misc: the Fasting Spit

You hear the weirdest things on the radio – I was driving along somewhere the other evening when a song came on the radio & one of the verses was:

And we all went up to the Maro, hey there who’s yer man?
It’s Alfie Byrne out walkin, sure he’s a daycent man,
Communion every mornin’, here’s to the Fasting Spit,
Olivia de Havilland has a freckle on her lip.

though I think that version is sanitised for radio, especially the last line. You can hear it here on RTÉ’s website at about 29 minutes in. The song is called The Maro, written by Pete St. John and performed by Barry & Brendan Gleeson (the actor).

Anyway – the Fasting Spit – what the heck is that? It is, literally, the spit of someone who has been fasting, especially around Lent or before Holy Communion & was considered by some to have special powers. Oh Holy Ireland I love it! Further scratchings round the underbelly of google have revealed (from encyclopedia.com):

SPITTLE cures (usually ‘fasting spittle’)
c. AD 70 Mark 7: 32–5.
And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech … And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue; and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened.

AD 77 PLINY Natural History XXVIII VII (1856, V 289)
Ophthalmia may be cured by anointing … the eyes every morning with fasting spittle.
Ibid, XXII (304)
A woman’s fasting spittle is generally considered highly efficacious for bloodshot eyes.

This brings a new shade to the phrase ‘Spit on me Dickie’ referring to the erstwhile popstar of the 60s, Dickie Rock. Apparently rebellious young women in the 60s in Ireland wanted to be covered in Dickie’s saliva, one wonders if it was for its curative properties. It seems to have been used in Scotland as well, especially for warts and sore eyes.

Maybe it’d be good for Swine Flu – any offers?