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Harley 4751
GKS 3466 8º
Aberdeen University Library MS 24 Harley 3244
Latin 14429
Royal 12 F XIII

The hedgehog is a small, pig-like creature covered in prickly spines. At sign of danger, it rolls up into an impenetrable ball. Most often the hedgehog is depicted in the act of gathering food for its young—they climb up onto grape vines, shaking the fruit to the ground. By rolling over the grapes on their backs, they spear the fruits so they may be carried home.

In Das Kochbuch des Meisters Eberhard, a 15th century German cookbook, it is claimed that ”The meat of a hedgehog is good for lepers. Those who dry its intestines and grind them to a powder and eat a little of that are made to piss, even if they can not do so otherwise.”

According to St Antony of Padua, the hedgehog represented an obstinate sinner covered in the pricks of his sins; if anyone should try to convince him of his sins, he rolls up, hiding from his faults. When the hedgehog is curled up, its head and mouth face toward the ground, just as the mind and words of a sinner are low when he seeks to excuse his wrong-doing. 

William ap Thomas (d. 1446) Sir Lawrence de Hastings (d. 1348) Sir John de Hastings II (d. 1324) Sir Richard Herbert of Ewyas Eva de Braose (d. 1256) Sir Richard Herbert of Coldbrook and Margaret (Sir Richard d. 1469)

Pictures I took of some of the medieval tombs/effigies in St. Mary’s priory church, Abergavenny.

An illustration of the mandrake (mandragore) from the Harley 1585 Manuscript.
In the image, the deadly root is tied to a dog, demonstrating the best method of harvesting the plant. Because its screams were deadly to hear, it was advised that you fasten a rope around the very top part of the root, securing the other end around a dog’s neck. Hastily retreating as the dog pulled the root free, the plants screams would kill the animal and leave the harvester unharmed. After that, the mandrake was safe to approach.

An illustration of the mandrake (mandragore) from the Harley 1585 Manuscript.

In the image, the deadly root is tied to a dog, demonstrating the best method of harvesting the plant. Because its screams were deadly to hear, it was advised that you fasten a rope around the very top part of the root, securing the other end around a dog’s neck. Hastily retreating as the dog pulled the root free, the plants screams would kill the animal and leave the harvester unharmed. After that, the mandrake was safe to approach.

Beaulieu Abbey, Hampshire England Tintern Abbey, Wales Llanthony Priory, Wales Abbey of St. Mary, Yorkshire England

Some plans from medieval English and Welsh abbeys and priories. These are just to give a general idea of abbey orientation—following posts will look at its individual areas.

Aberdeen University Library MS 24 Royal 12 C XIX Latin 14429 Harley 3244 GKS 3466 8 Harley 4751

The salamander is depicted as a serpent or lizard with two important attributes. Firstly, it is impervious to fire and can walk unscathed among flames. This is because it is a cold creature and cannot be burnt—a fact that makes it the only creature which can put fires out. Its second characteristic is that it has the most powerful poison of any creature. If it crawls into an apple tree, every apple on that tree becomes deadly to eat. If it falls into a well, the water becomes deadly to drink.

Augustine of Hippo cited the salamander as a proof that souls in hell could burn entirely, saying “If, therefore, the salamander lives in fire, as naturalists have recorded, and if certain famous mountains of Sicily have been continually on fire from the remotest antiquity until now, and yet remain entire, these are sufficiently convincing examples that everything which burns is not consumed.” (City of God, Bk. 21)

Just thought I'd share this link

From Columbia University, it’s a collection of medieval cathedrals and monasteries available for 3D viewing online. Pretty amazing.

Cautery and surgical diagrams from the Harley 1585 MS.

Cautery was a treatment for the relief of pain and other discomfort. Hot irons were applied to points on the body which corresponded to the specific complaint.

The captions read:

1. For head pain and for stomach distress, burn thus; For rheumy gums, thus.

2. To breathe and [unreadable]; Hepaticus burn thus; For liver, thus; For spleen, thus; For stomach, thus; For renal Pain

3. Podagric is incised and burned thus; Hernias, thus; For swelling and pain of the knees, burn thus; Hemorrhoids burn thus

4. White eyes strike off thus; Fungus of the nose thus incise

Harley 4751 Sloane 3544 Harley 3244 Den Haag, MMW, 10 B 25 GKS 3466 8º Latin 14429 Royal 12 F XIII

The antelope is a feral animal with fierce, saw-like horns that it can use to cut down trees. It only be hunted in one circumstance—when, as it goes to the water to drink, its long horns are caught in the branches of riverside thickets. It’s loud braying will quickly alert the hunter, who can then safely spear the beast.

The two horns of the antelope were meant to represent the Old and New Testaments of the Christian Bible, which were spiritual weapons to be used to fight free of vice and sin. The antelope also represents the evils of drinking and luxury—it is left defenseless and is easy prey when it goes to the stream to drink, just as we are susceptible to apostasy when we indulge in wine and pleasure. “Vinum enim et mulieres apostatare faciunt homines a deo,” (Harley MS 4751).

Harley 4751 Aberdeen University Library MS 24 Royal 12 C XIX Harley 3244 Sloane 3544

The asp, a snake with eviscerating venom, will put one ear to the ground and stop the other with its tail to avoid hearing the snake charmer’s spell. In most of these images, the charmer reads his spell from a scroll or book. Though a snake, the asp seems to have acquired legs and wings in several images.

In the Aberdeen Bestiary (Aberdeen University Library MS 24), the asp is further sorted into six species, which you can read more about here.

The moral lesson the asp was meant to teach was that of the evils of too worldly men. Like the wealthy or greedy, the asp has one ear stopped up with earthly desire, and the other with the sins of his deeds. Because of this, he cannot hear the words of the good or of the lord—”The wicked have been estranged from the womb, They have erred from the belly, speaking lies. Their poison [is] as poison of a serpent, As a deaf asp shutting its ear, Which hearkeneth not to the voice of whisperers, A charmer of charms most skillful.” (Psalms 58:3-5)

This is to announce my new weekly bestiary series—every Wednesday, I will do a spotlight on a different creature from medieval bestiaries: their traits, religious symbolism, and depiction.

This is to announce my new weekly bestiary series—every Wednesday, I will do a spotlight on a different creature from medieval bestiaries: their traits, religious symbolism, and depiction.