Friday, August 31, 2007

tattoos -- give me your advice

A Coptic Christian in Ethiopia.

"Do not lacerate your bodies for the dead, and do not tattoo yourselves. I am the LORD."
-Leviticus 19:28

Imperatrix pulcherrima Africae occidentalis and I are giving each other tattoos as wedding presents. Yes, I know about the prohibition in Leviticus, but hey, I also trim the hair of my beard, which is forbidden by the previous verse. Most commentaries on these commandments identify them as forbidding actions involved in specific Canaanite mourning practices. In the end, I think for Christians they go the way of the dietary restrictions also found in Leviticus. Since allergy keeps me from enjoying the permission to eat shrimp, getting a tattoo will have to be my consolation prize.

We decided that we would engrave on our rings messages to each other from the Song of Songs, in Latin. My ring will have "dilectus meus mihi et ego illi" -- "My lover belongs to me and I to him" [Songs 2:15]. Her small ring has only enough room for "tota pulchra es" -- "You are all-beautiful" [Songs 4:7]. We thought then we would each have a tattoo of a longer version of our message.

This is where I need your advice, oh loyal sententites. Where shall I get it? In what form? How many words? I'm thinking of either the upper arm or the shoulder. I'm more inclined to the former, because I want to be able to see it. If I put it on my arm, should it be a band or more like a paragraph? Should there be a frame?

Finally, how much should I put? I like this verse and the two following. Should I put all of it? Excerpts? Let me give you all three verses in Latin, then the Douay-Rheims translation (from the Latin), then the New American version:

[tota pulchra es] amica mea et macula non est in te//

veni de Libano sponsa veni de Libano veni coronaberis de capite Amana de vertice Sanir et Hermon de cubilibus leonum de montibus pardorum//

vulnerasti cor meum soror mea sponsa vulnerasti cor meum in uno oculorum tuorum et in uno crine colli tui

[Thou art all fair,] O my love, and there is not a spot in thee.//

Come from Libanus, my spouse, come from Libanus, come: thou shalt be crowned from the top of Amana, from the top of Sanir and Hermon, from the dens of the lions, from the mountains of the leopards.//

Thou hast wounded my heart, my sister, my spouse, thou hast wounded my heart with one of thy eyes, and with one hair of thy neck. [D-R]

[You are all-beautiful,] my beloved,
and there is no blemish in you.//

Come from Lebanon, my bride,
come from Lebanon, come!
Descend from the top of Amana,
from the top of Senir and Hermon,
From the haunts of lions,
from the leopards' mountains.//

You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride;
you have ravished my heart with one glance of your eyes,

with one bead of your necklace. [NAB]

Let me hear what you think.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


I couldn't really find the image I was looking for, but here's a really cool Lucas Cranach engraving of a werewolf, 1512.

A post on Wonkette led me to this article in the LA Times about the pastor and former national leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, Wiley S. Drake. Apparently, Drake used his church letterhead to endorse Mike Huckabee for president, and Americans United for Separation of Church State asked the IRS to investigate the church's tax status. Drake responded by asking his followers to use imprecatory prayer against two leaders of that organization -- specifically to pray that misfortune would come to them. He suggested Psalm 109, which includes the following:
When he is tried, let him be found guilty,
and may his prayers condemn him.

May his days be few;
may another take his place of leadership.

May his children be fatherless
and his wife a widow.

May his children be wandering beggars;
may they be driven from their ruined homes.

May a creditor seize all he has;
may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.

May no one extend kindness to him
or take pity on his fatherless children.

May his descendants be cut off,
their names blotted out from the next generation.

May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD;
may the sin of his mother never be blotted out.

May their sins always remain before the LORD,
that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth.

Pretty strong stuff. Drake feels justified:

Drake said Wednesday he was "simply doing what God told me to do" by targeting Americans United officials Joe Conn and Jeremy Leaming, whom he calls the "enemies of God."
"God says to pray imprecatory prayer against people who attack God's church," he said. "The Bible says that if anybody attacks God's people, David said this is what will happen to them."
It's hard to know where to begin to comment on this. The obvious point is that someone has to get Drake and people like him a copy of the New Testament and have them sit down and read it. His hubris strikes me as well -- getting his tax status investigated is an "attack" on God's church? Comparable to, say, the Diocletian Persecution? There's really no need to comment any further.

Except, of course, to say that the medievals always did these things better. I couldn't help thinking about Lester Little's book Benedictine Maledictions, about how Benedictine monks, faced with grave dangers and threats to life and property, developed liturgical curses, some of them involving a very elaborate ritual (here's a good review by Constance Bouchard). These curses were sophisticated and made sense given the context -- a far cry from Drake's approach.

Friday, August 17, 2007

rest in peace

Max Roach, 1924-2007.

Another cool video of the great jazz drummer:

Saturday, August 11, 2007

oh dear...

Saint Roch and his dog.

How can someone who runs a dog-fighting ring be even more vile? Use kittens as bait. Good Lord...