Getty Images/Stock photo © NeilBradfield
Aztar Press has chosen the Blue Crane (Anthropoides paradisea)
as its mascot for three reasons:
1. South Africa
Aztar Press is a South African-based publication house and the Blue Crane (Anthropoides paradisea) is the National Bird of South Africa. Also known as the Stanley Crane and the Paradise Crane, this elegant creature is a tall, ground-dwelling bird of the crane family, which stands a little over a metre high and is pale blue-gray in colour with a white crown, a pink bill, and long, dark gray wingtip feathers which trail to the ground. Due to poisonings, powerlines and human encroachment on their natural habitat, the Blue Crane is now on the critically endangered species list.
2. Traditional Blue Crane Symbolism
Since ancient times, the Crane has held a deep mystical symbolism for the human race.
Among the amaXhosa of South Africa, the word for blue crane is "indwe". When a man distinguished himself by deeds of valour, or any form of meritorious conduct, he was often decorated by a chief by being presented with the feathers of this bird. After a battle, the chief would organise a ceremony called ukundzabela - a ceremony for the heroes, at which feathers would be presented. Men so honoured - they wore the feathers sticking out of their hair - were known as men of ugaba (trouble) - the implication being that if trouble arose, these men would reinstate peace and order. (1)
In China, the crane is linked to longevity and, in other parts of Africa, with the gift of speech. (2) To the Japanese, the crane was a symbol of peace and to the Zuni Indians in North America, this bird reinforced the notion of 'secret guardianship', a source of secret magic known only to a gifted few.(3) In many ancient cultures, the Crane was widely seen as a messenger of the gods, a way for humankind to have communion with their gods by entering into higher states of consciousness. (4) (5)
All these attributes, and more, make the Blue Crane an ideal mascot for Aztar Press, a publishing house dedicated to words that have, in some mysterious way, re-connected the writer with their Divine Muse. Technique, skill and talent are important, but Aztar Press wants men and women of "ugaba" - those spiritually brave authors who, like the indwe warriors, reinstate peace through the gift of their words. Aztar Press is dedicated to using words that offer the light of hope in a world threatened by darkness and loss of faith in a Divine Being, however one perceives that Divinity.
3. My Ouma's Pet
When I was small, we used to visit my father's mother on the farm. My Ouma (grandmother) had a blue crane as a pet. This regal bird would graciously allow us to pet her silky feathers and, never losing her dignity, would wander back into the veld surrounding the farmhouse when she'd had enough. By adopting the blue crane as its logo, Aztar Press - with its primary mission to publish books that explore the human experience of the Divine - acknowledges, with gratitude, the blessings of both our ancestors and the mysterious Creator Spirit everpresent in all its Divine forms.
(2) Tresidder, J (Ed) "The Complete Dictionary of Symbols in Myth, Art and Literature" (Duncan Baird Publishers, 2004)
(3) Andrews, Ted "Animal-Wise: The Spirit Language and Signs of Nature" (Dragonhawk Publishing, 1999)
(4) Cooper, J C "An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Traditional Symbols" (Thames & Hudson, 1978)
(5) Conway, D J "Animal Magick: The Art of Recognizing and Working with Familiars" (Llewellyn Publications, 2007)