Saturday, March 26, 2011

4th Century Baptismal rite - healing powers of Salt, religious mystery

The other weekend I attended a baptism, which was quite a trip down memory lane. Centuries of ancestral memory, in fact, as it included a 4th Century rite.

Before they let the New Baby into the church, they had to, um, exorcise her.

So this freshly-made bundle of milky-sweet gorgeousness was rid of the devil. After that were a series of other curious acts. The priest wets his finger with his saliva, places it in her ear, and in her mouth. He then places some salt in her mouth, after performing a special rite over the salt - that gets an excorsim too.

Now as my Catholic brother pointed out, this was probably the medieval attempt at inoculation, as the priest would have been the healthiest person in the village. A little bit of pro-biotic help probably went a long way back in those plague-ridden days.

And as for the salt, I'm not sure. It might have been for oral re-hydration. It could have had a sanitizing function, as salt tends to kill life-unfriendly bacteria, sparing life-friendly bacteria. Maybe its value is simply providing an essential mineral. Salt it was worth more than gold only a few centuries ago - our bodies can function without gold, but not without salt, which could have made life tough for landbound people.

Here is the Salt excorsim:
O salt, creature of God, I exorcise you by the living got, the god who brought you into being to safeguard the human race, and commanded you to be consecrated by His servants for the benefit of those who are coming into the faith, so that by the power of the Holy trinity you might become a health-giving sacrament to put the enemy to flight. Therefore we bid the, O Lord, to sanctify this salt which thou hast created and to bless it with thy blessing, so that it may become a perfect medicine for all who receive it and may remain always in every fiber of their being.

Another curious thing, the Holy Water font. People dip in and bless themselves with this water on entering and exiting the church.  Is this a way to share the common cold, or to strengthen the immune system of all the people in the village?
For it to be so lasting a tradition, there must have been some strong reason behind it.

Now free of the devil, and ready to do great things in this world. 


Now that I'm in Sydney,  hanging out with my brother who mysteriously turned out to be a practicing Catholic, I've been enjoying, from a safe distance, the many rites that have been passed down.

Rites at the wedding of my brother,  St Marys Cathedral Sydney
Ive also been re-reading Bill Mollision's Permaculture Designer's Manual, which colors my days and perception of things.

Bill is known for his fondness for the aboriginal culture. People who have been given this culture can see and know things that the rest of us are oblivious to.
Bill talks with respect about their 'Songline' traditions,  about how they go around 'polishing up their country'  singing songs over the landscape to keep the rivers flowing, the grass growing.

He talks about there is rich, life-giving knowledge coded into tribal art and patterns.
A sacred aboriginal song can also work as a very old GPS system. Its like this: when you've walked to the end of those monotonous verses over a stretch of desert, you should then battle with some anthills as you sing the ant song verses. This will be followed by dramatically plunging and rising verses, that show you should now turn and enter those rocky outcrops, if you want to get to where the song is leading.....

When we loose or discard these aids to understanding, these gifts from our ancestors, life gets even more perplexting, and the lost just get more lost.

John weds Laura, December 2010. Photo by Tien
Those Catholics do strange things. 
Some of what they do seem generated 'tribally', by people in their villages, for their survival and flourishing. Other things they sing, say and do have the fingerprints of the "Princes of the Church' all over them, words to get control of the life-energy of others.  

Its all very delicate. But I'm so glad my brother and his mates are keeping these rites alive. 
One day they might come in handy.


Gaye said...

Hello Cecilia,

I am deeply spiritual, but not in the least religious. Some wonder how that can be. It just is. Religion does, however, intrigue me. An interesting post.


Cecilia Macaulay said...

I'm so glad you found something new or useful in my thoughts, and I wonder what it was. I look forward to more Intrigue with you.

Aiko said...

Dear Cecilia,

I love your writing and vibrate with everything inspire me to further my dreams in permaculture.
Beautiful. Thank you for all the work you do!



Cecilia Macaulay said...

Dear Aiko,
Its lovely to have found you, though the wonderful world of blogging. Your internet presence is a blessing, your website and life work just beautiful. Thank-you for all the useful contributions you have been sprinkling though my blog - I have explored Anastasia, as you recommended, and its just in time for Persimmon experimenting here in Sydney - I will try your freezing trick. You are opening up new worlds for me.
Come back often!

Aiko said...

Dear Cecilia, I have been so inspired by your work through visual osmosis..the beauty mark you leave on your projects got me so energized that I am now visualizing you here leading a group of ''Permie Pixies'' for my near future project & holding various workshops! I can ''see'' you holding persimmon drying workshops & such, adding beauty to every project from the north to the south. I'd love to arrange a 'tour schedule for you' so I can share you with the rest of us here. I'll talk to the others on the Transition Portugal site to see who, what, when etc..& see what can be organized. I'm jumping ahead of myself aren't I? Sorry, I don't even know if you have a desire to come here..I know it's mostly about timing. Please email me your agenda, details, requirements, questions & about when you might have time to grace us with your presence in Portugal :D

About Anastasia, the first 3 books (which you can inhale in 3 sittings) sets the stage for the ''7 layer main course'' in the successive books. OMG, Cecilia, it will recalibrate you, and transform you into a Supernova Permaculture Beauty Queen (which I think you already are.) I am so curious to see the after effects in your already poetic writings and illustration work!