The Real Glaucus

Many a hardcore North American birder has braved cold temps, usually awful weather to try and find one of the gems of the Gull world, the mighty Glaucous Gull.

The standard definition of Glaucous is, or at least as it is applied to the bird, means frosted or powdered.  As the Glaucous Gull is in a group of Arctic Gulls collectively known as the “White-winged Gulls“, the name fits.

Yet the name Glaucus (the Greek uses the -ous) is important in the Ancient world, with 5 important people share that name, some were real others are part of mythology.  Most of the people mentioned, died horrible deaths, so maybe the name isn’t as a regal sounding anymore.

1.  Glaucus son of Hippolochus, with his cousin Sarpedon led the Lycians at Troy.  He was killed fighting over the body of Achillies.

2.  Glaucus son of Sisyphus (name your kid that today and see what happens) of Ephyre.  He had it rough too, as he was eaten by his horses at the funeral games for Pelias!

3.  Glaucus infant son of Minos and Pasiphae, who fell into a jar of honey and was drowned.  His body was recovered by the seer Polyeidus, who revived him, game him the gift of prophecy, but later revoked it.

4.  Glaucus Pontius or Thalassius, a sea-demon with prophetic powers.  He seemed to have had a minor cult following in the area of Pontus, modern day Istanbul in Turkey.

5.  Glaucus of Rhegium (Circa 410 BC), was one of the first historians on Ancient Poets and Musicians, following the origins of Poetry and Music and was a major commentator on Homer’s Iliad.  For a considerable amount of time, Antiphon the sophist was considered the author of these works, but it is now thought that he stole it from Glaucus.

(Oxford Classical Dictionary pp 638-639)

So the next time you are standing at a dump or shoreline or frozen river and a birder turns to you and says, “Hey there’s a Glaucous Gull!” you can respond with “Did you know the name Glaucus…”

The Bird Gods of Ancient Egypt

As many of you know the ancient Egyptians  personified many of their major gods as birds.  Why they did is open to considerable debate.  Perhaps it was because birds could fly and thus be in areas unattainable by humans or perhaps maybe they were viewed as being powerful for being able to live in the harsh desert conditions.

Below is a guide to the ‘Bird Gods of Ancient Egypt’, and like anything in Egyptian culture, you can find more information by searching the web or visiting your local library.

Falcon/Hawk:  The Falcon or Hawk is usually associated with the God Horus.  It is believed that the Falcon had special protective powers and is often represented hovering over or protecting a Pharaoh.  The Falcon was also sacred to Montu, the god of war and Sokar the god of the Memphite necropolis.  Qebehsenuef, the son of Horus and the protector of the canopic jar of the intestines was also often represented as a Falcon.

Goose:  Known as the ‘Great Cackler’ when in Goose Form, the Goose was sacred to the god Geb.  Geb often is represented as the ‘earth’ god and he is the father of the goddess Isis who is sometimes referred to as the ‘egg of the Goose’.

Heron:  The heron is interesting in Egyptian mythology.  Some view it as the original Phoenix, a symbol of sun and rebirth.  One practical reason for this, is herons would be likely be plentiful during the rainy season and their nesting season would likely coincide with the spring planting and flooding of the Nile.  The heron is closely linked with Heliopolis (Sun-City).  It is also the Ba (depiction/Soul) of both the gods Ra  and Osiris.

Ibis:  Thoth, the Egyptian god of wisdom or knowledge was always depicted as having the head of an Ibis.  The Greeks viewed him as similar to the Greek god Hermes.  As Thoth was one of the major Egyptian dieties, the Ibis, like the Falcon was very sacred to the ancient Egyptians.

Ostritch:  Maat, the goddess of truth, justice and the, er, Egyptian way is often depcited as a woman seated with an Ostritch feather headress or sometimes just as the feather.

Vulture:  Sacred to the goddess Nekhbet, the goddess of upper Egypt and also Mut, the ‘mother’ goddess.  The Vulture represents eternal power and protection.  This makes a lot of sense, since Vultures are scavangers by nature, it is no surprise that they had become associated with eternity.  As they eat the flesh of the dead, it can be assumed that they consume the soul of the departed.  When finished the vulture soars off into the sky, carrying the departed soul to heaven.  Because Egyptian dynastic mythology was caught up into immortality (mummies anyone?), the Vulture was very often depcited in association with the many rulers of Egypt.