Friday 26 June 2009

Beans Lead to Hell!

I bet you didn’t know that! Well, they do, or at least they do according to Pythagoras, who wrote, “Eating beans is a crime equal to eating the heads of one’s parents.”

The bean-hating mathematician and philosopher was also a religious dissenter who established his own sectarian colony. Some of the notions put forward concerning diet were eccentric, to say the very least. Pythagoras believed in the transmigration of souls, which could pass from people to animals. So, animal sacrifice was out. Heated spices and herbs were altogether more suitable offering to the gods.

Yes, just as spices were the route to heaven beans took one in the opposite direction. Broad beans, were, so he said, the ladders for the souls migrating from the underworld. Beans grown in a closed pot resulted in a mass of obscene shapes, resembling sexual organs or aborted foetuses. I know it sounds just so funny but for Pythagoras and his followers diet was an important branch of ethics. Well, perhaps it is. :-))


  1. Pythagoras was off his head...must have been kicked in the broad beans too many times.

  2. Pythagoras had inhertied a lot of the Pelasgian cult taboos with their close connection to those of the Orphic (not to mention the Druidic and Indian) - Partly influenced by the Samoan tradition he also refrained from fish! More, he attributed a verse to Orpheus which said that to eat beans was to eat one's parents' head. Seemingly because beans grow upwards, spirally, upon their prop, signifying resurrection and engendering the superstition that spirits contrived to be reborn as humans by entering into beans.

    According to Sir James George Frazer's tome The Golden Bough The Flamen Dialis was not permitted to touch or even name beans.

    Taliesin wrote in the 'Cad Goddeu' that beans bore 'An army of phantoms' in their shade (76). For him, beans would traditionally have been associated with harbouring spectres and witches' spells. And if such a ghost was encountered the Greeks and Romans would spit beans at them. Pliny records somewhere in the Naturalis Historia that the souls of the dead reside in beans (though I can't find the bit where he says that women have a marked relish for them), and the Scottish poet Montgomerie (1550 - 1598) wrote that witches rode on bean-stalks (being sacred to Brigid and her priestesses) on their Sabbaths! At the Roman feast of Lemuria/Zemuraz the householders threw black beans over their shoulders saying "haec ego mitto; his redimo meque meosque fabis" and thus giving the ghosts a chance of rebirth. Beans were offered to the Roman demi-Goddess Carnea at her festival on 1 June because she was believed to hold the keys to the underworld. Thus Graves

    The Platonists excused their absention from beans on the rationalistic ground that they caused flatulence; but this came to much the same thing. Life was breath, and to break wind after eating beans was a proof that one had eaten a living soul -

    The flower of the beans in white, and it blooms at the same season as the hawthorn. The bean is the White Goddess's - The mean of Pheneus in Arcadia had a tradition that the Goddess Demeter, coming in their wanderings, gave them permission to plant all grains and pulses except only beans.

    (Robert Graves. The White Goddess. Faber & Faber, 1948, 1952. 64, 65).