Saturday, 30 July 2016

vegetable lamb of tartary

I had heard of the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary beforehand—the way that scribes in the Middle Ages first passed on their second-hand accounts of a mysterious thing called cotton, but all the fantastic taxon of chimera put forth in this bestiary from the Medievalists’ Network.
All these strange creatures, with the exception of the Monoceros (the unicorn), were new to us, and we especially enjoyed learning about the legendary Barnacle Geese that were believed to spontaneously generate at sea on pieces of drift-wood, instead of the usual route of reproduction. It reminded me of how post-Enlightenment biologists thought that exotic birds of paradise lived a purely ethereal to never touch ground nor roost. The name for both the barnacle goose and the goose barnacle (from whence they were thought to hatch) has persisted as well as the prohibition of the eating of these geese during Lent for their unnatural life-cycles. Be sure to check out the whole strange menagerie and find more interesting articles at the link above.