13 May 2012

Rogation Days

The fifth Sunday after Easter – Domenica Rogationum, or Rogation Sunday – begins Rogation Week; the following three days - Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before Ascension - are called the Rogation Days, and referred to as the "Minor Rogation".  The name comes from the Latin  rogare, which means "to ask" or "to beseech".   On these three days, it was customary for priest and parishioners to fast and then go in procession, praying first for God's mercy and forgiveness, next for a blessing on the newly planted seed and flowering plants, and finally for a bountiful harvest (sparing them from what the insurance companies refer to as "Acts of God": tornadoes, hurricanes, gales, and floods, along with the banes of farmers: killing frosts, blight, and similar calamities).

The days were also known as “Gang” (walking) days, from the processions, and  “Cross” days, from the crosses which led them; “Green” days was another name, from the restriction of foods to salads and green vegetables.

With time, these processions included "beating the bounds", in which the perambulations covered the boundaries of the parish.  English pastors were instructed that "In going, [they] shall stop at certain convenient places and admonish the people to give thanks to God, in the beholding of God's benefits, for the increase and abundance of His fruits upon the face of the earth, with the saying Psalm 104, Benedic anima mea..."; occasionally the pastor would add the warning "cursed be he which translateth the bounds and dales of his neighbor".  By walking the bounds in this way, the boundary markers, which may have been moved for any reason, could be replaced and their positions again fixed in the minds of the parishioners.

The prayers always included the Litany of Saints, and psalms and other prayers as time allowed.  Litany is another word of much the same meaning as rogare, for it comes from the Greek litaneia - to supplicate - and with each "have mercy on us", "deliver us", and "we beseech Thee, hear us", we are begging God to avert His wrath from us.

To Naogeorgus, the whole thing led to licentious behavior and unseemly drinking:
“Now comes the day wherein they gad abroad, with cross in hand,
To bounds of every field, and round about their neighbor’s land,
And as they go they sing and pray to every saint above,
But to our Lady specially, whom most of all they love.
When as they to the town are come, the Church they enter in,
And look what saint that church doth guide, they humbly pray to him,
That he preserve both corn and fruits from storm and tempest great
And them defend from harm, and send them store of drinks and meat.
This done, they to the tavern go, or in the fields they dine,
Where down they sit and feed apace, and fill themselves with wine,
So much that oftentimes without the Cross they come away,
And miserably they reel, still as their stomach up they lay.
These things three days continually are done, with solemn sport,
With many Crosses often they unto some church resort,
Whereas they all do chant aloud, whereby there straight does spring
A bawling noise, while every man seeks highest for to sing.
The Priests give ear, this madness them does most of all content,
And wine to them that pass the rest, is from the Parson sent.”

The Rogation Days were removed from the new calendar - with an army of appraisers, surveyors, and property maps, there is not much call for determining the boundaries by walking them.  However, there is much call for prayers asking forgiveness and blessing.

So, on these three days, walk the boundaries of your own property, saying the Litany of the Saints (you can find a copy of it here at EWTN, and remember to add your family's patron saints), or at least asking a blessing and protection for all contained therein.  Do the same with your neighborhood, as you walk the dog.  And don't forget to pray for a good harvest.

 To ensure a heavy harvest, repeat this charm to the fruit trees each day:

Stand fast, root; bear well, top;
God send us a yowling sop!
Every twig, apple big,
Every bough, apple enow,
Hats full, caps full,
Fill quarter sacks full.

[My only charm is to point to the woodpile and say, "Produce or else!"  It has worked so far.]

As stated above, one of the names for the Rogation Days was “Green Days”, from the restrictions of foods to salads and green vegetables.  Does this suggest that they were not only fast days, but abstinence as well?  Or were the first greens of the year finally available?  After a winter of increasingly desiccated vegetables, I can well imagine that a fresh juicy salad would be eagerly consumed.

Well, for at least one of these three days, make a “green” dinner, with as many green items as your fertile imagination can concoct: Green peas and cream in patty shells, lime jello, pistachio ice cream, fish poached in Court Bouillon and sprinkled with parsley, and my favorite: GREEN GODDESS DRESSING for the salad.

Finely mince together 8 – 10 anchovy fillets and 1 green onion. 
Mince chives to equal ¼ cup.
Mince parsley to equal ¼ cup.
Mince fresh tarragon to equal 2 tablespoons (or soak 1 tablespoon of dried tarragon in a little vinegar. Strain)

Mix all of the above lightly but thoroughly with 3 cups of mayonnaise and ¼ cup of tarragon vinegar [if no tarragon vinegar handy, use white wine vinegar, or distilled white vinegar.  And see recipe below for making your own tarragon vinegar.]  This makes about a quart of dressing – you can cut the recipe in half if you don’t need quite that much.  Store any unused dressing in the refrigerator.

Heat 1 pint of white wine vinegar.  Slightly crush 1 pint of fresh tarragon leaves with your hands.  Put the tarragon in a container (I have a large jar) with 2 cloves, and 1 garlic clove, halved.  Pour in the heated vinegar, cover, and let stand for 24 hours.  After that, remove the garlic, then let the vinegar stand another two weeks.  Strain through a cloth, bottle, and cork tightly (I like to put a sprig of tarragon in the bottle just for pretty, especially if I’m giving the vinegar as a gift).

And when you beat your own bounds, remember poor ol’ Naogeorgus, and dine in the fields (or the park) with a picnic lunch.  Singing loudly and off-key is allowed.

Artwork: Haven’t found the attribution yet.  Did you notice that the people in the background are throwing rocks at the procession?