From a French medieval tale/tail:

Two peasants are on the road and find a place to rest for the night with a married couple. One of the peasants falls ill during the night, so his friend, Rogier, gets up to find him some gruel. But Rogier returns to the wrong bed, where the wife’s bare arse sticks out from under the bed covers. He mistakes it for the head of his friend. Since it is dark, Rogier decides to put his finger to the hole (le trau) to see if it is hairy, since his friend has a beard. It is indeed hairy. Rogier now sticks his nose in the hole, thinking his friend has fainted and wanting to revive him with a kiss. ‘While he kisses the opening, a strong wind blasts forth from her fundament, gusting so noisily that he thinks that the companion is blowing on the gruel’. Rogier complains about his friend’s bad breath and lack of cooperation, but the wife farts away in blissful oblivion until, in complete exasperation, he pours the gruel over her bum.

From Valerie Allen, On Farting, pp. 54-5.

Some thoughts begin to gather for a study of biblical farts, as part of my ongoing ‘earthy Bible’ interest.

To begin with, Isaiah 16:11 reads: ‘Therefore my bowels (מֵעַ֣י) play like a harp for Moab and my innards (וְקִרְבִּ֖י) for Kir-heres’. Given that instruments have traditionally been regarded as replacements for the music of the body, here we have the musical bum at work.

And then, according to the venerable Augustine, once upon a time we were able to play that bodily instrument at the direction of our will:

Hence man himself too may once have commanded even from his lower members [membra inferiora] an obedience that by his own disobedience he has lost … Certain human beings … can at will do with their bodies some things that others find utterly impossible to imitate and scarcely credible to hear. For some people can actually move their ears, either one at a time or both together … Some people produce at will without any stench [sine paedore ullo] such rhythmical sounds from ‘down there’ [ab imo] that they appear appear to be making music [ut ... cantare videantur] even from that quarter (City of God 14.24, 4).

Thus, both the involuntary nature and the noted odour of anal bugling is actually a result of the Fall. One imagines Adam and Eve playing sweet music together as they rest in the shade of the evenings. But it also means – given that the Fall is overcome in heaven – that people such as Mr Methane or Roland the Farter provide glimpses of what the choirs of angels in heaven might actually be doing.

A title?  How about ‘The Music Album Musical Bum of the Bible’

A couple of highly recommended volumes:

On Farting: Laughter and Language in the Middle Ages, which features ‘Roland the Farter’, who performed an annual jump, whistle and fart before the king of England. Indeed the final two chapters are called ‘The Mystery of Roland’ and ‘Fartprints of Roland’.

Excrement in the Late Middle Ages: Sacred Filth and Chaucer’s Fecopoetics, in which we find a serious proposal for the discipline of ‘Waste Studies’.

(ht bg)

I am now the proud owner of yet one or two more of those strange texts that were published by places like ‘The Julian Press’ in the 1960s – especially Allen Edwardes’s The Jewel in the Lotus and Erotica Rabbinica. All in preparation for yet another essay in my plan of writing for 2010, or at least part thereof.  What I find intriguing in the midst of a description of the ‘sexual culture of the east’ – all gloriously orientalist in Said’s sense – is that material like this counts:

Breaking wind (zirt, fart), like belching (itkerreh), was considered by the Arab and Hindoo as an act of purification; for it sought to drive all evil spirits from the body. Zirteh, a loud discharge was highly civil and proper in the company of others; but the insidious fesweh (fizzle, creeper), with stench, was regarded as an insult. Many an Arab died because of it, especially when vented in the presence of royalty. Such an individual was termed Fezwaun (Fizzler) whereas his counterpart, a man of purity and esteem, was venerably entitled Eboo-ez-Zirteh (Father of Farts). Simo-jeh-el-Hewweh (Breaker of Wind) was the appellation granted an Egyptian bean-eater who could break wind in tune … Thereafter zirt, for its sanitary and respectful nature, acquired such attention that records were kept indicating the first time a person of distinction was heard to break wind. Thus, in conversation with a stranger, it was not uncommon for an Arab proudly to say: ‘I was born on the very night that Eboo-Hessen farted’ (Jewel o f the Lotus, pp. 272-3).

The berries of the bay tree mightily expel the wind, and provoke urine, help the mother, and kill the worms.

Nicholas Culpeper, The Complete Herbal, 1653.

I must admit that the image of someone farting, pissing and excreting dead worms all while helping mother is one that will stay with me all day.

Back when I lived in the USA for a bit – 6 months in 2004 – the highlight would have to have been Beano. As the slogan says, in the euphemistic fashion so common in that strange country, it ‘helps stop gas before it starts’. That is, it’s anti-fart juice. Prepare a delicious plate of rice and beans, or maybe baked beans on toast, and sprinkle some beano on it. No farts at all, or such is the claim.

In fact, in many airports and railway stations in the US, you’ll find signs like these:

Strangely, I never found beano on restaurant tables next to the salt and pepper. Or the waiter never seemed to come around with a massive beano bottle – ‘cheese? pepper? beano? But I much prefer that old adage: better to fart and stink a little than bust your bum and die a cripple.