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Honey and the Anvils of Women’s Thighs April 25, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval , trackback

Beachcombing has been enjoying some reading in Arabic aphrodisiacs: aphrodisiacs understood as any food that creates desire or that deals with problems of desire from impotence to disinterest. The Arab world seems to have been pre-eminent in this field and opusculi were written with such wonderful titles as the medieval The Book of Exposition in the Science of Coition with its invocation to make the ‘thighs of women anvils for the spear-handles of men’: a long way this from the Taliban stoning pedlars for playing mouth organs. Beachcombing was particularly intrigued by this recipe from The Perfumed Garden, a fourteenth- or fifteenth-century work.

He who feels he is weak for coition should drink before going to bed a glassful of very thick honey and eat twenty almonds and one hundred grams of the pine tree. He must follow this regime for three days. He may also pound onion seed, sift it and mix it afterwards with honey, stirring the mixture well, and taking of this mixture while still fasting.

Depending on what a hundred grams of pine tree is – nuts, resin, bark, wood?! – Beachcombing wouldn’t mind trying this. Certainly, this obsession with honey has survived in the Muslim Med. Ekdahl Raviez who offers this passage, states that still today in Turkey – and we guess  in the Arabic world – it is possible to buy honey, nut and pepper concoctions for improved sexual vigour. Honey, in fact, comes up repeatedly in Arabic aphrodisiacs: and let’s face it anything is better than oysters. Take this humbling passage from the Thousand and One Nights

He took two ounces of Chinese cubebs; one ounce of fat; extract of Ionian hemp; one ounce of fresh caryophyle (pinks); one ounce of red cinnamon from Serendib, then drachms of white Malabar cardamom, five of Indian ginger, five of white pepper, five of pimento from the isles, one ounce of the berries of Indian staranise, and half an ounce of mountain thyme. These he mixed cunningly, after having pounded and sieved them. He added pure honey until the whole became a thick paste; then he mingled five grains of musk and an ounce of pounded fish roe with the rest. [He then explained] ‘You must eat this paste two hours before the sexual approach, but for three days before that you must eat nothing save roast pigeons excessively seasoned with spice, male fish with the cream complete, and lightly fried ram’s eggs. If after all that you do not pierce the very walls of the room and get the foundations of the house with child [!], you can cut off my beard and spit in my face.

Any other unusual aphrodisiacs? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

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26/4/2012 Invisible writes in on a sceptical note and Beach can’t bear it. Don’t know about the other ingredients in this concoction, but I was told by a Middle Eastern Studies librarian that (Richard Burton’s translation aside) many of the stories in the 1001 Nights were the equivalent of our Traveling Salesman/Farmer’s Daughter tales–full of male fantasy sexual stereotypes and light smut. Thanks Invisible!!