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302037.  Tue Mar 25, 2008 5:52 am Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
It is also a solar symbol because of the likeness of the sun's rays and the circular fan of the displayed tail.

Grrr! Everyone knows that the impressive feathers on a peacock are its train, not its tail. It's tail feathers are short, brown, and uninteresting.

302148.  Tue Mar 25, 2008 8:49 am Reply with quote

Oh bah and pish tush! Anybody could make that mistake. And I did.

<hangs head in shame>

312036.  Mon Apr 07, 2008 1:27 pm Reply with quote

Q. Why did Captain Cook have no qualms shooting an Albatross for the pot?
A. Captain Cook’s expeditions took place a good twenty five years before Coleridge published The Ancient Mariner – the origin of the myth that shooting an Albatross brought bad luck.

In 1772 Cook wrote:”Shot some Albatrosses and other birds on which we feasted…… and found them exceeding good.”

Interestingly Wordsworth claims credit for seeding the Albatross idea in Coleridge’s mind on a walk together in 1797. He discussed an account he had read of the voyages of Capt. George Shelvocke (an English privateer c. 1719-22) in which his second mate Simon Hatley had shot a disconsolate black Albatross whilst they were rounding Cape Horn. The ship had then suffered six weeks of storms before they were able to make land in Chile. Up until Coleridge’s poem sailors thought nothing of killing an Albatross to eat. There is some evidence that they were considered to be the souls of drowned seamen, but Hatley killed his Albatross because he thought the live bird was an ill omen!

Link to folklore

312037.  Mon Apr 07, 2008 1:27 pm Reply with quote

There are two ‘black’ Albatrosses – the Sooty and the Black-browed. The former is smaller and the more likely candidate for Hatley’s bird. A specimen of the latter strayed off course in the nineteenth century and ended up in the Faroe Islands. It was visited by Walter Rothschild (of Tring) and ended up stuffed in a museum in Copenhagen. In 1967 another Black-browed Albatross was spotted in the Firth of Forth and in the 1970s ended up on Hermaness (where I saw it!). It nested there forlorn amongst the gannets, producing sterile eggs for many a year. I’m glad to say that it has recently been spotted (2005 & subs.) on the small islet of Sula Sgeir (Gannet Skerry), north of Lewis. This as far as I know is the only place to see a wild Albatross in the North Atlantic!

312039.  Mon Apr 07, 2008 1:28 pm Reply with quote

The most fortuitous occurrence with an Albatross I have come across is a report on the vessel Gladstone in 1881. A man fell overboard and managed to grab a passing Albatross to use as a lifebouy. He was subsequently rescued! Shackleton was also please to find them when he arrived on South Georgia – his first good meal in a while!

312040.  Mon Apr 07, 2008 1:29 pm Reply with quote

The Raven is the first bird mentioned by name in the Bible – Noah releases a Raven to see if it could seek out land. It didn’t return so he resorted to the doves. Releasing Ravens at sea is not a bad idea. Floki Vilgerdarson set sail from Norway in about 860 AD with three Ravens on board. A day after leaving the Faroes he released one and watched it climb high, before it turned back to the islands. The following day he released his second bird. It spiralled up before returning to land on the mast. On the third day his last bird set off northwest. Floki followed and found the coast of Iceland. He was not quite the first there, but is credited with naming it Iceland. He is now remembered as Raven-Floki. Ravens are large, non-migratory, land birds. When released at sea they would climb to say 5000 ft and spot land 90 miles away, whilst still being visible from the boat.

312041.  Mon Apr 07, 2008 1:29 pm Reply with quote

Ravens feature big in Norse mythology as Odin had two – named Thought (Huginn) and Memory (Muninn). They brought him news every day (possibly origin of ‘A little bird told me’ although ravens are not little!). ‘Second sight’ is known as Raven knowledge in Scotland. The Raven featured on the banner of several Viking warlords. The collective for these birds is a terror of Ravens.

312042.  Mon Apr 07, 2008 1:30 pm Reply with quote

Of the seven Ravens in the Tower of London, one is called Odin and two more Hugine and Mugine. I think you are aware that ‘England will not fall to any foreign power whilst there are Ravens at the Tower’ is a myth, probably C19th in origin. Dr. Geoff Parnell thinks that they were a punning gift from the Earl of Dunraven. He was an amateur archaeologist and antiquarian, fascinated with Celtic Raven myths. Amongst these is the tale of Bran the Blessed (no relation to Brian I believe). Bran went (in fact waded) over to Ireland to retrieve his sister who was caught in an abusive marriage. He rescued her but was mortally wounded by a poison spear. He asked his companions to cut off his head, take it to White Hill in London and bury it with his face towards France. With this done, according to the Mabinogion (four books of Celtish folklore) “No affliction would come to this island from across the sea, as long as the head was in that concealment.”

Apparently Bran means ‘Raven’ in Cornish, old Irish and Scottish Gaelic. As to where White Hill was, the only reference I can find is to a book by Jennifer Westwood called Albion; a Guide to Legendary Britain. I don’t have the book. However The Tower of London contains the White Tower (so called because it was whitewashed by Henry III) and is on Tower Hill. You can see how The Earl may have thought!

312043.  Mon Apr 07, 2008 1:30 pm Reply with quote

The Tower was (amazingly) Raven light during the Blitz, when some were killed in the bombing. However it was restocked for the re-opening to the public on Jan 1 1946! The earliest real reference found by Dr. Parnell is in a piece in the RSPCA journal of 1895, where Edith Hawthorn was upset that the Tower’s cat was being worried by the Ravens. There was a craze for Pet ravens in the 1850’s after Poe’s famous poem was published. There is a tantalising letter to Country Life in 1955 from the manager of a pet supplier in Leadenhall Market, claiming to have the order for the first Tower Ravens framed on his wall. The firm has since closed & this document has disappeared.

312050.  Mon Apr 07, 2008 1:39 pm Reply with quote

Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders made the most amazing ceremonial garments out of feathers. The Aha ula (a feathered cape) the malo (a loincloth) and the mahiole (a helmet) were just some. The great chief Kamehameha had a yellow cloak made from (reportedly) 80,000 feathers (Hawaiian chiefs tended to be big men!). Given his stature, they were probably from the most prized bird the O’o – or possibly the Mamo (bother Hawaiian Honeyeaters). The O’o and the Mamo are now extinct, but this is probably due to habitat loss not costume making. In fact the islanders would collect live birds in moult, harvest the feathers and then release them to grow more (unless they wanted to eat the birds – in which case it was a bonk on the head & straight in the pot). Feathers were very highly prized. A visitor in 1877 wrote that Mamo feathers cost $1 each and a necklace would set you back $500 – very big sums at the time

312208.  Mon Apr 07, 2008 5:12 pm Reply with quote

All great, but I particularly love the ravens being used to discover Iceland - a great idea.

312223.  Mon Apr 07, 2008 5:44 pm Reply with quote

Iceland is mostly green in the summer, unlike Greenland, which is mostly ice.

312373.  Tue Apr 08, 2008 4:38 am Reply with quote

Lots of Tower ravens from post 61220 onwards.

312456.  Tue Apr 08, 2008 6:48 am Reply with quote

Icelanders have the world's longest life expectancy, according to. Err. Statistics Iceland.

368778.  Thu Jun 26, 2008 7:14 am Reply with quote

One of the original lyrics to "Yankee Doodle" was:

Dolly Bushel let a fart,
Jenny Jones, she found it,
Ambrose carried it to the mill,
Where Doctor Warren ground it.

s: WCC

Actually, that brought me to this site which gives a great history of all the various lyrics sung.

The word Yankee was a term of offence originally saved for Scotsmen. Doodle was slang for a penis, or a dullard.


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