Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Rosary Month

October in the Roman Catholic Church is traditionally "Rosary Month," and hopefully I'll be able to celebrate it by catching up on some blog entries here. (It's been a busy couple of months.)

One of my recent musings is this: despite the fact that I'm doing this research and writing this blog, and despite being Catholic (a convert), I personally don't pray the rosary very often. Mostly this is just personal spirituality -- I don't tend to pray to saints very often, simply because of my own history. I also don't feel the rosary is necessary for everyone.

I have to admit that the one time I do reach for the rosary is when all else has failed and I simply cannot fall asleep. I seldom get through more than two decades, though :)

But I still find rosaries fascinating. I seem to have discovered a "hole" in medieval scholarship; there are lots of people in academia who research the prayers and devotions, but no one seems to be paying much attention to the actual beads.

Partly I think this is because "material culture" studies (i.e. research on actual THINGS) have only become a respectable part of medieval scholarship in the last twenty years or so -- before that, they were pretty much ignored or left to archaeologists, and many historians didn't bother to read about them.

I also think historical reenactment has had an influence: it's when trying to reproduce and document period artifacts that it becomes apparent that a lot of basic research and description simply hasn't been done, or done to a standard that makes reproductions possible. How many beads in a group? What are they threaded on? Where and how is the rosary worn or carried? Are beads of this material appropriate for this social class? Those are the sorts of questions that in many cases haven't been answered.