Legend of the Crane

As Hampton Roads Survivors of Suicide Support Group, Inc. honors and remembers our loved ones, the rich symbolism of the crane lends itself to the meaning of our Hampton Roads Morning of Hope with wishes for the end of suffering and for peace, not only for those we have lost to suicide, but also for those who presently suffer from depression. This legendary bird carries hope to us under its wings ...

“O flock of heavenly cranes
cover us with your wings.”

The following narrative helps to explain why this ancient bird carries such meaningful symbolism on its large wings:

The Legend of the Crane

Throughout history, birds have been viewed as animals of special value and have been laden with meanings often derived from legends and stories that have survived over many generations. The Crane may conceivably be the oldest bird on earth; there is fossil proof that they existed over 60 million years ago. Greek and Roman myth tended to portray the dance of cranes as a love of joy and a celebration of life. The crane was usually considered to be a bird of Apollo, the sun god, who heralded in Spring and light. Throughout all of Asia, the crane has been a symbol of happiness and eternal youth. In Japanese, Chinese, and Korean tradition, cranes stand for good fortune and longevity because of its fabled life span of a thousand years. Existing in fifteen species which inhabit five continents, the most majestic is the Japanese Crane which stands almost five feet tall with its wing span of more than six feet and its white body capped with its red crown. The Japanese refer to the crane as “the bird of happiness;” the Chinese as “heavenly crane” believing they were symbols of wisdom. The powerful wings of the crane were believed to be able to convey souls up to paradise and to carry people to higher levels of spiritual enlightenment. Over time, the crane has also evolved as a favorite subject of the tradition of paper folding – origami. It is said that a thousand folded cranes, one for each year of its life, makes a wish come true.

Shortly after the end of World War II, the folded origami cranes also came to symbolize a hope for peace through Sadako Sasaki and her unforgettable story of perseverance. Diagnosed with leukemia after being exposed to radiation after the bombing of Hiroshima, Sadako became determined to fold 1,000 cranes in hopes of recovering good health, happiness, and a world of eternal peace. Although she completed 644 before she died, her classmates folded the remaining 356 to honor her. A statue was raised in the Hiroshima Peace Park to commemorate her strong spirit.

Today this practice of folding 1,000 cranes represents a form of healing and hope during challenging times. After the events of September 11, as a gesture of support and healing, thousands of cranes were folded and linked together in chains and sent to fire and police stations, museums, and churches throughout New York City.

Traditionally, flocks of 1,000 cranes are offered at shrines or temples with prayer, based on the belief that the effort to fold such a large number will surely be rewarded. Chains are often given to someone suffering from illness, as a prayer for their recovery, as a wish for happiness, and as an expression of sympathy and peace. A prayer often spoken over time by mothers seeking the protection of cranes has been:

“O flock of heavenly cranes
cover my child with your wings.”

In following the tradition of the legend of the crane, the S.O.S. group is folding 1000 cranes to fulfill our prayers for peace for those who have died by suicide or those who are presently suffering from depression. We will string them together to form a curtain where those who choose to walk, can begin. Each participant is invited to select a crane as a memento of their participation. Cranes will be given out to participants as a memento of this community outreach.