THE SACRED POWER OF FAT AND HONEY IN SAN AND ANCIENT GREEK MYTH AND RITUAL
AbstractIn this paper, I attempt a comparison between the sacred significance of fat and honey in the myths and rituals of the San peoples of southern Africa and the ancient Greeks. As Biesele (1993) and Lewis-Williams (2015) have convincingly demonstrated, the creation narratives of the diverse linguistic groups which constitute the /Xam (San) peoples of southern Africa, arguably the first peoples to call this country ‘home’, reveal strong links between the gathering and possession of animal fat and honey, and access to spiritual power. In ancient Greek mythology, as is well known from Callimachus and many later texts (e.g., Apollodorus and Nonnus), the infant Zeus was fed on honey by the bee-woman, Melissa. Many fundamental rites in ancient Greek religion, as reflected in texts from Homer onwards—libations, some sacrifices, ritual offerings such as the ‘panspermia’, and funerary rites—all provide evidence of the Greek belief in the spiritual potency of fat and honey. I thus analyse the similarities and differences between the significance of the fat-honey nexus in these two religious traditions and reflect on cross-cultural comparisons, their history, and their purpose in contemporary South Africa.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License (BY-NC-ND 4.0) that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).