The Sacred Power of Fat

"The principle may be put thus: according to primitive psychology, organic matter and, to some extent, inorganic also, is instinct with a Divine force or vital essence....  This essence, with its gifts of life or strength, and magical or supernatural power, is transmissible by various methods, primarily contact.  Inasmuch as its most obvious and convenient source is the flesh and blood of men and animals, the most direct method of assimilation is provided by eating and drinking; but an equally certain method is external application--a method which, in the form of anointing, is peculiarly adapted to the case of fats and oils.  Unction is thus based upon the same sacramental principle as the practice of eating the flesh and drinking the blood of sacred persons and animals.  The Divine life is transmitted, and communion with the sacred source attained, by anointing the worshipper with the sacred essence.  Fat is the most primitive unguent, and is regarded in early thought as a very important seat of life.  Ideas of sacredness are perhaps implicit even in its ordinary use, inasmuch as it is animal-substance....  Where the idea of the sacredness of animal life has been developed to an extreme, as amongst the Hindus, animal fat is tabued.

"To take illustrations: the Arabs of East Africa anoint themselves with lions' fat, in order to acquire courage.  The Andamanese pour melted pigs' fat over children to render them strong.  The Namaquas wear amulets of fat.  The Damaras collect the fat of certain animals, which they believe to possess great virtue....  The fat of the human body possesses a proportionately higher sanctity and potency.  It is especially the fat of the omentum [the caul] that is regarded as possessing this vital force....  The Australian savage [sic] will kill a man merely to obtain his kidney-fat with which to anoint himself.  It is believed that the virtues of the dead man are transfused into the person by anointing.  It is a regular practice throughout Australia to use for this purpose the fat of slain enemies.  These natives also employ it to make their weapons strong; sick persons are rubbed with it in order to obtain health and strength.  In India a prevalent superstition [sic] relates to the supernatural virtues of momiai, an unguent prepared from the fat of boys murdered for the purpose.  Grease made from the fat of a corpse is a potent charm among the Aleuts....  A piece of human kidney-fat, worn round the neck, was believed by the Tasmanians to render a man proof against magical influence.  The virtues of human fat as a curative and magical ointment are well known throughout the world.  By its use love may be charmed, warriors rendered invulnerable, and witches enabled to fly through the air.  Transformation into animals, as related in folklore, is effected by magical ointments, originally the fat of the animals in question."

--Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, ed. James Hastings et al., vol. 1 (New York and Edinburgh, 1908), p. 550 (emphasis added).

In other words, fat makes you brave.  Fat makes you powerful.  Fat makes you healthy.  Fat makes you strong.  Fat makes you virtuous and holy.  Fat is magical.  Fat is divine.  And anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to steal your charms.


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