A Feast for the Ass

A Feast for the Ass January 14, 2020



Today, the 14th of January, was celebrated throughout Europe during the Middle Ages as the Feast of the Ass. I find it one of those small sadnesses that this observance has passed from common use. And, well, I, for one, advocate for its reclamation.

According to my google searches the feast is generally seen as related to the ever popular Feast of Fools. But focused on celebrating all sorts of variations on donkey stories. Of course among these principally attached to the story of the holy family going to Egypt – and the donkey they rode on…

Some, particularly Carl Jung think it derives from a pagan holiday Cervulus which was observed on the first of January. Jung, according to Wikipedia wrote “‘On the Psychology of the Trickster-Figure’ in The archetypes and the collective unconscious (pp. 257–259) Jung mentions ‘a codex dating apparently from the 11th century,’ according to which ‘At the end of the mass, instead of the words ‘Ite missa est,’ the priest would bray three times. Jung also cites the glossarium of Du Cange for evidence of the medieval custom. Jung (p. 259) postulates ‘certain tendencies to bring the ass into symbolic relationship with Christ,’ since ‘from ancient times, the God of the Jews was vulgarly conceived to be an ass–a prejudice that extended to Christ himself.'”

What I especially like is that reference to how during the mass when it came time to say amen, the people would instead bray.

When I despair for the human condition and recall that bray, I feel some scintilla of hope for our poor sorry species.

It brings to mind a critique I once read about C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, saying that to make the Christ figure a lion was missing the point of Jesus, who would better be portrayed as a donkey, and his companions would be broken in many different ways.

As one of the broken, I rather like that.

And so a tip of the hat to the donkey.

In all her glory…

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