Monday, April 1, 2013

The Folklore of Swallows

The animal kingdom has have long been a part of folklore. The woolly mammoths, bison, and even earlier creatures of the natural world were a mystery that could only be understood through stories. Not only were they sources of sustenance, they were friend and/or foe, depending upon the situation.  In an effort to know how best to relate to them, people developed traditions and customs to protect themselves against threats these animals might pose.  The lore also helped to explain the animals' connections to the mysterious spiritual world.

The understandings that helped to dispel fears and ensure safety appeared again and again in tales, myths, folk art and even folk dance.  In almost all cases, the animals were considered to be clever, wise, foolish, magical and/or destructive, just like human beings.

Birds, in particular, were credited with being able to fly between worlds. As such in many cultures they were messengers to and from the celestial world that remained “up there” and invisible.

The swallow  is one example of a small bird that has a ‘big’ folkloric image. It can bring on its wings either good or bad luck. Here are a few examples:

Denmark: Danish tradition notes that the chatty swallow comforted Christ on the cross. The birds sang, “Svale, svale,” which translates to, “Cheer up, Cheer up.”

Germany: One superstition says that if a woman steps on a swallow’s nest or eggs, she will be barren for the rest of her life.

France: French animal lore states that whomever’s shoulder a swallow lands on, misfortune is sure to occur.

America: Farmers' tales warnt hat if a swallow is harmed a poor harvest will follow.

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