(6TH/8 PART “THE BLACK LIST OF FORBIDDEN PLANTS” )
No wonder beans had such a bad reputation. At the time of the Roman Empire , they were used as protagonists in important funeral rituals .
Beans were present in some of the most important and popular Roman festivities. Publius Ovid reported them in his famous work “ Fasti ”, where he lists them, such as Feralia on February 21, Lemuria on May 9, 11 and 13 and Carnaria on June 1 in which they honored the Manes, Lemures and the goddess Carna respectively.
The Manes shared this holiday with the commemoration of a very particular goddess. The ritual ceremony of Feralia , offered a ritual in honor of Tacita , which means ” Silent ” , initially with the intention of avoiding slander . But not only, she was also the goddess of the underworld who was present in the funeral cults and accompanied the deceased to new life.
It is precisely from this ancient Roman rite in honor of the goddess Tacita that the traditions around the feast of the dead originated on February 21 and with them their typical culinary traditions as their well-known and appreciated sweets and of course, the custom to offer beans to the deceased, the legume of the dead .
Tacita Muse is a numen that invites silence and confidentiality . In the myth we find the Roman mentality reflected as was the Greek, in reference to the concept they had about women . According to it, women should remain silent not only by virtue , but also by duty .
The ritual consisted of a peculiar and very symbolic performance. A group of girls and young women surrounded an old drunk woman sitting in the middle. They formed a circle around the old woman and murmured prayers considered magicaround her. The old woman meanwhile, with three of her fingers deposited three grains of incense on a threshold. Then she introduced seven black beans into her mouth and shake them inside.
Then she caught a fish still alive and pulling the head and threw it towards the threshold. The torn tongue of the animal was debated trying to breath, symbolizing the abuse of the masculine world over the feminine . Then the rest of the fish was roasted with wine and drank the liquid obtained.
The fish was a mute animal , it was deprived of the possibility of speaking , like the excess of men in hiding said abuse by withdrawing the word from the woman .
Silence was imposed on the woman and she had to be submissive throughout the year, except for a single day, on February 21 , the feast of the dead, dedicated to the Manes.
This ritual was intended to invoke the terrible power of Tacita coming from the afterlife . As in other rituals also lead was present as a means to transmit the dark energy of the ritual.
The festival of Lemuria celebrated on May 9, 11 and 13 , was also a commemoration of the dead .
The nocturnal ritual consisted of a series of magical gestures and performance to conjure against the bad luck or evil influences of the dead that they believed were present around people. Also in this ritual, objects were used as a means to transmit the powers of the ritual, in this case it was bronze utensils .
The interesting thing in this case, referring to the beans, is that when they returned on the road at the end of the night ritual , they were throwing small handfuls , according to Ovid of 7 black beans ( magic number ), which were supposed to be collected by the dead and remained appeased. Beans were black , symbolizing death and the underworld where the spirits were trapped in total darkness due to the absence of light, which is what provided the form to life in Creation.
The ritual required to throw 7 black beans 9 times without looking back, at the same time pronouncing the following phrase: “I throw these beans and with them I redeem myself and my loved ones.”
It is assumed that beans offered to the dead replaced immolated children (because of their similarity to an embryo), so that the deceased were satisfied with the offering.
On this holiday on June 1 , a soothing sacrifice was offered to palliate a very feared goddess, Carna . She was invoked to drive evil away during the time that the development and growth of living beings lasted .
In the ritual it will be offered to Carna one mashed beans with bacon , called puls fabata. According to Macrobius , they contributed to provide vigor to the body. In archaic times , human sacrifices were offered , particularly children . Hence the symbology of beans similar to an embryo.
The ritual was intended to invoke and increase the powers of the goddess. A real nutritional power, a symbolic force that beans provided as a source of life , since Carna, as we say, was the goddess of development and growth of living beings.
Nowadays there is still the tradition of giving in the day of the calends (the first day of every month in the Roman calendar) in this case of June a fatty bacon . There is also the custom of eating a kind of hard grain polenta of wheat along with the beans that same day.
There are many references regarding beans, according to Varro, Pliny and Macrobius, Ovidio said was given to the goddess, beans and bacon mixed with hot spelled because “she was very old and fed on the dishes of yesteryear.” In addition he said that whoever consumed it on the 23rd , would be free from the pains of intestine.
With reference to bacon they thought that the vital substance was concentrated in it , as well as in the blood and vital organs .
That is why it was frequent that it was destined to the gods in sacrifices, along with blood and viscera . We must bear in mind that since ancient times the gods were offered a life either animal or human , therefore it is not surprising that they offered the best and most vital part in the rituals.
The goddess Carna watched and protected the development of children , and defended them from the fearsome Striges , impure demonic beings who persecuted and tormented children during sleep.
Striges absorbed the vital essence of nursing babies while they slept thereof, in particular blood and viscera . Their fatal curse threatened the development of life.
The goddess Carna was considered a minor goddess , unlike Juno, one of the most important goddesses who was publicly and officially honored also on this day and to which the honor of the entire month of June corresponded.
The goddess Carna was generally conjured in a more familiar and narrow environment and participated in the most everyday and common events of family life . For this reason it was also invoked during marriages , which used to be celebrated precisely on these June dates coinciding with this festival of Carnalia.
In these marriages, white hawthorn corsages were hung on the windows and doors of the house where the couple was going to live. In this way Striges that threatened the lives of future children born after the wedding were scared away .