Drowning: the History of Blessing of Water

For today’s Throwback Thursday, let’s get wet!

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Since summer is fast approaching, and a possible demon apocalypse as well, it would be just right to discuss one of our cooler best friend, the Holy Water.

In the TV show Supernatural, Holy Water is considered to be an essential. Not only does it kick demon ass, but it can save your life if you get stranded, locked or kidnapped. *Water is essential for survival, guys.* Our two brothers obsessively make sure that they got this pocket of godly nuke with them at all times.

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Though we all agree their obsession is cute and cool at the same time, I’m sure it made you wonder, ‘What is IN that thing??’. Then the episode Salvation (1.21) reveals that it contains NOTHING but H2O and a 12 seconds long prayer. Yep, I counted. Now that it cleared up that the holy water contains nothing but… water, our next question will obviously be, “What makes it so special?”

Obviously, it must be the ritual. Rituals and spells in the Supernatural world contains unimaginable power, as we know by heart. If some blood written in squiggly Enochain can teleport angels, it isn’t surprising that a few latin words can turn our toilet water into demon acid.  Though the ritual varies per episode, most involves a rosary and a latin prayer. Though I suspect the rosary is mostly symbolic, the prayers on the other hand seem to have  a basis.

According to Super-WikiJohn’s blessing prayer was  “Exorcizo te creature acquae in nomine Deo, patris omnipotentis et in virtute Spiritu Sancti.”. Even with out a proper knowledge of Latin, we can guess that it is saying something like “I exorcise thee, creature of the water, in the name of God the omnipotent Father and in the virtue of the Holy Spirit.”. This is a modified version of the first line of the old Catholic blessing of the water which went “O water, creature of God, I exorcise you in the name of God the Father (+) Almighty, and in the name of Jesus (+) Christ His Son, our Lord, and in the power of the Holy (+) Spirit.” with each (+) queuing for a sign of the cross. For obvious reasons, the writers decided to leave Jesus Christ and the sign of the cross out of our television screen, but overall, it was a pretty accurate blessing… just not complete. 

Be it due to lack of time, or complications from religious organizations for mentioning the Holy Spirit in such a TV show, Bobby went ahead and further simplified the already modified prayer by omitting the Holy Spirit as well. He ended the 12 second prayer at it’s 9th second, ending at “Omnipotentis“. The water worked equally well in warding off demons, so we can conclude that the ritual doesn’t have to be completed as long as the water has been “blessed by God.”

Now that we are done discussing the technicalities of the show, let’s go to our real world. Though several religions all over the world use the holy water, actively it’s best known Catholic. But only in the latter part of early Christianity was it that the holy water was mentioned. We can hypothesis that it was not part of the original christian practices, just later added (rumored by Apostle Matthew) and further popularized. Through out history, the holy water was used for blessing houses, baptizing babies, and yes, kicking demon asses. Whether you actually believe that demons and the devil exist or not, the Catholic Church does. And since the Catholic Church is the group of people who actively exorcise demons, the holy water found its place being badass in real life as well.

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Traditionally, the blessing ritual for the Catholics is long and in my opinion complicated. Before the reforms, the Roman rite required you salt, water and in some cases Psalm 103. The salt was blessed, then the water, and lastly, these to were mixed and blessed once more. Though it would have been originally in Latin, it is very acceptable to perform this rite in English or any other language, as well. A priest was required by the Catholic church to bless the water in this manner for it was an exorcism rite though no one can prevent you from doing it at home. The ritual is straight forward where the priest asks the blessing of god and for the ingredients to aid in purifying and exorcising things. The materials made sense as well, for not only is salt known for its purification purpose (and torturing demons based on tv), but  salt would have helped in preserving the water. By the mid 20th century, *to my dismay*, the salt was discarded from the rite, for it is believed to be from pagan origins and not necessary.

The modern Catholic blessing of water is no longer a priestly exorcism, but rather a simple blessing. Deacons are now allowed to bless water using the modern Roman rite. A short prayer said asking God’s blessing, and sometimes, they bless the water with already blessed holy water. Though I’m not too sure if water blessed by the modern ritual could be used for exorcism, they are still widely use for blessing people, houses and items.

I personally keep a jar of holy water with a rosary by my window alongside sacks and jars of salt. But since I personally blessed it using the old ritual, I would not be too sure if they would work in case of a demon invasion. Never the less, if you would want to try blessing water yourself, you can try the Catholic Tool‘s webpage.

Be it keeping us safe from the evil, or just looking cool by the window, the holy water has been a big part of real world. But we’re here because we’re fans *I’m not even catholic fyi*, and we know the holy water serves an even greater role in the world of Supernatural. Saving lives, kicking asses, torturing demons and wetting our boys for summer.

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-Rui

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