Birds Of A Feather

By and for Bird-People

July 2, 2013
by Akhila
0 comments

Wings

 

Guest post by Faileas.

 

 

Abstract

A look into the phenomena of phantom wings with respect to the therian and otherkin communities, based off a series of surveys conducted via various forums and through selected sources on livejournal

Introduction

I’d initially intended for this essay to be part of my essay on angelic natures. However, considering the scope is considerably different, I’m writing about this subject on its own .Wings mean many things to many people. They are a symbol of hope, of freedom. Wings of imagination often let us fly away from the mundane world into fantasy. However, there’s another sort of wings people feel, which are almost real. Phantom wings are a fairly well documented phenomena in the therian and otherkin communities, and i have tried to document this as well as i can.

In this essay i will be be looking at wings, the type of wings people report of feeling, and the possible reasons for feeling wings from two perspective- Firstly from them in a symbolic/psychological viewpoint, and what they could mean to those who feel phantom wings do not feel they are part of them, Secondly i will look at wings as part of a therian or otherkin identity .As always, the accuracy and scope of my work is entirely based off what i know, Either from friends or from online surveys i conducted.

Before i started, I wanted to get some information on both how phantom wings manifested, and to try to ascertain if there was any common ground between them .I did find a reasonable amount of common factors within the therian community and angelics(though all angelics in the sample were therian as well, and as such would be counted as such),in terms of wing placement, and attitudes towards their phantom wings .The otherkin community on the other hand seems a little more varied and as a result, my results will group together similar responses while discussing them.

 

Data and scope

While every effort has been taken for accuracy, the rather unscientific nature of the data gathering, as well as emphasis on getting a range of views,means that means that my results are only as good as the data. I have chosen not to attempt to arbitrate on accuracy(considering the very personal and subjective nature of the subject material, this seemed a prudent choice, other when especially outrageous or difficult to decipher claims were made). I have linked to the original surveys in appendix A (though, the availability of the links are Dependant on the original sources)

I basically focused on a few issues i felt were of interest(a list of questions that i used is available in appendix B. A slightly modified version was used on other-haven, since the original list was therian centered, and resulted in confusion) .Firstly, the origins of the phantom shift, and how it manifested itself. Secondly, i wished to look into the commonly held view that most people who have wings had them due to symbolic reasons.

Also, due to significant differences in the views i received from people in the therian and otherkin communities, i have chosen to group responses based on common factors. Some of them (such as the location of wings) seem to have more common ground than others.

While my views are based off my interpretation of the data, the direct implications and analysis of data would likely comprise a whole separate essay, and if i feel i need to do it, it will be done, separately on a later date. I feel that while there were other sources, the spread of the sources i selected gave me a fairly wide view of the subject, and didn’t overly focus on any one community, or point of view.

 

 


Part 1 Phantom Wing Morphology (wing shapes)

By the very nature of the sample, phantom wings are definitely common to all respondents. Interestingly almost all respondents reported that their wings were attached to their shoulder blades (what i refer to as A, or angelic type attachment, being constant with the classical portrayal with how angels have their wings attached.), with only three respondents reporting alternate wing attachment locations One reported his arms being phantom wings(what i refer to as B or Bird type wings,due to the similar manner of attachment ) another had A type wings which occasionally manifested themselves somewhat lower than the usual upper back, and the last reported multiple wings in various locations.

Considering that an overwhelming part of the sample reported similar wing placement, and this appears independent of the origin (IE the phenotype or theriotype of the individual or the independence from it, the nature of the wings (phantom wings, cameo shift, shape shifting origins of phenotype etc), I’d feel that i cannot draw any correlation between wing location, and any other factor, based off the data at hand.

Out of the respondents, a large number of them reported Bird type wings(in terms of shape and covering, not location). In many cases this is tied in to the individual’s phenotype or theriotype(1), though in some cases (particularly dragons,winged elves and some hybrids(2) ) It is probably difficult to predict the responses. Other responses included bat type wings, dinosaurian wings (in cases both with fur or feathers) and insect type wings, though these were relatively rare.

I’d note also note that in many cases, while the wings are an essential and consistent feature of an individual’s experiences, they might be transient(3)

 


Part 2 Types of wings


Based off my assessment of the data, i am suggesting that, broadly speaking, it would be possible to classify the phantom wing phenomena into four types.

Firstly, those whose wings are an essential part of their phenotype/theriotype. In this case, the way in which the wing manifests itself is consistent (IE always the same type, roughly same location, and fairly unconscious.).This would be, in general the largest group.

The second classification described would be constructed wings – such as symbolic wings(IE the phantom wings are a result of “willing” them into a sort of existence), or those created on a permanent basis by some external entity (many otherkin refer to their “creator”, the validity of this is out of the scope of this essay)

Last classification would be wings that are the result of a cameo shift and or experiences of a shamanic type. The defining feature of this would be that the manifestation of the wings as a PH shift would be relatively short lived and occur at isolated incidences.

There were two other cases that don’t quite fit into these classifications neatly. One respondent reported wings in a past life, which while relevant i have chosen not to include in the main classification, since it was a past life. The other referred to wings in terms of sensations and while, interesting, i ended up with almost none of the questions i had asked answered, and a sense than the respondent was trying a little too hard to be mysterious.

I’d like to bring to attention another possible factor. Though none of the respondents reported this, according to Lewis-Williams and Dawson(4) apparently there are certain shamanic rituals that involve hallucinogenic substances that lead to something that appears to be indistinguishable from phantom shifts. Presumably mind altering substances might cause effects indistinguishable from a very strong phantom shift, and this might be a means, valid or otherwise from our point of view. However this would still have the potential to induce phantom wings, and is worth mentioning, at least from the point of view of completeness.

 

 

Part 3 Symbolic wings vs symbolism

One of the initial reasons i had started on getting input on wings was because i wished to explore the idea of wings being symbolic. While a majority of the sample’s responses, had some degree of wings being related to a phenotype/theriotype or some other cause, i noted that, especially in responses from the otherkin community, that for many the wings themselves had some personal significance, and that there was emotions attributed to the wings.

From this, I’d like to suggest that, while most phantom wings (except possibly constructed ones, as i will discuss later) are not symbolic by their nature (at least on their own), wings might have personal symbolism. They might have emotions and feelings attributed to them by the person who has them, and thus have a certain degree of meaning. Wings themselves might not be symbols, but they have symbolism attributed to them, which is not a core requirement for their existence

Self constructed wings on the other hand exist at some level entirely due to force of will and belief in their existence I would like to suggest that in such a situation, personal symbolism might be a very strong force for the wings to exist at a psychological or spiritual level and thus, many, if not all the wings of this sort are of a symbolic nature

 

Footnotes and citations
(1) in the essay, due to the fairly diverse types of respondents, I’ve chosen to use phenotype as well as theriotype to refer to the “type” of otherkin/therians in the essay, unless i can find a better common term.
(2)Hybrids refers to any therian or otherkin who claims a mixed theriotype or phenotype (EG, cat and bird). Many Dragons and mythics likely fall under this category as well, but classification of theriotypes and phenotypes is out of the scope of this essay.
(3) Constant means that where there are wings, they are of the same type/location. Transient means the person might not feel the wings much of the time, especially where there are 2 or more phenotypes or theriotypes
(4)
Lewis-Williams, J.D. & T.A. Dowson, 1988. The signs of all times: entoptic phenomena in Upper Palaeolithic art. Current Anthropology 29, 201–45

 


Appendix A

Original data sources

Therianthropy online(awereness forums)-registration required

The Werelist

Other-haven

Personal LiveJournal of Author

 

Results from non public data sources

E mail- 2

Others 2 with one invalid response

Appendix B
Copy of questionnaire


1) where are the wings placed with respect to your body?

2)what kind of wings?(eg birdlike, draconic etc)

3)are these wings part of your usual experiences(A) or was it a cameo shift(B)

4)If the answer to part three was A, please answer part 4A, if it was B answer 4B
(a) what theriotype do you associate with these wings?
(b) what brought on the cameo shift and to what animal/bird was it

5) what emotions do you associate with your wings?

6)what do you feel of wings as a purely psychological construct (IE phantom wings being a manifestation of desire for freedom, peace etc)

6)other input

 

Copyright “Faileas” 2005.

July 2, 2013
by Meirya
1 Comment

The Nature of Buzzard

[This is a guest post by Sunburn.]

When I write Buzzard, I do not mean the scavengers of North America. I am talking about the Common/Eurasian Buzzard, the Buteo buteo.

Well, now, where do I start describing buzzard… Buzzard is fierce, so very fierce. He is easily angered, by sometimes petty things. But he does not make it as obvious as other birds. His anger is constantly bubbling beneath the feathery surface, not easily brought to a break-out. But if you do push Buzzard over the line… be prepared for a wildly screeching, wing-flapping mess of bird and hate.

Buzzard tolerates the presences of other buzzards, and other buzzards only. Together, they can sometimes be seen in ‘flocks’ of up to twenty birds, each of them keeping their distance, but still in a strong communication with the other. I often recognise this in myself; when I dislike surrounding myself with not like-minded people. People wanting to stay in contact with me must either think similar to me, or we just won’t work out. Buzzard is stubborn there.

But as much as buzzard tolerates and seeks out other birds, as much is he also extremely territorial. Not just of habitat and range and prey, but of his mate as well. Invade a buzzard couple’s territory as another bird of prey, and chances are, they’re going to defend it more than they’d do it alone.

Buzzard is, like probably all avians, a bird of wind. I have seen some bird people draw associations with specific kind of winds, like spring wind or thermal winds. I do the same with Buzzard. Buzzard is a bird of rough late-autumn wind. Strong, blunt, not sugar-coated, yet not as cold and icy as the winds of winter. Buzzard has a specific affinity to strong gusts of wind as well. He is rain and early morning frost that still melts away, and the harsh bite of the winter coming.

Unlike other birds of prey, Buzzard does a lot of static, unmoving watching. I have seen buzzards perching on high posts for hours on end, just occasionally stretching their wings. They perch, they blend in, they go unnoticed by both human and animals alike. This is our form of hovering; watching for prey.

This, however, does in no way indicate that buzzard is a slow, clumsy, non-moving bird. Buzzard is fast, is agile, is diving at break-neck speed with talons outstretched towards the prey. They combat in the air when they are battling for territory. The males dance to woo the ladies in a series of graceful dives and soars. Buzzard is a bird of moving. Ghostly feathers painting shadows in opened forest landscapes, leaving behind nothing but a feeling and the occasional fallen feather.

Buzzard is, like all of the buteo family, an opportunist. He doesn’t shy away from carrion; he swallows his pride and coats it with stolen meat, be it the slowly dissolving carcass of a fox, or be it mince used to attract raptors to cameras. He will gladly share carrion with other birds (namely magpies) but he won’t share with any other raptors. He will hunt lizards or raid open garbage bags, as he is also a bird that nests in close proximity to small towns.

His opportunistic nature also shows in the way he nests. Preferred are edges of the forest, high up in trees, but I have already seen them raise their young in abandoned attics.

Buzzard is a sharp bird. No soft features loosen up his sleek silhouette. Everything in his form speaks of necessity. In mythological and symbolic context, this can be applied as a sign of the blunt force tool called truth. Buzzard is painfully honest, and he’ll never sugar-coat things to make them look better. He soars above the web of lies, into endless horizons of truth. As edgy as it sounds, that is buzzard to me. Necessity, usefulness, and never-ending honesty.

Buzzard is a rough bird, quick to raise their hackles and fluff their feathers, and to screech in indignation. They find enemies in many beings, be it their young or a falcon mobbing them back to the edges of a forest. They surround themselves with either loneliness or like-minded beings, there is no in-between. They are birds of blunt, unfriendly, even hostile winds that bring storms and rain, but not of storms and rain per se.

Buzzard is a bird that belongs to sky, the wind and the outskirts of the forest.

June 10, 2013
by Tsu
0 comments

The purity myth and the liminal mute

The purity myth and the liminal mute

I’m always amused when people talk about swans as “pure”. If you were talking about the trumpeter swan, or tundra swan, who live in remote Arctic areas and mostly eat rice, then maybe you would have a point. But the image in most people’s heads of a swan is the mute swan, who is found as much in the wild as in human-made ponds, contaminated with litter and anything else people throw in, threatening humans for scraps of processed, unhealthy food.

Mute swans have made a living on the edges of the human realm, and the animals that do that – rats, pigeons, foxes, feral cats and dogs – we often think as “vermin”. Whether that’s right or wrong, you have to admit that a creature who gets dirty with the leftovers of human life is very far from the typical idea of “pure”, and if we were going to call the mute swan “pure”, we would have to seriously examine what “pure” means.

I do feel sometimes that the wild has a particular “pure” nature that the human world does not. It’s true that both worlds are not perfect, and that the human world is a kind of nature too, but it’s also hard to deny that we have created more trash and more suffering than any other species on this Earth, and that human science has given us a legacy of harsh chemicals and badly-tested inventions with effects on our health and our landscape that we still don’t fully understand. Because of that, because some part of me longs for a “pure” world where life-focused evolution instead of money-focused human minds decides what our environment should have in it, I often find my self admiring my wild cousins, because at least they can claim that they are not involved in that.

If I could choose to be any swan, I don’t think I would have chosen the mute swan, with all its liminal, messy nature. I would choose to be something that stays as far away from humans as possible. Then, at least, I could say, “I didn’t choose this mess. And in my natural form, I would not choose it.”

But, on the other hand, maybe they don’t choose it simply because they don’t know that it exists. Maybe, what we think of as “purity” is more like ignorance of the human world and all its tasty, contaminated riches. Maybe any creature would lose their purity here, and the only pure ones are the ones that stay away.

In any case, I am a mute swan, not a trumpeter or a tundra, and I have to live with the ways that affects my life. I am liminal in a double sense: not just the liminal that comes with being animal in a human body, but also the liminal that comes with the mute swan, who boldly walks between the human world and the wild world.

I am the swan who has learned to compromise the wild in order to have food, who has compromised being pure in order to live in a comfortable way. And that’s true of my life in this world too. I’m a very practical bird. I’m vegetarian, but I know I can’t become vegan without compromising my health, so I don’t. I don’t have the spoons to check every brand to see if the main company is doing something horrible and unethical, so I don’t. I use computers even though they are made from parts that are mined in war zones, because I don’t want to give up one of the few methods of communicate that I am comfortable with. I could reject human society completely and live in the wild, but I know that because of my disabilities I would die, and so instead of giving up my life for the “pure” road, I choose the option that lets me continue to live in a comfortable way. Even if it also hurts me in other ways, by increasing my dysphoria, by holding me back from the life that feels more real to me.

Because I am an animal, I wish to live free. But because I am an animal, I make choices based on my immediate needs (food, shelter) and my immediate fears (I would suffer and die in the wild). I’m not pure. I never claimed to be. If you’re looking for swan wisdom, it is this: very few animals would die for their ideals if they could choose a dirty, messy compromise.

December 27, 2012
by Acies
1 Comment

Ocean-Sky

There’s an ocean in the sky.
Clouds betray currents that underlie
Sweeping swathes of grey
And sapphire seas of day.

There’s an ocean in the sky.
With waves and swells and tides.
Sunset ripples that mesmerize,
With reflections trapped inside.

There’s an ocean in the sky.
Though soft and indistinct,
It speaks in flaming streaks,
Voices ringing through the peaks.

November 23, 2012
by Acies
0 comments

Hawks Shower in the Rain

It starts with a gentle rumble like the far off ocean,

And builds to a sweeping wall of clouds.

Tension rises and ghostly feathers prickle

In expectation of the oncoming relief from a still, hot day.

 

Like waves the front comes washing over,

Spilling over my skin in whispers.

The clarion calls of thunderheads ring out

And shake droplets from their billowing forms.

 

Smatterings of liquid sky dot my shoulders,

Slipping down my arms along invisible lines.

Thick swathes of iced air tease pinions

That will never catch or hold them like I long for.

 

The drumbeat of rain dances across the deck,

Whips around my perched form.

Showered by clouds,

That’s how hawk on the porch is cleaned by the sky.

November 19, 2012
by Acies
0 comments

Wings

Wings are a tension

In your shoulders you can’t relieve.

They are an itch like no other.

 

Wings are a weight

You can never have lifted.

That will never lift you.

 

Wings are the space

On your body that can’t be filled.

That creates a void within.

 

Wings are a burn

That calls for action.

And leaves you paralyzed with yearning.

 

Wings are missing limbs

That you never had.

As crucial as a heartbeat.

 

Wings are what I can never have.

Wings are what I need.

 

——-

My, my, my, I seem to have a thing going for free-form at the moment. Apologies for all lovers of more traditional poetry.

October 13, 2012
by Tsu
1 Comment

Heron story

Heron story

I saw a heron earlier today, at the river on the trail.

Herons are not rare, but it was nice because this is the second different species of heron I’ve seen in the exact same spot, so it’s good to know that our area supports a nice diversity. Before, I’ve seen black-crowned night herons. This was a great blue heron… probably the animal you think of when you think of “heron”. It’s the closest I’ve seen one before.

We stopped to watch it, and talked a lot about how the bird is shaped… how the wings fit so close to the body, they almost disappear. How it’s easy to see, looking at a heron, why the Japanese word for beak is kuchibashi (“mouth-chopsticks”). How they have legs like a mountain goat, long and thin and never falling, easily able to move through the river and over the rocks in a beautiful, graceful way. It’s a really perfect bird… designed to be small and light and functional, and every part of it is a tool that can be folded away to save space, like a Swiss army knife.

Just… so much, in that moment, reminding me what is right for me, what is wrong. Watching the heron’s body move… it was beautiful, in the particular way that something is beautiful when it’s right. Think about the feeling when you put the last piece of a puzzle in place, or the moment when you work out how you’re going to put a craft together. That feeling of, “it all fits together, it’s right”, comes rushing back.

Compared to how efficient is a heron, a human looks like a huge, rubber starfish. It reminded me how, every night I go to bed, I have so much problem knowing where to put my arms, my legs. I feel like I should just be able to fold them away… I’m not using them, right? It saves energy, fold them close to the body, keep them warm. So there’s the right, and the wrong. Beauty, watching how it should work… frustration, knowing how it doesn’t work. Those two simple things like opposite forces. Like those paper discs, it has one pattern on one side, and a different pattern on the other, and you spin it fast, and the picture comes together. Right, wrong, right, wrong. Chasing each other. And in the middle, the picture created, is therianthropy.

I feel that feeling almost every time I see a bird, and really stop and notice what they look like, how they move, how they act. It’s just… remembering, all over again. What this means to me, who I am.

July 12, 2012
by Meirya
0 comments

Expressing Phoenix

Expressing Phoenix

I’ve written on what phoenix means to me, and what it means (for me) to be phoenix. I’ve talked about how it manifests in my spirit and mind, the traits within me that I attribute to “phoenix”. I’ve written a great deal on expressing hawkness, on maintaining a necessary balance between hawk and humanity. But what about expressing phoenix?

First, you must understand that – for me at least – phoenix is intensely abstract, all myth and poetry and spirit where hawk is tactile and neurons and heartbeat. It is not something I need to manifest on a physical level, not like muscle and strength and short-cropped featherhair with hawk.

Yet it manifests all the same, merely in subtler ways. In social interactions, falling into the role of mediator, networker, connector, translator of differing communication styles: diplomat. Phoenix expresses when I bring people together, introducing kindred spirits, or when I make a new connection.

It is in the way I greet the sun when I step outside, tilting my face to the warmth and heat and light, drinking it in. Far more than fire, phoenix is a solar bird.

I express phoenix through ritual work. If I go too long heavily shielded and grounded and guarded, bindings upon my spirit and self, shut off to the subtle realm, phoenix suffers – trapped, chained to earth, unfueled. I have done this before, three years of locked-down isolation of my own making, bound in stress and fears of falling into delusion. It did me far more harm than good, a slow suffocation. Beginning ceremonial magic, structured though it may have been, felt like freedom.

The visualization I was taught for the LBRP (Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentragram) involved imagining oneself growing taller and taller, feet rooted to the earth, crown reaching to the light at the center of the universe, lengthening towards it with each measured four-fold breath. I still use that visualization sometimes, but far less laborious and more effective for me is this: sinking into my Tiferet center and launching upwards from there as phoenix, all movement and soaring joy. The first time I did this was sheer ecstasy, flight after so long grounded, freedom to stretch, to move. I/phoenix spiraled up through space and stars to that central light, dove into it, bathed in it, burned with it, dipping and wheeling to catch brightness into feathers and beak and talons. Then a dive back down, down, a burst of divine light at Keter (“ateh…”), streaking brilliance through my body, down to Malkuth and bringing the light of the universe into the earth itself.

Ve-geburah, ve-gedulah, balance points, sitting wholly in my body, ablaze with light and will, connected with the Higher Self that I perceive as phoenix. Le-olahm. Amen.

Phoenix manifests in ritual and magic, though not always the same way each time. I can be a roaring fire, transforming energy into clean fuel, a veritable batter. This is ecstatic, a trance of connection and output, raising power, firebird passion. Or I can be still and controlled, intensely focused, heron-shaped, bennu or feng-huang in an edged Will.

There are physical expressions, too, though far fewer than with hawk. Phoenix is in the hennaed redness of my hair. When I take meticulous care in the grooming of my appearance, this is a little bit phoenix for me, odd as it may seem. Sometimes I dance phoenix like I dance hawk, ecstatic trance to music.

I want to learn fireplay, and firestaff. I want to dance with heat, and I want to light people aflame. I know someone local from whom I can take a fireplay class; it’s on my list of things to learn. Firestaff might be trickier.

Thus I express phoenix and manifest it in my life. Through the social dance and in physical dance. Through ritual and magic. Through precision and passion, hair and style, reverence for the sun, and perhaps someday soon an intimacy with flame.

July 12, 2012
by Akhila
0 comments

Raw Raven

Raw Raven

I will now tell you of my story as corvus corax, with the truthfulness, candidness and yet sentiment of pudeur that I feel suit this aspect of my animality.

I always say I’ve known I’m an animal-person since age seven, but this isn’t accurate. Seven is when I realized that I clearly was one of the Cats, inside, and that most people around me were not animal-people. Seven is the age I played with my dolphin friend as a jaguar, and then with my margay friend as an ocelot, except for me it wasn’t simply a game. On a more recent day though, unexpectedly, some of my earliest feelings of being other-than-human were brought back to my memory.

I remember my mother helping me dress up to go to kindergarten, which in my country is for children age 3-5 (elementary school starts at 5-6, where you learn how to read; except I could already read in kindergarten but I disgress). I had this coat, unlike any other, which I missed so much after I outgrew it, and still miss to this day like a stolen piece of my heart. It was this wonderful and thick, dark grey cape coat made of fleece, going down to my little knees, folding and closing on the front with these conical real horn buttons – which I liked putting in my mouth and chewing on so much.

Spreading my arms, the fabric would unfold and felt like real wings, not a trail like a cloak but an integral part of my body. And so I remember the playground, where we had our breaks, with me running around some of the buildings until I was out of breath, flapping my arms forcefully, and believing so hard that I was on the verge of taking flight; that if I flapped hard enough my feet would lift from the ground and I would soar to the sky into the clouds. Because it was meant to be.

This was Being Bird, with me at the same time performing and being completely oblivious of my true nature – like an unquestionable evidence. And the belief clung onto my soul for so long that even in my years of identifying mostly as an arboreal cat of some sort, climbing oaks and pines and standing there in the sunset, I would tell myself that if I curled my feet hard and long enough, growing up I would evolve them into talons. And so every year until I was ten or twelve I hoped it to be the year I would finally turn into my Self, of which I still have drawings from the time.

I don’t like lingering too much on my urge to fly, both because there is more to a bird than its wings and because I am mostly happy with being human in spite of my non-human animality. I do not experience strong dysphoria anymore, even though I would be happier if I could fly. Maybe I quieted the pain down to be able to live; and maybe one day I can afford paragliding to alleviate the itch. In a way, also, I do experience flight, through dreams and journeys in my raven shape. I am a raven of Raven, under the guidance of my kindred – but that is too intimate to write about in depth.

As much as the spiritual cats and corvids, there are the living ones around me. It was not until the recent passing of my grandfather, a butcher like his father was, that I noticed I am not the single expression of what I feel is our familial totem. Watching my father’s side of the family talking and being together, it struck me how raven we are in our similarities: our love of puns and language(s), our sharp tongue and readiness to speak our mind (but less so our feelings), our smarts and perfectionism and, yes, tendency to neuroticism. We are lawyers and magistrates, graphic artists and doctors, engineers or other scientists; add one priest per generation with the occasional wanderlust. We also are – with varying degrees – at times neophobic, prone to anger and anxiety-ridden.

The most animal of my relatives, though, was my mother; in retrospect I believe she probably knew what was up with me. She’d sewed this feline costume made of a sort-of-marbled fabric when I was maybe six, including a cotton-stuffed tail, so I could walk around at home and for the carnival as a Cat. She loved cats and was, in my opinion, most definitively one (it isn’t easy for me speaking of her, bringing back so many fond memories, like the sound of her voice calling out my name when I played in the nearby woods; in fact looking after the adventurous kitten I was). Isn’t it ironic that it’s when she was pregnant of me she developped an allergy to cats; I couldn’t have any feline companion at home until she died of illness in my early teens.

In a way, it’s almost as though I’m felid on my mother’s side and corvid on my father’s side. It sounds silly as I don’t believe specific animal types are passed down through our genes, but in a way it does feel like some sort of heritage, even moreso since certain figures have appeared in my journeys (as an animist). My personal tapestry is that of cat and bird entwined and it is difficult talking of one without the other. Both are behavioural, symbolical, and even spiritual to me. They do not oppose each other, and actually share much in common – like when I hold that chicken carcass in my human hands, cutting and tearing apart the tender meat with my teeth, it is both as raven and ‘pard.

Here ravens are seldom seen near humans – they prefer the remote cliffs and mountains. It’s the crows you see in town, or jackdaws. I didn’t live in the city though; I lived by the forest, a land inhabited by magpies and wood pigeons and boars. I remember my mother telling me of the ongoing war between the magpies and the [red] squirrels, raiding each other’s nest. I remember my habit of collecting pretty rocks and feathers and bones. My favourite findings were the lower jaw of a cat with all of its teeth, and a magpie skull and spine that my parents later threw away when I was not looking. I was fascinated with the dead birds, lizards and lesser shrews that the neighbouring felines would bring. Sometimes I think of our dead rodent pets burried near the house, how if I returned there and dug I could have their bones.

What can I say; this is being raven. It’s not romantic or even really mystical. Most of the time it’s a quiet, serious thing; I’m not a trickster raven of the Americas. Raven is a scavenger and, at times, a predator. Being a common raven is being the heaviest passerine bird around. To me raven is the ultimate, perfect bird-shape; not my favourite bird, but my natural one: it is a second skin inside and beyond human. It is watching both sides from over the fence – distinct from being mammal, but not entierely alien from it either. And being raven is not an ethereal experience. It is something of the senses and feather-quills and talons, and at times the plucking, the gut-tearing, bone-seeking. Intense, raw bird. Corvid.

July 8, 2012
by Meirya
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Expressing Hawk

Expressing Hawk

Once, I wanted a body long and lean, all bird-boned lightness. When I looked in the mirror, I expected on some level to see sharp features and steep angles and was startled every time by softness and curves. I envied the angular androgyny of some of my friends. I’ve come to accept that this is simply not my physiology. I am wide-hipped and broad-shouldered, heavy-boned and solid; even trimmed of excess fat, I won’t have the lean slender lines that aesthetically appeal to me.

I realized, as I began to mold my body through movement and nutrition into something more to my liking, that I didn’t want to be insubstantial or waifish. I realized that I liked having substance and solidity. When I began systematic bodyweight strength training, building heavy layers of muscle, I found that I felt increasingly at home in my skin. I developed an awareness and command of my body, my movements and limbs, that I didn’t have prior to strength training.

Rough-legged hawk is in the Buteo genus, heavy-bodied raptors with broad wings and a penchant for scavenging so that they’re called buzzards in much of Europe rather than hawks. This is in contrast with the Accipiter genus, quick lighter-framed raptors, goshawks and sparrowhawks, sometimes referred to as “true hawks”. Rough-legged hawk soars and sometimes hovers. Rough-legged hawk is not quick and agile enough to hunt most birds on the wing, but rather hunts rodents in an open field from the vantage of a high perch, launching from perch to prey.

There is substance to rough-legged hawk, weight and solidity and strength. To be buteo is to be a heavy bird. I want power in my limbs, I want heavy muscle, I want to be all controlled movement and potential forcefulness. The more physical strength I develop, the less dysphoria I seem to feel: gender dysphoria, body dysphoria, species dysphoria… they intersect in this instance. I appreciate GreyGhost’s point about flight as an expression of strength, weight as a stabilizer in flight, gravity as both ally and opponent. It resonates for me regarding buteo as well.

I express and manifest hawk in other physical ways as well: things that ease my discomfort with my body, that help my reflection in the mirror be a little less startlingly strange. I keep my hair cropped short in an undercut, a pinfeathered buzz of hair beneath a longer crest. The prickling shortness quickly grows to the softness of down until I shorten it again. I find myself preening my own hair (feathers), particularly just after cutting it; the feel of it is as much an expression of hawkness, for me, as the look of it is an expression of gender.

Certain activities express hawkness for me, or provide an outlet for it: dancing, sometimes, when I can reach an ecstatic trance state through movement and exertion, so that it’s more like shapeshifting, flying, soaring; being in high places, rooftops and upper decks and clifftops, perching on the edge (fearless) until worried observers call me back; running, on the rare occasions I decide it’s worth the aftermath of stabbing pain in my knees. That doesn’t do much for the reflection in the mirror, but it helps ease some of the pent-up bird-needs, which means hawk is a quieter influence in me, and thus helps calm the feeling that my skin doesn’t fit right.

I’m very tempted to get a tattoo, eventually: rough-legged hawk wings stretching across my back and shoulders and extending down the upper part of my arms. I don’t know that it’d do anything for the feeling of discomfort in my own hide, but it would be an external, visible representation of an integral part of me, and that has its own value.