Du bon usage du coucou en hiver : sémiotique calendaire de Cuculus canorus L.

Colette MÉCHIN

fr Anthropozoologica 32 - Pages 23-31

Published on 01 July 2001

The correct usage of the cuckoo in winter : Calendar semiotics of Cuculus canorus L.

Among the common beliefs linked with the cuckoo, there is one which claims that, once Summer has come, the bird settles in a hollow tree and reappears the next Spring. This belief gives cause for wondering about the role that this bird played in the calendar of the traditional societies in Central and Western Europe. The cockoo is the regular herald of Spring (and its punctuality has made it an emblematic symbol of clock making) so much so that some young people dress up as "a cuckoo" to drive winter away. But in those societies' imagination, that bird is above all a "hidden one" (whereas it is a migratory bird) which keeps a cryptic relation with the planetary system. Some legends, which link the cuckoo to the Pleiades, show that, although we cannot rediscover all the symbolic importance, it is the cornerstone of the way people saw the seasonal flow in the old European societies.


Cuckoo, season, ritual games, astronomy, Pleiades.

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