A Staff Report from the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board

Followup: I give up, what's an aspersorium?

July 6, 1999

Dear Straight Dopve:

This one's really for Songbird — OK, I'll bite. What's an aspersorium? Does it have anything to do with aspidistras? Before you cast aspersions, I'm post-Vatican II.

SDStaff Songbird replies:

But casting aspersions is exactly what you need an aspersorium for.

Asperges (Latin for "you sprinkle") is the ceremony in which the presider (priest) sprinkles holy water over the assembly (everyone in church) during the celebration of the Mass. This ceremony, which dates back to the ninth century, has been replaced with the Rite of Sprinkling (now an optional replacement for the penitential rite as a reminder of Baptism).

And to do the job right, you need the "rite" tools.

First you need an aspergillum — a liturgical instrument used for the sprinkling of Holy Water, usually consisting of a silver, brass or wooden handle with a hollow, multipierced orb or (in Eastern Europe and the Eastern Rite) a brush. An aspersorium (sometimes aspersory) is the bucket-like vessal which holds the Holy Water and into which the aspergillum is dipped.

An aspersion is the act of sprinkling Holy Water during a blessing or other religious ceremony and also a form of Baptism in which the candidate is sprinkled with water.

But if your aspirations turn more toward aspidistras, you'd better ask a horticulturist, not a liturgist.

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