Every year, across the British Isles and Europe, birds flock in the wetlands or the trees. It is a process that seems timeless, an annual avian gathering that was taking place long before humans took notice. Drawn by warmer climates flocks head off to North America or Africa, following mysterious inner maps locked into their genetics. Swallows, starlings, geese by the thousand. Across the entire breadth of Europe this Autumnal drama takes place.
|From one of my many sketch books|
|Sun cross and bird proud vessel - Bronze-age, France|
Indeed shamans often fly to the spirit world. The Evenk shaman of Siberia use wooden effigies of birds to help guide them through their trance journeys. In Celtic myth the druid Mug Ruith wore a bird mask, while the filid, or poet/bards of Celtic tradition wore the tugen, a feathered cloak whose upper half was white with swan fathers, while the lower portion was of darker drake plumage. The striking costume was meant to heighten the filid's otherworldly appearance.
|Hallstatt Iron-Age period sheet bronze vessel stand - picture by Paul Jenkins|
To begin with I was thinking I'd crash into a single post covering the symbology of birds... but the more I looked into it, the more evident it became that an single post was going to be messy. There's just no single easy statement that covers the genus of birds. Different species have different attributes and symbology. Therefore this post deals with migratory species, such as geese. At a future point I will cover other species.
Symbol And Image In Celtic Religious Art - Miranda Green:
Celtic Symbols; Sabine Heinz
The Well Of Five Streams - Erynn Laurie
The Shaman - Piers Vitebsky