Taboo Quiz 1

Posted in other trivia quizzes

The following quiz questions are all based on the topics of taboo, forbidden topics in certain cultures and ages. Many thanks to Brian from Nottingham, UK for this interesting quiz.

A taboo is a strong social prohibition (or ban) against words, objects, actions, discussions, or people that are considered undesirable or offensive by a group, culture, or society. Breaking the taboo is usually considered objectionable or abhorrent.

1. Pliny the Elder wrote the following passage in his Historia Naturalis, fill in the missing word: 
    "A _________ woman, if she approached a vessel of wine, would turn it sour; she would cause corn to wither, buds to shrivel, fruit to fall from trees, mirrors to dim, bees to die in the hive, and iron and steel to rust"

2. Greek word meaning defilement or pollution. Six letters, third and last letters: "A"

3. In Japan it was taboo to serve a bowl of rice with what in, except when the rice was prepared as a gift for the dead?

4. Under strict Buddist law in China in the first century, the consumption of certain animals such as elephants, dogs, horses, lions, tigers, panthers, bears, hyenas and snakes was banned. Under what condition would a monk be allowed to eat one of these animals?

5. What biproduct, according to Gonzalez-Crussi, "could be vaporised and gently eliminated, molecule by molecule, but instead it collects in an offensive concentration"?

6. Which Greek philosopher introduced food taboos on carcass-meat, beans, eggs and oviparous animals (those that produce young by means of eggs)?

7. Which colour historically is the colour of jealousy, envy, and treachery? (Hint: in religious paintings, Judas is often depicted wearing garments of this colour)

8. What does the Greek word "Iconoclasm" mean?

9. Which mollusc is forbidden to be eaten by male initiates among the Hua people of the highlands of New Guinea (because they believe it to be female and eating something female is thought to weaken the initiate)?

10. According to Pliny the Elder, which skin blemmish would render an individual unable to attend magical rituals as they might pollute the divine beings around them? Eight letters and the fourth is a 'C'.

11. Which hand, known in the past to be the "Sinister hand", was often associated with evil, sorcery, treachery and fraud?

12. Taboo is a fruit-flavoured spirit made in the UK. Its main ingredients are vodka, exotic fruit juices and which other alcoholic beverage?


1. Menstruating

2. MIASMA In classical times, miasma referred to a certain proscribed act that offended the gods and disturbed the ritual purity of the individual and the state. The consequences of transgression initially affected the offender, who was rendered unfit to enter the temple, and spread, through contagion, to endanger the entire community. Death, killing, contact with a corpse, and, at the opposite end of the lifespan, birth, are amongst the most frequently cited sources of pollution in Greek texts. Birth or death within a temple were sacrilege, and the sacred island of Delos had to remain free from the taint of mortality. Birth taboos began at the onset of pregnancy, when a woman was required to remain secluded for forty days, and resumed after childbirth for three days during which time she would pollute anyone entering her abode. Similarly, at the moment of death, the entire house became polluted and rituals were necessary to alleviate the danger.

3. Chopsticks. That a taboo, like that imposed on chopsticks in Japan, should be reversed at the time of death is not unusual. In Japan, as in most other cultures, a corpse was traditionally thought to be dangerous and certain rituals needed to be followed to mitigate the harm. Just as food offerings for the dead differed from those of the living, a bedside screen was erected upside down near the head of the deceased and instead of cold water being added to hot to wash the corpse, hot water was poured onto cold.

4. If the monk had not heard or seen the animal being slaughtered.

5. Excrement / Faeces

6. Pythagoras

7. Yellow In France, in the sixteenth century the doors of traitors and felons were daubed with yellow. In Spain heretics who recanted were enjoined to wear a yellow cross as a penance and the Inquisition required them to appear at public autos da fe in penitential garments and carrying a yellow candle. Most notably, in German-occupied countries, during the Third Reich, it became mandatory for Jews to wear a yellow star so that they might be identified as ?tabooed? persons

8. Iconoclasm (from the Greek words eikon (image) and klaein (to break)) is any movement that involves the breaking or destroying of images and especially of images and pictures set up as objects of veneration.

9. Snail. They are prohibited because the slime they secrete is said to be like female vaginal secretions. Also its korogo (wet, soft, fertile, cool) quality is said to resemble the vagina (Meigs, p. 158). Eating something with female attributes is thought to weaken the initiate.

10. FRECKLES Pliny the Elder, in his Natural History (28.188), records that those who have freckles are not allowed to participate in magical rituals. This is because divine beings will not obey those who have freckles and are never seen by them (NH 30.16). Freckles are regarded as an imperfection, a blemish, and individuals so affected may pollute the divine. The ruling recalls the injunction in Leviticus (21:17?23) which forbids the Israelites to approach the altar if they are afflicted with any disease or infirmity.

11. The LEFT hand. (Latin, sinister = left) The left hand is the weaker, inferior, impure hand; the hand that women of the tribes of the lower Niger are forbidden to use for cooking if they wish to avoid accusations of poisoning and sorcery; the hand with which devout Muslims clean those polluting orifices of the body below the navel while the right hand is reserved for eating.

12. White whineTaboo was first put out on the market in 1988 by drinks company First Drink. However after a honeymoon period for the product up until the early 1990s the company spent very little money on promoting it in later years; in 2005 only ?8,000 was spent. However in 2006 First Drink hired 23red to boost Taboo's profile.

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