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July 10, 2018 > Swallow stories

Swallow stories

By Pat Kite

The five juvenile swallows sat on my front porch holding their flight suitcases. Swallow departure makes me sad. They had two nests this year, high in my front eaves. Their attentive audience is my ancient cat. Swallows looked down on me from my roof, flied floppily around, and prepared to go. Ciao. By morning they were gone. Maybe. One is flying around. I hear a swallow sound from an overhead nest. I see a long tail sticking out. Perhaps another brood? In honor, some stories.

There are several swallow types breeding in California: Bank, Rough-winged, Violet-green, Tree, Barn, and Cliff. I think mine are Barn with forked tail and zippity flight. In the early evenings, when I watched them play tag across the sky, sometimes I felt like I could almost do it, fly. If you ever see an idjit standing on the sidewalk gently flapping her arms, maybe it?s me.

Hope is an eternal thing. Did you know that in Christian lore, a swallow was often portrayed hovering by Christ on the cross as a symbol of the resurrection? To have a swallow nesting on your home is widely believed to be a good omen. In Egyptian lore the swallow was sacred to the mother-goddess Isis. In early Roman times, swallows represented household spirit guardians. Because swallows migrate, sailors of yore would have a swallow tattoo before setting out on a journey. A second swallow would be tattooed upon returning to homeport. If the sailor had drowned, swallows would carry his soul to heaven. And more long-ago lore: in some places swallows are the spirits of dead children returning to visit the house. Swallows represent love, affection, loyalty, freedom, and care. It is supposedly very bad karma to kill a swallow.

How did swallow get its forked tail? Legend has it that a barn swallow stole fire from the gods to bring it to the people on Earth. The gods were furious, flinging fire arrows at the bird; the tail middle got burnt. Another version: In Judaic lore, swallow got into an argument with snake. Snake bit its tail. Swallow escaped, but the tail is now forked. Interesting? Females are attracted to males with longer and symmetrical tails.

In case you travel in search of swallows, there are 75 species worldwide. These include Black-and-rufous swallow, South African swallow, White-throated blue swallow, Red-chested swallow, Mangrove swallow, and Golden swallow. I am going outside to sing to my new nesting swallow. Your vocabulary today tip: A group of barn swallows is known as a ?kettle.?

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