Anthropologists have long theorized that when cannibals eat a human heart, it’s a gesture of respect: by ingesting the seat of power of an enemy, they are emboldening and protecting themselves. Inuits, for example, are said to have eaten the hearts of witches they killed so that they wouldn’t be haunted.
But the message is a little different when a human heart is force-fed. I can’t find any confirmed cases of forced ingestion of a human heart, but I did come across this story, recounted by French troubadours in the early 12th century, that bears repeating.
It goes like this:
The scene: a medieval castle.
The cast: 12 noble ladies, 12 vengeful husbands, and one hot lothario.
The action: One afternoon, as the rain pours down, the ladies play a game called “Confession.” One of them assumes the role of priest, and each of the others confesses to her the identity of her secret lover. To the great surprise of each, a hot young knight named Ignaure has been secretly pursuing all of them. Outraged by his duplicity (or polyplicity?), they plot to kill him.
Later, when the women ambush him, like a true Rico Suave, Ignaure explains that he really does love each and every one, equally.
The ladies push him to choose one and remain loyal to only her. Ignaure complies, but since hell hath no fury like eleven women scorned, they still tell their husbands just how naughty Ignaure has been. The husbands take Ignaure prisoner and murder him. In a feat of true culinary creativity, the husbands then ordered that his heart and his penis be ground into a paste and served in en croûte to their
wives. When the women discover what was baked in the pie, they refused to eat ever again, and die of starvation.
There are lots of things to love in this story, not the least of which is that Ignaure’s insistence that he loves each one equally reminds me of “Big Love.” But the women also transform the punishment of ingesting Ignaure’s penis and heart into a spiritual and collective nourishment and resolve. Together they’ll leave their husbands wifeless, and together they’ll go join Ignaure in the afterlife.