Friday, February 10, 2012
Adventure #4: Night at the Museum
(Above: Not interested in helping your love life.)
I'm afraid I didn't experience much in the way of adventure Wednesday night. Though it was very cool to be inside the American Museum of Natural History after hours. I'm pretty sure I could have slipped off into one of the exhibits while no one was watching. (How amazing would it be to roam the dinosaur wing in the dark? Or sneak through the Hall of Minerals, with all of its glow-in-the-dark rocks?)
Alas, I am a law abiding citizen. Yawn. Maybe I'll go back for one of the private night tours they offer. (But I gotta say, the AMNH is expensive. I've been there a few times already this year, and I think I could have purchased my own dinosaur with the money I've spent on admission.)
The aphrodisiac lecture was interesting, and the woman who gave it (Francine Segan) seemed quite charming. They handed out wine and chocolate. So I'm not inclined to complain.
Most of the "aphrodisiacs" discussed were examples of "sympathetic magic." (Which would be a great name for a book.) If a food resembled something "naughty," the ancients often assumed it could work some magic when it came time for lovin'. I'd give you a few examples, but I'm pretty sure it's not necessary.
(Above: Sliced antler.)
Other "aphrodisiacs" (many still used today) are the organs or body parts of animals that are known for their vim and vigor. Rhinos, tigers, bears, sharks, and stags have all been sacrificed in the name of love. It's one of the reasons that rhino, tiger, and shark populations have been decimated in recent decades.
I guess I was expecting a little less magic and a little more science. I've eaten enough figs in my life to doubt their magical properties. (Though they are delicious. There's a fig tart in one of Segan's books that I must make and consume as soon as possible.) And if you've ever seen a picture of a rhino that's been killed for its horn, you know why I'd rather stick with herbs.
Of course if you go online, and you can find herbal remedies for any condition. Doctors in other cultures have been practicing herbal medicine for thousands of years. The first Chinese book on the subject may have been written as early as 2700BC. Thumb through a few ancient texts, and you'll probably find hundreds of "aphrodisiacs." But here's something to ponder: Most of those books were written by men. And men and women might expect different things from an aphrodisiac. (Just a hunch.)
However, in Europe during the Middle Ages herbal remedies were often the province of "wise-women." And I bet one of those ladies knew exactly what to sprinkle in the soup if you were keen to catch a certain gentleman's eye. Unfortunately, the "wise-woman" profession became much less desirable when its practitioners began to be burned as witches. Who knows how much knowledge died with them. A few of the old recipes must have survived, of course. That's why I wonder if the best place to look for a female-friendly aphrodisiac might be a "witchcraft" shop.
I don't believe in magic. (Although one of my female ancestors was hanged for witchcraft.) But I do believe there are many things that modern science can't yet explain. So maybe I'll check out one of the witchcraft supply stores here in New York. I'm not really in the market for an aphrodisiac, but I love an experiment. However, if I find a "potion" that works, I'll be far more likely to thank chemistry than magic.