What Does the Dolphin Symbolize?

Gordon Wrigley/CC-BY 2.0

The dolphin holds various symbolic meanings including nourishment, caregiver and the broader process of life, death and rebirth. The symbolism and spiritual meaning of dolphins varies among cultures and regions. In many places, dolphins have been revered as mystical creatures for many years, and have appeared in artwork and in literature since the days of the ancient Romans and ancient Greeks.

The specific symbolic and spiritual meaning attributed to dolphins is gathered by historians and researchers from the artifacts left by ancient orators and artists throughout history. Depictions of dolphins in sculptures, pottery and ceramics dating back to early Greek history suggest that dolphins held a considerable amount of significance for the ancient Greeks. Dolphins are inscribed in many sculptures from this period alongside the goddess Atargatis, who in ancient Greek mythology is the goddess of motherhood and vegetation. Atargatis also brings life and vitality to individuals while alive and oversees their transition to the afterlife. Dolphins are thought to symbolize these motherly traits, and are involved with the broader processes of life, death and rebirth. In Roman literature, dolphins are described as transporting deceased souls to their places of final rest, and appear in ancient pictures inside the hands of the dead, which indicates they helped people have a smooth transition to the afterlife.