Animals and humans lived in close proximity in the medieval period. Both the reality of animal bites and the fear of the event loomed large in the medieval imagination. This talk will examine this subject from the writings of medical authors and practitioners, in order to understand what animals were especially feared and what actions could be taken to either prevent an attack or the best remedial measures afterwards, from eating walnuts when going through a snake-infested area to applying ointments on cat bites.
Feared animals present in the literature ranged from the imaginary (but considered very real such as basilisks), the distant (crocodiles), the unlikely (wolves and bears), and the mundane (including assorted household pets).
One of the focuses will be on the bites of rabid domestic dogs, and strange symptoms medieval writers believed would be suffered by the patient. Exasperated by their fear of the dreaded animal that had bitten them, the victim or their physician might attest to visions of dogs, the inability to look in a mirror, or even the creation of little dog forms in one’s body!
Dr Walker-Meikle’s research interests focus on the relationship between animals and humans, particularly in medicine and natural history. She was awarded her PhD from University College London, and has published Medieval Pets (Boydell & Brewer, 2012), along with popular books on animal history (Medieval Cats, Medieval Dogs, The Dog Book: Dogs of Historical Distinction, The Cat Book: Cats of Historical Distinction, The Horse Book: Horses of Historical Distinction). Recent research has focused on animal bites and toxicology in the medieval period, with published articles and more publications forthcoming. Other fields of interest include medieval pharmacology, natural magic and palaeography. She is currently a research fellow on the Renaissance Skin project at King’s College London, working on animal and skin diseases.
This talk is part of our Fear Series.
Doors will open at 6:30 PM. The talk will begin at 7:00 PM.
*Access is through a 52-step spiral staircase. Please, visit our Visiting Us page for further details on access.
**Please, by advised that per Museum policy an event might be cancelled if less than 20 tickets have been sold.
Image: British Library Harley 5294, f. 42.