Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Honey had many uses in antiquity

FOOD/BURIAL CUSTOMS: Keeping the Honey in the Land of Milk and Honey. Just in time for Rosh Hashanah, Israel’s annual honey festival shines a light on the variety of sweet products being produced—as well as the challenges facing the country’s beekeepers (Tablet Magazine).
Forty percent of the honey consumed in Israel every year is consumed during the High Holidays, when it is customary to eat honey and give it as a gift. So, just in time for Rosh Hashanah, the Israeli Honey Board is kicking off its annual honey festival at apiaries across the country. The festival, spread across more than 10 locations, started Sept. 22 and will continue until Oct. 29, after Sukkot ends.

Sounds like a nice festival. I note the article because it briefly comments on an unusual ancient use of honey and a legend about Herod the Great:
The belief that honey has healing properties isn’t new. Avidor told me that in ancient times, the Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, Assyrians, and Arabs used honey for embalming their dead. “After King Herod ordered his wife, Marianne, to be executed,” [Hertzel] Avidor [CEO of the Israeli Honey Board] said, “he kept her body in honey for seven years—supposedly because he loved her so much.”
This creepy story, which does not actually name Marianne, is related in the Talmud in b. Baba Bathra 3b. Some other ancient references to embalming in honey (which I have not checked myself) are collected here.