Understanding Xochiquetzal: The Dove as Responsibility

I’ve been offered traditional knowledge from people who’ve been in long relationships with their natural surroundings. They’ve taught me to listen to the subtleties of these surroundings and all that is happening around me, while always acknowledging that everything is alive.

Through this knowledge, I’ve developed my own understanding of the natural environment. An understanding planted and rooted in a very personal relationship to place. An awe-invoking respect for saguaros, always acknowledging that they are the longest-standing ancestors I will ever have the privilege of being beside. A commitment to care for the creosote the way it cares for this land and its people. A responsibility of reciprocity to the nopal for being a big part of my summer survival strategy. 

Through this knowledge, the White-winged Dove is not only the Zenaida asiatica, not only only the sum of its parts. From my understanding, the White-winged Dove is medicine, a messenger of medicine, symbolic of so much.

In Aztec mythology, the dove represents Xochiquetzal, the goddess of love, and is believed to be the mother of all humanity. Xochiquetzal was the Goddess of Art, Dance, Love and Music. She lived on the top of a mountain above the Nine Heavens. It was said that those who were faithful to her would spend eternity in her paradise. There came a flood which destroyed all of earth’s creatures but Xochiquetzal and one mortal man. Together they had many children to repopulate the earth. Each child was born voiceless. Xochiquetzal called upon a dove to descend from the Tree of Heaven and give them each a unique voice and language. It was believed that all of the different races and languages came from these different children. Thus Xochiquetzal was honored as the Mother of the World.

The dove’s roles are as spirit messenger, a maternal symbol. Doves are commonly considered a symbol of motherhood because of their unique ability to produce their own milk. Another confirmation about maternal attributes, as well as self-sacrifice for the sake of their offspring, is that they cease foraging for food just before their babies are born. This temporary starvation ensures a purer milk formulation for their offspring.

Doves have the ability to move between two worlds (sky and earth); bird totems are uniquely poised to funnel higher knowledge down to our human conscious awareness. They link intangible knowing (thought, dreams, intuition) with physical practicality (hearth, home, security). The dove’s singing is most prevalent when the veils between the physical and spiritual worlds are thought to be at their thinnest – first thing in the morning and last thing at night – again representing a link between two divergent domains. Bird totems offer inspiration combined with a grounding element to make new ideas implementable. On earth, they are intimately aware of their environment and demonstrate a highly developed sense of presence.

It is said that if a dove flies into your life, you are being asked to go within and release your emotional disharmony. The dove helps us to rid the trauma stored deep within our cellular memory. When inner conflicts are banished from our thoughts, words and feelings, goodness awaits. The dove’s roles as spirit messenger liaison impart an inner peace that helps us to go about our lives calmly and with purpose. Doves carry the energy of promise. The dove represents peace of the deepest kind. It soothes and quiets our worried or troubled thoughts, enabling us to find renewal in the silence of the mind. Doves teach us that, regardless of external circumstances, peace is always a touch away – within us – and always available.

I respectfully call on all my relations. I call on the resiliency of the ancestral saguaros, the commitment of the creosote, and the survivalist spirit of the nopal, so that we may fully understand the medicine of these messengers: Xochiquetzal, the dove. And may this greater understanding engage our greater responsibility to everything.



  • Diane Stelly
    Posted at 10:27h, 13 December

    I enjoyed this history lesson very much. Please put my email on your mailing list for future such messages and stories.
    Thanks, Diane

  • Gary Walters
    Posted at 14:24h, 23 April

    Beautifully expressing the significance of
    Quetzalcoatl. Thank you. P

  • Leticia
    Posted at 06:38h, 21 June

    Beautiful! Thank you!

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