Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Supernatural Hu Hu Bird

Yesterday's blog about the hummingbird's possible metaphysical character
made me think of something I had also read once
about mockingbirds being otherworldly birds.
Many cultures regard birds in general as messengers of the soul. 
And I had heard stories similar to this, 
of birds arriving on window sills or rooftops to sing persistently
soon after the passing of a loved one.
I had even experienced that phenomenon myself when a mockingbird
sang nonstop through the night after the death of someone I loved. 

A mockingbird near the Elizabeth River:

One culture whose folklore describes the mockingbird as a supernatural bird
is the Cherokee tribe of North Carolina.
A Southern Iroquoian nation, many of the Cherokee  
defied the government's attempt to move them west along the Trail of Tears,
and so are still living in the vicinity of the Smoky Mountains today.

According to the web site of the Manataka American Indian Council
Tsalagi (jaw luh gee)* is the language of the Cherokee. 
*"uh" is a schwa sound as in cut; [g] sounds like the [g] in goat)
And the reason I mention this is that depending on the dialect,
there are two words in Cherokee meaning "mockingbird."
The first is hu hu (pronounced as it would be in English)
the second is s-ka-da-gi-s-gi, which based on information from the Council site 
and a sourced article about the phonology of Tsalagi published in,
would be pronounced somewhat liked "skaw taw gee s gee."
Tips for pronunciation from the Council cited above:
keep lips still, mouth barely moving, and position the tongue against the bottom teeth.

The Suite 101 article describes Cherokee naming conventions,
one being to name a baby Hu Hu 
if the child is thought to have metaphysical powers
or quickness of spirit like the mockingbird.

I didn't find any research that suggested the Cherokee ever kept mockingbirds as pets,
but apparently that practice was very commonplace among European Americans
 in the 19th through early 20th centuries.
Tomorrow, I will write about the mockingbirds owned as pets
 by one of America's most admired presidents, 
and why owning similar songbirds today is not legal. 

No comments: