Great Expectorations and the Subdiaconate
Stramentaria had a great-uncle James, always known as Uncle Juicer, whose claim to fame was that he could make a spittoon ring at a distance of 10 feet. I expect the poor old boy was suffering from TB.
As a child I remember being puzzled by the notices in every London Transport bus: DO NOT SPIT. PENALTY £5.00. In a typically entertaining and erudite blogpost Fr John Hunwicke recalls that there were many notices “ whereby English town councils tried to preserve genteel ladies from the offensive spitting of the lower orders (somebody ought to start a museum for surviving examples; and for other old favourites like Commit No Nuisance, and Kindly Adjust Your Clothing Before Leaving The Convenience).”
Ah yes, I am just a little older than Fr H., so I remember them well. But spitting has a long, intriguing, and even quite respectable history. Fr Hunwicke goes on to inform us:
But we know from first millennium documentation that part of the papal entourage, as the Pope (on horseback!) made his solemn way through the streets of Rome, was a subdeacon carrying a bowl for the Sovereign Pontiff to expectorate into. What a shame we no longer have Subdeacons (the abolition of which was a ‘reform’ which Dom Bernard Botte, the main post-conciliar reviser of the Pontifical, regarded as a most unfortunate breach of an ancient tradition which the West shared with the East). One imagines seminary professors needing to instruct ordinands for the Subdiaconate on the best techniques for avoiding inaccurately projected Pontifical Spittle.