Those in which no flesh-meat is issued to the messes. It is obvious that they are a remnant of the "maigre days" of the Roman Catholics, who deem it a mortal sin to eat flesh on certain days. Stock-fish used to be served out till it was found to promote scurvy. The term is derived from a religious sect in the East who, believing in metempsychosis [rebirth of the soul] eat of no creature endued with life.
-Admiral William Smyth's Sailor's Word-book
Hmm. After very
brief research, I think the Eastern religious sect Admiral Smyth refers to here is either Hinduism or Buddhism. Among other things, they both hold the banyan tree sacred; and both religions have historically practiced vegetarianism.
Both believe in metempsychosis, or transmigration of souls; which, by the way, differs from reincarnation. You don't say, you say? Metempsychosis is the transmigration of the human soul to another body, be it human, animal, or inanimate. Reincarnation holds that man is an evolving being developing through repeated human embodiments.
Well, what do you know? I just found another dictionary that lists a definition of banyan
as "a Hindu trading caste who eat no meat
". Guess that answers that!
means not containing meat or its juices. Just being thorough, you know.
Oh, the places we'll go! (Apologies to Dr. Seuss.)