Tweet Tweet, Poop Poop: magical birds in my story Bird Talk

Common Hoopoe ((Upupa epops)) in Puri, Orissa,...

My story Bird Talk is about a young priest, Roger, living in a small medieval English town, who is trying to uncover what he believes are foul magical deeds. But instead he manages to implicate the women he loves in accusations of witchcraft and, with the help of the town drunk, must work out a way of saving her.

In the story I incorporate a number of medieval beliefs about magic. The first magical occurrence that arouses Roger’s suspicions is the purchase of an exotic bird – the Hoopoe. In medieval times the Hoopoe, whose song is “poop, poop”, was sought after for its magical properties. The Hoopoe is a native of Europe, but not the UK, but could have been imported at the right price. How were Hoopoes used in magic?

  • Their blood could be used to make magic circles
  • Summoned demons quite liked Hoopoes, they made a nice gift
  • Their brains, tongues and hearts were valuable for enchanters – although not specified why in any sources I have seen

(For more on demonic magic and the sources for the above information see Magic in the Middle Ages by Richard Kieckhefer.)

After Roger hears about the sale  of a Hoopoe he suspects that there is magic going on. As he approaches the suspects home he and the local constable hear the distinctive sound of the Hoopoe, and they discover the identity of the  suspected necromancer. The them of bird song comes up again at the end of the story, but I won’t say any more than that – please read the story to find out more!

Theaker's Quarterly Fiction 33

If you’re interested in reading my story Bird Talk, then please visit Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction.

According to Mr Theaker, my story is:

‘By these standards, “Bird Talk” by Mark Lord is almost incongruously normal, despite its mix of witches, clerics and boozy tramps.’


“Bird Talk” is also now available to purchase as a separate story via Smashwordsand Amazon.

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