Sunday, August 21, 2011

Wrens on the porch

I can't believe it has been two months since posting here on my blog! However, since last writing I have (only just) finished the hardest semester of my life; Assessment and Curriculum for Autism and Experimental Analysis of Behavior almost killed me this summer! I am happy to report that I am alive, and have straight A's for the summer. Phew. I really did have days I thought I would flunk out and never finish either course, though.

Sustaining me all summer were wrens. My children have all decorated bird boxes over the years, and I lovingly hang them about the front of my garden by the porch. Many years house wrens next in the boxes and I love their cheerful song all summer! (House wren song can be heard here!) This year was extraordinary, however, with three male wrens all nesting in the boxes out front, along with chattering babies and mates busily singing their hearts out! Three wrens, with the lovely connection to Celtic wren traditions and the perfectly Celtic number of three, had me searching information on wren traditions in Celtic life and myth.

I already knew I had to write a blogpost about the wrens, King of the Birds in Celtic folklore. Wrens have to be sacred to me: I was born on Wren Day, Dec. 26th! I know some lovely boxing day songs about hunting the wren, and less lovely traditions about hunting the wren on Wren Day, and parading the little dead bird around the village. I suppose the only consolation is that other than Wren day, killing wren's was and is still considered unlucky throughout the Celtic world. Around my house at Yule, "the wren, the wren, the king of the birds" is a common song!

Then a few weeks ago I spotted another bird - a wren, but not a House Wren nor a Carolina Wren. This wee one kept hopping onto the porch railing and looking right at me, before flying away. Okay. What can wren be telling me, especially this new and unusual wren? Quick run to my Druid Animal Oracle tarot deck, a fun deck I use when readers want an animal totem tarot, and I read Philip Carr and Stephanie Gomm's take on wren:

"Drui-en allows us to glimpse the beauty of God or Goddess in all things. He tells us that "small is beautiful" and that self-realization lies not in grandiosity or apparent power, but in humility, gentleness and subtlety. Cunning, if tempered with humour and good intent, is a way of achieving great things with an economy and effort, and a rational and honest use of the achievements of others."

Well, that is lovely. I like to think of myself as cunning and beautiful! I certainly feel I have humour and good intent. I recommend the Druid Animal Oracle Deck because it does a lovely job of synthesizing multiple Celtic traditions and distilling them into modern thought. So I thought about my wrens, and every morning sat working on homework while the little ones sang their hearts out for me.

The little and unknown wren visited again and again. Who could this be? Pulled out my birding books to find him: a Winter Wren, down to summer here from Canada! Yup, the Winter Wren of Celtic myth, here on my front porch. Winter Wren stories abound for the Celts. The Welsh mythological hero Bran the Blessed disguised himself as a wren to chase cock Robin in old stories; on the Isle of Mann mermaids change into Winter Wrens to escape capture. In Scotland the Winter Wren is connected with women, healing and wisdom, and a nickname for Wren there is "Lady of Soul's Hen." In Welsh the word Wren itself is dryw, the druid bird.

Winter Wrens can also be associated with Mary. In the fabulously researched Hunting the Wren by Elizabeth Atwood Lawrence, she points out that another name for Cutty Wren is Jenny Wren. She re-creates the famous Christmas Carol, The Seven Joys of Mary, as The Seven Joys of Jenny:

"The first good joy that Jenny had
It was the Joy of one,
To see the power her nesty had
To make to speak the dumb.

The next good joy that Jenny had
It was the Joy of two,
To see the power her nesty had
To make the lame to go.

The next good joy that Jenny had
It was the Joy of three,
To see the power her nesty had,
To make the blind to see.

To make the lame to go, b..... boom
And blessed she may be,
Both birdy nest and loving song
For every night and day."

So. A week ago I finished my last extra credit assignment to get my second A for the summer semester - and I got that A by only one little point. But one point was enough. I have approached homework all summer as spellcrafting - trying to do work daily and keeping my nose to proverbial grindstone. When I felt overwhelmed, I forced myself to sit down and do some concrete work. Daily. I didn't want to do those last extra credit points, but knew I might need them, and only two weeks ago sat down with a sigh, to grind out some more work.

Ok. It all paid off. I am proud of my A's.

And I'm still recovering, too! Fall semester starts this coming week. Eek! I would like a summer off!

So I sat on the porch this morning, drinking coffee and enjoying some bliss free days without homework. My front garden is a mass of weeds; there is laundry from our family's campout (I came back several times a week from camping to do work and my last final exam; there is schoolwork I need to do for the kids. But I sat and rested on the porch, watching for a deer family that has been lurking about all summer, and enjoying the now liberated House Wren parents, as the fledglings have grown and moved on.

And what happened? The little wren flies onto the porch again. And flies onto my window sill by my elbow, and then, a first for me, flies onto my ankle. The Winter Wren sat on my ankle! The Winter Wren cocked his head, looked right at me, and then lightly flew away.

I am now a year into my Celtic augury studies, and this experience today has blown my mind. A blessing for me, any bird willing to perch on my body. And the famous Winter Wren of so much lore, and my birthday bird to boot, sat on my resting ankle, looking at me, signaling something on a brilliant August morning.

I plan to take my blessing from the King of the birds, and hold the memory to savor as my semester starts again. Wrens are such little and beautifully marked birds, tiny singers of majestic songs (pound for pound, the wren's song is ten times louder than a rooster's!), and in folklore connected to wisdom and healing. Like Bran the Blessed, they are sacred birds.

So I had a messenger from the deity on my ankle today. My thanks to wren; I am so deeply grateful and touched by your visit.