Carol P. Christ’s Legacy: Of Birds, Angels, and Tidings of Great Joy

Moderator’s Note: We here at FAR have been so fortunate to work along side Carol Christ for many years. She died in July this year from cancer. To honor her legacy as well as allow as many people as possible to read her thought-provoking and important blogs we are pleased to offer this new column to highlight her work. We will be picking out special blogs for reposting. This blog was originally posted December 23, 2013. You can read it long with its original comments here

A link to a video of a Crow Uses Plastic Lid to Sled Down Roof Over and Over Again on a mayonnaise-lid sled appeared on my Facebook timeline a few days ago. {moderator’s note: I believe this is the same video that Carol originally posted. The link has been updated since 2013 } For me this crow expresses the “spirit of the season” as aptly as anything I can think of.  She brings a smile to my face on a grey and cold morning.  She makes me want to climb up on the rooftop and slide down with her.  She reminds me that we humans are not alone–we share the world with a vast multitude of other intelligent creatures.  She tells me that there is nothing more sacred than the joy of life.


The ancient Cretans believed that the capacity to enjoy life was not limited to human beings–they believed that animals  enjoy life as much as we do, and they expressed this sensibility in their art.  They also celebrated birds because their  arrival in spring announces the beginning of the growing season. This early pot in the shape of a bird or duck opening its mouth to–as we kids used to say–“drink the rain” cannot help but evoke a smile.

prepalatial bird pitcher

The image of a happy bird that both drinks water and pours water from its bill or beak was so beloved by the Cretans that even after their pottery became far more sophisticated, they pointed the pouring spouts of their pitchers upwards and put bird eyes on them.

kamares jug

On a pitcher from Santorini, the eye and beak of the bird are combined with paintings of the exuberant flight of swallows.  The artist added a necklace and bejeweled nipples.  Here we see the multivalent symbolism of Old Europe: the pitcher is both bird and woman, the image of the Bird Goddess. She is holds the life-giving waters that nourish both birds and human beings in her rounded belly.

Theran swallow pitcher

The Bird Goddess has come down to us as the Christmas angel.  As a child I loved angels because, along with fairies who were also winged, they were the only symbols of the sacred as female that I ever saw.

christmas card angel

Now I know that angels are not the only, but rather the most recent in a long line of sacred female images.  What are angel wings but the wings of birds? What songs can be sweeter than the songs of birds?

We have been taught that birds cannot feel and think. We have been taught that angels are not birds. But what if birds can feel and think? And what if angels are birds?

“Behold I bring you glad tidings of great joy!”

Is there any greater glad tiding of joy than the singing of birds on their arrival in spring, as each day dawns, and just before the sun sets each night? And is not joy shared among all creatures great and small?

Don’t forget to watch the video of the joyful and intelligent crow.

Happy Holidays!

Carol P. Christ (1945-2021) was an internationally known feminist and ecofeminist writer, activist, and educator.

“In Goddess religion death is not feared, but is understood to be a part of life, followed by birth and renewal.”  — Carol P. Christ 

Author: Carol P. Christ

Carol P. Christ is a leading feminist historian of religion and theologian who leads the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete, a life transforming tour for women.

5 thoughts on “Carol P. Christ’s Legacy: Of Birds, Angels, and Tidings of Great Joy”

  1. What a wonderful post! Thank you for bringing it back to be read and enjoyed.

    It reminds me of a song from the Libana album that I love:

    “There’s a river of birds in migration
    A nation, of women with wings…”

    As you very likely know, that one couplet is sung over and over, swelling to a mighty crescendo. A priestess I once met in California said it always brought tears to her eyes.

    Carol Christ is still with us. What is remembered lives.


    1. I LOVE THE IMAGES. Unlike virtually everyone else I have never been drawn to angels… but some of my first memories are tied up with loving birds and they have seemed like the spirit world incarnating since whenever I started to think about them abstractly – nothing has changed my mind. There are certain birds that I have relationships with that seem to embody the spirit in very personal ways. I suspect this is true for others…The first one that i remember was the dove and the dove was associated with Mary…


  2. I loved Carol’s writing and always looked forward to reading her posts here on FAR and learning something new, as here about that crow playing on the roof. And I loved and still love being reminded about the bird-woman jars. And angels and fairies. Janet, many thanks for reposting this blog she wrote so many years ago. It’s wonderful. And yes, of course, birds and probably all other animals, are playful. Gee….now we can imagine Carol’s spirit playing with the birds and angels and fairies. Sliding down the roof.

    Bright blessings to crows and other birds, to angels (but not those ferocious, mean, male archangels), to every fairy, to all of us who read FAR posts, and to our dear Carol.


Please familiarize yourself with our Comment Policy before posting.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: