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Salt: Beliefs surrounding our favourite substance (kind of long)

Posted by on Feb. 8, 2012 at 9:18 PM
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  • Romans salted their wine
  • There's an old Scottish tradition in which a pinch of salt was added to a batch of mash to keep witches out of it
  • Romanian legend has it that pregnant women who don't eat salt will give birth to vampires
  • In Japanese folklore, troublesome ghosts are packed in jars of salt
  • Japanese restaurant owners daily put mounds of salt outside their establishments for good luck
  • To get rid of a spirit, salt and burn the remains
  • From the mythical lore of Finland we learn that Ukko, the mighty god of the sky, struck fire in the heavens, a spark from which descending was received by the waves and became salt.
  • The Chinese worship an idol called Phelo, in honor of a mythological personage of that name, whom they believe to have been the discoverer of salt and the originator of its use.
  • Among the Mexican Nahuas the women and girls employed in the preparation of salt were wont to dance at a yearly festival held in honor of the Goddess of salt, Huixtocihuatl, whose brothers the rain-gods are said, as the result of a quarrel, to have driven her into the sea, where she invented the art of making the precious substance.
  • In Eastern countries it is a time-honored custom to place salt before strangers as a token and pledge of friendship and good-will.
  • Owing to its antiseptic and preservative qualities, salt was emblematic of durability and permanence; hence the expression "Covenant of Salt." It was also a symbol of wisdom, and in this sense was doubtless used by St. Paul when he told the Colossians that their speech should be seasoned with salt.
  • There is a story that a gallant robber had forcibly and by stealth entered the palace of a prince, and was about departing with considerable spoil, when he stumbled over an object which his sense of taste revealed to be a lump of salt. Having thus involuntarily partaken of a pledge of hospitality in another man's house, his honor overcame his greed of gain and he departed without his booty.
  • Homer called salt divine, and Plato described it as a substance dear to the gods.
  • The Hindus have a theory that malignant spirits, or Bhuts, are especially prone to molest women and children immediately after the latter have eaten confectionery and other sweet delicacies. Indeed, so general is this belief that vendors of sweetmeats among school-children provide their youthful customers each with a pinch of salt to remove the sweet taste from their mouths, and thus afford a safeguard against the ever-watchful Bhuts.
  • Among the Jews the covenant of salt is the most sacred possible. Even at the present time, Arabian princes are wont to signify their ratification of an alliance by sprinkling salt upon bread, meanwhile exclaiming, "I am the friend of thy friends, and the enemy of thine enemies." So likewise there is a common form of request among the Arabs as follows: "For the sake of the bread and salt which are between us, do this or that."
  • Gypsies likewise sometimes use bread and salt to confirm the solemnity of an oath; as did ancient Greeks and many other cultures
  • The natives of Morocco regard salt as a talisman against evil, and a common amulet among the Neapolitan poor is a bit of rock-salt suspended from the neck.
  • The peasants of the Hartz Mountain region in Germany believe that three grains of salt in a milk-pot will keep witches away from the milk; and to preserve butter from their uncanny influences, it was a custom in the county of Aberdeen, Scotland, some years ago, to put salt on the lid of a churn.
  • In Normandy, also, the peasants are wont to throw a little salt into a vessel containing milk, in order to protect the cow who gave the milk from the influences of witchcraft.
  • In the Province of Quebec French Canadians sometimes scatter salt about the doors of their stables to prevent those mischievous little imps called lutins from entering and teasing the horses by sticking burrs in their manes and tails. The lutin or gobelin is akin to the Scandinavian household spirit, who is fond of children and horses, and who whips and pinches the former when they are naughty, but caresses them when good.
  • In Marsala, west Sicily, a horse, mule, or donkey, on entering a new stall, is thought to be liable to molestation by fairies. As a precautionary measure, therefore, a little salt is placed on the animal's back, and this is believed to insure freedom from lameness, or other evil resulting from fairy spite. Common salt has long enjoyed a reputation as a means of procuring disenchantment. It was an ingredient of a salve "against nocturnal goblin visitors" used by the Saxons in England, and described in one of their ancient leech-books; while in the annals of folk-medicine are to be found numerous references to its reputed virtues as a magical therapeutic agent. In Scotland, when a person is ailing of some affection whose nature is not apparent, as much salt as can be placed on a sixpence is dissolved in water, and the solution is then applied three times to the soles of the patient's feet, to the palms of his hands, and to his forehead. He is then expected to taste the mixture, a portion of which is thrown over the fire while saying, "Lord, preserve us frae a' skaith."
  • In India the natives rub salt and wine on the affected part of the body as a cure for scorpion bites, believing that the success of this treatment is due to the supernatural virtue of the salt in searing away the fiends who caused the pain.
  • An ancient Irish charm of great repute in cases of suspected "fairy-stroke" consisted in placing on a table three equal portions of salt in three parallel rows. The would-be magician then encircles the salt with his arm and repeats the Lord's Prayer thrice over each row. Then, taking the hand of the fairy-struck person, he says over it, "By the power of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, let this disease depart and the spell of evil spirits be broken." Then follows a solemn adjuration and command addressed to the supposed demon, and the charm is complete.
  • In Bavaria and the Ukraine, in order to ascertain whether a child has been the victim of bewitchment, the mother licks its forehead; and if her sense of taste reveals thereby a marked saline flavor, she is convinced that her child has been under the influence of an evil eye.
  • The holy water of the Roman Catholic Church is prepared by exorcising and blessing salt and water separately, after which the salt is dissolved in the water and a benediction pronounced upon the mixture. In the Hawaiian ritual, sea-water was sometimes preferred.
  • Among the peasants of the Spanish province of Andalusia the word "salt" is synonymous with gracefulness and charm of manner, and no more endearing or flattering language can be used in addressing a woman, whether wife or sweetheart, than to call her "the salt-box of my love." The phrase "May you be well salted" is also current as an expression of affectionate regard.
  • Scotch fishermen have a traditional custom of salting their nets "for luck, and they also sometimes throw a little salt into the sea "to blind the fairies."
  • It may be that this natural craving for salt, which is common to man and beast, may have suggested a custom of etiquette in Abyssinia. For when a native of that country desires to pay an especially delicate attention to a friend or guest, he produces a piece of rocksalt, and graciously permits the latter to lick it with his tongue; a custom not a whit more ridiculous than the ceremonious offering of snuff and the social sneeze of modern civilization.
by on Feb. 8, 2012 at 9:18 PM
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Replies (1-2):
by on Feb. 8, 2012 at 9:45 PM
Salt certainly has it's associations in myth didn't know it went that far:)
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by Member on Mar. 3, 2012 at 10:58 PM
Very interesting, thank you for sharing!
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