Body of Spice – #16

July 9

1. I put away the black pepper; I can’t remember what part of the body is its correlative – freckles? Moles on the skin?

2. When the priest’s wife died, she willed herself to depart on the full moon, an auspicious day, appropriate for a holy woman. The full moon is when the god and goddess of love, Semara and Ratih, lie down together and find joy in one another’s arms (and so we should not, though people do).

After her body was covered with the botanical equivalent of each part, her children put dry spices – clove, nutmeg, cinnamon – in their mouths, wet them with their saliva and aspirated them onto a piece of unspun cotton, then placed it on her genitals and on top of that a leaf. I can’t remember what plant the leaf was from – a flower that looks like a woman’s vulva (the leaf of a long eggplant for a man).

I asked about the spices and other adornments and was told they are to perfect the body for the person’s return, the spices to add spice to sex in the next life. Only your children can do this for you.

Intaran leaves map the perfect arc of the eyebrow, Delima seeds on the teeth for their gloss and strength, mirrors on the eyes for clarity of sight, jasmine blossoms in the nostrils to perfume every inhalation, beeswax in the ears for hearing, the blue water lily to animate the “lyric” glance of the eyes. Garlic cloves: the perfect, white moon-shape for fingernails. Sirih leaves rolled and placed on the fingers. More flowers, then vessel after vessel of holy water, the drenched priest’s wife wrapped in meters upon meters of white cloth, then woven Pandanus leaf mats. Then covered by a bamboo structure that arched over her body like a covered wagon, more white cloth, an inscribed shroud, flowers and leaves, more flowers. She could stay there for years while her family and village prepare her elaborate mortuary ritual. I think, for her, it was only about six months. 

3. I loved Bernstein’s Mass as a teenager, especially the Second Blues Singer’s aria: “If you ask me to love you on a bed of spice Well that might be nice Once or twice. ”

4. Fresh cloves ground to a powder and mixed with homemade coconut oil in a small mortar and pestle is a topical medicine, I don’t remember what for.

5. Mace is better than nutmeg for things calling for nutmeg .

6. Ginger for nausea.

7. Turmeric rubbed on the skin for a hangover.

8. Dried Long Pepper (Piper Longam).


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