Raptors ~ Hunters on the Wing
One of natures most streamlined and precise hunters the family of Raptors or Birds of Prey
Poetry WB Yeats
Irish poet W. B. Yeats took the image of a circling falcon and used it to represent the social and cosmic order in his poem “The Second Coming” Later Yeats also made references to Egyptian culture suggesting connections between his falcon and Egyptian god Horus.
The circling falcon image also suggested a bomber, since the poem was published in a brief time of peace between World Wars 1 and 2.
Mythological Greek god Horus
The Egyptians god Horus, was depicted as being Hawk/Falcon headed. Osiris 1st King of Egypt was murdered by his evil brother, Seth. Osiris’s grieving wife, Isis hovered over his body in the form of a kite and fanned him with her wings until she’d restored in him enough life to father her son Horus. Horus later defeated Seth in combat gaining control over Egypt. The eye he lost, was replaced by the god Thoth.
The Eye of Horus as an Amulet
Raptors have exceptional eyesight, and the lost “eye of Horus” was frequently represented as a protective amulet in Egyptian culture. Christians named it the “all-seeing eye of God.”
The peregrine falcon, which is native to Egypt, is capable of not only complex in-flight manoeuvres, but has also been clocked at the fastest speed of any other bird. Poetry found on a pottery fragment near ancient Cairo honoured the sun god Ra in his representation as a falcon.
Giant Hrsvelgr took the form of an EAGLE. According the the poet Vafruonismal from The Poetic Edda, he sits at the end of the world and his beating wings in flight causes the wind to blow.
Australian Aboriginal mythology says that the Moon was in possession of fire but refused to share it with mankind. Consequently a SPARROW HAWK apprehended the fire from the Moon. In Teutonic Myth they represent the wind and Mescalero Apaches believe RED TAILED HAWKS are a sign of good luck.
Greek Fable of Hawk and Nightingale
Hesiod used a hawk to represent the inexorable power of fate. An unfortunate nightingale caught in a hawk’s claws was carried high into the clouds, weeping loudly. He rebuked her, saying, “Goodness, why are you screaming? . . . He is a fool who seeks to compete against the stronger: he both loses the struggle and suffers injury on top of insult” (Works and Days, p. 43).
King Arthur and his Knights
HAWKS, were also used in hunting. Sir Gawain, knight of King Arthur’s- Gwalchmai, means “hawk of May”. He appears to be a version of the Irish hero Cúchulainn, whose father was the sun, the name perhaps relating to the raptor’s solar associations. Merlin, Arthur’s legendary court magician also takes his name from a raptor that was sometimes used in falconry.
Falconry and the Middle Ages
Spring hunting on horseback with FALCONS became a favourite recreation of medieval lords and ladies, finely attired, accompanied by hooded birds on their wrists. Uncovering the falcon’s eyes and releasing the bonds they would eagerly indulge in the hunting of game. Romancing was frequently compared to the hunt in medieval times, and metaphors from falconry were often used to describe romantic relationships. And since Egyptian times, the falcon has remained a symbol of honour and of love. In “The Falcon” by minnesinger Dietmar von Aist she goes on to compare her knight to a falcon and longs for his return.