Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Rogation days: Beating the Bounds

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week (the three days before Ascension Day) are Rogation Days, from the Latin "rogare" which means to ask and during which people prayed to God for a good harvest and safety from natural disasters. In Elizabethan England (and beyond) people would also "beat the bounds," walking around the perimeter of the parish lands, "to share the knowledge of where they lay, and to pray for protection and blessings for the lands."

I was going to be all reverent about this practice, but then I read this:

The priest of the parish with the churchwardens and the parochial officials headed a crowd of boys who, armed with green boughs, usually birch or willow, beat the parish boundary markers with them. Sometimes the boys were themselves whipped or even violently bumped on the boundary-stones to make them remember. The object of taking boys is supposed to ensure that witnesses to the boundaries should survive as long as possible.

Well, that's one way to do it, I suppose.

Strange Britain reports that

Curiously, certain stones, trees or other marker points around the boundary would also be beaten by literally bumping a boy (often a choirboy) against the mark. The boy would be suspended upside down and his head gently tapped against the stone or he would be taken by the feet and hands and swung against a tree!

Photographic evidence:

To be honest, doesn't that sound like something a lot of the boys at church would love? To be swung by your hands and feet by the boundaries of the church? Not violently, but, you know, for fun. If they wanted. I could see kids vying for the opportunity. OK, so it's strange and arcane, but goodness, it could be kind of fun.

Add that to the lovely prayers for the day, and you might have yourself quite the intergenerational event

I hope you're able to get out and about today to see what's going on in your neighborhood, to enjoy creation, and to discover ways we can be better stewards of God's good gifts. And if you see any choirboys, make sure to bop 'em on the head.

O merciful Creator, your hand is open wide to satisfy the needs of every living creature: Make us always thankful for your loving providence; and grant that we, remembering the account that we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of your good gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

No comments: