Bird of the year, bird of the country and so on

“Their songs, nests, mysterious migrations, even just the act of flying, all enchant, taunt, intrigue and tell of another world, ancient, important, and proceeding by non-human rules and rhythms.  It is their capacity to connect, to capture our emotions, that helps make birds so enchanting.” 

New Scientist

I apologise for the terrible title, my brain is not up to scratch at the moment… 

We have all come across national birds, birds of the year and so forth.  I’m sure we’re all familiar with the use of the dodo as a mascot for Mauritius and the kiwi for New Zealand.  For Spain, 2018 is the year of the barn owl and in Australia, the magpie has just been voted bird of the year.

But why do we declare birds as icons of certain years or places?  Well, in some cases it’s to do with conservation.  In Spain, there has been a recent decline of 13% in barn owls and the species was chosen by the public to raise awareness of it’s plight.

If you take care of birds, you take care of the most important of the environmental problems in the world.
-Thomas Lovejoy

National Geographic and partners are going one step further and have declared 2018 to be not the year of a certain bird but the Year of the Bird:

“In 1918 Congress passed the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to protect birds from wanton killing*.  To celebrate the centennial, National Geographic is partnering with the National Audubon Society, BirdLife International and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to declare 2018 the Year of the Bird.”

*Too late for poor Martha and her friends…

As part of this, there are new years resolutions you could make to ensure a more bird aware year and small actions you can take to #BirdYourWorld.  You might also want to take part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch on 27 – 29 January 2018.

When it comes to nations, empires and rulers, the adoption of birds as emblems has a lot to do with the power that they convey.  They are used in coats of arms, seals and other prominent displays and of all the birds, the eagle has been especially popular.  Perhaps it is it’s size, it’s ability to fly so high and being virtually at the top of the food chain that has marked it out for this role.  Perhaps it is a sense of regalness that it engenders.  It is a symbol of strength, leadership and courage.  As king of the skies, it sees all and rules all.

Since 1782, the bald eagle has been used by the United States on it’s great seal. A choice which Benjamin Franklin apparently argued against, preferring the golden eagle or possibly even a turkey… Many other ideas were suggested including rattlesnakes and complicated scenes which don’t seem all that practical.

“He is a bird of bad moral character; he does not get his living honestly; you may have seen him perched on some dead tree, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labor of the fishing-hawk, and when that diligent bird has at length taken a fish and is bearing it to its nest the bald eagle pursues him and takes it from him. Besides, he is a rank coward; the little kingbird attacks him boldly. He is therefore by no means a proper emblem… For in Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America. He is besides, tho’ a little vain and silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”
– Benjamin Franklin

Perhaps it is the depth of symbolism and folklore surrounding our feathered friends which means we chose them time after time to represent who we are, where we are and when we are.  But let us hope that doing so refreshes and rejuvenates interest in our flying neighbours and increases conservation efforts for them.

To end on a lighter note, if you were to chose a personal coat of arms or a seal, what bird would you chose?  I’m pondering ducks, I love them, but I also have a soft spot for puffins… And we’ve already seen how amazing crows and ravens are… Tough choice!


Eagle: Animal Dreaming Cards


We are starting with the eagle, a bird we have already considered in Wild Unknown Animal Spirit deck. This gives me an opportunity to let you know how I’ll be tackling these cross over cards.

There will inevitably be similar themes and similar teachings so I will not repeat what I have already written.  Each crossover card will link to the equivalent wild unknown version and I will expand on this interpretation by looking specifically at the image in the animal dreaming card and the Australian context.  Whilst there will be similarities, I don’t believe that one image will convey the same as another of the same species.  In some cases we may have different sexes, in some we may get different feelings towards the animal.  A mouse looking curious will speak to us in a different way to a mouse looking terrified.

Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Eagle

This particular eagle looks like it might be some kind of sea eagle.  It certainly doesn’t look like the Wedge Tailed Eagle which is Austrailia’s largest bird of prey.  According to birdlife Australia, “few Australian birds of prey are as spectacular as the White-bellied Sea-Eagle.”  This bird is second largest and is found in coastal areas but also inland, far from the sea, near rivers and lakes.

Just returning to the Wedge Tailed Eagle for a moment, Bunjil is often depicted as such.   One myth tells of Bunjil creating the mountains, the rivers, the plants and the animals as well as laws for humans to live by.  One he had done this, he asked Crow to create some wind and this wind was so strong that Bunjil and his family were blown up to the heavens.  They remain they today, Bunjil as the star Altair and his two wives, the black swans, became stars on either side of him.

Regardless of which eagle we see here, we know already that the eagle soars high in the sky, carrying messages between land and spirit.  They know a freedom which comes only when you let go of material, earth bound things.

Another important aspect of this card is the number 0.  From a mathematical point of view, 0 is a powerful number.  It has led to philosophical ponderings, how can nothing be something?  0 is neither positive or negative, neither forward nor backwards.  It is potential, possibility.  It is everything and nothing.  It is the moment before the first breath of life.  0 also marks the Fool in the tarot deck, beginnings and endings.

Considering the eagle and zero, we see a bird which is guiding us to step out on our journey.  Their amazing eyes see the minutiae, what lies in our hearts, what stops us from moving on.  They also see the big picture, the possibilities, the paths that lie ahead of us.  They ask us to trust their guidance and knowledge and listen to them in whatever way they speak to us.  Whether that is signs and synchronicities or intuition or cards. We are poised, ready to take an amazing journey, if only we can trust ourselves to listen and take that initial step.

Eagle: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck


As I said in the post about the hawk, there are a lot of similarities between these birds.  I would recommend reading that post as well if you have drawn the eagle card.

As observed in the hawk post, the eagle is generally larger and more powerful and can fly higher so is a more spiritual bird.  Like the hawk, the eagle is a messenger from the gods and has a higher perspective on life because of this and because of it’s very literal perspective.

One key difference in terms of the two cards is the relationship with the sun.  The hawk flies in the light and strength of the sun whereas the eagle appears to be mastering the sun.

These icons of wilderness and strength are majestic hunters who’s amazing vision can can spot carcasses from long distances.  They gorge when food is available and can then go ten days without food thus reminding us to prepare for the future.  When diving on prey, they can reach up to 100mph which sounds pretty terrifying but even at that immense speed, they are still able to carefully and precisely target their kill.  Once they have caught their prey their talons clamp shut so they can hold onto their food even when they relax their muscles.  What are you not letting go of?

Eagles soar high above the mundane day to day, flying adeptly and freely through the skies and the realm of the mind, of knowledge and of communication.

Despite their splendour, not everything about the eagle is so regal and godly… They are prone to what is called Cain and Abel Syndrome, that is to say siblingcide.  In the nest, the oldest chick will often kill it’s siblings.  A true survival of the fittest situation that is thought to arise as a result of food scarcity.  If there are limited resources, sharing them with your brother could result in the death of both of you… What do you do in that situation?

Eagles feature in a lot of myths and legends and are considered symbols of strength.  For example, we have the revered bald eagle in america and the Thunderbird from native american tradition was often considered to be an eagle.   Eagle feathers have been used to symbolise rank and bravery as well as in healing, perhaps lending their own strength to help you heal?

We see the eagle’s importance in many cultures, for example, an Aztec sun god took the form of an eagle and in Norse mythology, the golden eagle sits on the top of the tree of life.  The Celts linked the eagle to the sun as well as with the oak tree and saw it as a wise and ancient creature.  The links with the sun and the sky tie the eagle to the role of messenger in both ancient Greece and ancient Rome, being the messenger of Zeus and Jupiter respectively.  Both of these are sky gods although Zeus is better known for his place as king of the gods.  Without doubt, this is a bird of the sun.  And with it is tied to the conscious world, the light, clarity, illumination and the day time.  Take control of your light, shine it on your shadows without fear, see what is made visible.

In my notes I wrote that eagles have few boundaries.  I am assuming that means physically, that is they can go pretty much anywhere but I can’t remember.  Whatever I meant by it I wanted to include it as it’s an interesting thought to ponder.  What are your boundaries?  Do you have too many?  Not enough?  What if you had no boundaries or limitations?