This is the second in a series of posts about magical beast parts. Today: the beaver, the hyena, and the lynx.

Beavers losing valuable body parts
Beavers losing valuable body parts.
British Library, Harley MS 4751, Folio 9r

Beaver: The beaver is hunted for one special body part, which, we are assured by the best authorities, is required for “medicine”. The body part is its testicles, and the “medicine” is likely the medieval version of Viagra. The beaver knows what the hunters want, and evidently valuing life over love, bites off the desired items and throws them to the hunter, who being satisfied with his prize leaves the beaver alone. And alone he will probably stay, without hope of offspring and, most likely, a mate. I suppose he can always become a monk, the clerical class the moral of this awkward story was aimed at. In future encounters with hunters, the beaver merely has to reveal his lack of magical beastie bits to be spared any further harassment. In the illustration, the happy hunter on the right has already bagged his quota, while the others squabble over the second beaver’s offering. The lad in red, pointing at the busy beaver, is saying “Dibs on that set!” while the one in blue, who brought his best sword and a fine pair of hunting dogs, looks sorely disappointed.

Hyena eating corpse
A hyena munches a corpse.
British Library, Harley MS 4751, Folio 10r

Hyena: There is a stone in the hyena’s eye (some say in the stomach of its young) that will give a person the ability to predict the future if the stone is placed under the person’s tongue. According to Bartholomaeus Anglicus, “And also witches use the heart of this beast and the liver, in many witchcrafts”. The hyena-stone was said to prevent fever and the gout. Hyenas like to hang around graveyards, where they snack on human corpses. Perhaps this diet gives the stone its predictive power:  the dead presumably know the future. The hyena is an unstable beast, sometimes male and sometimes female; Aesop says “A female hyena wanted to have sex with a male fox, but the fox rejected her, saying that he could not be sure whether she would become his girlfriend or boyfriend.” The fox could have used the future telling stone to discover in advance how the relationship would turn out. The bestiaries do not say how (or whether) the hyena protects its future-telling stone from humans.

Lynx and amber
A lynx producing a stone; a chunk of amber.
Kongelige Bibliotek, Gl. kgl. S. 1633 4º, Folio 6r

Lynx: The urine of the lynx is said to harden into a stone appropriately called the lynx stone (lapis lyncurium in Latin). It is also sometimes called “lynx-water”. The lynx, knowing the stone is valued and due to a natural jealousy (according to Isidore) they do not want humans to have it, they cover their urine with sand to hide it. The stone is most likely amber, but has also been identified as iolite, tourmaline and other semi-precious stones. If it was indeed amber, its medicinal uses were many. According to the Amber Portal: “Saint Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1178), the prioress of the local Benedictine convent, a renowned German mystic and poetess, recommended taking amber as a beer, wine or water tincture for stomach ache, and as a milk tincture for bladder conditions. Powdered amber mixed with wine was also supposed to protect from the Black Death. Albert the Great, a 13th-century Dominican theologian and philosopher, listed amber among six medications of the utmost effectiveness.”