Seagulls are Dead Sailors

The informant for this piece is my aunt, who worked for the Cherokee Government for several years and is still heavily involved in the organization. She grew up in Tulsa, OK, but has also lived extensively in Tahlequah, OK.

In this piece, my Aunt talks about how seagulls are dead sailors watching over you.

AJ: Did your mom ever tell you about seagulls?

Me: That’s a crazy way to start a sentence.

AJ: [laughs] I guess that’s true. Well, when I was thinking about folklore I remembered this thing I think your grandpa told me. It was after his brother Dean died, shortly before you were born. We were both really sad, and he had just come back from taking his ashes to California, and we saw a seagull. Now, we don’t see many seagulls in Tulsa, do we?

Me: Nope.

AJ: So I pointed it out to daddy and he told me something he learned in the Navy. He said that when a sailor dies, they come back to life as a seagull.

Me: Oh yeah, mom told me that after he died.

AJ: Yeah. I don’t think your grandfather necessarily believed in reincarnation, but I think he thought in some way maybe he could come back as a seagull.

Me: Is that why you like the idea?

AJ: Yeah, I think so. It’s a comforting thought, right? That he’s watching over us, even if it means he’s a bird. [laughs] Every time I see a seagull I think of him. You probably see them a lot in California.

Me: Yeah, especially after the tailgating.

AJ: [laughs] Well, next time you see one, it might just be your grandpa.

Much like a lot of the folklore I collected from both my mother and my Aunt, this piece relates to those we have lost coming back and being around us. I think my aunt finds comfort in the fact that my grandfather is watching her and is guiding her in life. It’s interesting, because if you asked my aunt if she believed in reincarnation, she would say no. Yet, this folk belief is can be considered reincarnation in a certain way. It’s always interesting trying to figure out where the line is in people’s folk beliefs and their religious beliefs, as some seem to contradict the other, yet it’s totally fine that they do.