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We blessed the crops, but we didn’t get to whip any damn children…


The ancient church is the heart of our little settlement, though services there are few. So far, Uncle B and I have neatly sidestepped most of them because the hours we keep. When an afternoon service cropped up this Sunday, we were kind of stuck for good excuses (“we’re aggressively obnoxious atheists” didn’t seem a very sociable excuse).

This was the annual Rogation Service. The Rogation Service is a church adoption of the pagan custom of blessing the crops and livestock in Spring. It originally lasted three days, which coincided with the Gange Days — a procession known as “beating the bounds.”

Yea, verily, in ye days before ye Google Earth, remembering and maintaining the boundaries of each individual parish wasn’t easy. So once a year, substantial men of the village — along with many boys — would walk the entire perimeter of the parish. “Entire perimeter” to include wading canals, walking through the middle of houses and trampling any new fences or outbuildings. Literally every inch of it was retraced on foot, along with much partying and whooping it up.

Along the way, the boys were thrown into the brambles, tossed into ponds and slammed into hard objects, all the better to cement in their tender heads the landmarks and outlines of the boundary. Works for me.

We had a feeling this Rogation wouldn’t be quite that sort of wild medieval par-tay. And so it wasn’t. When we reached the open field, our entire merry band consisted of six bluehaired old ladies, the vicar, Uncle B and self. We were handed programs and given speaking parts, and off we went.

We shuffled twenty feet into the field and said prayers for the livestock (astonishing several lambs). Fifty feet the other way and said prayers for the crops. Up the road a piece and prayers for the church. Then we had mugs of hot tea and little sticky cakes and walked home. Hymns and all, about an hour.


The strawberries? First of the year. Uncle B growed them in his greenhouse, a little bowl for each of us. They were awesome and flavorful, and so sweet they didn’t need sugar.

I reckon it was the Jesus blessing that done it.

May 25, 2009 — 6:24 pm
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