Not the verb my friends…nor the request…but rather the noun. As
in that little birdie the romantics would have you falsely believe
arrive every year on the same day in order to build their nests in
the ruins of the Mission San Juan Capistrano in California.
Somewhere toward the end of the 1800’s enameled birds began to enter
into the American jewelry scene. Favorite among the birds was the
Swallow…inspired perhaps by decorative motifs used by the Japanese
thirty years earlier…and now often adorning bodice and bonnet of
lady fair in clusters of two or three.
But why oh why…oh do tell us Benjamin…why oh why the Swallow when
there are so many other birds to choose from? The obvious answer is,
or course: Well, why not? The less obvious answer follows.
Way back in the days when Aristotle roamed his countryside in long
flowing robes while dispensing wisdoms equally to rich and poor
alike, the Swallow would migrate back from it’s winter quarters and
was seen as the harbinger of Spring…and was therefor associated with
resurrection, new life, and the Mother Goddess. Additionally,
returning Swallows of the day were seen as predictors of the safe
return of Dionysus…thus ensuring new growth on the vine.
In Europe–even today–weather forecasts are forecast from the flight
of the Swallow. Low-flying swallows…bad weather approaching. Now
then… there’s Darwin and his origin of the species…and there’s
creationism …and there’s the truth as to how the swallow came into
being. I love these little theories which blow all long held credos to
hell and back. Here’s how the swallow came into being.
Tereus…detestable character that he was…and son of Ares…was
married to Procne…daughter of a king of Athens. Alas…Tereus of the
roving eye lusted after Philomela…sister of Procne. So much did he
lust after her in fact…that he violated her in a moment of
uncontainable passion. In order to ensure she would not tell others of
his deed…he cut out her tongue. The gods were not happy with this.
Fact is…they were irate and incensed beyond all reason. So they
transformed Tereus into a Hoopoe…Philomela into a Nightingale…and
Procne into a Swallow. Perhaps not a fitting punishment for tongue
removals…but we’re talking primitive times folks. Perspective was
not yet in full focus.
There are more Swallow stories available than one can swallow in any
single session. So I leave you with this last little item. I have a
graphic for you all to see of a gold and enameled swallow with
diamond feather tips…circa 1905. To see it…go to my home page,
scroll down table menu…click on Swallow.
And there ya have it.
That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.