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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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Fledgling Grace Birds (Part 1 of 4)

In the Fledgling Grace series, humans gain the wings and tails of various bird species.  The most common correlation is with geography/ethnicity: most people have the wings of a bird from where their ancestors lived.  The affiliation tends to be somewhat broad: a country, a tribe, a clan, or a significant subgroup within a larger group.  Religion is another factor.  Sex/gender parameters, morality, and other factors may also influence the manifestation.  Later on, more exotic variations have emerged.  So there are definite correlations and trends,  but few if any absolutes.  Here is a guide to the origins linked to specific birds.

Skip to Part 3, Part 4.




American crow -- mentioned in "Dancing Down the Sky."  Crows are solid black with broad wings that spread like fingers at the tips.  The tail is blunt when closed and opens to almost a circle.
These wings prevail among the Crow nation in Montana.  They also appear along the historic route of migration from the Crow's original home in the Ohio Eastern Woodland area.  Some crossover with European-American population also occurs. 

American flamingo -- mentioned in "Cherubim and Seraphim."  Flamingoes have long pointed wings and short blunt tails.  The plumage is pink to red, with black primary and secondary flight feathers.

This manifestation prevails in the Seminole tribe of Florida, occasionally appearing elsewhere.  Because of the black Seminoles, flamingo wings sometimes appear among the African-American population.

The first cherub (male) in "Cherubim and Seraphim" has upper wings rising from his shoulders in the pink-and-red of an American flamingo.

American goldfinch -- mentioned in "Devil's Advocate."  Goldfinches are sexually dimorphic.  In summer, the males are brilliant yellow with black-and-white wings capped in yellow and black-and-white tails.  Females are olive with dull yellow underparts and similar black-and-white wings and tails.  In winter, the birds change to a drab brown with yellowish hints, but the black-and-white parts don't change as much.  The wings are short and pointed.  The short tail has a distinct notch in the center. 

Goldfinch plumage symbolizes a heart of gold, or hitting the gold ring.  Purity, loyalty, fidelity, love -- but often these are inward riches, hidden out of plain sight.  These wings are uncommon.

"Devil's Advocate" says of the protagonist that "she hung out with whores and drug addicts because some of them were lonely, particularly the goldfinch girl whose black-and-white wings were capped with jaunty yellow."

Bald eagle -- mentioned in "Dancing Down the Sky" and "Eiderdown."  Bald eagles have broad, slightly backswept wings of dark brown that spread like fingers at the tips.  The blunt tail is pure white.

Eagle wings are uncommon in frequency but widespread across most native tribes in North America.  They seem to manifest among people of heroic bearing or strong cultural investment, including but not limited to the kinds of honors for which eagle feathers are customarily awarded.  Examples include men who have done the Sun Dance, warriors distinguished in battle, women who are many times mothers, storytellers, great beadworkers, dancers of all genders and any tribe.

One man who had done the Eagle Dance for years fledged with the wings of a bald eagle, as mentioned in "Dancing Down the Sky."

A girl just into womanhood in "Pluck" has bald eagle wings.

Barbastelle -- mentioned in "Fledermäuse."  This is a type of bat, rather than bird.  Barbastelles have broad wings and a large tail membrane that comes to a point, forming a continuous flight surface that is nearly a triangle.

People with bat wings are called fledermäuse  after the German word for bats.  Bat wings correspond to infernal energy rather than celestial energy.  There is a trend toward nefarious behavior in such individuals, but it is not absolute.  Some vile people have bird wings; some fledermäuse  have no record of evil acts.  Nevertheless prejudice against fledermäuse  has caught on quickly.

Barbastelle wings first appeared in Germany, on a man in Hamburg and then a woman in Munich.  These were the earliest bat wings discovered.

Blue bird-of-paradise -- mentioned in "The Poi Bird."  These birds are sexually dimorphic.  The male has brilliant blue wings and tail.  The tail is except for two long plumes.  The female is dull blue above and chestnut below.  

The protagonist of "The Poi Bird" has mixed tail feathers bracketed by the twin plumes of a blue bird-of-paradise from New Guinea.

Blue-fronted Amazon parrot -- mentioned in "A Stranger Message."  Blue-fronted Amazon parrots are widely kept as pets.  The short, broad wings open like fingers at the tips; they are bright yellow-green with a dab of golden yellow at the shoulders and a pinch of red among the pinions.  The tail is shaped like a wedge from a circle.  Its feathers are yellow-green banded with darker green and splashed with red, yellow, or blue; usually with yellow tips.  Placement of red, yellow, and blue over the parrot's body varies widely among individuals.

The blue-fronted Amazon parrot is a likely candidate for Humboldt's parrot, a piece of history that inspired the poem "A Stranger Message."  It's associated with the Atures, an extinct tribe along the Orinoco River in South America.  The wings manifested in a single woman, Dolores, who had thought of herself as Hispanic, only to discover an unknown heritage after the Fledging.

Blue-winged kookaburra -- mentioned in "Like Cocky on a Biscuit Tin."  Blue-winged kookaburras are strike hunters who dive at their prey from above.  The wings are dark brown with a band of vivid aquamarine above darker bluish-brown pinions.  The tail is cobalt blue with a white tip.  The short wings come to points; the tail is short and blunt.

These wings are associated with the Kurrama tribe in Western Australia, prevailing there and perhaps appearing occasionally among neighboring tribes.  One girl of pure Japanese descent, in Port Hedland, is known to share the same manifestation -- attributed to her parents camping on their honeymoon in Kurrama territory and stopping beside one of the waterholes where spirits came to be born into bodies.

Broad-billed hummingbird -- mentioned in "Dancing Down the Sky."  These birds are sexually dimorphic.  The male's wings have shoulders of metallic emerald green with darker, duller pinions; they are narrow and pointed.  His tail is steel blue and deeply notched.  The female's coloring is more of a dark green, bluish on the tail.

This plumage appears in the Hopi tribe.  They have legends about hummingbirds as magical creatures.

Carolina parakeet -- mentioned in "Like the Vapor-Ghosts of Hiroshima."  They had turquoise wings and tail in a mix of light green to blue shades.

These wings appear among Carolina Indians -- mostly the Carolina Siouan tribes of the Chicora, Cheraw, and Waccamaw -- as a relic of the past.

Chickadee -- mentioned in "Dancing Down the Sky."  Chickadees have short gray wings and tails.

This plumage appears primarily among the Cherokee tribe, where the birds is known as tsïkïlilï'.  Chickadees also figure in Cherokee mythology.

Chicken -- mentioned in "Hen-Feathered," "The Poi Bird," "Pluck," and "Silkies."  There are numerous species of domestic chicken descended from the red junglefowl of Asia.  They come in an extremely wide range of colors, patterns, and feather types.  The wings are usually short and blunt.  Most breeds are sexually dimorphic; males have crescent tailfeathers while hens have short, straight tailfeathers.

This is a ubiquitous manifestation found in populations around the world.  Different breeds of chicken appear in different places.  As described in "Hen-Feathered," the sexual characteristics of the wings and tail usually match the person's sex; but any flavor of queer people may have feathers of the opposite sex instead.

The black-breasted golden onagadori  or phoenix appears in the imperial family of Japan.  Longer feathers carry more prestige.

The protagonist of "The Poi Bird" has the long, curling tail feathers of a black-breasted golden onagadori  from Japan, along with two other bird species.

The Rhode Island red has bright mahogany feathers, often darkening to brown or black on the tail.  One of the antagonists in "Pluck" has this plumage.

Silkies are chickens of various colors whose feathers resemble fur.  They are famous for their setting and mothering instincts; even the roosters sometimes adopt chicks to raise.  This manifestation appears among tightly bonded adoptive families, as mentioned in "Silkies."

Common Eider -- mentioned in "Eiderdown."  These birds are sexually dimorphic.  The male has broad white wings with black primary and secondary feathers, and a short black tail.  The female is subtly mottled brown.

Eider plumage manifests among the Inuit, especially the people of Sanikiluaq who have a close relationship with these sea ducks.

It also appears among people in Northumberland, especially on the Farne Islands among descendants of the Culdees or followers of Saint Cuthbert.

Common Nightingale -- mentioned in "Devil's Advocate."  Nightingales have drab brownish wings and tails.

Nightingale wings are associated with singers and with people who work at night.  They are somewhat uncommon.

In "Devil's Advocate," a girl who sings under streetlights in the park has nightingale wings.

Condor -- mentioned in "Dancing Down the Sky."  Condors in general have huge wings that fan widely into fingers at the tips, and short tails.  Their plumage is dark brown to black.

As described in "Dancing Down the Sky" ... There was one man with huge wings so black that they shone metallic blue when the sun struck them just so, broad and strong like those of a condor and yet not quite like any condor living today.  "Extinct species," the scientists said, but "Thunderbird," the tribes whispered.

[To be continued in Part 2 ...]

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