Salty Stool

Dearest Poopers,

The POOP Project is proud to invite you to our final event of the year, in partnership with The Salt Salon.

Join Shawn “The Puru” Shafner this Sunday, Dec. 18 at 5:00pm for a journey through the bowels of history, from the fall of Rome to the modern day, as we unearth the rise of “civilized” man over that most uncivilized of actions. A communal Mediterranean meal by chef Marina Berger will be served in a casual, home setting (togas optional, Bacchanalian revelry and lounging expected). Guests are encouraged to bring your own bottle of wine. $10, Brooklyn locale off the Church Ave. 2/5. More information on The Salt Salon invite.

Why Mediterranean? Why togas? Why revel in Bacchanalian fashion?

For most of us, the holiday season means making time to pop in the ol' Mr. Hankey DVD, light your alternative energy menorah, or beat that wooden log until it poops out candy and nuts. When the days are getting dark, it sure is nice to feel that maybe--just maybe--everything is right with the world.

For our ancient Roman brethren, December was the time when everything was wrong, and society turned upside down. After spending the Autumn planting and sowing, December 17th began a 7-day festival generally known as Saturnalia. The most popular holiday of the year, Saturnalia was a time of reflection and celebration in honor of Saturn (Kronos in Greek), the God of agriculture and the harvest, as well as his wife, Ops, Goddess of bounty, and Consus, the God of Storage. Because all that grain isn't gonna put itself away.

Saturnalia was the Roman equivalent of the RESET button. The celebrated God had presided over Earth's most prosperous time until his son, Jupiter (Zeus), deposed him. But for seven cold days each year, the ropes binding Saturn's feet were loosened and so were the rules of everyday life.

Gambling was allowed in public. Slaves were permitted to use dice and did not have to work. Instead of the toga, less formal dinner clothes (synthesis) were permitted, as was the pileus, a felt cap normally worn by the manumitted slave that symbolized the freedom of the season. Within the family, a Lord of Misrule was chosen. Slaves were treated as equals, allowed to wear their masters' clothing, and be waited on at meal time in remembrance of an earlier golden age thought to have been ushered in by the god. (Encyclopaedia Romana)

Saturn is of particular interest to the POOP because he (or his son, depending on who you consult) was sometimes known as Stercutius, the demigod of manure ("Stercus" means poop; you might also find him called Sterquilinus and Sterculius, as he is referred to in the Beavis and Butthead episode below.). Saturn was the grain--the life, growth, and nourishment. But he was also the scythe--the death, decay and, in his role as Stercutius, the doody. Because you can't have one without the other.

During the medieval Feast of Fools, inspired by and adapted from Saturnalia,

[Excrement] was used in place of incense during the serious service, and later the clergy rode in dung-flled carts 'tossing it at the crowd (147)' (Janik and Bakhtin)

Sure makes you wistful for the old days, doesn't it?

This Salt Salon, the second night of our glorious holiday, I'm hoping we can turn things upside down by bringing a little potty talk into our dinner conversation. It's like a revival of the communal baths, but different. Io, Saturnalia!

Wishing you a wonderful season, and a new year full of peaceful pooping.

Shawn "The Puru" Shafner