What does the albatross symbolize in the poem Rime of the Ancient Mariner?
The albatross to sailors is a sign of good luck, and sailors everywhere for centuries are very superstitious people, so they look for signs. In the poem, however, the albatross is the symbol of the curse, and the origin of the popular saying "hang an albatross around his neck". It is a burden to be carried that you cannot avoid or end on your own.
To kill an albatross at sea is instant bad luck, and casts a pall over the mood of the men as they then expect something bad will happen, and of course, the point of the story is that something bad does happen and the crew and the boat are cursed.
In many ways it is the actual killing of the albatross that comes to have great meaning in the poem, but the albatross itself has always been linked to a number of things in nautical society.
The albatross can be linked to a natural order, and sailors have always believed it to be a symbol of good luck and a harbinger of good news or positive events.
The killing of that albatross was not one directed by malice or any real evil intention, but it becomes the focal point of the negative fate the killer is to suffer. In killing the bird, he broke the natural connection between man and nature and fate and these actions come about to haunt the man and to bring him great misfortune.