AND THE WINNER IS: Cesci with Pokémon & The Medieval Humours

The winning Cultural Precedent this month was Pokémon & The Medieval Humours.

Maybe Nigel was worried about what his preference for Team Mystic said about his phlegmatic personality, or maybe he was just very concerned with leeches (disclaimer, there are not nearly enough leeches in the podcast).

Sadly, there isn't actually a Leech Pokemon

Sadly, there isn’t actually a Leech Pokemon

Lets look more in depth at this month’s winner and sources (Hurrah! A Bibliography!)…

The idea of Humours originates in Greek medicine where Aristotle charactererised animals as blood or bloodless types and animals, nature and most key, bodily fluids related to earth, water, fire and air, or as I like to call them Bulbosaur, Squirtle, Charmander and Zubat. The humours also control your life and virtues Vita with Spirtus or Pheuma in the Greek. So if you have Choleric fiery tendencies you might chose team yellow and Charmander or you might be more of a phlegmatic wet team blue Squirtle or a Melancholic black (ok dark blue) Bublosaur – he does look kind of sad, and bilious. Finally you might be lucky enough to be a jolly sanguine airy-fairy Jigglypuff or Drowzees. Which are blood. You cut me and I bleed Jigglypuff.

I am leaving out electric pokemon because evidently they are modern-magic and would have been burnt at the stake, and normal beacause – well they are just another term for vermin like rats and pigeons. So if you are inundated with oddishs or other grass types then perhaps you are a bit too melancholic are your spleen is all out of sync (Rawcliffe 1995: 33), unattented too much melancholic bile will make you very unhappy, grey of skin and eventually can lead to leprosy.

So you are either hot, dry, cold or wet or some combination of the two temperatures and two moist-ness. You need a balance to keep you healthy and make you who you are. Balancing your humours could be achieved not just by leeches (YEAH LEECHES)…

Jeff, Jeff... Thats totally enough leeches now.. Jeff? Jeff what ya doing...

Jeff, Jeff… Thats totally enough leeches now.. Jeff? Jeff what ya doing…

…but actually through quite sensible advice on maintainging a good diet, avoiding stress, early to bed and getting on with your neighbours. Noise was also very important, noise pollution such as living next door to a carpenter (the stereo had yet to be invented) or a tanner could put that all out of joint. Cold meat, raw fruit and herbs could also be too blame, and pastry an absoloute no no if you were a bit unbalanced. Your ideal state should mirror warm chicken and almonds, which represented the perfect mix of temperature and texture (Rawcliffe 1995: 40). Kormas all round then.

But what has Pokémon got to do with contemporary medicine? Well quite a lot actually, Pokémon was the subject of a medical court case due to sharing its name with a cancer gene. Zbtb7, originally named Pokemon (standing for “ POK erythroid myeloid ontogenic factor”) , is a gene that may act as a master switch for cancer, and is responsible for the proliferation of cancer throughout surrounding cells.

  • Horden, P & Hsu, E. (Eds.)(2013) The Body in Balance: Humoural Medicines in Practice. Berghahn: New York & Oxford
  • Rawcliffe, C (1995) Medicine & Society in Later Medieval England. Sutton: Gloucestershire
  • Siraisi, N. (1990) Medieval & Early Renaissance Medicine. Chicago Press: Chicago & London

Pokémon & Evolution (Miranda)


In Pokémon Go, you ‘evolve’ into your Pokémon into stronger creatures using Stardust and Candy: Pikachu evolves into Raichu and Zubat into Golbat etc. Substitute the word ‘Stardust’ for ‘natural selection’ and ‘Candy’ for ‘genetic mutation’ and you’re pretty much working along the lines of modern evolutionary synthesis. But what if it isn’t that straightforward? The question I’m asking here is, what would Darwin have made of Evee?

Evee, the super cute rabbity Pokémon, can evolve into either Vaporeon, Jolteon or Flareon. Madness! Madness comparable, however, to one (widely debunked) hypothesis on human evolution: Aquatic Ape Theory. The idea is that when most primates were hanging about in trees or evolving into early homonids, a separate strand evolved to live in the sea – meaning there were also pods of fishy apes flapping about the oceans.

You can find a great/terrible faux documentary from Animal Planet 'Mermaids: The Body Found' (2012) which has great CGI ape-mermaids. The documentary was criticised for appearing 'too factual'...

You can find a great/terrible faux documentary from Animal Planet ‘Mermaids: The Body Found’ (2012) which has great CGI ape-mermaids. The documentary was criticised for appearing ‘too factual’…

If you prefer something with less CGI, here are some maybe slightly less speculative sources:

  • LANGDON, J. H. (1997). Umbrella hypotheses and parsimony in human evolution: a critique of the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis. Journal of Human Evolution. 33, 479-494.
  • MORGAN, E. (1997). The aquatic ape hypothesis. London, Souvenir Press.
  • PARKER, S., & ROBERTS, A. M. (2015). Evolution: the whole story.
  • ROEDE, M. (1991). The aquatic ape: fact or fiction? : the first scientific evaluation of a controversial theory of human evolution. London, Souvenir Press.


Pokémon & Cryptic Photography (Cesci)

There are lots of examples of fake ghost and monster photography (my personal favourite is the trickster, William Hope have a look on The Public Domain Review for some great spooky goings on)  and I don’t pretend to understand the technology of the Pokémon popping up in your camera, it is the same sort of strange witch magic that makes everyone on snap chat beautiful (magical golden butterfly heads…). However the photographing of strange beasties is closely linked to photography of cryptids, animals thought to be legends.

Many of these are brilliant fakes such as the 1930s Congo TRex ‘The Kasai Rex’, red with black stripes and 43 feet tall made from photos are cut from a magazine.

But some have proven to be real, such as giant squids, Komodo dragons and my FAVOURITE , the Hoan Kiem turtle.

Your best call for looking up Cryptids and brilliant videos of giant squid is the internet as cryptozoology is (whispers) still not really recognised as a science, but here are a couple of fun ones:

  • Newton, M (2005) Encyclopedia of cryptozoology : a global guide to hidden animals and their pursuers.  London : McFarland
  •  Coghlan, R (2004) Dictionary of cryptozoology Northern Ireland : Xiphos Books, 2004.
  • M. Eberhart, G (2002) Mysterious creatures : a guide to cryptozoology Oxford : ABC-CLIO

Here is a video of my beloved Hoan Kiem turtle (don’t worry, its says he’s apparently eating a cat but you can’t see it).  The Great grandfather turtle who lived in the lake died in January this year, conservation efforts rest of what the sex is of the only other know wild turtle so it could possibly be mates with a female in captivity but the Hoan Kiem, (if he ever existed at all...) appears to be extinct.

Pokémon & Animal Menageries (Miranda)

Pokémon Go is all about collecting wild animals: you roam the countryside trapping defenceless creatures inside tiny balls before bragging to your friends about how many you have.

Historically, these collections of exotic animals, known as menageries, were generally connected to a royal court. For example, the Tower of London housed a royal menagerie for six centuries, housing lions, elephants, leopards and, famously, a polar bear that would be regularly led out of the Tower to catch food and wash itself in the Thames.

You can see a state of the Polar Bear at the Tower of London today and his ghosted is the most sighted...

You can see a statue of the Polar Bear at the Tower of London today and his/her ghost is the most sighted. Maybe think twice about packing Tuna sandwiches on your visit to the crown jewels…

These menageries served as a symbol of the wealth and power of the Crown, but were also used for entertainment. Louis XIV used his menageries to entertain courtiers and visiting dignitaries with bloody battles: in 1682 the ambassador of Persia enjoyed the spectacle of a fight to the death between a royal tiger and an elephant. Next time you’re battling your Pokémon at a gym, you should think of Louis XIV!

Read More:

  • BENNETT, E. T. (1829). The Tower menagerie: comprising the natural history of the animals contained in that establishment; with anecdotes of their characters and history. London, Printed for R. Jennings.
  • GRIGSON, C. (2016). Menagerie: the history of exotic animals in England 1100-1837.
  • HAHN, D. (2004). The Tower menagerie: the amazing 600-year history of the royal collection of wild and ferocious beasts kept at the Tower of London. New York, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin.
  • ROBBINS, L. E. (2002). Elephant slaves and pampered parrots: exotic animals in eighteenth-century Paris. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press.

Pokémon & Psychogeography (Cesci)

So sadly Nigel did not go for Pokémon and ‘evil maps’ but if you want to know more about ‘walking as content’ (including one of Debord’s ideas to re-walk your city as the speed of a tortoise as an act of rediscovery) then here are some references and links to get you started.

Satoshi Tajiri, the inventor of Pokémon, was inspired by his childhood hobby of catching crayfish (neither Miranda or I could entirely determine what a crayfish exactly looks like but we think they are the shit lobsters you see in Pret salads) and going on adventures in nature. Pokémon Go! sends often what might be thought of as, umm, indoors people?  outside to re-xplore there area looking for things that aren’t actually there.

This is a perfect example of Pscychogeography, walking to create content rather than walking with a purpose – coined in 1950s Paris by Guy Debord and the Situationists Pokémon Go! has changed the way that adults behave the urban environment, which, unlike Satoshi’s crayfish filled countryside, is not designed for walking. I argue that the fact that Pokémon changes your relationship, to non-purposeful meandering, makes walking around your own city is a subversive act of resistance.

Pokémon Map of Boston

Books to get you started:

  • Baker, P. (2003) ‘Secret City: Psychogeography and the End of London’ in Kerr & Gibson (Eds) London from Punk to Blair. Reaktion Books: London
  • Benjamin, W (1999) The Arcades Project. Belknap Press: Cambridge MA
  • Coverley, M. (2006) Psychogeography. Pocket Essentials: Harpenden
  • Debord, G. (1981) ‘Introduction to a Critique of Urban Georgaphy’ in Knabb, K. (Ed.) Situationist International Anthology p.5

How ‘Pokémon maps’ have become a thing, changing the way you might navigate or plan your route, not for speed but to finally get a Mr Mime (don’t get a Mr Mime, those things are terrifying)

A great article on how Pokémon effects the behaviour/ movement of children:

I particularly like this article from on how Pokémon could improve urban planning itself:

You might need to dig this one out of the Time archive somewhere, I can’t find it online (I would LOVE a link) but this is a really interesting example of taking the mapping further to include economic and social ‘mapping’ as well as geographical

  • ‘Pokémon Fold-Out: Mapping the Pokémonopoly’ Time. VOL 154; NUMBER 21, ; 1999, 91-93 — TIME – LIFE INTERNATIONAL – 1999

Go forth and use the power of Jigglypuff to re-walk your neighbourhood, safe in the knowledge that this is actually philosophy homework…

Pokémon & Animal Training (Miranda)

One other thing I found out is that Pokémon Go players are sometimes referred to as ‘Pokémon trainers’. We had already discussed Pokémon and its frankly disturbing overlaps with cockfighting but this got me thinking about our relationship with animals and, more specifically, all the crazy things we’ve trained them to do. Dogs are a great example: we use them for companionship, to herd livestock, in search and rescue, to hunt, in law enforcement, for protection, to assist people with disabilities, to detect cancer… it’s an endless list.

There are also some pretty bonkers historical examples: Lionel Walter Rothschild trained zebras to pull his carriage through London in the 19th century; Mr Henry Cooke entertained the public with his celebrated ‘Circus Troupe of Educated Dogs and Monkeys’ and, in the 1920s, Mabel Stark hit the headlines as the world’s first woman tiger trainer.

Walter Rothschild & His Zebras (Natural History Museum)

Walter Rothschild & His Zebras (Natural History Museum)

No animals (or Pokémon) were harmed in the making of this podcast.

Lovely books on bizarre animal training:

  • KALOF, L. (2007). Looking at animals in human history. London, Reaktion Books.
  • OROZCO GARCÍA, L., & PARKER-STARBUCK, J. (2015). Performing animality: animals in performance practices.
  • TAIT, P. (2012). Wild and dangerous performances: animals, emotions, circus. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, Palgrave Macmillan.

A Cultural History Of…Pokémon Go!

In our first podcast Miranda and I will be discussing the all encompassing, sometimes frightening phenomenon that is Pokémon Go! 

In between creatively naming our menagerie (Golbat/Flappy Wank is still my number one) and using it as an excuse to get out of the British Library (nothing but Drowzees in Humanities 1) we have been thinking about some of the cultural overlaps of the game. We are currently researching our top 6 to present to our guest Pokémon enthusiast who will choose the winner and thus dictate the rest of the program… however should one of our losing threads catch your interest, check back here for more links and info to fill your academic appetite.

Pokemon Go A Cultural History