Etymonline states that the word "remember" comes from the Latin re, "again," and memor "mindful." Wiktionary gives an additional etymology from the concatenation re and the English word "member," as in "to put back together that which was dismembered;" in other words, as an alternative way of spelling re-member, giving examples of its use in describing the Egyptian myth of Osiris.

There is an interesting connection between religion in general and the idea of dismemberment. On my essay on the word religion (which etymologically means "to re-bind") I note the connection between dividing something with sharing sustenance. I would note here that by all sharing a meal, the divided sacrifice in a sense becomes whole again (re-bound) if all members at the meal are thought of as a single body, perhaps as a "body of believers." I also note in that essay that the idea also exists of the god himself/herself being the object of dismemberment. Here I note that the god's subsequent reunification – again within the context of a meal in the case of Christianity - serves to "remember" the god, in both senses of that word.

There are many other examples. In one version of the myth of Osiris, which I touched on above, he gets killed and then dismembered by his brother Seth, who spreads the body parts throughout Egypt. Isis, Osiris's wife and sister, recovers and then reunifies the pieces (with some help from her sister Nephthys), resurrecting him.

Professor Celia Easton relates that the Greek god Dionysus was torn into pieces by the Titans shortly after his birth, only to be born again every three years. He was remembered by a mystery cult in which maenads, in a frenzy, would eat live animals, enabling them to "incorporate" the god into themselves. Incidentally, when Nietzsche became insane towards the end of his life, he started calling himself Dionysus and would sign letters with the name "Zagreus" – this is another name for the god, and literally means "the dismembered one" according to the author of the article on Dionysus in the Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism; but this is disputed by Kerenyi who states that the word in Greek means "a hunter who catches living animals." One wonders what the word in Greek is for a hunter who catches dead animals.

In Shaktism (a form of Hinduism), the dismemberment of Sati is somewhat similar to that of Osiris, except that Sati kills herself through immolation, and afterwards Vishnu dismembers the body (I guess she doesn't burn completely) and scatters her remains throughout India, but then she never gets put back together. Instead she gets "remembered" in the traditional sense, as each of her body parts becomes a pilgrimage site known as a Pitha, not to be confused with a type of rice cake eaten throughout India. Wikipedia, take note, for you need a disambiguation page for this term. In another version of the story, Sati kills herself in an unspecified way, whereupon Shiva hoists her body onto his shoulder and begins a dance which puts the universe in danger; "the gods," alarmed at this, then cause Sati's body to disintegrate, and the pieces fall all over the country. Abu al-Fazi ibn Mubarak, by contrast, states that Mahamaya (another name for Sati) cut HERSELF into pieces, while on the same page in a footnote he claims that according to one Professor Cowell it was indeed Vishnu who did the honors, with his discus, "bit by bit." I'm going to go with Professor Cowell on this one, given that Sati, so far as I can tell, has only two hands, unlike various other Hindu deities, making the ability to cut herself to pieces more difficult than it otherwise need be, and necessitating that the arm attached to the slaying hand be the last body part to go, perhaps at the shoulder joint, from the perspective of physics; but perhaps I presume too much in assuming that it is one of her hands that holds something sharp enough with which to cut herself. For those who believe that the number of severed body parts is 51, there is a handy list of which body part corresponds with which Pitha, and I note that the right hand and right wrist both appear therein, as well as the left arm; but there is no left hand or left wrist, leading to the conclusion that Sati could indeed had dismembered herself, but that she must have been left-handed to do so, and furthermore that her combined left-wrist-left-hand-stump never made it back to earth. Sati was eventually reborn as Parvati, through reincarnation (not resurrection); her name ( the Sanskrit सती ) is the origin of the word suttee, at least according to Augusta Klein.

Brewer states that "Remember" was the last command given by King Charles the First of England before being beheaded (again with the dismemberment), given to Bishop Juxon. The presumption is that he was referring to a vow he had made, visible in the British museum, that he would restore the lands confiscated from the Catholic church, so that Juxon would ensure that the king's son Charles II would carry it out should he ever become king. In the end Charles II did become king, but he did not carry out his father's promise.

In English versions of the Old Testament, the Hebrew word zakar ( זכר ) is often translated as "remember" when god is doing the remembering. However there is a specific nuance to this use – in this case the term does not only mean 'to mentally recall' but also implies that a physical action follows. Examples include god "remembering" Noah and then drying up the flood (Genesis 8:1), god "remembering" Rachel and then opening her womb (Genesis 30:22), and the psalmist imploring god to "remember" him "...when you show favor to your people, come to my aid..." (Psalm 106:4).

I'll end this essay by sharing some Shakespearean quotes concerning memory, which, though being easy to remember, are quite forgettable :

"Little Helen, farewell; if i can remember thee, I will think of thee at court." - Parolles to Helena in Act 1, Scene 1 of All's Well That Ends Well.

"Rememberest thou any that have died on't?" - Cleopatra to the Clown in Act 5, Scene 2 of Antony and Cleopatra

"Remember!" - Cressida to Diomedes in Act 5, Scene 2 of Troilus and Cressida

Author's Note : this essay will appear in my upcoming book, My Cat Breaks Into Vowels, which is available for pre-order.

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