Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Holy Terror


I have probably posted this video before, but a sudden thought just occurred to me. In many cultures, the sacred takes on a decidedly double-faced characteristic. The sacred, because it is numinous and otherworldly, escapes the grasp of human reason, and because of this, it can be said that the sacred technically fits neither category of benevolence or malevolence. What the sacred is, however, is terror--sheer, impalpable, creature-ing terror.Remember that sacred ultimately means being set apart-- but whether that is a good or bad thing for us remains to be seen. Perhaps the reason, then, why the practice of making vows to the saints perdures in the Philippines is because it is never wise to cross that which is not human. The sacred is untamed, wild, irrepressible and contagious. Maybe, just maybe, these vows are made, not just to bargain with the divine, but also to keep it out of the sphere of life as much as possible. After all, who wants to seek death by displeasing the Madonna, or St. Isidore the Laborer? Of course, I am just toying around in my head; but the idea that God, His Holy Mother, the nine choirs of angels and His saints constitute some sort of cosmic Justice League is ludicrous, maybe even dangerous.

In the video are penitents called 'magsasalibatbat', who crawl around town on their hands and knees dressed like the Nazarene. Upon reaching a shrine or visita in honor of the town's patron saint, they prostrate themselves upon the dust, while a cross is tied down to their backs. The remainder of the penitent act is spent with the cross bearing down on them.

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