Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Gerald of Wales on the benefits of Kingfisher mothballs

Another offering from Gerald of Wales. First his his famous barnacle goose excerpt from his History and Topography of Ireland, which gives the reader part of the bird's natural life cycle. And then another on kingfishers and how useful they are to keep in your clothes cupboards when deceased.

The Barnacle Goose
There are many birds here that are called barnacles, which nature, acting against her own laws, produces in a wonderful way. They are like marsh geese, but smaller. At first they appear as excrescences on a fir logs carried down upon the waters. Then they hang by their beaks from what seems like seaweed clinging to the log, while their bodies, to allow for their more unimpeded development, are enclosed in shells. And so in the course of time having put on a stout covering of feathers, they either slip into the water, or take themselves in flight to the freedom of the air. They take their food and nourishment from the juice of wood and water during their mysterious and remarkable generation. I myself have seen many times and with my own eyes more than a thousand of the small bird like creatures hanging from a single log on the seashore. They were in their shells and already formed. No eggs are laid as is usual as a result of mating. No bird ever sits upon the eggs to hatch them and in no corner of the land will you see them breeding or building nests. Accordingly in some parts of Ireland bishops and religious men eat them without sin during a fasting time, regarding them as not being flesh, since they were not born of flesh.

Kingfishers and their natures.
Here are found also those little birds which they call kingfishers. They are smaller than the blackbird, are rare, and are found on rivers. They are short to like quails. They dive into the water in pursuit of very small fish on which they feed. While in all other respects they follow the nature of their type, here there are different in colour, but in that only. For they have a white belly and a black back. Elsewhere they are conspicuous in having a red belly, red beak and claws and with bright shining green wings and back like a parrot or peacock. There is a remarkable thing about these birds: if, when dead, they are kept in a dry place, they never putrefy; and if they are placed between clothes or anything else, they keep them free from the moth, and impart a pleasant perfume to them. And a thing even more amazing: if they are hung by the beak in a dry place, they change their coat of feathers each year, as if by virtue of a vital spirit that survives and continues to persist in some hidden part.

Today's photo:
The beach at Manorbier where Gerald of Wales played as a child.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I'll stick with sachets in my drawers!