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|
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.....
|John weds Laura, December 2010. Photo by Tien|