Raptor: falcon, hawk, eagle, kestrel, buzzard . . . I shall just use the word “falcon.”
Falconry is a sport in which a man participates in the joy of the Hunt with his trained falcon. It’s a hunting sport shared by bird and man. The
bird is a raptor, and he is doing what he was created to do — to hunt for his prey which becomes his food.
The falcons used in the sport are well-cared for and well-trained, but they are wild, and one must use utmost caution and respect — and protective
The falcons are often hooded while they’re being trained and while they are being transported to the hunting area.
The birds are not frightened under this hood because they hear the voice and verbal signals of his trainer. There is a kind of learned trust between the
two: (“You human creature reliably satisfy some of my needs so I won’t tear your throat out“).
The sport has existed for thousands of years on every continent, and there have always been teachers and students, methods and skill sets, schools of
thought, and falconry clubs. You need a lot of room for this sport! These men are each carrying their falcon.
So, why? What are these people experiencing?
To touch and stroke the warm, strong body of such a creature; to control its responses after patient, persistent training; to learn its habits and desires; to gain its trust. To be able to communicate with a natural killing machine like that is to break through the boundaries that separate species.
The raptor is a strong, efficient killer, given extraordinary eyesight that is exquisitely sensitive to movement; given strong muscles for flying,
vibrating with tense readiness for making the kill, and for tearing apart the food; and a single-minded focus on its prey.
“Its single-minded focus on its prey” — That is, its biological urgency for food, and when once satisfied, there soon follows the need for more and then more. The falcon’s life is a quest to satisfy that need – or it will die.
Whether trained or not, this is what falcons do. Falconry gives us the ability to appreciate this creature by sharing some of the joy and triumph of
the Hunt for what is needed.
My own favorite kind of raptor (heh – as you probably know):
Now, I don’t believe for a minute that humans ever dragged women by the hair out of their caves to satisfy some desires, nor do I believe that humans
tore into the flesh of dead carcasses to satisfy their need for food. Not even “millions of years ago.” The human intellect separates us – irrevocably – from the animals.
It’s true we are born with a similar desire to satisfy our physical needs, but we’re also born with desires for other needs which we long to satisfy:
Friendship, Love, Knowledge, Truth, Beauty, Wisdom, Joy, Spiritual Peace. And all these are names by which our Creator can be known.
We can learn a lot from the majestic raptors. Created with just the right faculties to satisfy their desires and with a single-minded focus on
obtaining what they want.
St. Francis deSales, the gentle, loving saint, teaches us that we too should look to the falcon and ask ourselves, “How much do we want the Goodness of God?” with what desire? with what strength of will?
How much . . . ?
Like the hart running through the woods, panting and thirsty, longing for that clear spring water flowing in the brook. *
Like a Lover longing to be near his Loved One. **
Like an individual, alone, longing to be known, to be heard, longing to be touched by the One who made him. ***
* (Psalm 41:1 — or 42:1, Jewish numbering)
** (Canticles 7:10 — or: Song of Solomon 7:10, Protestant naming)
*** (Psalm 76:1 — or: 77:1, Jewish numbering)