Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Marzichu: Feasting and Drinking Club to Honor the Dead

A Canaanite marzichu [i] referred both to a specific club and a gathering of that specific club; the club would meet at least once a year, and the club functioned privately--outside the temple's auspices.

In ancient times, the marzichu included only land-owning upper class men. They would choose a club member’s home to meet in and would draw up a contract for meeting there on a regular basis. The leader of the club was usually owned the house in which they met. Club members would drink and feast at a marzichu. Texts describe the chief god of the pantheon, Ilu, as over-indulging at marzichu. Club members would invoke the names of their beloved dead to join them in their feast. Each marzichu had its own patron deity: records indicate Ilu in Ugaritic texts, Eshmun and Ba‘al Tzapan in Phoenician texts, and ‘Aglibol or Malakbel in Palmyran texts.[ii] Biblical accounts represent marzeach (the Hebrew word for marzichu) as events where celebrants would recline on ivory beds, eat rich meat, drink wine until inebriated, play music, and anoint themselves with perfumed oils.