The Scold’s Bridle, also known as “branks,” was a piece of equipment used to punish and oppress women in the fifteen and sixteen hundreds. The bridle was made of an iron frame that encased the head of the victim. At the front of this contraption, a bridle “bit” piece extended into the mouth, holding down the tongue with a spiked plate, rendering the victim mute. In effect, a scold’s bridle was a muzzle used on human females.
What type of crimes deserved such a punishment? Women were bridled for being “gossips,” “scolds,” “riotous,” “troublesome,” and even on suspicion of witchcraft.
Excerpts of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Rats in the Walls, 1924
visions of the legendary Rattenkönig, the Rat King, 1683
God! those carrion black pits of sawed, picked bones and opened skulls! Those nightmare chasms choked with the pithecanthropoid, Celtic, Roman, and English bones of countless unhallowed centuries! Some of them were full, and none can say how deep they had once been. Others were still bottomless to our searchlights, and peopled by unnameable fancies. What, I thought, of the hapless rats that stumbled into such traps amidst the blackness of their quests in this grisly Tartarus?
My searchlight expired, but still I ran. I heard voices, and yowls, and echoes, but above all there gently rose that impious, insidious scurrying; gently rising, rising, as a stiff bloated corpse gently rises above an oily river that flows under the endless onyx bridges to a black, putrid sea. Something bumped into me — something soft and plump. It must have been the rats; the viscous, gelatinous, ravenous army that feast on the dead and the living …
A hand-written page from Lewis Carrol’s original manuscript copy of what would be Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In 1863, when this page was written, the story was known as Alice’s Adventures Under Ground. Illustrations are by the author himself. From the British Library.
The Codex Gigas is the largest medieval text still in existence. Created in the Czech Republic during the early 12th century, the Codex Gigas is also known as the “Devil’s Bible” because it contains a large illustration of the Devil and details on how to exorcise evil spirits. It also contains a full-length Bible, known as the Vulgate Bible, among other texts.
The tome is so large, the skins of over 150 calves were needed to create its 310 leaves of vellum pages. It is bound with wood, metal, and leather, and weighs over 150 pounds.
Incredibly, the entire Codex Gigas is thought to have been compiled by a solitary scribe: a Benedictine monk named Herman the Recluse.
Legends surrounding Herman the Recluse accuse him of breaking his monastic vows, leading the church to sentence him to being imprisoned alive within the monastery walls. The myth postulates that Herman the Recluse sought to avoid or postpone his horrible fate by promising to create a tome that would contain all of human knowledge and would make his monastery famous. He had one year to complete the task and, legend has it, he was able to do so on his own by making a pact with Lucifer, the devil, leading to the tome’s ironic nickname: The Devil’s Bible.