Primitive people usually seem to have a concept of sacred time, a kind of time within time.  It  tells the inner story of the universe and can only be made present through ritual, when primitives believe they escape ordinary time  and actually enter sacred time.  This sacred understanding of the universe is cyclical.  The idea survives in the Church’s liturgical year.   Many primitive people begin the year with rituals when everything is turned upside down and order undone.  It often, strangely to us perhaps,  takes the form of a period of orgies of sexual licence, meant to evoke the chaos at the beginning of things before order was established in the universe.  Genesis talks about the wohu ta bohu, the chaos at the beginning of things before God created the world.  Modern cosmology’s first micro-seconds of intense heat immediately after the Big Bang is weirdly confirmatory.

The custom of turning thinbgs upside down at the beginning of the year survived into medieval Europe in the form of Lords of Misrule and boy bishops.  At Old St Gregory’s at Douai a boy king was appointed who appears to have ruled the school, and perhaps even the monastic community I’m not too sure about that, during the twelve days of Christmas.   It was still happening in the nineteenth century after St Gregory’s moved to Downside, and lasted up to the time when the railway came to Chilcompton and the boys were able to go home for the Christmas holidays.  The king’s throne is still in the hall of Downside School to this day.



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