A bird from the west

Today, the last day of Parentalia, I once again visited the grave of some of my ancestors. I left flowers and a burning candle, offered them wheat and poured wine on the stone slab. I then went to the outskirts of the city to make further offerings, this time to the spirits of family pets and animals. Dogs, cats, horses, donkeys, birds – all of those whose lives were shared with those of my ancestors and were, in one way or another, part of the household and family.

On the top of a slope overlooking a river, I saluted the Earth by kissing the tips of my fingers and touching the soil. I offered Her a handful of wheat and then gave Mercury Psychopomp a libation of wine, asking both the Earth Herself and the God of the Golden Staff to be my intermediaries. On the ground, as I uttered a prayer, I then poured fresh water, as well as dog and cat biscuits, as an offering to the animal spirits. I finished with two handfuls of wheat, one to the Earth and another to Mercury. It was a simple tribute, no more than a few minutes long, though I may come to make it more elaborate in the future.

As I left, I looked back and saw a large bird flying. It wasn’t around when I made the offerings and neither did it stop on the site. It just came flying from the west and turned around when it flew over the place where I had honoured the spirits of my family pets and animals. And then it went westwards, back to where it came from. It flapped its wings too many times to be a bird of prey and both the neck and beak resembled that of a duck. Considering that and its dark colour, it may have been a great cormorant, though the fact that the sea is ten kilometres away makes me unsure about it. But whatever the species, the timing and pattern of the flight made me wonder: did it have anything to do with the tribute to the animal spirits or was it a coincidence? An omen or just a bird flying? Maybe tonight’s dreams will have an answer.

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4 thoughts on “A bird from the west

  1. Per Celtic mythology, that is a clear signal from the otherworld which was thought to be either beneath the ground, or far to the West, beyond the sea. If that were to happen to me, I’d interpret it as a sign that the offerings were accepted and taken to the souls and Gods to whom they were dedicated. 🙂

  2. Always glad to help! 😀
    As I read your comment, I remembered the myth of the Blessed Islands which are also supposed to be somewhere in the western ocean (aka the Atlantic, of course). What I don’t know is how the Hellenes viewed it – as somewhat eerie, though very pleasant and summery, like the Celts did – and if the Romans had their own version of it; I’ll be honest and tell you that I have little to no idea of what the roman afterlife is supposed to be like.

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