Opinion

The tale of the ibis

 

Andrew Blitman

Andrew Blitman

One of the most recognizable college mascots in the United States, Sebastian the Ibis has long been a symbol of the University of Miami. An icon, we can find him hanging out across campus. He goes to sporting events, pep rallies, important functions and especially student orientation activities. But how and why did a fish-eating bird come to represent one of the top universities in the country?

 

Sebastian’s story stretches back to UM’s early days when, in 1926, the yearbook called itself “The Ibis.” The bird, according to Native American and university folklore, is the last animal to seek shelter before a hurricane impact, warning that danger is inevitable. After the maelstrom the ibis is first to re-emerge, a sign of clear skies ahead.

The ibis became the official mascot in 1958, when student John Stormont built, wore and performed in an ibis suit at football games.

Sebastian’s appearance was taken from the American white ibis (Eudocimus albus), a long-beaked wading bird found in the Mid-Atlantic States through South America. Standing two feet tall, it has a wingspan of three feet. Ibises are social, living in large colonies with many species of birds. However, individuals tend to hunt alone. During mating season, the beaks of both males and females swell bright red, blending into the white feathers of the face. Like many birds, American white ibises mate for life. Females lay two to five eggs annually.

A closely related species, the scarlet ibis (Eudocimus ruber), occasionally hybridizes with the white ibis. The scarlet ibis is virtually identical, minus the color, to Sebastian’s species. Its red color comes from the crustaceans it eats. This is also the secret behind the flamingo’s bright pink coloration.

The ancient Egyptians revered the ibis as a symbol of Thoth, the god of the Moon. Priests in the holy cities of Saqqara and Hermopolis raised and sacrificed millions of sacred ibises (Threskiornis aethiopicus) to honor the deity. Each pharaoh was buried along with his holy ibises to ensure safe passage to the afterlife. However, the Egyptians did not worship the ibis; they worshiped the attribute of divinity that characterized its being.

Like the ancient Egyptians, we at the U hold the ibis close. After more than half a century, Sebastian continues to be a powerful college tradition that defines what it means to be a Hurricane.

October 26, 2008

Reporters

Andrew Blitman

Science Columnist


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Tuesday: ▪ If N’Kosi Perry starts against North Carolina — as ma ...

Want a hot topic at the University of Miami? Quarterbacks. Want a hot unit? Defense. While Hurricane ...

The quarterback topic never gets old at the University of Miami, especially this week, when Hurrican ...

Mark Richt did what many of us expected Tuesday morning at the University of Miami’s Greentree Field ...

If redshirt freshman N’Kosi Perry is starting Thursday night for the No. 16 Miami Hurricanes against ...

Theatre arts students open the Ring Theatre’s 2018-19 season with a tribute to the creative genius w ...

UM representatives earned Novice and Junior Varsity categories at the National Opener, one of the mo ...

The Office of Civic and Community Engagement receives a $300,000 investment from JPMorgan Chase to t ...

Get Out The Vote, a nonpartisan initiative headed by the Division of Student Affairs and the Butler ...

University of Miami Libraries commemorates Banned Books Week with a special event and display. ...

The Canes have not named a starting quarterback for Thursday's game vs. UNC, but they know they ...

Conference play is just a few days away and the Miami Hurricanes are focused on their ACC opener on ...

View some of the top images from Estela Perez-Somarriba's Oracle ITA Masters title match victor ...

Lucia Marzal Martinez of the Miami women's tennis team competed as an amateur Tuesday in the Hi ...

The Miami Hurricanes were one of the biggest risers in both major polls released Sunday, jumping to ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.