Ceyx was the king of Thessaly in ancient times. This was back when the Gods walked among us more openly. Aeolus, the wind God was one of them – a minor deity blowing around sewing his wild oats. He fathered a few kids with mortals.
His daughter Alcyone fancied a bit of Ceyx and decided to marry him. She was very happy with Ceyx. She loved Ceyx. I can only assume he was well named.
These old stories about Ceyx and all that though – they never end well, and this was no exception. Ceyx drowned. Oh no!
Alcyone was distraught. “Without Ceyx I am nothing!” she likely howled, rending her clothes, tearing her hair, pausing a moment to pose for a pre-Raphaelite painter from the future, and hurling herself into the Aegean sea to drown with Ceyx.
Problem was her dad was a minor God. She didn’t drown. She transformed. Specifically, she turned into a kingfisher. She was then blown by her dad the wind to where her husband was flapping around having also turned into a kingfisher instead of drowning. This is not a regular occurrence in the Aegean Sea – or anywhere. If you want to be a kingfisher, this isn’t the way to do it. I’m not sure there is a way to do it anymore but it’s not drowning yourself. If anyone knows how to turn into a kingfisher let me know. So long as I can change back, it might be fun to occasionally be a kingfisher. Especially at the moment.
Alcyone the kingfisher was happy with kingfisherishness for sure. She had Ceyx again. Lots of Ceyx. Inevitably she made a nest and laid some eggs. This was around the 14th December. 7 days to lay and 7 days to hatch. 2 weeks in the run up to Christmas.
In perpetuity, her dad tries to go easy on the wind for a fortnight in December. Two weeks of calm for Alcyone. A good time to go fishing and stock up on food for a feast in the dead of winter. The Alcyone Days.
Folklore goes that if you hang up a kingfisher carcass it’ll predict the wind direction with its beak because of this ancient storylink between the bird and the wind. Don’t go killing kingfishers to find out. Folklore says a lot of stuff that just turns out to be a bit stinky and unpleasant. Why use a dead bird when there’s an app?
Of course you give a story to the oral tradition and it changes. People quickly forgot the time of year, and started noticing calm times and calling them Alcyone Days, then Chinese whispers made them Halcyon Days.
We could use some Halcyon Days right now with all the pandemic mad panic and the quiet simmering rage.
I’ve got some. But the ones I’ve got aren’t the ones we need. The ones I’ve got are just branded enamel boxes “by appointment to the Queen”, made to be collected by people who have retired. I’m listing them on eBay gradually over time. This is why I’ve been thinking about the phrase, its origin, and how nice it would be to be a kingfisher.