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By Simon J. Bronner
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Additional resources for Crossing the Line: Violence, Play, and Drama in Naval Equator Traditions
Being thus apparell’d, he commanded to be call’d before him every one of them, who had never passed that dangerous place before. And then causing them to kneel down in his presence, he made the sign of the Cross upon their foreheads, with ink; and gave each one a stroke on the shoulders with his wooden sword. Catholic symbolism is apparent in making the sign of the Cross upon the sailors’ foreheads and the blackening apparently indicates the inversion of their white world of land and home. He adds that offering of brandy to the sea is made by a silent procession of placing it by the main mast.
The saying, ‘beat the hell (devil, shit, crap) out of them,’ symbolizes this transfiguration, indeed regeneration, through violence. In the folk speech and performance of the beatings, the prevalence of anality in the hazing behavior is folkloristically associated with demonism, ritual pollution, the toilet-training stage of immaturity, and in some cases, even femininity (in the guise of witches) that are driven out before the fertility, order, and maturity of spring arrive. More broadly, the beatings of the male novices (driving out demons among the mistrusted or potentially rival youth) validate the authority of the elders and redeem the community as a whole.
Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea (Oxford: Oxford University Press, ) . Kut Weibust, Deep Sea Sailors: A Study in Maritime Ethnology (Stockholm: Akademisk Avhandling, ) -. , -. Corroboration for this summary is found in Steven Zeeland’s published interviews in Sailors and Sexual Identity, in which sailors view the ceremony as ‘tradition’ rather than homoerotic display (pp. -). ’ Horace Beck, Folklore and the Sea (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, ) -.
Crossing the Line: Violence, Play, and Drama in Naval Equator Traditions by Simon J. Bronner