“E” is for Egg

…But not just any egg, and rather, the rare and rightfully famous Cock Egg.

Cock Eggs are eggs which have no yolk.

Since they can’t hatch into chickens, logic of yore surmised that they had been laid by roosters.

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Much as this explanation served for a time, some bright body concluded that anything as potent as a male egg must be capable of much, much more than albumin alone dictated, and thus was born the myth of the cockatrice, a fearsome serpent-like creature with the legs of a dragon, the head of a rooster, and stare to rival Medusa.

The myth of the cockatrice states that the egg, laid by a rooster, would be incubated by a toad. From this series of events would result the deadly cockatrice or basilisk.

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According to superstition, a family unexpectedly faced with a yolkless egg should toss the egg over its dwelling so the egg smashed on the other side. Rendered to flight by a hearty throw, the egg could do no further harm–short of an accidental collision with the roof–from which further calamities would result.

How one would know that the egg was or was not a “cock egg” before breaking it open is not explained, though I imagine something definitive would have occurred to arouse such suspicion.

Sadly, when I searched the internet for instructions on “how to throw an egg over a house ” to clear the roof, my search engine produced a list of pictures of Justin Bieber. I fail to understand the connection.

A second search brought me to the hallowed halls of The Elder Scrolls website and a warning: DO NOT eat the cock’s egg on pain of petrification. Hmmm. As strange as this sounds, it is no stranger than what was written in history to explain the phenomenon of the yolkless egg.

A third search for images of a “cock egg” brought me an interesting array of pictures including many new ideas for an adult Easter parties, though my days wearing bunny ears are certainly long past. If you don’t believe me, try this search for yourself.

The cockatrice idea comes from the Middle Ages when people seemed compelled to have an answer for every question (hence, the number of angels dancing on the head of a pin.) Lest I initiate a rousing session of “Let’s Bash the Olden Days,” they were–Like Bieber–victims of bad press. Aside from the compulsion to find implausible answers to some questions, there was plenty of intelligent thought at work after the Fall of Rome and before the Renaissance.

The cockatrice seems to have been “discovered” by Alexander Neckham a medieval scholar who pursued a reference in Pliny’s Naturalis Historiae. NaturalishistoriaA forerunner of the encyclopedia, Pliny’s Natural History was divided into thirty seven books in ten volumes and covered topics such as:

painting and sculpture

astronomy and geography

botany, horticulture, and agriculture

physiology and pharmacology and zoology

mining and mineralogy and precious stones

mathematics

ethnography and anthropology

It also covered a number of magical creatures Pliny had “seen” or heard of in his travels.

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What I find so laughable about this whole exploration is that human need to have an answer, a need I work hard to resist.

We CANNOT know the answer to everything and yet, even our experts will give us answers rather than simply admit, “I don’t know how that works.”

It’s a bad habit, that human need to know.

Yesterday morning on twitter, I was reminded by a quote from Anne Lamott on the pitfalls of having a answer where one may not readily exist. Her quote read…


“Let’s never forget what Paul Tillich said, that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty.”

And this brings me to my point. Certainty. Certainty of anything, human or divine, seems like a very risky business. In certainty, life is easy. We don’t have to think. We don’t have to consider what is real and what isn’t. We ignore the tiny day-to-day challenges to our beliefs and assert our greater knowlegde and security over those who are uncertain. We are meant to be uncertain at times and to cope with that, maybe even, laugh at that. Isn’t that what God was joking about all along?

A final word on the cock’s egg appears here from the Omnificent English Dictionary which is written with Limericks and is scheduled for completion in 2043. If this happens to be your poetic forte, check it out. It seems they are looking for more contributors. Here is a sample from their pages:

DragonTransom
cock's egg's just white in a shell;
 There's no yolk, it's a dead sort of cell—
 From a juvenile bird—
 But a myth, quite absurd,
 Claims it hatches a creature from Hell.

By Bob from Thirsk, Limerick #41717 (Limerick on a Cock’s Egg ) The Omnificent English Dictionary In Limerick Form

7 thoughts on ““E” is for Egg

  1. Well, blow me down, there really IS such a thing as a Cock’s Egg, thank you for enlightening me, Ms. Tonia! I used to keep chickens (Plymouth Rock) and I developed a whole new respect for them when I saw they had to lay an egg almost every day, sometimes two, most of the year. That would be like going through childbirth everyday, I thought, and felt so sorry for them, I made my sons catch extra bugs to feed them as treats. (They love Japanese Beetles!) But are there any tales about what we considered the lucky DOUBLE-YOLKED EGG? And Justin BeeBo did throw eggs at his neighbor’s house in FL while he was loaded, and the neighbors called the cops, but maybe he was just trying to get rid of a batch of COCK EGGS before any toads got to them. I know I would. You are a veritable treasure trove of historical spiciness, and next time I want to curse someone, I’m going to call them a “RUDDY COCK EGG WITH TOAD MESS!” thanks to you.

    1. Cherie, hahaha. You are the perfect foil for all my weird historical/natural interests and SUCH a good chicken mother too (extra bugs with pregnancy…I love that.) I love history because everything offensive I could say about the world today can be found and revealed from the past. Apparently, human foibles are alive and well. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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