One of the classes I’m taking this semester is Animals in Medieval and Renaissance Art. It’s a seminar course (pretty much all graduate students) and aside from our extensive reading assignments, we have to write a 20+ original research paper. The whole reason I took this class was because of my love of bestiaries, so naturally that’s what I’m writing my research paper on!
What is a bestiary? Well, basically is is a medieval ‘book of beasts.’ It’s often described as "medieval zoology" or "medieval natural science" – which has a kernel of truth. However, it is much more complicated. The intricacies could fill multiple books (and sadly, I’ve read them), but basically the bestiary is a combination of theological and scientific explanations of animals. The end result is an often fantastically wrong account of the natural world, full of insightful morals, confusing contradictions, and hilarious pictures.
Apparently researching bestiaries pretty much EVERY DAY isn’t enough punishment for myself, because now I feel the urge to blog about them! So I’m going to do a few posts about various animals found in bestiaries.
For this post I’m going to focus on the scorpion, in honor of the dead one I found under my desk at work.
– it is a kind of worm
– to make a scorpion, one must bury the claws of crabs
– if one is stung by a scorpion, that person will become hydrophobic (afraid of water)
– scorpion stings are fatal to girls and women. Men only die if they are stung in the morning when the poison is strongest
– the scorpion will never strike the palm of your hand
– the south wind gives scorpions the ability to fly (they stretch out their arms like oars)
Some depictions of scorpions in bestiaries:
(as usual, click to enlarge)
Information and images were taken from www.bestiary.ca – an awesome site!