Friday, January 25, 2008

Witches and cows

In the Malleus Maleficarum, there seems to be a lot of discussion of witchcraft vis a vis cows. Probably not surprising, given how important cows were to daily life in the middle ages: milk to drink and render into cheese, meat at slaughtertime, heat for those who kept them indoors with them.

Here's a passage about how cows inform on witches:

For sometimes when a cow has been injured in this way, and they wish to discover who has bewitched it, they drive it out into the fields with a man's trousers, or some unclean thing, upon its head or back. And this they do chiefly on Feast Days and Holy Days, and possibly with some sort of invocation of the devil; and they beat the cow with a stick and drive it away. Then the cow runs straight to the house of the witch, and beats vehemently upon the door with its horns, lowing loudly all the while; and the devil causes the cow to go on doing this until it is pacified by some other witchcraft.

A frightening image, the cow battering the door with its horns. And god save you if it was your door the cow chose.

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