I happened to notice the other day that my book Invoking Animal Magic: A guide for the pagan priestess is priced at $16.56 at right now at Amazon.com. That’s over $10 off the cover price and lowest I’ve seen it offered yet. So, if you haven’t read the book yet or you’re thinking about getting it for a friend, this might be the time.
I was thinking the other day that although I have an excerpt at the book’s website, invokinganimalmagic.com, and excerpts have appeared in quite a few magazines, I’ve never put one on my blog. So here is a retelling of a traditional folk tale from the book.
Why the Owl Hunts by Night
There are many tales explaining mobbing. A few have beauty as the rationale. An English fable has the owl mobbed for stealing a rose set aside as a beauty prize, while in a Polish tale the owl must hide from other birds bewitched by her beauty. In an Aesop story the owl’s intellect provokes the jealousy of mobbing birds. Another Polish tale claims the owl is mobbed because she once got too drunk and obnoxious at a wedding. The following story comes from Brittany.
Who should be designated king of the birds is not easily detected at first. Would that be the biggest bird, the prettiest, the bird with the sweetest voice? If the king of birds is the wisest, perhaps that would be the owl, but she suggested the honor go to the bird which could fly the highest. The other birds flocked to this suggestion and agreed the one who could fly the highest should be crowned king.
The owl and the eagle, as giant birds of prey, were the main contestants for this prize, but the wren, unbeknownst to anyone, decided to enter the contest secretly. She hid in the feathers of the eagle and rode far up in the sky. When the eagle, having passed the owl, tired and could fly no higher, the wren sped out of her hiding place and climbed as high as she could go. “I’m it!” she cried excitedly. “I’m king—queen—leader—whatever you call the best of all birds.”
The other birds puzzled over this development, but there were many witnesses to the feat, and the wren was duly crowned.
In most tales, the story ends here. But there is a sequel, because birds are not fools. The owl had not seen the wren pass her, and the eagle had felt the wren’s wings beat against him. Through much discussion, the bird kingdom spotted the ruse and confronted the wren, who was immediately imprisoned. The owl was given the job of guarding the wren in her hole while the other birds determined punishment.
It took them a very long time. Everyone had something to say about the trick—a suggestion to make or a desire to spout off about the indecency of the stunt. As the hours dragged by, the owl began to get sleepy. Her eyelids became heavy and she lapsed into a doze. The doze became a snooze and the snooze became a slumber. The wren jumped out of her hole and flew away.
Oh, the other birds were mad! All of the fury they had saved for the wren became directed at the owl. They flocked around her and pecked and menaced and screamed, and the owl had to fly very high and very far to get away.
They are still angry about it. To this day the owl hides by daylight and does not leave her roost until all the other birds are asleep.