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Birds

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THE FOLKLORE
The bird is an animal almost universally exalted and accepted as symbolically being associated with the soul, as a messenger of the gods, a carriers of souls, an oracle or seen to possess the spirit of loved ones whilst also being a symbol of good or evil. The Ancient Greeks actually developed a science from the study of birds and their activities called 'Ornithomancy' and since then, birds have continued to feature heavily in folklore across the world even in the 20th-century imagination. It is no surprise that the modern Western super hero 'Superman' has the special ability to fly and is also given a name that indicates supreme powers. Perhaps this is because man has long wanted to be able to fly. Take the story of ‘Icarus’ as just one such further example.

In folklore birds are seen to possess the ability to talk offering guidance to humans. Carl G. Jung, the psychiatrist, (See Mystical WWW Philosophy), said that birds represented the inner spirit of a person and that birds were seen to be associated with angels, flights of fancy and the supernatural.

The Egyptians associated birds with the soul or 'ba', and the hawk specifically with the soul of ‘Horus’ and the pharaoh. Some Native American beliefs see the birds as personifications of the rain and the wind. Shamans are known for transforming into the shape of birds to be able to leave the body and soar up into the universe. The patron god of the ancient Aztec civilization was 'Huitzilopochtli'. The Aztecs believed that the dead were reborn as 'Colibris' which were the birds of their patron god, and hence held all birds in high esteem.

The Devil or ‘Old Nick’, and negative forces, are often said to be disturbed and attracted by the loud chattering of birds. At the very least such attentions can be seen in weather changes if the noise continues. One of the most common signs of such negative omens relate to birds flying in and out of rooms/windows. This action is seen as a sign of an imminent death, whilst the flight or hovering of a bird around a house or the tapping against a window are seen to indicate negative forces and perhaps death is close. Australian, Irish and Brazilian traditions indicate that the sight of black or grey birds flying at night contain the souls of those who were recognized as harbingers of evil.

The fact that the birds fly at night (or have either black plumage or disturbing cries) is not the only reason why birds are seen to be connected with evil, but also because birds will not settle at any time if influenced by such energies due to the belief that the birds/souls are completing their penance before being able to progress forward to salvation. Any bird that flies at night is commonly seen to be associated with negative or evil forces.

In France it is traditionally believed that birds are seen to carry the souls of unbaptised children who have died and awaiting baptism in the hope of salvation and redemption, and the opportunity to progress onwards. Until the souls have been baptized by ‘John the Baptist’ it was believed the children would remain as birds. In Scotland (UK) it is said that should a caged bird die that belongs to someone in the family on a wedding day it is very likely that the marriage will not be a happy one. Should the wedding go ahead the couple may eventually separate. In Shropshire (UK) flocks of birds made up of types such as curlews or plovers were traditionally called ‘Seven Whistlers’ thought to warn of impending disaster. So called as the flock was usually searching for the seventh bird. Yet if the seventh was found it was thought that the world would end immediately. It was also thought that these birds carried the grief-stricken souls of unbaptised babies who were condemned to roam the skies or the souls of drowned sailors who provided warnings to their shipmates.

A long held almost universal belief regarding the direction of the flight of a flock of birds indicates that you should take particular heed if you about to set out on a journey. If the birds are flying to the right then all will be well, to the left and you should change your plans. The mysterious sights and sounds of birds have long captured the observer's imagination. Here is just one such example;

Scottish Gaelic Traditional Verse
‘I heard the cuckoo with no food in my stomach,
I heard the stock-dove on top of the tree,
I heard the sweet singer in the copse beyond,
And I heard the screech of the owl in the night.
I saw the wheatear on the dyke of holes,
I saw the snipe while sitting bent,
And I foresaw the year would not go well with me.’

‘Valentine's Day’, 14 February, (See Mystical WWW Special Days & Mystical WWW Folk Calendar) is associated with birds and all those in love, being named after the patron saint of lovers. St. Valentine was a young priest who defied the edict that prohibited young men from marrying as he believed that marriage had a poor effect on men changing them into poor soldiers. In America and England (UK) it is said that a young girl is able to tell what sort of man she will marry by the first bird she sees on this day. If a young girl sees a hen and a cockerel together at the same time on this day, it indicates that she will marry the next year. The following mystical birds are traditionally identified with St. Valentine's Day :


* Blackbird Clergyman or priest, spiritual
* Robin Redbreast Sailor, nautical
* Goldfinch (any yellow bird) A rich man
* Sparrow Farmer, agricultural
* Bluebird A happy man
* Crossbill An argumentative man
* Dove A good man
* Woodpecker !!! No husband

NESTS
A European tradition indicates that nests made from human hair mean that the unfortunate unknowing donor will continue to suffer with headaches until the nest is destroyed, so old hair should be disposed of carefully. Certain birds nesting on or near the house are seen to be the harbingers of good fortune such as the blackbird (despite its confusing reputation) and the stork. In Austria the person will also, it is said, suffer with skin complaints and boils if human hair is used for a nest!

Further information on whether a nest found on your land will bring success or misfortune may be found in many of the entries.

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FEATHER BEDS
Wonderfully comfortable to sleep on but not if you have turned the mattress over on a Sunday. This, it is said, will leave you having a restless week of interrupted sleep with bad dreams every night. In fact people from Devon (UK) believe that doing so will invite death as a visitor to the house.

The feather bed is also disliked intensely in the North of England (UK) where it seems that no-one can be at rest in such a bed. Those that are dying will die unhappy and often in pain if not removed from it. This applies particularly to any bed made of pigeon or game bird feathers. (See Mystical WWW Dove and Pigeon Entries).

Further information on the symbolism of feathers may be found in many of the entries.

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