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The symbolic significance of salt

Alfred Ernest Jones was a Welsh psychoanalyst and neurologist. In 1912 he published the first English text on the emerging discipline in Papers on Psycho Analysis, becoming a leading exponent of psychoanalysis in the English-speaking world.  A lifelong friend and colleague of Sigmund Freud, he established the British Psychoanalytical Society, the American Psychoanalytic Association, founded the International Journal of Psychoanalysis, and twice held the role of President of the International Psychoanalytic Association. Although his career was not without controversy, his efforts to explore, promote and protect psychoanalysis as a discipline were key to its development and dissemination. He keenly encouraged the work of Melanie Klein, a move that pitted him against Freud’s inner circle yet attested to his commitment to the continued development of the discipline.

The following text was first published in Essays in Applied Psycho-Analysis in 1921. A relatively unknown work of Jones’, whose most prominent publication was a three-volume biography of Freud in the 1950s, the text sets out in detail the role of salt in folk practices across the globe, drawing upon the work of other writers from Pliny and Frobenius to Siegfried Seligmann and James George Frazer. Through a discussion of rituals, rites and colloquial phrases, Jones introduces thoughts on the symbolic significance of salt in relation to human relationships, sex and society. In so doing, he unearths something of our enduring and vital relationship with salt, demonstrating its central importance to diet, custom and cultural beliefs.

Many of the practices noted by Jones find their echo throughout a number of other contributions to Feast: Salt. From the visible position and place of salt on the dinner table, to its perceived magical properties in the protection against evil and its role in cultural and religious ceremonies of welcome. Moreover, Jone’s detailed description of salts’ central role within rituals of fertility, purification and fecundity demonstrates something of the continuing allure of salt as a corporeal desire and experience through taste, texture and sensory pleasure.

The symbolic significance of salt

Thanks to Saven Morris Head Librarian at The British Psychoanalytical Society for his assistance in reproducing Jones' text for Feast.