Lilac-breasted rollers are truly rainbows in the African skies. With blue wings, a green head and lilac chest, this tiny bird amazes and hypnotises onlookers. They also hold a depth of tradition and folklore in many cultures.
In African culture, the lilac breasted roller is considered the bird of peace. It was often sacrificed by kings declaring peace in their land. It was known as ‘the bird of the sun’ and helped maintain harmony between ancient communities.
In Zulu tradition, before a couple is to be married, they must be tied together with the feathers of a lilac-breasted roller. If the feathers come undone they cannot go through with the marriage and so to ‘tie the knot’ one would have to depend on the strength of the feathers and their own teamwork.
In Venda folklore, marriage customs dictate a couple would use the feather as a wedding ring. It is interesting to find that this African custom has overlapped with Western traditions.
Voortrekkers used the feathers in their wedding dresses, hence the Afrikaans word for this brilliant bird, ‘troupant’, which translates to a ‘wedding band’. It is thought to be adapted from ancient African traditions and their deep connection between marriage and the lilac-breasted roller.
The lilac-breasted roller is a monogamous bird, mating with just one bird for life. It is unknown whether this is the connection between marriage and the bird in tradition and culture but it adds beautiful depth to the story.
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