Three Historical Images of the Witches’ Sabbath

Artists depicted the Witches’ Sabbath, a meeting of witches to convene with Lucifer, summon spirits, cast spells, sacrifice children, have sex, commit host desecration, and fly. Below are three historical

Christoph Fürer saw an Egyptian mermaid

Christoph Fürer’s Egyptian Mermaid

In November 1565, Christoph Fürer saw the skin of an Egyptian mermaid in Tura, Egypt (present-day El Tor) while on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Fürer’s full name was Christoph

Madoc and the Welsh Indians : Origins

A chronological examination of the origins of the legend of Prince Madoc and the Welsh Indians during the Elizabeth era.

Nicholas Culpeper on Sassafras

Nicolas Culpeper described the medicinal uses of sassafras in 1649

Sassafras and Natural Philosophy

Sassafras worked within the medieval and early-modern framework of natural philosophy

Christopher Columbus established the first Failed Colony in the New World

In January 1493, Christopher Columbus established the first Spanish colony in the New World and named it La Navidad. The colony failed in less than two years

Christopher Columbus Encountered Three Mermaids

Christopher Columbus encountered three mermaids in January 1493.

The Mermaid of St. John’s Bay, Newfoundland

In 1610, Richard Whitbourne saw a mermaid swimming in St. John’s Bay, Newfoundland. The mermaid’s face, eyes, nose, mouth, chin, ears, neck, and forehead resembled that of a woman, coupled

Spices, textiles, and medicine included in Cargo from Jakarta and Surat to England, October 1625.

English ships carried spices, textiles, and medicines from the Indian Ocean world to Europe.

The First Map of Roanoke Island

The first English map of Roanoke Island.

Unicorns on Pierre Desceliers’ Mappemonde (1546)

In an earlier post, I discussed why a unicorn appeared on the mappemonde created by Pierre Desceliers. Since then, I reexamined a digital copy of the map and found another

The Horn of Windsor

The Horn of Windsor was a unicorn horn (alicorn) owned by Elizabeth I. The corpus of material surrounding both the Martin Frobisher voyages and unicorns links the Horn of Windsor

Pliny the Elder on the Unicorn

Pliny the Elder described the unicorn in his Natural History (77-79 CE). Pliny collected knowledge from the ancient world, covering diverse topics across science, math, and art. Pliny called the unicorn

The Unicorn in Liber Animalium (1595)

This wonderful pen-and-ink drawing of a unicorn appeared in the Liber Animalium, a handwritten book containing 245 drawings and descriptions of animals and mythical creatures. An unknown person completed the work around 1595.

Unicorn Horns at St. Mary’s Church, Utrecht

Religious authorities displayed what they believed were unicorn horns on the high altar in St. Mary’s church (consecrated 1099 CE) in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Priests used them as candlesticks to represent

Pictures from a few hours after Silent Sam was torn down

Shortly after midnight, I visited the site where just hours before protesters toppled the Silent Sam statue on August 20th, 2018. I gathered with a small crowd and we watched

What Unicorns Sound Like

We now know what unicorns sound like. Narwhal tusks were often viewed as being unicorn horns (alicorn) during the medieval and early modern periods, in part because they are long

James Madison and Gun Control

The issue of gun control has been part of American politics before the nation was founded. Debates centered around hunting, military defense, and the question if slaves and freedmen were

What is Guaiacum and how was it connected to Syphilis?

In a previous post, I discussed how syphilis got its name from a poem written in 1530. The shepherd Syphilis was struck down with the venereal disease for overturning the altars dedicated

Eating Rabbits to Win WWII!

In 1943, the Fish and Wildlife Service, a branch of the Department of the Interior, published a cookbook entitled Recipes for Cooking Domestic Rabbit Meat. The introduction remarked that “the growing

How Syphilis got its Name

Compared to today, syphilis was a different disease in early-modern Europe. It was more ferocious, fast acting, and destructive.  Symptoms included painful and often deadly rashes and ulcers on the

“The Man who did not Believe in Unicorns”

In previous posts I discussed the belief in the existence of unicorns and the medicinal virtues of their horns, however, there were some people in the early-modern period who did

Confederate Memorials Should be Moved to Statue Parks

Knowing that folks will only read the first 50 words of an internet article before moving on, let me be clear: Confederate monuments should be removed from public grounds like

Unicorns in Java

Unicorns were sighted in Java by M. Paulus. His story was published in 1613 by Samuel Purchas’ in Purchas his pilgrimage. Purchas his Pilgrimage covers information about the religion, geography,

Monardes and Gerard on Sassafras

In a previous post, I described how Nicolas Monardes’ description of sassafras laid the foundation for future authors to understand the physical and medicinal properties of the sassafras and its

How were the English Introduced to Sassafras?

The introduction of sassafras to the English imagination took a circuitous route.  Printed knowledge of the tree probably first appeared in English through the publishing of Joyfull Newes out of

The day I faked being an “ink expert” to see The Declaration of Independence

I spent the early months of 2013 in London, England doing research for my doctoral dissertation. The bulk of my time was at the National Archives in Kew plowing through

Why were Indentured Servants Called Indentured Servants?

Indentured servants named after the tradition of using indented paper to record a debt or purchase obligation.

More questions about Vikings in Greenland, the Bishop of Gardar’s Crosier,and Unicorn Horns.

A recent Smithsonian Magazine article explores the decline and disappearance of Viking settlements on Greenland. Previous scholarship argued that the Viking disappearance was caused by a combination of factors including

The Unicorn in Raleigh, NC

The North Carolina Museum of Art houses The Triumph of Chastity (ca. 1450-1460), a painting produced by the workshop of Apollonio di Giovanni di Tommaso. The painting was probably presented

The Virgin Bride and the Unicorn

Around 1494, to celebrate either the engagement or marriage of Matteo di Sebastiano di Bernardino Goazzadini to Ginevra d’Antonio Lupari Goazzadini, artist Maestro delle Storie del Pane  painted the portraits of

Five Questions about the First Thanksgiving

How do we know about the first Thanksgiving? The first known written description of the Pilgrims’ first “Thanksgiving” is a letter written by Edward Winslow months after the event. The

Young sassafras leaves Indian medicinal uses for sassafras

Indian uses for Sassafras

Indians have various and sundry medicinal uses for sassafras (Sassafras albidum). Highlights Sassafras has medicinal uses Grows in eastern North America from Florida to Canada Known by multiple names 82

The Unicorn in Fabyn’s Cronycle

Robert Fabyan (1455? – 1512) was a draper, sheriff, and author of Fabyans cronycle. The Cronycle recounted English and French history covering the time period from the legendary first king

Unicorns in Shakespeare

William Shakespeare mentioned unicorns three times in his plays: Julius Caesar (1599), Timon of Athens (1605), and The Tempest (1610). In Julius Caesar, Decius described how a unicorn could be caught by a

The Savages say there be Unicorns – How a Unicorn appeared on a French Map from 1546

Why did a unicorn appear on a French map of the world dated to 1546?

Unicorns and the Northwest Passage

In 1576, Humphry Gilbert published A discourse of a discouerie for a new passage to Cataia to drum up the political and economic support he needed to raise a venture

Doubting Unicorns and their Horns

Thomas Browne was an English physician and author. In 1646, he wrote a book entitled Pseudodoxia Epidemica which he subtitled Inquiries in Vulgar and Common Errors where he tackled topics ranging

A surgeon’s advice for what to do when you have a patient to treat but you’re fresh out of unicorn horn.

John Woodall was a surgeon who held a variety of jobs including stocking the medical chests of the ships bound in the service of the East India Company, the army,

Of the Unicorns of the Temple of Mecca

  This account arrived to me through a circuitous route –  and it may be best to trace to the path of the account’s publication to contextualize the relation of

The Unicorn in Laurence Andrew’s The Noble Lyfe / Hortus Sanitatis

Laurence Andrew (fl. 1510-1537) was a printer and translator active in Antwerp. Not much is known about him and many of the works he translated and/or printed have not survived

The Unicorn in Clariodus

Clariodus: A Metrical Romance is a peculiar poem. The author is unknown and the poem was probably based on the French work entitled Cleriadus et Meliadice from c. 1440. The

Close up of the recipe title "A very good water to wash yard, of one that has lately had the running of the reins, and has been cured thereof"

16th-Century Gonorrhea Aftercare Treatment

Sixteenth-century recipe for the aftercare treatment of gonorrhea

Martin Luther and the Unicorn Horn

Martin Luther, the leading figure of the Protestant Reformation, spent his last three days on earth working. He delivered a sermon that in part encouraged Jews to convert to Christianity


Sea Unicorns from The History of Barados, St. Christophers, Mevis, St Vincents, Antego, Martinico, Monserrat, and the rest of the Caribby-Islands (London, 1666). One of the first pieces of Anglo-American

The Unicorn in the Physiologus and Bestiaries

Medieval Christian scholars across Europe read the Physiologus making the book’s circulation second only to that of the Bible.” The Physiologus was based on Indian, Hebrew, and Egyptian legends that later

Ancient Authorities on the Unicorn

  Many early-modern Europeans believed in the existence of unicorns, in part, due to the writings of ancient authorities. Ctesias (ca. 400 BCE), the Greek physician who served the Persian

Unicorns in the Bible

Unicorns in the Bible

Updated: October 11, 2020 There are unicorns in the Bible. How did they end up there? Were they real creatures? Did the authors of the Bible actually see them? Unfortunately,