Ostrich Symbolism | The Feather of Truth and Justice

The ostrich is a bird that’s famous for something it doesn’t actually do: hide its head in the sand. If you find yourself in a situation where ‘the story’ that people are telling about you for you doesn’t align with ‘the truth’, what would you do?

Like the penguin, the ostrich is a bird, but it is one that cannot fly. Instead, the penguin swims and the ostrich runs. If a threat were to appear, the ostrich–with its strong and swift legs–would begin to run for its life.

Did you know that the ostrich is the fastest bird–not in the sky, of course–but rather, on land?

The legs of an ostrich are a powerful and formidable weapon. But the ostrich doesn’t only use them to run away. A kick or two from an ostrich can kill a human or a potential predator. With its two-toed feet, the ostrich can run extra fast over long distances.

But due to the bad press that an ostrich sticks its head in the sand when it is hunted, we have associated this animal with cowardice; when ‘the truth’ is far far away from that. The ostrich is not a coward.

It can not only flee, it can also fight when necessary.

If you’ve ever asked or told someone not to bury their head in the sand, you would be highly mistaken to use the ostrich as an example of such behaviour.

Don’t bury your head in the sand… Why would we incorrectly attribute an animal with something it’s never actually done? That’s right, the ostrich never buries its head in the sand. Rather, it stays close to the ground and knows exactly what is going on.

Many may underestimate the ostrich’s power due to the mistruth that has been spun about it. Perhaps that was part of the ostrich’s PR strategy? While conventional wisdom may well incorrectly warn us not to bury our head in the sand, the truth is that our head was never buried in the sand in the first place.

Speed is an attribute strongly and accurately associated with the ostrich. It signifies that some area of life is about to suddenly pick up or speed up after a period of staying close to the ground.

The ostrich moves swiftly and forcefully. When we are ready to move swiftly into a new phase, the ostrich reminds us that we will need to keep up the fast pace till we get to where we want to be.

A Symbol of Justice

The ostrich feather was a sacred object in ancient Egypt. It was the symbol for the goddess Ma’at. As the representation of divine truth–which included justice and cosmic order–the Goddess Ma’at helped to decide the fate of souls after death.

The heart of the deceased was weighed on a scale against the ostrich feather: the feather of truth. If the heart outweighed the feather, it meant that the human’s life had not measured up to its potential. The soul would then be destroyed.

Those who did pass the test, by having a heart that weighed less or equal to the feather, got to pass on to heaven or reincarnate. To the ancient Egyptians, the ostrich feather was a powerful symbol of truth, justice and purity.

It is not up to any one individual to judge another human being, especially when the truth remains unknown. The truth is that what goes around does come back around, but first; the truth must be owned up to.

At the same time, we know that our truth has no connection to someone else’s reality. The ostrich reminds us that while we may create stories, deep down, the story is not the truth; and the truth is always far bigger, bolder than grander than we realise.

The Book of the Dead showing the Weighing of the Heart in the Duat using the feather of Maat as the measure in balance.

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