Friday, July 1, 2005

Hilarious Journal Articles Part 9

The use of the kidneys in secular and ritual practices according to ancient Greek and Byzantine texts

Kidney International 68 (1), 399-404.
The use of kidneys in secular and spiritual practices was very common for centuries. In this article we present some references on their employment as sacrificial offers, as plain food or as a source for medicaments. Our material derives from Greek texts of the Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine eras. Relevant extracts from the Old Testament are also included, as they have become part of a common cultural heritage in that period of syncretism, when Jews were Hellenized and Greeks orientized. From the fragments cited in this article, it is obvious that the practical use of kidneys by priests, doctors, and lay persons in the periods under discussion was widespread. The sacrificial offering was based on the religious significance of the organ. The dietary consumption of the kidneys was limited by their function as urine producers. Their medicinal use was dictated first, by the abundance of the adipose tissue surrounding them, which was an ideal warming and binding substance. Second, it may be explained by the deeply rooted conviction that eating a particular organ led to the incorporation of its strength, thus protecting the corresponding eater's organs. Those practices should not surprise us in view of their corresponding modern use. Currently, kidney donors offer their organs in a sacrificial gesture, kidneys are consumed as a delicacy worldwide, and renal tissue is therapeutically used in transplantations and, until very recently, as a source for hormonal substances.
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