image of vultures (Aberdeen Bestiary)

Week 8: Physiologus.

Background | Background Quiz | Starting Assumptions | Resources | Extras
Vocabulary | Etymology | Grammar | Perseus Dictionary | Perseus Tool

Reading Overview | Reading Quiz: English
| Reading Quiz: Latin
Discussion Questions | Latin Composition | Weekly Checklist

Aberdeen Bestiary

Dragon - Perindens - Ydrus - Phoenix - Vulture - Firestones - Partridge - Ibis - Hoopoe - Pelican

image of crested hoopoe (Aberdeen bestiary)

Hoopoe with crest (image of hoopoes caring for their parent can be seen below)

The hoopoe is a quite extraordinary bird: small, but with a dramatic crest of feathers on its head. It is the subject of many legends throughout the Mediterranean and in Europe. The bestiary tradition knows two very different hoopoe legends: one easily taken in bonum, the good hoopoe who cares for its aging parents, but then there is a hoopoe in malum, a bird of filth and foul habits...

Of the hoopoe

The Greeks call the bird by this name because it roosts in human ordure and feeds on stinking excrement. The filthiest of birds, it is capped with a prominent crest. It lives in burial places amid human ordure. If you rub yourself with its blood on your way to bed, you will have nightmares about demons suffocating you. On this subject, Rabanus says: 'This bird signifies wicked sinners, men who continually delight in the squalor of sin.' The hoopoe is said to take pleasure in grief, as the sorrow of this world brings about the death of the spirit; for this reason those who love God should 'rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing and in every thing give thanks' (see 1 Thessalonians, 5:16-18) 'for the fruit of the Spirit is joy' (see Galatians, 5:22). In addition, Physiologus says of the hoopoe that when it grows old and cannot fly, its offspring come and pull out the oldest feathers from its body and constantly care for it, until it has recovered its strength as before and can fly. The young hoopoes provide, therefore, an example to those evil men who, when their parents grow old, throw them out of their home; who refuse to support, when they are weak, the parents who raised them when they were still in their infancy. Let man, who is endowed with reason, learn his duty to his mother and father, from the way in which this creature, which lacks reason, provides (as we have already shown) for its parents' needs when they are old.

image of hoopoes and parent (Aberdeen bestiary)

Modern Languages 4970 / MRS 4903: Medieval Latin. Spring 2003 Online Course at the University of Oklahoma. Visit for more info.
Laura Gibbs, University of Oklahoma - Information Technology © 2003. Last updated: December 29, 2002 7:12 PM