Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Feathers - Superstitious? Me?


I knew that the small, white feather on the bedroom floor had escaped from the duvet as I made the bed, but for a fleeting moment I was happy to think it was a sign from my late father and I smiled.  Superstition, of course, but it gave me a few moments of joyful memories of my lovely dad and there’s no harm in that.
I was brought up to understand that peacock feathers are a bad omen and not welcome in the house. They are a sign of doom, even death, apparently. In Greek mythology  Argus, a monster covered with eyes, was changed into a peacock by Hera, so maybe that is where the superstition comes from. A peacock in full plumage with such rich colour is beautiful and majestic.  Even so, I heed to those who have gone before, just in case.
Magpies bother me and when I see one, or hopefully more than one, I have to say the rhyme. If it is alone, I say “Good morning, Mr Magpie” which should be enough to protect me, again just in case.  Magpies have stunning deep blue colouring on their wings. The only time I’ve seen a magpie up close is when the unfortunate, motionless bird was gripped in the jaws of my springer spaniel.  No wonder I feel doomed.
I found this paragraph in an article about the superstitions of feathers in Nature Center Magazine, written by Emma Springfield.  I’ve never heard of this before and as it made me laugh, I’d like to share it.
    “Feathers from a wren are used by sailors to prevent shipwreck. The wren must be chased, caught and killed on Christmas Eve. Then it was carried on top of a pole with its wings outstretched.  For a coin one feather was bought.  At the end of the day so many sailors would have purchased a feather that the wren was practically featherless.  It would then be buried on the seashore.  The sailor would keep the feather on his person in order to make it home safely.”
White feathers have been a symbol of cowardice. The Order of the White Feather was founded at the start of World War I and reinstated at the start of World War II, where white feathers were given to men who hadn’t joined the military forces and considered to be ‘conscientious objectors’.
The feather that came out of my duvet got pushed back inside one of the sections because I couldn’t bear to throw it away. It is the warmest, lightest, most comfortable duvet we’ve ever had because it is filled with goose feather and down. As a child I remember the Paisley patterned eiderdowns we had, the same as my grandparents, back in the days of sheets and blankets before duvets or continent quilts reached our shores. Our beds were never cold, thanks to the feathers.
I found this poem,
'Hope' is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I've heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.
Thanks for reading, Pam x



Lady Curt said...

Yes. I've heard these superstitions ...but not about wrens..poor birds...

Anonymous said...

The wren has suffered in recent blogs :-(

Steve Rowland said...

Interesting, Pam. Magpies bother me on two counts. Apart from being strikingly beautiful, they are bullies (attacking and eating smaller birds) and they make a noise like a football rattle!

I see there's a groundswell of sympathy for the wren - might have to blog about the little fellow on Saturday. Tails up!