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Description: Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes). Amongst the old folklore linked with seamanship around the Isle of Man and the British Isles is the strange attachment to a dead wren or wren's feathers as a charm against shipwreck. It was said that a fairy or siren used to lure men to sea where they drowned. When finally about to be caught, she escaped by taking the shape of a wren, but was condemned to returning each year ever after as a wren, to be killed each time 'by human hand'.
Another story tells how a witch or fairy, in the form of a wren, betrayed Irish soldiers as they were hiding from Viking invaders by beating her wings on their shields. Obviously this did not help the wren's reputation in the eyes of a beleaguered people.

Punishing the wren-witch became enshrined in the tradition of 'Hunt the Wren', re-enacted each year on 26th December, the feast of St Stephen. It involved a group of boys and men hunting down and killing a wren at dawn and suspending its body in a garland of ribbons and greenery. This was carried from door to door, amid much singing, and householders were invited to make a contribution in exchange for good luck feathers from the unfortunate wren. Though the traditional St Stephen's Day 'Hunt the Wren' procession still occurs in the Isle of Man, the practice of killing and enclosing a wren in the garland is happily long gone.

Quite why the tiny wren was endowed with such magical powers, or singled out for such treatment as opposed to another bird is still a mystery.

Taxonomic name: Troglodytes troglodytes

Collection: Natural History Zoology Collection

ID number: 2004-0084


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