Food offerings to the dead in Mesopotamia

According to popular Mesopotamian beliefs, the dead could not continue to "live" in the underworld if the living did not give them water and bread. For their part, the living had to remember to offer food to the dead, for fear of dying themselves. This article shows how food offerings led to a deep solidarity between the living and the dead, as they helped preserve the existence of both.

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Dietary laws and bodily purity in Leviticus. The theory of M. Douglas and its reception by J. Milgrom

In the first volume of his commentary on Leviticus (1991), Jacob Milgrom pays much attention to the classical theories of Mary Douglas about the dietary laws (Leviticus 11) and the rules controlling bodily purity (Leviticus 12-15). This paper summarizes the views of Douglas expressed in Purity in danger (1966) and in "Deciphering a Meal" (1972); it then shows that in his critical reception of Douglas' theories, Milgrom insists particularly on the life-death axis as underlying the system of purity and impurity in Israel.

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Drinking blood: from Biblical curse to vampirical thirst

The Old Testament contains various passages which indicate that Jewish Law forbade the use of blood as food. When we study verses Lv 17, 11.14, and Dt 12, 23 through their various transformations, however, the reasons for this interdiction become apparent. Translations of the Bible, since the Septuagint, have radically changed our view of how the Hebrew conceived of blood: blood as life became blood as soul. The prohibition of blood as food as formulated today, more often than not the result of manipulative translations, is fodder for historical/anthropological works on vampirism, who use it to justify the existence of the vampire archetype. This, however, cannot be the case: these same passages devoted to the prohibition of blood as food in fact justify the creation of a new myth, the myth of the vampire.

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The sacrifice of the foreign body. Bodily symbolism in human sacrifice as practiced by the Moche civilization of Precolumbian Peru

Human sacrifice was a major religious institution among the Moche of Precolumbian Peru. Combining both available archeological documents and iconography, the author attempts to reinsert Moche sacrificial rites in their proper context. His approach reveals that the body of those considered "fit for sacrifice", generally male prisoners of war, was transformed into a sacrificial offering through a series of treatments or manipulations. Following acts of humiliation and solemn preparation, the ritual manipulations performed on the body to be sacrificed were particularly refined at the time of immolation. Additional data are given concerning treatment of the remains after consecration. An entire symbolic system related to the sacrificial body is defined, indicative of a world-view particular to the Moche.

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Roberto MOTTA

Sacrifice, table and feast. The «Neo-Ancient» aspects of the liturgy of Brazilian Candomblé

In the Candomblé religion of Brazil, as it was also the case of ancient Greek religion, the basic ritual action consists in the slaughter of animals. And, as was also the case in ancient Greece, in Candomblé sacrifices nourish both gods and men. Meat is considered either as axé, being the preserve of the gods, or eran, which is eaten by the faithful out of the cultic context. Thus Afro-Brazilian sacrifice, like Greek sacrifice, has implications that are economic and nutritional, but also fully symbolic and ontological. Animal victims are but a kind of ersatz, all sacrifices being implicit human sacrifices, dance and trance being but the continuation of sacrifice by other means.

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Sacrificing flesh and the food of the Hindu gods

The diet of Hindu gods is generally composed of the daily puja. The gods also require the love of their worshippers. This can however be taken to extreme and lead, in some instances, to self-sacrifice. This act can be performed in various ways: some throw themselves under a moving cart, others jump off a cliff, and widows immolate themselves on their dead husband's funeral pyre. These extreme forms of sacrifice also serve to nourish the gods. With examples from Western historiography, this paper analyzes the various "recipes" of this type of cuisine while highlighting the multiple aspects of Hindu devotion.

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"For this is my body". Eating human flesh

In Western societies, cannibalism is a taboo, one of the defining limits of our human condition. However, the human body has long been ingested in the shape of medicinal preparations, a phenomenon far removed from epicure, the horror of such an act only serving to increase in our minds its therapeutic value. We are not tasting succulent flesh served in rare sauces, but we force ourselves to treat a wound, ease pain, recover our strength, etc. Universal remedy, perhaps, but also at times food we can no longer afford to simply throw away in disgust: in times of famine or in extreme situations, when food is no longer available, it sometimes becomes necessary to eat human flesh in order to survive. This experience, however, breaks a defining taboo, overwhelms us, and changes the nature of our humanity.

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Eating and growing. On the importance of certain eating patterns in rites of passage

This contribution offers crossed anthropological readings of the impact of eating habits in the culture of a given social group, and, more particularly, the importance of eating behaviour during social rites of puberty (Van Gennep). Subject to habits which are part of a social ideal, food - and the way we eat it - accompanies us through the various steps of our lives, rekindles our memories of personal breakthroughs, in fact shaping our sense of taste as well as our behaviour.

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Andean nutrition, exchange and ritual

Malnutrition is recent in the Andes, arriving in full force with impoverishment brought about by colonial and capitalist underdevelopment. In the past, peasants had a better diet because they exchanged products from different ecological zones. Andean rituals function to promote exchange of resources between these zones. The most common Andean ritual is preparation of a mesa (table) in which produce symbolising various ecological zones is placed on seashell plates to be served to huacas (earth shrines) of Pachamama (Mother Earth). Mesas can be adapted by anthropologists and nutritionists to reinforce traditional and adaptive patterns of food exchange.

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Eucharistic rites in the eating behaviour in the late Middle-Ages

Eating habits and customs in the late Middle-Ages were far from barbarous. Rather, they followed a set of very precise rules hinging on beliefs largely foreign to us today. The Eucharist played an important part in cooking and eating in the late Middle-Ages. The ceremonial surrounding banquets could at times be similar to certain aspects of Mass. From the benedicite to graces, through the genuflection of the dining hall usher in front of the prince's table, many gestures recall the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The sacred nature of bread and wine, the heart of medieval diet, manifested itself in a scrupulously followed protocol. The order of precedence of the various categories of nobles in charge of the food service of the lord in important aristocratic houses was also dictated by the same religious references.

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Monique MORVAL

Where are the meals of yesteryear? Meals and ritual today

This article looks at the ritual aspect of meals: when can a meal be considered a ritual? What functions does it then serve? In our current era, where the production, preparation, and consumption of food have been drastically simplified, can a meal still be considered a ritual? It appears so, inasmuch as any ritual must evolve according to changes in time and space, or else become fossilized.

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Georges BERTIN

The Fête du poiré (perry festival) in the "bocage normand"

In 1980, a new type of celebration was created in the Norman bog: the Fête du poiré (Perry Festival). At its center is a drink particular to the Passais region: the poiré, or perry. The author uses his field observations to illustrate how the social imaginary that has been developing in the region for the past seventeen years reveals an almost religious rapport with the natural images proposed, which reintroduce those who practice it in the realm of the sacred. Both a source of pleasure and a cultural matrix, the reference to perry is examined under a double perspective, structural and anthropological. The festival, it would appear, is designed to reshape a space and a time usually devoted to productivity. In fact, through the use of a symbolic food - the perry - both time and space are sublimated.

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Anne-Laure BUCHER

Giving birth, feeding, devouring. The symbolic functions of feminity

We have always linked women with the idea of food, or the act of feeding. The image of the mother as a provider of nourishment must have imposed itself, from the dawn of humanity - as it does to a new born infant -, as the "first" reality, not only from a chronological, factual point of view, but also in an ontological and symbolic manner. If this image were to be removed to the inaccessible area between nature and culture (when, in some respects, it should be considered equal to the symbolisation of sexuality), the essence of humanity's social and religious link would be unthinkable. Beyond this biological and symbolic "evidence" of the mother as provider of nourishment (which this article treats as "myth creating"), there is in reality the "mystery" of the emergence of meaning and the sacred. In the end, the nourishing and digestive function of the mother is freed from its mythic roots to reach a co-genesis of all the symbolic elements.

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Jean-Jacques LAVOIE and Minoo MEHRAMOOZ

A few remarks on the Judeo-Persian Qohelet manuscripts of the Bibliothèque nationale de France

This article is a presentation of the four different versions of the Judeo-Persian Qohelet found at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. The authors first outline the principal characteristics of Judeo-Persian. They then recount the history of the origin of the four manuscripts. Finally, they briefly examine, using a few examples, the quality of these four translations. This brief study is only the early stages of a research the authors hope will prove long and fruitful, and which should gain international stature, as it will prove of interest not only to Jews, but also to Christians, Muslims, and Iranians, as well as orientalists, linguists, and most particularly, of course, specialists of Qohelet.

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