Event Title

Ambrosia, Pomegranate, and the Purpose of Prayer: Food as a Bridge Between Worlds in Ancient Greek Myth

Session Title

History and Literature

Faculty Mentor

Amanda Campbell, M.A.

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Department of English

Location

West 214

Start Date

12-4-2019 3:00 PM

Description

Food has always been a point of contact between human beings, a way of bridging the distance between us as individuals and as distinct cultures. To share a meal with someone, something so commonplace and yet so incredibly intimate, is an act that transcends all boundaries: gender, socioeconomic status, race, religion, language group—we all eat. In ancient Greek myth, an anthro-centric tradition of gods with exaggerated human characteristics, the transcendent power of food receives a similar amplification. Beyond just the power to unite human beings, the Greeks empowered food to unite entire realms, specifically the realms of the dead, the living, and the divine. By examining the rape of Persephone, Book 11 of The Odyssey, and the story of Cupid and Psyche, I will demonstrate the transitional property of food to bind realms. Among the three realms, there are four possible traversals: (1) from the divine to the mortal, (2) from the mortal to the divine, (3) from the mortal to the underworld, and (4) from the underworld to the mortal. There are no significant crossings between the divine and underworld—Hades himself, lord of the underworld, was banned from Mount Olympus. Most significantly, I will prove that the primary purpose of sacrifice to the gods was to create a bridge from the divine realm to the mortal realm, to bind the gods to the supplicant.

Previously Presented/Performed?

World of Food Interdisciplinary Conference, Winthrop University, February 2019

Course Assignment

ENGL 208 – Campbell

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Apr 12th, 3:00 PM

Ambrosia, Pomegranate, and the Purpose of Prayer: Food as a Bridge Between Worlds in Ancient Greek Myth

West 214

Food has always been a point of contact between human beings, a way of bridging the distance between us as individuals and as distinct cultures. To share a meal with someone, something so commonplace and yet so incredibly intimate, is an act that transcends all boundaries: gender, socioeconomic status, race, religion, language group—we all eat. In ancient Greek myth, an anthro-centric tradition of gods with exaggerated human characteristics, the transcendent power of food receives a similar amplification. Beyond just the power to unite human beings, the Greeks empowered food to unite entire realms, specifically the realms of the dead, the living, and the divine. By examining the rape of Persephone, Book 11 of The Odyssey, and the story of Cupid and Psyche, I will demonstrate the transitional property of food to bind realms. Among the three realms, there are four possible traversals: (1) from the divine to the mortal, (2) from the mortal to the divine, (3) from the mortal to the underworld, and (4) from the underworld to the mortal. There are no significant crossings between the divine and underworld—Hades himself, lord of the underworld, was banned from Mount Olympus. Most significantly, I will prove that the primary purpose of sacrifice to the gods was to create a bridge from the divine realm to the mortal realm, to bind the gods to the supplicant.