Monday, August 5, 2013

Postcards from the Underworld: The Sick Box


As an archaeologist, I like to dig things up; sometimes that doesn't mean from the ground, but from the musty interiors of antique shops. Even as a fallen Catholic, I am still drawn to those items of ritual that I saw in church growing up, attending weekly Mass.

With its silver components gleaming in the corner of the dimly lit store, this item caught my eye. Called a "Sick Call Cabinet" it is what a priest would use when calling upon a parishoner who was ill. I examined the used candles, the empty vial of holy water, the silver crucifix and the black and white image of a crucified Christ, running my hand across the purple velvet cloth in which they were embedded. Who was this last used to bless, I found myself wondering? Did they receive a healing? I imagined the priest who carried the box, a spiritual briefcase of sorts, down the pine laden roads criss crossing this low country of the American southeast. 

The best kinds of treasure are the ones that contain stories. Next time you're in rural South Carolina, stop in to an old antique shop you see along a country road. Maybe there you can see a sickbox like this one, which can be yours for only $125. Or you can just listen to its tale at no cost. 

12 comments:

  1. strange, isn't it, and oddly exciting. it causes me to wonder what we still approach with superstition.

    xo
    erin

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. faith is a powerful thing that we don't completely understand from a scientific standpoint. but you are right, the lines between religious belief and superstition can often be blurred.

      Delete
  2. This post was too short, Sis. Thank you for the visual. I'd like to read more about what you unearth in this vein. I really would.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. suze, the creative gears have been grinding since i posted this, so that just might happen!

      Delete
  3. I, too, wonder about that particular history of the *Sick Box*... whose was it..and why did it end up *For sale*? As your *Twin*, and also a *lapsed Catholic*...(though not quite as lapsed...I do attend Mass from time-to-time)..I must confess that if I am sick and dying at home....it would be a comfort to me to have a Priest attend with one of these... but then, I am alone....no parents, children or relatives... it makes a difference...

    Love, always,

    ♥ Robin ♥

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. that is the big question - why did this particular sick call box end up for sale?

      i believe that is the most important aspect of this - that someone who is alone and ill will have the comfort and presence of another - and that a priest brings a spiritual component is an additional layer of comfort.

      Delete
  4. First I've heard of a sick box - I could see that as a good starting point for a story. Go!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. you read my mind, sarah. i've already started composing this in my head...

      Delete
  5. I would like to see the rites, or whatever they are, that would be administered. There is something holy (and I don't mean in a church sense) about a human being ministering to an ailing person, whether medically, or spiritually, isn't there? I've heard about hospice rooms in hospitals where innovators have changed the rules so that those dying can be truly as comfortable as possible: silk pajamas, soft lights, music, whatever soothes the patient.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I had a box similar to that, but smaller, for taking Holy Communion to the sick and shut-in. The Orthodox priests on Ithaka probably have the same and do the same.

    I hope you keep discovering intriguing things, and writing to us about them.

    Blessings and Bear hugs!
    desert.epiphanies@sasktel.net
    Bears Noting
    Life in the Urban Forest (poetry)

    ReplyDelete
  7. What an interesting find. I too am curious about that box. I am sure you could write a whole story around it Amanda. We were in STL last week. We stayed 3 and a half days. I was terribly jet-lagged on the first two with a pounding migraine but we did get to go to the zoo (again) and to Meramec caverns. My husband and I had been there before but it was a first for our little one and he loved them.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Gosh! A thing of great wonder .... and possibilities I think. Do they still use these? Perhaps this object came into your care so that it's story could be told. I hope so. Minerva x

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for visiting♡