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Sudhoffs Arch. 2012;96(1):39-63.

[Reference relationships between human and animal in Hildegard von Bingen].

[Article in German]

Abstract

In "De animalibus", the 7th book in the "Liber simplicis medicinae", Hildegard von Bingen describes the characteristics of four-footed land animals. Some of these have a special relationship with humans in that they embody moral qualities. An explanation for this is already given in the preface, which states that human intelligence recognizes these qualities, declaring that "You are this or that sort of creature". Since the relationship that animals have with nature shares a degree of similarity with that of man's, they can be regarded as symbolic representatives for particular human traits and characteristics. The article at hand presents Hildegard von Bingen's descriptions of the monkey, the lion, the bear, the rabbit, the dog, the cat, the wolf, the lynx, and the donkey. While the monkey just mimics man's behaviour and is imperfect in both settings, the lion embodies will power. The bear on the other hand stands for unbridled sexual desire, while in the rabbit the gentleness of a sheep is united with the bounce of a deer. The lynx is regarded as hedonistic, the donkey as stupid, and the wolf as surrounded by dangerous sylphs. In Hildegard's depictions, exotic and native animal species display rather extraordinary behavioural traits, and the medieval Christian world view of the author conveys unexpected relationships between humans and animals. In addition to empirical observation and experience, Hildegard also relies on folkloristic beliefs and magical practices related to explanatory models of her time. She allows largely unknown sources into her animal lore but never strays from her ultimate goal of having it serve to instruct people. In doing so, Hildegard removed herself far from the common tradition of medieval animal portraits.

PMID:
23155757
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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