The Birds of Myths and Legends.

If you have seen or read Harry Potter movies or books, you have an idea of a phoenix. A beautiful bird that bursts into flame at the end of its life and is reborn from the ashes. Possibly wishful thinking in a world without 911 to help, but still a nice legend. The legend is widespread across much of the known world in the early days of civilization, which makes one wonder what caused it in the first place. (Place alien landing conspiracy theories here.) This firebird was also know in Native American stories, and the thunderbird too.

Many birds in stories and legends were once people, but were turned into birds for one reason or another. The Six Swans tells of princes who were thus cursed to get them out of the way for their wicked stepmother’s children to inherit the kingdom.

Who Killed Cock Robin? Yes, it was that nasty sparrow with his bow and arrow. Nursery rhymes were usually about very adult subjects, but this one just seems to be a silly little thing to teach the names of birds. And bull may actually refer to the bull finch, not a male cow.

As we have seen, birds with beautiful feathers as in much danger from man and the dictates of fashion. But across many cultures and lands, a bluebird brought happiness. I love the Chinese legend that the bluebird was the messenger bird of Xi Wangmu, a powerful and immortal queen who protected women when their lives took them outside the normal roles of females in Chinese society.

Sadly, many species of birds become legends through extinction. The passenger pigeon is legendary for the size of the flocks that would go overhead. The decline of the bird is directly connected to slavery and poverty issues at the turn of the century.

As a lover of parrots, I have long mourned the only native psittacidae in North America. This species went extinct, coincidentally, about the same time as the pigeon above. The birds were very social, and if one of the flock was shot, after flying away in startled reaction, they would return and see what happened to the injured bird. It makes me wonder what marvels of intelligence the bird might have demonstrated. I love the fact that some people still hope that a lost colony will be found in a distant forest.

The mystery surrounding these two birds makes me hope for the future, and the efforts currently in place for the conservation efforts around the world. What a wonderful world this could be, if we all just learn to get along.

Here’s a link to more Native American stories about birds. Enjoy, and I will see you on Sunday.

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