2-20-14 Notes - Forty and Incest Taboo

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University of California - Berkeley
Robin Einhorn

Saint Augustine – “ I thnk that life itself is represented by the number 40… Not without reason did the Lord remain on this earth forty days, after his resurrection, when he conversed with his disciples in his life.” 40 is important because • It means a lot – “I wouldn’t touch it with a 40-ft pole” • In the bible it’s the 3 most cited number – usually its actual quantities (# of lashes) • Symbolic meaning of 40 as birth or rebirth; birth or some sort of new rebirth • 40 days rest period in Judeo Christian and Islamic – after birth • 40 days as repentance or punishment – midlife crisis at 40 is sort of a repentance against the self. • Lent or quaresma after quaranta (Latin) = 40 days • If you look at incidents in the bible and quoran, o Noah – rained for 40 days and 40 nights – also symbolically translated to mean it rained a lot – so 40 is a large number – then 40 as rebirth o Judaism – Hebrew people lieved in desert for 40 years; time it takes to establish a new generation – eli, saul, Solomon, all ruled for 40 years – moses lived 3 40 year periods – kabbalah you can’t study or understand this until you are 40 o Christianity – Jesus fasted for 40 days in the desert; 40 days is the period between the resurrection and his ascencion – 40 martyrs, islam also has 40 martyrs o Islam – 40 is really significant bc the prophet Mohamed was said to have been called by God into a cave and could read the writing God told him to put on the cave wall, and this occurred when Mohamed was 40 years old. Musa spent 40 days on Mt Sinai, Mohamed prayed and faster 40 days in the cave, 40 followers to spread islam, 40 saints in islam, the one who assists the blind man 40 steps becomes worthy of entering heaven, mourning periods are 40 days long (in all 3 traditions) • Popular sayings in Arabic and Hebrew, deriving from the middle-east, so basically middle eastern sayings. In one Arabic saying, “the jew remains a jew even after 40 years” “do not trust a jew who has converted to islam even after 40 years” “do not trust the gentile even if hes 40 years in a grave” “do not trust the arab even after 40 years” • Allibaba and the 40 Theives • In each of these intstances from religious text or popular sayings, there is embedded one of the 4 symbolic meanings for 40 The Incest Taboo: What it is and Why it exists • While common to all humanity, it varies, it always has to do with kinship ties of some kind, we have to distinguish between two acts – incest whish is the prohibited popularly or legally union between sets of kin, and inbreeding – • In the us, sexual union is prohibited in the nuclear family set. It would only break the taboo when the child is biological. If she were adopted, it wouldn’t b inbreeding. • So in the case of adoption, if the father sleeps with his adopted daughter, it’s a breaking of the incest taboo but its not inbreeding. And inbreeding gives rise to hemophilia and other biological consequences • PS. In ancient Egypt, there was a period of time under roman rule for 300-400 years where brothers and sisters of the royals that married and had consecrated love and sexual relations. o Also happened in Hawaii and North African Kingdoms • Origins of the Incest Taboo o Evolutionary explanation  When people did inbreed (Paleolithic ancestors) harmful biological consequences arose and the taboo arose  Problems: confuses inbreeding with incest. Attributes a lot of scientific knowledge to very remote people, but they could not actually. It doesn’t account for the affects or the emotions at the thought of incest. Not only prohibited legally and popularly but its also associated with high emotions o Demographic explanation (Miriam Slater)  Posits a period, very remotely in the past, when people died at 35 and puberty occurred much later so that girls started to menstruate as late as 15 or 16 and no one could have a child with their parents because they would die by the time the children were fertile  Problems: doesn’t take account of brother sister relations, and its totally hypothetical o Childhood Association theories  Edward Westermark (The History of Human Marriage – 1891) • First articu
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