We tend to think of farting as a tiny toot in the grand orchestra that is history, but, in reality, butt gas has echoed thunderously throughout the annals of our time here on Earth. Other stories of human flatulence were silent but nonetheless always etched themselves onto the chronicle of humanity with deadly accuracy and at wind-breaking speed. But enough farting around. Let’s cut to the chase about the weirdest tales of cutting the cheese …

“Flatulists” Have Been Some of History’s Most Successful Entertainers

If you have an uncle who always keeps asking people to pull his finger and is hated by most of your family, it’s not because everyone thinks that he’s “immature” or that he’s “gross” or that he “completely ruined grandpa’s funeral.” It’s because they all wish he’d stop giving away what some performers made entire careers out of.

In his The City of God, Saint Augustine wrote about street performers in 5th-century Algeria who had “such command of their bowels, that they can break wind continuously at will, so as to produce the effect of singing.” People who could “fart amusingly at parties” were also given as examples of successful entertainers by William Langland in his 14th-century poem “Piers Plowman.” In medieval Ireland, these kinds of people were known as “braigetoír” and as “heppiri otoko” (“farting men”) in Japan during the Edo Period (1603 – 1868). In the English language, the job was known as either “flatulist,” “fartist,” or simply “farter,” and King Henry II’s jester was apparently so good at it, that he managed to propel himself to the status of landed gentry with his medieval methane mastery.

In the 12th century, Roland le Petour (the Farter) was contracted to perform “Unum saltum et siffletum et unum bumbulum” (one jump, one whistle, and one fart) during an annual Christmas performance before the king. For doing 2/3rd of your dog’s morning routine, Roland was awarded a manor in Suffolk and thirty acres of land, where he presumably planted plenty of cabbage so people would stop asking what that weird smell was. But there was another entertainer who became an even bigger success than Ronald through the art of getting the vapors: Joseph Pujol, aka Le Pétomane ("The Fartomaniac.”)

Born in mid-19th-century Marseilles, Pujol was essentially a real-life X-Man with the power of incredibly powerful anal sphincter muscles that allowed him to inhale massive amounts of air or water through his anus. Instead of shoving coal up his read end, doing a few Kegels, and scavenging for diamonds in his toilet, he found another way to utilize his talent. He moved to Paris and got a job as an entertainer at the famous Moulin Rouge. According to various accounts, his interview consisted of him first taking off his trousers and giving himself an enema, and you really have to admire the nightclub’s director for not calling security and instead saying, “I want to see where this is going,” but, then again, this was France. Once he was ready, Pujol showed off his ability to fart on command and got hired on the spot.

Joseph Pujol quickly became the highest-earning performer in all of France thanks to his trumpet skills (with an emphasis on rump). He was able to play “O Sole Mio” with an ocarina shoved between his cheeks, mimic animal sounds with his butt, and no-scope a candle from several feet away with his Kamehamefarts, etc. He retired during WWI when vapor-based comedy was no longer considered a gas because of the use of chemical warfare. But Le Pétomane’s legacy lives on in movies or the time Britain's Got Talent hosted a guy full of festering, putrid gas … which, to be fair, did make Piers Morgan the perfect person to judge a contestant who farted into a mic.

Fart Magic Was a Serious Crime in Iceland

When it came to magic, old-timey Iceland was quick to point out their country name wasn’t accidentally missing an N at the front. Some of the Icelandic dark arts were serial-killer-level dark, like the spell for flying described in the Icelandic Book of Sorcery. It required horse and human blood, a horse and a human corpse, and a nightmarish defilement of one of the bodies, though not the one you’re hoping for.

But that doesn’t mean that Icelandic magic didn’t have its lighter side. For example, it actually had a spell that could apparently make someone fart uncontrollably. In the 17th century, people were even taken to court for cursing someone with “Fretrúnir” fart runes! Unfortunately, because olden Iceland wasn’t a nice land, the accused ended up burned at the stake after being found guilty of fartomancy.

During the 1656 Kirkjuból trial, local priest Jón Magnússon accused two members of his congregation, Jón Jónsson the Elder and Jón Jónsson the Younger, of hoarding the village’s strategic Jon supply. And also of making him and some girl sick with magic. For whatever reason, the Accumulated Four Jons supposedly used spells from a magic book to make Magnússon suffer terrible abdominal pains and to humiliate him by turning his bathtub into a biofuel jacuzzi. 

The book in question was most likely The Galdrabók, a grimoire containing 47 spells, sigils, and staves for any and all occasion. According to the Galdrabók, to curse someone with backdoor bruhaha, you need to write the Fretrúnir fart runes on white calfskin using your blood while uttering the spell: "I carve you , which are to torment your belly with terrible s**tting and shooting pains, may all these runes afflict your belly with violent farting. May your bones split asunder, may your guts burst, may your farting never stop, neither day nor night,” which, yeah, doesn’t really sound all that funny. Okay, maybe a little. Hehehe … Farts.

The Jónssons were found guilty once they confessed to the crime… After spending seven months in jail, but that was probably a coincidence. Magnússon then got all of the Jons’ stuff, which probably should have raised a few eyebrows in this story of raising a stink about stinky butt-burps. There is a sort of happy ending to the whole thing, though, because Magnússon later accused Jónsson the Elder’s daughter Thuridur of using Fart Runes on him, but the case was dismissed. Thuridur then countersued and got all of Magnússon’s stuff as compensation. Her story did NOT come to be known as the Wind-Breaking Windfall, but we sincerely hope that it will now.

Farting Has Been Appearing in Art for Centuries

Using booty booyas for satire sounds… just incredibly low-effort (though high in fiber). As far as commentary goes, attacking people and ideas through farting imagery ranks barely above a political cartoon where, say, a politician takes a dump into a bowl of spaghetti with “America” written on it. But let’s remember: before electricity, people were starved for entertainment, and they looked for it wherever they could. And sometimes, that wherever included flesh-crevices.

Take a look at the thankfully not scratch-and-sniff Japanese scroll titled He-Gassen (Fart Battle.)

Wiki Commons

This just butt a small sample scene of this mASSive scroll.

Dating back to around the mid-19th century, the scroll depicts 15 scenes of people bending over and releasing bean ghosts on each other, animals, or whomever/whatever else had the misfortune of standing in the way of their Way of the Thunderous Cheeks technique. The scroll shows people blasting holes through walls with their farts, drive-by-fartings on horseback, people trying to protect themselves from the olfactory assault with fans, and so much more. Even women get in on the fart action (the… fartion?) with their rear roars. Who would have thought that old-timey Japan was so feminist?

There are so many theories as to what exactly He-Gassen symbolizes, but the most common one is that it was supposed to mock the Tokugawa shogunate that kept refusing to open the country to the world. (But before you go judging them, just consider that the shogunate dragging their feet with ending their isolationist policy eventually created the four most badass assassins in Japanese history.) Still, in the end (zing!), the scroll became quite popular not because of any complex metaphors it contained but simply because it was funny. It seems that no matter how far back in history you go, people always find farts funny. Hehehe… Farts.

This was as true in 19th-century Japan as it was in 17th/18th-century England, where one Thomas d'Urfey became famous for his humorous plays and songs that often involved farting. Interestingly, though, only women ever farted in d'Urfey’s writings. Similarly to He-Gassen, some have tried to find deeper meaning in this fictitious female flatulence, but literary giants like Jonathan Swift (author of Gulliver’s Travels) weren’t one of them. Swift actually referred to d'Urfey’s works as “excrement,” and it must have just killed him that nobody, ironically, gave a crap. Thomas d'Urfey was a favorite of five different monarchs, and the people loved his writing because, once again: Hehehe … Farts.

There are, however, uses of art in political commentary without any intended humor behind them. In 1545, artist Lucas Cranach the Elder was commissioned by Martin Luther to create work criticizing the Catholic Church and the papacy. One of the woodcuts that Cranach created was called The Papal Belvedere, and it depicted Pope Paul III being farted on by two peasants, symbolizing what the father of Protestantism thought about the pontiff. (To whom he’d definitely refer to as the “poo-ntiff” if pun humor had existed back then… and if Luther spoke English instead of German/Latin.) And speaking of which…

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The History of Farting is Full of Some Pretty Big Names

The thing about Jonathan Swift is that he wasn’t crapping all over d'Urfey for writing about crap-air. He just thought that d'Urfey wasn’t very good at it. Swift loved himself some cheek-splitting humor. In 1722, he even authored a satirical pamphlet titled The Benefit of Farting Explain’d, a parody of The Benefit of Fasting by the Bishop of Down and Connor. Swift even wrote it under the pseudonym of “Don Fartinando Puff-Indorst, Professor of Bumbast in the University of Crackow,” which contains a grand total of FOUR fart puns since a “crack” was 18th-century slang for badonkahonks. And same as d'Urfey, Swift loved writing about women farting, though here it actually meant something, symbolizing how women talk a lot and how all it amounts to is a fart in the wind. Appropriately for someone who liked to write about giants, Swift was kind of a massive dick.

His affinity for finding art in farts put Swift in some spectacular company since flatulence humor is also featured in “The Summoner’s Tale” from the 14th-century The Canterbury Tales, where Geoffrey Chaucer describes Satan farting out 20,000 monks from his Beelzebum. Even the Bard himself did not shy away from using giggle gas in his works, like the time he introduced Crab the Farting Dog in The Two Gentlemen of Verona. The play probably was one of Queen Elizabeth’s favorites since, according to John Aubrey, the monarch always managed to find humor in a good farting. In his Brief Lives, Aubrey recalls the tale of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, who once accidentally passed gas in front of Liz and was so embarrassed that he went into voluntary exile for seven years. Upon his return, the Queen supposedly said: “My Lord, I had forgot the Fart.”

Princess Diana took a much more diplomatic approach. After Sam Neill kept farting at the opening of Jurassic Park while seated close to the British royal (which to this day he blames on his son Tim), afterward, Princess Di kept a straight face, though possibly a scrunched-up nose, and never mentioned anything about it. Class act.

Now, did the Edward de Vere and Queen Elizabeth story really happen? We don’t really know, but if you want verified accounts of some of the most famous people in the world being fascinated with 3D Burrito Memories, just go back to the story of Le Pétomane. His fans included such luminaries as the Prince of Wales, King Leopold II of Belgium, and Sigmund Freud, the last one of which apparently kept a picture of Pujol on his wall and used him as an example while developing his theory of anal fixation. Sure, Siggy. WE have an anal fixation, says the guy with a poster of The Fartomaniac.

Also, Pujol is so well-remembered today because, ugh, Thomas Edison was a fan and immortalized some of his feats on film. Alright, FINE, Edison. You’re still going to hell, but for your contribution to human civilization, you don’t have to share a butthole with 20,000 friars.

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