Dove represents Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit
"The dove represents the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit — another bone of contention since the earliest days. Is the Holy Spirit, as standard Trinitarian Christians believe, an equal third person of the Trinity? Or is the Holy Spirit God-in-action? A person or a process? He or it? Or is the Holy Spirit the missing female portion of the Judaeo-Christian deity, Sophia, the Wisdom of God?
Brilliant theologians have spent hundreds of years and millions of words discussing these problems... . Those who claim that there is one straightforward outline of Christian belief ignore the centuries of dispute and discussion which formulated the particular set of beliefs which they now hold to be true, and refuse to allow the validity of the hundreds of variant sets of belief held true by others. There is no such thing as 'the Christian belief-statement.'"
David V. Barret, Sects, 'Cults' and Alternative Religions,
Cassell PLC, 1996 p. 46
"The Holy Ghost surpasses the fabulous changes of the classical gods and genii. Indeed many of these fabulous conceptions were drawn from mythological sources.
The Christian's Holy Ghost descended as a dove and alighted on Christ's head at his baptism (Luke 3:22). The Holy Ghost in the shape of a bird — a dove or a pigeon — is a very ancient pagan tradition. In India, a dove was uniformly the emblem of the Holy Spirit or Spirit of God. A dove stood for a third member of the Trinity, and was the regenerator or regeneratory power. Compare this with Titus (3:5): regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost. A person being baptized under the Brahminical theocracy was said to be regenerated and born again, or, they were born into the spirit, or the spirit into them—the dove into or upon them.
In Rome a dove or pigeon was a legendary spirit, the accompaniment of Venus, the emblem of female procreative energy. It is therefore appropriately shown as descending at baptism in the character of the third member of the Trinity. The dove also fills the Grecian oracles with their spirit and power. A dove was, in several ancient religions, the Spirit of God (Holy Ghost) moving on the face of the waters at creation (Gen. 1:2), though a pigeon was often substituted. The dove and the pigeon were used interchangeably.
In the ancient Syrian temple of Hierapolis, Semiramis is shown with a dove on her head, the prototype of the dove on the head of the Christian messiah at baptism. At the feast of Whitsuntide, the descent of the Holy Ghost was symbolised in London by a pigeon being let fly out of a hole in the midst of the roof of the great aisle of St Paul's Cathedral. It is more than likely that this continues an ancient tradition. On solemn occasions when the Holy Ghost was expected or invited to descend, it was more than likely that originally no one in the congregation noticed that it did. The custom therefore arose of liberating pigeons or doves at the appropriate moment.
Naturally, these doves would have been actually ascending, having realised that they were no longer constrained, but that would not have bothered the faithful who eventually came to understand the symbolism. In any case, the doves would most likely have been tame ones bred for the purpose and possibly made no great effort to escape, like the pigeons in crowded city plazas. So, it is quite possible that sometimes one of the tame birds did alight on the priest — perhaps they were trained to do just that. The pictures of priests or gods with a dove on their head might be depictions of actual rituals.
The Holy Ghost was the third member of the Trinity in several Eastern religions as well as the Gothic and Celtic nations. This notion of a third person in the the godhead was diffused among all the nations of the earth. Father, Son and Holy Ghost, or Father, Word and Holy Ghost (1 John 5:7) express the divine triad of which the Holy Ghost was the third member. The Holy Spirit and the Evil Spirit were, each in their turn, third member of the Trinity.
In these triads the third member was not of equal rank with the other two. In the Theban Trinity, Khonso was inferior to Arion and Mant. In the Hindu triad, Siva was subordinate to Brahma and Vishnu. The Holy Ghost conception of the Christian world is an exact correspondence with these older ideas. It has always stood third in rank after the Father and the Son or the Word, a slave doing all the hard work and getting little worship for it. Today it is still seldom addressed in Christian devotion, but perhaps that is because it was so badly treated that it was not too diligent in its tasks. It was not too good, for example, at making the holy book of Christianity infallible."
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