“Not necessarily these days, what do think it means?”
“It’s the observer and the observed. They’re the observer. We’re the observed”
“Don’t be absurd.”
I motion out of the roof window where three Red Kites are flying in formation.
“Now who’s being absurd?”
Extract from The Initiate
There was a buzzard, the second within a mile, perched on the fence by the road as I drove to work. No doubt it was simply looking for its breakfast, but that doesn’t explain why, out of all the cars passing, it was my eyes it held, sharing a gaze as the car crawled past. There is a moment of timeless communication, in some forgotten language; as if a feather of understanding brushes against your consciousness and then is lost in the chatter of rush-hour.
There had been a red kite in the tree on the edge of the field behind my garden again when the sun had risen and I had watched a pair of them gliding through the air as Ani performed her morning inspection of the lane. The wren and the robin had both been to visit early too. These birds always seem to be an integral part of our adventures, their appearance, almost daily, brings a reassurance and a warmth that is hard to put into words.
It is odd; there is nothing special about seeing a kite in an area where their reintroduction has been so successful. The buzzards are everywhere, there are robins in every garden and even the wrens, though harder to spot, are not rare. There is no reason to attribute any special meaning to the commonplace. Seeing them, where you might reasonably expect to see them holds no special significance. Perhaps being aware of them does though…
The Old Ones of every nation attributed symbolic meanings to the animals, birds and creatures that peopled their environment. There are sites all over the internet that will expound upon the lessons that can be drawn from the appearance of one of these creatures in your life and, let’s be honest, they vary from the sensible ones based on behavioural observation to the downright ridiculous.
The majority of such expositions work by combining old myths and legends with elements of the creature’s known behaviour and characteristics to form an analogy with human behaviour. So, for example, the high-soaring grace of the kite will be interpreted as the ability to rise above a situation, or, on the spiritual level, take a higher perspective. The wren, a small an unassuming troglodyte, is resourceful and goes beyond the known to seek its destiny. Robins, based largely on legend, are seen as symbols of divine service while buzzards herald a transformation, a symbolic death-to-birth.
The trouble is that if you check another website, you’ll probably get a different interpretation… A lore that once held real meaning, and still does for some, has, like many other aspects of the spiritual life, been allowed to degenerate into something that is little more than superstition or curiosity.
It is easy to see how the behaviours of these creatures would have been observed and how the interpretation of their significance as spirit animals was born from what was seen as stories grew around them. To the Old Ones who saw the living world as the multifaceted manifestation of a Great Spirit, by whatever name they used, these creatures held a far deeper meaning than they generally do for us today. While we look for portents and signs, they saw their presence as a reminder of the interconnected oneness of all Nature.
“The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.” Black Elk
If there is no deep, symbolic significance in seeing commonplace creatures where you would expect to see them, then why is it that, when you really notice them, they take on a meaning far greater than their presence should imply? I think it has to do with awareness. Although such symbols may mean nothing in themselves, perhaps noticing them is unusual enough to trigger a deeper awareness within and of ourselves that opens the doors to understanding? Perhaps it is simply in the act of seeking meaning that we find it.
As Stuart and I have journeyed through the adventures of the past few years, we have been attended by wings. We know that in itself is not unusual, but their timing is just too perfect sometimes, their numbers quite marked, their persistence convincing. We have followed birds and found wonders when we have done so. We do not seek or give them meanings, imposing our interpretation on their presence. We just accept their companionship as a gift, feeling through their presence, closer to the heart of life.