Fart Lighting: How Far Back Does It Go?

Wiki has a short article on Fart Lighting, but doesn’t credit anyone with discovering the technique. Cecil, Snopes and the Durham University Fart Lighting Society also appear silent on when the flammable nature of farts was discovered; although the farting society does jokingly mention Rene Descartes.

So when did someone discover that farts are flammable? I vaguely recall some stories about medieval French jesters, and it seems like something Roger Bacon might have tried, but how far back does it really go? Were there roman fart lighters? Greek? Does some fragment of the epic of Gilgamesh tell of Sumerian fart lighters, or is fart lighting actually a recently discovered trick?

Given the nature of humanity (at least as it’s represented in my skull anyways), I gotta believe that fart lighting followed very quickly after the discovery of fire… probably the same night, if they had Mexican food back then! :wink:

When you ask *“How Far Back Does it Go?” * , are you referring to temporal or spatial displacement?

Probably the first time a caveman backed up to a fire to warm his back side and let loose.

In Chadwick Hansen’s book Witchcraft in Salem he writes about a cure that was attempted on a “bewtiched” horse. He describes it as a common cure used for horses, where the stem of a tobacco pipe was stuck into the horse’s anus and lit. This was called “Burning the mare’s fart”. I don’t know what his source was, but he’s pretty well footnoted and respectable (even if you may disagree with his interpretations). I don’t have the book with me now, so I can’t give you the cite. But this would be 1692. I cited this once before on the SDMB when someone turned up a woodcut showing this procedure and asked what it was. IIRC, that woodcut showed flames (and, for all I know, was earlier). So that’s the earliest refeence I know to it. Again, IIRC, the reference Hansen gave talked about flames coming out and covering the ghorse’s haunches. Remember, folks, these people were professionals. Don’t try this at home.

:eek: Either that, or a 17th-C. anti-smoking technique!

I have a firsthand account of human fart-lighting dating from the early 1950s via Papa Doug and his adolescent cronies. My hypothesis is that FL arose as a mass cultural phenomenon during WWII, with the massing of young men from various walks of life in military service.

The woodcut was credited as being from an unidentified vetrinary manual, and I just love the expression on the face of the horse:


Notes on the linking page:

I understand that bloated cows have too much methane in their stomach(s); when the vet makes an incision to release the pressure, you can light the ensuing jet. :eek:

At first glance, the title looked like “Fart Lightning.” :eek:

I don’t have a cite, but these incisions were sometimes done by cowboys on cattle drives, earning them the name “cowpunchers.”

Yeah, that thread title sure leaves itself open to some Newlywed Game misconstruals, doesn’t it? :smiley: