In my storied life, I’ve happily participated in plenty of rituals that, to an outside observer, must look extremely silly. But they sure meant a lot to those of us doing them. But there are plenty of rituals that look even sillier, out of context. Some of my favorites come from Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin books… like these two from The Mauritius Command:
But they crossed the line itself in style, with studdingsails aloft and alow, and with more than the usual merriment, for when they reduced sail to let Neptune come aboard, accompanied by an outrageously lewd Amphitrite and Badger-Bag, he found no less than a hundred and twenty-three souls who had to be made free of the equator by being lathered with rancid grease—tar was forbidden, being in short supply—and shaved with a piece of barrel-hoop before being ducked.
Our law, in its wisdom, has preserved much of this, and it is particularly remarkable in the customary tenure of land, and in petty serjeanty. Allow me to give you an example: in the manors of East and West Enbourne, in Berkshire, a widow shall have her free-bench—her sedes libera, or in barbarous law Latin her francus bancus—in all her late husband’s copyhold lands dum sola et casta fuerit; but if she be detected in amorous conversation with a person of the opposite sex—if she grant the last favours—she loses all, unless she appears in the next manor-court, riding backwards on a black ram, and reciting the following words:
Here I am
Riding on a black ram
Like a whore as I am;
And for my crinkum-crankum
Have lost my binkum- bankum;
And for my tail’s game
Am brought to this worldly shame.
Therefore good Mr Steward let me have my lands again.
My uncle owns one of these manors, and I have attended the court. I cannot adequately describe the merriment, the amiable confusion of the personable young widow, the flood of rustic wit, and–which is my real point–the universal, contented acceptance of her reinstatement, which I attribute largely to the power of poetry
How about you? Got any rituals of your own? Share them in the Class Participation below!