Mary - Praestolatrix Anguipede
Expectant Snake-Foot
Mary enjoys some lunch
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ary is a wonderful example of the species of Anguipedes, or “snake foot” common to the Eastern seaboard of the United States. While the Anguipede was identified throughout the 1800s in various locations in North America, it is without a doubt that its home was on the southern part of the Manhattan Island. Recognized by its patient inverted pose, the Anguipede could hang from the branch of the Linden tree (Tilia Americana Linnaeus, also known as the Basswood Tree) for days in order to secure nutrition. The favorite foods of the Snake-foot are bees, which favor the Linden tree over all others two months of the year (June and July) when the tree is in flower. Prior to European contact, the Iroquois in Northern New York used the Linden tree and its very soft wood to make spirit masks. In Greek Mythology, Dryads (or tree spirits) were married to the Linden Tree. It seems obvious that the relationship between the Linden and the Snake-foot was destined. One gets food, while the other gets a spirit

The Expectant Snake-foot received its name from the beasts extended forearms and tail as well as the obvious lack of hind legs. However the first part of the beasts name was added after the habitat of the Anguipede was transformed from being woodlands to a Tobacco field in 1731 by Peter Warren, a British Admiral. One of the Tobacco foremen noted:

“…Thus we founde a true beast, whiche solely hanges topside down. It waites, espectante (sic).”

As the woodlands were replaced by tobacco fields, so were the tobacco fields replaced by a village and later the expansion of New York City. Eventually becoming known as the East Village (In reference to the larger community Warren developed, to sell his tobacco, known at the time simply as the Village). From the late 1800’s through to the 1970’s the Anguipede slowly lost space to live in. Even with the support of generations of artists who saw the Anguipede as a noble beast trapped in a shrinking world, the Anguipede population dwindled.

This particular Anguipede was first spotted and named “Mary” when a row of Linden trees were planted in a community garden on 9th street between avenues B & C. As the beasts nature goes, Mary was taken in and considered a good omen in a battle over land and the surrounding development. As a member remarked, “every garden needs a tree spirit.”

By this time, no other Anguipedes were known to be living in New York City. For the remainder of Mary’s life she hung around waiting, it seemed, for the summer when the bees swarmed the Linden tree. In the fall of 2001, old age caught up with Mary and took the last known living Anguipede. As with all things extinct, her story must never be forgotten.

She was lovingly taxidermied and hangs as she once did, in one of three Linden trees in La Plaza Cultural.

As of July 2002, Mary has gone missing. If found please contact www.urbanbeast.com, or La Plaza Cultural.

Oct 2003:La Plaza Cultural is renamed for Armando Perez, the slain leader of the east village and co-founder of CHARA/El Bohio. Click to see the Village article

 

For more incredibly interesting information about mary's life click on the links below:

La Plaza Cultural

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