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Thursday, 4 July 2013

A thread on Facebook - 'Only Corfu Society' - on superstition, religion and science

  • There is a bird that screeches at night (definitely a bird not an owl as I have made out it's outline in a tree). My Greek husband has always got very unnerved when this bird screeches as he says it means someone has died, I of course laughed at him. However I am also beginning to get unnerved by this, 2 years ago a very close family member was diagnosed with cancer, that darn bird was outside my window screeching all night. My dog became ill over the weekend, bird back and screeched at least 20 times last night, my poor doggie had passed away. Anybody know exactly what this bird is? (nixtopouli is the best I get from hubbie). I don't usually spook easily but...........
    • Joy Konstantis likes this.
    • 51 of 66

      Simon Baddeley Aleko has already posted about this bird over a month ago.
      30 June at 17:45 · Like

      Aleko Damaskinos Thank you Simon! I will re-post for Vanessa!!
      30 June at 17:47 · Like

      Simon Baddeley Me too. Στριγγοπούλι, πάτσα νυχτόβιου αρπακτικού - a nocturnal predator, probably the tawny owl tho' others think it's a barn owl. There's a lot of these about in our village along with the familiar Skops (gionis - Γιόνης?) which explains why I keep dying. Luckily so long as Ι also hear the Skops Owl the same night Ι wake in the morning - but Ι must never put three spoons of sugar in my tea for breakfast that day! (:))
      30 June at 17:48 · Like · 2

      Vanessa Katsarou So is it an owl? I stood and watched it one night flying between the branches of my walnut tree, I'm no expert but it didn't look like an owl, although it was dusk and hard to see clearly.
      30 June at 17:54 · Like

      Rita Frumin Could it be the European Nightjar? In case you were wondering I'm no expert but I do know the myths surrounding the Skops Owl but the rest is via google!!
      30 June at 17:58 · Edited · Unlike · 1

      Vanessa Katsarou Just found a video with the call of the European Nightjar and it sounds nothing like my screecher! Any other suggestions???
      30 June at 18:00 · Unlike · 1

      Rita Frumin I have a feeling that Angela Papageorgiou wrote in one of her lovely blogs about The Skops Owl!
      30 June at 18:04 · Edited · Unlike · 1

      Vanessa Katsarou The Scops makes a lovely soothing noise, this other thing makes your hair stand on end!!!
      30 June at 18:05 · Unlike · 2

      Annie Hawkins Could be a European screech owl.
      30 June at 18:08 · Like · 2

      Vanessa Katsarou Sounds very similar but somehow more piercing.
      30 June at 18:11 · Like

      Aleko Damaskinos Vanessa, this is the Night jar (Caprimulgus europaeous) and sometimes called the goatsucker because they say it sucks milk from a goat! In England and Scotland it is known as "the corpse fowl" and it is indeed a bird of ill fortune. To hear it at night it is an eerie sound you will not forget. It is said it is a reincarnation of a child that died without being baptised! In Greece and indeed in Corfu when you hear this bird there will most definitely be a death near where you live....I never believed such nonsense where I live at Nisaki, I heard this bird last week and....a friend of mine died last Friday and because of that the panigiri planned for today (Agion Pandon is our church) was cancelled!
      30 June at 18:31 · Like · 1

      Jane Anemogiannis We've got these this summer in Paxos and its been of great debate in the evenings as to what it is... It's not usually an owl we hear , so thanks for the updates and should quieten the late night discussions on my patio!
      30 June at 18:37 via mobile · Like

      Vanessa Katsarou Well I wrote this post with a little trepidation thinking I would be poo pooed for succumbing to superstition but it seems I am not alone...... Think I'll sleep with ear plugs in from now on.
      30 June at 18:43 · Like

      Aleko Damaskinos Jane, the bird is exactly the one I have described for Vanessa. In Corfu and Paxos it is known as striglopouli-NOT AN OWL. Talk to the older members of your Greek family and you will see what they say....It is better not to hear it...but how do you avoid this? Locals call it "katsikovizahtra"!
      30 June at 18:43 · Like

      Aleko Damaskinos Definitely NOT an owl!!!
      30 June at 18:48 · Like
    • Jane Anemogiannis Oh ok Aleko Damaskinos I'm now armed with the info! The men in my parea were all unnerved by the sound, instilled from childhood stories perhaps... So far the paxiot older generation haven't been able to identify it that I know, perhaps they could do with putting their hearing aids in 
    • Vanessa Katsarou Agree with Aleko, not an owl, unless my eyesight is a lot worse than I thought.
    • Lavinia Psarras We have nightjars here sometimes and they completely freak me out. Their call is very eerie and really unsettles me, so you are not alone, Vanessa and I, for one, would never poo-poo you xx
    • Simon Baddeley From reading this conversation I'd say a mystery remains.
    • Rita Frumin I think perhaps the recordings available all just seem to give the mating call of the male nightjar which is a low whirring sound but I believe it can certainly scream!!
    • Aleko Damaskinos Well Vinnie, they come and go! Sometimes for months you don't hear them and then...suddenly they are there with some disaster to follow...!!! Indeed they can freak you out and usually you are in your bed!!
    • Simon Baddeley Στριγγοπούλι? Αιγοθήλης? Γιδοβύζι?
    • Vanessa Katsarou Ah that would explain it Rita Frumin, it was the low whirring sound that I heard on the video, the bird was similar in size and shape to what I saw. Aleko Damaskinoswould the translation of 'striglopouli' be something like 'witchbird'?
    • Lavinia Psarras I quite agree Aleko! I always hear them at night and they even drive the dog mad which unsettles me even more.....
    • Helen Lait We have a couple in the old factory near our house and they sound like the living dead! Must admit we thought they were screech owls but obviously must be this striglopouli. They have been there every since we have lived in the house but nothing nasty has happened so far - fingers crossed! We also get the skops owls as well together with bats and all manner of other birds.
    • Helen Lait Just played that Simon and it is definitely not the birds we get, they really screech rather than hoot.
    • Simon Baddeley OK we're narrowing it down, Night jar?
      British wildlife recordingsNightjarAdd a noteLog in to add a note at the bottom ...See more
    • Aleko Damaskinos The nearest translation Vanessa, would be "screeching bird"! Tawny Owl? NO! Owlsl hoot but, do NOT screech!!
    • Helen Lait Nope lol! Far to civilised. This thing sounds like the living dead, seriously it gives you the willies
    • Helen Lait That is more like it I must admit, but still not unearthly enough. Also it is huge! At least the one we have is.
    • Vanessa Katsarou Well the nightjar recording sounds nothing like it.
    • Vanessa Katsarou Oh we speak the bloody thing is back!!!!
    • Helen Lait So spooky aren't they!
    • Vanessa Katsarou They certainly are Helen, which area are you in?
    • Aleko Damaskinos Vanessa, tell your husband to get his gun and shoot the damn thing! Only then the curse will be lifted...!!!!
    • Helen Lait We live in Hlomos Vanessa Katsarou, have just read your full post and am so sorry about your dog as well. I am over in the UK at the moment and our two are in Corfu with my husband (and the screechy bird!).
    • Helen Lait Good luck trying to shoot it, they are like ghosts in the night. Scary but they do keep the rat population down.
    • Vanessa Katsarou Husband says 'den kanei' to shooting it, apparently that will bring even more catastrophe. Helen Laitdo you know my friend Paula in Hlomos?
    • Aleko Damaskinos This is a Corfu superstition!! because nobody EVER dared shoot it!! Catastrophe will end if you shoot it!!
    • Vanessa Katsarou Ha ha, I could see us becoming one of those families driven to distraction trying to rid ourselves of the thing... like those people that have moles and devote their lives to getting rid of them.
    • Simon Baddeley Akrivos. You don't shoot the albatross, You don't shoot rooks, for the same reasons. There's a plethora of superstition around the sounds of the night. Owls live in the mythology of many cultures - as companions to the gods, evil spirits, wise observers or the embodiment of natural forces.For some, owls are messengers of death, demonstrating the power of the underworld. Being creatures of the night doesn't help...
      Monday at 07:52 · Edited · Like · 4
    • Lavinia Psarras The male and female nightjars appear to have different sounds. The male whirrs repetitively and the female is the freaky one which almost shrieks.......
    • Vanessa Katsarou Thanks for clarifying Lavinia and this has been a most interesting thread.
    • Rita Frumin Watch the Video called nightjar calling to the end!!
      Nightjars are most active at dawn and dusk when they hunt for moths, beetles and crane flies.
    • Simon Baddeley Aleko! You say the catastrophe will end if you shoot the screecher (whatever it is and if you can even see it), but isn't thinking that killing the beast (whatever it is and if you can see it) just as unscientific a suggestion as the original superstition? What would Socrates have said?
    • Aleko Damaskinos  I agree with you Simon! I personally don't believe in superstitions of any kind but...what I wrote comes from the older people from my village! My thought on this matter is that the Creator (God?) gave this bird this particular voice and the poor bird cannot help it!!! Here I have to add that since yesterday when I said "shooot the bird", I mentioned this to some old friends of the village and they all said like Vanessa's husband : "DON"T" do this, because every catastrophe you can think of will befall you!-I wonder what Socrates would make out of this!!!
      Monday at 14:16 · Unlike · 5
    • Jeanette Parker Rita Frumin, I tried to watch the BBC prog. on the bird but not able to here. I worked for some years at Dept.of Zoology in Oxford looking after post D.Phil. research grants inc. EGI (Edward Grey Inst for field ornithology). I'll try looking there. Nice to see progs on Nat.Geo. etc. made by those students' - many now professors. Happy was able to help them.
    • Joy Konstantis This is closer to it!!!
      Learn how to identify Barn Owl, its life history, cool facts, sounds and calls, ...See more
    • Joy Konstantis And yes, death almost always follows a visit from them.... one kept sitting in the tree outside our house - and we lost my father-in-law suddenly 
    • Aleko Damaskinos Joy! I am currently interviewing people all-over the island concerning this bird and deaths! Since I am a mathematician, I am going to put it all together (mathematically at first and for the general public later) so, soon I hope to have some results.....See More
      18 hours ago · Like · 1
    • Lavinia Psarras How absolutely fascinating, Aleko. Good for you and I cannot wait to read your conclusions. I wish you would do the same for the black-cloaked rider who our Nona was certain was the "angel of death" as she saw him just before news reached her of her husband's premature death in the olive groves way back in the 1930s.
      18 hours ago · Like · 1
    • Dawn Dodson this sounds very superstitious
    • Joy Konstantis There are many phenomenon out there unexplained...
      17 hours ago · Like · 2
    • Helen Lait This is all a little worrying as we have them living opposite our house and they fly over it nearly every night. We have got quite used to it although it sounds unearthly and scares the living daylights out of visitors. So far (!) nobody has died!!!
    • Simon Baddeley It will be near impossible for Aleko to find the unbiased sample he needs for his research. Superstition was once a science, until the Age of Reason brought real science and demonstrated the falsity of superstitious 'theories' of cause and effect. People die all the time so it's rarely difficult to find some similar event that has occurred around the same time. We are gullible and frail and some of us, for better but also for worse, favour the certainty of superstitious cause and effect to the probabilities of science. If lots of people across the island believe - superstitiously - that there's a connection between the screeching at night and death then Aleko will find lots of proof that there's a connection, unless he uses a more scientific method that doesn't entail simply asking people. I think you will find plenty of religious people who will poo-poo the superstition that there's a connection between the call of the screech beast and an imminent death. Religion and science can co-exist. Superstition and science cannot. So if you are fearful of the screech in the night try praying.
      9 hours ago · Edited · Like · 1
    • Lavinia Psarras Very interesting, Simon Baddeley. I always understood that religion and superstition are closely linked and it is science which is at the other end of reason? My late husband was a surgeon and always dismissed my religious beliefs by saying he dealt in facts, not fantasies (much to my annoyance!). Therefore, unless you pray to a scientist, surely is is futile to pray? My (half-Corfiot) daughter has a Masters in Comparative Religions and Social Anthropology from Edinburgh and we often discuss religion and superstition, usually in the context of tradition and culture. It is fascinating, but I doubt Aleko will come to any credible conclusion, whether it be deduced mathematically, scientifically or indeed religiously. I have always been fascinated by the origins of old nursery rhymes and old sayings. We are taught these by our parents and grandparents and pass them on to our own children. Surely the same applies to superstitions such as the bird? Corfu, in particular, has many myths, legends and superstitions which have been handed down for generations and we have to remember how recent the spread of literacy has been on our beloved island, particularly among the females (who are usually the ones to care for the children and tell them paramythia, legends and, indeed, superstitions). Therefore many of the older generation today in Corfu were never read stories, the stories they heard as children were of Corfiot myths. These stories were certainly told to my husband, although, as a scientist, he never passed them on to his own children!
      9 hours ago · Edited · Unlike · 1
    • Joy KonstantisI am thoroughly enjoying this thread; my own mother-in-law is like one of the original tale-tellers of olden times. One says a key-word and she will relate verbatim a story about times now gone which either she experienced or had been told to her by her mother or grandmother... I have now lived with her for almost 40 years and fully regret not taping our conversations as they would create a fantastic 'history' of our part of Corfu. And yes, both religion and superstition play and have always played huge roles in everyday life here in the villages....
    • Simon Baddeley Greeks, in contrast to other Europeans, link their national identity to their religion, sometimes seeing the church as the vehicle that kept Hellenism alive during centuries of Ottoman rule. Even tho' dented by charges of corruption and other scandals the church still binds and attracts xenos like me. It's a paradox. A Greek words of course! Unlike what happens in other European countries, being a communist, atheist, or agnostic does not preclude someone from attending Church in Greece, including Corfu (not held by the Ottomans of course). This attitude was exemplified for me in the words of a dentist "I am an atheist; but I am Greek, so of course I'm a member of the Orthodox Church" My dad, John, was divorced from my mum in 1949 but when he wanted to marry again in church to a Greek, my stepmother Maria, also divorced just after the war, both were allowed a 'second chance' - and so were married with full ceremony in the little church in Hermou Street in Athens, so I have half-Greek siblings. Yes! In Greece atheism and faith can co-exist, as also superstition (Yes. I changed my mind!). I'm still trying to sort this out, but in the meantime whenever I arrive in Greece I touch the ground - even the ugly concrete of Igoumenitsa - with my hand and weep with quiet joy.
      53 minutes ago · Edited · Like · 2
    • Dawn Dodson Just to go back to the original thread Barn owls never hoot they Screech always have always will it can sound more urgent if they sense danger.I used to foster injured owls years ago and have had hundreds of different owls in my garden.Love owls and the thought of someone shooting one through superstision appals me
      30 minutes ago · Like · 1
    • Simon Baddeley Συμφωνώ. I still think, tho' Aleko and others disagree, that that screech we are debating could be the alarm call of a barn owl it's scary even as I sit in my kitchen playing it on the laptop!
    • Simon Baddeley The main thing is how Vanessa is feeling. She said in the message that began this thread that it was 'definitely a bird not an owl' - but an owl is a bird, a wonderful one. I am so hoping she is less worried. Especially as so many of us are thinking of her.I know she is sure the noise does not come from an owl, so it would be good, without harming the beast, to know what it is. I wish we could get a recording and surely settle the matter with confidence, letting half the world analyse the sound that's captured.
      4 minutes ago · Edited · Like · 1
    • Joy Konstantis I must add that when I still lived in the UK, there was an owl which regularly perched in our pine tree and screeched very much like these here; never thought anything about it. It was only here that I learnt of the superstitions surrounding it - generally they don't bother me but it is odd how many times a death does follow its appearance - coincidence or synchronicity?
    • Simon Baddeley What a thread! Another Greek word! the experience of two or more events that are apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance, yet are experienced as occurring together in a meaningful manner. The source of Jung's split with Freud who detested the idea as 'unscientific'. ((see the film 'A Dangerous Method')) Wake up Aleko! What do you think?
Owls of different kinds run through my life as entirely benign and wonderful birds, almost invariably associated with happiness. The Pierian Spring in the Roman Temple at Corinth (not, I proclaim, the one in Macedonia, in Πιερία) was created by the hoof of Pegasus. It is said to flow from the top of Acrocorinthis, the mighty fortress above Corinth. Alexander Pope cautioned "A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring". I am uncertain where I found the owl feather or why I put it here. I recall knowing for many years of the Pieirian stream, but was unaware it existed until we came to Corinth in August 1996, where I did drink from it and noted as much in my diary. Amy, my daughter, was 11. She thought that if she drank she'd have to go to school for ever. I tried to explain the difference between school and learning without being disloyal to her mum - a fine teacher.

...and among my talismen is a golden owl, a gift from Greece long ago. I've not seen another one and it sits on a shelf above me now..

I note the blurred edges around my keys. Modern paranoia - lest a stalker copies them and comes for me and mine in the night. The owl made of papier-mâché was given me by my Greek half-sister. it hung in the bows of my boat on a long sea voyage long ago. And there's the stone carved owl on the wall of the unvisitable museum in Ano Korakiana...

Chris Holmes living above Gouvia writes:
My own κουκουβάγια is all too active these evenings. Swooping low over my evening camparis and soda and very tidy with her hunting of voles and those tree rats that were stripping the grapefuit off the trees. Terrible nuisance at meal times (see spread-winged foto of her at the spice jars), but obediently 'invisible' and silent during my watching of favourite TV soaps (snap of her behind the sofa waiting for orders). Cost Centre #2, my younger spitfire, Anna, summons her with a whistle but baffles the locals by referring to her in her Seattle accent as our 'Glaukos'. Aleko will know the correct word. (She's) a barn owl. We're all so reverently cowed up here in Gouvia Heights there's nothing to alarm it. Full menu on tap, the property is like a sanctuary with 5-star concealment, nooks and crannies galore, ponds and fruit trees...suspiciously soon after my mother died in jan 2012, I was at the puter at 0930 of a morning, with the patio doors open, searching for the right word for some blog silliness. I saw what looked to be a kamikaze swallow zooming at me, except it got bigger n bigger until it glided in to where I was typing and executed this amazing drift to the left, thus saving me a mouthful of feathers and talons. It perched on a top shelf between valuable Chinese porcelain. I ignored it; I hate showoffs. Then it's just stuck around, day and night, never keeping appointments. I ignore it. It is my 'owl in the corner'. Guests gaze and jerk their heads but I ignore it and them. The dog n cat seem to accept it n vice versa. When I go out to drink, I want to train it to glide down to the Navigators and peck on the Fix pump to have them have it ready. I actually want to have a leather-shouldered jacket on which it can perch as I shamble round town. Pretty girls will ambush me in tavernas asking if they can 'touch my owl', so to speak. Thuggish young men will scoff and I will ask them, 'you looking at my bird?' That's the story. I shall not write more lest I get big-headed and lazy and start boasting about 'as featured in Only Corfu.'
**** ****
At last a set of new uniforms for the band in Ano Korakiana:
Η παράδοση των στολών
Γράφει ο/η Κβκ   

Πραγματοποιήθηκε χθες το απόγευμα η παράδοση 100 νέων στολών για τη Φιλαρμονική Κορακιάνας, με την παρουσία του Ταμία (Γιώργος Μεταλληνός) και το Κοσμήτορα (Επαμ. Κένταρχος) του Συλλόγου. Είχε προηγηθεί, πριν από μερικούς μήνες, η παράδοση νέων μουσικών οργάνων. Όλα αυτά, στο πλάισιο του έργου για τον "Εξοπλισμό των Φιλαρμονικών της Κέρκυρας", που υλοποίησε η Περιφέρεια Ιονίων Νήσων.The delivery of uniforms. Yesterday saw the delivery of a 100 new uniforms for the Korakiana Philharmonic in the presence of the Treasurer (George Metallinos) and Dean (Epam. Kentarhos) of the Association. This was preceded, a few months ago, by the delivery of new musical instruments. This has all been part of a project aimed at  'Equipping Corfu Philharmonics' implemented by the Regional Government of the Ionian Islands.

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