Why were storks picked by artists to bring new babies to waiting parents? Knowing stork behavior and cultural history regarding storks, makes the answer clear.
The mythology of the stork started a long, long time ago. In 220 BC (China), the stork was associated with the divine, as a messenger of God. The phrase, “The stork brought you,” began in Victorian times. It was easier to use this phrase, than engage in discussions about sex to curious children. Dutch and German fables were written about storks bringing babies to waiting parents. This notion sprung from the belief that storks nesting on roofs and chimneys in Holland and Germany meant abundant good fortune. In Bulgarian folklore, the stork symbolized spring. When the storks returned each year from their annual migration, some Bulgarian groups celebrated with dancing and imbibing in alcoholic beverages. People began to notice that a lot of babies were being born about nine months after these celebrations. The implication was that the return of the storks brought good luck and fertility.
In our modern times and Western culture, these ideas have been handed down and the White Stork species is still our adorable symbol of good fortune, fertility and new baby congratulations. The small pink and reddish patches that newborns often have on eyelids, between the eyes, upper lip and nape of the neck are sometimes still called “stork bites.”
Storks’ size, serial monogamy and faithfulness to their nests have contributed to their myth and given us such wonderful antique and vintage artwork with stork and baby postcards, birth announcements, congratulations postcards, baby item advertising and more. Historical nature accounts have said that the storks would burn to death in their nest rather than abandon it. Their nests can reach up to 6 feet in diameter and about 10 feet in depth. Storks appear to be as attached to their nests as much as their partners. The Marabou stork has a wingspan of 10 1/2 feet and shares the “longest wingspan of any land bird” with the Andean Condor. Storks glide on thermal air currents with those long wingspans. Due to this travel mode, the stork was the inspiration for the Otto Lilienthal’s experimental gliders of the late 19th century.
The Hebrew word for stork was equal to “kind mother.” What a lovely thought for you to keep when you view those vintage stork and baby postcards.
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