Thursday, April 3, 2008

That Mysterious First Kiss

I watched a documentary on television on the subject of kissing which pointed out that this physical act reduces stress, produces a peaceful feeling of being loved, and even boosts our immune systems. With all the benefits and pleasures of the act of kissing, does history reveal when humanity's first kiss took place?

Years ago, scientists thought that when two lips met during kissing an electric current was generated. They now know that this is completely untrue. Scientific fact is that kissing signals our brains to produce oxytocin which is a hormone that causes a good feeling. One study stated that our brains are equipped to help us find our lover's lips in the dark.

German physicians and psychologists say that those who kiss their spouses each morning before leaving for work miss less work because of illness than those who do not. Those who kiss also have fewer auto accidents on the way to work, earn 20-30 percent more per month and live approximately five years longer.

So who invented kissing? Anthropologists think kissing's origins are to be found in primitive times when mothers chewed food and transferred it directly from their mouths to their babies' mouths, a method of preparing baby food that is still practiced in some cultures today. Another theory comes from the Ziller Valley of Central Europe where pre-chewed tobacco was exchanged between males and females. The man would hold a piece of tobacco between his teeth and invite a girl to grasp it with her teeth which would cause her to press her mouth on his.

Perhaps the origins of kissing came from another source. Indications are from as early as 2000 B.C., various cultures believed that bringing the mouths together signified the joining of two souls.

According to one anthropologist, Vaughn Bryant, Jr., the first erotic kiss was exchanged in about 1500 B.C. in India. Prior to that no clay tablets, cave paintings or written records say anything about kissing.

Kissing is frequently shown in Egyptian art. Scholars believe kissing would have been associated with "giving life" in the ancient Egyptian culture.

The Celts had no word for kiss. The Romans are attributed with perfecting the kiss as we know it today. They kissed each other hello on the mouth or on the eyes, kissed robes, rings and statues of gods to indicate submission and respect. One Roman emperor ranked a person's importance by the body part he allowed them to kiss. Important nobles kissed his lips, less important ones kissed his hands and the least, kissed his feet. Romans assigned words for different types of kisses: osculum meaning a friendship kiss; basium meaning passionate kiss; and savium meaning deep kiss. Today, some natives of African tribes honor their chief by kissing the ground he walks over.

Kissing became the means by which many a bargain was sealed throughout history. In the feudal system, a vassal would kneel before his overlord, put his hands in those of the lord and declare himself his man. Then the overlord bound himself by kissing the vassal and raising him to his feet. Russians may have been the first to incorporate the kiss into the marriage ceremony.

France was the first to accept kissing in courtship. In the sixth century, dancing was a way to display affection and each dance was sealed with a kiss. Of course, the French are attributed with the invention of the French kiss. According to the Online Encyclopedia, the term, maraichinage, is a prolonged kiss, often lasting for several hours and originates from residents of Pays de Mont in Britanny, the Maraichins, who popularized the practice. It is the likely predecesser of what is now commonly referred to as french kissing. A maraichinage often lasts for several hours, and involves a profound exploration of the mouth of one's partner. French kiss is also known as tongue wrestling and tonsil hockey. In British slang, this type of kissing is commonly known as snogging.

Kissing shows up in religious practice as well. It is recorded throughout the Bible in approximately 46 references in the Old and New Testaments. Jesus was betrayed by a kiss. The Holy Kiss is encouraged in the New Testament between believers. Kissing of relics is practiced by many religions including Islam. The Black Stone housed at Mecca is worn hollow by centuries of veneration and is now held together with a silver band. The act of blowing kisses with the hand comes from old religions where they blew kisses' to the gods.

Nature has its assassin bug, also known as the kissing bug, which bites its victims around the mouth. Mononucleosis is called the kissing disease because it is spread by kissing. The longest kiss in film history was between Jane Wyman and Regis Tommey in the 1941 film, "You're in the Army Now," lasting 3 minutes and 5 seconds. The custom of kissing under the mistletoe is thought to originate with the Druids and other early Europeans. Read about that at Mistletoe History.

Probably one of the most famous legends involving kissing is from a small city of Cork, the village of Blarney. It is not completely known how this originated, but one legend has it that an old woman put a spell on one of the stones of the castle of Blarney in an almost inaccessible place near the top that would bestow the gift of eloquence to all who kissed it. In times past, people were hung by their heels over the edge of the parapet to kiss the stone, but this stopped when one person fell to his death. From then on, anyone kissing the blarney stone must lie on their back, grasp two iron rails on each side and be lowered backward into position.

Perhaps one of the most important health aspects about kissing is that mothers transfer beneficial bacteria to their babies by kissing them. Fathers do as well, but scientists have found that babies do not receive as much bacteria as they could from their fathers simply because they do not kiss them very often.

Alas, we may never know when humanity's mysterious first kiss occurred, but hopefully armed with all this information, each of us will keep practicing.

Sources:

Kissing Chronicles

Why Do We Kiss?

Kissing Trivia

Humorous Pictures
see more crazy cat pics

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