Wednesday, July 24, 2013

And speaking of magic…

Holy Water.

We had lots of Holy Water when I was growing up. I was baptized in in. I blessed myself with it every time I entered a church. I was sprinkled with it at the Asperges me. Guaranteed conducive to the well-being of body and soul.


No conceivable laboratory test could distinguish between Holy Water and tap water. The ameliorating qualities of Holy Water were the result of an incantation. The speaking of a ritual formula.


No wait. Perhaps we could prove a difference. Anoint a hundred hospital patients with Holy Water, and another hundred with the same unblessed water. Double blind. Measure outcomes. I doubt if the experiment has been done, but we can guess the result.

In a sense the experiment has been done, inadvertently. I recall reading some years ago about doctors in a Dublin hospital trying to track down the source of bacterial infections. It turned out the culprit was unsterile Holy Water brought to patients by family members who were trying to be helpful.

It was the rare Catholic family in those days that did not have a vial or bottle of Holy Water around the house, for emergencies.


Of course, Catholicism is not the only religion that uses water in sacred rituals. And no wonder. Water is essential to life. As I write here in Ireland on the early morning of the 24th, it is pouring cats and dogs outside. After three weeks of hot dry weather my garden is soaking it up. Aquifers of being replenished. Plants, animals and humans are refreshed. A blessing falls from the sky.

When magic is gone, all water is holy.