Alcyone, birding, birdwatching, British birds, Ceyx, Forest Farm, Glamorgan Canal, Greek myth about kingfisher, Halcyon, Halcyon days, Kingfisher
Did you know that the word halcyon is Greek for kingfisher?
It comes from an ancient myth about Alcyone and her husband Ceyx who angered the gods by calling each other Zeus and Hera. The real Zeus and Hera were livid and punished the couple by killing Ceyx, using a thunderbolt to sink Ceyx’s ship.
Overcome with grief at the news, Alcyone jumped into the sea and also drowned. Impressed by Alcyone’s love and compassion, Zeus and Hera transformed the couple into vibrant blue birds, the kingfishers that delight all who are privileged to see them.
But life was not all plain sailing for the newly transformed kingfishers as Zeus declared that Alcyone could only lay her eggs in winter, at a place close to the shore where Ceyx’s body had washed up. This caused Alcyone further grief because the winter storms kept washing her eggs away.
Eventually, Zeus relented and decreed that there would always be a period of fourteen days in the middle of winter when the seas would be calm enough for Alcyone to lay and brood her eggs.
This period of calm came to be known as the period of halcyon days. And, though the wind was strong, gusty and icy cold for my walk along the Glamorgan Canal at Forest Farm Nature Reserve on Friday, yet it was a day of seeing beautiful kingfishers so I feel I can still call it a halcyon day!
What a wonderful story!
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The Greek myths and legends include some wonderful tales, Joyce. 🙂