Doves as symbols
Doves, usually white in color, are used in a variety of settings as symbols of love, peace or as messengers. Doves appear in the symbology of Judaism and Christianity and of both military and pacifist groups.
Christianity and Judaism
The Holy Spirit
In Christian Iconography, a dove also symbolizes the Holy Spirit, in reference to Matthew 3:16 and Luke 3:22 where the Holy Spirit is compared to a dove at the Baptism of Jesus. The early Christians in Rome incorporated into their funerary art the image of a dove carrying an olive branch, often accompanied by the word "Peace". It seems that they derived this image from the simile in the Gospels, combining it with the symbol of the olive branch, which had been used to represent peace by the Greeks and Romans. The dove and olive branch also appeared in Christian images of Noah's ark. The fourth century Vulgate translated the Hebrew alay zayit (leaf of olive) in Genesis 8:11 as ramum olivae (branch of olive). By the fifth century, Augustine of Hippo wrote in On Christian Doctrine that, "perpetual peace is indicated by the olive branch (oleae ramusculo) which the dove brought with it when it returned to the ark."
Doves or other birds are sometimes released at Christian weddings. They are generally the valued property of individuals who provide them specifically for this purpose. They are regularly permitted to fly free from their home dove cotes and therefore know very well how to fly back home after leaving the scene of the marriage ceremony. All rock pigeons are capable of homing over such short distances, but occasionally birds may be distracted by finding a mate or be caught by a predator.
Peace and pacifism in politics
Doves are often associated with the concept of peace and pacifism. They often appear in political cartoons, on banners and signs at events promoting peace (such as the Olympic Games, at various anti-war/anti-violence protests, etc.), and in pacifist literature. A person who is a pacifist is sometimes referred to as a dove (similarly, in American politics, a person who advocates the use of military resources as opposed to diplomacy can be referred to as a hawk). Picasso's lithograph, La Colombe (The Dove), a traditional, realistic picture of a pigeon, without an olive branch, was chosen as the emblem for the World Peace Congress in Paris in April 1949. The dove became a symbol for the peace movement and the ideals of the Communist Party and was used in Communist demonstrations of the period. At the 1950 World Peace Congress in Sheffield, Picasso said that his father had taught him to paint doves, concluding, "I stand for life against death; I stand for peace against war." At the 1952 World Peace Congress in Berlin, Picasso's Dove was depicted in a banner above the stage. Anti-communists had their own take on the peace dove: the group Paix et Liberté distributed posters titled La colombe qui fait BOUM (the dove that goes BOOM), showing the peace dove metamorphosing into a Soviet tank.
Royal Air Force
Rock pigeons selectively bred for their ability to home over long distances, called homing pigeons, have served humans in times of war as war pigeons, and have even been awarded war medals to honour their services to humanity. These include the homing pigeon, Cher Ami, who received the French Croix de guerre for services during wartime, and who is now enshrined in the Smithsonian Institution, and G.I. Joe, who received the Dickin Medal for his role in preventing the bombing of an Italian village of over 1,000 people.
The rock dove is, due to its relation to the homing pigeon and thus communications, the main image in the crest of the Tactical Communications Wing, a body within the Royal Air Force. Below the crest is the Wing's motto, "Ubique Loquimur" or "We Speak Everywhere."
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