Sunday, October 21, 2012

James-A-Day: The Uncommon Prayer Book

An early 18th century prayer book
Possessed prayer books--I have to say, that's a little odd.  Doesn't the Book of Common Prayer have a section on exorcism?

These, however, are uncommon prayer books with a special section just for cursing Oliver Cromwell, on his birthday no less. (I checked my copy of the prayer-book and sure enough, April 25 is St. Mark's Day and no service ever uses Psalm 109.)  I suppose the old Royalist grandmother observed the cursing for the rest of her life, and went on doing it afterwards too.  Or do you think it was something else?

I like how Mr. Davidson realizes that no ordinary prayer-book would have been likely to be printed in 1653.  I suppose a British person interested in history would be bound to realize that 1653 is the middle of the Protectorate--Lord Peter Wimsey would know it right away--but I certainly never would.  
...as he was changing his socks before dinner, he suddenly paused and said half-aloud, ‘By Jove, that is a rum thing!’ It had not occurred to him before how strange it was that any edition of the Prayer–Book should have been issued in 1653, seven years before the Restoration, five years before Cromwell’s death, and when the use of the book, let alone the printing of it, was penal.
This story also has another example of fabric being used as a vehicle for a supernatural attack.  This time it's white flannel instead of linen; MRJ seems to have found linen the most scary, but flannel is a close second.

Here is the 109th Psalm, in the King James Version.  It was interesting to read it and think of it as directed at Cromwell:

A Cry for Vengeance
To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.

1  Hold not thy peace, O God of my praise;
2  for the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me:
        
they have spoken against me with a lying tongue.
3  They compassed me about also with words of hatred;
        
and fought against me without a cause.
4  For my love they are my adversaries:
        
but I give myself unto prayer.
5  And they have rewarded me evil for good,
        
and hatred for my love.
6  Set thou a wicked man over him:
        
and let Satan stand at his right hand.
7  When he shall be judged, let him be condemned:
        
and let his prayer become sin.
8  Let his days be few;
        
and let another take his office. 
9  Let his children be fatherless,
        
and his wife a widow.
10  Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg:
        
let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places.
11  Let the extortioner catch all that he hath;
        
and let the strangers spoil his labor.
12  Let there be none to extend mercy unto him:
        
neither let there be any to favor his fatherless children.
13  Let his posterity be cut off;
        
and in the generation following let their name be blotted out.
14  Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the LORD;
        
and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out.
15  Let them be before the LORD continually,
        
that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth.
16  Because that he remembered not to show mercy,
        
but persecuted the poor and needy man,
that he might even slay the broken in heart.
17  As he loved cursing,
        
so let it come unto him:
as he delighted not in blessing,
so let it be far from him.
18  As he clothed himself with cursing like as with his garment,
        
so let it come into his bowels like water,
and like oil into his bones.
19  Let it be unto him as the garment which covereth him,
        
and for a girdle wherewith he is girded continually.
20  Let this be the reward of mine adversaries from the LORD,
        
and of them that speak evil against my soul.
21  But do thou for me, O GOD the Lord, for thy name's sake:
        
because thy mercy is good, deliver thou me.
22  For I am poor and needy,
        
and my heart is wounded within me.
23  I am gone like the shadow when it declineth:
        
I am tossed up and down as the locust.
24  My knees are weak through fasting;
        
and my flesh faileth of fatness.
25  I became also a reproach unto them:
        
when they looked upon me they shook their heads. 
26  Help me, O LORD my God:
        
O save me according to thy mercy:
27  that they may know that this is thy hand;
        
that thou, LORD, hast done it.
28  Let them curse, but bless thou:
        
when they arise, let them be ashamed;
but let thy servant rejoice.
29  Let mine adversaries be clothed with shame;
        
and let them cover themselves with their own confusion, as with a mantle.
30  I will greatly praise the LORD with my mouth;
        
yea, I will praise him among the multitude.
31  For he shall stand at the right hand of the poor,
        
to save him from those that condemn his soul.

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