The unusual thing about this informative and entertaining guide to birds is that it’s written by a third-degree Wiccan High Priestess in the Black Forest Clan, a witch.





Author Arin Murphy-Hiscock gives us “The Hidden Meanings of Birds, a spiritual field guide,” exploring the symbology and significance “of these divine winged messengers.”


I admit, when I picked up the book I had serious questions about it. It’s fun to read, however, a thoughtful and completely different way to look at birds. Read the book and they might never look the same again. 


The author introduces us to 41 species, chosen by family rather than

specific species, sparrow rather than, say, white-throated sparrow. She handles the standard field-guide data — names, distribution, description — in a tone more conversational than most guides. 


Unlike most (or any other) guide, she also writes about myths, folklore, cultural associations, omens, and divinatory meaning.


For each bird she gives us associated energies, associated seasons, and color and element associations. Nuthatch, for instance, is associated with adaptability and new viewpoints. The bird demonstrates that by walking upside down as it hunts for food on tree branches and trunks, Ms. Murphy-Hiscock suggests the bird might be encouraging you to do likewise, new viewpoint, not upside down.


The book gives an entirely new meaning to life lists.

Published by Adams Media, Avon, MA, 2019, trade paperback, illustrated with paintings by John James Audubon, 240 pages, index, references, websites, $17.99.






“Birds in the Ancient World, Winged Words,” a recently published book, has a relationship to“The Hidden Meaning of Birds,” the book by the wiccan high priestess.


Jeremy Mynott’s book also visits omens and auguries, magic and metamorphosis, signs and symbols. More broadly, it explores the roles birds played in the everyday lives of residents of an ancient world, Greeks and Romans — seasons, weather, time, hunting, cooking, eating, farming, sports, and entertainment. 


Birds were important in many ways beyond our curiosity about name and habit. Birds in the time Mynott describes held wider meaning in everyday life. 


This is a detailed and well-illustrated look at a relationship of man and animal existing today only as history. Birds have lost importance, it seems, our loss as Mynott with evident scholarship shows us how the world we shared with birds once was.


Birds in the Ancient World, Jeremy Mynott, Oxford University Press, 2018, 451 pages, illustrated, index, $39.95.