Owl King

From Plastic Tub

According to Dr. Jeanne-Marie Sicre, a noted Toulouse-based historian and expert on regional folklore, the Owl King is a variant of an ancient local deity whose cult was centered around the area of St. Girons in the Arriège department of southern France. Although the Owl King began as a pagan deity, by the the Middle Ages his story was heavily influenced by elements introduced to the area by returning Crusaders. The resulting story reflects both traditions; basically, a man, arrogant and uncompromising, challenges God, and for his impudence is turned to stone. The Owl King Cult however, believed that they could cause the return of the Owl King through proper sacrifices; the Owl King would then sucessfully de-throne God and afterwards reward his followers for their service by setting them up as masters over the earth. They were said to meet in covens of 13, dressed in red and white robes under the starry blue sky.

From Sicre's The Owl King Revisited, (1995):

Tradition has it that members of the cult kidnapped children and waylaid prostitutes to be sacrificed at their camps in out-of the-way places. The victims were chopped into small pieces and burnt on altars in front of stone effigies resembling an owl. Step one of the Ritual Murder was called "Decefalos". The victims' heads were separated from the body and placed upon a pike to "observe the grisly procedings. Step two resulted in the complete amputation of the arms, starting at the wrists, continuing to the separation of the forearm at the elbow and the upper arm at the shoulder.1  The process was repeated at the ankles, knees and groin. The trunk was then quartered. As the pieces were removed, each is said to have had its own moral lesson delivered via sacred chant as it was placed in an ark made to Biblical specifications. This entire step was called the "16 sans Tête." Step three, "Cremation," involved transporting the ark in a holy procession towards the Owl King effigy where the remains were burnt and the ark destroyed.

Sicre goes on to link the Owl King to the Oaken God, Old Man Gloom, the Wicker Man and various Beanstalk Hero Myths from the Trans-Baltic.


In 1664, Guillaume du Feu, an intrepid traveller of the Pyrenées, was caught in a blizzard one early October and sought refuge in a remote dale he had seen glimmering with village lights from a mountain trail along a long and bleak crest.

There, he witnessed a sacrifice to a Black Virgin who supported an owl under her arm, as opposed to a Jesus on her knee.

Du Feu barely escaped with his life, and his story brought him to the attention of several prominent prosecutors who mounted a massive search for this little village yet nevertheless found nothing. Du Feu was discredited and lost his government job as an official surveyor for the region. His subsequent fustian broadsides got him into trouble with several local officials, ruthless martinets who suppressed his incredible allegations.

He died, hounded and penniless, in 1675, almost 11 years to the day he was found frost-bitten and delirious in the mountains, clutching a bloody apron and murmuring "Mormo....Mormo...."


Note 1:  See, for example, the hideous case of Ryan O'Donnely.


James Dickey (1923-1997), most famous for his novel Deliverance, wrote a book of poems called The Owl King. Published in 1977, it elliptically recounts the strange tale of Guillaume du Feu in allegory.