Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Mystical Birds of Finland

Eero Ojanen 2015: Suomen myyttiset linnut
illustraded by Daga Ulv

Spring is definetly here, when people brag about seeing larks, starlings,  wagtails and fiches. As the old Finnish saying says. The summer comes here with the swallows.

This book is divided into different sections. The first section is about creation of earth. In Kalevala is a story where the land and the sea came from a wild ducks egg. Other birds in this section are crane, tit, eagle and hazel hen. The crane is respected, even the ridgepole is called a "kurkihirsi". The crane was also considered as an all mighty sorcerer.

The next section is titled as between two worlds. The birds here are swan, loon, red-throated diver and nurmilintu, which isn't a real bird, but the bird of Underworld. It is strange that a children's lulluby is about this bird. The singer wished the children would sleep as peacefully as the dead. As I have mentioned before, we are not a cheerful folk.

Siberian Jay is a curious bird.
Here with kuksa, a wooden cup and a knife.
The third section is about holy creatures: osprey, swallow, starling and dove. 17 lakes are named after opsrey (Sääksjärvi), because the bird was seen there.Other places are Sääskmäki, Sääksniemi.

Then come the helpers of witches and the devil: the capercallie,black grouse, crow and the raven. No wonder Hitchcock hit a nerve with his film. Some people fear birds to death.  The capercallie was the king of the forest and it carried the forest folk in him. When an capercallie came to the yard, it meant something bad was to happen.

The fifth section is about bird that bring luck or bad luck. They are cocoo, jay, wagtail, dipper, bunting and corncrake.  The wagtail brings good mood where ever it comes. My mom still thinks the wagtail that nest in their home birch greets her, when he arrives. The wagtail is also very eager to tease the cat.

Starling as a jewellery
Then come the restless souls: jackdaw, Siberian jay, willow grouse, black woodpecker and snipe. The Siberian jay is curious and often comes to the fireplace to see what the humans are up to. It may even be the soul of a wise man. The hunters usually leave this bird alone.

The eight section is for the unpleasant guests: sparrow, magpie and redstart. In the old days the sparrows were considered bad news. They brought bad luck. As do the magpies, which steal all shiny objects they can find. If the magpie laughs, when you are going to take a trip, you should cancel.

And the last section informs us about the scary prophets: woodpecker, horned owl, owl and hawk. The story tells that on fall 1939 the horned owl cried so hard that the people knew it meant war, which then happened.  Even before that seeing the horned owl meant death

It's amazing that people had time to observe and make stories, but then again they did not have social media. Today nobody makes up stories about birds, when they read about all the silly things people do. But I do know that the belief die hard, I remember counting the first cuckoos of the summer, because it meant how many years before I would get married. I stopped counting after ten.

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