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Question #92645 posted on 09/26/2019 7:24 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I learned recently that in the Cult of Pythagoras, followers were "forbidden to eat beans."

Beans? Beans! The magical fruit! The more you eat, the more you...

WHY were BEANS--of all things holy--forbidden?!



Dear You're Welcome, 

I asked Pebble, and he says he's pretty sure it was because they thought beans looked like fetuses and therefore beans must somehow be related to humanity so they were holy. I didn't believe him at first, but apparently that might be true. 

There's no documentation about exactly why it was the case, but there are three main theories for why Pythagoras told his followers to "abstain from beans." This website has the two main ones listed, but several other sources back up what it says.

1) Beans make you fart, which disturbs your life of peace and tranquility. Pythagoras cared a lot about reaching for total peace, so bubbles in your gut aren't ideal. 

2) Beans look like fetuses. Pythagoras seemed to believe that there was some kind of "holy connection" between beans and people, and he intended to scientifically prove it. So he planted some beans, and after a few weeks dug them up, said they looked like fetuses, and concluded that therefore beans and people ultimately come from the same life source. We can't disrespect that, so we can't eat beans. That's the theory most people believe in. * It should be noted, here, that the kidney beans and such you may be thinking of weren't available in ancient Greece. But they had a lot of their own kinds of legumes. Lentils, fava beans, and plenty more, so it seems like it tracks. 

3) Pythagoras was really saying that he wanted his followers to stay out of politics and government. The ancient Greeks, for at least some time, voted using beans (or sometimes pebbles, metal balls, or sea shells.) If this is the case, by saying 'abstain from beans', it could have been a statement about politics, and to symbolize this, he decided not to eat them either. 

We'll probably never know the exact reason why he did it. Most people seem to hold to the second theory. Regardless, it's a pretty hilarious bit of trivia.