Bat – Day 18 of 30 Days [Biblically] Wild

Bat – עֲטַלֵּף (atalleph

Daubentons bat (Myotis daubentonii), also known as the water bat. Image: Paul van Hoof. Source: https://www.batconservationireland.org/irish-bats/species/daubentons-bat

In my experience, bats are like Marmite. They tend to divide opinion. Some people detest them while others are enchanted by them. Perhaps this is because they literally flit on the peripheries of our lives. The darting dots, like fireflies in reverse, that fly in the gloaming in such apparently random and unpredictable ways. The bat is a liminal creature in so many ways. Then there is that archive of folktales and family stories. The (always distant) relative for whom a bat got caught up in her (it usually is a ‘her’) hair. As a child I was assured that this could never happen, the bat’s skill at echolocation, as well as at flying, was far too good for that. Although, in later life, I found that the swarms of midges, drawn by my body-heat, just above my head, provides a very rich hunting ground and, on more than one occasion, I have felt the rush of air from the wings of a swooping bat.

Continue reading

Caterpillar – Day 17 of 30 Days [Biblically] Wild

Caterpillar – חָסִיל (chasil)

Large White or Cabbage White Butterfly (Pieris brassicae). Source: http://www.wildlifeinsight.com/large-white-butterfly-pieris-brassicae/

There is a general air of ambivalence surrounding the caterpillar…
France (1986:35) suggests that, being “nurtured with the notions of the woolly caterpillar of Little Arabella Millar and the amiable [really??!] and bumbling creature of Alice in Wonderland“, we have a somewhat romanticised view of the humble caterpillar. While it is true that this literary tradition continues to the present (with the popularity books like Eric Carle’s (1969) The Very Hungry Caterpillar), I am not totally convinced that most people view them quite so benignly. Despite the love that is often accorded to butterflies, my experience is that people tend to be rather squeamish of them and react in a similar way to spiders or worms.

What is noticeable is that, although there are possible references to caterpillars in the Bible, there are no references to butterflies at all. Israel hosts a large number of resident and migrant species – as well as moths (which do receive mentions in both the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and New Testament.

Continue reading

Sparrow – Day 16 of 30 Days [Biblically] Wild

Sparrow – צִפּוֹר (tsippor), στρουθίον (strouthion)  

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus). Image: Miguel de la Bastide. Source: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/House_Sparrow/overview

Once more we turn our gaze upwards to, what Richard Jefferies (1885) described as ‘nature on the roof’* as we look at the ubiquitous sparrow.

The cheeky sparrow

Although the rook will forever be my ‘favourite’ among birds, I have to confess to an utter delight when it comes to sparrows. Their sheer energy and collective vibrancy as you walk past a suburban bush and it erupts with a whirling chaos of chirps and cheeps! If find their wonderful chattering antics around the bird feeders as they squabble and bicker, like a bunch of adolescent monkeys, or dust-bathing at the kerbside of a local road, totally engrossing and entertaining.

Continue reading

Pig – Day 14 of 30 Days [Biblically] Wild

Pig חֲזִיר  chazir

The Tamworth pig, one of the oldest breeds in Britain. Image taken from https://www.countryfile.com/wildlife/mammals/native-british-pig-breeds-and-how-to-recognise-them

I am really grateful to one of our current second year Theology BA students, Amy Williams (nee Bowes – congratulations also on your recent marriage!), for writing this wonderful post.

As recently as 2013, research has suggested that pigs were brought from Greece to Canaan. A study of pig bones found in Israel (along the southern Levantine coast) suggests that the Philistines migrated from Greece to the lowlands of the Levant in the Iron Age (around 3000 years ago) and European pigs took over the wild boar population in Canaan (modern Israel) around 900BCE [see https://www.haaretz.com/archaeology/MAGAZINE-philistines-brought-their-pigs-with-them-to-ancient-israel-1.5469130]

Continue reading

Spider – Day 13 of 30 Days [Biblically] Wild

Spider – עַכָּבִישׁ (akkavish)

Giant house spider (Tegenaria duellica) Image: BioImages (c) Malcolm Storey Source: https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/invertebrates/spiders/giant-house-spider

Most people tend to encounter spiders indoors rather than outside. However, sit on a piece of grass for even a short length of time and you will soon see this, tiny and often overlooked, scurrying figure. Dewy late summer mornings, when the sun is still low, or frosty autumn and winter days can provide us with a wonderful display of webs that show how abundant and prolific this creature is. Sunrise can turn some meadows into fields of shimmering silver.

Continue reading

Ant – Day 11 of 30 Days [Biblically] Wild

harvester ant

Antנְמָלָה (nemalah)

ant header

This post has been adapted from an earlier post: Verse of the Month: Proverbs 6:6 “Go to the ant…”

A trail of ants along the kitchen floor; a ragged column climbing the legs of the garden chair; picnics spoilt by the steady and unrelenting invasion of this tiny army. Who can forget that itchy feeling on those muggy evenings of flying ants? Unfortunately we usually encounter ants as an often unwelcome irritation to our lives. This is a pity as it means that we can easily overlook their breathtakingly complex and remarkable lives which still keeps modern scientists intrigued.

Go to the ant, you lazybones;
   consider its ways, and be wise. 

Proverbs 6:6 (NRSV)

This proverb not only suggests that the ant can be a guide for living, it can also help us uncover the intriguing world of biblical wisdom literature by giving us an insight into how these types of text were composed, developed and circulated.

Continue reading

Acacia – Day 10 of 30 Days [Biblically] Wild

Acacia – שִׁטָּה  (shittah)

Acacia near the Tower of London. Source: http://www.londontrees.co.uk/acacia.html

Although it is not a native to the UK, the acacia or the name ‘acacia’ (to my mind at least) is indelibly connected to suburbia and leafy, neatly trimmed, privet-lined gardens of Middle England. Loved by bees, the acacia carries with it the scent of the exotic, which is not surprising as it is more usually associated with much warmer climes.

The tree of the wilderness

The Bible lists שִׁטָּה (shittah), usually translated as ‘acacia’, twenty-eight times. However, as Tristram (1898:392) cautions, we need to be careful not to confuse it with the acacia commonly found in Britain. The types of acacia normally found in the UK generally originate from Australia rather than the Middle East. Continue reading

Raven – Day 8 out of 30 Days [Biblically] Wild

The raven – עֹרֵב (orev); κόραξ (korax)

Raven (Corvus corax). Image and source: https://www.macaulaylibrary.org/

On Day 2 we saw that, within the biblical world, frogs shared a rather ambivalent relationship with humans. Today, we see that this ambivalence continues among our feathered friends, and none more so than with the raven.

Call of the Northern Raven (Corvus corax)
Jordi Calvet, XC57509. Accessible at http://www.xeno-canto.org/57509.
Continue reading

Bee – Day 7 out of 30 Days [Biblically] Wild

The Bee – דְּבוֹרָה (deborah)

Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) collecting pollen. Image: Gustavo Fotoopa

Possibly the most redolent sound of summer is that of the soft, lazy hum of bees among sun-warmed lavender. Out of all flying insects, it could be argued that bees are the most well loved – or at least well tolerated. I’ve known people renowned for distractedly swatting away flies, wasps and all kinds of insects, sit for (what seems like) hours patiently coaxing a grounded bee to with sugar water or honey.

The recent concerns over declining population has also helped to promote a re-assessment of the bee and our attitudes to it. Tracey Thorn’s recent tweet exemplifies this beautifully.

Tweet from Tracey Thorn (screen shot) 23/05/2019
Continue reading

Wild Goat/Ibex – Day 6 of 30 Days [Biblically] Wild

Wild Goat, Ibex – אַקּוֹ (akko), יָעֵל (ya’el)

Nubian Ibex (Capra ibex nubiana) in Israel. Image: Graphicobsession. Source:
https://www.easyvoyage.co.uk/israel/the-ibex-of-nubia-1807

Today’s post is a little bit of a cheat. But I really like goats (they are one of my research topics) and, although I know we don’t really have any wild goats left in the UK, I feel slightly vindicated by a news report covered by the BBC in March this year announcing that ‘Wild goats flock to Llandudno in bad weather‘!

Goats, along with sheep, have long been a part of human culture and economy and therefore also an intrinsic part of the human landscape (for a brief readable overview see Borowski, 1994 or Sasson, 2014). Encountering their rugged form on some bleak wilderness scarp can give us a very real impression of wildness and freedom, even though they are in fact indicators of the exact opposite. Nevertheless, I have enjoyed many a packed lunch on some windswept Welsh mountainside sharing Marmite sandwiches with a feral goat or two.

Continue reading