A pride of lions; a school of fish; a leap of leopards; a parliament of owls; a shrewdness of apes; a clowder of cats; an unkindness of ravens…are “terms of venery, colorful collective nouns that evolved in the Middle Ages of Europe when the sophisticated art of hunting demanded an equally sophisticated vocabulary.”…from one of my all-time favorite books given to me by my mother long ago, James Lipton’s An Exaltation of Larks or the Venereal Game. The venereal game is not directly related to the term “venereal disease,” though both are similarly linked to Venus, goddess and astrological indicator of love and wild animals.
The terms of venery became a game of codification in 15th century Europe, where clever names for various other collective nouns became interspersed with the names of venery. Many of these names reflected certain social mores of the time, and were constructed with a great deal of wit, such as, a converting of preachers; a drift of fishermen; a bevy of ladies; an eloquence of lawyers; a worship of writers; a school of clerks; a herd of harlots; a diligence of messengers; a poverty of pipers…oh the list just goes on! This is a fun game to play with loved ones, friends and colleagues. I actually won a newspaper contest once when I played and came up with a name for my then-profession of nursing…it was an injection of nurses.
Venery and the venereal game refer to hunting in relation to the Roman goddess Venus (Greek Aphrodite), whose origin was in the Babylonian Ishtar, Goddess of the Hunt. Aphrodite (Venus) hunted hard for love, and once she found it, she spent most of her time out hunting wild animals with her beloved Adonis. My friend Marcia Kalika made an excellent point in response to this on a Facebook, that Venus was kind of compromising to be with her man…which is the essence of Venus in astrology, when functioning in its highest form.
In Al-Biruni’s Book of Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology, Venus is considered the astrological lord of wild animals. Astrologers look to Venus in the astrological chart to determine matters of love, the wild hunt of the heart. Hmmm…now I am wondering…would a hunt of lovers be a good term for a group of people searching for love? Or do you like a lust of lovers better? Here I go…