p-thts-animls-msg - 9/8/13
Period thoughts about animals. Period treatment of animals.
This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.
This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.
The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.
Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).
Mark S. Harris AKA: THLord Stefan li Rous
Stefan at florilegium.org
Date: Tue, 20 May 1997 08:21:04 CST
From: "Katy Corey" <k_corey at WJHS.NWSC.K12.AR.US>
To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu
Subject: Re: Chickens & eggs & thoughts on period practices
> Many medieval pastimes were brutal to animals - they thought a lot of really
> nasty things were funny. This is an area in which we are very different -
> like our hygiene. This is another area in which authenticity does not
> appeal to me.
I remember reading that Leonardo da Vinci was considered strange
as a young man because he hated the common entertainment of
throwing cats onto sharpened stakes to watch them struggle. The same
source - probably a National Geographic book on the Italian
Renaissance - said that he would buy caged birds in the marketplace
just to set them free.
Date: Wed, 21 May 1997 10:14:23 -0400 (EDT)
From: Rooscc at aol.com
To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu
Subject: Chicken & eggs
While there were many cruel practices in the Middle Ages
(cock fighting and dog fighting still exist today), there
was also an understanding of humane treatment of farm
animals. (Not as pets, but as a kind regard for the animals'
well being.) Walter of Henley (13th century handbook for
running manors) gives several examples: providing
scratching posts, allowing ample "play" time outside
the stall in winter, etc. He also advises the lord to watch
how the animals behave around their keepers--if they
seem fearful or avoid the person then they are likely
being mistreated. This contrasts favorably I think
with the attitudes in modern large commercial production.
Date: Wed, 21 May 1997 19:58:47 -0400 (EDT)
From: Rooscc at aol.com
To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu
Subject: Walter of Henley
>He also advises the lord to watch
>how the animals behave around their keepers--if they
>seem fearful or avoid the person then they are likely
This was in regard to sheep and oxen.
Overall the advice given in 13th-century manuals would
be considered micro-managing today. The lord should expect
a calf for every cow and at least a lamb for every ewe
(twinning was common). If this is not the case, the lord
should ask why: was a bull or ram not available and why not?
Every animal should be accounted for--if it died, he should
have the skin or fleece and a full account of what happened.
The business consideration is uppermost and yet there
is a sympathetic undertone in regard to the animals. I don't
own a copy of this work so I can't quote it for you.
Some of the same sentiments reoccur in Tusser in the
mid-sixteenth. They respect their beasts but don't make
pets of them.
From: "Trevor Barker" <barkert at delete.logica.com>
Subject: Re: Stefan's Florilegium
Date: 30 Mar 1998 12:03:36 GMT
Organization: Logica UK Limited
Stefan li Rous <stefan at texas.net> wrote
> Hmm. Does anyone have in referances to what medieval people thought
> of lemmings? Were lemmings used for skins? Do they figure in any
> medieval literature?
I don't know about lemmings.
Geraldus Cambrensis (c1200) mentions Welsh beavers.
Apparently, beavers were hunted for their testicles. So, if a beaver was
persued and couldn't escape, it would bite off its bollocks (good English
word, that) thus rendering itself worthless to the hunters. Beavers that
had already emasculated themselves during a previous hunt would seek out
high ground, then present their rear quarters to show they weren't worth
(Although Gerald doesn't mention it, I suppose female beavers could do the
same thing, if the hunters couldn't tell a male from a female.)
It's no wonder that beavers went extinct in Wales during the Middle Ages ;-)
Date: Mon, 16 Feb 2004 06:07:32 -0600
From: Robert Downie <rdownie at mb.sympatico.ca>
Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Re: Cruel food
To: Susan Browning <daubrecicourt at earthlink.net>, Cooks within the SCA
<sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>
Susan Browning wrote:
> Can't quote you the source, but I have seen a recipe on how to cook a
> chicken/goose? alive, and start to eat it while it is still living.
Thesewere convieniently located on the Gode Cookery website:
A Goose roasted alive - from Magia Naturalis:
A Goose roasted alive. A little before our times, a Goose was wont to be
brought to the table of the King of Arragon, that was roasted alive, as I have
heard by old men of credit. And when I went to try it, my company were so
hasty, that we ate him up before he was quite roasted. He was alive, and the
upper part of him, on the outside, was excellent well roasted. The rule to do
it is thus. Take a Duck, or a Goose, or some such lusty creature, but the Goose
is best for this purpose. Pull all the Feathers from his body, leaving his
head and his neck. Then make a fire round about him, not too narrow, lest the
smoke choke him, or the fire should roast him too soon. Not too wide, lest he
escape unroasted. Inside set everywhere little pots full of water, and put Salt
and Meum to them. Let the Goose be smeared all over with Suet, and well Larded,
that he may be the better meat, and roast the better. Put the fire about, but
make not too much haste. When he begins to roast, he will walk about, and
cannot get forth, for the fire stops him. When he is weary, he quenches his
thirst by drinking the water, by cooling his heart, and the rest of his
internal parts. The force of the Medicament loosens and cleans his belly, so
that he grows empty. And when he is very hot, it roasts his inner parts.
Continually moisten his head and heart with a Sponge. But when you see him run
mad up and down, and to stumble (his heart then wants moisture), wherefore you
take him away, and set him on the table to your guests, who will cry as you
pull off his parts. And you shall eat him up before he is dead.
Porta, Giambattista della. Magia Naturalis.
<http://members.tscnet.com/pages/omard1/jportac14.html> (June 9, 2001)
To make a Chicken be Served Roasted - from The Vivendier:
To make a Chicken be Served Roasted. Get a chicken or any other bird you want,
and pluck it alive cleanly in hot water. Then get the yolks of 2 or 3 eggs;
they should be beaten with powdered saffron and wheat flour, and distempered
with fat broth or with the grease that drips under a roast into the dripping
pan. By means of a feather glaze and paint your pullet carefully with this
mixture so that its colour looks like roast meat. With this done, and when it
is about to be served to the table, put the chicken's head under its wing, and
turn it in your hands, rotating it until it is fast asleep. Then set it down on
your platter with the other roast meat. When it is about to be carved it will
wake up and make off down the table upsetting jugs, goblets and whatnot.
Scully, Terence. The Vivendier. Devon: Prospect Books, 1997.
From: Hugh & Belinda Niewoehner <burgborrendohl at valornet.com>
Date: April 16, 2010 11:40:07 AM CDT
To: "Kingdom of Ansteorra - SCA, Inc." <ansteorra at lists.ansteorra.org>
Subject: [Ansteorra] honor and animals
Ritter Dieterich Kempenich von Eltz:
<<< Animals do not have a sense of honor; you are confusing, among other traits, loyalty with honor. >>>
I do not think that Her Grace is trying to say that any animal has a sense of honor. Medieval mindsets, however, used symbolism of certain traits or behaviors of animals to represent virtues and vices of humans. (At the risk of starting another tread, I don't make assumptions as to what emotions, etc. animals have since I can not communicate with them in their language. I've seen cats appear to be embarrassed which means they have some form of self-esteem. I've seen animals grieve, show affection, etc. Being a fan of Ender's Game, I try not to judge other species quickly).
But back to the point of this discussion, if you read my previous post, the people of the Middle Ages would see a certain behavior or trait in an animal as a characteristic of a human's virtue.
From the same source:
A peculiarity of the wolf is that it cannot turn its head, because there is no joint in its neck, but must turn its whole body
when it wishes to look behind, thus symbolizing people stiff-necked and stubborn in sin.
That does not mean wolves are stiff necked and stubborn--mine was a sweetie, but she could not just look over her back, but had to turn at least her front half around to see behind her.
The cock typifies both vigilance and liberality, because it is always on the watch, and when it finds anything, it does not eat it, but calls the hens together and divides it among them.
I think this is an interesting study and might make people think about what they choose for their arms. What we think of as a marvelous creature to represent us might not have the same meaning to the Medieval mind.
From: Tim McDaniel <tmcd at panix.com>
Date: April 17, 2010 1:45:52 PM CDT
To: "Kingdom of Ansteorra - SCA, Inc." <ansteorra at lists.ansteorra.org>
Subject: Re: [Ansteorra] Dog as an animal
On Sat, 17 Apr 2010, Catrin ferch Maelgwn <ladycatrin at gmail.com> wrote:
<<< Though they were not noted for it (to my knowledge) in the middle
ages - I must put in a word for the much maligned and misunderstood
goose. The goose is a noble creature, a fierce protector of its
family and a true example of comradeship in nature. >>>
More or less known in the Middle Ages. The Aberdeen Bestiary has it
on ff. 53r and 53v, <http://www.abdn.ac.uk/bestiary/translat/53r.hti>:
The goose marks the watches of the night by its constant cry. No
other creature picks up the scent of man as it does. It was
because of its noise, that the Gauls were detected when they
ascended the Capitol. Rabanus says in this context: 'The goose can
signify men who are prudent and look out for their own safety.'
There are two kinds of geese, domestic and wild. Wild geese fly
high, in a an orderly fashion, signifying those who, far away from
earthly things, preserve a rule of virtuous conduct. Domestic
geese live together in villages, they cackle together all the time
and rend each other with their beaks; they signify those who,
although they like conventual life, nevertheless find time to
gossip and slander.
All wild geese are grey in colour; I have not seen any that were
of mixed colour or white. But among domestic geese, there are not
only grey but variegated and white ones. Wild geese are the colour
of ashes, that is to say, those who keep apart from this world
wear the modest garb of penitence. But those who live in towns or
villages wear clothes that are more beautiful in colour.
The goose, more than any other animal, picks up the scent of a
someone happening by, as the discerning man knows of other men by
their good or bad reputation, even though they live far
away. When, therefore, a goose picks up the scent of a man
approaching, it cackles endlessly at night, as when a discerning
brother sees in others the negligence that comes with ignorance,
it is his duty to call attention to it. The cackling of geese on
the Capitol once helped the Romans, and in our chapter-house
daily, when the discerning brother sees evidence of negligence,
his warning voice serves to repel the old enemy, the Devil. The
cackling of the goose saved the city of Rome from enemy attack;
the warning voice of the discerning brother guards the life of his
community from disruption by the wicked.
Divine providence would not, perhaps, have revealed to us the
characteristics of birds, if it had not wanted the knowledge to be
of some benefit to us.
The contents are at <http://www.abdn.ac.uk/bestiary/contents.hti>. It
has much to say on wolves, including "It cannot turn its neck
around.", and on dogs, including loyalty. Then again, what it says
about weasels can't be repeated on a family mailing list, and
fortunately he never heard (or at least never repeated) the worst
about hyenas and hares.
Danel de Lincoln
Date: Wed, 24 Nov 2010 07:00:20 -0500
From: Johnna Holloway <johnnae at mac.com>
To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>
Subject: [Sca-cooks] Description of the Beaver
This never posted so I will send it again. I hope it comes through ok
I came across Harrison's description today which described the rest of
the beast as akin to a large rat.
Here's the description from the online version of Harrison from
"I might here intreat largely of other vermin, as the polecat, the
miniver, the weasel, stote, fulmart, squirrel, fitchew, and such like,
which Cardan includeth under the word Mustela: also of the otter, and
likewise of the beaver, whose hinder feet and tail only are supposed
to be fish.
Certes the tail of this beast is like unto a thin whetstone, as the
body unto a monstrous rat: as the beast also itself is of such force
in the teeth that it will gnaw a hole through a thick plank, or shere
through a double billet in a night; it loveth also the stillest
rivers, and it is given to them by nature to go by flocks unto the
woods at hand, where they gather sticks wherewith to build their
nests, wherein their bodies lie dry above the water, although they so
provide most commonly that their tails may hang within the same.
It is also reported that their said tails are delicate dish, and
their stones of such medicinal force that (as Vertomannus saith) four
men smelling unto them each after other did bleed at the nose through
their attractive force, proceeding from a vehement savour wherewith
they are endued.
There is greatest plenty of them in Persia, chiefly about Balascham,
from whence they and their dried cods are brought into all quarters of
the world, though not without some forgery by such as provide them.
And of all these here remembered, as the first sorts are plentiful
in every wood and hedgerow, so these latter, especially the otter
(for, to say the truth, we have not many beavers, but only in the
Teisie in Wales) is not wanting or to seek in many, but most, streams
and rivers of this isle; but it shall suffice in this sort to have
named them, as I do finally the martern, a beast of the chase,
although for number I worthily doubt whether that of our beavers or
marterns may be thought to be the less."
from Modern History Sourcebook: William Harrison (1534-1593):
Description Of England, 1577 (from Holinshed's Chronicles)
Of Savage Beasts And Vermin
[1577, Book III., Chapters 7 and 12; 1587, Book III., Chapters 4 and 6.]
Date: Wed, 24 Aug 2011 07:46:29 +1000
From: Raymond Wickham <insidious565 at hotmail.com>
Subject: [Lochac] Animal Characters: Nonhuman Beings in Early Modern
Literature (review available)
To: lochac <lochac at sca.org.au>
Boehrer, Bruce Thomas. "Animal Characters: Nonhuman Beings in
Early Modern Literature". Philadelphia: University of
Pennsylvania Press, 2010. Pp. 256. $49.95. ISBN: 978-0-08122-4249-
Bruce Thomas Boehrer's monograph, "Animal Characters", seeks
to explore some of the particularities of animal representation in
early modern literature. Focusing on a different animal in each
chapter, Boehrer explores both literal and symbolic uses of animals
in a wide range of (mostly English) literary productions. His
approach is interdisciplinary, and he employs a range of
methodologies, dependent upon the source material (and the specific
animal) under consideration.
Chapter 1, "Baiardo's Legacy," focuses on the horse.
Chapter 2, "The Cardinal's Parrot,"
The third chapter, "Ecce Feles," is the only chapter in the book
that deals directly with animal cruelty, specifically the wanton
torture of cats.
Chapter 4, "The People's Peacock," discusses the introduction of
the turkey to Europe.
The final chapter is entitled "Vulgar Sheepe," and addresses the
consistently symbolic presentation of ovine creatures in early
modern literature. Boehrer coins "sheepspeak" to describe a process
of "thinking with sheep" (164) that is key to understanding
Despite this, Boehrer's book is a thought-provoking and interesting
read. While the cultural shifts it charts may be familiar ground to
many, the approach and methodologies taken are unusual, and offer
new perspectives on the material. To read literature and, indeed,
history, through the lens of the animal may seem idiosyncratic, and
Boehrer addresses this head-on. In doing so, he offers a history of
anthropocentrism, which goes some way to rethinking (early) modern
notions of personhood.