If you were superstitious, you would probably be very uncomfortable in my home!
Every wall, shelf & window is filled with bird related items from vases stuffed with peacock feathers, skeletons to abandoned nests & eggs. Even my favorite hummingbird mug could be considered a bad omen.
Long before airplanes, birds, able to defy gravity, were thought to possess magic.
As they flew towards the heavens, home of the spirits, the souls of the dead were being carried with them. For this reason, a bird in the house could indeed be frightening.
If we adhered to these beliefs, our Christmas Bird Counts wouldn’t be for scientific reasons but instead to see what the future held.
For instance, in France, each call from the cuckoo predicted how many years a young girl must wait for marriage & in Scotland; its call foretold how long you would live.
The wise owl was the bearer of news in India, one hoot meant death, two & your project would be successful, three hoots for an imminent marriage, four spelled trouble & five hoots, a journey.
Native Americans believed the sight of two whip-poor-wills would lead to disappointment.
Observing a hawk seizing its prey led to a loss of money & if you spied a magpie upon embarking on a trip, well you might as well just turn around.
Not all bird sightings were bad omens, in fact a robin nesting near your home was very lucky & finding eggs in her nest was especially auspicious.
Swallows nesting under your eves also brought good fortune, along with a not so unfortunate mess!
If a stray pigeon landed on your doorstep, you would be very lucky indeed.
To have a peacock was also lucky but to display its feathers wasn’t. The evil eye depicted in its feathers could cause death to young children & babies. Parents will be pleased to know that their feathers can apparently keep unwanted suitors from their daughters.
Weather was also gauged by the birds. Low flying swallows meant rain, swans nesting on high ground forecasted floods, grouse gathered in flocks would bring snow & if they drummed at night you could expect heavier than normal snowfalls.
Some superstitions are reversible.
The caw of a crow near your house, announcing disaster, can be superseded by removing your hat or bowing to the crow.
The death hoots from an owl were reversed by tying a knot in your apron string & wearing it backwards, or by turning a pocket inside out.
You could also keep intruders from your home by tying, with red thread, the feathers from a blackbird’s wing & hanging it outside your door.
Disharmony in your home? Quails are a symbol of peace & if the husband wears the heart of the male around his neck ^ the wife wears the female’s heart, then you could be sure to agree on everything.
Ancient Greeks & Romans who could tell the future by bird sightings & behaviors were practicing the art of Ornithomancy.
Many people believe in superstitions & while I can’t fault them for that, I do wonder what they would make of the dead birds in my freezer!
Note…possessing birds, nests & eggs are considered illegal. Never disturb an active nest. Even seemingly abandoned nests might be used the following year & are best left where you found them.