By: MARGARET BROWN
Margaret Brown is one of The Resident’s longest standing contributors and has lived in the Algarve for more than 20 years. As well as Point of View, she also writes Country Matters twice a month.
UNTIL THE harnessing of steam power in the late 18th century and consequent Industrial Revolution, farming had been the major occupation of ordinary working people across the world for many thousands of years. Pagan Gods of fertility and rain were propitiated long before the birth of Christ.
In Roman times, the feast of Robigalia was a celebration of prayer for a plentiful harvest, the word coming from the Latin rogare which means ‘to ask’. As Christianity spread, many festivals were absorbed into the Christian Calendar, traces of original paganism slipping easily into the prayer life of the peasantry. Robigalia became Rogation Sunday which today is celebrated on the fifth Sunday after Easter, the Gospel reading of the New Testament being “Ask and ye shall be given, seek and ye shall find…….” (From Luke Ch11 verse 9).
Closely linked with the Church was the ceremony of ‘Beating the Bounds’ practised millennia ago as part of the seven day rituals of Beltane. After the Rogation service – but now no longer a part of country life – Minister and Churchwarden would lead their parishioners in procession round the boundaries of Church land to check that all was as it should be. Likewise, the lesser rogation days of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday coming immediately before Ascension are rarely celebrated. The break with our agricultural heritage is a sad consequence of the quicker returns provided by industrialisation. The painless absorption of ancient beliefs associated with the farming year into the Christian faith has no parallel in industry. As we lose our closeness to the soil, there is no Christian equivalent to see us safely through the 21st Century demands of manufacture. Our link has been cut leaving many people devoid of their roots.