Wren Day or Lá an Dreoilín


The Eagle and the Wren once tried who could fly highest, and the victor was to be king of the birds. So the Wren flew straight up, and the Eagle flew in great circles, and when the Wren was tired he settled on the Eagle’s back. When the Eagle was tired he stopped, and–

“Where art thou, Wren?” said the Eagle.

“I am here above thee,” said the Wren.

And so the Wren won the match.

Scottish Fairy and Folk Tales, by George Douglas, [1901]

Yesterday was Wren’s day, also modernly known as St. Stephens Day, though long before Christianity and saintly preoccupations came to the Celtic Isles, it is believed to have occurred near the solstice.  The Wren’s feathers were sought as protection from death at sea, while it was also believed to be ill luck, even a mortal curse, to kill one. Yet every year, near the winter solstice, the Wren is ceremoniously hunted and killed. Even the king of the birds dies. The wren is then ritually presented in Wren Boy ceremonies, which in modern times are usually done to collect money for charity.

Wren Concept Sketch

Wren Concept Sketch

The wren is a subtle and small bird with a tremendous voice. Her name is derived from old Irish Druí (druid) and én (bird), modernly Dreoilín. She is fertile in knowledge, sight, and skill. For myself, the wren’s song has been a tremendous delight, and I always begin to feel settled into my home after first hearing one. The ever-fertile wren, whose melodious voice is ever present throughout the year,  is highlighted in the stillness and silence of winter.

Beginning of painting

Beginning of painting

Yet soon, just as the birth of the new sun represents the rise of the Oak King, Wren’s Day reveals the death of the wren and soon to be the return of the robin. The link between the two is represented in marriage tales in literature.  It is all a reminder that all is cyclical and every ending is wed to a beginning.

“The wren has the ability to release the past, leaving itself untethered to take on each new cycle in its life.”

– Miranda Gray, Beasts of Albion

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