Thursday, January 7, 2016

Holy Water

Holy water has been a staple in RPGs since the very first published RPG (OD&D 1974) which included holy water on the equipment list alongside of torches for light and iron spikes for wedging doors. But I've seldom seen much detail on where it comes from or how water becomes holy. Since our current group has now met the supernatural on more than one occasion and since one of the PCs is a Jesuit Priest, I though I'd add some more detail to the game regarding the blessing of holy water. 
Here's what Wikipedia has to say.
Holy water is water that has been blessed by a member of the clergy or a religious figure. The use for cleansing prior to a baptism and spiritual cleansing is common in several religions, from Christianity to Sikhism. The use of holy water as a sacramental for protection against evil is common among Anglicans and Roman Catholics.

The traditional Latin formula for blessing the water is as follows:

Exorcizo te, creatura aquæ, in nomine Dei Patris omnipotentis, et in nomine Jesu Christi, Filii ejus Domini nostri, et in virtute Spiritus Sancti: ut fias aqua exorcizata ad effugandam omnem potestatem inimici, et ipsum inimicum eradicare et explantare valeas cum angelis suis apostaticis, per virtutem ejusdem Domini nostri Jesu Christ: qui venturus est judicare vivos et mortuos et sæculum per ignem. Deus, qui ad salutem humani generis maxima quæque sacramenta in aquarum substantia condidisti: adesto propitius invocationibus nostris, et elemento huic, multimodis purificationibus præparato, virtutem tuæ benedictionis infunde; ut creatura tua, mysteriis tuis serviens, ad abigendos dæmones morbosque pellendos divinæ gratiæ sumat effectum; ut quidquid in domibus vel in locis fidelium hæc unda resperserit careat omni immunditia, liberetur a noxa. Non illic resideat spiritus pestilens, non aura corrumpens: discedant omnes insidiæ latentis inimici; et si quid est quod aut incolumitati habitantium invidet aut quieti, aspersione hujus aquæ effugiat: ut salubritas, per invocationem sancti tui nominis expetita, ab omnibus sit impugnationibus defensa. Per Dominum, amen.

Catholic saints have written about the power of holy water as a force that repels evil. Saint Teresa of Avila, a Doctor of the Church [1] who reported visions of Jesus and Mary, was a strong believer in the power of holy water and wrote that she used it with success to repel evil and temptations. She wrote:

"I know by frequent experience that there is nothing which puts the devils to flight like Holy water."

In Holy Water and Its Significance for Catholics Henry Theiler states that in addition to being a strong force in repelling evil, holy water has the twofold benefit of providing grace for both body and soul.

The new Rituale Romanum excludes the exorcism prayer on the water. Exorcized salt used to be added to the holy Water as well.[2] Priests can now use the older form if they wish according to Summorum Pontificum, an apostolic letter by Pope Benedict XVI.[3]

From the Wikipedia article.

A few comments.

[1] Theresa of Avila died in 1582 and was canonized in 1622. She is the founder of the Discalced or Barefoot Carmelites. A mendicant order that was very popular in France. So her authority is almost contemporary and would be taken seriously by the religious the current time of our setting (1624).
[2] I've been watching a lot of Supernatural on Netflix lately. Salt is used a lot on that show as protection from ghosts and demons. Interesting that in the real world, exorcised salt used to be added to holy water.
[3] Pope Benedict was a traditionalist or conservative so that may be an explanation for OKing the old form. But is it possible that the new form just wasn't as effective against evil. Something to consider for horror games in a modern setting.

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