Medieval Monsters

These engravings from a medieval catalog of monsters show the androgyne and hermaphrodite on an equal footing with such evil beasts as harpies and dragons. The characterization of those who demonstrated behaviorally or physically ambiguous sexual traits as evil came about from the inherent threat they posed to the most important human need, procreation. At a time in history when human civilization was characterized more by death and suffering than advances in arts and science, a threat to basic human preservation would have been seen as particularly vile.

While the characters shown in these drawings may have been just as mythical as other beasts which appear in the catalog of monsters, they could have been seen as even more terrible than fire breathing dragons as their origin may have had at least some basis in real life. Hermaphrodites undoubtedly surfaced within the population from time to time as they do today. Physical differences which probably presented themselves as minimal at birth were exaggerated in renderings such as the engraving at left which shows two headed, headless and multi-limbed figures among other oddities.

The occurrence of these "beasts" within the population suggests their proximity, their accessibility to civilizations upon which they could wreak their havoc.

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Androgyny Image