Monday, October 14, 2013

Pumpkinification XII: A Miscellany of Pumpkin Lore

I thought I'd close out my posts on pumpkins with a bit of pumpkin lore. First of all, a note on pumpkinification: the word originates from a satire by Seneca the Younger on the deification of the Roman emperor Claudius after his death, an attempt to toady to Nero as he came to power. It refers to Claudius being as round and melon-headed as a gourd, or 'pumpkin,' in translation, and deplores the "cruelty" and "injustice" of the former emperor's reign, as opposed to what will surely be a new Golden Age under Nero. It should be noted that Seneca was among the first of the many executions ordered by the capricious tyrant.
Here are some notes from Wikipedia about it:

"The Apocolocyntosis (divi) Claudii, literally The Gourdification of (the Divine) Claudius, is a political satire on the Roman emperor Claudius, probably written by Seneca the Younger. It is the only example of Menippean satire from the classical era that has survived. The title plays upon "apotheosis", the process by which dead Roman emperors were recognized as gods.

"Apocolocyntosis" is in fact Latinized Greek, and sometimes transliterated Apokolokyntosis. In the manuscripts the anonymous work bears the title Ludus de morte Divi Claudii ("Play on the death of the Divine Claudius"). The title Apokolokyntosis (Ἀποκολοκύντωσις, "Gourdification") comes from the Roman historian Dio Cassius, who wrote in Greek."
In slang a pumpkin can mean a fool, an important person, a beloved person, the head, the sun, the moon, a person from Boston, or, in the plural, breasts. Someone with a large expressionless face can be called pumpkin-faced. A pumpkin head is a person with an abnormally large head; it is also a derogatory term used to refer to a person of obvious Polish or Russian desent. originating from the oblong-oval shape of their 'melons'. In modern prison slang you "pumpkin head" someone by beating them with a hard object inside a pillowcase.
"Revered by the Chinese above all other plants, the pumpkin is widely respected as an emblem of fertility, presumably because of its generous size...In keeping with this reputation [of repelling evil], pumpkins are best planted on Good Friday. Once growing, they should never be pointed at, which will cause them to rot. Pumpkin seeds may be consumed to quiten an excessively passionate nature and, if mixed into a paste with oil and rubbed on the skin, will eradicate freckles." --The Cassell Dictionary of Superstitions.

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