The Grand Medieval Bestiary

I love books. I also love history. Combine the two subjects and you have my next favorite thing after Paganism. Of course, my job in the real world is to buy books and sometimes I get to buy some really cool things.

Today we received The Grand Medieval Bestiary.

Bestiaries are really fascinating. They were Medieval compendiums of animals that cataloged each animal’s characteristics and the moral lessons and symbolism associated with each beast. In the Medieval, Christian world, the Word of God created everything and therefore, everything in it was a reflection of the Word of God. A lot of Pagan lore and mythology slipped into this and a great deal of the stories we have today were kept in these bestiaries. In what was a time of great darkness, these books shine through the years as the works of art and lore that they are. I find these to be particularly compelling books, that ultimately show the power of words and through them, magic.

Here are some pictures from this particular modern Bestiary.

This one amuses me greatly. I really want to start singing “Bad Horse”.

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Actaeon’s transformation after he has come across Artemis bathing.

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The Common House Cat…also possibly some foot fetishists…

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I would hate to have this monkey as a teacher.

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These were just a few of my favorites. If you want to know more about Bestiaries, check out:

The Medieval Beastiary, Animals in the Middle Ages

The Medieval Beastiary

“Medieval Bestiaries and the Birth of Zoology” 
by Aura Beckhöfer-Fialho

Books of Beasts in the British Library: the Medieval Bestiary and its context

Medieval Bestiary

If you want to read more about Medieval books, look at:

The Last of the Great Chained Libraries

The Evolution of the Medieval Book

The Art of the Book in the Middle Ages

The Medieval Library

My 2 Cents

So, like many of you plugged into the “Pagan Blogosphere”, I’ve been keeping my eyes on the Pagan-Polytheist Controversy of 2013. If you haven’t been, you can catch up with The Allergic Pagan’s blog post Your One-Stop-Shop for Pagan-Polytheist Controversy. (Be warned, it will take you more than a few minutes to read through it all and more than a few good dollops of patience, no matter which side of the argument that you fall on).

I thought I would take a second to chime in. (I blog, it’s sort of what I do).

Of course, I live with Kenny Klein, so I’ve been listening to his narration of the different points of view non-stop, sort of like a spectator at a very complicated, community wide tennis match all week. Yes…popcorn was involved.

Throughout the whole thing the main idea I’ve seen raging through all of it is “how dare you try to define me!”. And that isn’t new, I’ve noticed that a lot lately. In some ways, it’s intrinsic to this community.

I’ve also been saddened to see a lot of people throw out “Pagan doesn’t mean just Wicca!”. Seriously guys? Aren’t we past that yet? I’m Wiccan and when I tell you I’m Pagan, I am not telling you that I am Wiccan. And when you tell me that you’re Pagan, I’m not assuming you’re Wiccan. Usually I’m wondering what sort of interesting other flavor of Pagan you are. Yes, we all know that Pagan does just not mean Wiccan, get over it.

I think that we can all agree that the term “Pagan” is a pretty big Umbrella term and that’s fine. Where I get lost is when people are unwilling to define themselves as Pagan because they disagree with other peoples’ broad definition of the term. The gist of the argument is this: the broader the term becomes, the less meaning it actually carries.

Several people have pointed out that this is a stage that our community has to go through: the feared “bratty teenager” stage where we have to all run off shrieking about our own independence so that we can reach adulthood with a certain level of personal understanding. This, conventional wisdom says, will allow us to all become healthy adults.

Honestly, I think the whole thing can be summed up thusly:

In the end, if we want to be a community, we do have to define ourselves. Definition does not mean that we are turning into the organized religions that I think so many of us fled and fear. But if we want recognition and equality within the greater community, which so many of us are striving to do, we need to be able to tell that outside community, “Hi! This is who we are”. So many people are trying to define the word “Pagan” that no one knows what it means. This seems to be a sort of “Too many cooks in the kitchen” scenario.

And in the end, “Words are all we have to go on” and if we want our community to go anywhere, we need to come up with a few that all of us can agree on.