The Mummy's Mask
Human neighbors tell horrific tales of slaughter woven with frightened suspicion when speaking of strix. Strix, however, tell a tale of encroachment and a struggle for land and resources. For ages, humans invaded strix lands fighting bloody battles against the fierce, black-skinned creatures they thought to be winged devils. Over time, strix have developed a hatred for humankind and now fiercely protect their dwindling numbers.
Strix (pl. striges or strixes), in the Ancient Roman and Greek legends was a bird of ill omen, product of metamorphosis, that fed on human flesh and blood. The name, in Greek, means “owl”
The earliest recorded tale of the strix is from the lost Ornithologia of the Greek author Boios, which is partially preserved in Antoninus Liberalis’s Metamorphoses. This tells the story of Polyphonte and her two sons Agrios and Oreios (their father being a wild bear), who were punished for their cannibalism, like Lycaon, by being transformed into wild animals. Polyphonte became a strix “that cries by night, without food or drink, with head below and tips of feet above, a harbinger of war and civil strife to men”. The first Latin allusion is in Plautus’s Pseudolus, dated to 191 BC, in which a cook, describing the cuisine of his inferiors, compares its action to that of the striges—i.e., disemboweling a hapless victim. Horace, in his Epodes, makes the strix’s magical properties clear: its feathers are an ingredient in a love potion. Seneca the Younger, in his Hercules Furens, shows the striges dwelling on the outskirts of Tartarus. Ovid tells the story of striges attacking the legendary king Procas in his cradle, and how they were warded off with arbutus and placated with the meat of pigs, as an explanation for the custom of eating beans and bacon on the Kalends of June.
Though descriptions abound, the concept of the strix was nonetheless vague. Pliny, in his Natural History, confesses little knowledge of them; he knows that their name was once used as a curse, but beyond that he can only aver that the tales of them nursing their young must be false, since no bird except the bat suckled its children.