17 November 2014 21:40

Amazing animal myths from around the world

WASHINGTON, DC. KAZINFORM From the lucky ladybug to the clairvoyant groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, we love to assign magical qualities to animals. We even hold one responsible for our very existence-the stork.

The baby-delivering stork is a beloved animal myth in Europe and the U.S.-especially for parents looking to answer that perennial childhood question, "How did I get here?"
Reader AnnaMarie Kahn asked us on Facebook: "How [do] other cultures explain away the most intimate of creation stories?"
In the early 20th century, anthropologist and folkloristElsie Clews Parsons documented numerous conception myths around the world, from spirit-inhabited boulders in Australia catching women unawares to the paternity of Alexander the Great via serpent, the National Geographic reports.
Anthropologist Alexander F. Chamberlin wrote in 1896 of international myths that describe children emerging from natural landscapes, including caverns and cabbage patches.
As for the stork, the Greeks and Romans considered it to be a real family bird. The National Zoo says that European white storks form monogamous pairs-though the partnerships aren't for life. This temporary monogamy, along with their diligent efforts at child care, including disgorging food for their young, would have given the birds a rep as model parents.
Storks also seem comfortable living among us, which may contribute to the animals' association with home and family. (Watch video: "Stork vs. Mongoose.")
"Storks nest on top of people's roofs," said David Fraser, an animal expert at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, "so in traditional European towns, you could see storks with great big nests, clacking their bills on the rooftops."
Clever Raven
Animal myths are very specific to culture, Fraser said, and often reflect an animal's significance in daily life and how a community views the animal.
Edgar Allan Poe may have us thinking of the raven as a dark omen, but the Haida people of the Pacific Northwest see this bird as clever. To them, the bird is a "trickster that played pranks on people but also did useful things," said Fraser.
Haida legend holds that a raven found a clamshell filled with frightened little creatures-the first humans. The bird then coaxed the timid creatures out of their shell and into the world.

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