24 August 2010

Fasting Against God

Several weeks ago I discovered Beachcombing's Bizarre History Blog, which describes its content as "the outlandish, the anomalous, and the curious from the last five thousand years."  As expected, it has quite a bit of "TYWK"-type material, so some of you may want to bookmark it.  Here's are some sample excerpts from a post today:
The story recorded in the Tripartite Life of St Patrick claims that the saint went to Croagh Patrick in County Mayo. There he climbed to the top, sat down and told a passing angel that he would not leave the mountain ‘till I am dead or until all my requests are granted’...

Fasting  is typically a religious act; an individual deprives themselves of food to concentrate the mind better on God. However, in ancient Ireland, fasting was not only religious. It also had another purpose. The ancient Irish law books, of which several survive, explain that a person could fast against a man who had injured him in some way and who was of a higher social rank.

The wronged individual went to the wrong-doers house and sat outside from dawn to dusk refusing to eat. By so doing he brought bad luck or ‘pollution’ to his opponent. The one fasted against then had two options. He could either admit his wrong and redress it – the fasting would stop and social harmony would be restored. Or he could counter fast to ward off the curse.

It is an extraordinary custom. Not least because it can be paralleled in ancient, medieval and, indeed, modern India and probably dates back to early Indo-European beliefs, beliefs that have survived at the two ends of the Indo-European continuum...

God, we learn, has, faced with His servant’s fasting, given way and the angel offers Patrick concessions... that those who sing Patrick’s hymn will be saved from torture, and, the promise that has already been mentioned; namely that when the end of the world comes Patrick, not God, will judge the Irish
There's more at the link, and many other choice morsels at the blog.

1 comment:

  1. You don't have to look to India for this. In the North of Ireland not so long ago, Bobby Sands and 9 others fasted to death against Margaret Thatcher, and back in the early 20's Terence McSwiney,Lord Mayor of Cork also fasted to death against the British.


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