The Boys Are Black In Town

For those without religious belief the rituals associated with the phenomenon always have a touch of the unreal about them. Nothing strange about that given that religion is founded on the unreal itself and nowhere more so than its zombie culture where the dead are brought back to life. Religions have never offered any proof of it but millions claim to believe it anyway. The more mundane tricks like holy water and sin absolution are bog standard daily rituals particular to Catholicism, and the other major religions are not without their own tricks of the trade. Catholic magic is easier to stomach than the type of healing scams the Protestant televangelists get up to on screen.

I noticed walking through Newry on Wednesday of last week that the city’s streets had more than a fair sprinkling of the black spot brigade, those that display a grimy finger mark on their foreheads, having just observed some ritual they call Ash Wednesday. As far as observance goes the black spot is hardly on a par with the Burka Babes who seem to upset an awful lot of people. I dislike burkas for the same reason that I dislike Ku Klux Klan hoods. They allow people to run around the streets masked. I would allow my children to be taught by neither. Nor would I deal with either in a public place unless I had to – at gunpoint, which is how hooded people often conduct their business. When young ‘hoodies’ cover up they are subject to a negative public discourse and often criminalised. Perhaps if they worshipped some invisible deity they called Hood the Dude, they would be afforded the same latitude that others with a different hood preference manage to get. In any event, back to our Ash Wednesday Observantines, a grubby mark on the forehead makes you look more silly than sinister so there is no great harm done.

Before hitting Newry, I had been in both Drogheda and Dundalk and had seen no one that I noticed bearing the black. Oddly enough in Dundalk a few years ago they seemed to be coming out of everywhere. Even the bus driver had one. Since then the arrival of the Master in the constituency might have put an end to all that. The Dark Arts, he may have claimed exclusively as his own and perhaps holds the franchise for them in the county.  Whatever the reason, my journey through both main Louth towns failed to register a black mark against me. The Catholic Equivalent of the Black Preceptory was nowhere to be seen.

It doesn’t do to complain on the matter. People can do what they want in their private lives. If they play cards, drink poteen, mess around on Ouija boards, read tea leaves, put soot on their heads, teach the pig to sing, cross dress, it has nothing to do with me. I don’t mind so long as they don’t insist on me having to copy them because it is what they, not I, believe. I guess it is no different from my occasional displaying of my little ‘A’ badge on my top when out and about. That’s a thought – any takers for Atheist Thursday?
Anyway, Ash Wednesday, always good for the soap industry.


  1. What about Thirsty Thursday a cara where its is compulsory to down a few bottles of Buckfast or if well heeled a nice Chardonnay all in the name of the lord of course,its amazing the miraculous things one can do after downing 3-4 bottles of plonk,praise the lord and pass the bottle opener...

  2. Marty,

    relieved there. Thought you were going to say pass the altar boy!

  3. lol Anthony that what all those pervs have on their chipmunks,NEXT

  4. I wrote elsewhere recently about watching unctious types shuffling around Wexford with black marks on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday morning.

    This year it was stormy and wet in Wexford so I wasn't out and about much, but I saw a few.

    To deconstruct what it seems to me to say, it's something like, "I'm a sinner, but I'm better than you because this black mark says I know I'm a sinner and will flagellate myself if necessary".


  5. I cant understand how those women who were the Burka can get a driving license, ffs, one way only.
    Now for some truth, I remember a priest in Ardoyne, EONS AGO, and if you were out in the street playing football with the tennis ball and he walked by, everyone had to stop and say, hello father, as i got a bit older; And Slightly Intelligent, i used to shout' "In a Whisper"; Shirt Lifter", well this day i said it a bit loud, He came over to me and ask, WHAT DID YOU SAY, i promptly replied. F.O. You Shirt Lifter. The Guilt Showed on his face, He just Stormed Of.
    My Muckers wanted to know what a shirt lifter was, the RCG,"Real Chaple Goers" cursed me to hell. But i explained to them, "Was it not written" ; "I shall make a hell on earth for you", so, WTF, we are all in hell, what i want to see when my time is up?, to look down on this hell on earth and say May Your God Help You.

  6. Fundamental anything is never good - that would include atheism. if people want to practice a faith then so be it. I am less offended by these folk than i am by irish fans of british football clubs who's constant ranting and raving about distant economic enterprises/ football clubs. They seem to think somewhere in their warped minds that they have some affiliation toward; so much so as to worry about the finances of private instituations who make millions from these working class peoples contributions to sweat shop made replica kits. These badges of honour are wore with pride and encourage an "us and them" mentality. As Nietzche said, if god does not exist we must invent one. Science and football are the new gods, the new fundemential religions which are in many cases just as bad for the mind as the old religious doctrines.

    ps - as for abuse within instituations, i would like more writings about the abuse within the republician movment and the moving for abusers from one working class town to another with not a dicky bird said. How many men where abused in prison by so-called fellow comrades ? how many young men abused for smoking weed, while other so called "Irish heros" peddled contraband vodka and cheap tobbacco both of which are worse than cannabis for ones health - Stinks quite a bit of instutionalised religion dont it. Religion is not the problem it's the people who abuse the religion that are the problem - those hungery for identity in the absence of any other faith. God is dead - long live the new god eh mackers ;) lol

  7. Emmett,

    Thanks for commenting. Always good to get something different.

    Some good points there. Fundamentalism is never good, for example. But that would extend to fundamentalist nationalism that would stop us watching foreign football teams or even films. Holiday in Ireland only! Seems nationalism is to be the new religion and we will all support Finn Harps or something!

    If people want to practice their faith, fine, as long as it is themselves they practice it on.

    Religious belief should not be banned on the grounds that people should be free to believe what they want. But we are hardly free to practice what we want.

    Science is hardly the new god – merely the source of much more reliable knowledge than religion and we can’t proclaim its infallibility.
    Why not write about the abuses you talk about? The moving about of abusers by the movement has been written about on this site but if you feel it is more widespread than isolated feel free. Having said that, it is never going to compare to the extent of abuse within the Church. Analogy does not homology make.

    There were certainly abuses in prison (not sexual ones that I am aware of) and they have also been written on.
    I doubt if many have been abused for smoking weed. A lot have suffered for selling it. The bulk of people abused for use were targeted by the state – criminalised and jailed. It should be legalised in my view. There was a quite a bit of it smoked in the jail which they tried to clamp down on. I think your point on drink is good. That seems to be the most harmful drug of all.

    Rory, I don’t know if they wear ash for the reasons you say but the attitude is often present even aside from the ash. People should be free to practice their religion ... on themselves, not on others. If they want to flagellate themselves, ok but not others without their approval. Running about with a bit of ash on your forehead is harmless enough. If you start refusing others services because they don’t wear it; that is where the problem is.


    That is funny. Priests have the same right to respect as the rest of us but not deference because of their ministry.

  8. Itsjustmacker,

    in Austria you can get a driving licence is you wear a pasta strainer on your head. All out of defrence to Pastafarianism and the Flying Spaghetti Monster!!

  9. Republican prisoners always got ashed on ash wednesday ! Priests would visit prisons specially for the ritual.

  10. Slick,

    while I no longer recall it happening I would say you are right beyond dispute. At the end there were so few attending mass that the black spots on display would have been negligible.

  11. AM

    Why did people stop attending mass, was this immediately following the hunger strikes or long after?

  12. Mick,

    in the cages the attendence had declined. In the blocks during the blanket protest it was huge because it was the only time we could associate with each other. After the hunger strike there was a big drop in attendance more out of no need to go as we had association by that stage. I think it was a natural decline rather than an oppositional one.

  13. If you're opposed to people wearing masks, then why did you join the IRA? Or are those pictures of IRA members in ski masks misleading?

  14. Hidden Author,

    because the IRAis also known as Ugly na hEireann and the masks are worn by the ugly ones. I never had to!

  15. Out here in California, we really don't get detailed information about the IRA like in Ireland. Could you elaborate on the relationship between ugliness and masks in the IRA? I thought that the whole enterprise of guerrilla warfare was to take evasive measures--such as wearing masks--since an open, stand-your-ground, man-to-man fight would favor the side with the superior firepower i.e. the British.

  16. Hidden Author,

    of course you are right. Masks/hoods were worn for purposes of concealment rather than dress decorum.

    It was a play on words. The IRA often used the Irish name Óglaigh na hÉireann (phonetically Oh Glee ne Heron) and on occcasion the wits would call it Ugly na hÉireann if some less than attractive specimen turned up.

  17. Marty,

    Thirsty Thursday - that has an appealing ring to it!

  18. Anthony heres me thinking that the masks were in solidarity with our black comrades, thank fuck no orangies joined up...!!!

  19. Hi Anthony

    I understand your anger and loathing in regard to what has been perpetrated in the name of religion. I hate the word.

    As an anabapist (Mennonite) pastor I especially despise violence. Violence done in the name of religion is all too common. Violence done to innocents by those in positions of power and trust is truly evil.

    But what also breaks my heart is seeing people denying their spiritual side. As holistic beings we all have a soul, a spirit. That part of us needs to be nourished or we are not complete.

    I am sure that you have many responses in regaed to what I am saying here. But it angers me when I see that yet another person has abandoned the idea of faith in a higher power, Creator, or whatever, because of "the Church". Because then the evil has won hasn't it?

    Faith, for me, is a living thing, a deep part of me...not adherence to a "zombie culture".

    I write this with respect and love.


  20. Liz,

    Thank you for your comment.

    I think you may miss the point somewhat. I don’t reject belief because of what some clerics have done. I don’t believe in things like spirits or souls. I am no less complete for that. Or if I am incomplete it is not because of the lack of a soul. To me belief in an external force/higher power is unsustainable. My lack of faith sustains me! It should not break your heart. You should simply let it be. It does not break my heart that you believe in a soul. I think it wrong but what odds? If you don’t inflict it on me I don’t make a fuss.



  21. Yip Liz hon I to believe, I believe in the FSM and the power of love . that is the love of man for his fellow man not some waster who would have us kill each other in his name.amen..

  22. Hi Anthony

    I'm sorry if you felt I was trying to push anything on you. I sincerely believe that everyone has the right to believe or not believe as they choose. Also, I didn't mean to imply that you are somehow incomplete because of your worldview. We each have our own understanding and I respect yours.

    I just felt I needed to express myself. And I do feel that the crimes committed by church leaders around the world have hurt absolutley everyone.


  23. Marty, I'm probably gonna look stupid here ...but what is FSM?

  24. Liz,

    that's absolutely fine. As for FSM - it is the Flying Spaghetti Monster

  25. I think the ash cross sign on the forehead is quite beautiful/powerful reminder symbol that we are mere mortal who will crumble away/die... In that respect all good as I believe in God. However even gooder better best is the thought of corrupt priests/bishops/a poxy Pope with ash all over them AND dressed in sackcloth being paraded through the streets - even more powerful symbol for the common people. In fact it would be a wonderful sight and deeply spiritually significant.

    Ash Wednesday before Lent starts i think or at the beginning of it. It was fullon the Catholic upbringing fullon... Being an ex Catholic i deliberately try to forget all the rituals. A random thought a few years back when in Ireland I had an urge to leap from the car with a shriek of rage and smash statues of the saints, the Virgin Mary etc... Ireland has been crippled/controlled by idol worship. Ash symbol is aok. What's the diff between flagwavers and ppl wearing ash symbol None really - just the medium of diverse messages.

    Marty I am keen on Fuckwit Friday - a day for everyone to own up to being fools ahaha I will be there for sure if the drinks are free.

    Emmett good points re the pecking order of what constitutes a bad drug and what constitutes worthy of a punishment is very real game that goes on to this day... Hypocrisies & ignorance permeate all sectors of societies...

    and finally LizzyB u r a brave one but these lads here have no desire to be preached at or warned of spiritual dynamics. However they are probably more real/honest/gritty than a church fulla dogooders. It is just life ain't it... Rollin rollin rollin thru the religious crap and far away from it as pos. Spirituality versus religious crap is the kicker PS Put that Marty and Anthony on your prayer list now ahahaha

  26. Lizzy B dont listen to our SMH hon, I wanna go to hell sounds good craic,I wouldnt be lonely ,probably know most of those there, so save your knees and keep me of your prayer list, Mary THOSE STATUES...every time I pass one of them I shout "look its the only virgin in the village"

  27. Ah well, I love you all. Really I wasn't trying to preach, it was more like general venting. I spent enough time in Ballymurphy to know where most people stand as far as the church goes. I'll save my preaching for my nice Mennonite congregation (and I'll pray for whoever I like, so there... xx)

  28. Liz,

    that's thoughtful of you

  29. Fair play to you Liz,keep er lit, although I think Anthony would agree with me here,scrub our names of your list and give Marian Price a double slice...

  30. She already has my prayers a cara.