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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Irish Bird Omens - part 2

 Picking up where part 1 left off...
The Golden Eagle (Iolar Firean) - the golden eagle is one of the two types of eagle that were native to Ireland before being driven to extinction around a hundred years ago. Eagles were seen as symbols of wisdom, magical power, long life, speed, and vision (Anderson, 2008). In folklore some types of faeries, such as the Pooka, are said to appear at times in the shape of an eagle; personally I associate eagles with Nuada and Osprey with Manannan  mac Lir. Additionally eagles appear often in Irish and more general Celtic mythology.
 Hawk (Seabhac) - Ireland has an array of small hawks including the Marsh Hawk (croman na gcearc), goshawk (Clamhan), and Sparrowhawk (Spiorog). Generally hawks were seen as messengers of the Otherworld, were connected to the willow, and believed to symbolize memory and "clear sightedness" (Anderson, 2008). The oldest of all animals, according to myth, was the Hawk of Achill. It was believed that if hawks suddenly abandoned an area it was because an evil spirit was present (Anderson, 2008).
   Owls (Ulchabhain) - the word for owl in Irish, ulchabhain, means 'bearded', although there are many associated folk names including cailleach oiche (night hag), screachan reilige (graveyard schreecher) and ceann cait (cat's head) (Anderson, 2008). Owls have often been associated with death and bad luck. Hearing an owl hoot, seeing one during the day, or having one fly across your path was seen as very unlucky, although throwing salt in the fire or turning one's clothes inside out should deflect the bad luck (Anderson, 2008). The methods for deferring the ill-omen are strongly reminiscent of methods to defend against fairies, so one might surmise a connection between these birds and the Good Neighbors.
  the Dove (Fearan) - Dove's have long been viewed as symbols of peace and love. Irish folklore tells us that no ill-intentioned spirit can take the form of a dove (Anderson, 2008).
   the Heron (Corr Reisc) - Herons in folklore are often confused with cranes, as the name for them - corr reisc - means marsh crane, however they are two distinct species (Anderson, 2008). Herons are strongly associated with magic, enchantment, hidden truths, divine messages, and mystery; they are especially associated with Manannan and the Cailleach (Anderson, 2008).
   the Blackbird (Lon Dubh) - Blackbirds are associated with Druids and witches, and were believed to be able to pass freely between our world and the Otherworld (Anderson, 2008). Blackbirds could open the Otherworld to a person or place a person in a trance by singing, as well as being said to carry messages between worlds (Anderson, 2008).

Anderson, G., (2008) Birds of Ireland: facts, folklore & history

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