medieval bestiary

anonymous asked:

Why is it that bestiaries seem to treat any encounter between two specific beafts as a foregone conclusion? The thing with the elephant and dragon always has the elephant winning, and (though I don't remember exactly what) the method of winning is treated like it's always the same.

It’s a morally improving allegory thing. Medieval bestiaries were very much intended to teach lessons about christian values, with the beafts standing in for The Soul or Sin or similar.  So it pretty much had to be a foregone conclusion or the subtext would end up like, “Well, it depends on how much rest the soul’s been getting. Is the ground wet? Is the sun in its eyes? Evil can sneak up on you if the sun’s in your eyes. Also how’s the terrain? The soul’s speed advantage is no good on uneven terrain.”

BESTIARY XVIII: THE BEE

BEES ARE THE SMALLEST BIRDS IN THE WORLD. THEY LIVE IN COLONIES, AND ARE THE ONLY BIRDS IN THE WHOLE FUCKING WORLD TO APPOINT THEIR KINGS BY DEMOCRATIC VOTING. IF ANY BEE BREAKS THE LAW, THE LITTLE SHIT STINGS ITSELF TO DEATH IN A FUCKED-UP FORM OF JUSTICE. BEE SOCIETY IS FUCKING WEIRD.

THEIR MAIN JOB IS COLLECTING THE HONEY THAT FALLS OUT OF THE FUCKING SKY AND WASHING IT ALL BY HAND TO MAKE IT SHINY AND NICE AGAIN.

BEES ARE BORN FROM THE FLESH OF DEAD COWS. A BUNCH OF WEIRD-ASS WORMY BABIES MAGICALLY APPEAR IN ROTTING MEAT, AND GROW UP TO BECOME TINY TINY FUCKING BIRDS. 

IF A BEE DIES IT CAN BE BROUGHT BACK TO LIFE BY CAREFULLY RUBBING MUD ALL OVER IT AND THEN POURING A FUCKLOAD OF BLOOD ONTO ITS SHITTY LITTLE CORPSE. BEES ARE FUCKING WEIRD. ALSO THEY’RE MOTHERFUCKING BIRDS. TINY TINY BIRDS.

BESTIARY I: THE LION

IN THE WILD, THERE ARE TWO DIFFERENT SORTS OF LION. THERE ARE LITTLE STUMPY ADORABLE LIONS WITH CURLY MANES, WHICH ARE LOVELY FRIENDLY LITTLE SHITS, AND THERE ARE BIG LIONS WITH STRAIGHT MANES AND FUCKING MASSIVE TEETH, WHICH ARE EVIL-MINDED MAN EATING DICKBAGS. 

THE IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER ABOUT LIONS IS THAT EVERY SINGLE BABY LION IS BORN FUCKING DEAD. THEY COME TO LIFE AFTER THREE DAYS, WHEN THEIR FATHER BLOWS ON THEM, BUT THEY’RE ALL BORN DEAD. IT’S FUCKED-UP. 

IF YOU TRY TO CATCH A LION, IT’LL USE ITS TAIL TO WIPE OUT ITS TRACKS. LIONS ARE DEVIOUS MOTHERFUCKERS. IF YOU WANT TO CATCH ONE, THE BEST THING TO DO IS DIG A FUCKING MASSIVE HOLE AND HOPE THE LION IS STUPID ENOUGH TO FALL INTO IT. THAT’S MAGICAL MEDIEVAL SCIENCE, MOTHERFUCKERS.

Wolf

“If a wolf sees a man before the man sees the wolf, the man will lose his voice.”

Like the wolf, the devil always sees mankind as prey and circles the sheepfold of the faithful, that is the Church. As the wolf gives birth when thunder first sounds, so the devil fell from heaven at the first display of his pride. The shining of the wolf’s eyes in the night is like the works of the devil, which seem beautiful to foolish men. As the wolf cannot turn his neck, so the devil never turns towards the correction of penitence. Like the man who, because of the wolf has lost his voice, can save himself by removing his clothes and banging two rocks together, so can the man who is lost in sin be saved by stripping off, through baptism, his worldly self and then appealing to the saints, who are called “stones of adamant”.

Prostitues are called she-wolves (lupae) because they lay waste their lover’s riches.


                     -the Medieval Bestiary

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Bailey Henderson Sculpts Fantastic Beasts Based Off Illustrations In Medieval Maps

Artist Bailey Henderson creates intricate sculptures depicting fantastic beasts that have been portrayed in medieval maps. Each creature is stylized and made to detail the original image accurately. The texture found in her sculptures mirror the lines in an illustration, …

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BESTIARY VII: THE MANTICORE

THE MANTICORE IS A BRIGHT RED GIANT LION WITH THE TAIL OF A FUCKING SCORPION AND THE HEAD OF A MAN. IT HAS THREE MOTHERFUCKING ROWS OF TEETH, AND A COMPLETELY FUCKING INSANE GRIN. IT’S LIKE A CROSS BETWEEN A CRAZY POISONOUS SCORPION LION MONSTER AND THE JOKER. IT’S THE STUFF OF MOTHERFUCKING NIGHTMARES, AND ALSO IT EATS PEOPLE. AND LAUGHS WHILE IT EATS PEOPLE. IT’S FUCKING HORRIFIC.

ALSO IT CAN JUMP REALLY FUCKING FAR. IT CAN JUMP OVER RIVERS AND ALSO WALLS, SO THERE’S NOWHERE YOU CAN EVER BE SAFE FROM THE FUCKING NIGHTMARE LION SCORPION DEMON MAN THING. BE VERY FUCKING AFRAID.

Lions

In Christian allegory, the three main natures of the lion each have a meaning. The lion erasing its tracks with its tail represents the way Jesus concealed his divinity, only revealing himself to his followers. The lion sleeping with its eyes open represents Jesus, physically dead after crucifiction, but still spiritually alive in his divine nature. The lion roaring over his dead cubs to bring them to life represents how God the father woke Jesus after three days in his tomb.

The other natures of the lion are taken as examples of how people are to live. Just as the lion will not attack a prostrate man, will allow captive men to depart, and is not easily angered, people should be slow to anger and quick to forgive.

-the Medieval Bestiary

Ashmole bestiary, MS Bodley Ashmole 1511 046v

A pelican and her young.

From the Medieval Bestiary website (bestiary.ca):
“As young pelicans grow, they begin to strike their parents in the face with their beaks. Though the pelican has great love for its young, it strikes back and kills them. After three days, the mother pierces her side or her breast and lets her blood fall on the dead birds, and thus revives them. Some say it is the male pelican that kills the young and revives them with his blood.”

History fact of the night!

(This is from the Aberdeen Bestiary, which is available online. Gorgeous.)

One of my favourite creatures in medieval bestiarity (that is a word now) is the hyena. These are some of the things the Aberdeen Bestiary tells us about the fearsome hyena.

It’s both male and female, and therefore apparently kinda icky. This is kinda true, in that female spotted hyenas have an external pseudo-penis. (The icky part is definitely not true.) Oh, hyenas. You are my favourite.

Hyenas also live in tombs and eat corpses. They also like a bite of less recently dead human, and mimic human voices to lure in a snack. I assume they then go back to the tomb for the better marinated meat. If there is no tomb around, they dig up graves.

There is more, like a fused spine and a bit about future-telling stones. Rock on, hyenas.

BESTIARY XXIV: THE SPIDER

THE SPIDER IS A KIND OF WORM THAT LIVES IN THE SKY. IT FARTS OUT WEBS, WHICH IT USES TO PREDICT THE WEATHER. SOMETIMES FLIES GET STUCK IN THEM, BUT THAT’S NOT THE FUCKING POINT. SPIDERS DON’T EAT FLIES. SPIDERS DON’T EAT ANYTHING. THEY GET ALL THE NUTRIENTS THEY NEED FROM THE AIR. 

IF YOU SPIT ON A SPIDER, THOUGH, IT DIES. BUT DON’T DO THAT. THAT’S FUCKING CRUEL. SPIDERS ARE BASICALLY FAIRIES. 

SPIDERS ARE FUCKING DELIGHTFUL HARMLESS SKY-WORMS. THAT’S ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW.

Owl

The owl haunts ruins and flies only at night; preferring to live in darkness it hides from the light. It is a dirty, slothful bird that pollutes its own nest with its dung. It is often found near tombs and lives in caves. Some say it flies backwards. When other birds see it hiding during the day, they noisily attack it to betray its hiding place. Owls cry out when they sense that someone is about to die.

There are several kinds of owls described in the bestiaries: noctua, the night-owl, that lives in the walls of ruined houses and shuns the light; nicticorax, the night-raven; and the bubo, the common owl, a dirty bird that pollutes its nest.

                                                             -from the medieval bestiary