Tuesday, February 15, 2011


A month and a half of retirement has afforded me some time to practice a little omphaloskepsis. In other words, I've been contemplating the navel, after all, it is a figurative and spiritual focus for inward-looking people.

To be honest however, I've not been contemplating my navel, but rather that often exposed area of other people's anatomy. While I don't make it a habit of looking at other people's belly buttons, it is becoming increasingly difficult not to notice them.

What then evoked this post on this abdominal landmark, you might ask? You'd be right to ask because bare midriffs are by no means a recent phenomenon.

One would think that temperatures in the mid-twenties would mean that as much bare skin as possible would be covered with layers of clothing. Au contraire, mon ami.

Two young girls in their teens apparently thought that the frigid climate was ideal to display their omphalos. I'm guessing that they were proudly showing off the accessories that were perhaps just recently affixed to their bellies. That's just a guess, because the rest of their bodies, except for their faces, were protected from the elements.

I personally have no desire for my body to be punctured or otherwise mutilated, but as for those who do - it's their bodies! Bejeweled or not, what is it about the human navel that it both inspires and reviles?

As an indicator of birth, the navel is a reminder of our supposed infantile innocence. A severed link to the mother, the navel is the first mark that life leaves upon the body, a scar as unique as our fingerprint.

Since it serves no biological purpose after birth, the navel only acts as a gatherer of lint and a magnet for musings. So one who finds his or her spirituality in the center of his own body is dubbed an "omphalogian," and as a focal point of yoga poses, the navel marks the place where breath emerges, as well as the balancing point.

It should not be surprising that this all-too-human feature should be the object of scrutiny. A closer look reveals a deep history of the navel as one area of disputed terrain on the human body.

We need look no further than the 1960s when television programs were banned from showing the human navel. Both Barbara Eden of I Dream of Jeanie and Dawn Wells (Gilligan's Island) were forced to wear apparel that hid their belly buttons.

This cencorship, however, predates television. Through the centuries there has been much debate over whether Adam and Eve possessed belly buttons. As a result of such "navel" warfare, both Raphael and Michelangelo were accused of heresy for depicting Adam's navel in their paintings.

Eve Pregnant?
Of course, theologians and the faithful could not accept Adam or Eve with an umbilical remnant. That would suggest that instead of being created, they would have to have been born! According to the scriptures, God created man in his own image; if Adam had a navel, then would it follow that God had one also? Thus, any depiction or suggestion of belly buttons on the first man and woman was a threat to the teachings of the Church and could not be tolerated.

In the end, so as not to evoke the wrath of the Church, artists depicted the post-creation moment in Eden by using enlarged genital-covering fig leaves to include the belly rather than take the theologically risky stance of depicting an umbilical link between first man and woman and God.
What about the newly created trees that provided shade in the Garden of Eden? Would they have had rings?
Contemplation of the navel, or omphaloskepsis, is derived from the ancient Greek word for the navel, omphalos. For the ancient Greeks passion centered on the navel. Indeed, Omphale was the mythical queen who so powerfully personified femininity that she enslaved even the mighty Hercules.

In Hawaiian culture the navel is the primal node of heart, mind, and feelings. In India Brahma is said to have sprung out of the lotus that sprouts in the belly button of the sleeping Vishnu. Judaism associates fertility with the navel.

Halfway between the breast and genitalia, the navel is not strictly sexual, although it becomes a part of the sexual act. Even though it has no purpose but to indicate humanity, it should be remembered that where humanity treads, sexuality is never far behind.
Since You Were Afraid To Ask

Whether you end up with an "innie" or "outie" depends more on the nature of the muscles in your stomach than on your obstetrician's knotting prowess.
Sigmund Freud believed that an unraveling of a dream's meaning could be located at its navel: the place where the content of the dream connects with its psychic significance. And even Saint Thomas Aquinas recognized this doubled character of the belly button, seeing it as the "bodily metaphor for spiritual things."

For the next lesson in navel contemplation, we shall explore that citric fruit, the navel orange. The profound question must be asked:
Did the first orange actually have a navel?

Navel gazing must be considered the most profound of human activities.

(Portions of this post were lifted from several posts and articles on the web.)

№ 2098


Steve said...

A thinking man's post.

Sandee said...

I've noticed lots of bare midriffs too. Lots of naval jewelry too. Must be why their midriffs are bare.

This post is way too deep for me. Bwahahahahahaha.

Have a terrific day. :)

Hale McKay said...


Yep - all one could ever want to know about the belly button ...

Hale McKay said...


It's one thing if they have flat stomachs. Some of the midriffs hang over their pants.

Stretch Marks said...

Many people do in that way. And there is no ting of shy in that. we shall explore that citric fruit, the navel orange. So we can do in that manner.

Hale McKay said...

Stretch Marks,

Thanks for the Spam comment. :o}