Friday, November 12, 2010

Virgil's Prosciutto Souls

So, yesterday I got the opportunity to talk ancient food studies with Professor Jaeger from the University of Oregon and she pointed out this great food analogy from the Aeneid to me. Then, I ran and found Joe Farrell, Virgil scholar, to tell him.

Me: Joe! Joe! This is so exciting!
Joe: Uh oh. Have you been talking to Mary Jaeger?
Me: Yes! You know in the Aeneid at book 6 lines 740 to 741 ...
Joe: Oh no. No, Jake.
Me: No really, when the souls are hanging in the underworld "suspensae ad ventos", "suspended to the winds" ...
Joe: You are going to make all the souls prosciutto aren't you?
Me:Yesyesyesyesyes! Isn't that wonderful!
Joe: Um ... I'm really busy right now, or something.

Very exciting, see, because that is how one makes prosciutto. One salts the meat and then washes it and then hangs it where the wind can blow over it, while it slowly cures. So, to Virgil, then, these prosciutto-souls then later become new humans, or something. Until, you know, one finishes the cycle of ages, or something. Much more interesting than the esoteric mumbo jumbo is the salt reference here. See, in this passage there are three ways a soul gets purified of its past sins enough that it can be recycled, so to speak. These are by a big whirlpool (sub gurgite vasto), fire, and winds. Winds? But, if the winds are understood to be the second half of the curing process with the first being salt, then it makes much sense. Water, fire, and salt are all recognized ritual cleansing agents in the ancient world. So, isn't it comforting to know that when you die you might become soul prosciutto for a while before you go the Elysian fields?
Thanks for the citation, Professor Jaeger!

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