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Cold Blackbird Days

"🎶 Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye.
Four and twenty blackbirds
Baked in a pie.

When the pie was opened,
The birds began to sing.
Wasn't that a dainty dish
To set before the king?"

~ Traditional

The last days of January are considered some of the coldest in many countries, particularly in Italy, where they are known as I Giorni della Merla, the Days of the Blackbird. A legend tells of a white bird and her chicks while trying to avoid the bitter January cold, spent three days curled up in warm chimney surrounded by soot and smoke. When the sun finally emerged brightly on February 1st, the birds reemerged but with feathers turned black and have remained that way ever since! Known for its distinctive and melodious song, blackbirds have a number of other calls, including an aggressive "seee", "chook chook" and a "pook-pook-pook" alarm call for predators. And while it's unlikely that blackbirds were commonly baked into pies, the tuneful "Sing a song of sixpence" nursery rhyme imagery likely stems from a form of entremet (a type of medieval dish meant more for entertainment and display than for eating) where live birds would be placed in a pie crust and fly out when the pie was cut open, creating a dramatic and entertaining spectacle for king and court! Often reckoned in many cultures as a messenger between the common world and the supernatural, in Scottish folklore, it is said that if you place blackbird feathers under someone's pillow and they will tell you their innermost secrets! Shhhhhh! Tweet tweet! 🪺 🖤 💛 🎶

This tartan was designed by Frank Albert Merola and inspired by his family name.

Register notes:

A fashion tartan reflecting the colours of the common blackbird (Turdus merula). The designer was inspired by the fact his family name, Merola, is derived from Turdus merula.

Known as Lon Dubh in Gaelic, the blackbird is sings at dawn and dusk, and in Celtic folklore, is associated with both with death and rebirth. Rhiannon, a Celtic goddess or otherworldly being who features in the Welsh Mabinogi story, is connected to three mystical birds, possibly blackbirds, who have the power over life and death.   Dreaming of a flying blackbird is said to bring good fortune.

One story concerning the blackbird is about St.Kevin, an Irish 7th century Saint who loved wildlife. It is said that in the temple of the rock at Glendalough, St.Kevin was praying with his hand outstretched upwards when a blackbird flew down and laid her eggs in his palm. The story goes on to say that the saint remained still for as long as it tookfor the eggs to hatch and the brood to fly the nest.  St. Kevin's feast day is June 3rd.

Among the Celts the blackbird is thought to be one of the three oldest animals in the world. The other two being the trout and the stag. They are said to represent the water, air and earth.

For more on the blackbird in legend and lore, click the birdie!

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