The Blue Jay

Yearly Cycle of Power : Late Summer/Early Fall
Time of Power : Mid Day
Attributes: Illusion, Deception, Opportunity, Limits, Drama, Beauty, Masks, Appropriateness

Just about everyone has seen a blue jay once in his or her life. A brilliant blue bird zips down elegantly from the sky to perch on your feeder. What if you found out that it wasn’t really blue at all? 'Of course it’s blue' you would think. Wrong. There is no blue in a blue jay. Its feathers are white or black. The blue comes from refraction and distortion from the shape of the feathers. Try this sometime: Squish a blue jay feather you find. It will appear white. This is just the tip of the iceberg for this bird when it comes to illusion and deception.

The blue jay is a smaller member of the Corvid family (ravens, crows, magpies) coming in at between 9 and 12 inches. Its Latin name is cyanocitta cristata means 'crested, blue chattering bird'. It is white faced with a blue crest, back, wings and tail (but remember that the blue is not really blue at all). They have white and black specks and bands in their plumage, which varies per individual. The male and the female of the species (like other Corvids) are indistinguishable from sight alone. One of the interesting things about the blue jay is it crest. It can move and arrange it by muscle control and its mood is often shown in what its crest looks like. When it is happy or excited the crest will be erected. If it is scared then the crest bristles. When it is feeding with other birds or ready to flee the crest is flat. The blue jay range is east of the Rocky Mountains from southern Canada to southern USA. It prefers mixed coniferous and deciduous forest with mainly pines, spruces, beech, hazel, or oak. They are more rare on the prairies living only in the pockets of forest. The blue jay has both thrived and dwindled with mankind. They dwindle as their specific forest preference becomes less and less abundant, yet they have taken advantage of living close to man by eating at our feeders and rummaging our garbage for food and shiny things. Blue Jays mainly stay in one territory but have been known to migrate several hundred kilometers in cold weather.

A blue jays voice is one of its chief tools. It makes its own call which sounds like a rough screech of 'thief', 'jay' or 'peer'. It's volume can contrast drastically. When it is in its nest, it converses with barely a whisper, sounding more like murmuring. When it is out in the world, it is quite loud. Blue Jays are adept mimics. They seem to store up calls from different species to use to their advantage. They are often heard mimicking the call of a Red-shouldered Hawk or a Red-tailed Hawk. This may be used to warn others of this creature in the area. Often though it is used for deception at back yard feeders. A Blue Jay will make this call out of sight and when the birds scatter in fright, it swoops in to have its pick of the food. This is really quite smart behavior.

Blue Jays are omnivorous in the truest sense of the word. They eat everything and anything. Their diet includes insects, fruit, acorns, berries, frogs, mice, nuts, corn, as well as human left over items like french fries. They are quite essential in keeping the tent caterpillar population under control. Blue Jays are social creatures and are quite trusting. As a result they will become tame quickly when they eat at your feeder. Only larger predator birds such as hawks and owls prey upon the jays. They will often stand up to these birds and join together to try to drive them off.

Blue jays can live up to around 15 years and are monogamous by nature pair bonding for life. They will woo the opposite sex by singing with a musical ‘kloo-kloo-kloo’ sound and hopping from branch to branch with strange displays of their legs. They lay a clutch of 5 to 6 eggs in a season. The male will feed the female while she is nesting. The eggs hatch after 16-18 days and the young are ready to fly at 21 days after that. Generally they can feed themselves at this point but stay with the family for up to four months more. In late summer/early fall they go through a complete change of plumage. At this time they also engage in a bizarre behavior known as ‘anting’ which no one understands. They will take ants (squished) and apply them to the underside of their wings. Some think this is to ease the irritation of new feathers coming in. Others think it is a form of cosmetic, as blue jays in captivity will use other materials for 'anting'. They have used fruit juice, tobacco, mustard, vinegar, and perfume. They may be applying this to be attractive to a mate.

As the Blue Jay is a North American bird, its mythology is purely Native American. Blue Jay supposedly once had a voice that was as beautiful as its plumage and was in demand as a singer. She got so arrogant though that the earth maker punished her with a rough voice. Another tale has Blue Jay teaming up with Fox to try to deceive a village to take them in for the winter. The fox disguised himself as a woman (by means of an artificial vulva) and married the chief’s son. He then pretended to give birth to Blue Jay. When foxes fake vulva fell off, the jig was up and they had to flee. Another Myth is very much like both the Persephone and Orpheus myths of the Greeks. Blue Jay was suppose to take a wife, but the girl he loved was dead. He traveled farther and farther into the underworld until he found a person that could revive her. Revived, they returned to the surface. The girls father was a chief and when he found his daughter was alive and married to Blue Jay, the chief demanded that Blue Jay cut off all his plumage as a gift to his new in-laws. Blue Jay refused and the chief warred against him. He fled to the underworld where he would be safe. At this his wife again fell dead and her spirit met with him there. With the associations with both beauty and the underworld a link can be made with either the Inspiration (Selene) archetype or the Chaos (Dionysian) archetype. This would also coincide with the time of power for this trickster bird.

It has often been said that a person with a blue jay totem is fearless or brave. This is not quite true. It is just that a blue jay knows its limits when going up against a predator. Similarly, a blue jay totem will know when it can get away with certain behaviors. It’s a lesson in appropriateness and limits. A blue jay totem may appear brave, or daring, or shy, or lusty, or coy. In essence they may not be any of these things, they just know what is appropriate in any situation and they dance on the line of what they can get away with. Some have labeled this 'The proper use of power'. While this is a good label, it is not quite right, as it seems to indicate that the blue jay is always proper. Far from it. The blue jay totem is a deceptive trickster, which knows the level of power that it can get away with. He or she may act in 'proper' wars or 'improper' ways with this power. A Blue Jay totem is a master of deception and illusion. This is his or her true power. He or she will make things seem different than they are just to get their way. This may seem like a negative thing, but it is not. Just imagine someone at a party when a hostile situation breaks out. A fight or something similar. Imagine the power of someone that can diffuse this situation by using illusion or deception. Perhaps they can make it seem like the basis for the fight was simply a bit of comedy. It matters not. The result is that violence is averted due to their intervention. It just illustrates that deception and illusion can be used for good or bad. A Blue Jay totem will be a bit of a contrasting person. When out in public, he or she will always use illusion. They will like to be bright and noticed and will most likely be lively. At home they will be much different, perhaps quiet and relaxed. To a Blue Jay this is not conflicting behavior. To them it is necessary. With their talents of voice and their penchant for dramatic flair, the Blue Jay totem would do excellent in careers in music or drama. With their talent for illusion, they would be excellent at careers as artists as well. With their keen minds and talent for misdirection, they would make apt politicians and lawyers. They should generally stay away from careers that they cannot use their talents of illusion and misdirection in though. Accounting and Physics are completely out of the question. Love is where a blue jay totem may find trouble. A person may fall in love with a Blue Jays glamorous public persona, but may feel somewhat deceived when he finds his partners quieter home personality. Only when the mate of the Blue Jay has the same public/ private mix will love be successful. But when it succeeds, it truly succeeds and nothing will pry that couple apart. The only thing more talented at illusion and deception than one Blue Jay is two Blue Jays. So watch out!

~Written by RavenDreamer 2005