Kingfisher & the River of Story

Kingfisher captured my heart long ago. I love Kingfisher’s pluck, agility, keen vision, devotion to rivers, preference for wild places, and ability to travel between the blue worlds of sky and water. Kingfisher is the “king of fishers,” adept at the job of finding what she seeks.

According to Greek myth, Kingfisher was once a woman, Alcyone, daughter of the Wind. She and her husband Ceyx, were punished by Zeus for daring to act as divinely as the gods. Ceyx’s ship was blasted by Zeus’ carefully-aimed thunderbolt and he perished in the ensuing wreck. When Alcyone heard of her beloved’s fate, she gave herself to the sea to drown her sadness. Her grief, sacrifice, and devotion sparked the sympathy of the gods and, as a result, Alcyone and Ceyx were transformed into Kingfishers, the halcyon birds.


It was said that ever after, Alcyone’s father, Aeolus, held back his winds each year for fourteen days in midwinter, allowing the Kingfishers to nest in blissful weather. These days occurred around the time of the Winter Solstice, a period of “time out of time” during which the veil between the worlds was believed to thin. Halcyon Days are days of calm, happiness, freedom, and joy. Alcyone’s spirit of daring and devotion lives on in Kingfisher’s family name, Alcedinidae. The Belted Kingfisher of North American landscapes is known as Megaceryle alcyon.


Kingfisher is a perfect metaphor for imagination. A strong imagination sharpens our creative focus, allowing us to keenly identify our desired “catches." Each time our imaginations, like Kingfisher, dive into the vast River of Story (what mythologist Martin Shaw calls the Commons of the Imagination), we have the potential to emerge with a delightful catch - a new story or idea, and food for the soul.


The River of Story, like all rivers, is continuously in motion, cyclic in nature, mercurial, and a source of both life and adventure. It is from this rich and ever-moving river that we fish for our own “once upon a times,” and along which we may happen, if we’re paying attention, upon our own Halcyon Days. By living close to this river we nourish our connection to the Earth, to Story, and to Spirit.


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