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The mythological Lynx

(a different meaning of the word to the non-cryptid medium-sized cat)

The Lynx is a mysterious creature from medieval bestiaries. One myth described it as the body of a panther with the head of a dog. It stalked for prey at night with its far-seeing eyes that glowed brightly in the dark.

Another legend described it as less predatory than the description above. In American Indian tradition it was known as a 'keeper of secrets'. It is also believed to be gifted with supernatural eyesight, capable of seeing even through solid objects. As a result, it often symbolizes the unraveling of hidden truths, and the psychic power of clairvoyance.

In medieval times, the lynx was said to produce a gem. According to many bestiaries, the lynx would urinate in a hole that it had dug in the ground, and then cover it with dirt. After a number of days, the urine would harden into a gem that resembled a carbuncle. It was believed that the Latin name for amber, 'Lyncurium', was derived from this superstition. However, other medieval scholars pointed out that this amber was mined extensively in Lyguria, which may hint at a more plausible etymology.


A mythological lynx

One of the earliest known depictions of the lynx in Roman mythology is recorded in Ovid's epic poem, Metamorphoses. The goddess Demeter (often conflated with the Roman goddess Ceres) commands Triptolemus to travel the world teaching the art of agriculture. He arrives at the court of King Lyncus, who grows desirous of the goddess's favor, and plots to kill Triptolemus in his sleep. No sooner than he raises his sword, however, he is transformed into a lynx.

In 1603, the Accademia dei Lincei ("Academy of Lynxes") was founded by Federico Cesi. It was one of the world's oldest scientific societies, and counted such luminaries as Galileo Galilei among its members. The academy's founders were inspired by the illustration of a lynx on the cover of Magia Naturalis, and the words in the preface: "...with lynx-like eyes, examining those things which manifest themselves, so that having observed them, he may zealously use them." Their emblem was a lynx battling with Cerberus, the guardian of the underworld, invoking the lynx's reputation for seeing through falsehood and discovering the truth.