Four legged Taboo

In January horse meat was revealed in frozen lasagna made ​​by Findus. This has caused strong reactions and extensive media attention in Norway and Scandinavia. Strictly seen horse meat is excellent food for humans, but in the Scandinavian culture, it is almost considered inedible.


The taboo against eating horse meat dates more than a thousand years back, to the time when the Vikings Norse religion was confronted with medieval Christian faith. Christianity rolled in and the church struggled to get its subjects enrolled to the new faith.


The horse played a central role in the Norse belief. «Blot» was a ritual feast devoted to the Norse gods and communication with them, and eating horse meat was a key part. The gods were given the parts of the horse that supported communication: the feet, the head and the ponytail.

This direct contact with the divine was a threat to the church's power base. Therefore «blot» and the eating of horse meat were prohibited. Violations of the ban were met with legal punishment. The Gulating Act from the Middle Ages, stated that the eating of horse meat should be punished by outlawry, which meant life-long exile and loss of farm and soil.

Exactly the same penalty was decided for "barneutburd", that is putting babies out to die. Blot was, in other words, a crime on a par with infanticide.

Without the ritual feast the contemporary people lost the opportunity to direct communication and contact with the gods. Only the clergy should represent the contact with the Christian divinity, on behalf of the people. The Northern people probably found the church's intervention greatly alienating. The communion and the symbolic offer of Christ's body must have appeared as a pale substitute for the divine horse meat at the feast.

The church was victorious in the war of the religions, and horse meat has never since been common as food for people in Scandinavia.


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