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Top 10 Monsters of the Middle Ages

(Image: Paul K)

Medievalists has a roundup of your favorite beasts from the European Middle Ages, just in time for your Halloween costuming plans. Among them is the museline, which may have served as the inspiration for the Starbucks logo (though this is disputed).

Although the museline may look like a mermaid, it’s actually half-woman and half-serpent. Beware: sometimes the museline can sprout legs and pursue you on foot. In literature and legend, the museline was either a wicked temptress who drew men to their deaths or a tragic, cursed figure. In the latter tradition, a cursed girl named Muselina turns into a half-serpent on Saturdays. She manages her to conceal this information from her husband, the nobleman Raymond:

But destiny, that would have Melusina single, was incensed against her. The marriage was made unhappy by the deformity of the children born of one that was enchanted. But still Raymond's love for the beauty that ravished both heart and eyes remained unshaken. Destiny renewed her attacks. Raymond's cousin had excited him to jealousy and to secret concealment, by malicious suggestions of the purport of the Saturday retirement of the countess. He hid himself; and then saw how the lovely form of Melusina ended below in a snake, gray and sky-blue, mixed with white. But it was not horror that seized him at the sight, it was infinite anguish at the reflection that through his breach of faith he might lose his lovely wife forever.

Yet this misfortune had not speedily come on him, were it not that his son, Geoffroi with the Tooth [a boar's tusk projected from his mouth], had burned his brother Freimund, who would stay in the abbey of Malliers, with the abbot and a hundred monks. At which the afflicted father, Count Raymond, when his wife Melusina was entering his closet to comfort him, broke out into these words against her, before all the courtiers who attended her, "Out of my sight, thou pernicious snake and odious serpent! thou contaminator of my race!"

Melusina's former anxiety was now verified, and the evil that had lain so long in ambush had now fearfully sprung on him and her. At these reproaches she fainted away; and when at length she revived, full of the profoundest grief, she declared to him that she must now depart from him, and, in obedience to a decree of destiny, fleet about the earth in pain and suffering, as a specter, until the day of doom; and that only when one of her race was to die at Lusignan would she become visible.

-via Ian Chant


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