Neville Mogford
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The moon and stars in the Bern and Eusebius riddles
in Riddles at work in the early medieval tradition
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Computus and riddles are not obvious bedfellows, but the Bern and Eusebius riddle collections include several original enigmata on computistical and astronomical subjects. How these riddles fit into the tradition inherited from Symphosius, what kinds of literary devices they employ, and why riddles should be an appropriate medium for communicating these subjects, are the central questions of this chapter. Frequently, these riddles represent their subjects in terms of familial relations. Some are harmonious: Bern Enigma 62 depicts the stars as sisters and the heavens as a monastery. More often, familial relations are problematic. For example, in Bern Enigma 56, the sun and moon are siblings whose complicated calendrical relationship is imagined as one of incestuous nativity. Several riddles play with the apparent paradox between the moon as it is observed and as it is measured. Bern Enigma 59 illustrates how the imperceptible movements of the moon can nevertheless be measured in fractions. Most notable of all is the unusual description of the saltus lunae (‘leap of the moon’) intercalation in Eusebius Enigma 29, which combines the sibling trope with complex calculations originating in Irish computistica.

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