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.