When the sins of the Sodomites and of the neighboring cities had called down the vengeance of God to punish and destroy them, two angels were sent to Sodom to forewarn Lot of the dreadful catastrophe about to happen. The angels took Lot, his wife Irit, and his daughters by hand and drew them forcibly out of their house, saying, "Save yourselves with all haste. Look not behind you. Get as fast as you are able to the mountain, unless you be involved in the calamity of the city." Lot entreated the angels, who consented that he might retire to Zoar, which was one of the five doomed cities. His wife, looking back on Sodom, was turned into a pillar of salt.
Salt of my Bones - a poem by Asher Reich
|In Asher Reich's poem Lot's Wife: The Look Backward, Lot's wife describes for her apparently absent husband the experience of fleeing the destruction of Sodom, presumably just before she is turned into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19):|
Here I am a firebrand, moving about as a grain of earth.
Behind me I left a city dripping dawn to its fate.
What happened there I could guess
afire as I stepped I heard the roaring of the sun
the smoke of the land I felt my neck
it was not longing to turn my eyes seized me
with a curiosity that always overcomes fear
was born in me the look backward
when looking backward one doesn't see a thing.
And now I see you, Lot
wandering like a wine skin in all that's overturned
in the valley of lime that blossomed in your drunk head
the salt of my bones making you thirsty forever,
Forever you'll remember the dead past
among barbarians we built out house
and fates in pairs: you and I
our two daughters and the two angels
forsaken so foreign even to myself
my belly swelled twice from your seed
afterward I swelled from the salt of the earth
and then I knew: my life became an ephemeral flame.
The History of Salt - from Cargill Salt
Salt has long held an important place in religion and culture. Greek worshippers consecrated salt in their rituals. Jewish Temple offerings included salt; on the Sabbath, Jews still dip their bread in salt as a remembrance of those sacrifices. In the Old Testament, Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt. Author Sallie Tisdale notes that salt is as free as the water suspending it when it's dissolved, and as immutable as stone when it's dry - a fitting duality for Lot's wife, who overlooks Sodom to this day.
Covenants in both the Old and New Testaments were often sealed with salt: the origin of the word "salvation." In the Catholic Church, salt is or has been used in a variety of purifying rituals. In fact, until Vatican II, a small taste of salt was placed on a baby's lip at his or her baptism. Jesus called his disciples "the Salt of the Earth." In Leonardo DaVinci's famous painting, "The Last Supper," Judas Escariot has just spilled a bowl of salt - a portent of evil and bad luck. To this day, the tradition endures that someone who spills salt should throw a pinch over his left shoulder to ward off any devils that may be lurking behind.
In Buddhist tradition, salt repels evil spirits. That's why it's customary to throw salt over your shoulder before entering your house after a funeral: it scares off any evil spirits that may be clinging to your back.
Shinto religion also uses salt to purify an area. Before sumo wrestlers enter the ring for a match - which is actually an elaborate Shinto rite - a handful of salt is thrown into the center to drive off malevolent spirits.
In the Southwest, the Pueblo worship the Salt Mother. Other native tribes had
significant restrictions on who was permitted to eat salt. Hopi legend holds that the angry Warrior Twins punished mankind by placing valuable salt deposits far from civilization, requiring hard work and bravery to harvest the precious mineral.
In 1933, the Dalai Lama was buried sitting up in a bed of salt.
Today, a gift of salt endures in India as a potent symbol of good luck and a reference to Mahatma Gandhi's liberation of India, which included a symbolic walk to the sea to gather tax-free salt for the nation's poor.