Through One Hoop, Several More To Go

Part of the grad program here is submitting a “qualifying paper” – I did mine a lot earlier in the program than usual, and with very little editing and somehow… I passed! Not only passed, but with flying colors!! In other words: serious pwnage. Passing isn’t a HUGE deal, and I don’t usually like to flaunt my accomplishments (even the ones that are a huge deal). But I need to start giving myself credit where credit is due. I rarely congratulate myself; instead I just think “wow, you didn’t mess it up…” That’s not healthy. Plus, the sheer amount of positive feedback I’ve received re: this paper has been an amazing boost. And lord knows I need a boost to get through the next few weeks! Anyway, it’s difficult to even write about this, especially since this isn’t really something to shout from the rooftops but… baby steps! Plus my life is boring I don’t have much else to blog about…

This year I am the secretary of CoGAH (Council of Graduate Art Historians). On Friday (March 30th) we had the 6th annual CoGAH symposium. We had amazing speakers from all over the country and managed to pull it off without any real hiccups. Although planning this symposium was a lot of stress, I am so glad I got to spend so much time with my fellow members – those peeps are awesome!

Ok, it’s time to get back to writing about medieval bestiaries… once Gary gets out of the way (see above). Despite Gary’s attempts to sit on my book, mouse, and keyboard, I just wrote quite a bit about medieval perceptions of sea urchins. Yeah, I live life in the fast lane. Before I go, I want to share this quote from the 13th century:
“If sparrows and crows had the dictates of reason… how many cities and castles could they not burn down? If they enjoyed reason and were equal to men, could not all the birds and beasts mass together and destroy the human race?”  –
Aelred of Rievaulx Dialogue on the Soul
This TOTALLY reminded me of the movie The Birds! While looking it up I came across this clip, which I really should share with my animal studies peers… it totally made me laugh. Once this semester is over, I need to watch some more Hitchcock!

Alfred Hitchock’s trailer for The Birds

Bestiaries: Scorpions

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.

Scorpion attributes:
– 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)

British Library, Sloane MS 1975, Folio 13r

Kongelige Bibliotek, Gl. kgl. S. 1633 4º, Folio 58v

Koninklijke Bibliotheek, KB, KA 16, Folio 126v

Information and images were taken from – an awesome site!