Halcyon days and Mythical Bird identified with kingfisher

The term halcyon days usually refers to the past times in one’s life when there a calm, happiness or successful period.
The term derives from the Latin word Alcyone who in mythology was daughter of Aeolus and wife of Ceyx. Her husband died during his shipwreck. The grief stricken Alcyone threw herself into the sea. After that both were transformed into halcyon birds identified as Kingfishers. For example the biological name of the white throated kingfisher is Halcyon smyrnensis.

When the birds made their floating nest on the sea, Aeolus restrained his winds and their was a period of calm of 14 days at the winter solstice, so that the eggs hatch into chicks and become birds.

The word halcyon comes from “Hals” meaning “sea or salty” and “kyon” meaning “to conceive” meaning to conceive in sea.

White throated kingfisher is a very beautiful bird. It is quite common in our area. Although going by its name, it is mainly a fish eater but it has modified its eating habits. It can catch insects, small rodents and lizards. That is why it can be found sitting on trees in the fields away from the water bodies.

Here are some pictures taken by me.

Mythical Birds: Albatross, Rara-Avis & Halcyon

Nature never ceases offering us wonders to us humans. In fact, for those whose heart is still like that of a child; full of curiosity and creativity, nature is always ready to offer her beauty and wonders. There are birds of indescribable beauty with vivid plumage; there are awe inspiring animals, rainbow in the sky in the aftermath of rain, thunder and lightning, beautiful brooks with purling water, impeccable cloudless azure sky which no one can believe in the season of rains when clouds run hither and thither in the skies. It seems that different types of gigantic animals have been unleashed by Him in the vast ground of skies. Then there are lush green woods, sometimes with scanty leaves in the form of deciduous trees and sometimes so thick foliage that sun cannot penetrate through and pines for a glimpse of earth which is considered as its daughter. The list is never ending.

It is no wonder that early humans worshiped nature and lived in complete harmony. Pressure of population explosion and shortage of resources was not known. As the humans evolved, their fear of nature also began to fade. By numerous hit and trials, they were able to identify the grasses whose seeds are edible. In this process, in the beginning, they were learning by paying a big price collectively. Many might have died from eating poisonous substances.

Still, there are fables in mythology all around in which there are stories of wonderful trees and birds. In this direction we will talk about three fabled birds namely:

Albatross,

Rara Avis and

Halcyon

Albatross

Albatross is a large seabird belonging to the biological family called Diomedeidae. They are mostly found in southern ocean and north pacific. They are very efficient fliers despite being the largest birds.

This bird is considered both as a sign of good luck as well as a great burden or encumbrance. The origin of this meaning is an allusion to the travails of the sailors who are caught in the stormy weather in the cold sea. It is described in the poem called “The Rime of Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

In the poem, an albatross starts to follow a ship – being followed by an albatross was generally considered an omen of good luck. However, the titular mariner shoots the albatross with a crossbow, which is regarded as an act that will curse the ship which indeed becomes the case. His companions thinking that only way to avoid the curse induce him to wear the dead albatross around his neck indefinitely. They all die from the curse eventually.  Thus the albatross can be both an omen of good or bad luck, as well as a metaphor for a burden to be carried (as penance).

The symbolism is described in the following lines of the poem

Ah ! well a-day ! what evil looks
Had I from old and young !
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.

Rara Avis

Rara avis is a mythical bird. In the dictionary it is defined as an extraordinary or unusual thing. This is from Juvenal’s Satires: rara avis in terris nigroque simillima cygno which translates to “a rare bird in the lands, and very like a black swan” in English. This idiom is generally used as a compliment. if a person becomes elusive or have rare qualities, he or she is referred to as Rara Avis. Not much is known beyond this.

Halcyon

The genus name Halcyon comes from a bird in Greek legend generally associated with the kingfisher. There was an ancient belief that the halcyon nested on the sea, which it calmed in order to lay its eggs on a floating nest. The species’ name chelicuti derives from Chelicut in Ethiopia, the location at which Stanley’s type specimen was obtained.

Halcyon kingfishers are mostly large birds with heavy bills. They occur in a variety of habitats, with woodland of various types the preferred environment for most. They have great patience which we humans can learn from them. They can sit without any hurry or excitement for intermittent time and eat insects, rodents, fish and frogs.

This myth leads to the use of halcyon as a term for peace or calmness.