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 Fish on Friday

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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Fish on Friday   Sun 03 Jan 2016, 21:13

In my "great railway" thread I asked:
"BTW: If someone knows why in the Catholic countries there is fish on Fridays..."
Or is it also in the Protestant countries?
And why on Friday and why fish?

Kind regards, Paul.
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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: Fish on Friday   Sun 03 Jan 2016, 21:59

Certainly in my own nominally Anglican family, Friday was usually a fish day. I think Saturday too was also traditionally a fish day in England since at least as long ago as the 16th century. Presumably it's a hang-over from the obligatory non-meat days as laid down by the medieval catholic church, and that was all to do with fasting, penitence and looking after one's soul (though not one's sole!). And I'm guessing that the principal fast day is Friday in commemoration of Christ's crucifixion on Good Friday.

In England despite Henry VIII's break with Rome the routine of regular non-meat days seems to have continued largely unabated, at least for a while. But Edward VI (or rather Seymour) and later Elizabeth I, both found it necessary to re-affirm some of the old catholic fish-days, if only just to support the local fishing industry. They both made it illegal to sell and eat meat in Lent with severe fines if you or your butcher were caught, and I think they both decreed that all Fridays and Saturdays should be meat-less too. I seem to remember from school learning that Elizabeth I was particularly keen on enforcing fish days as a means of supporting the fishing fleet, with an eye to (cheaply) increasing England's reserve of sailors who could if necessary be used to man her warships.

PS : Found the reference ...

William Cecil (later to be Elizabeth's Secretary of State) was in 1563 secretary to the Parliamentary committee drafting a bill for building up the navy and fishing fleet, and on 10 March he gave a speech to the House of Commons, outlining his,

".... arguments to prove that it is necessary for the restoring of the navy of England to have more fish eaten and therefore one day more in the week ordained to be a fish day, and that to be Wednesday rather than any other .... Wherefore all these things to be considered, that the trades which have been of merchandise into the Levant and Spain is decayed, the trades of navigation into Island [Iceland] and Eastland [the Baltic] is impeached, the building of ships is costly and difficult for lack of timber, the experience of the statutes prohibiting strangers to bring in fish and wines proveth that, notwithstanding those prohibitions, the navy and mariners have decayed, and on the other side, selling of fish out of the realm hath no present great vent: it must needs follow that the remedies must be sought to increase mariners by fishing, as a cause most natural, easy and perpetual to breed and maintain mariners ... Let the old course of fishing be maintained by the straightest observation of fish days for policy's sake; so the sea coast should be strong with men and habitations and the fleet flourish more than ever."

There was considerable opposition to the bill, principally amongst the more extreme protestant members of the House of Commons who regarded fish days as "popish practices", however the bill was passed on 15 March 1563. So Wednesdays, which became popularly known as "Cecil's Fasts", were declared fish days in addition to the existing Friday and Saturday meat-less days. However the regulations were apparently hard to enforce and so after 1585 the government let this bit of legislation lapse.

Of course for a Tudor peasant whose usual diet was bread, ale and vegetable pottage, with an occasional egg, morsel of hard cheese, scrap of smoked and salted bacon, or a little bit of dried stock fish ... the complusory meat-free days were not too much of a hardship beyond his normal existence.


Last edited by Meles meles on Tue 05 Jan 2016, 18:11; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : some serious grammar and spelling errors)
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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: Fish on Friday   Mon 04 Jan 2016, 13:04

There's also this:

The 16th century Essex farmer and poet, Thomas Tusser (1524-1580), in his book of instructional poems, 'Five Hundred Pointes of Good Husbandry' (1573) has the following verses.

 - The Farmer's Daily Diet -

A plot set down for farmer's quiet
As time requires to frame his diet:
With sometimes fish and sometimes fast,
That household store may longer last.
Let Lent, well kept, offend not thee,
For March and April breeders be.


Spend herring first, save salt-fish last,
For salt-fish is good, when Lent is past.

When Easter comes, who know not than,
The veal and bacon is the man.

And Martilmas beef doth bear good tack,
When country folkes do dainties lack.
When Mackrill ceaseth from the seas,
John Baptist [mid-summer] brings grass-beef and pease.

Fresh herring plenty Michell [Michaelmas] brings,
With fatted crones and such old things.
All Saints do lay for pork and souse,
For sprats and spurlings for their house

At Christmas play, and make good cheer,
For Christmas comes, but once a-year.
Though some then do, as do they would,
Let thrifty do, as do they should.


For causes good, so many ways,
Keep Embrings
[ember days*] well, and fasting-days.
What law commands we ought t’obey
For Friday, Saturn
[ie Saturday], and Wednesday.

The land doth will, the sea doth wish,
Spare sometime flesh, and feed of fish.

Where fish is scant, and fruit of trees,
Supply that want, with butter and cheese.


*Embrings - ie ember days in English (in Latin known as: quattuor anni tempora - "four seasons of the year"), were those days set apart for consecrating to God the four seasons of the year and for imploring his blessing by fasting and prayer. They were settled by the Council of Placenza (1095) to be observed on the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, after the first Sunday in Lent; after Whitsunday; after the 14th of September; and after the 13th of December. The religious significance of Wednesday, Friday and Saturday are that these were supposedly the days on which Christ was betrayed, died and was entombed.

So in England in the 1570s, Lent, the ember days and indeed every Friday, Saturday and Wednesday (unless they coincided with religious festivals like Christmas when it was allowed to eat well) ... all these dates, amounting to almost half the days of the year, were supposed to be held as fasting/non-meat/fish days as decreed by the church and by law. However Tusser does also have in his chapter entitled 'Good Husbandly Lessons':

Keep truly thy Sabbath, the better to speed;
Keep servant from gadding, but when it is need:

Keep fish-day and fasting-day, as they do fall,
What custom thou keepest, let others keep all.


Which might suggest that by 1570s, although all Fridays, Saturdays and Wednesdays were supposed to be observed as fast/fish days, there was increasingly perhaps an element of individual conscience about it ... at least if you could get away with it. If you trusted your family and servants to keep quiet, it must have been very tempting to occasionally eat meat on a fish day, especially during the month-long fast of Lent, or if you didn't personally hold with these "popish practices". Neverthless, by William Cecil's 1563 Act, the penalty for eating meat on a statutory meat-free day was either 3 months in gaol or a hefty fine of £3.

I wonder whether the royal court also strictly observed all these obligatory fast days.
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Islanddawn
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PostSubject: Re: Fish on Friday   Tue 05 Jan 2016, 02:17

@Meles meles wrote:
*Embrings - ie ember days in English (in Latin known as: quattuor anni tempora - "four seasons of the year"), were those days set apart for consecrating to God the four seasons of the year and for imploring his blessing by fasting and prayer. They were settled by the Council of Placenza (1095) to be observed on the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, after the first Sunday in Lent; after Whitsunday; after the 14th of September; and after the 13th of December. The religious significance of Wednesday, Friday and Saturday are that these were supposedly the days on which Christ was betrayed, died and was entombed.

So in England in the 1570s, Lent, the ember days and indeed every Friday, Saturday and Wednesday (unless they coincided with religious festivals like Christmas when it was allowed to eat well) ... all these dates, amounting to almost half the days of the year, were supposed to be held as fasting/non-meat/fish days as decreed by the church and by law. However Tusser does also have in his chapter entitled 'Good Husbandly Lessons':




Those are still the traditional fasting days in the Orthodox church MM, every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Plus the 40 days of lent before Easter and a 40 day fasting period before Xmas as well. Not that anyone does any of it anymore or takes any notice of it, only the religious hardliners do. Although fasting in this part of the world means absolutely no product from an animal that has blood, which includes all proteins (fish and meat) as well as dairy. Except for shell fish and squid as they have no blood. I'd expect that the Western Christian church once had the same rules governing fasting days as the Eastern but have become lax over time.

Fasting days may have made sense in the past when food production was far less than today, but it isn't really necessary these days.
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Fish on Friday   Wed 06 Jan 2016, 21:51

Thank you Meles meles and Islanddawn for your in depth explanations.
One says that Belgium was a nearly 100% Roman-Catholic country, but as I see it now, even for me, attending a Roman-Catholic school in the Fifties it is obvious that although with the harsh indoctrination, it was only a small varnish that ultimatley remained in the brain afterwards...
We had a vague knowledge that Friday had to do with the cruxification of Christ...and as a token of fastening one had to eat fish...fish the food of the poor people...and as a kind of humiliation as Christ had done...

Read for the first time in my life the word "lent" here in this thread...had to look for the meaning:
"the period from Ash Wednesday to Easter Saturday"
Yes those memories of the obliged ash cross ((spelling?)don't find the translation of the Dutch "assekruis") on Ash Wednesday...
We had to go to the parish church to let mark us on the forehead by the priest with an ash cross...and show it at school...some youngsters made it by themselves with the ashes of the coal stove at home...

Kind regards to both, Paul.
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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Re: Fish on Friday   Wed 06 Jan 2016, 23:19

Using ashes for repentance crops up several times in the Old testament along with the wearing of sackcloth - or in Mordecai's case, with strong wailing to protest Xerxes' treatment of the Jews. My church school was big on telling us the origins of such things - and often in a tongue in cheek manner. Blame my style on my early raising.... further to this we were also told we ought to go and have peek at the local Catholics on Ash Wednesday getting daubed with it.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Fish on Friday   Thu 07 Jan 2016, 09:25

Daubing with ashes isn't just a Catholic thing: it has become popular again in certain charismatic circles of the Church of England. It's a messy business, I believe, involving oil and ashes mixed into a kind of holy paste which is then applied to the foreheads of the faithful who are expected to exhibit this evidence of their faith all day, only washing off the mark at night. Walking around Marks and Spencers with an oily/ashy smudge on one's face is no doubt an embarrassing experience in this secular age. It is one I have eschewed.

Mary, Queen of Scots, was given permission by the Pope to eat red meat and drink red wine during Lent. She was pregnant with the future James I & VI at the time, and the relaxation of the Lent diet rules were allowed in order to "build the infant's bone and blood".

Breaking the dietary rules during Lent was a good way of shocking one's elders: one of the charges brought against Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (son of our favourite Duke of Norfolk), in 1543 was that he had been seen eating meat during Lent. This was in addition to drunken sprees when he and his friends had outraged the good citizens of London by smashing the windows of churches and aldermen's houses and by throwing stones at passers-by. They were also seen "shooting pellets" at the whores on Bankside. But the young Earl's eating of meat, still strictly forbidden during Lent, really upset people: Howard was warned by George Blagge, a religious radical, what people might infer from this, but Howard complacently replied:"We shall have a madding time in our youth, and therefore I am very sorry for it." The Lord Mayor complained to the Council, and Howard and two other meat-eating, window-smashing miscreants were hauled before the Council. Howard pleaded that he had only broken the windows of papists. He was sent to the Fleet for a short spell for the "breaching of the King's peace", but nothing seems to have been said about the food issue, although Bishop Gardiner, a conservative, had wanted much stiffer sentences for the rowdy young aristocrat and his friends.
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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: Fish on Friday   Thu 07 Jan 2016, 09:44

Of course eating just fish is not necessarily the same as fasting.

Lent was the most important fast and then not only was meat forbidden but so were milk, eggs and cheese (eggs, since they were supposed to promote fecundity were particularly forbidden). But for the wealthy fasting was relative and there were always ways to cope with the restrictions. Milk, for example, could be replaced with almond milk of ground almonds mixed with white wine or fish broth, and fish pastries could be enriched with ground chestnuts and disguised with spices. Prior to his break with Rome Henry VIII was very strict about these dietary matters, and his fish (meat free) days were always just fish, or whatever 16th century minds considered to be fish, but an all fish diet need not be particularly frugal. A menu for a fish day at Henry and Catherine of Aragon's table (circa 1520) includes plaice, porpoise, seal, salmon, pike, eels or lampreys, carp, trout, crabs, lobster and sea bream..... fishy certainly, but fasting it wasn't.

The break with Rome however does seem to have changed things. In 1541 Henry proclaimed that eggs, butter and cheese could all now be included in fast day diets, total Lenten abstinence was abandoned, and the number of holy days was reduced by about three quarters. Accordingly the consumption of fish started to go down. The decline was partly arrested under the hard-line protestant policies of Edward VI (or the Lord Protector Seymour) and under Catholic Mary, but under Elizabeth a middle-ground seems to have been reached, with fish days enforced by law to support the fishing industry, but a certain tolerance towards other non-meat dishes.

What you could eat was also determined by sumptuary laws: sturgeon, porpoise, "wale" and other "royall fysshe" .... peacocks, bustards, swans and "other birds of like greatness", could only be eaten by the nobility. But that is another matter.


Last edited by Meles meles on Thu 07 Jan 2016, 10:13; edited 1 time in total
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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Re: Fish on Friday   Thu 07 Jan 2016, 10:11

Sumptuary..... glorious word, MM. I must make an effort to use it as this week's personal challenge - not here, of course. And it's bin collection day so opportunity is immediate. Sorry, do carry on with the interesting stuff here.
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PostSubject: Re: Fish on Friday   Thu 07 Jan 2016, 10:42

@Temperance wrote:
Breaking the dietary rules during Lent was a good way of shocking one's elders: one of the charges brought against Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (son of our favourite Duke of Norfolk), in 1543 was that he had been seen eating meat during Lent. This was in addition to drunken sprees when he and his friends had outraged the good citizens of London by smashing the windows of churches and aldermen's houses and by throwing stones at passers-by. They were also seen "shooting pellets" at the whores on Bankside. But the young Earl's eating of meat, still strictly forbidden during Lent, really upset people: Howard was warned by George Blagge, a religious radical, what people might infer from this, but Howard complacently replied:"We shall have a madding time in our youth, and therefore I am very sorry for it." The Lord Mayor complained to the Council, and Howard and two other meat-eating, window-smashing miscreants were hauled before the Council. Howard pleaded that he had only broken the windows of papists. He was sent to the Fleet for a short spell for the "breaching of the King's peace", but nothing seems to have been said about the food issue, although Bishop Gardiner, a conservative, had wanted much stiffer sentences for the rowdy young aristocrat and his friends.

That made me smile, but you are right, people then took these matters very seriously.

Andrew Boorde (sounding like Amos Starkadder) wrote in his 'Dyetary' (1542) that he was concerned that the lack of strict fasting would result in souls, "knockynge at paradyse gates to go in, a-wepynge and a-waylyng at theyr rejectshun"  ... (and just remember, "they'll be no butter in Hell!")

Mind you even Boorde goes on to admit that by the end of Lent he was thoroughly nauseated by salty stock-fish and muddy tasting carp and eels.


By Shakespeare's time the regular consumption of fish seems to have become firmly associated with Catholism. In King Lear (1608), Act 1, scene 4, Kent vows to be loyal and true, and by inference orthodox in faith to the (Anglican) church:

"I do profess to be no less than I seem—to serve him truly that will put me in trust, to love him that is honest, to converse with him that is wise and says little, to fear judgment, to fight when I cannot choose, and to eat no fish."    [audience laughs]
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Fish on Friday   Thu 07 Jan 2016, 15:56

MM wrote:
By Shakespeare's time the regular consumption of fish seems to have become firmly associated with Catholism. In King Lear (1608), Act 1, scene 4, Kent vows to be loyal and true, and by inference orthodox in faith to the (Anglican) church:

"I do profess to be no less than I seem—to serve him truly that will put me in trust, to love him that is honest, to converse with him that is wise and says little, to fear judgment, to fight when I cannot choose, and to eat no fish."    [audience laughs]


Yes, the meaning of "I am a loyal Protestant" is the respectable version (compare the line with one in Marston's The Dutch Courtezan:"Yet I trust I am none of the wicked that eate fish a Fridaies." However, the laughter of the audience may have been delight in Kent's being extremely vulgar - nothing, I'm afraid, to do with religion. The groundlings certainly would have sniggered: compare Romeo and Juliet Act I, sc i, line 36.


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PostSubject: Re: Fish on Friday   Thu 07 Jan 2016, 22:18

PS Thought I had better add my authority for above: it is Kenneth Muir, editor of my Arden edition of Lear. In his note on "eat no fish" (p.36), Professor Muir explains the point very tactfully: "From Romeo and Juliet I .i. 36, it seems possible that Kent's meaning is indecent."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_Muir_(scholar)
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PostSubject: Re: Fish on Friday   Fri 08 Jan 2016, 08:57

My take on the fast day thingy, for what it's worth.

Much of what would later be accepted as standard Islamic culture derived not from the Arabic people amongst whom it had originated but from the Iranian Sassanids, the first really powerful bloc politically to be converted to the religion at a later point and who had by then a long established and proven administrative system designed almost specifically for expansion and therefore immediately popular with the camel herders made good who previously ran the Islamic show. From doctrine to academia, the style of religious observation, the music, the political subdivisions we know as emirates, and so on, a direct line can be traced from modern Islamic norms back to Sassanid society.

During the Anastasian war between the Sassanid and the Byzantine empires the emperor of the Byzzies constructed an extensively fortified bulwark against the Sassies in a place called Dara around 505CE (incidentally just recently back to being a crucial border flashpoint situated, as it is, almost directly on today's Turko-Syrian border). Dara and its associated defensive network led to a period of stalemate though not quite a truce between the warring sides, much like the North-South Korean border today. However it also meant that it was inevitable that the massed armies on both sides, as well as the citizenry, grew to assimilate each other's patterns of behaviour.

One of these was the Sassanid observation of fasting on Friday, a day of religious importance to them which would be reflected later in its adoption as the Islamic sabbath. On the other side the Christians were still emulating their Jewish roots and fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays (they had pushed the ritual on from Tuesdays and Thursdays a while before), Wednesday being the big day for fasting and self-mortification etc, a fact reflected in the Ash Wednesday tradition as mentioned by someone earlier in the thread.

The Byzantine Emperor Anastasius at the time, aside from his problems with the pesky Sassanids, was indirectly involved in another huge row - a developing schism in the Western Roman Empire's Christian set-up in which a group of clerics, incidentally Anastasian supporters, had directly challenged the authority of the Roman-based mob and elected their own alternative pope a few years earlier. All sides eventually agreed to let the German Theodoric act as a sort of arbitrator in the case and he had, in the intervening few years, knocked enough heads together to get everyone (quite literally) singing from the same hymn sheet again, even if all the big players were rather disgruntled about the arrangement and the pendulum of authority had swung back and forth between the "official" pope Symmachus (who at one point scarpered into hiding when he heard his embezzlement and womanising was being viewed in a bad light by Theodoric's thought police) and his opponents, Bishop Laurentius of Milan (the "unofficial" pope from earlier), various senators, and of course the Byzantine agents operating within the West.

Meanwhile in Dara everything was going swimmingly. The bulwark was doing its job and in fact had rapidly evolved into an important trading hub. Social synchronisation was in full swing, and part of this synchronisation - everyone agreed - was to ditch one of the two fast days every week on the Christian side. Anastasius, as much to put the pope on the spot as for any other reason, insisted he declare one day defunct. Symmachius, whose own mob were also campaigning to ditch a fast day anyway, obliged and declared everyone could forget about the Friday bit.

For Anastasius however this was too good an opportunity to miss. Down in Dara everyone had started ditching the Wednesday fast day anyway, basically going into Sassanid mode on the issue, so he used the occasion to show Symmachius up and demonstrate his own clout as a Top Christian. He renewed efforts to get his lad Laurentius recognised as pope, and of course one of Larry's campaign points was to retain only Friday as a fast day (another was that the Church pay a stipend to all senators, an understandably popular policy amongst the senators in Rome).

Theodoric, who had been to and fro between Rome, Milan and Ravenna for years now as each crisis arose, was getting too long in the tooth and mightily fed up with all the religious and petty political bickering. Also - an Arian himself - he resented that all the compromises he was negotiating still didn't include any of the top bishops (Western or Eastern) relaxing their hard-line stance against his own mob, the Arian Visigoths, being heretical.  

At the end of his tether he therefore summoned all the big players to Ravenna. To show Anastasius he was fed up with him he told Laurentius to go forth and multiply and give up all the pope stuff immediately. To show the emperorless Westerns who was really boss he ordered Symmachus to henceforth keep his pecker dry and while he could embezzle as much as he wanted from the gullibles in future Theodoric was to get a percentage. And to show that he understood the importance of keeping things sweet with the Sassanids he finally ruled on the fast day thingy. Friday it was to be from now on.

So there you have it.
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Gilgamesh of Uruk
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PostSubject: Re: Fish on Friday   Fri 08 Jan 2016, 20:30

Of course, since it was held that the Barnacle Goose hatched not from an egg, but from a goose barnacle, if you were rich enough, that counted as fish.
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Fish on Friday   Fri 08 Jan 2016, 20:52

@Gilgamesh of Uruk wrote:
Of course, since it was held that the Barnacle Goose hatched not from an egg, but from a goose barnacle, if you were rich enough, that counted as fish.


Have no time to post this evening, but for the comeback of Gil I have always time...

A happy new year, father of Ur Nungal.

Your friend Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Fish on Friday   Fri 08 Jan 2016, 22:07

Thanks, Paul, and the same to you, although of course you are aware that the New Year begins with the first sighting of the crescent moon in the sign of Aries - the Babylonians adopted the Sumerian calendar, and it was then passed on to the Hebrews during the captivity in Babylon, so the Jewish month Nisan coincides roughly with the Sumerian new year "Month of the Sanctuary"
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PostSubject: Re: Fish on Friday   Sat 09 Jan 2016, 10:36

Oddly enough, I was talking to some friends yesterday about fasting. They are all on this 5-2 diet and yesterday was a fasting day for them. They would not eat any of the goodies that had been provided for us by a generous hostess. I don't approve of starvation diets, and I had to be very careful about what I said - and ate - in front of these hungry females. All the ladies avowed that, besides losing weight, they found the fasting days to be useful for self-discipline and spiritual "control". Dangerous doctrine - even for middle-aged women. Starvation, even for short periods of time, does peculiar things to the brain: it is, however, an oddly compulsive pursuit - a form of addiction, in fact. My friends were not keen to hear my theories on this, so I eschewed lecturing them all on the dangers of specious "control", spriritual or otherwise. They, meanwhile, refused to chew anything at all.

It seems many of the female fasters from history - all anxious for this elusive spiritual "control" and self-discipline - were actually suffering from either borderline or full-blown anorexia. "Holy anorexia" in famous nuns has been well documented, but other women have also been tempted to overdo the fasting. Please don't be put off because the following article was published in the Daily Mail: it's by Giles Tremlett whose biography of Katherine of Aragon I read with interest. If ever a woman lacked "control" over her life it was Katherine: religious fasting in her youth was something which seems to have given her some spurious sense of mastery. But it could have damaged her. Certainly Katherine's dedication to fasting caused enough concern to necessitate appeal to the Pope. She was "ordered to eat" -  a phrase that has struck fear into the hearts of many stubborn, intelligent, rebellious - but powerless - anorexic girls since the 16th century and perhaps before. And how telling is that other expression: "may be revoked and annulled by men"...


I should be interested to find out whether religious fasting was more common among female religieuses than amongst their male counterparts.


http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-1326591/Was-Henry-Vllls-wife-anorexic-Catherine-Aragons-secret-problem.html


At some stage Catherine began eating erratically. Fasting on religious grounds offered her an opportunity to shun food. Today’s eating disorders are often associated with exaggerated perfectionism, and religion provided Catherine with examples of ways to pursue that. Some of the more extreme practices could involve self-harm – ranging from self-flagellation to starvation. Famous medieval saints such as Catherine of Siena had even starved themselves to death. ‘She was constrained every day to vomit the food she had eaten,’ the saint’s confessor had reported. Comparisons with today’s self-starving anorexics chasing a perfect body are apt. The saints replaced ‘the ideal of thinness with holiness’, says historian Rudolph Bell, author of a book on female saints whom he called ‘holy anorexics’.


Among those who spotted the danger to Catherine’s health was the Pope. Julius II, whose permission was required for many marriages between Europe’s royal families, was a key player in continental politics. So when he received news that Catherine was overdoing her fasting and jeopardising her ability to bear children, he wrote to the Prince of Wales.


The Pope’s letter is dated confusingly and it is not clear whether it was meant for Prince Arthur or Prince Henry, but Catherine was probably aged between 15 and 19 – the age at which today’s eating disorders appear. Julius leaves little doubt about the worry she caused. He had been told that the ‘fervour of her devotion’ was such that she excessively observed ‘holy oaths and prayers, fasting and abstinence’ without the Prince of Wales’s permission. Catherine ‘does not have the full power of her own body’, the Pope wrote. ‘And the devotions and fasting…if they are thought to stand in the way of her physical health and the procreation of children…can be revoked and annulled by men.’


He gave the prince ‘authority to restrain and compel’ her and prevent anything ‘that would stand in the way of the procreation of children’. Catherine, in other words, could be ordered to eat.





An extremely fattening cream cake, ironically called a "religieuse".


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PostSubject: Re: Fish on Friday   Sat 09 Jan 2016, 11:35

Temp wrote:

I should be interested to find out whether religious fasting was more common among female religieuses than amongst their male counterparts.

As far as I have read, yes it was in the medieval period anyway. Fasting for some religeuse was more than just a way of suppressing and controlling the bodily appetites, it stopped menstruation. Fasting and sexual abstinence are always linked but for women by eliminating that marker of womanhood, monthly bleeds, fasting to that degree was entirely in accord with the view that women's bodies natural bodies were dangerous cold and wet receptacles of fleshy temptation.

You really should read Roberta Gilchrist on medieval religious women, in fact on medieval life in general. She's great.


They made religieuse on one episode of Great British Bake Off:



and here's the recipe if you have nothing to do one day........

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/religieuse_46431
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PostSubject: Re: Fish on Friday   Sat 09 Jan 2016, 11:48

@ferval wrote:
Fasting for some religeuse was more than just a way of suppressing and controlling the bodily appetites, it stopped menstruation. Fasting and sexual abstinence are always linked but for women by eliminating that marker of womanhood, monthly bleeds, fasting to that degree was entirely in accord with the view that women's bodies natural bodies were dangerous cold and wet receptacles of fleshy temptation.

And further I think fasting can also lead to early onset of the menopause thus permanently stopping menstruation although that was probably not initially Catherine of Aragon's problem as she did conceive several times.
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PostSubject: Re: Fish on Friday   Sun 10 Jan 2016, 12:01

Deleted - it was a silly digression from the OP.
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PostSubject: Re: Fish on Friday   Sun 10 Jan 2016, 22:12

@nordmann wrote:
My take on the fast day thingy, for what it's worth.

Much of what would later be accepted as standard Islamic culture derived not from the Arabic people amongst whom it had originated but from the Iranian Sassanids, the first really powerful bloc politically to be converted to the religion at a later point and who had by then a long established and proven administrative system designed almost specifically for expansion and therefore immediately popular with the camel herders made good who previously ran the Islamic show. From doctrine to academia, the style of religious observation, the music, the political subdivisions we know as emirates, and so on, a direct line can be traced from modern Islamic norms back to Sassanid society.

During the Anastasian war between the Sassanid and the Byzantine empires the emperor of the Byzzies constructed an extensively fortified bulwark against the Sassies in a place called Dara around 505CE (incidentally just recently back to being a crucial border flashpoint situated, as it is, almost directly on today's Turko-Syrian border). Dara and its associated defensive network led to a period of stalemate though not quite a truce between the warring sides, much like the North-South Korean border today. However it also meant that it was inevitable that the massed armies on both sides, as well as the citizenry, grew to assimilate each other's patterns of behaviour.

One of these was the Sassanid observation of fasting on Friday, a day of religious importance to them which would be reflected later in its adoption as the Islamic sabbath. On the other side the Christians were still emulating their Jewish roots and fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays (they had pushed the ritual on from Tuesdays and Thursdays a while before), Wednesday being the big day for fasting and self-mortification etc, a fact reflected in the Ash Wednesday tradition as mentioned by someone earlier in the thread.

The Byzantine Emperor Anastasius at the time, aside from his problems with the pesky Sassanids, was indirectly involved in another huge row - a developing schism in the Western Roman Empire's Christian set-up in which a group of clerics, incidentally Anastasian supporters, had directly challenged the authority of the Roman-based mob and elected their own alternative pope a few years earlier. All sides eventually agreed to let the German Theodoric act as a sort of arbitrator in the case and he had, in the intervening few years, knocked enough heads together to get everyone (quite literally) singing from the same hymn sheet again, even if all the big players were rather disgruntled about the arrangement and the pendulum of authority had swung back and forth between the "official" pope Symmachus (who at one point scarpered into hiding when he heard his embezzlement and womanising was being viewed in a bad light by Theodoric's thought police) and his opponents, Bishop Laurentius of Milan (the "unofficial" pope from earlier), various senators, and of course the Byzantine agents operating within the West.

Meanwhile in Dara everything was going swimmingly. The bulwark was doing its job and in fact had rapidly evolved into an important trading hub. Social synchronisation was in full swing, and part of this synchronisation - everyone agreed - was to ditch one of the two fast days every week on the Christian side. Anastasius, as much to put the pope on the spot as for any other reason, insisted he declare one day defunct. Symmachius, whose own mob were also campaigning to ditch a fast day anyway, obliged and declared everyone could forget about the Friday bit.

For Anastasius however this was too good an opportunity to miss. Down in Dara everyone had started ditching the Wednesday fast day anyway, basically going into Sassanid mode on the issue, so he used the occasion to show Symmachius up and demonstrate his own clout as a Top Christian. He renewed efforts to get his lad Laurentius recognised as pope, and of course one of Larry's campaign points was to retain only Friday as a fast day (another was that the Church pay a stipend to all senators, an understandably popular policy amongst the senators in Rome).

Theodoric, who had been to and fro between Rome, Milan and Ravenna for years now as each crisis arose, was getting too long in the tooth and mightily fed up with all the religious and petty political bickering. Also - an Arian himself - he resented that all the compromises he was negotiating still didn't include any of the top bishops (Western or Eastern) relaxing their hard-line stance against his own mob, the Arian Visigoths, being heretical.  

At the end of his tether he therefore summoned all the big players to Ravenna. To show Anastasius he was fed up with him he told Laurentius to go forth and multiply and give up all the pope stuff immediately. To show the emperorless Westerns who was really boss he ordered Symmachus to henceforth keep his pecker dry and while he could embezzle as much as he wanted from the gullibles in future Theodoric was to get a percentage. And to show that he understood the importance of keeping things sweet with the Sassanids he finally ruled on the fast day thingy. Friday it was to be from now on.

So there you have it.


Nordmann thank you very much for your historical review.

Kind regards, Paul.
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