The repository of archetypes is an open-air slaughterhouse. To achieve the semblance of homeliness just put some flowers on the gravestone and get a couple of muzakians to sing for supper. You wouldn’t want to go to the shambles if not for the compulsion. Special needs like that are rarely born in daylight. The borders of personality are fresh wounds or at best scars and desert cliffs.
Our aim is not to tame or domesticate but to tap into the genealogy of one bird of prey. And while we’re at it, to summon a specter. The only trustworthy traces are the breadcrumbs left by the victims of people and god(s). We’ll try to follow those breadcrumbs and not to eat them.
From Nyctimena to Laura Palmer, king’s daughters were punished for the sins of their fathers by being transformed into nocturnal creatures. Something barely dignified, just enough to sell the public some story of pity. The madam virgin goddess pimping them to tyrants and bureaucrats.
The greatest of janitors and jailers, G.W.F. Hegel, always bowing low to his employers, probably didn’t blink when he used Nyctimene as a metaphor for philosophy, without even mentioning her real name: “The owl of Minerva takes its flight only when the shades of nights are gathering”. When played safely, philosophy always comes too late is what Hegel meant, “grey in grey,” lifeless “but only known”.
We don’t know much about Nyctimena. The princess of Lesbos got either raped or seduced by her father, Epopeus. Raped or seduced. How subtle storytellers become, how they flex their rhetorical muscles when the church/state calls for PR support for the kerfuffled tyrants. Splitting hair to lift the guilt of tired kingly arms.
Ovid’s crow called Nyctimene a “wicked wretch.”. Her crime was “defiling her father’s couch”. For that crime, she was transformed into an owl. We’re not trying to speak for Nyctimene here. Neither we speak for ourselves. All we can do is break a strobe-lamp and to listen to Nyctimene for a moment. Bound forever to madam-virgin goddess, the only sound she’s making is “Tu, Tu” (Latin: “you, you”). Disdained as one of three most “intractable beasts” and feared as a bad omen. When she entered a sanctuary of the Capitol, in the consulship of Sextus Palpelius Hi(p)ster and L. Pedanius, superstitious Romans felt compelled to purify the building ritually. I hope she laughed at that moment.
During the day, Nyctimene makes deals with not unsympathetic forces of the Dark Lodge to haunt the patriarch. In a different part of eternal Empire jailed Cleopatra awaits being silenced forever by her tyrant brother. She thinks her lover, whose crimes are a story for another time, is dead. Lamenting her cruel and pitiless fate until she promises to haunt the tyrant “in every which way” even after she’s dead. Some claim that the fact that she keeps on lamenting is a result of awareness of the impossibility of fulfilling her promise. The composer was also a good servant of the empire after all. But she’ll haunt. “Tu! Tu!”