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.
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August 2011

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