Are Robins Symbols Of Dead Loved Ones?

gattino

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#1
I am increasingly aware of what appears to me to be a "new" folklore in the making. A phenomena that is coming into being, but not yet commented on.

My own account has been told by me several times and I won't take up space in my first posting by giving the full story. But the bones of it were this: several months after my father died, 2 years ago, a robin which started appearing in our garden was whimsically associated by us - though not seriously - with my father. The first hint of something extraordinary came a few weeks later when I was going to fulfill a long time ambition to be regressed (I have no believe in reincarnation - this was purely curiosity about the sensations involved). I was daydreaming abut what images I would come back to tell people about and started imagining I'd see my father in my imagined past life...which made no sense..so Ichanged it to the fantasy that I would see a robin flying around my head and over my shoulder and that I would tell people it was my dad showing us he was with me. A daydream.

24 hours later I was attending mass,it was Sunday, and became aware of something tiny dead centre above the altar, from nowhere...like a large insect. It flew the length of the church - and became visibly a bird. As I watched it fly over my shoulder I saw the bright red breast of a robin....

My father,incidentally died on Christmas day.

You can imagine that ever since this symbolism of the robin as my father became important and robins kept turning up everywhere in sequences of extraordinary coincidence. I won't detail thm all here. So far it's my own little tale of wonder...but inthe last month something extraordinary has come to my attention.....

Chat magazine's xmas double issue was brought by a visitor to our house in December. It has short "true life spooky story" articles from readers. One was from a woman whose grandfather had died just before Christmas the year before and mourningfor him, and wishing he was there,a Robin suddenly flew in landed on the carpet and stared at her. She associated this-his favourite bird-with her grand-dad's spirit..or a sign from him.

I bought the magazine for two more issues..and in the second of these another of the true life stories - making no reference whatsoever to the previous one- a man told a near identical account of a robin appearing after the death of a loved one and the association he henceforth made between the two!!

The intriguing thing already was that none of these accounts-including my own - are related to or draw upon or display any awareness of each other. They stand entirely in isolation. There is no popular folklore, no mythology ancient or modern which associates robins specifically with the spirits or messengers of the dead. Yet already there were 3 stories.


Yesterday a different magazine - YOURS, beloved of the elderly and fans of Roy Hudd - came out. An article called reflections had entertainer Anita Harris discussingher faith. Her last paragraph begins: "A few days after my darling Daddy died, a robin came out of nowhere, and now the robin comesto me many,many times;in my garden, on a journey, when I'm on tour or if I'mdistressed in any way - suddenly a robin will be around me. It doesn't matter whether people laugh at me, I believe its my father trying to reach me to tell me all will be well."

You can imagine my reaction to readin this. And the third such account..in two different publications...in the space of a month. Again, there is no popular or old wives tale to draw on in all of these people making very personal spiritual conclusions about what they were experiencing. It's not something influenced by reading or television. I've searched the net for such associations and they don't appear to exist.

Except I found this passage on the symbolism of birds generally: "The bird is an animal almost universally exalted and accepted as symbolically being associated with the soul, as a messenger of the gods, a carriers of souls, an oracle or seen to possess the spirit of loved ones whilst also being a symbol of good or evil. ..... Carl G. Jung, the psychiatrist, said that birds represented the inner spirit of a person and that birds were seen to be associated with angels, flights of fancy and the supernatural. The Egyptians associated birds with the soul or 'ba', and the hawk specifically with the soul of 'Horus' and the pharaoh. ......"


So...does anyone else have personal accounts or know of any regarding an association between a robin redbreast and the spirit of a lost loved one? Is there a new folklore waiting to be born? Please let me know any other such accounts..
 

taras

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#2
The night Princess Diana died, a robin flew into our kitchen and refused to leave. Not that I had any connection with Di, so I suppose my post here is irrelevant.
 

oll_lewis

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#4
The association of robins with dead loved ones has been doing the rounds in south wales for a long time, the accosiation was deaproated and already 'very old' when my gransparents were children.
One story is that this paticular tradition dates back to pre-roman times when the Silures celts (pronounsed kelt) of south east wales and the valleys asociated birds with ancestors or as messengers from the gods, according to this legend robins were the souls of people who had died in combat. There is absolutely, catagoricly no evidence for this whatsoever as far as I'm aware... but it makes a nice story at least.
 

gattino

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#5
Thanks for that lord flasheart- that adds to the mystery! Th point being that I've certainly never heard of it and wasn't aware anyone else had...and these other people's stories give no hintthat they reached conclusions based on a well known superstition...they each decided what they were seeing represented a dead loved one spontaneously and in isolation (though of course for everyone but me you'dhave to track them down to make sure that was the case!)


So the discovery (from my point of view) that there is a tradition to this belief that Iwas not aware of adds "something"to it.


Can you or anyone else direct me to any websites discussing teh welsh tradition? I found none when I was looking for the subject previously.
 

marion

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#6
Birds are good teachers, or you can just divine by them- auspices.(a little bird told me)
 

Alexius4

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#7
I recall reading an odd anecdote in a book about the last days of TE Lawrence. Lawrence had recently retired from the RAF to Cloudshill in Dorset, where was spending time doing up his cottage and zipping about on his Brough Superior. In the few days leading to his fatal bike prang, a small bird - possibly a robin - started to tap at his window.

Apparently, local folklore held this to be a harbinger of death. The day Lawrence died, his gardener returned to his cottage and shot it.
 

marion

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#8
Was thinking about the robin thing- robins are solitary birds who like to be around people in gardens so would be noticed more than another sort of bird if you were in the mood to look for 'a sign'
I'm sure there is a connection between death and barn owls but would have to research that,and in general white animals are too-though that may be a reverse Chrisitanisation of white animals being beloved by the pre-Christian goddess.
 

gyrtrash

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#9
Alexius said:
In the few days leading to his fatal bike prang, a small bird - possibly a robin - started to tap at his window.

Apparently, local folklore held this to be a harbinger of death.

Any small bird tapping in your window can be a sign of a death in the house, according to the superstitions we knew when I was a kid.

Sparrows (amongst other creatures) are sometimes thought to act as 'psychopomps' that conduct souls to the after-life.
 

TheQuixote

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#10
Whenever my Dad pottered about in his garden he would more often than not, have a male robin follow him about. Usually if his was digging or turning the earth. I guess the robin thought he was a meal ticket and this one didn't seem phased by humans.

In relation to the robin= symbol of death.

I seem to remember being told by my parents as a kid, that the robin got his 'red breast' because he regularly flies down to Hell to take the unfortunate souls sips of water. The 'red breast' comes about due to him being burnt by the furnaces. I'm not sure where this originates from though.

I know in Welsh folklore, there is a harbinger of death that takes the form of a large black bird. Usually seen or heard flapping at a window as a portent that either yourself or someone you know will die soon.
 

phi23

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#12
I was thinking about this thread at the bus stop this morning and recollecting how a fearless/friendly robin visited my house two years running in the winter when i was a young child. The robin even came into the house on occasions. While I was thinking about this a robin appeared close by - the first one I've seen this winter, coincidence or synchronicity?
 

gattino

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#13
The synchronicity of the robins appearance is a key feature of it all...Saturday morning, before I sawthe anita harris article,I was in Smithslooking for Fortean Times..it wasn't in its usual place..so Iwent tothe opposite end ofthe shop where they used tokeep it for a short while..wasn't there either..but where I expected to findit was a birdwatching magazine, the cover of which caught my eye because..well you can guess. It brought the whole robin thing backto mind just before I went home and foundthe whole thing ressurected by the magazine article. Then yesterday,before I wrote all this up on here, a robin landed in front of me as I was walking towards the house..like you the first one I've seen in months.


One of the most bizarre coincidences occurred last year where the robin motif kept turning up over a few days..and I had the fancy I'd makethe robin some kind of personal symbol or talisman..but I couldn't think what that would consist of..the only thing I could imagine (as I was goingtothe supermarket onthe bus) was a poster of Robin from Batman. Got off the bus, did myshopping and left the shop...to be confronted by 2 charity collectors with buckets dressed in crappy superhero costumes. One was batman..only after I passed them did it dawn on me the other was supposed to be...well...robin!
 

marion

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#14
If robins keep turning up maybe they are trying to guide you (as an animal spirit guide) There are threads on thet hereabouts with links to good sites (don't have time to search for them right now!)
 
A

Anonymous

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Quixote said:
Whenever my Dad pottered about in his garden he would more often than not, have a male robin follow him about. Usually if his was digging or turning the earth. I guess the robin thought he was a meal ticket and this one didn't seem phased by humans.

In relation to the robin= symbol of death.

I seem to remember being told by my parents as a kid, that the robin got his 'red breast' because he regularly flies down to Hell to take the unfortunate souls sips of water. The 'red breast' comes about due to him being burnt by the furnaces. I'm not sure where this originates from though.

I know in Welsh folklore, there is a harbinger of death that takes the form of a large black bird. Usually seen or heard flapping at a window as a portent that either yourself or someone you know will die soon.
The common folklore I've heard is that the Robin was the bird that landed on Jesus's head while he was being crucified, the bird removed the crown of thorns and was covered with the blood of Jesus. In appreciation all robins since then have been festooned with red breasts.
 
A

Anonymous

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Matthew said:
The common folklore I've heard is that the Robin was the bird that landed on Jesus's head while he was being crucified, the bird removed the crown of thorns and was covered with the blood of Jesus. In appreciation all robins since then have been festooned with red breasts.
:yeay:
 

TheQuixote

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#19
I used to get quite upset thinking about them poor robins flying down into Hell, I presume it was a christianised take on the reference to the robin being a 'fire-bird' in the passage below;

(...) For a robin to tap at a window or enter a house was considered unlucky, even a herald of death or disaster, though in Gloucestershire an exception is made during the month of November.

In prehistory it seems likely that because of its red breast the robin was regarded as a fire-bird. Some myths tell of its descent into the Underworld to fetch fire for Man. Consequently the bird was associated with fire-worship rituals, and even in fairly recent times in Wales it was believed that anyone who killed a robin would have his house burnt down. The robin is also linked with a cult of the dead, as is suggested by the fairy story of The Babes in the Wood and also by the ballad of The Death of Cock Robin.
Whitlock, R (1979) In Search of Lost Gods A Guide to British Folklore. Phaidon Press: Oxford p83
 

gattino

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#20
This thread has been dead a few months and no robins have turned up in its place.

But I thought I'd ressurect it to see if there are any new contributors with knowledge of the subject...
 
A

Anonymous

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#21
Small birds which flew into Nursing Homes were always considered to foretell the death of a resident and I've witnessed it myself.
 
A

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#22
Robins were sometimes used as a sentimental and folkloric symbol in Victorian painting.

From the Art Critic London on the RA exhibition of Victorian fairy paintings in 1997-
'.......we learn the sinister fact that robins are the enemies of fairies because they were thought to bury human dead in the woods, polluting the fairy domain.'

Full article here-
Art Critic London

And here's Robins of Modern Times, by John Roddam Spencer

There's more out there too but I'll have to hunt a bit further.
 

taras

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#23
My flatmate has trained a robin to fly into our flat. Bloody annoying it is too. Its name is (apparently) "Mosk", as it lives in the direction of the mosque (?)
 

Raya_Kaiserin

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#24
Matthew said:
The common folklore I've heard is that the Robin was the bird that landed on Jesus's head while he was being crucified, the bird removed the crown of thorns and was covered with the blood of Jesus. In appreciation all robins since then have been festooned with red breasts.
Ahh, the version of that I was told was that while Jesus was being crucified a robin flew up with water in its beak to try and quench his thirst...but he became impaled on the crown of thorns and bled to death. Now all robins have red breasts to represent the wound of the robin who tried to aid Jesus.

Do they actually *have* robins in the Middle East?
 

TheQuixote

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#25
I knew I wasn't going senile... point to prove? Moi? :D

here is the version that had been told to me as a child as I had already posted (although thinking about it, I had heard some of the other versions too):

Why the Robin's Breast is Red

A WELSH boy was throwing stones one day at a robin redbreast. "My poor boy," said his grandmother to him, "have you not heard of the fiery pit and how this merciful bird takes cool dew on his little bill and lets it fall on sinful souls in torment? The marks of the fire that scorches him as he drops the water are to be seen on his red breast. Never throw a stone at a robin."
Taken from The Welsh Fairy Book which is a collection of traditional Welsh myths and tales:
http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/wfb/wfb85.htm
 

gattino

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#26
3 more examples of this strange phenomenon have come to light:

1) Yet another women's magazine psychic page..this time Bella. A few weeks ago in a regular feature in which a supposed medium gives messages to anonymous readers (always followed by the words of the reader confirming the details), the first such message ended with the paragraph "the robin you see at his grave is him, letting you know he's ok" The reader confirms the appearance at the graveside of said robin. (As an aside this article was pointed out to me as I was watching tv and daydreaming about just such a scenario myself...imagining that when my mother eventually dies I'd see two robins land on the gravestone and tell people this remarkable story...As I was thinking this I was awoken from this slightly tasteless fantasy by my mother showing me the robin story in the magazine!)


2) I was watching Gladiator the other night. In the opening scene, before battle, he's walking through fields, running his hand along the tops of the grass, mirroring the scene at the end when he enters Elysium/Heaven...And a robin appears in front of him which looks up and flies away, and he smiles. I wonder if the writer/director meant anything by that.....? Well we could be dull and see a mundane explanation...that its setting the wintry scene where the fight takes place, or represents the promise of spring and his finally going home, or even the blood red breast has some military symbolism... But I was just thinking more about it and since the first scene mirrors the last, there may be greater significance to the fact that in the Fields of Heaven he encounters his dead loved ones waiting for him, whereas in the earthly fields that reflect it he encounters a robin. So maybe we're meant to equate the two...


3) This got me looking up any folkloric associations on the internet again..and again I find none. However it did lead me to a personal website dedicated to the memory of a girl who died young from illness...and among poems and tributes the parents give an account under the heading "Our shared miracle" which reads:

The robin became very symbolic for our family during our daughter's 8-1/2 month struggle with leukemia. After many painful tests and medical procedures, we would say, ‘Remember, Sherri, the robin always sings in the morning', giving her hope for a better tomorrow. Sherri's struggle with leukemia ended. She died peacefully on Sunday, December 2, 1990.

A number of years after our daughter's death, we created ‘Loved and Remembered' Memorial Tributes which consist of bumper-stickers, photo return address labels and notes cards. These tributes help other bereaved parents in keeping alive the name and memory of their child(ren). Our order forms are displayed on ‘interest tables' at many bereavement conferences throughout the nation.

Last June, we received a phone call from a bereaved parent who lived in Wayne, New Jersey. She called to inquire about our services and shared with me the pain she was going through after the loss of her son, Alan, three years prior. Needless to say, we talked for some time, and at closing we both expressed the wish that we would meet one day. I mentioned to her that we were going on vacation the last week in June. She immediately indicated that she and her husband were also going to be on vacation at that time, in Cape Cod. I couldn't believe what I was hearing and told her that that was where we were vacationing, too. It turned out that we were going to be staying approximately 30 minutes from each other. Of course we immediately, made plans to meet for dinner the Sunday following our arrival. Since Judy's colleague had been to Cape Cod a number of times, he recommended the Daniel Webster Inn in Eastham.

The morning after we arrived at our bed-and-breakfast in Cape Cod, we looked out the window and there on the lawn sat this beautiful robin. I have not seen a robin red-breast since I moved from the east coast in 1969. My husband, Norm, and I were speechless and felt Sherri's presence with us. It was a wonderful moment...

Well, Sunday soon arrived and we anticipated our meeting Judy and her husband, John, for dinner. When we arrived at the Inn, we were ushered into the dining room which was surrounded by windows and a view of a very natural forest setting filled with beautiful trees. We felt as if we were dining in the middle of a forest. We were seated at a round table with my back to a window, when John said, ‘Look, Judy, there's Alan's cardinal perched on the branch of that tree.' We mentioned that Sherri had a favorite bird too and proceeded to tell them the story about the robin. Then John said, ‘Well you won't believe this - look at the tree now.' I immediately turned around and there right beside the cardinal, sat a robin. We couldn't believe our eyes, and dried our tears. We knew this was a message from our children -- as the four of us had ‘connected', so had they.

The Inn was a ‘perfect' recommendation from Judy's colleague.

By Debbie and Norm Landsman

Once more as with all these tales none of the people experiencing them seem to be drawing on a cultural preconceptions or superstitions.....yet all experience such near identical things. Why isn't someone writing this up for the FT!!!?
 
A

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#27
The sight of a Robin has been known to move me almost to tears.

I'm normally quite a level-headed down to earth kind of person, so it has always puzzled me as to why.

Even as I think of it now, it's very difficult to express what *exactly* it is about them that has such a profound effect on me.

This thread is definitely food for thought...
 

gattino

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#28
After all this time, a new development.

My sister reports a friend of hers who was in hysterics at the crematorium as they laid out her father's ashes inthe form of a cross.

She was suddenly amazed and becaleme at the sight of a robin appearing suddenly at the spot, whch stood there on the ground just looking at her and not leaving.

She was mesmerised not least because she'd apparently heard about my encounter and association.

Her spirits lifted she simply said "you can fly away now" at which point it did.

The next day a/the robin came looking through her window at home

[BTW can someone message and explain why these pages are 700 feet wide on my screen and how I can correct it!]
 

rynner2

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#29
It's interesting that this symbolism has cropped up on both sides of the Atlantic, as the American and European robins are quite separate species! (The American bird is quite a bit larger.)

The birds I see most of are seagulls (unfortuneately!), but I do get the impression, whenever I see a robin, that they are somehow 'special'.

In July this year I went to the local graveyard to see if I could trace the location of a grave on behalf of someone in America. (The vicar had told me the grave itself no longer existed.) A robin turned up and perched on a nearby gravestone. I spoke to him and asked him to pose for me, and I'm sure he did! Here's the pic:



(I thought I'd posted something about that before, but can't find it.
Did find this post, though, which seems to have very little to do with the topic of this thread:
http://www.forteantimes.com/forum/viewt ... 399#535399 )
 

TonyLaMesmer

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#30
The day after my parents elderly neighbour died, both my mother and father were visited, on several occasions, by a Robin. It was made all the more curious by the fact that the Robin appeared at the height of Summer.
They were both convinced it was a message from their departed neighbour..
 
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