Diet of Worms

Worms – slimy and yucky and gross as most of them are to us – are a primary source of food for many creatures. Birds eat worms, especially birds like Robins and Bluebirds whose diets consist mostly of insects and other forms of life that crawl and wiggle. Lots of other animals eat worms, including raccoons, mice, voles, and other omnivorous creatures. We also know that, yes, humans have been known to eat worms, too.

I can imagine sucking down a worm or two from time to time, especially if I had nothing else to eat and I was in need of a quick fix of protein. I’d much prefer to consume worms that I wouldn’t have to chew, such as night crawlers or red worms. I could pop them right in and swallow them whole, especially if I had a glass of Cabernet or Merlot to wash them down. I really think the dry reds would be better with worms, especially the darker worms. White worms, such as the silk worms shown in the photo, might be better ingested with the help of a Chardonnay or Riesling. Perhaps readers could weigh into this issue with personal experiences.

But, believe it or not, the subject of this piece is not the eating of worms. It is the Diet of Worms, which has absolutely nothing to do with worms as food. How could a diet of worms having nothing to do with worms? The Worms in “Diet of Worms” is a town in Germany. The Diet in “Diet of Worms” does not refer to an eating regimen, but rather to the general assembly of the Imperial Estates of the Holy Roman Empire. Although there were a number of diets called over a period of centuries, the most famous diet was that of 1521, when the assembly considered the works and fate of Martin Luther. The debate resulted in the Edict of Worms. The crux of the edict can be found in the words of Emperor Charles V, who stated “For this reason we forbid anyone from this time forward to dare, either by words or by deeds, to receive, defend, sustain, or favor the said Martin Luther. On the contrary, we want him to be apprehended and punished as a notorious heretic, as he deserves, to be brought personally before us, or to be securely guarded until those who have captured him inform us, whereupon we will order the appropriate manner of proceeding against the said Luther. Those who will help in his capture will be rewarded generously for their good work.”

Those words could mean only one thing: Martin Luther was doomed, and would become the food of worms after being the talk of the town of Worms.

Knowing what we do about the fate of heretics in the 1500s, it seems odd that Martin Luther lived for 25 years after this edict. He was 38 when the edict was issued and he died at the age of 63. Without the help of Prince Frederick, Luther might well have been caught on his way home after the diet, tried for his heresy, and burned at the stake. Some of his followers endured that fate. Others, willing to repudiate Luther’s teachings, were spared execution.

Although you might not have known about the Diet of Worms, you’re probably somewhat familiar with the impact of Martin Luther on religion in the Western World. It just demonstrates that words and phrases can have meanings far beyond the words themselves, and that what you conclude from what you hear can be very far removed from the true meaning.

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