Month: March 2019

Medieval Hawking & Falconry: Hunting with Peregrines in the Middle Ages

In a time before accurate guns, hawking and falconry were the best means of catching avian prey besides the odd “lucky bows-shot” or trapping, and falconers put many delicacies on the tables of aristocratic families. But because of the cost of equipment and the vast amounts of time needed to train predatory birds for hunting, hawking was deemed an “upper-class sport”. The female falcon was favored over the male hawk or tiercel because they were larger and fiercer. The kinds of quarry peregrines would catch were partridges, pheasants, cocks, ducks, bustards, geese, herons, snipes, cranes, mallards and larger falcons would even hunt rodents such as hares. Also, smaller predatory birds like the merlin were useful for hunting smaller birds like larks, and the lark tongue was a delicacy among nobles and wealthier townsfolk.

Medieval Bloodletting and the Four Humors

In the later Middle Ages, with the rise of universities and cathedral schools in urban areas across Europe, regulated organizations began to professionalize the trade of the surgeon or barber-surgeon (Siraisi 18). In Venice, there was a College of Physicians by 1316 which focused on a wide range of different medical practices (Siraisi 18). Bloodletting, however, was by far the most common medical practice throughout the Middle Ages, especially as it was less painful than cautery, and since all humors were believed to be in the blood, and since it was believed that by “disordered complexion” these humors could transform into unwanted secondary humors, bloodletting, or phlebotomy, allowed these unwanted humors to be removed from the body before the liver could produce more clean, pure blood (Siraisi 139).

Dragon History: Medieval Dragons vs. Modern Fantasy Dragons

Today, dragons are everywhere. Dragons in the Middle Ages, too, were everywhere, but not on cotton T-shirts, video games and plastic cups from the dollar store. The medieval dragon existed in such things as heraldry, aquamanilia, architecture and folklore. Anyone can tell you what a modern fantasy dragon looks like, but do dragons in our society have the same function as dragons in the Middle Ages? What are the different magical and physical characteristics of dragons throughout history? In order to give these questions justice we’re forced to learn a lot about dragons as they were depicted in medieval Europe—learn how to tame them if you will. Then, we’ll have to remove ourselves from Europe to observe the majestic dragons of the East because it could potentially be argued that the dragons that swam and flew from Chinese, Persian and Turkish cultures did more to influence what we think of when we say “dragon” today than the dragons of ancient Greece and Rome. We’ll conclude by taking a look at a few modern fantasy dragons in popular entertainment and nitpick their differences from the dragons of the past.