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FIERCE WOMEN 1 4 9

Ashtoreth Ashtoreth or Ashtaroth is the name used in the Bible for the Phoenician goddess Astarte. • See ASTARTE.

Astarte Astarte was a Phoenician goddess of fertility and sexual love, the counterpart of the Greek Aphrodite. She is referred to in the Bible as Ashtoreth or Ashtaroth, and worship of her is linked with worship of Baal and similarly condemned: 'And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim, and Ashtaroth' (Judg. 10: 6).

The bailiff was pointed out to Gabriel, who, checking the palpitation within his breast at discovering that this Ashtoreth of strange report was only a modification of Venus the well-known and admired, retired with him to talk over the necessary preliminaries of hiring.

THOMAS HARDY Far From the Madding Crowd, 1874

Bacchus Bacchus is an alternative name for Dionysus. • See Dionysus.

Demeter In Greek mythology, Demeter was the goddess of cornfields and fecundity, whose symbol is an ear of corn. She was the mother of Persephone, and when Persephone was abducted by Hades and taken to the underworld, Demeter wandered around looking for her daughter and swore that the earth would remain barren until Persephone was restored to her. A compromise was finally reached whereby Persephone would spend nine months of each year with her mother, the time when plants grow and produce fruit, and three months of each year with Hades in the underworld, the time when the earth is cold and barren.

Dionysus In Greek mythology, Dionysus, also called Bacchus, was the god of fertility and nature. His worship was associated with wild dancing, and he later became the god of wine, who loosened inhibitions and inspired creativity.

• See special entry • DIONYSUS on p. 117.

Flora In Roman mythology, Flora was the goddess of flowers and spring, depicted in Sandro Botticelli's celebrated painting, Primavera. Anyone carrying flowers can be described by invoking her name.

I rang the door-bell, holding my flowers spread across both outstretched forearms. I did not want to appear like a delivery man. Rather I was a simple, a frangible petitioner, assisted only by the goddess Flora.

JULIAN BARNES Talking It Over, 1991

Freyja In Norse mythology, Freyja was the goddess of love and also of fertility, fecundity, peace, and plenty.

Fierce Women

The allusions to fierce, aggressive women (or she-monsters) here are con-

siderably more negative in their connotations than are those to their male

counterparts at the theme Macho Men. • See also Murder.

1 5 0 FOOD AND DRINK

Amazon In Greek mythology, the Amazons were a race of female warriors alleged to exist on the borders of the known world. Their name was explained by the Greeks as meaning 'without a breast', from a story that they cut off their right breasts to enable them to draw their bows more easily. An Amazon is thus any tall, strong, or aggressive woman, or a woman who becomes fierce once her anger has been roused.

Save for a certain primness as she offered the tray to her sister, Sophia's demeanour gave no sign whatever that the Amazon in her was aroused.

ARNOLD BENNETT The Old Wives' Tale, 1908

The girl glared back at him, her splendid brows beetling like an Amazon's. EDITH WHARTON The Custom of the Country, 1913

harpy In Greek and Roman mythology, harpies (originally from the Greek harpuiae, meaning 'snatchers') were fierce monsters with the heads and bodies of women and wings and claws of vultures. The word 'harpy' has now become part of the language, meaning a cruel or grasping, unscrupulous woman.

And all the time, as we were pitching it in red hot, we were keeping the women off him as best we could, for they were as wild as harpies.

ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, 1886

termagant Termagant was the name given in medieval morality plays to an imaginary deity of violent and turbulent character. The name now denotes an overbearing or shrewish woman.

Food and Drink

The entries below encompass not only food and drink but also feasting and revelry. • See also Gluttony.

Amalthea In Greek mythology, Amalthea was a she-goat or goat-nymph, who provided the milk Zeus drank when he was first born. • See also HORN OF

PLENTY.

ambrosia Ambrosia was the food of the Greek gods and the source of their immortality. • See also NECTAR.

We

feasted that evening as on nectar and ambrosia.

CHARLOTTE BRONTE Jane

Eyre, 1847

The

rolls didn't taste quite as good as they had done in the cool of the morning, but

as

I ate I began to feel

better. The tepid water was a benison, and the fruit was

ambrosia itself.

 

MARY STEWART My Brother Michael, 1960

Bacchanalia The Bacchanalia was the name given to the annual feast and celebrations in honour of the Greek god Dionysus, also called Bacchus. The

FOOD AND DRINK 1 5 1

celebrations were characterized by wild orgies and drunkenness. The corresponding adjective 'Bacchanalian' can refer to drunkenness or to wild or drunken partying.

The learned profession of the

law was certainly not behind any other learned pro-

fession in its Bacchanalian propensities.

CHARLES DICKENS A Tale of Two

Cities, 1859

That was what she might well do, he feared, to teach him not to venture out of the familiar, safe dustbin of their world into the perilous world of night-time bacchanalia, revelry and melodrama.

ANITA DESAI In Custody, 1984

Jagger runs and cycles; Aerosmith singer Steve Tylor has banned sugar, salt, wheat, yeast, fat, red meat and alcohol from his band's menus. Even the Grateful Dead while publicly burning the Bacchanalian flame at both ends, were secretly calorie watching.

The Independent, 1997

Bacchante In Greek mythology, the Bacchantes or Maenads were the (usually female) followers of the god Bacchus, priestesses who indulged in drunken and orgiastic celebration at the festivals of Bacchus.

The praise of folly, as he went on, soared into a philosophy, and Philosophy herself became young, and catching the mad music of Pleasure, wearing, one might fancy, her wine-stained robe and wreath of ivy, danced like a Bacchante over the hills of life, and mocked the slow Silenus for being sober. Facts fled before her like frightened forest things. Her white feet trod the huge press at which wise Omar sits, till the seething grape-juice rose round her bare limbs in waves of purple bubbles.

OSCAR WILDE The Picture of Dorian Cray, 1891

She drank, and she loved, and she danced. But she never again became the Bacchante, the beloved, the high priestess of her Art.

DOROTHY PARKER in Constant Reader, 1928

Bacchus Bacchus was another name for Dionysus, the Greek god of fertility and, in later traditions, wine. • See special entry n DIONYSUS on p. 117.

Now Eastman enters Atkins's tea-room, that holy of holies, shrine—one supposes—of the anti-Bacchus.

TIMOTHY MO An Insular Possession, 1986

Belshazzar Belshazzar, King of Babylon, gave a great banquet with wine for 1,000 of his lords (Dan. 5: 1-4, 25-8). The wine was drunk from the gold and silver goblets that his father, Nebuchadnezzar, had taken from the temple in Jerusalem. As they drank the wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, a hand appeared on the wall and wrote the words 'Mené, Mené, Tekel, Upharsin', heralding the end of the kingdom. •See special entry DANIEL on p. 86.

A sideboard was set out . . . on which was a display of plate that might have vied

. . . with Belshazzar's parade of the vessels of the temple. WASHINGTON iRviNC The Sketch-Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Cent, 1820

'I always like this room,' said Spandrell as they entered. 'It's like a scene for Belshazzar's feast.'

ALDOUS HUXLEY Point Counter Point, 1928

Cornucopia •See HORN OF PLENTY.

1 5 2 FOOD AND DRINK

Falernian Falernian was a particularly good-quality wine made in Roman times from the grapes of the Falernian territory in Campania and praised by both Horace and Virgil.

'If I am to take more of the severe falernian,' said he, laying his hand on the decanter of port, 'I must know the lady's name.'

ANTHONY TROLLOPE The Small House at Allington, 1862

fatted calf • See PRODIGAL SON.

Horn of Plenty The horn of plenty was one of the horns of the she-goat or goat-nymph Amalthea, in Greek mythology. Zeus endowed the horn with the magical property of refilling itself endlessly with whatever food or drink was desired. The horn of plenty was later stylized as the Cornucopia (from the Latin words cornu copiae, literally 'horn of plenty'), pictured as a goat's horn spilling over with fruit, flowers, and stalks of corn.

Jacob's pottage In the Bible, Jacob and Esau were the twin sons of Isaac and Rebecca. One day, Esau, returning from the countryside, found Jacob cooking 'red pottage of lentils' or lentil stew. He was extremely hungry and asked for some of the stew. Jacob would only give Esau the food if he swore to sell Jacob his birthright as the elder of the twins. Esau sold his birthright to Jacob and had the stew (Gen. 25: 29-34).

New Deliverance was borderline charismatic and not the sort of church I felt comfortable attending; but at lunch the day before, Nadine had caught me off guard—a fudge delight cookie has the power to cloud minds—and laid on the guilt. 'Isabel says you went to her and Haywood's church last Sunday and to Seth and Minnie's Sunday before last, but you haven't been to ours in almost two years.' With Jacob's pottage rich and chocolaty on my tongue, I had no quick words with which to resist.

MARCARET MARON Southern Discomfort, 1993

LucullliS Lucius Licinius Lucullus (c. 110-56 BC) was a wealthy Roman general who led a luxurious life and was famed for hosting spectacularly lavish feasts.

There had been placed in the middle of each table . . . a basket woven from hardened vines in a highly rustic Appalachian Handicrafts manner. . . . Sherman stared at the plaited vines. They looked like something dropped by Cretel or little Heidi of Switzerland at a feast of Lucullus.

TOM WOLFE The Bonfire of the Vanities, 1987

manna Manna was the 'bread' provided by God for the Israelites when they were crossing the desert during their flight from Egypt (Exodus 16). The manna appeared as small white flakes like frost on the desert floor and would not keep overnight except on the sixth day when enough was provided to keep for the seventh day also, the Sabbath, on which the travellers were to rest. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey, and it sustained the Israelites until they arrived at the border of Canaan. • See special

entry o MOSES AND THE BOOK OF EXODUS on p. 264.

The word is not prepared beforehand; it falls on me mind like the manna fell from

FOOD AND DRINK 1 5 3

heaven into the bellies of the starving Israelites. STELLA GIBBONS Cold Comfort Farm, 1932

nectar Nectar was the drink of the Greek gods. • See also AMBROSIA.

It was dreadful to be thus dissevered from his dryad, and sent howling back to a Barchester pandemonium just as the nectar and ambrosia were about to descend on the fields of asphodel.

ANTHONY TROLLOPE Barchester Towers, 1857

Then I say, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, Sir, this radish was like the nectar of the Cods.

MARCARET ATWOOD Alias Grace, 1996

Prodigal

Son The Prodigal Son, a younger son in the

parable

(Luke 15:

11-32),

squandered his share of his inherited property

in wild

living and

subsequently endured great poverty when his wealth was spent and the country in which he was living endured a famine. He returned, repenting, to his father's house where his father freely forgave him, ordered a fatted calf to be killed, and gave a celebratory and welcoming feast.

'Two eggs,' she commanded, rapping out her solicitude. 'Two, I insist. They were made especially for you.' 'You treat me like the prodigal son,' said Burlap. 'Or the fatted calf while it was being fattened.'

ALDOUS HUXLEY Point Counter Point, 1928

Samuel In the Bible, Saul, son of Kish, went looking for some donkeys of his father that had gone missing. After much searching, Saul was about to give up and return home when his servant told him that there was a man of God in the town whose prophecies always came true. Saul was concerned that he would not have enough food with which to reward the holy man, Samuel. When Saul found Samuel, Samuel had meat already set aside to feed Saul (1 Sam. 9: 22-4).

'May be so, Mr Henchard,' said the weather-caster. 'Ah—why do you call me that?' asked the visitor with a start. 'Because it's your name. Feeling you'd come I've waited

for 'ee; and thinking you might be leery from your walk

I laid two supper plates-

look ye here.' He threw open the door and disclosed

the supper-table, at which

appeared a second chair, knife and fork, plate and mug, as he had declared. Hen-

chard felt like Saul at his reception by Samuel.

 

THOMAS HARDY The Mayor of Casterbridge, 1886

 

Saturnalian The ancient Roman festival of Saturn in December, called the Saturnalia, was characterized by general unrestrained merrymaking. The term is often applied to a scene of wild revelry or an orgy.

Silenus In Greek mythology, Silenus was an old woodland spirit who was a teacher of Dionysus. He is often depicted as a lascivious old drunkard.

But now, of all inappropriate beings, who should appear but Silenus? Brocklebank, perhaps a little recovered or perhaps in some extraordinary trance of drunkenness, reeled out of his cabin and shook off the two women who were trying to restrain him.

WILLIAM GOLDiNG Rites of Passage, 1980

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