Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Posts Tagged ‘hunting’

Hunting Served Several Social Functions

Hunting animals was the absolute passion of the medieval upper class, and the only activity recognized as a real recreation. It served several social functions. It confirmed power, wealth, status, and prestige as the king or aristocrat went out with his retainers, horses, dogs, and, sometimes, trained falcons. It brought men of similar social background together and was good training for medieval warfare, keeping men and horses fit. It developed strategic thinking as the men hunted elusive and often dangerous quarries, such as wild boar, bears, wolves, and red deer. Late summer and, especially, autumn were the usual times for hunting, which was often dangerous. Accidents were common, especially among immature, testosterone-driven, risk-taking young men. The Annals of Saint-Bertin reports that in 864 [C.E.] the sixteen-year-old Charles of Aquitaine, the son of King (later Emperor) Charles the Bald

whom his father had recently received from Aquitaine and taken with him to Compiegne, was returning one night from hunting in the forest of Guise [nowadays Cuise-la-Motte near Compiegne]. While he meant only to enjoy some horseplay with some other young men of his own age, by the devil’s action he was struck in the head with a sword by a youth called Albuin. The blow penetrated almost as far as the brain, reaching from his left temple to his right cheekbone and jaw…. He suffered from epileptic fits for a long time, and then on 29 September [866] he died.

Hunting accidents were also convenient ways of eliminating rivals and were sometimes used as plausible covers for assassinations.

Paul Collins, The Birth of the West, pp. 19-20

Imitation as Magical Incantation

As anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942) observes, “[W]e find magic where the element of danger is conspicuous.” In The Golden Bough, James George Frazer identifies two basic principles, or techniques, underlying the practice of magic. The first is the law of similarity, which assumes that like produces like, and that the effect resembles its cause. The second is the law of contact or contagion, which assumes that things that once were in contact with each other continue to influence each other at a distance after the contact is over. Frazer calls magic that is based on the law of similarity “imitative,” or “mimetic,” magic.

In mimetic magic, the created image is thought to somehow capture the essence of the object it represents, so that what is done to the image is thought to be done to the object (immediately or in the future).

When an act of symbolizing, whether through drawing or mimetic enactment, “represents” what is absent, it gives the object a sort of life and reality. The more realistic the image or enactment, the more vivid and powerful the impression that the object has been summoned and is thus under control. Again, it is not the actual thing itself that is invoked through mimesis but the essence or spirit of the thing that it made to appear before us “through the metaphors and symbols that ‘give to airy nothing a local habitation and a name.'”

Hunting peoples have long used imitative magic to “summon” and “control” the animals they hunt. Typically, an image of the prey animal is drawn so that it can be pierced by spears or arrows in the belief that this mimetic enactment will influence future events. Ojibwa hunters, for example, chant the following words over a drawn depiction of the prey animal, “I shoot you in the heart, I shoot you in the heart, O beast! I hit your heart.”

Paul A. Trout, Deadly Powers, pp. 123-24

Author’s emphasis.