Home » Segments » Staring at One’s Own Navel

Staring at One’s Own Navel

Play episode

Eleanor from Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, is pondering navel-gazing after being surprised to learn that her adult son was unfamiliar with the term. Staring downward at one’s belly to induce a mystical trance has a long history: The Medieval Greek word omphalopsychoi denoted 14th-century mystic monks of Mt. Athos, Greece, a combination of omphalos, or “navel,” which is cognate with Latin umbilicus, and psyche, or “spirit.” In the mid-19th century, this word was adapted into English as omphalopsychite, and still later the term omphaloskepsis was used as a joking way to refer to the practice of staring fixedly at one’s navel to induce a mystical trance. A similar idea appeared in Robert Vaughn’s 1856 book Hours with the Mystics where he describes the monks of Mt. Athos gazing toward their navels and refers to them as Navel-contemplators. This is part of a complete episode.

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More from this show

Good Leather, Well Put Together

Laura in San Antonio, Texas, says her handsome father describes himself as a fine piece of leather, well put together. This phrase is probably a reference to a fine leather shoe and the artistry it takes to put it together. For years, shoe companies...