Friday, April 3, 2015

The heron signifies those who fear the disorder of the world

I was mesmerized by this heron I recently photographed on Assateague Island in Maryland. Her stare pierced me with a primal blast of wisdom beyond anything our modern world has to offer. Could she be – in essence – a mythological creature? 

I did some research and found my answer in a bestiary.

A bestiary is a compendium of beasts. Such a book could be called a natural history of mythical creatures because they collected information about each animal, starting with what was known from ancient times.[1]

Originating in the Ancient world, bestiaries were made popular in the Middle Ages in illustrated volumes that described various animals, birds and even rocks. The natural history and illustration of each beast was usually accompanied by a moral lesson.[2]

Here’s what one Medieval Bestiary said about my heron:

General Attributes: “The heron is a bird that is wiser than all others, because it does not have many resting places, but lives near to where its food is. It nests in high trees, but gets its food from the water. It never eats carrion. It is afraid of rain storms and flies high above the clouds to avoid them; thus when a heron takes flight, it means that a storm is coming.”

Allegory/Moral: “The heron signifies those who fear the disorder of the world, and to avoid its storms fly high above it in spirit.”[3]

[1] Bestiary: The Natural History of Mythical Creatures by Terryl Whitlatch
[3] The Medieval Bestiary.
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