Owl, or Vampiress?

The painting is “The Owl” by Valentine Cameron Prinsep.

Pure pre-Raphaelite, of course, but that’s not what caught my eye when I saw this on the cover of a catalogue. You see, in the Balkans and a few other places, owls are associated with vampires. Not bats, although bats abide in the same places as (fiction) vampires and everyone knows that Dracula can turn into a bat or multiple bats. At least, movie producers do, based on what I’ve seen. The Latin “strix” (screech owl) became the Romanian strigoi, meaning a vampyric ghost. The term is also a nod to the Greek fear of owls as a form of the bird of ill omen that accompanies witches and other evil-doers.

When you start digging into the actual folklore of Transylvanian vampires, and Balkan vampires in general, the more often you notice that owls are connected with the undead. Also, a person with red hair is automatically suspect. He or she may well be predestined to become a vampire, the same as if he or she had been born on an inauspicious day. It doesn’t matter if the man becomes a priest and lives a saintly life – the odds are strong that his body will leave the grave and steal the lives of his relatives. Better to sneak back to the cemetery, stake the corpse and behead it, or cut out the heart and behead the body, then destroy the heart. (This still happens in some places, even though it is illegal. What’s a few months in prison compared to saving the life of a family member?)

So when I saw the painting, my first thought was “Is she a witch, or a vampire, or was the artist just playing with Greek mythology?” Probably the latter, since Prinsep was a member of the pre-Raphaelite school of painters.

If Arthur and the other Hunters saw the painting? They’d suspect vampire. Had the giant raven that bothered Riverton been an over large owl, the Hunters would have dealt with it post haste.

The Hunters use strigoi, morioi, and nosfiertu to differentiate between different types of vampyric entity. At least, they do in the Old Land. The Hunter clan near Riverton doesn’t worry so much about the nice distinctions, because among other things, they don’t encounter the succubus-like form of cursed undead.

In fact, when an owl lingers in the wrong place, Arthur gets . . . concerned. When Arthur grows concerned, Lelia and Tay start reaching for silver, holy water, strong coffee, and headache powders. Not necessarily in that order. Because it’s going to be a looooong night.

15 thoughts on “Owl, or Vampiress?

  1. Creatures of the night, of the dark. The average human is not secure after dark. We depend on our eyes, on light , so nocturnal creatures are uncanny.
    In populations where dark hair is the norm, red hair is unusual, and uncanny.
    Different is unpredictable, and, therefore, untrustworthy.
    (And as for the painting, with that knowing look on her face, she also appears uncanny.)

  2. The term is also a nod to the Greek fear of owls as a form of the bird of ill omen that accompanies witches and other evil-doers.

    Oooh, that makes Athena a bit different, doesn’t it?

  3. Will we ever read the story about Lelia and Tay vs the vampire? 😉

  4. The silence of the Owl’s flight is what scared people. And its call isn’t heard continuously, and is eerie… And NO comment on redheads… 😉

    • True story. I had a flight nurse who was 2/3 convinced that I was a vampire, because for the first month I was based at [redacted], things worked out so that I ended up flying only night missions. I was pale, nocturnal, and had pretty good night vision. So obviously . . . He was very relieved to actually see me by daylight.

    • I’m remembering an old Bugs Bunny cartoon, where he was facing off against a vampire. The vampire shapeshifted, “I’m a vampire.”

      Bugs shapeshifted. “Well, I’m an umpire.”

      Vampire shapeshifted. “Now I’m a bat!”

      Bugs shapeshifted. “I’m a bat, too!” Whack!

      • “Transylvania 6-5000”, I believe that ‘toon was called. One of the last Bugs cartoons to be made, and much funnier than most WB toons of that time.

    • He wouldn’t have a problem with Chester, just as he is OK with Isabeau. They are Familiars, and Familiars are on the side of Good. (Keep in mind, if they really want to, even avian Familiars can make themselves heard by non-mages. Arthur being a strong sensitive would make it even easier.)

  5. Oh, yeah, I figured out why Greek vampires are notoriously people who are born on Christmas.

    Because the nine month count says that their parents were having sex during Lent, which is a no-no.

    (In the West, it was okay after Mass on the Feast of the Annunciation, because solemnities aren’t fasting days, and Annunciation trumps Lent and you can eat meat and all. And in the West there was also Mid-Lent, in a lot of places. But in Greece, it’s still a fasting day, albeit you can eat fish instead of the super-strict fast… but still, no nookie.)

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