• Taboos of the past: How a goose, a goat, and a lettuce are all connected
Taboos, like culture, language, and Nicolas Cage’s hair line, are constantly changing. So as we explore taboos in society it's time we looked at taboos from the past, present, and from places that aren’t Australia
Airdate: 
Wednesday, May 28, 2014 - 19:30
Channel: 
SBS Two

In a thousand years some person on the other side of the world is going to dig up evidence of you texting in a bathroom cubicle and think “seriously, those people were disgusting". That's because the things we find taboo are constantly changing and even vary from culture to culture.

Now, I’m not going to lie to you, most of these taboos are about sex, but some of them are also about death.

Let's start with red ink. Red ink used to be taboo in Korean culture - specifically the practise of using red ink to write someone’s name.

Red ink is actually used to write peoples name on funeral banners in Korea to ward off evil spirits. So to write someone’s name in red ink was to imply that death or bodily harm was nearing this person.

Plus it's also a really good concept for an Asian horror movie which I totally just now copyrighted and you can’t have.

Food, of course is one of the major areas where taboos and culture have shifted.

I mean, I can’t remember a time when caramel wasn’t salted, and a kitchen wasn’t so much a thing you ruled as the place where you ate strawberry conserve with a tablespoon to stave away your bitter loneliness.

Well it turns out for the ancient Greeks lettuce was a taboo.

The Greeks believed that lettuce instantly withered an erection... which is great if you don’t want an erection. But the ancient Greeks were sexy people. They loved them.

Once upon a time it was also taboo for women in Rwanda, Africa to eat goats meat. Why?
Because the local thinking was they'd start to grow chin hairs and become stubborn, obviously. Also the Rwandan men selfishly wanted the delicious goat meat for themselves.

And it’s not just food you put in your mouth that's taboo. In certain parts of India, historically, a time-honoured way of removing bad karma was to marry a banana tree. All the bad luck was believed to have been transferred into the bark. But the point is, if you walked down the aisle with giant wood, that would be a taboo so maybe eat some lettuce first.

Now that we have death and food covered, let's get on to the sex ones.

The Lepcha people of Nepal prohibit sex for three months after a bear trap has been set.

The Cuna of Panama outlaw sexual intercourse during a turtle hunt.

The Yapese of Oceana prohibit sex during a fishing expedition.

The Ganda of Uganda forbid sex while canoes are being made.

The Semang of Malaysia believe that sex during the day will cause thunderstorms and lightning.

While the Bambara people of Africa thought daytime sex would result in an albino child.

But there are some behaviours that were taboo, and should probably always remain so.

Back in Weimar Germany, between the world wars, Berlin was basically a bratwurst orgy, where taboos largely didn’t exist.

Famously one of the trends was to decapitate a male goose, and use the necks empty cavity to, shall we say, capture one’s seed after a zesty act of self-love... and then cook and eat it. Yes you read that right.

Homosexuality was also a taboo at the time whilst sadism, sodomy, necrophilia, bestiality and gastronomy were simply seen as economical.

Personally, we call this the ultimate taboo.

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