For today’s post I have chosen to discuss the birds that are sacred to my four favorite goddesses! These goddesses are Aphrodite (Venus), Freya, Rhiannon, and Blodeuwedd! All of these goddesses have bird associations, that make birds sacred to them in some way.
First I would like to look at Aphrodite. The Greek goddess of love, had doves, geese, and swans as sacred to her. They were all used as transportation for her, as she rode in a chariot pulled by doves and rode on the backs of white geese and swans. As a love goddess it is unsurprising that the birds she held as sacred were birds of beauty and grace. Swans are especially known for their beauty and their mating for life!
Secondly I would like to talk about Freya, the Norse goddess of love, war, and witchcraft. She owned a falcon feather cloak. This made falcons an animal associated with her, even though most think of her as associated with cats (which she was greatly). Her cloak had magical properties, and was often loaned out to other gods and goddesses who needed it. The cloak could turn its wearer into a falcon! The ability to transmogrify is one that is much coveted among many mythic cycles.
Next I would like to discuss Rhiannon the Welsh Celtic horse, and sovereignty goddess. She had a trio of songbirds. These songbirds could raise the dead and bring peace to the living. The birds are collectively referred to as the Adar Rhiannon, and were greatly coveted for their abilities! Rhiannon’s birds are never specified by species in the myths and legends. So there is speculation among those who study the goddess what birds species they were exactly. They really could have been any species of song bird (or even possibly a small hunting bird or scavenger, with the connection to death, and the raising of the dead). At the end of the day I think it was likely not specified because the species of bird was unimportant, as their importance lay in the connection to Rhiannon, and their magical abilities!
Finally I want to discuss Blodeuwedd! She is the goddess of this foursome with the most obvious connection to birds. She is the Welsh Celtic goddess of flowers and owls. While she is also a goddess associated with sovereignty, she is best known for flowers and owls. In fact, her name means owl in modern Welsh. Owls are her sacred animal due to the fact that she was turned into one as a punishment. This punishment was meted out after an attempt on her husband’s life, sometimes said to have been successful, and sometimes not. Her story can be looked at as one of a young woman growing into a wise woman with experience, especially given the owl’s association with wisdom!
Each one of these incredible, and powerful goddesses have deep connections to their specific birds. In general birds can be seen as a symbol of freedom, and of enduring love. The associations of birds and enduring love often comes from birds mating for life, not just swans as I mentioned above, but many species do!
I hope you have enjoyed learning a bit about goddesses and their connections to aviary species. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is Freya by Marc Potts. I found the image on aviaryhistory.blogspot.com.
- Blood and Roses: A Devotional for Aphrodite and Venus edited by Rebecca Buchanan
- Fire Jewel: A Devotional for Freyja compiled by Gefion Vanirdottir
- Freyja, Lady, Vanadis by Patricia M. Lafayllve
- Rhiannon: Divine Queen of the Celtic Britons by Jhenah Telyndru
- Flower Face: A Devotional Anthology in Honor of Blodeuwedd edited by Jhenah Telyndru