( 8TH/8 PART “THE BLACK LIST OF FORBIDDEN PLANTS” )
As we say this link with death facilitated the step towards the declaration that they were also “contaminated” and therefore impure . Homer considered the black beans impure , according to him, in them resided the souls of the shadows returning from Hades.
Quickly its impurity was related to the negative effects that caused its digestion . Pliny said they “dull the senses and produced nightmares,” reason enough for Pythagoreans to condemn them. Cicero advised quoting Plato , that it was better to “go to sleep with the digestion done, so that nothing disturbed the spirit . “
Along with the consequence of difficult digestion, beans became famous for being considered aphrodisiacs , so Pythagoreans advised to abstain.
Another consideration in this regard was the belief that through the expulsion of the gases that caused the digestion of beans, spirit could flee from the body . This idea was also thought of yawning and breath , for being noises caused by the air like the last exhales before dying.
Air allows life , through it man breathes and can live. The ” divine breath” that gave life to man and that when it’s missing and expels the air for the last time, expires . For this reason it was believed that any exit from the air means being closer to death.
Among the many and curious prohibitions that the aforementioned Flamen Dial , an important priest of Jupiter in Ancient Rome, had, one refers to foods that produced aerophagia . In fact, it was forbidden to touch and consequently eat any fermented or leaven food because of the belief that there was a “spiritual” presence locked in them.
BEANS: ITS CONNECTION WITH LIFE AND DEATH
The external appearance of the seed (globulous and membranous), similar to an embryo , encloses the symbolism of the fruit that it is, but on this occasion with greater reason, considered a bearer of life . A life that was previously dead.
As such it is identified with fertility and death . Hence its relationship with the deceased although it seems contradictory . We have to keep in mind that in the ancient mentality, death, resurrection and procreation were closely linked in a life cycle . This cyclical system of life was even more evident in the vegetables that germinated in each season , offering its fruit to later die and then restart again. Hence the idea of reincarnation .
Life inevitably led to death and thus was traveling in a perpetual circle. The earth represented the feminine and therefore germination and life , but also the underworld and the infernal.
To reborn it was necessary to die, as the myth of Proserpine and the other stories of the vegetation gods narrated . For this reason it is not surprising that beans are present in both such different rituals, both funeral and bridal .
Another belief that later shows this intriguing, dark and macabre link between beans, earth, life and death , required to collect a flower of beans , when it was still growing. Buried inside a clay vessel at sunset , it was allowed to rest underground for 3 months . After the prescribed 90 days you could dig up the vessel and discover what was inside. The bean flower would have become a head of a child or, a woman’s genital, ” pudendum muliebre ” .
This fact that they were retained as infallible, indicated the generative and fertilizing capacity of bean , which was able to create even a child’s head.
This “generative capacity” reminds us of the procreative power that was given to human blood , that is, the ” fermentation “ of blood drops from which so many mythological creatures would have been generated , such as Pegasus, Adrodite , etc.
According to Jean Chevalier , French philosopher, theologian and writer of the famous ” Dictionnaire des symboles” (” Dictionary of symbols “), first published in 1969, whose book contains a magnificent cultural anthropological illustration of the myths and folklore of various civilizations, bean symbolized the embryo , for its globular and venous form, hence the belief of its life-generating capacity.
A relic of this bean symbolism with the embryo is found in the roscón de reyes , typical Spanish Christmas cake , commemorating the birth of Jesus in the Christian tradition.
Originally inside, there was precisely a bean , an image of the embryo and life and therefore a symbol of Christmas. It was later replaced with a small porcelain baby , and later diversified into plastic figurines . Also in some popular traditions it is still said that whoever finds the bean will be married soon.
OTHER VEGETABLES IN THE “BLACK LIST”
Like beans, also other plant foods that reminded of eggs , such as pomegranates , were banned by some cultural trends, such as lentils. As well as the eggs or animals that put them. This prohibition was based on the same idea, that the soul of the dead resided in them .