Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Wrens in West Virginia

I've been in West Virginia for almost a year now, and luckily this spring I found carolina wrens nesting on the back porch.

Wrens are my birth bird, so to me they are so important.  I am born on Wren day, the 26th of December, and wrens were and are of great importance to modern, medieval, and early peoples living in Wales and Britain and Ireland.

And I love wren stories.  One of my favorites is from the Isle of Mann, "How wren became kind of all birds."  The story is how birds gathered to choose their king, and decided that who soever flew the highest would be king.  So eagle soared up above the skies, beating every other bird, or so it seemed.  A little brown hedge bird hid within eagle's great wings, and jumping on eagle's back, and so flying higher than all the others.  Even in modern day Wales, then, wren is still considered the king of the birds.

Wren day is its own holiday, now luckily involving a fake wren, paraded through town for tuppence and dancing and singing.  Scholars believe Wren day is the remnant of celtic myth, which required a sacrifice at the darkest time of the year.  Wren, who sings away at midwinter, was deemed the old year, needing to die for the new.  I prefer not killing wrens on my birthday, however, and prefer to focus on how the wren's name in Celtic language is connected to druidism:  dreathan, dryw, draouennig, all similar or in Welsh the same word as druid.  Druids purportedly searched for these hard-to-spot little brown birds, and seeing one meant the coming of wisdom.  Little wren, kind of the birds, bringer of wisdom, is a druid, with the loudest song per ounce than any other bird!

In augury, spotting the little wren is a sign of beneficence.  Bird kings bring good stuff and good luck!  Throughout Europe, killing wrens, taking their eggs, or bothering them in any way (except Wren day) was a sign of terrible ill luck.  Druids listened to the wondrous and famous wren song to make predictions.  Wrens denoted good fortune.

So, ok, all that is good.

I love wrens for so many other reasons, all non-celticy.  I love wren song, and I love wren work ethic.  In the summer I always have house wrens nesting about (here in West Virginia I have two pairs in the great 100 year old Chestnut tree), and I love to watch them building nests and singing with cheer and glee all day.  Male house wrens sing to attract multiple mates, and they build multiple nests to show their co-parenting prowess.  When babies are born, both parents feed the hatchlings all day long.  I love to watch them.

Carolina wrens like to nest in cavities, so they are harder to find.  Yet they still sing their delightful songs all day, and share co-parenting responsibilities just like their house wren cousins.  Carolina wrens greet the dawn with their "wi-choo, wi-choo," loudly out-singing birds that are three and four times their weight.  Then, like all wrens, they are singing and busy homemaking all the day.

It is this wonderful habit of wrens that makes them totemic.  If wren flies into your life, wren's busy days and loud songs represent a time to embrace action.  Wren is not a contemplator.  Wren is out doing.  So finding wren always signals a time to get up and do something.  Wren is also a great totem for speaking out!  Wren sings all the day long, letting the world know it is there.  If wren has come into your life, it is your time to sing your song.  Find your voice!  Say what you have to say!  Wren energy will support you.

But best of all, is just watching wren.  No matter how busy I am, I love to hear wrens in my garden, on my porch, in my trees.  Wren is here in West Virginia, and this just makes me happy.

For me, I guess, wren day is every day.


  1. So glad to see you posting again! :-) And wrens are among my favorite birds, too, for many of the same reasons you name. Their cheerful (and unbelievably loud) chuck-chucking, the energetic way they bounce about, their doggone cuteness - all things that make me smile. :-)

  2. Glad to hear from you, too, dailycompost! Sorry to be away so long.... say hi to your wrens!