Ermines and Weasels
The ermine also known as the stoat or weasel is a small carnivorous fury mammal.
Many different cultures have stories
and myths about the ermine (weasel). An Irish myth, for example, views the ermine as harmful because it believes that
ermines can kill people with their poison. Another Irish myth says that seeing an ermine while traveling brings
bad luck and one can prevent this by being kind to the animal.
The ancient Zoroastrians, however, considered the ermine sacred because its white coat was a symbol of purity.
The Bundahishn, an old Zoroastrian text, states that the ermine is the chief of all fur animals.
The ermine is holy because it had once joined the assembly of the Amesha Spentas (Chapter 14/24).
The ancient Zoroastrians appreciated the ermine because it hunts rats, squirrels and other rodents.
There are many different kinds of ermines or weasels,
and they are all scattered around the world
from Asia to Northern America to New Zealand. The Bundahishn names eight different species of the ermine.
Today we know there are at least 37 species of the ermine.
One is called Fergana Stoat and it is native to India and Afghanistan.
The Fergana Stoat has a short and soft grayish coat and sometimes light spots form a collar on its neck.
This stoat never turns white in winter.
Like ancient Zoroastrians, some Europeans considered the ermine a symbol of purity.
They believed that an ermine will choose to die rather than make its white coat dirty.
This 15th century painting on the left by Leonardo da Vinci is called Lady with an Ermine.
It shows the sixteen-year-old Cecilia Gallerani holding an ermine.
Leonardo wanted to show the purity of Cecilia by painting her with a white ermine in her hand.
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