"Anthem" by Leonard Cohen

"The birds they sang at the break of day
Start again, I heard them say
Don't dwell on what has passed away
or what has yet to be...

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in"

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Birds of Prey


Mt Shasta
Originally uploaded by musicmuse_ca
According to the ancient Celtic beliefs of my ancestors, the raven was said to be a sign of death due to its’ association with the Celtic god Bran (or raven in Welsh) the Blessed, god of death and rebirth who was associated with the underworld.

Ravens were at their greatest power during Winter Solstice and were symbolic of the life crises necessary to clear the way for change. Two years later to the day after my song with the raven, my own mother fell ill and died suddenly at the age of 80 in New York City, her home for over 55 years. In the Spring after my mother’s death, I wear the raven necklace around my neck in honor of my own raven story.

As I drive through the high desert plateau, I am traveling through part of the 38,000 acres known as the “Badlands” of Eastern Oregon. I suppose that the name comes from the extreme summer heat, but this is early in spring and not too long after the rainy season. It is cool and comfortable, and the high desert landscape is rich with flowers, trees and wildlife.

From out of the Aspen trees on the right side of the road, I see a flash of white. Into my line of sight flies the biggest bird I have ever seen. I slow down to get a better view. I can see the talons, and then the the body and finally the head fly right in front of me across the road. It is a bald eagle, black feathers with white head and a white tail.

The wingspan is enormous. It is incredible that such a large bird can get into the air at all, much less fly with such grace. My heart is beating fast as I watch the eagle fly off into the sky to my left. It has flown in front of me so closely that I feel I could have almost reached out my hand and hitched a ride.

In the Celtic beliefs of my ancestors, eagles were revered as oracles because of their keen farsightedness. Because they fly so high, the eagle was the symbol of the sun god Bel, who also had powers of healing. The traditional Scottish spring festival of renewal and rebirth, Bealtuinn (Beltane), was named for him and means “fire of Bel”. Eagles were also associated with the renewal and rebirth of the Spring and the Summer seasons.

It is a thrilling and hope-filled encounter that has brought to my mind the life of my ancient Scottish ancestor, the Royal Falconer, whose story I have been uncovering in the months since my mother’s death.

2 comments:

T Somerville said...

How would I get hold of the online version of "the memorie of the somervilles"?

Beth K. said...

I did a google search and found a PDF version in google books that I downloaded....

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