Pepper Mythology: Flavorsome Folklore
By Eric Vinje, Cosmic Chile
Peppers, hot sauce and salsa have all played a part in folklore and mythology. Here's a taste of what's been written and passed down over the years:
In astrology, Capsicums or chile peppers are considered part of the dominion of Mars, the ancient God of War.
In the late 17th century, Fuentes y Guzman wrote that people who ate red peppers would be protected against poison.
The ancient Incas, believing that peppers would be a disruptive influence, banned chiles at initiation and funeral ceremonies.
Forget garlic, holy crosses and silver bullets. Chiles were often considered the best deterrent against vampires and werewolves. They were burned to protect against attacks from these creatures of the night.
In addition to being a werewolf and vampire deterrent, hot peppers have often been used in witchcraft both to excise demons as well as ill humors from individuals. In many cultures, chile peppers are often seen as a way to ward off the "evil eye."
In Trinidad, according to the fiery-foods web site, East Indians wrap "seven red pepper pods with salt, onion skins, and garlic skins in paper" and pass it seven times around a baby to "remove najar, the evil eye, which is believed to cause unnecessary crying."
The same web site mentions that in the deep South of the United States, there is an African-American legend that in order for peppers to be hot, you must be angry when you plant them.
Don't let the bed bugs bite. Chiles have long been used as a fumigant for vermin such as bedbugs and rats.
Jethro Kloss, quoting the "Standard Guide to Non-Poisonous Herbal Medicine" in his book "Back to Eden" writes that a peculiar "effect" of eating peppers is that if someone is "thoroughly saturated" with capsicum and dies in the desert "the vultures will not touch the body on account of its being so impregnated with the capsicum."
Even today myths and folklore continue to abound about the power of chiles. The Transcendental Capsaicinophilic Society's tongue-in-cheek web site is dedicated to "worshipping spicy food." Its site includes the "Litany Against Pain" chant which is to be repeated silently when someone is tempted to complain of the burning derived from eating fiery foods and chiles:
Teach me, Chile, and I shall Learn.
Take me, Chile, and I shall Escape.
Focus my eyes, Chile, and I shall See.
Consume more Chiles.
I feel no pain, for the Chile is my teacher.
I feel no pain, for the Chile takes me beyond myself.
I feel no pain, for the Chile gives me sight.