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Observations placeholder

Lyall Watson - The Lightning Bird



Type of Spiritual Experience


There is a beauty in what Lyall Watson has written.

Here is a bird that has characteristics that have nothing to do with survival of the fittest or natural selection, it has characteristics and functions that give it a unique and magnificent character.  A character celebrated by Africans but entirely missed by biologists.

"an act of deliberate defiance against the petty restrictions of natural selection"

Adrian Bosher [on this site] was given the name Lightning Bird.

The equivalent bird in European folklore is probably the raven, the magpie or the crow.

"Lightning Bird" - A Hamerkop and its nest.

A description of the experience

Lyall Watson – Lightning Bird

There is a species of African bird that stands apart from all others.  Science knows it as  Scopus umbretta, the hamerkop, and places it in a family of its own, midway between the storks and the herons.  There is a little of each in its anatomy, but nothing of either in its behaviour.  It builds a nest chamber about the size of a football and then encloses this in a superstructure big enough to fill an entire tree.  Far too large to be accounted for in terms of survival value alone, this construction is more in the nature of a magnificent gesture, an act of deliberate defiance against the petty restrictions of natural selection.

People in Africa most often see the bird standing in pools of water, staring intently at its reflection.  It is, they say, the one who knows the unknown, who is familiar with the things that vanish when you look directly at them.  It is the one who stands alone, who cannot be pointed at, but who points out wizards and has access to power.  Pursued by the wind and the rain, this bird is known as a rainmaker, as a herald of the thunderstorm.  It is masionoke – the Lightning Bird.

The source of the experience

African tribal

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps