19 April 2022

Vulpium Combustio

Such is the dear old title for today on the dear old Roman Calendar .... I mean, the pagan, pre-Christian Roman Calendar. Ovidium vide. Ovidium omnes cognostis videndum esse.

Catch your fox; tie a brand to its tail; ignite the brand ... and Off It Goes. The Fox is trying to get away from the fire without realising that, the faster he runs, the faster the fire follows him. Poor primitive animal! What a jape!

So, as the spring evening darkens into night ... albeit, night illumined and sanctified by the Passover Moon ... one watches the fires spreading and merging in the distance ... one senses on the fragrantly romantic air the perfume of burning fox ... and wasn't there once a Franciscan priest called Father Volpi, a collaborator of our Holy Father ... I can't remember now quite how he comes into the story ... or how igneous he was ... but it all sounds so reassuringly Franciscan ...

Of course, Tradition is everywhere nowadays so very much under threat. I am starting RSPCA ... The Rigid Society for the  Preservation of the Customs of Antiquity.

For short, it will be referred to as Lore Enforcement. You may already have heard that phrase on excited lips. How quickly things do get around!

I expect warm endorsements from Prince Charles and HRH the Duchess of Sussex and the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Honourable the Earl of Oystermouth and Greta Wozname ...

And there is scope here too for Ecumenical Progress. I would expect this beautiful old ritual ... so in harmony with all our old instincts for entering into the Mother-Earth-based rhythms of the countryside ... to create new and fruitful harmonies between ourselves and Wicca ... and the Druids ... Pachamama ... Cardinal Madariaga ... Amazonian villagers ... the sacral purlieus of the Vatican Gardens ...

It may even be given a footnote in a revised edition of Laudato Si.



Grant Milburn said...

Burning foxes sounds like a merry jape, but that sort of thing can escalate. See Judges, chapter 15:

So Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took torches; and he turned them tail to tail, and put a torch between each pair of tails. And when he had set fire to the torches, he let the foxes go into the standing grain of the Philistines, and burned up the shocks and the standing grain, as well as the olive orchards. Then the Philistines said, “Who has done this?” And they said, “Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite, because he has taken his wife and given her to his companion.” And the Philistines came up, and burned her and her father with fire. And Samson said to them, “If this is what you do, I swear I will be avenged upon you, and after that I will quit.” And he smote them hip and thigh with great slaughter…

and so on...

I looked up the relevant passage in Fasti IV. The Roman ceremony seems designed to punish foxes for destroying crops rather than to help them do it.

Now I'm wondering about the vineyard-destroying foxes in Canticles 2:15. What did they do to them once they caught them?

Peter Presland said...

As a bruised old fox hunter from the days before political correctness won its first major legislative victory over venerable rural tradition, I always associated 'Charlie's brush being set afire', with Samson's rage at the Timnites; that - like mounted fox-hunting itself - it had solid utility and purpose other than mere entertainment.

Rudyard Kipling's 'The Fox Meditates' expands on the matter:

When Samson set my brush afire
To spoil the Timnites barley,
I made my point for Leicestershire
And left Philistia early.
Through Gath and Rankesborough Gorse I fled,
And took the Coplow Road, sir!
And was a Gentleman in Red
When all the Quorn wore woad, sir!

The rest of the poem is an entertainingly educational canter through english history - from the fox's point of view that is.

frjustin said...

It's been said that airplanes as well as angels are now flying in modern Hebrew. Those vineyard-destroying foxes in Canticles 2:15 are another example of a modern adaptation of Biblical Hebrew. The verse reads: "Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that are ruining the vineyards".

The significance of the little foxes is that foxes do not travel in packs, but sneak into the vineyard, or chicken house sneakily, one at a time. Foxes are also known to sit and study their intended target for some time before the actual intrusion.

Also, a good vineyard takes years of diligent and careful preparation and planning. The foxes can ruin it in a few minutes of terrorism.

And so the “shualim k’tanim", "little foxes" are now used in modern Hebrew as a synonym for terrorists.

Richard said...

Who will be in charge of lore enforcement? Surely Cardinal Sarah.

Albrecht von Brandenburg said...

I bet the vulpium combustio was not as much fun as the poena culea!