table of the dead person at the funeral banquet. A small girl eats
the ritual food. Dobritsa, Rumania.
At the funeral
banquet (...) one eats and drinks indeed with extreme moderation (...).
One does not sit at the table anyhow, but to communicate with each other
in the presence of the dead, and to communicate with the dead in the presence
of all. This is why the absence of the dead would be literally unbearable.
The dead must preside over the banquet, share the festive food. But, since
he has left the world of here below and begins his journey to the next
world, the living must share with him, like brothers, the special food
that is now suited for him, that essential gruel called coliva. A food
white as milk, mild to the taste as it (...). Immemorial. And since the
dead cannot be physically present, in the flesh, and cannot be represented
either by someone who would play his part, like an actor in the theater,
the acts expected from him must be accomplished by a living. His complementary
opposite in a way, someone who would come back from these remote places
that he will reach. Someone entering this world, while he is entering
the next world. A human being full of vitality and expected fecondity,
while he has lost both of them. A twelve-year-old girl fulfills all these
conditions. She can and must take the clay bowl (...), eat its content
without repulsion. To affirm through food and gest the great fraternity
betweenn the living and the dead.