Odd this day

3 min readSep 17


Alas! It’s the 844th anniversary of the demise of Hildegard of Bingen, a woman who once saw a Gruffalo popping out of the Bride of Christ’s… um

Bride of Christ in Hildegard of Bingen’s Scivias, Book III. Image shows a woman in medieval dress. A grotesque beast with red eyes, pointed ears, and large teeth is emerging from between her legs

A Gruffal-OH, if you will, or

St. Hildegard had had visions since childhood, and Pope Eugenius III suggested she write them down (she may have had a hand in, or approved, the illustrations, too). This one’s from Scivias, the first of three books describing what she saw.

I saw again the figure of a woman … And from her waist to the place that denotes the female, she had various scaly blemishes; and in that latter place was a black and monstrous head. It had fiery eyes, and ears like an ass’, and nostrils and mouth like a lion’s; it opened wide its jowls and terribly clashed its horrible iron-coloured teeth.

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler are frankly lucky she’s been dead so long. The plagiarism is outrageous.

a spread from the Gruffalo book, showing a mouse in a woodland scene encountering a strange creature and saying “But who is this creature with terrible claws / And terrible teeth in his terrible jaws? / He has knobbly knees, and turned-out toes, / And a poisonous wart at the end of his nose. / His eyes are orange, his tongue is black, / He has purple prickles all over his back. / “Oh help! Oh no! / It’s a gruffalo!”

…although, to be fair, the Gruffalo doesn’t fly away on a cloud of turds and get hit by lightning.

And behold! That monstrous head moved from its place with such a great shock that the figure of the woman was shaken through all her limbs. And a great mass of excrement adhered to the head; and it raised itself up upon a mountain and tried to ascend the height of Heaven. And behold, there came suddenly a thunderbolt, which struck that head with such great force that it fell from the mountain and yielded up its spirit in death. And a reeking cloud enveloped the whole mountain, which wrapped the head in such filth that the people who stood by were thrown into the greatest terror.

Here’s that illustration in full, showing the Gruffalo — oh, all right, the Antichrist — raising itself and its accompanying “mass of excrement” up a mountain before the unceremonious landing:

Bride of Christ in Hildegard of Bingen’s Scivias, Book III. Image shows a woman on the left in medieval dress with a grotesque beast with red eyes, pointed ears, and large teeth emerging from between her legs. In the centre of the image is a group of people looking sore afraid, and on the right, the creature and a “mass of excrement” behind it sit on top of a mountain. Below this, the dead creature lies at the bottom of the mountain

Hildegard’s visions have been attributed to all sorts of things, from the visual auras of migraines to ergot, a fungus that gets into rye, and then rye bread, and when eaten causes St Anthony’s Fire (burning sensations, hallucinations, convulsions…)

Not to be confused with St Elmo’s Fire, although that’s also something you can feel burnin’ in you, apparently

Poster for 1985 ‘brat pack’ film St Elmo’s Fire, showing Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, Mare Winningham and Andrew McCarthy in front of a bar. Above them is the tagline “The heat this summer is at St Elmo’s Fire. Below them, the title of the movie, and a second tagline: “The passion burns deep”

Sorry, that’s just silly. Anyway, I’ve finished lowering the tone now, because thankfully, none of the other illustrations in Scivias lend themselves to misinterpretation or childish sniggering.

An illumination accompanying the third vision of Part I of Scivias, which — arguably — has a similar shape to a diagram of a vulva




Purveyor of niche drivel; marker of odd anniversaries


See more recommendations