Owls, Witches and the Sad Truth behind Some Myths

Fear and ignorance are dangerous things, and when the two are engorged with misinformation, well… the result is a sad and nasty sort of madness.

A friend of mine has been working as research assistant for a philosophy of religion professor who is writing a book on the foundation of contemporary myths. While surfing the web, my friend came across an exchange where a woman asks: “es verdad que las brujas se llevan a los bebes o que les chupan la sangre por el ombligo?” (Is it true that witches take babies or that they suck their blood [of the babies] through the navel?)

The woman explains that she’s asking because when her four-year-old was a newborn, the woman found black feathers that seemed to belong to a big chicken. Also, the baby had scratches on her legs. According to the woman, the chicken feathers and the scratches stopped being an issue after the baby was baptized. 

Then something similar supposedly happened to her cousin. But the cousin said she saw actual birds around the house. When this information was shared with a grandmother, the former said that it was probably a witch who had turned into an owl in order to suck the blood of babies through their belly button. The grandmother suggested throwing mustard seeds around the baby. The woman wanted to know if the tale was just a legend, paranormal stuff or if there was an explanation. She was worried because she was pregnant again, and now lived near the woods.

Someone with a lot of patience (and just as much common sense) tried to calm the mother to be. She told her that in the past, parents used to place their babies between their bodies while they slept. Often times the babies were crushed and suffocated during the night. Asphyxia would change the skin tone of the poor babies.

That could have settled matters a bit, but there is always someone willing to spread ignorance and madness. In this case, the someone in question excreted this brilliant nugget of knowledge:

Look in the town I live witches are a very famous legend... I’ll tell you everything I know about them: they are people who separated themselves from God, possess evil powers, among them turning into animals: the most common is a very large bird and owls...

They needed pure blood (without salt) and without the power of God (unbaptized) they suck their blood [the babies] because they need it. So I recommend you to baptize the child as soon as possible. There exists people who know a lot about them and they know how to weaken them.

When a witch is in flight (either bird or owl) recite a prayer known as the twelve truths of the world. Take yarn, ribbons, etc. (something that can be entangled) and make a knot for every truth, that way you bring her down.

They don’t go out during the day.

The exchange happened four years ago. But the myth, or something similar to it, is still alive and spewing ugliness in parts of the Caribbean and South America. My friend wants to know, if I could speculate as of how this kind of myth originates.

I think the myth of witches sucking babies’ blood through the navel is one of the saddest and easiest to explain. Imagine the state of two parents who wake up to find their lifeless child lying between them. Some part of their brain probably knows the truth: we’ve crushed our baby to death! How can those souls live with the pain and guilt? Witches, big black chickens and owls might not be the healthiest of defense mechanisms, but they offer an explanation that does not involve mom and dad killing their own child by accident.

Your thoughts, my Wicked Luvs?

“Tiny Owl Watching Witch Owl on a Broom” by Cyra R. Cancel

45 comments:

  1. Witches don't go out during the day? You think I could use that excuse to request home office?

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    1. I'm pretty sure you can. You could probably tell them that you have some vampire blood, too. Maybe that would entitled you to some kind of sunscreen discount. ;-D

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  2. In general fear is the issue... no matter what the subject is- ignorance plays a big part as well.. Take racism, its easier for a racist person to believe what he was taught about other races and not to be open .. My Dad was prejudice and assumed the stereotypes he learned to be true... The encounters he had he automatically took defensively and never figured that he may have been responsible in it.. the energy he put out probably played a part as well as 'wrong place, wrong time'... and yes, education, stubborn being, low self esteem also plays a part... As far as what u posted, the parents probably couldn't fathom that THEY may have made a mistake and to curb their guilt, they put the onus on a folktale.

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    1. Our expectations can put all kinds of nonsense in front of our eyes. And it can even feed that energy into the eyes of the people looking at us. A vicious circle and all...

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  3. C.Dickens warned of mans greatest enemy "fear and want" True to human form NO one listens until after the tragedy then not taking responsibility, blames or deflects Others!
    Dear Heart you open flood gates with your wonderful stories! This crone has a sore neck from shaking it in disgust at weak mines, hopeless behaviour and mob activity.
    Off to my world that is written perfectly! xoxoDebi

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    1. Good old Dickens and all his wisdom. He is the one who opens floodgates with his tales.... ;-)

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  4. I suspect that the original myth came from a wise women treating a baby for some ailment; possibly with bleeding and feathers or other bird/rodent/animal parts...when the treatment did not work properly, the village spread the story that the wise women was a witch and sucked the baby's blood...so sad that the ignorance of past times is still in evidence today...with so much knowledge that we have gained in the last few generations, a person would think that at least some of it would have reached everyone...

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    1. No good deed goes unpunished and all...

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  5. You said it all with "Fear and Ignorance". Such perfect partners they are: Fear thrives upon Ignorance , and Ignorance has roots in Fear. Together, these two have parented some of the most atrocious thinking and activity the world has seen.

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    1. Fear and Ignorance have been guilty of so much suffering. And they always manage to find good disguises. Terrible thing...

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  6. Goddamnitallthohellcrazyignorantsupersticiouspeople!

    ...and don't forget misogyny, a big part of almost all religious myths, absolutely everywhere.

    Purely scientifically though, I am curious about Caribbean/ South American babies apparently not having any salt in their systems. Very curious indeed... :)

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    1. I was wondering if someone else was going to point out the fact that all the witches seem to be female. So very silly. And I, too, wanted to laugh at the obvious lack of sodium and how owls seem to be something other than birds.

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  7. Although I was (and still am) horrified by the witch burning in Papau New Guinea, trying to change the minds of superstitious people is like trying to tell people their religion is "wrong." It's all based on faith, not evidence or science, so there's no way to change people's minds.

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  8. I just have no words. :( isn't there an island we can banish all of these buffoons to?

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    1. We would need a very big island... Then again, how do we know who they are?

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  9. "Sad, and a nasty sort of madness" You said it! Fear and ignorance has caused a lot of trauma in our world!
    Have a good weekend!

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    1. Maybe we continue talking to each other and find less to be afraid about...

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  10. It's almost like some people need someone to place blame on or someone to hate. Perhaps their own internal pain is so great that they need somewhere to direct their hate.

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    1. It is always easy to blame the uglies on someone else... especially for those who can get themselves to believe that they are doing the right thing. Terrible, but true.

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  11. "Face Palm". Unbelievable, fear and ignorance at it's worst.

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  12. There are more of the same, unfortunately. Like people killing black cats in the US. Over here, most of those myths are dead and gone. Something I'm very thankful for. Otherwise I would have been burnt or hanged an long time ago

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    1. I think we should remember this. Times are bad, but they used to be worse. Hooray! Let's hope the future will be much better. ;-)

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  13. WOW I've never heard this myth, yes it's based ignorance and fear; the question is how do we help people get past this ignorance and fear?

    I found the part about the owl very interesting, My grandmother always taught me that owls were good luck, every woman in my family has at least one hanging in their home; my daughter even wears one around her neck.

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    1. I thought it is a little strange. We associate owls with luck and knowledge. I wonder if those who believe this kind of thing go around killing owls. Let's hope not.

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  14. I think that it is easier to blame something you can't see rather than deal with the truth of a matter. It is amazing to me how much gets credited (for lack of a better term) to witches. I mean if I could do half the stuff lore says a witch can....I would be so very happy (except for the sucking of blood from babies thing - I don't even like red meat). I think every country has its superstitions and lore, it's a rich history but unfortunately some of it is mired in ignorance and fear - two perfect partners in the halting of human experience and knowledge.

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    1. If Witches could really do a third of the things accredited to us in lore (especially the ugly bits), there would be no witnesses left to spread the nonsense. I don't understand why people don't think about that first. If Witches could do that, and are so evil, how is it that they can still walk around... breathing? Ridiculous, I tell you!

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  15. The sad myth of our time. It came of course from one's lack of knowledge and fear. You are right, it is easy to blame someone else rather than find a rational explanation. In my opinion modern witches are way too enigmatic for modern people, and that's why they invent legends, myths, scary stories about them. It's in your hands and other people like you to educate us about what it means being a modern witch.
    This modern myth though resembles those which existed in Middle ages and after: witches turn to black animals, sucking blood from the cattle, flying on a broom, etc. etc. May be humankind didn't change much since then? At least that's what I can see and read.

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    1. Indeed. As a people, we haven't changed as much as we would like to believe. It's scary...

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  16. I wonder where the scratches and feathers came from.

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    1. You, my dear, read my mind. After I wrote this, I asked the same question to my Piano Man: where did the scratches come from? If the woman is a single mother and lives alone, the alternative should indeed be scary for her. If she was the only one there, well... you know. And if there were relatives around, then she needs to keep a better eye on her next child.

      Most of the times the truth is way simpler than we think...

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  17. It's always a mystery and yet a fact of life that the human animal can be persuaded to believe something that is so far fetched in order to be above a tragedy. I truly think that is how so many myths and unfortunate tales have been accepted as the "truth". Oma Linda

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    1. We have the capacity to learn greatness, and to accept all kinds of crap as truth. Yes, we are complex to the point of laughter.

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  18. Ms Misantropia has already pointed out the first thing that occurred to me: Where are they finding these babies without sodium in their blood?

    Sadly, there's ignorance to be found everywhere. I remember being at a social occasion once, and getting involved in a casual, group chat about ghostly encounters. After telling my little anecdote, a woman launched at me ranting about demonic possession and saying I must be checked to see if I had allowed the demon access to me. *sigh*

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    1. You are lucky she didn't try to exorcise you. People are very strange, and I'm not talking about teh cool kind of strange...

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    2. We failed to point out that it seems that baptism brings salt into the babies' bloodstreams. How is that miracle accomplished?

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  19. I have never heard of this before?? Crazy!! I like salt ;o) I guess I'm not a witch! LOL! ;o)

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    1. Stacy, the witches of their myth most not be Caribbean. Most of us like our food greasy and salty. And many of us don't care much for meat.

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  20. Witches probably not. But i am a firm believer in la mal de ojo (the evil eye) dear prima. Which is why most cultures give amulets to infants. You never know what kind of negativity your baby's daddy's ex put on you or the kid or someone giving you that dirty look of jealousy. Now I am as rational as the next person but I'd be a fool to say that all spirits are good or that all humans have good intentions.

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    1. Bad energy and terrible intentions are very real. And we well know they can come from anyone, no witchy leanings necessary.

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  21. Very true prima. Everyone has energy. You don't know how many times I've caught the shady side eye from someone. It's because we love life and are too fabulous! :)

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  22. Hello Magaly,

    From what my family and I have expericnced, I can tell you that those stories are true. They may sound like a joke but they are real. You'll have to see it by yourself. I come from a small town in central Mexico and there are so many stories that is imposible they're all conincidence.

    I don't know if you can read spanish (but your last name tells me you do) so I leave this link of an article published by the UNAM (Universidad Autonuma de Mexico):

    http://www.medicinatradicionalmexicana.unam.mx/termino.php?l=1&t=chupada%20de%20bruja

    By the way, we had an incident last night. I was doing some research and I found your post.

    Best regards.

    Santiago

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    1. I, too, grew up in a very small village in the Dominican Republic. I believe in the nature of myth--they are rarely "just stories", but realities that have been told and retold and many times transform into other things... but at the core, they hold their truth.

      Spanish is my first language. I shall give the article a go. Thanks for sharing.

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