Pseudopod 270: A Revelation of Cormorants

by Mark Valentine

Mark Valentine has written a biography of the Welsh author and mystic Arthur Machen (Seren, 1990) and TIME, A FALCONER (Tartarus Press, 2011), a study of the diplomat and fantasist ‘Sarban’. His stories of an aesthetical occult detective were recently brought together in THE COLLECTED CONNOISSEUR (Tartarus Press, 2010). He edits Wormwood, a journal of the literature of the fantastic, supernatural and decadent. Mark’s latest project is a book of short stories, SECRET EUROPE (Ex Occidente Press), due in early 2012, jointly with fellow author John Howard.

Read for us by the unflappable Ian Stuart!

“‘Cormorant, from the Latin for “sea-raven”. The Tudors saw the bird as a symbol for gluttony: Shakespeare refers to hungry Time as a cormorant. It may have gained this reputation because of its proficiency at catching fish. Milton, however, invested the bird with a dark glamour: he likened Lucifer sitting in the Tree of Life to a cormorant, no doubt because of the bird’s habit of standing with its black wings spread out to dry. The satanic image stuck. The occultist and poet Ludovic Horne wrote of his “Cormorant days/dark and sleek”. The atheist essayist Llewellyn Powys refers to the birds as “satanic saints” in Parian niches on the chalk cliffs of Dorset, but he celebrated them too as manifesting the ecstasy of the moment, as they plunge into the sea after the silver-scaled fish of their dreams. Conan Doyle alludes to an untold Sherlock Holmes case of “The Lighthouse Keeper and the Trained Cormorant”. Isherwood cites them in a nonsense poem. Folklore about them is much barer than the literary record.”


This podcast uses these wave and bird sounds from from Freesound and cormorant recordings lifted from Youtube.

“Seaford1” by acclivity

“UrbanHerringGulls” by acclivity

“beach_waves” by 3bagbrew

“GullsByTheSea” by acclivity

“oceanwavescrushing” by Luftrum

“Fiji Beach (Stereo)128kbps” by c97059890

“Seagulls close-up” by juskiddink

“WavesOnBeach” by acclivity