One concept in Druidry is that of working with sacred animals. In The Druid Animal Oracle, Philip Carr-Gomm writes that “our ancestors revered every aspect of the natural world and considered each part of this world capable of being an ally, guide, and teacher. The Druid of today is able to draw inspiration, direction and assistance from the realm of the natural world”.
One creature that I have found inspirational in my own Druid journey so far is not the typical grand “power animal” you might at first think of. Not a wolf or bear or even a great gothic raven, but an unobtrusive garden visitor: the blackbird (Turdus merula).
I see blackbirds practically every day, feeding in the garden or the hedgerows on the way to work, and I always love the sudden appearance of their bright yellow beaks and eyes popping out from the undergrowth. I’ve been privileged to see juvenile blackbirds emerging from the nest, and also to gently move a dying blackbird into an ivy hedge so he could breathe his last in peace.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that the blackbird often appears in my meditations as well, in the “inner grove” that forms the imaginal sacred space in Druidry.
And the blackbird is, no doubt, a sacred animal in the Druid tradition. Known as Druid Dubh, the Black Druid, the blackbird who sings at twilight is seen as a bird of the “shimmering time”, a liminal time of transition between one face of reality and another. The Druid Animal Oracle states that “The blackbird sings to us as the world changes around us – as the time of daylight and consciousness and the concrete world gives way to the moon-time of the Unconscious, of the Other-world. His song reminds us that these gateway-times are ones of great beauty and potential.”
The birds of the goddess Rhiannon are blackbirds, who are said to “wake the dead and lull the living to sleep”, and the blackbird is one of the five Oldest Animals in the tale of Culhwch and Olwen. The blackbird is a psychopomp and a walker between the realms in folklore: fitting for a bird whose plumage is so dark, and who is often glimpsed at dawn and dusk before flitting away into the hedgerow unseen.
Blackbirds are common all over Britain and Ireland, and while the males have the familiar black plumage, females and younger juveniles are brown and spotted, and easily mistaken for a song-thrush. Do have a look out for them in your garden, on country walks or in city parks, and when you spot one, remember that this unassuming little creature is also Druid Dubh, the Black Druid.