It all started when we came across Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins (see below). A gripping, hilarious novel about the quest for immortality, this book is so full of beetroot references that reading a page feels like consuming a vast bowl of borscht. Always alert to the mythology of everyday life, we thought Tom might be onto something and decided to investigate...
Two hearts beet as one
Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of Love, was exquisitely beautiful. She was sexy, snugglesome and could melt hearts with the flick of a holy eyelid. And to what did she attribute her romantic powers? It wasn’t lipstick, perfume or a little black dress. It was beetroot. She couldn’t get enough of the stuff.
In fact, beetroot has a legendary connection to affairs of the heart. With APHRODITE as patron and unofficial Beet Goddess, the word spread that beetroots could enhance beauty and provide aphrodisiac properties. (APHRODITE’s beauty is universally acknowledged but we haven’t tested the beet’s erotic properties under lab conditions yet.) The Oracle at Delphi claimed that beetroots are worth their weight in silver, second only to horseradish in mystic potency. And the Oracle certainly knew a thing or two.
The belief persists to this day that if a man and a woman eat from the same beetroot, they will fall in love. (With each other, presumably.) That’s something many of you can take advantage of, and we wish you every happiness. These beliefs may simply be from association with APHRODITE, but we have a better theory. The beetroot is roughly the same color and shape as the organ of love, the heart. And that raises the humble beet from a boring vegetable to a Symbol.
So when women of the early Celt cultures used powdered beetroot as rouge and lipstick, they weren’t just making themselves red in the face. They were taking on the romantic aura of the hearty beet. Beetroots were even featured on early Valentine cards, such as the one by E. Curtis pictured here. Some of the puns on ‘beetroot’ were truly appalling.
Beetroot appears in several Talmud ceremonies to ward off disease and obtain God’s favor. The Hebrew word for beetroot appears to resemble the word for ‘banish’. It’s probable that the blood-red colour also has some health/military significance. If you have healthy beet-powered blood, you’ll quickly dispatch your enemies. Particularly if their unrighteous blood is turnip-colored.
Beetroots were also used in some cultures to color hard-boiled eggs, making them bright red. These were eaten as symbols of the Sun God to give prosperity, health and other benefits.
Finally, check out KVASIR, the Norse God of Inspiration. There’s a strong beetroot connection here as Kvas, the staple drink of the Slav and Nordic peoples, is made from fermented beet juice and comes straight out of the mythology. KVASIR can be found in our Norse department here: Kvasir.
A whiff of Immortality
Beetroot seems to have inspired Tom Robbins, author of Jitterbug Perfume, a very entertaining read. This should be a scratch’n’sniff book for adults but the cost would no doubt be prohibitive. Even without, the words fizz and bubble off the page.
This is a book that bounces to a beetroot beat with a boofy base. The God PAN makes an entrance and wails on the wild side to a Bandaloop bounce. It travels through time and around it from Tibet to New Orleans and beyond.
The thread that binds it together is the quest for immortality by Alobar, the ruler of a Bohemian tribe. He is sentenced to extermination for having grey hairs in his beard, as this is the sign for replacement by someone younger. Being still full of vigor he is not at all ready to go and manages to outwit the system by a feigned death, enabling him to escape and flee the area but then having to live on his wits.
Realising in time the world is so much larger than he envisaged and finding it to be ‘Roundo’ he sets off to round up ways to increase his life span and live life to the full.
Beetroots crop up constantly in his ever-lengthening life and jasmine wafts its way through the pages with great regularity. Along the way the secrets of Life, Death, Love and Happiness are revealed... Jitterbug Perfume is touching, blitheringly funny and as profound as you want to make it.
We can’t tell you more as we have foolishly lent out our copy, and it is not the sort of book to come back. You will have to buy your own. Thankfully Jitterbug Perfume is still very much in print.[/DIV_CLASS]