In the Animal Kingdom, variation is the spice of life. Within a species, there can be many different morphs, mutations and differences in colour. Either where the animal takes on a darker form or lighter one, or any shade in between. Often the normal or most common colour of the species is a shade somewhere in the middle. I am going to be focusing more on the morph forms in bird species, especially the Wahlberg’s eagle. Every spring, when we see the same pair of Wahlberg’s eagles, both the pale morph, return from travels over a vast distance from the equatorial countries in Africa, all the way back to this nest in the Leadwood forest of Londolozi.
Wahlberg’s eagles are intra-African breeding migrants, which basically means that they travel north within Africa for the winter where conditions are better and food is more abundant, then return back to South Africa every summer to breed. At Londolozi we often see them arrive around August and what is amazing is that they often will nest in the same nests every year.
Within this blog, I would like to rather talk more about the myths and legends behind the different morphs rather than the scientific side of why they are different colours.
Many cultures worldwide believe that a white or pale morph in the animal kingdom is a spirit animal.
It is believed that the eye of a white/pale morph animal is a window into the spiritual or sacred world. This belief could be because the chances of survival are lowered being less camouflaged and standing out to threats/prey. Thus the ability to survive is somewhat more challenging, giving them the magical reputation as they defied all odds.
Many Native American tribes had “spiritual” beliefs that albino/pale animals should be protected and not hunted as you will be cursed. One example is the spirit bears (essentially leucistic black bears) in the Canadian rainforest that were believed to have supernatural powers. According to the legend, this bear could swim deep underwater and lead people to magical places. The Raven, which is believed to be the creator, was believed to make every tenth black bear a white spirit bear to remind the tribes about the ice age 10000 years ago.
Another example of a legend is the story of the Numbi Queen in Africa 400 years ago who fell ill. One night a bright light appeared next to her village which drew her in, never to be seen again. After the Queen had died/disappeared the villagers saw many white impalas and lions in an area known as the Timbavati. Which is still home to white lions today. Some cultures believe these white lions are called “star lions”, a gift from the Numbi Queen or the Sun God. This story is told in the book, ‘Mystery of the White lions’ by Linda Tucker who heard it from an African lion shaman, Credo Mutwa.
Egyptian alchemists believed that a white peacock was a symbol of pure light in its essential state. As all the colours of light combined together produce white and thus the peacock’s tail represents this optical principle.
The Leadwood forest is often described as a sacred place at Londolozi, meaning that it is a place that you do not have to talk about but it’s a place of many feelings and unspoken communication that connects us with our roots. For me personally knowing that pale mutations in the animal kingdom are of high spiritual value, it is no wonder that these two pale morph eagles would choose such a place to nest.
Filed under General Nature Wildlife
What a fascinating read today Jess. Love it and your photographs! I have always been interested in the myths and legends of different cultures and still treasure my very old copy of ‘Indaba, my children’ by Vuzamazulu Mutwa. Thank you ❤️🙏🏻
Raptors in general are associated with the spiritual realm, and I often see or hear them when I’m in need of some higher guidance. It makes sense to me that the pale morphs would hold metaphysical significance beyond a simple genetic mutation or expression. I loved the image of the pair with the full moon behind them.
Jess, thanks for this update on the eagles. It is interesting that the Native American spiritual culture and the African bush culture have such similar stories. Makes one think about the connectedness of humanity rather than the differences!
A great article on the different myths concerning white/ light animals. Thanks for these stories!
Jess, What an interesting story! The myths and legends that surround some of the wildlife are special insights into some of the beliefs of tribes and people from long ago!
Hi Jess lovely blog mixing science fact and cultural background with some mystery in addition! The white bison was the most revered animal for most native tribes in the USA. I heard of white lions and their symbolic meaning. All so touching and the eagles with a nearly moon are great…
Great post Jess! These are truly beautiful birds, made all the more beautiful by your insights into their spiritual and mythical lore!!
Thank you Jess for this blog. It was fascinating to read about two of the myths surrounding the pale mutations in the animal kingdom. It’s much more interesting than reading scientific explanations as to why certain animals are lighter in color than others in their species. Seeing a white lion was especially momentous- maybe one day a spirit bear will cross before me.
Jess a good story on the myths of light colored animals and the Whalburg eagle. Foto’s show clearly there is a colour difference.
It is so easy for those of us visit Londolozi to get so caught up in watching the animals and we forget to watch for the wonderful birds that also live there. Thank you for the history. Victoria
Wonderful post and beautiful photo of the pair of Wahlberg eagles!
A nice blog Jess and love the mythology thing. The spirit bears are beautiful animals and, yes, our indigenous people have many stories to tell about them. Thanks for sharing with us – nice to have a bird story.
What a wonderful piece on the eagles of Londolozi.
Jess – I just love your interesting blogs sharing knowledge of flora and fauna. The myths and legends are fascinating . Thank you.