the Swallow perched on the primeval mound Hieroglyph for Swallow



Appearance: Various species of swallow took to the skies in Egypt. As Egyptian artists were never consistant in the coloring of the bird's plumage in their depictions, it is unclear which, if any, was the symbolic bird. By the shape of the bird's body in the hieroglyph and in painting, it is clear that the bird is definately a member of the swallow family.

Meaning: During the Old Kingdom, swallows were associated with stars and therefore the souls of the dead. Chapter 86 of the Book of the Dead specifically instructs the deceased on how to transform into a swallow. In Spell 1216 of the Pyramid Texts, the pharaoh describes how he has "gone to the great island in the midst of the Field of Offerings on which the swallow gods alight; the swallows are the imperishable stars." The imperishable stars were those near the North Star that never seemed to rise or set, and therefore were "constant".

The swallow also appears in paintings of the solar barque as it enters the underworld. The swallow is usually shown on the prow of the boat. In this context, the bird appears to be an announcer of the sun's approach.

In Egyptian love poetry, the swallow declares the dawn of new love.

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