From the Bestiary: Salamander

by Heather R. Darsie The salamander was regarded as one of the most dangerous beasts alive. The Bestiary states, “The salamander is so called because of its proof against fire; it is the most poisonous of all creatures.” The message is clear: if one sees a salamander, go the other way! This cold animal is nothing but trouble. Kongelige Bibliotek, Gl. kgl. S. 1633 4º, … Continue reading From the Bestiary: Salamander

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From the Bestiary: Scitalis

by Heather R. Darsie By Unknown medieval monk (Medieval bestiary) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons The Scitalis is a gorgeous, lazy, predatory serpent. It lies about all day, waiting to hypnotize its prey with the dazzling colours of its back. Stunned by the Scitalis’ beauty, the poor beast who stopped to admire the Scitalis is then devoured. The Scitalis has a very high body temperature, … Continue reading From the Bestiary: Scitalis

From the Bestiary: Hoopoe

by Heather R. Darsie The Hoopoe is a very family-oriented bird, according to the Bestiary. “When it sees its parents growing old and their eyes growing dim, the bird…pulls out their feathers, licks their eyes, and warms them until they are rejuvenated.” The logic behind why this description was given is unclear, but is another fanciful illustration of how little was known about animal behavior. … Continue reading From the Bestiary: Hoopoe

From the Bestiary: Amphisbaena

by Heather R. Darsie The amphisbaena is a two-headed beast, “…so called because …[one head is in the right place, the other on its tail. It is unknown how this beast moved about. Basically a two-headed snake, the amphisbaena reportedly moved in a circle. Reportedly the first to awake from hibernation, the amphisbaena is unfazed by the frost and will live in the cold with … Continue reading From the Bestiary: Amphisbaena

From the Bestiary: Charadrius

by Heather R. Darsie Have weak eyes? Go down to the water, find yourself a charadrius, and rub its dung in your eyes. Such is a piece of medieval advice. “Charadrius” is the genus for “plover.” According to the MS Bodley 764, a Charadrius is an all-white river bird. The bird could purportedly foretell if a person was mortally ill, as well. By Morris, Beverley … Continue reading From the Bestiary: Charadrius

From the Bestiary: the He-Goat

by Heather R. Darsie The He-Goat, different from a satyr, is described as a, “…stubborn, lascivious animal.” The He-Goat, “…is always eager to mate,” with eyes that, “…are so full of lust that they look sideways…Its nature is so hot diamonds, against which fire and iron are powerless, dissolve in its blood.” No physical description is given of the He-Goat, and the writer of the … Continue reading From the Bestiary: the He-Goat

From the Bestiary: Eale

by Heather R. Darsie The eale is an all-black, horse-like animal bearing an elephant’s tail, long bull’s horns, and boar’s tusks. The horns are, “…adapted to every kind of movement…” and can, “…be moved as needed when it fights.” When fighting, the eale, “…puts one out in front…, so that if it loses its tip from a blow, it can bring the other one forward.” … Continue reading From the Bestiary: Eale

From the Bestiary

by Heather R. Darsie This series of posts will feature different animals found in illuminated bestiaries. From August 2017, the following source will be used for all beasts: Barber, Richard: translation and introduction. Bestiary: Being an English Version of the Bodleian Library, Oxford. M. S. Bodley 764. All original miniatures reproduced in facsimile. Woodbridge: 1999. The source shall be abbreviated as “MS Bodley 764 facsimile.” This … Continue reading From the Bestiary