Wed, 26 Oct 1994 22:38:14 EDT

Michael Bauser's post re the Catholic Church's position
on fasting as a protest just reminded me of something
I'd forgotten.
In pre-Christian Ireland, one might fast "against" someone
whom you wished to shame into better behaviour. There
are several recorded instances of early Irish saints
fasting against chieftains. St. Ruadan fasted against
High King Diarmit mac Cerbaill early in the 6th century.
Ruadan cursed him first. That apparently wasn't sufficient
so St.Columcille prayed against him. That worked. Diarmit--
"half a druid and half Christian" (you see the problem)--was
The above is from a master's thesis I wrote too many years
ago. The point of the thesis was to identify some pagan/druidic
iconographical crossovers into early Irish carpet page design.

The fasting bit stayed with me because my grandmother and I
had a teasing game we played when I was little and lived with
her. She was first-generation Irish American. At supper I
would make a run to sit in her chair at the table. She would
look at me with mock sorrow and say she could sit nowhere
else. I would offer her my chair. She would sadly refuse.
Then with great seriousness she would explain that if she
couldn't sit in that chair, she wouldn't be able to, not
even if I fed her would she be able to eat, and if she couldn't eat...?
Oh, I would say. She would nod her head with oh-such-great-solemnity: yes,
she might die. I would scramble off her chair and into my own, and
we'd both giggle.
Some people said prayers before supper; not us,we played "chairs."
But it might better have been called "fasting."

best wishes,

Maureen Korp, PhD
University of Ottawa