So best not to think of a pink elephant
July 23, 2013 11:22 AM   Subscribe

Of cats, rabbits and monstrous births, about the persistent Medieval/Early Modern belief that a woman's pregnancy could be influence what she gave birth too, as in the case of Agnes Bowker, who supposedly gave birth to a cat.
posted by MartinWisse (6 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Related previously: Sixteen Rabbits and Three Tabby Cat Legs
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:47 AM on July 23, 2013

This could be a helpful addition to the AskMe guidelines.
posted by resurrexit at 12:18 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Reminds me of that Cosby where the men all got pregnant and gave birth to the things they liked most. (sports car, sailboat, sandwich + orange soda)
posted by history_denier at 12:44 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Is this a post about the newly born prince in the UK?
posted by symbioid at 4:23 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

So best not to think of a pink elephant

But with all white babies looking so much like pink elephants, that would seem to be almost wasted effort.

It amazes me in retrospect that Disney was able to put aside the temptation to make Dumbo pink.

This is fascinating stuff, and there is rich material in the sublinks. In Monstrous Children in English Renaissance Broadside Ballads:
3. To cite a concrete example, a 1562 ballad about a "monstrous Chylde, borne at Chychester in Sussex," illustrates some aspects of these ballads, including the interpretation of the child as a text comparable to scripture. The ballad maker cites scriptural examples of warning signs of God's wrath (Noah, Lot) and then compares those texts to the Sussex birth and other such births of this time, human and non-human:[2]
The Scripture sayth, before the ende
Of all thinges shall appeare,
God will wounders straunge thinges sende,
As some is sene this yeare.

The selye infantes, voyde of shape,
The calues and pygges so straunge,
With other mo of suche mishape,
Declareth this worldes chaunge.
(Lilly 202-3; long "s" modernized in this and all quotations)
Protestant hermeneutics is not unique in the representation of monstrous children as signs from God; the interpretation of deformity as a representation of moral depravity goes back to the early church fathers. ...
15. Thus, the child is both sign and text, a way of speaking and the thing said, and therefore an exemplum for interpretation. In this way also the monstrous child is akin to Jesus, as the following quotation from the sixteenth-century Reformation theologian Theodore de Beze suggests: "Christe himself is so geven unto us to be the only teacher of that trew and native wisedome: as that he teacheth himself untoo us. For he is both the teacher and the thing that is taught" (F8v-F9r). De Beze's statement presents Jesus in the same light as the monstrous children of these ballads; both Jesus and the children are the teacher and the thing taught, the sign and what it signifies.
In this interpretation, the monstrous child is harbinger of the end of the world and, fittingly, a kind of anti-Christ.

Which casts light on the depth of the terror that greeted the advent of the Nuclear Age, perhaps, as nuclear weapons and nuclear energy threatened to end the world and turn children into monsters simultaneously.

No wonder dangerous and amazing mutants were such a staple of atomic age SF.
posted by jamjam at 4:48 PM on July 23, 2013

Not quite the same, since Joanna Southcott (1750-1814) didn't give birth to anything at all, despite being heavily pregnant with a new Messiah for quite some time, but I just can't resist any opportunity to quote the Panacea Society's famous slogan:

War, disease, crime and banditry, distress of nations and perplexity will increase until the Bishops open Joanna Southcott's box!

Amazingly, the last of the Southcottians only died last year. I don't know what's happened to the semi-detached house in Bedford they bought for the Lord Jesus, should He need somewhere pleasant to stay during the apocalypse.

Joanna Southcott's box remains unopened by the Bishops. War, disease, crime and banditry, distress of nations and perplexity continue to increase. I find it hard to believe that this is a coincidence.
posted by jack_mo at 10:54 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

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