The famous legal expert Chassanee established his reputation by serving as defender of the rats of the diocese of Autun.
Barthelemy de Chasseneuz or Chassanee had been designated to lend the support of his eloquence to the rodents, following a knowledgeable judicial reference document, drawn up by him several years before. The author of this document did not forget to cite numerous precedents to justify his intervention in favour of these exceptional clients.
He mentioned that the inhabitants of the territory of Beaune had asked the officiants of Autun to excommunicate certain insects, hurebets, little flying beasts which like to attack vineyards.
In 1460, these insects had occasioned such ravage in the vines, that a general procession had been organized to disperse them. The priests were ordered by the general vicars to publish these kinds of acts and, in the absence of success, to pronounce anathema against the beasts.
This publication took place at the end of Mass. It was followed by processions, which the heads of families were obliged to attend. The pastor exhorted the sinners to repent, and in particular, not to forget to pay their tithes. Only on this last condition, would the prayers be answered. The tithe was a sacred duty, which could not be left unpaid.
The Autun legal expert would have been careful not to forget this important point. He therefore strongly recommended not to forget to pay the ecclesiastic taxes. He counselled, as well, to have a woman walk around the canton, barefoot, at the moment of her menstruation. Such a delicate touch!
After having discussed if it was allowed to assign the beasts before a tribunal, and having concluded by the affirmative, the insects’ lawyer examined if they should be cited personally, or if they could be represented at the audience by a procurator. He was of the latter opinion, and concluded that the offence should be brought before an ecclesiastic judge.
If, at expiry of the fixed delay, the beasts persisted in wanting to remain on the lands which they had damaged, they would suffer the Church’s malediction. In certain cases, just fulminating monitories, which only contained a simple menace, was enough. However, if necessary, a direct judgement of malediction could be demanded.
But, can animals or insects be cursed? There is absolutely no doubt about that, according to the knowledgeable argumentation of the famous jurist who guides us through this obscure labyrinth.
“All creatures are subjected to God, author of canon law: the animals are therefore subject to the dispositions of this law;
“All that exists has been created for Man; it would be a misunderstanding of the spirit of creation to tolerate that animals hurt him;
“Religion allows us to set traps for birds or other animals who destroy the fruits of the earth; so, the best of all these traps is, without contest, the lightning of anathema. To save the harvests, we can even do what is forbidden by laws; for example, enchantments, spells, which are forbidden by law, are permitted every time that they have for object the conservation of the fruits of the earth; we should therefore allow the anathematising of the insects who devour the fruits, because, far from being forbidden like spells, anathema is, on the contrary, an arm authorised and employed by the Church.”
The examples of similar anathemas abound, starting with that of God himself against the serpent. We can read in the Scriptures: “And the Lord said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, you are cursed among all of the living creatures and all of the animals of the earth”". Jesus, also, returning from Bethany, cursed the sterile fig tree and the tree’s fruits dried up immediately.
This sort of condemnation was not exceptional and we shall have a look at some other examples in the third part tomorrow.