Strange Science: Studying Monsters

Artist's rendering of medieval monstersDid you know that there’s an entire organization devoted to the study of medieval monsters? They’re called MEARCSTAPA, which stands for Monsters: the Experimental Association for the Research of Cryptozoology through Scholarly Theory And Practical Application. The name of the group sounds like a bit of a nonsense word, which is partly intentional. But it’s also a word that appears in Beowulf, applied to Grendel, which translates to “border-walker” or “margin-stepper.”

Though their focus is on medieval depictions of monsters, their true goal is “the study of how individuals and groups—particularly powerful groups—dehumanize, disempower, and ultimately attempt to destroy other groups.” Often times, the monsters that they are studying were used as a metaphor or a cautionary tale about people who didn’t fit in with the ruling group in a culture. As such, the monsters that people focus on in a given era can say a lot about what their true fears are. So these scholars study an interesting blend of cryptozoology and human psychology.

You can read more about MEARCSTAPA at Atlas Obscura or at their own website.

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