Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Able Bodied

The Old Testament contains more references to feet. Shoes were associated far beyond the prosaic and practical and were thought to protect the wearer from all things unclean. A common belief throughout antiquity was sandals protected the wearer from the underworld. The fallen angel fell to the abyss of hell and was evermore lame. Hence the lame have been viewed suspiciously by God fearing people. This may be why many omens of foreboding were thought to exhibit themselves in the feet. Shoe metaphors do however have different meanings, which may be explained in part by Christians rejecting the Old Testament. In pre-Biblical Times, people like the Chaldeo-Babylonians drew meanings from birth defects and anomalies. Some held foreboding warnings to the ancients either as evil omens or good luck. This subdivision of divination is called fetomancy or teratoscopy and is still practiced today. Reasonably common birth defects, such as webbed toes (syndactilism) were viewed with great suspicion by the community and taken as an omen of disaster. More rarely when infants were born with three feet, this was a sign of good luck. When baby came with extra digits, polydactylism (six toes) on each foot that meant disaster.

'And there was yet a battle in Gath, where was a man of great stature, that had on every hand six fingers, and on every foot six toes, four and twenty in number; and he was also born to the giant.'
2 Sam 21:20; 1 Chr 20:6

Persons with one foot were thought to prosper less well than their neighbour if their right foot was missing. The house of a double amputee was thought to fair less well, again. In agricultural societies, physical challenges, especially to the 'breadwinner', would pragmatically reduce their potential to maintain dependents. This may in part account for the association.

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