Calendar,  Medieval manuscripts

November from Walters W. 425

Calendar page from Walters W. 425 showing a man and a woman butchering a pig, below the calendar for November
November calendar image The Walters MS. W. 425 fol. 11r ca. 1520–30 Brussels?

The November calendar page from The Walters Walters W. 425 features gold scrolling leaves in the margin, with a small Sagittarius astrological sign in a medallion in the margin. The November calendar has a very conventional scene depicting the labor of the month; Walters W. 425 f. 11r shows a man and a woman slaughtering a pig, very much in the spirit of the Middle English lyric about the labors of the months:

At Martynesmasse I kylle my swine

The typical labor for November in books of hours shows the swine being fattened on acorns, while is hog butchering is often featured as the labor for December. This November scene is very similar to many pig-butchering scenes, like this swine slaughter image from the December labor from The Hours of Henry VIII.

Detail from November calendar image
The Walters MS. W. 425 fol. 11r ca. 1520–30 Brussels?

These swine butchering scenes often feature the just-slaughtered pig, and a woman catching the blood in a shallow basin or pan. This Walters W. 425 fol. 11r November scene is very conventional for the fifteenth century, and very much a pattern book sort of scene.

The man, still holding the butcher knife in one hand, kneels on the hog to hold it still. The scene, unnecessarily gory to modern eyes, features one of the more important aspects of the pig slaughter, to medieval eyes. The blood was the key ingredients in several dishes, primarily sausages and puddings, both of which could potentially keep for some time, providing a crucial food source in the Winter, and was an ingredient that could be stretched to feed quite a few by the judicious addition of suet, grain, odd bits of meat, and seasoning. Dolly Jørgensen has written about the way images of pig slaughter in books of hours changed in the 14th century.[ref]Jørgensen, Dolly. “Blood on the Butcher’s Knife: Images of Pig Slaughter in Late Medieval Illustrated Calendars.” Blood Matters: Studies in European Literature and Thought, 1400-1700. Eds. Bonnie Lander Johnson and Eleanor Decamp. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018). pp. 224–37[/ref]