Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Medieval perverts

Well, not so much. Thomas McDonald offers a link to this site.  The 'article' shows 20 marginalia from the medieval world which might offend modern sensitivities.  Marginalia being those illustrations we see when we look at illuminated manuscripts from that period.   He warns anyone who might click the link, and I suppose I should as well.  But not really.  Mr. McDonald laments that the only thing our modern researchers seem to care about is sex and this sort of sensationalism.  But that's not my beef.  My problem is that many of the images are simply the Medievals'  attempts at illustrating the theme of extreme.  Many of the images are simply images of the bestial  or of hell, or of other things that the medieval mind reckoned as not being part of the enlightened human condition.  Unlike modern thinking, that places humans as the lowest form of animal, Medievals saw humanity as the top of the chain, the closest to the divine, above the animal and the beast.

It's worth noting that devils had tails back then.  Why?  Because they were bestial, they were animal like, they were of a lower form.  Angels did not have tails.  Devils did.  It's this sort of trying to 'gross out' the person looking at a manuscript that many scribes were aiming at.  So a snake playing an instrument with its, well, butt, was simply a way of saying something.  Just like our modern era, when filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino must go for the uber-violent to make a point, that's all they were doing.  Does that mean those old scribes in their monastic scriptoriums couldn't be risque in their own terms?  Not at all, and anyone who has read some of the scribblings on their manuscripts knows that the medieval monks were no prudes.  But being ornery and sleazy is not the final explanation for many of these images.  They actually point to things that Medieval thinkers firmly believed, that many in our enlightened West forgot long ago.

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