Cultural responses to the migration of the barn swallow in Europe
Ashleigh Green 1988
This paper investigates the place of barn swallows in European folklore and science from the Bronze Age to the nineteenth century. It takes the swallow’s natural migratory patterns as a starting point, and investigates how different cultural groups across this period have responded to the bird’s departure in autumn and its subsequent return every spring. While my analysis is focused on classical European texts, including scientific and theological writings, I have also considered the swallow’s representation in art. The aim of this article is to build a longue durée account of how beliefs about the swallow have evolved over time, even as the bird’s migratory patterns have remained the same. As I argue, the influence of classical texts on medieval and Renaissance thought in Europe allows us to consider a temporal progression (and sometimes regression) in the way barn swallow migration was explained and understood.
Ashleigh Green (1988) Cultural responses to the migration of the barn swallow in Europe, in Stanley Cramp (ed.), Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa: The Birds of the Western Palearctic, vol. 5 (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 263ff.