1474: Rooster Executed for Witchcraft

According to a magazine published in 1859 (the earliest reference I've found yet), a rooster was tried for witchcraft, found guilty, and sentenced to die in the year 1474 in Basel, Switzerland. The nefarious bird was publicly tied to a stake and burned to death. It's offense? The rooster was accused of laying an egg.

        An egg laid by a rooster was reputed to be a prime ingredient in witch ointments, as well as could possibly hatch out a basilisk or cockatrice -- a deadly monster -- if sat upon by a frog, toad, lizard, or snake... hence a rooster laying such an egg was a serious offence.

But Did It Happen?

        Perhaps surprisingly, it's not much of a surprise that a rooster would have been tried and excuted for witchcraft in the 1400's (someday I'll explore the topic of animal trials more).

        The 1859 source for this story, an article in Titan magazine, states that this event is mentioned "among the works of Chassaneux, a learned jurisconsult of the sixteeth century." Barthelemy Chassaneux [1480-1542], was a famous French jurisconsult who, apparently, was first distinguished by the originality of his arguments defending rats in a trial at Autun: he stated the rats could not obey the summons to court as they had to traverse a region abounding in cats... and that the cats were on alert for them due to the notoriety of the trial! So it seems very possible that Chassaneux did write about other animal trials, and he lived around the right time to document the 1474 event if it happened; but, of course, I've still got to find said source if it exists. For this reason, this account is currently marked as 'Unreliable."

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