Devil Birds and Black Magic

A-wing and A-way

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For our ancestors, the presence of supernatural evil was an accepted reality. Sinister forces were thought to organize in secret under the cover of darkness, often hidden or in disguise, so as to inflict harm and damnation. Folks believed demons and witches conspired against them by possessing or controlling other life forms, such as snakes, felines, wolves, and bats. Many birds, too, came to be viewed with suspicion.

To Hell and Back

The most obvious of potential offenders were those associated with darkness. Birds with black plumage, such as crows and ravens, fell easily into this category, commonly linked with witchcraft in places such as Germany and Russia (1). According to the prominent naturalist and science journalist Ernest Ingersoll, many European cultures once believed that crows made an annual descent to hell to pay tribute to the devil (2). Superstitions like these undoubtedly have helped cement in popular consciousness…

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5 thoughts on “Devil Birds and Black Magic

  1. Owls do evoke that mysterious gaze of all knowing and with the ability to practically move their head 360 degrees or something they can be creepy! and charismatic in a quiet sort of way.

  2. I’d never heard the sounds of a barn owl before. I saw a video once of one flying and it was sooooo beautiful and magically soundless. Tonight I looked up their screams and hisses and, yup, they are positively bloodcurdling. I looked up the sounds of manx shearwaters as well. I thought I was being chased by the hounds of hell! And I also looked up the Eurasian wryneck. I didn’t find any videos of one doing anything funky with its neck when not being held by a person. But the videos I saw where one was being held in someone’s hand had some really good neck moves in them!

    Thanks for all these neat discoveries! And Jennifer’s painting is wonderful as always :-).

    1. Several years ago one morning I heard a barn owl. Its call was unforgettably disturbing — not unlike something out of a horror flick. “Bloodcurdling” is an apt description! I could easily see how a person hearing such cries could imagine some demon or banshee shrieking.

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