Al Borayque: Jew as a Grotesque beast, Valencia

Jew as a Grotesque beast, Valencia
"The Jews of Spain and the Expulsion of 1492"
Edited by M. Lazar and S. Haliczer, pp. 153-236

A "manticore" (or "mantichora") is mythical or fabulous beast with the head of a man (or woman) with with horns and three rows of sharp teeth (like a shark), and a trumpet-like voice, the body of a lion or tiger (man eating), the feet and tail of a dragon or scorpion with spikes at the tip of its tail. It may have wings as well. It may shoot poisonous spines to either paralyze or kill its victims. It devours its prey whole. It leaves no clothes, bones, or possessions of the prey behind. It is often a hermaphrodite.

The "manticore" was used as propaganda against Jews in Iberia. The "horns" referred to Satanic religions (meaning Judaism), hence the commonly used theme of horns. The theme of a hermaphrodite was used as the "manticore" was deployed against conversos or New Christians (Jews forcibly converted to Catholicism). Conversos were viewd as not Jews, but not Catholics either: sexually ambiguous or ambivalent.

Although a manticore might seem amuzing or silly, in an age in which most people were illiterate and ignorant, steeped in a belief of withcraft, legal cases before the Holy Inquisition on charges of witchcraft, etc., the manticore could only be understood as frightening. Thus, from the point of view of propaganda, the manticore was a very effective weapon.


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