rogation -

West Ridgeway
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Service Stories
Rogation Service

The Rogation Days in the liturgical calendar fall in the Spring and are thought to date back to the Roman Spring Festival of Robigalia which referred to robigo, the Rust desease which commonly affected the ripening of cereal crops. The idea was to walk through the fields and say prayers to the Gods to have them stop the desease for that year by offering the entrails of dogs and sheep.
Early Christians reportedly continued the tradition minus the entrails and sheep; praying instead to God to allow for  healthy crops.

The Christian evolution of the process was formalised by the Catholic church in circa 550 ce. by Pope Gregory the Great who combined the process with services in France designed to ward off earthquakes on three Sundays which coincided with the prayers processions around the fields. These in turn became known as Rogation Sundays from the word 'rogare' meaning to plead. The pleading and the praying days took on a formality which in Medieaval England became known as 'Beating the Bounds'. This involved walking from the church as a procession with the priest in front holding up a cross, walking the boundaries of the parish and then back to the church.  Rogation Days were also known as 'Gang Daegas' which in old Anglo Saxon meant 'Day of Going About'. They were also known as Cross days because of the priest and his cross.

Beating the Bounds name seems to refer to the practice of bumping boys against the boundary stones to teach them the local geography. The bumping of the boys evolved into whacking the boundary stones with wands and because the walks were taxing and long, some parishes rewarded the walkers with sweets and bread to keep them going.

All this was a very popular part of the church year up to the early 1700s but when there more open fields as agricultural practice evolved, the walks became too long and the Beating , Cross or Rogation walks were made once every seven years.

The Roman Catholic church cancelled Rogation Days in 1969 and instead sanctioned days of prayer for 'human needs'. The tradition still lingers in the Church Of England as Rogation Sunday but the actual walking the boundaries of parishes, where this still happens, is often instigated from the local pub where good ale and song is supplied as sustainance. The length of the procession therefore likely depends on the characters involved and the opening hours of the pub.
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