Monday, April 06, 2009

capybaras and barnacle geese

Dear Pope Julius,

There's this 150lb animal here that's scaly, with webbed feet, but it's also hairy. And it spends most of its time in the water, but sometimes comes on land. Can we call it a fish? We know it's Lent but the Indians are really hungry.


the Capuchins


print by Jenny Pope

“Nature produces Barnacle Geese against Nature in the most extraordinary way. They are like marsh geese but somewhat smaller. They are produced from fir timber tossed along the sea, and are at first like gum. Afterwards they hang down by their beaks as from a seaweed attached to the timber, and are surrounded by shells in order to grow more freely. Having thus in process of time been clothed with a strong coat of feathers, they either fall into the water or fly freely away into the air. They derived their food and growth from the sap of the wood or from the sea, by a secret and most wonderful process of alimentation. I have frequently seen, with my own eyes, more than a thousand of these small bodies of birds, hanging down on the sea-shore from one piece of timber, enclosed in their shells, and already formed. They do not breed and lay eggs like other birds, nor do they ever hatch any eggs, nor do they seem to build nests in any corner of the earth.”
-Giraldus Cambrensis
1187, Topographica Hiberniae


“Pope Innocent III considered it necessary in 1215 to prohibit the eating of barnacle geese in Lent, since although he admitted they are not generated by the ordinary way, he yet maintained that they live and feed like ducks and cannot be regarded as differing in nature from other birds.”
-Sir Edwin Ray Lankester
1915, Diversions of a Naturalist


This (Spanish) website has more details on chig├╝iro/capibara history (along with cuisine and some things you can do with capybara leather and oil)! London's The Independent did a good article about the Easter fish in 2000. And a couple years ago, The NY Times put together a nice slideshow of a capybara hunt in Venezuela. Other "fish" you can eat during lent include sea turtles, iguanas, beavers and, in Michigan, muskrats.

related: cladistically, we're all of us fish and imaginary beings/seres imaginarios


ZLB said...

hmmmm. lent is confusing me suddenly.

cate said...

What is the official stance of the Catholic church on "fish without faces" for lent? Perhaps that is one of those "you must choose for yourself" type things. Gray areas of doctrine are so tricky.

T.R. said...


eped said...

Zina, this Lent season I have sacrificed getting full nights' sleep and more regular blogging.

Cate, the Vatican still hasn't responded to my petitions for an official position. but they've had their hands full lately, so I'm cutting them some slack.

TR, I looked all over for some fragment of the "whole lotta Aztecs" episode. nada (-itlan)

and I'm excited you guys are going to CR!

Jonathan said...

SPOOOON!, Itlan.

Jess said...

Mmmm, rat jerky. Easter isn't the same without it.

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