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Religion – rituals, rites, and rats

23 May 2012, 07:06

Worship. Take away the rituals, rites, and mumbo-jumbo, and what have you got left? Not much.

I’m writing this article cheek in tongue, so – all you religious people out there – don’t get your spears and *platannas in a knot. (Can you actually knot a platanna? Who knows, I’ve certainly never tried.)

Rituals and rites have always fascinated me. Be it wedding rituals, or women’s rites – I just love the intricacies and the age-old magic spells they cast.

Let’s look at some of them. Not necessarily in alphabetical order – that would mean that I would have to start with the Indians – the American Indians. (Not the samoosa Indians, dummy. With their ritual of chucking coloured curry powder over one another, and then frolicking in that polluted Yangtze River, and all and all, they’ve got enough problems, as it is.)

The bow-and-arrow Indians had their own religious rituals and rites long before John Wayne and his fellow cowboys brought the “white-man’s magic” to the prairie. To appease the gods, they used to play hopscotch around the campfire – to the rhythm of their tom-toms. (No, it’s NOT a GPS navigation system, dummy! It’s a kind of drum.)

Anyway, the Indians would hop around the fire, from moccasin to moccasin, shouting woo-woo-woo, while simultaneously trying to knock out their own front teeth with the inside of their palms. Much like the idiots we so often see in the streets of this country – when they toi-toi to their god, Seevas Deelee Varry.

Wankan Tanka, the Great Spirit, would sometimes heed the Indian’s rituals and send them a herd of buffalo. The buffalo **chips were collected and used as firewood. Remember, you couldn’t just buy charcoal in those days. 

But, moving on

See if you can recognise this character: He dresses like Darth Vader – but in white. He has a little beanie on his head; he regularly appears on a balcony for photo sessions; people kneel before him and kiss his ring?

What? Who said: “Lord of the Rings?” Go to those little twin telephone-like booths over there, and wait for the bishop! Now! Bloody agent!

Sorry! Some people have no manners.

Where were we? Oh, yes. The Vader-like chap. He used to kneel and ritually kiss the earth every time he stepped off an aeroplane. Nowadays they just hand him a cat’s litter box, and he stands upright while kissing the sand in the container. Lekker innovative, nê?


And that ring! Contaminated by the spittle of thousands of sinners’ kisses; it must be crawling with germans and other hazardous micro-organisms! I think I’ll skip the kissing ritual.

One of my favourite churches has some great rites. And rituals, too. Imagine: Down the aisle would march the ***altar boys (relax, I won’t say a word about them), followed by the preachers – dressed in colourful cassocks (in the style of Darth Vader), followed by some other fellows with zombie-like expressions on their faces.

Some of the preachers have smoke canisters which they swing to-and-fro – making the place smell like a ****stroois. (Did you know that the smoke detectors in the church are actually disabled during the ritual – to prevent a false fire-alarm signal?) Now you do.

At the rear of this procession you will see some priests sprinkling water over the congregation. This is done in order to revive those who are in danger of passing out from smoke inhalation. Clever, huh?

Unfortunately that brings us to the end of today’s lesson. If you like, maybe I will write a sequel (or prequel?) to this story.

Oh, the rats! I almost forgot. This is especially for the samoosa Indians. Yes, Ramsammy, your people.

(Spoken with a sing-song Indian accent):

“In one of the temples in India, they are having have 20 000 rats. Worshippers have been travelling great distances when they are wanting to pay their respects to these cute little rodent buggers, and all and all.”

Great ritual, I believe. My cat would love to go there.


* Platanna – like a spear, only less so

** Different from Willard’s – not for human consumption

*** Mobile human candleholders 

**** Luxury accommodation

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