Mother of Birds

Mother of Birds

My journey with Cerridwen has taken me on many twists and turns. She comes forth and sees opportunities for us to develop and hone our crafts, to allow us to start to heal wounds that have started to spiritually fester, to form soul bonds with our brothers and sisters, to help people in times of need and to deepen our understanding and connection to Her.

Twists and turns can be compared to the flight of birds, from the tiny wrens to the majestic falcons. In this season of the mother, Cerridwen has guided me to fly into the world of birds and look at the relationships and stories we have with them. 

Cerridwen’s story contains three birds; the wren, the hawk and the black hen. Each one plays a unique role within this very magical story of our Dark Mother. Birds are mentioned throughout history in different mythologies and stories. Ancient Egypt worshipped falcons and ibis birds as Gods and would tell stories of their wisdom, which lead to the creation of five extra days in the year and their courage to stand up for what was rightfully theirs and defend their kingdom. The beautiful Goddess Freya in Norse mythology had a magical cloak made from falcon feathers that she used to shapeshift, a craft that she shares with Cerridwen. The God Loki borrowed this cloak once or twice and as usual with Loki, things do not go in the way that they should. In Greek mythology, we cannot forget the very wise Athena and her owl, a symbol of Her wisdom.  

Lagather the kestrel

Recently I had the most amazing time with Nic and Andy at Redtails to Wag Tails. Redtails to Wag Tails specialise in Bird of Prey, Pet and Exotoc Animal Care and Animal Courier Services. Nic and Andy introduced me to their furry and feathery family and it was such a magical experience. I was introduced to Freya the Red Tailed Hawk, Herne and Lagather the Kestrels and Blodeuwedd a.k.a Gwedd, the Barn Owl.

Gwion Bach
Gwion Bach

There was one bird that really stole my heart and his name is Gwion Bach, a vermiculated eagle owl. These owls can be found in sub-Saharan Africa and can grow up to 17 inches tall. He is very similar to the tawny owls that we can find in Britain. Gwion has not had the best experience before coming to Nic and Andy and has a mistrust towards women. The energy I felt from him when I was introduced was incredible. His large black eyes were like hooks for the soul. I could not understand and will never understand how people can mistreat any animal.

Traumatised Gwion Bach
Traumatised Gwion Bach

The picture shows Gwion’s transformation. Nic worked tirelessly to ensure that Gwion was safe and cared for. All of his feathers were matted and stuck to the point that the rings for his identification on his ankle and the anklet used to attach the jess to him for flying could not be seen and it was not assured that he would survive the trauma he went through. Nic and Andy work with Gwion everyday to develop a trusting relationship with him and restore his confidence. Owls imprint with who they see first when they are born. An imprint bond is so strong and if this is broken it can be mentally and emotionally damaging for the owl. Owls sing the most precious songs and some people misunderstand them and don’t see them as the truly beautiful gift from Cerridwen. Gwion will socialise and respond if you sing to him. One fact about owls is that they are not as wise as people are led to believe and can be easily distracted, Gwion is a definite exception to the rule.

 The imprint that Gwion had with a previous owner was broken and he did not trust Nic and Andy to begin with. Gwion has formed a beautiful bond with Andy and Nic, but he is not sure around other women. At points he can be angry with Nic and this is due to his trauma from his life before he came to Redtails and Wag Tails. I was a little nervous, but there was something drawing me to him. I was the first woman to hold him apart from Nic for a long time. Expecting Gwion to hiss at me, I was very surprised to see that he was very content. He stared right into my eyes and I started to talk to him and he definitely looked like he was enjoying my company Sitting there and talking to him and watching his plumicorns move in the wind was magical. 

It got me to thinking about Gwion and his transformation in Cerridwen’s story. Gwion went through such a traumatic ordeal and was born again as Taliesin. I did contemplate this ordeal and if it impacted the relationship Taliesin has with his mother. As a shapeshifter, does Cerridwen learn the traits from the animals she changes into? Did a kind of imprinting occur with her motherly love? Does Taliesin fully trust Cerridwen or is this imprint already broken as He is born? These are some of the questions that came to me as I was speaking with Gwion Bach. He is definitely an animal that listens to you. Nic told me afterward that she has not seen Gwion respond to someone in this way before.I promise he did not end up coming home with me. 

Barn Owl
Barn Owl

Owls are wonderful birds to see and if you see one in the wild it is definitely a gift from Goddess. One owl in particular that is in decline in the United Kingdom is the Barn Owl. There are multiple reasons and unfortunately the biggest threat is humans. Destruction of habitats and being captured and sold as pets is two big reasons for their decline. Once a barn owl is in captivity it cannot be released back into the wild, so trying to maintain their numbers in the wild is a huge issue for conservationists. Very popular Hollywood films have also been a contributing factor for people keeping them as pets and not understanding and meeting their needs. Small cages do not give the owl enough room and this can lead to the owl growing into the side of the cage and this damages their wings and body. Owls are not pets and the more we learn about them, the more we can help them. When I teach about conservation in school I ask pupils how they would feel if they could no longer hear birdsong or see any birds flying. The response? They said they would feel sad. It is our responsibility to educate about birds and their conservation and to not keep them as pets. We can be the mothers of these birds by looking after the environment, learning about them from a distance and giving them the best life possible.

The motherly love that is felt for the birds was beautiful. Birds of Prey are not pets and this has led to these beautiful creatures not being given the love and respect they needed before coming to Andy and Nic. They do not treat them as pets, they specialise in the care of the birds and rehabilitate them. They also educate people at events about Birds of Prey and promote the love and welfare of them. They have such a passion and love for nature and the environment. The longer I spent time with the birds, the more they revealed their personalities and I was smiling from ear to ear. The other bird that likes to get to know you is the beautiful Freya, the red tailed hawk. 

Kirsty with Freya
Kirsty with Freya

Red tailed hawks are native to America and can be found throughout the continent. Their wingspan can reach over 4 ft in length and generally the females are bigger than the males. She was named for the Norse Goddess Freya, Goddess of Seiðr, love, beauty, war and fertility. Freya came to Nic and Andy when she was very young. She had no red tail and beautiful blue eyes. At the time of meeting her she had just had her ninth birthday. 

During the conversation with Nic, Freya was perched and listening to the conversation. As Freya grew up, she moulted twice and then her red feathers started to come through. Freya very much established an imprint with Andy, a very special bond that she will only share with him. Her intelligence is incredible and she will sit and solve puzzles, something that they would do in the wild. During a free flight, Nic and Andy will take her to the woodlands and she will “follow on” which means she will fly from tree to tree next to them. Freya was definitely agreeing with this during the conversation by using her beautiful voice and the occasional ringing of bells(the bells are a requirement as they let Nic and Andy know where she is when flying, Owls only need bells when they are being flown). Nic told me that Freya every year will shed her red tail feathers and there are only twelve of these on her tail. Nic told me that Freya likes to play tricks on her and she shreds the tail feathers to make sure Nic cant get them. 

Freya likes nothing more than to soar when she is taken out on free flights. Once, she was taken to a field and flew into woodland. Freya had spotted something in a bramble bush and natural instinct took over and she flew directly into the bush. At this point, Freya definitely knew she had miscalculated, because she had landed on the back of a deer and was taken for a very bumpy ride. The deer and Freya were unharmed. Freya’s talons ensure that she can perch and also catch and kill prey quickly and efficiently. She has three talons at the front and one at the back and this forms a cage around what she wants to catch. Thinking about this from the perspective of Gwion in the form of the wren would have been frightening and with birds becoming easily stressed and going into shock, Gwion would not have been able to cope as a wren for very long after seeing these talons coming straight towards him. Freya could survive in the wild, but it is illegal to release her into Britain because she is not a native species. 

Sometimes birds can be in trouble and we can help them. The main focus is to ensure that they do not become too stressed. Some birds have not had human contact and this contact can do them a lot of harm and can scare them to death. Contacting specialists like Nic and Andy can ensure that birds receive the best of care and are not hurt or stressed out too much as they can go into shock and die from this. When certain owls, such as tawny owls, start what is called branching they may fall and hit the ground. At this point, if you spot a baby owl on the floor, keep your distance. Sometimes the owls can appear dead, but they are just taking a rest and eventually they will climb back up the tree towards mum and dad. This is how tawny owls got the nickname of “ivy creepers”. Owls are specially designed for this as they have two talons at the front and two at the back of their foot to help them with stability and grip as they climb up the tree. This also develops the strength in their legs to help them later in life when they are independently hunting. 

The topic of archetypes came up and Nic and I discussed that each bird that they have in their care is individual and will display their own archetype and personality and the birds do the same thing with Nic and Andy. For example, Freya sees Andy as her mate and will respond to him without question. During Beltane, the birds respond to this turn of the wheel as it is breeding season and Freya will become close with him. Birds feel soul connections and respect is very much given and felt in equal measure. There is a feeling of family and guardianship and motherly love. 

This trip to go and see the birds with Redtails and Wagtails was such a rewarding experience that I will never forget. To see the love that Nic and Andy have for their birds is definitely what would be described as imprinting. The birds have this bond, a deep bond for Nic and Andy that is similar to a motherly bond. The care and the nurturing and the passion that they have is so special and it was such a privilege to go and visit them. I definitely will return for tea and cake with Gwion Bach. 

This season, look at how we can be mothers for the environment and for Cerridwen’s creatures. Look at the little things we can do that can have the biggest of impacts for our birds. Listen to their songs, paint them, read about them, go out and watch them in the wild where you live. If you live near Avalon, a definite walk in the surrounding area of the Tor is a fantastic place to observe some of these beautiful animals in the wild. Let’s show that motherly love from a distance and help our birds in the wild before it is too late and the countryside becomes silent.

Blessed Be

I give so much thanks to Nic and Andy from Redtails to Wagtails. Let’s show our love and support for the incredible work they do with their animals and nature.  You can find them on Facebook: Redtails to Wagtails.



Somerset, UK

Kirsty Reade

Kirsty is a Death Priestess of Avalon, Priestess of Anubis and is currently on Spiral 1 of the Priestess of Cerridwen training. She is a Wiccan and Witch with a passion for divination, ancestral work and research of ancient practices. A qualified teacher, Kirsty is developing learning practices to help others who are interested in the Pagan Pathway.

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