woensdag 24 februari 2016

Bread of Dreams - Digest: 'Introduction'

"meanwhile, at the lower level of 'civil' society - in the subordinate world of instrumental and 'mechanical' beings, tyrannized by their daily use of 'vulgar breads', in which the mixture of inferior grains, often contaminated and spoiled by poor storage, or, as happened not infrequently, mixed (sometimes deliberately) with toxic and narcotic vegetables and cereals - the troubled rhythm of an existence verging on the bestial contributed to the formation of deviant models and delirious visions. [...]
Among the most common and popular foodstuffs that permitted the transition from a human condition on the verge of the unliveable to a drugged and paranoid dimension was poppyseed bread (the poppy was cultivated in vast areas of Europe with what today would be called industrial methods). It was a bread disguised and flavoured, and in addition spiced with coriander seeds, anise, cumin, sesame-seed oil, [...] In areas where it was cultivated, even the flour of hemp-seeds was used in the kitchen to prepare doughs and breads which 'cause the loss of reason' and 'generate domestic drunkeness and a certain stupidity'. One could doubtless regard this as having been directed not so much from above (as is somtimes supposed), as desired and sought by the masses themselves, consumed as they were by disease, hunger, nocturnal fears and daytime obessions.
The collective journey into illusion, [...] helps to explain the manifestation of collective mental delirium, of mass trances, of entire communities and villages exploding into choreal dancing. But it could also be the path which allows us to catch a glimpse of a two-sided mental model of the world [...] where the layers are overturned, the universals reversed, the world ending up head-over-heels, with head on the ground and feet in the air. The result of an altered measuring of space and time, based on a non-Euclidic geometry and a magical, dreamlike perspective [...].
The spectre of this vampirish society of people possessed becomes visible, fleeing the painful recognition of the brevitas vitae and the fear of death, while trying desperately and cruelly to prolong life by sucking young blood, opening and closing the veins of its own and other's bodies. This society is possessed by a corporeal culture neurotically sensitive to the internal circulation of the humours and convinced of the absolute primacy of good human blood [...]
The purging of the blood and the ridding of impurity [...] were the decisive moments of every therapeutic activity based upon the expulsion of corruption and evil [...] if the blood is not purged, it causes lycantthropy and fears and ugly thoughts, such that one sees men rave and become spellbound in foul and filthy places, among graves and corpses, becouse the infected spirit desires things similar to itself.'"

heks met incubus

"Seen from this perspective, the image of a febrile and sleepless society comes into view, attempting to resist the nocturnal visitations, the presence of the night-dwellers (incubi [demons in male form who lie upon women in order to engage in sexual activity with them, what may result in the deterioration of health, or even death], goblins [evil grotesque dwarf-like daemons], vampires, witches and werewolves), and to protect itself from the painful aggression of the dreadful and horrible dreams by means of a whole magical pharmacology that induced forgetfulness and serenity [...]."

Wormwood / Absintalsem (Artemisia Absinthium)
Wormwood / Absintalsem (Artemisia Absinthium) 

["Wormwood / Absintalsem (Artemisia Absinthium): Aan de knoppen van Absintalsem wordt vanouds een geneeskrachtige werking toegeschreven. Het bittere aftreksel van deze knoppen vormt een belangrijk bestanddeel van de dranken vermout en (klassieke) absint. De smaakstoffen die daarbij een rol spelen zijn absinthine en het naar menthol ruikende terpeen thujon. Zoals alle alcoholhoudende dranken, kan absint bij langdurig en frequent gebruik leiden tot verslaving en zenuw- en hersenbeschadiging." 
(Wikipedia, dd. 22/02/2016)]

"Wormwood for example (Artemisia Absinthium)[...] was considered the mother of all herbs [...] from which all others descended as offspring. 'A medicinal herb', of entirely feminine virtue, many call it the matricaria, especially women, for whom it is itself a treasure. They use it with cheese, eggs, etc., to make tortelli during the feasts for Holy Mary [... ] [a] regulator of the female cycle (and because it was governed by the moon), protector of the reproductive organs and feminine fertility, the matricaria [...] was associated [...] with the supernatural power of the mother of the Omnipotent, and then reconsecrated in the Christian baptism of herbs with the Virgin's name. It was ritually eaten as a food filled with enigmatic powers (in their form, too, these stuffed tortelli resembled a half-moon), on the day when it emanated the greatest therapeutic energy. [...]"


"The cuisine of the imaginary, dream-inducing diet, sacrilegious gastronomy (cannibalistic, vampirical and dung-eating), human ointments and plasters, profane oils and sacred unctions, 'mummy' fragments and cranial dust, medicinal powers de sanguinibus, breads filled with seeds and powders bestowing oblivion, expansive and euphoria-producing herbs, narcotic cakes, stimulating roots and aphrodisiacal flours, aromas and effluvia of devil-chasing plants and anti-dotes for melancholy (balneum diaboli), and 'seasoned' and 'fostered' spells created a network of dreams, hallucinations and permanent visions. [...] It was observed how real massacres and imaginary battles, wild warriors and avenging angels were 'depicted in the air', because [...] 'nature is wise and devilish' and 'future things are foreseen in the air'. An aerial theatre that prefigured to men 'signs' of things to come: a symbolic reading of the future conducted with eyes raised upwards. [...]"

Jheronimus Bosch, Hooiwagen-triptiek, zijpaneel links, ca. 1515, 136 x 45 cm, Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, cat. 13

Pieter Bruegel, De aartsengel Michaël in gevecht met de apocalyptische draak, 1562, 117 x 162 cm, Brussel, KMSK, inv. 584

"The people of the town and city as well; lived immersed in a world of expectation, in a suspended and bewitched condition, where portent, miracle and the unusual belonged to the realm of the possible and the everyday: the saint and the witch (in her own way, a saint of a different type) reflected the two ambiguous faces, the face side and reverse of the same neurotic tendency towards the separation from reality, the voyage into the imaginary and the leap into the fantastic. [...] The saint - eccentric wizard of ecstasy in a body consumed by penance and privation, his mind altered by fasts, like certain hermits kept alive by roots and herbs (but which ones?) - was equipped with shamanistic powers (trance, levitation, knowledge of the language of animals...). The 'immeasurable treasure of most holy poverty' possessed by the father of the Fraticelli produced the same effects of an upsetting withdrawal from reality, and in the process stimulated the same sense of the real and the impossible, as experienced by those who, suffering and subdued by an involuntary poverty, victims of an alienating indolence, fell into shocking hallucinations and stupefied contemplations of unreal worlds. [...]
In Florence during November l509, a wandering charlatan known as 'the Spaniard' - who often climbed up on to a bench to sell his prayers following his text with an example, like a good preacher - began his market-performance of the supernatural in this way:
'In order that you will believe that this comes from a saint who performs miracles, and that what I tell you is true, come and lead me to a hot baker's oven, which I will enter with this prayer.' And so he was led to this oven, at the Holy Trinity, with the people behind and many of the leading citizens ... On arrival at the baker's he said: 'Give me some uncooked bread' and threw it in the oven to show that it was hot, and then he stripped down to his shirt and dropped his trousers to his knees, and in this way he entered till high up, and stayed there awhile, and picked up the bread and turned around inside. And note, the oven was hot, he brought out the bread, and he didn't harm himself at all. When he had got out of the oven, he was given a torch and he lit it, and lighted as it was, he put it in his mouth and kept it there until it was extinguished. And many other times on the bench, over the course of several days, he took a handful of lighted tapers, and held up his hand for a length of time, and then he put them burning into his mouth, so that they went out. And he was seen to do many other things with fire: raising his hands into a pot of oil that was boiling on the fire, was seen many times by all the people. And thus he sold as many of the prayers as he could make; and I say that among all the things I have ever seen [the observer is Luca Landucci, a Florentine spice merchant] I have not seen a greater miracle than this, if it is a miracle. [...]
The boundaries between the real and unreal, possible and impossible, sacred and profane, abstract and concrete, holy and cursed, purity and filth, and idecency and sublimity are extremely fleeting and uncertain. [...]"

"Western Europe, at least until the seventeenth century, has the appearance of an enormous house of dreams where the diurnal regime becomes confused with the nocturnal, and which is master of surrealistic mythologies [...]. The Europe that, as Jacques Le Goff has splendidly perceived, turned repeatedly to 'agents of oblivion' more than to the professional witch, domina herbarum et ferarum, and that had the first innovators of the artificial delights and narcotic sweetness accompanying a concocted and directed diet of dreams in the women of the home: the mothers, grandmothers, aunts, godmothers, the wet-nurses who nursed the infants, and the domestic casters of charms.
At least until the end of the eighteenth century the habit of administering an infusion of poppies steeped in water to slightly restless children survived in the Italian countryside. This custom was widespread in France as well, since Josephe Raulin, towards the middle of the eighteenth
century, described as 'always suspect the narcotics which ... all too commonly are given to children to calm them', and the celebrated author of the 'Avis au peuple sur sa sante' (1760), the Lausanne doctor Samuel André Tissot, recognized that 'les remèdes tirés de l'opium ... sont d'une absolute necéssite [aux enfants].' [...]"

Black Nightshade / Zwarte Nachtschade (Solanum Nigrum/Hortense)
Black Nightshade / Zwarte Nachtschade (Solanum Nigrum / Hortense)), Leonhart Fuchs, De historia stirpium commentarii [...], Basileae (In officina Isingriniana), 1542, Renaissance Herbals /Smithsonian Libraries

["Solanum Hortense [nachtschadefamilie cfr tomaat, aubergine, aardappel etc] was a traditional European medicine used as a strong sudorific, analgesic and sedative with powerful narcotic properties, but was considered a "somewhat dangerous remedy." 
(Wikipedia, dd. 22/02/2016) 
"De niet meer in gebruik zijnde naam Hofnachtschade - bij Dodonaeus [Rembert Dodoens (1518 - 1585)]Hofnascaye - behoeft wel enige nadere toelichting: uit de naam Hofnascaye is op te maken dat de plant in de tuin of het hof gekweekt wordt. We laten hier Dodonaeus aan het woord: ‘Onder de geslachten van Nascaye oft Solanum is het eerste en gemeynste Tam, dat wij in dit Capittel beschrijven sullen: de andere zijn wilt.’ Boven de [...] afbeelding staat als benaming ‘Tamme oft Hof-Nascaye.’ Hij noemt haar dan ook Solanum hortense. Hortense beduidt in de tuinen gekweekt. De woorden Tam en Hof duiden erop dat zij gekweekt werd, maar merkwaardigerwijs vermeldt hij dit niet. Ook niet dat zij vroeger gegeten werd, hoewel hij de geschriften van Dioscorides [ca. 40 - 90 na Christus] wel degelijk kende. Deze laatste noemde de plant Strychnos en schreef dat zij als salade gegeten werd. In de tijd van Dodonaeus was de plant reeds uit de hoven ontsnapt en wijd verspreid want, deelt hij mede, ‘Nascaye wast op veel verscheyden gewesten, niet alleen in de hoven, daer het den naem Tamme oft Hof-nascaye voert, en daer het dicwijls onder ander cruyden vermengt pleegt te groeyen, maer oock wel neffens de wegen, aen de canten van de velden ende bouwlanden, bij de hagen ende heggen, omtrent oude muren ende weegen, vervallen huysen ende puynachtige steenachtige oft rouwe gruysachtige plaetsen.’ Volgens Valerius Cordus en K. Gesner (zestiende eeuw) werd zij in die tijd nog aangeplant en als groente genuttigd. Hierbij valt op te merken dat, volgens ons, niet de giftige bessen werden gegeten maar alleen de bladeren." (H. Kleijn , Planten en hun naam, 1970) "Solanum: is afgeleid van het Latijnse solari = pijnstillen, kalmeren of tot bedaren brengen, vanwege de pijnstillende werking van enkele soorten van het geslacht. Nigrum: duidt op de zwarte kleur van de bessen. Zwarte nachtschade: de bes is zwart, daaraan heeft ze het eerste deel van haar naam te danken. Het woord nachtschade komt van het middeleeuwse woord nachtschaduwe. Vroeger dacht men dat de plant toverkracht had en nachtmerries verdreef." 
(F. Kok, Waarom brandnetel?, 2007) (Etymologiebank, dd. 23/02/2016)]

"In the seventeenth century the botanist to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Paolo Boccone, a tireless traveller, noted that the women of Moravia 'in order to induce sleep in babies who cry in the cradle or in bed, place beside the baby a bunch of solanum hortense, upon which the baby quickly quiets down and falls asleep. The cause of this effect must be attributed to the narcotic effluvia, and also because the pores of the babies are susceptible and they are more capable of receiving the effect of these plant effluvia than adults. The belief that the emanations and effluvia of the volatile aromas and essences passed rapidly through the pores of the skin and were absorbed almost instantaneouslywas one of the commonplaces where learned knowledge and peasant doctrine coincided perfectly. From Albertus Magnus, who believed that the effluvia of opium, thorn-apple and crocus could be absorbed even at a distance, it passed to Ambroise Paré, who none the less took a critical position on this matter in De vulneribus sclopetorum, and to FallopioFioravantiCardano (of the De subtilitate), and Robert Boyle, author of a singular Tentamen porologicum, who (as in another of his works, the Specificorum remediorum concordia cum corpuscolari philosophia) not only upheld the therapeutic benefit of wearing medical substances hung from the neck, but solemnly declared to have been cured
of a haemorrhage simply by holding in his hand moss taken from a human skull.
In this general faith in the simultaneous absorption through the skin's pores, the greases, oils, ointments, plasters and poultices occupied a privileged position in the transmission of pharmacological messages, both harmful and beneficial. [...]
Society of old was made up of a swarm of people, oiled, smeared, anointed and spiced, violently odorous and unbearably smelly, where everyone was in turn anointed and anointer, and where the sense of smell dominated heavily[...]."

"In this regard at least, Campanella's City of the Sun is not at all utopian, resembling rather a normal report on the customs of an ordinary European city:
'They eat what is most beneficial and suitable according to season ... The Solarians make great use of fragrances ... [they] chew some marjoram, parsley, or mint and rub it on their hands. The folk use incense ... they often wash their bodies with wine and aromatic oils ... they observe the stars, inspect herbs ... they use prayers, fragrances, head comforters, sour things, gaiety, and fatty broths sprinkled with flour. In preparing tasty dishes that are a delight they have no equals. They make great use of mace, honey, butter, and many aromatic herbs ... they know a secret, marvellous art by which they can renew their bodies painlessly every seven years.'"

Mandrake/Alruin (Mandragora Officinalis)
Mandrake/Alruin (Mandragora Officinalis)

(nachtschadefamilie): De alruinwortel bevat giftige alkaloïden (scopolamine, atropine, apoatropine, hyoscyamine, cuskhydrine, solandrine, mandragorine en andere hallucinogene tropaanalkaloïden). De plant werd vroeger als narcoticum en pijnstiller, en deels ook als hallucinogeen middel gebruikt, onder meer in heksenzalf." 

Henbane/Bilzekruid (Hyoscyamus Niger)

["Henbane/Bilzekruid (Hyoscyamus Niger) (nachtschadefamilie): De gehele plant is zeer giftig. De belangrijkste gifstoffen zijn de zogenaamde tropane alkaloïden scopolamine, hyoscyamine, atropine. De vergiftigingsverschijnselen zijn een opgezwollen buik en hevige krampen. Hierop volgt eerst verlamming en ten slotte de dood.In de volksgeneeskunde werd deze narcotische (pijnverdovende) en hallucinaties opwekkende plant als krampoplossend middel en bij astma ingezet. De bladeren, en ook de gemakkelijker doseerbare zaden, werden voor hun roesopwekkend effect gerookt. Tot in de 17e eeuw werd bilzekruid gebruikt als smaakstof voor bier." 
(Wikipedia dd. 22/02/2016)]

(Black) Poppy (Papaver Somniferum)
(Black) Poppy (Papaver Somniferum)

["(Black) Poppy / Papaver (Papaver Somniferum) produces edible seeds and is also the source of the crude drug opium which contains powerful medicinal alkaloids such as morphine and has been used since ancient times as an analgesic and a source of narcotic, medicinal and recreational drugs." 
(Wikipedia, dd. 22/02/2016)

Poplar / Populier (Populus) 

["Poplar / Populier (Populus): De binnenbast van de (zwarte) populier kan gegeten worden. De bast kan gedroogd en verpoederd worden zodat het een meel wordt. Van dit meel kan een brood worden gebakken. Het is noodvoedsel. Galen of Galenos von Pergamon, een arts uit het oude Griekenland meldde reeds een medicinaal gebruik van de knoppen van de bloemen van de zwarte populier. Deze worden gebruikt ter pijnbestrijding. Ook vandaag de dag kunnen we de knoppen van de zwarte populier tegen komen in een pijnstillende balsem." 
(Mens en gezondheid, dd. 22/02/2016)] 

"In this aromatic world of sensitive skin and magnetic pores, in order to prevent nursing infants from falling victim to 'terrifying dreams', 'hideous dreams', and 'fantasies' that 'by inciting dreams disturb the sleep', the wet-nurse, for her part, had to maintain a strict diet, eating 'lettuce in broth or in boiled salad and poppyseeds: sedative substances that were transmitted to the infant along with the milk. And furthermore, every night the anointing ritual took place beside the cradle: the infant was smeared from one temple to the other with a poplar ointment [in which poplar buds were mixed with black poppymandrake and henbane], rancid oil and a little opium, and a bit of vinegar, spreading this on the nostrils as well. A more effective remedy', advised the Roman doctor Scipione Mercuri, who died in 1615, 'is to boil lettuce seed and white poppyseed, with a little saffron and vinegar, in the rancid oil, spreading this over the temples with a cloth. A small amount of white poppy syrup taken through the mouth will also help. '
Thus prepared and 'seasoned', the infant was entrusted to the dark arms of the night. The initiation into controlled dreaming and the artificial ease of opium-induced sleep began with swaddling clothes. From infancy to old age narcosis ruled supreme."
(Piero Camporesi, 'Introduction', Camporesi 1996, pp. 17-25)

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