Friday, August 23, 2013

Mythical Animals: Birds: Barnacle Geese: Europe

Barliate (Barnacle Goose): The U.K. and Ireland

The magickal beast, Barliate (the Barnacle Goose) did not lay eggs like today’s birds. Instead this “goose” grew on trees near the water’s edge. On these tree branches were barnacles from which feathery gills emerged. A few days later, tiny feet would appear, and then finally the fully grown “gosling,” hanging by its beak. Any “goslings” that fell into the water thrived, while those on land died. On the coasts of Ireland, Scotland, and England after storms, people would often find driftwood covered with feathery barnacles. These were infant Barliates that had fallen into the water. Because of this phenomena, most people considered Barliates to be fish.

Often confused with Barnacle Geese (Branta leucopsis), Barliates resembled these geese in their coloring – a black head, white face, and silver grey wings. Both resided along the islands around in Ireland, Scotland, and England, and lived off the water’s bounty during the winter and spring. One difference between the two was that Barnacle Goose migrated to the Arctic (Greenland, Norway, Russia) in the summer. There, they nested on the cliffs and islands, laying their eggs and raising their young. Meanwhile, Barliates also disappeared in the summer, not to migrate, but to grow from barnacles on trees. Unlike modern birds, adult Barliates did not raise their young, but left them to survive on their own. And because Barliates grew on trees, people also considered them as fruit and not birds.


Works Used:

Allan, Tony, “The Mythic Bestiary,” Duncan Baird: London, 2008.

Atsma, Aaron, “Stymphalides,” The Theoid Project, 2008,

---, “Barnacle Goose,” Ducks Unlimited,

Carefoot, Thomas, “Goose-barnacle Legend,” A Snail’s Odyssey, 2010,

Nigg, Joseph, “The Book of Dragons and Other Mythical Beasts,” Quarto: London, 2002.

Perrins, Christopher, ed, “Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds,” Firefly Books: Buffalo, NY, 2003.

Zell-Ravenheart, Oberon and Ash DeKirk, "A Wizard's Bestiary," New Page Press: Franklin Lakes NJ, 2007.

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