The Catcher In The Sky – Swift Gifts
by Rose Dixon
When Mani the creator and Chief Editor contacted me and invited me to write something for this celebratory edition of Gaian Times as it is three years old, I thought what shall I write about? Those who know me know I have been campaigning against the Taiji dolphin drive hunting, orcas in captivity for human entertainment like poor Morgan who has been denied her freedom (although they have won a battle but we will fight to win the war), badger culling, canned hunting of lions and other animals too numerous to mention. The world is full of examples of humans taking freedom away from animals. I love to see animals that are free. I use public transport so calm myself down whilst waiting for buses by tuning out of the human hullabaloo of London and tuning into the sound of the birds. It is my version of “The Voice” – which birdsong makes me turn around? Although there are many different pitches and notes birds do naturally blend in to make a pleasant musical piece in stark contrast to the multitude of noises that assault your ears on a bus.
I love birds. I love to watch them flying about. I have seen many an amusing sight during this springtime period of birds hopping about with twigs and other loot on their heads gathered for nest materials. I think blimey that’s bigger than you .What are you building, a tower block? Recently, during a sudden hailstorm I saw a robin trying to get to cover under a bush – it tried to push its way in gracefully but the twigs wouldn’t give so it put the boot in and kicked a hole in the plant to get in. Get that robin a pair of Dr House Martins I thought!! I have noticed that birds seem to be getting braver and more reckless with the traffic. It has been well documented that crows will swoop down on a piece of bread right in front of cars and take off at the last second but I have noticed that birds seem to walk not fly across a road in front of traffic and take off at the last minute…
The other day a group of swifts caught my attention. I decided to research them a little and discovered that they are collectively known as a “box”, “flock” “screaming frenzy” (good name for a pop group I think!) and “swoop”. Their Latin name is “Apus Apus” which is derived from the Greek “apuos” meaning without feet. They used to return from Africa in the first week of May which is why I think they are apt to make an appearance in this Beltane edition of GT. Now they are seen in late April as the average arrival date has advanced to around five days earlier.
The interesting thing about swifts is that they are almost totally aerial as they have very short legs and never settle voluntarily on the ground, as they prefer vertical surfaces, easier to take off. In very wet weather they are reluctantly forced to land on the ground and they find it difficult to get airborne again. Nature is a problem solver so they have evolved an excellent adaptation to avoid bad weather. During this time the parents will fly away from the rain, sometimes travelling several hundred miles, before they return with food for their offspring. Swift chicks can enter a lethargic state to survive without food for several days to await the return of the beak that feeds them.
Swifts sleep with half of their brain at a time which enables them to live a perpetually aerial life, coming down only for a short period each year to breed. They use the same nest year after year, and just add fresh material, which is caught in the air. It follows then that magically swifts symbolise speed and agility in the great quest and; responding to opportunity.
Also they symbolise the Magic Elixir of Saliva. The swift makes a cup shaped nest and glues it with its own saliva. The cup shape links to the Quest for the Grail. Saliva is known to have healing properties being a primal fluid of life and there is a mysticism link in tantrism and Taoism. Saliva is used in charging of magical talismans because it links the object to your sacred essence. Its bodily function is to cool the system and nurturing. This all links to its function within magical traditions, as kissing activates psychic centres and seals the power in.
The swifts teach us to not drag our feet and to examine if we are acting on opportunities as they present. We need to act swiftly and on the move at the point when your paths cross. Learn to respond to people and whatever turns up and crosses your path with speed and agility. Trust in your own power of instant selection and take hold of opportunities that cross your path and are sharing the same locality and time frame at that instant He who hesitates has lost. Seal the deal with your talismans, letters, protest leaflets, placards, banners and business cards with a touch to your lips and cup them for a short while in your nestled hands. Continue on your path alert for opportunities that cross your path to add to your creations.
There is a lot we can learn from the behaviour and lifestyle of animals around us and many things which we can apply to our own lives. To me journeying to work or to the shops is a magical time, a sort of time and place between my worlds and it provides “me time”. Big business has caught on to how important this “passive” time is and they have erected billboards and placed advertising on buses and of course in the captive audience’s eye line of magazines. I prefer to make more of my journeying time by looking at birds, animals, people, trees and other particulars of the landscape to inspire, intrigue and awe me. I will continue my noticing and musing on these encounters and write more for the next edition of Gaian Times. It would be good to hear about any of your experiences.
We are in the fifth month of 2014– doesn’t time fly? Here’s to recognizing and seizing opportunities as they cross my path for the rest of the year. I’m off to have a swift half. Join me!
Sources I used to learn about swifts:
Sources you can use to learn about some of the campaigns that are very close to my heart: