lesbiassparrow: (THEY MOVE LIKE COUGARS)
[personal profile] lesbiassparrow
(Quite a lot of this comes from Pliny the Elder's wonderfully whacky Natural History Book 28 which I highly recommend to anyone who is interested in ancient Rome and Greece. It's a wonderful glimpse into what people believed.)

Romans seem to have thought that hyenas were hermaphrodites/or could switch gender (Ovid thinks the females do so right after having sex - no idea where he thought the womb went.). That makes it magical, so its body will have all sorts of magical effects. It was also thought to be sexually voracious, which means that it is very useful in love magic, where by a process of sympathy you could get that appetite transferred to the object of your desire.

Pliny lists 79 remedies from the hyena (I think the max for other animals is 19 and that's for the crocodile). I present a selection:

1. A hyena's anus worn as an amulet will make you irresistible to the ladies - one look and they will follow you. (You call also rub a tick on her groin if that doesn't get her going.)

2. Even if a man doesn't lean that way, a hyena's genitals (taken in honey) will make a man want women. These also give relief from spasms, so multifunctional!

3. Sprinkling a hyena's hairs on a woman's lips works as a great love charm. (You can counteract this by sprinkling lynx ash on her, which makes one contemplate the idea that Romans went nowhere in society without a little of this on them. JUST IN CASE. Also Ovid thought that the urine of lynxes turned to stone as it hit the air.)

4. A hyena's heart cooked and with its brains is very effective for trembling and nervousness. But only if smeared on; it will also remove hair, but you do not want it to grow back you must pluck them first! V. important step, that. A paste made from its backbone is effective for painful sinews - but you must mix with olive oil and gall.

5. Its eye taken with liquorice root and anise will cure barrenness in women. And if you take the flesh from its chest and seven of its hairs and - very important this - a stag's penis, tie the lot up in a gazelle's skin and hang it around your neck you're protected from miscarriages. Other remedies for barrenness involve snails in honey and a horrible variety of pastes and concoctions.

6. The entire spine (but the genitals must be attached) will bring harmony to a home. A sort of Roman 'god bless this home,' if you will.

7. You can cure gout by using the bones of a man found in a hyena's stomach in fumigation. No word on whether that works if you feed a man to the hyena or it has to be a lucky hunting chance.

8. Want dogs to stop barking at you? Wear a hyena's tongue in your shoe! Plus, in the spirit of using all the animal, its palate will get rid of bad breath

9. Unfortunately for those who want to get the hyena if it looks at you three times it will paralyze you. And if it swerves the wrong way while you are hunting it, you will go mad. MAD I TELL YOU.

A short bit on crocodiles. Herodotus thinks they're blind in water. And have no tongue. Ovid recommends crocodile dung as a skin whitener. And its intestines and dung to make rouge. (Pliny adds the helpful bit that as the land-crocodile only eats flowers, its intestines are a quite nice smelling. Pliny suggests mixing these with chalk or starling droppings.

In short: ancient sciences, more likely to kill you than anything else.

(Also, random fact from Pliny the Elder: if you are pregnant never, ever step over a beaver. DISASTER WILL FOLLOW. I don't know why you would step over a beaver, but just in case, forewarned is forearmed! Also the left foot of a hyena hung above a bed will kill a woman in labour. But, don't despair! Eating wolf meat or having someone who has eaten wolf meat sitting beside you helps.)

Also (and this must be the worst birthday gift EVER): I dedicate this to the lovely [livejournal.com profile] thedorkygirl and [livejournal.com profile] shangri__la who both have birthdays coming up.

Date: 2011-04-02 11:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jenlev.livejournal.com
Wow, that's quite something indeed. And for some reason reminds me of all the instant cures and whatnot seen at the back of some magazines, comic books (shrimp thingies and sea horses anyone?) and certain tabloids. Not that I spend a lot of time looking at the latter, but when the person in front of you at the grocery store is holding one up in order to read without paying it's kind of hard to miss. ;)

Date: 2011-04-02 11:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lesbiassparrow.livejournal.com
I suspect a lot of these 'remedies' are still drifting around and being retold as THE WISDOM OF THE ANCIENTS. In fact, having read my Pliny any time some references traditional wisdom, I tend to run like hell.

Date: 2011-04-02 11:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jenlev.livejournal.com
Best to wear good running sneakers at all time. *bg*

Date: 2011-04-02 11:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nutmeg3.livejournal.com
Female hyenas actually do look like they have a penis, because the vulva is so large. And they're as big as the males and, depending on how you look at it, as vicious/efficiently predatory.

Date: 2011-04-03 03:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lesbiassparrow.livejournal.com
I've read that before. Though it doesn't explain how Ovid thought that after mating female hyenas turn male...and presumably still have a womb to give birth! (Almost as good as the ancient belief that lions were born by ripping their way out of their mother's womb.)

Date: 2011-04-03 03:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nutmeg3.livejournal.com
<< (Almost as good as the ancient belief that lions were born by ripping their way out of their mother's womb.) >>

Like Bella's baby in the last Twilight book! Om nom nom, I'm eating my way out of Mom!

Date: 2011-04-03 12:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cookiesworld17.livejournal.com
I am torn between revulsion and uproarious laughter, all in one package!

Date: 2011-04-03 03:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lesbiassparrow.livejournal.com
That is always my reaction to reading Pliny's 'cures'.

Date: 2011-04-03 01:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lage-nom-ai.livejournal.com
I know what I'll be getting you as a next apartment-warming present!

Date: 2011-04-03 03:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lesbiassparrow.livejournal.com
It's the gift that says you care!

Date: 2011-04-03 04:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] brainchild129.livejournal.com
I don't know if crocodile dung as blush is better or worse than the ancient Egyptians mixing it with honey to use as a contraceptive. The only differences is that I think it might have actually worked, if not necessarily for the reasons they wanted it to.

Date: 2011-04-03 07:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lesbiassparrow.livejournal.com
I guess crocdile was better than the white lead they used to paint their face (and which people knew was deadly).

Date: 2011-04-03 05:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] oxymoron67.livejournal.com

"If I give her crabs, she'll totally want me."

How did these people manage to reproduce at all?

Date: 2011-04-03 07:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lesbiassparrow.livejournal.com
Even more perplexing, some of these seem to imagine that the woman is not interested so you'd have to creep up on her at a party and subtly...rub a tick on her groin.

Date: 2011-04-03 02:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kirpunz.livejournal.com
That is like the worst of my nightmares right there. I'll be hiding in the corner now.

Date: 2011-04-03 05:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lesbiassparrow.livejournal.com
Then you won't be interested in my remedy for the wandering womb, then? THE WANDERING WOMB. IT CAN STRIKE AT ANY POINT. RIGHT AT THE MOMENT IT MAY BE STRANGLING YOUR BRAIN.

Date: 2011-04-03 06:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] namastenancy.livejournal.com
I'm surprised that the hyenas' haven't been wiped out, what with the multipurpose uses and such. Now, somebody needs to design a cute little way of carrying out hyena genitals in honey for those special moments. However, what happens if the concoction confuses one type of spasm for another? You know, the spasm in sex and other types could be seen as very similar.

Hyena hair - who knew? Beavers, left feet and hyenas - it's a miracle that the ancient Romans survived to propagate, much less conquer the world.

Oh wait. They were probably fleeing from the unchecked influx of hyena parts all over ancient Rome. I can just see it now as a cohort of Roman legionaries lands in Britain and heaves a sigh of relief because no damn hyena (parts or not) is going to swim the English channel.

Date: 2011-04-03 07:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lesbiassparrow.livejournal.com
I am always amazed that with all of their crazy beliefs and rules that the Romans ended up running a world empire. I guess organisation goes a long way...

As for hyenas, I think the belief that you might go crazy if they swerved the wrong way while hunting them, might have protected them a bit. The price of hyena genitals must have been ENORMOUS as a result.

Date: 2011-04-05 02:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wildtiger7.livejournal.com
I wonder if all the hyena scents added or detracted from the general Roman aroma.

Date: 2011-04-05 03:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lesbiassparrow.livejournal.com
I think that Rome probably smelt so bad that hyenas made no impact on way or another.


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