“Mediterranean Falconry as a Cross-Cultural Bridge: Christian – Muslim Hunting Encounters”
Łukaszyk, Ewa (Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies “Artes Liberales” University of Warsaw)
Birthday Beasts’ Book: Cultural Studies in Honour of Jerzy Axer, Katarzyna Marciniak (ed.), Warsaw (2011)
In the context of medieval mentalities, as we tend to imagine them, any kind of religious dissent seemed apt to create an unbridgeable chasm between people. This vision is nevertheless not entirely correct. The difference of credo never prevented medieval people from some sort of intercultural exchange. Especially the culture of chivalry, created by the knighthood as a class opposed to the clergy and to a certain degree less attentive to the subtleties of credos, was paradoxically open and receptive in its contacts with the Other, even if these contacts consisted essentially of military encounters. Nevertheless, in the context of this cultural formation,
fighting was a primary form of recognition of the adversary. No wonder that, if we consider the Crusades and the
Reconquista from the perspective of the knightly culture, particularly of its games and entertainments, we see a landscape which seems far enough from any idea of a “civilization clash.”
The wars between Christians and Muslims created opportunities for cross-cultural hunting encounters, exchange of knowledge and zoological species, such as mammals and birds trained to hunt. The animal on which the European devotees of hunting undoubtedly could cast covetous eyes was the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus). The tradition of taming and training it probably originated in India, but it was also largely practiced by the Arabs since the beginning of the Islamic era.