Birds bring beauty and superstitions into our livesBy: Judi Stuart
Port Discover: Visitor Services Manager
One of the delights of retirement is that you have time to notice things in nature that escaped you when you were working.
We’ve been feeding two goose families that regularly visit our backyard and have made themselves quite at home. After their dinner, they just sit down in the grass, and the babies snuggle up under the mother’s wing for a rest.
Being a witness to nature is addictive, and it makes you think and then draw conclusions about what you observe. Sometimes, those conclusions can be more superstition than fact.
People have often viewed birds as messengers with news about future events, and they have tied their appearance to spiritual things. If a death occurred after seeing an owl during the daytime, people wondered. If it happened again, it became a superstition. No doubt you have heard several myths about birds that you might have repeated.
Author Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” in 1797. In the narrative poem, a haunted seafarer tells the tale of his horrifying experience on a doomed ship. It involves an albatross that is killed, thus bringing bad luck to the vessel and its crew.
Some people believe that albatrosses contain the souls of sailors and bring bad weather and high winds.
Legend tells of robins trying to remove the thorns from Christ’s crown at his crucifixion, and the result was that blood stained their breast red.
If you make a wish when you see the first robin in spring, you will have good luck. Something of yours will be broken, if you break a robin’s egg. You will marry a sailor if the first bird you see on Valentine’s Day is a robin.
Peacocks, though beautiful, are considered by some to bring bad luck because of the evil eye at tip of their feathers. In the theater world, costumes adorned with peacock feathers or set decoration including them are believed to bring bad luck to the production, so they are avoided.
Owls are well-known for their symbolism. Mythology claims that the hoot of an owl occurred before the deaths of Agrippa, Julius Caesar, and Augustus Caesar.
Screech owls supposedly bring bad news. An owl skin nailed to a barn wards off bad luck. Eating owl broth will help with whooping cough, and eating their eggs improves vision, epileptic seizures, and drunkenness.
Doves are viewed as spiritual in nature. Because they mate for life and carry the spirits of lovers, they are often released at weddings to ensure a long and faithful marriages. Old timers believe that the dove is the one bird that the devil cannot change into, and miners worry if they see doves at the opening of a mineshaft.
Chickens have many beliefs attached to them. Bringing eggs into the house after sunset causes bad luck, while a chicken entering a house means a visitor is coming.
All of these beliefs bring new meaning to the practice of bird watching.
Source: “Eerie Bird Superstitions,” by Emma Springfield, Nature Center Magazine. www.superstitionsof.com