The Birdlovers

In many cultures, past and present, special, supernatural powers have been attributed to birds, mainly because of their power of flight and their ability to leave the bounds of earth. This has led to a belief that birds in flight might represent the souls of the dead freed from the body. In addition, the nature and behaviour of certain birds gave them a particular symbolic significance. Thus in the Celtic world, ravens were considered to be representatives of death and destruction, because of their black plumage, their carrion habits and their cruelty to other birds: their collective term is 'an unkindness of ravens'. But ravens were also perceived to have prognosticatory powers and were thus associated with oracles: this may have arisen from their distinctive 'voices' and their ability to mimic human speech. Water-birds perhaps symbolized a link between the elements of air and water; doves peace and harmony because of their temperaments and so on.

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