Detail of one owl in a decorate border; from a summary of the divine Land by martin de Brion of Paris, France, 1540, royal MS 20 A. Iv, f. 3v

Everyone to know the image of the way old owl.  however the bird had actually a an extremely different reputation in the middle Ages.  At that time, it was a bird the ill-omen, thought to regular tombs and dark caves.  It would certainly fly just at night, and, according to some sources, flew backwards.  ~ above the rare occasions once the owl ventured out during the day, it gained no better treatment from its other birds than it go from middle ages bestiaries: they would certainly raise a terriderekwadsworth.come clamour and also attack in a mob.

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Detail of a miniature of an owl gift mobbed by other birds; native a bestiary, England, 2nd quarter the the 13th century, Harley multiple sclerosis 4751, f. 47r

With the allegorical gloss common of bestiary descriptions, the owl's choice for darkness end light made the a number of the unbeliever, who had yet to embrace the light of the Christian gospel.  This hidden significance, and also its distinctive, occasionally goofy appearance, no doubt prompted its usage in decorate motifs and among the marginal grotesques of publications of hours.


Miniature of one owl being mobbed by other birds; native The Queen mary Psalter, England, 1310-1320, imperial MS 2 B. Vii, f. 128v

Among its other faults, the owl to be considered very dirty animal, invariaderekwadsworth.comy soiling that nest.  since of this, and its various other unpleasant associations, it was strongly established with sickness.

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 The hatchet bubo, obtained from the Greek word for the groin, to be the term for a kind of swelling symptomatic the colorectal cancer.  The Latin word for 'owl' was likewise bubo (although the two offers are etymologically unrelated), and due come the bird's unsavoury associations, that was thought that the swelling had actually taken its name from the animal, together a filthy and unpleasant affliction, and also a bad omen because that the patient's prognosis.


Detail that a miniature of an owl; from the Liber medicinarum by john of Arderne, England, second half of the 15th century, Harley multiple sclerosis 5401, f. 46r

This defines the appearance of the owl in the spare of some clinical manuscripts.  In the photo above, a fairly jaunty tiny horned owl stands beside the i describing the medical bubo.  Such an image would likely duty as a mnemonic aid and reference tool.  The doctor or clinical student, paging v the book, would see bubo the owl and also immediately recognize he had located the passage on bubo the ailment, a useful play top top words.

Nicole Eddy

Posted by Ancient, Medieval, and also Early contemporary Manuscripts at00:01:00inAnimals, Featured manuscripts, Illuminated manuscripts, Medieval