Re: Dead body fetishism?

Robert Snower (rs222@WORLDNET.ATT.NET)
Sun, 28 Jul 1996 02:09:09 +0000

At 10:48 PM 7/27/96 +0000, KRISTIAN PEDERSEN wrote:
>It is interesting to note that embalming was developed during the Civil
>War so that the fallen dead could be returned to their homes for burial.
>After this, the technique took on a life of its own and its fortunes
>were closely juxtaposed to burgeoning conceptions of hygiene on the one
>hand, and the undertakers attempt to establish themselves as a
>pseudo-meidcal profession. The concern with hygiene occurred as cities
>became ever larger and disease was associated with squalor.
> However, I think it is important to bear in mind that a concern
>with the body and its treatment after deathhas had a long history in
>Christendom. Indeed, the resurrection was understood literally until
>the Middle Ages, and there were perverse discussions concerning what
>would become of Jesus Christ's foreskin, and Acquinas' speculation
>concerning the resurrection of a man that ate only human embryos that
>bore children that ate only human embryos.
> The MIA issue is of course a very practical consideration and it
>was important that it was pointed out. Also, the intervening factor of
>social control is an important aspect too; I think here of the
>legitimation value the bones of Saints had in the early Middle Ages.
>Oaths were sworn on the bones and where the bones of Saints were housed
>and who had control of them were important in political struggles and the
>assertion of legitimate claim to thrones and land, and so forth.

I am looking for support for my hypothesis (strictly from nowhere) that I
advanced in my post on this thread that a transition of interest in death
can be documented from souls, ghosts, and curses to bodies, and that this
change occurred in parallel with a change in philosophical interest from,
say Platonic Ideas, to the rise of madern science's interest not in the
wispy, but in tangible bodies. After all, the modern scientific perspective
got underway in just the medieval time you are talking about above, and St.
Thomas's interest in bodies within bodies corroborates me. I would take the
interest in bones as much more ancient, however. Can you help? I am sure
all this is pretty trivial, and probably just plain wrong.

Best wishes. R. Snower