The Crossing Ceremony
an old seafaring tradition (Dansk tekst her).
The tradition that any seafarer crossing the Line, i.e. the equator for the first time should be "baptized" to become a fully initiated seafarer goes back several centuries. After the ceremony a Certificate of Crossing is awarded bearing the seafarer's name, the date of the "baptismal ceremony" and the master's attestation of a duly executed ceremony.
The crossing ceremony is an old seafaring tradition and the custom has survived the many twists and turns throughout the history of shipping. The earliest mention of an organized crossing ceremony dates from the 1520s and, allowing for less common and localized variants, the ceremony is described from the navies and merchant marines of many different nations.
Originally, the equatorial baptism was an initiation into the seafaring profession and occasionally the excited participants lost control. With time, the ceremony was established as a merry joke for all onboard, seafarers as well as passengers. When crossing the equator all novices were to be "baptized" to become fully initiated.
The baptismal ceremony itself may be kept very simple, but most prefer a more elaborate and festive setting for which special costumes and equipment are essential. No matter how you choose to organize the event, note that there are some ground rules that should be observed:
The crossing ceremony should be fun and a harmless joke for all on board. Respect anyone who does not want to take part in the event. Do not exaggerate the "treatment" of novices. Be careful about the use of force when dealing with novices trying to escape baptism.
Note that among baptize candidates there can be shipmates who have good reasons not to be baptized - for example, physical infirmities and strong shyness. Do not press these, but try to get them to participate in the event any other way - such as extra helpers for the barber or the doctor.
To achieve a successful event it is necessary to observe the following:
1. A successful ceremony must be planned well in advance and all the roles must be duly assigned and well rehearsed.
2. The list of the novices must be prepared and the necessary props must all be ready for use.
3. Good food, entertainment and contests may make the baptismal celebration following the ceremony even more enjoyable.
In accordance with tradition, the ceremony must be performed by at least 6 people in party: King Neptune, astronomer, bishop, doctor or barber, and at least 2 guards. All these should be initiated persons, ie previously baptized and accepted by King Neptune.
King Neptune: Wearing a seven tagged, gilt cardboard crown. Long, white hair and beard made of frayed cable nets. He has legs and arms sticking out from a suitable robe painted with marine shapes. Legs and arms can be painted like fish flesh, and on his feet, he could wear fins. He uses a solemn language, and always say "we" - not "I".
Prop: Long shafted Neptune fork.
Queen Neptunia: (King Neptune's consort, also called Queen Amphitrite).
She arrives in the skirt of bast or frayed cable nets, bra, and with a small cardboard crown. She appears with naked legs, and with different "jewelry" (marine craft for the occasion). Her cheeks are hectic red, her eyebrows are black, and her mouth boldly painted red. She has hair as the best cable yarn or solid wood wool - like green colored as seagrasses.
Props: Evening bags, hand mirror, steel brush for her hair and decorated fan.
The Astronomer is the next in the King's entourage, and also the next of rank. He has a tall pointed wizard hat painted with old and new celestial bodies - black, ankle-length robe painted with astronomical figures, moons and stars, and on the (loose) nose, he has glasses.
Props: A large sextant of three, an old sea chart or a flat globe painted on cardboard. Plate with chalk, or a large sheet of paper and crayons to the calculation of the correct position. Binoculars made of two clear bottles, with a red stripe over the bottle bottom so the baptizers can see "the line"!
The doctor is included in the King Neptune's entourage. He appears in a white tunic painted with "fresh" blood stains. Gauze before nose and mouth, glasses upon the port wine nose, rolled up arms and well-worn work gloves. He usually has a white hat. The doctor may have assistants to carry props.
Props: oversize thermometer and stethoscope, "medicine bottles" with indeterminate content, "pill box" with small balls of dough filled with strong spices - or licorice pastilles or the like, a injection cylinder containing colored water for vaccination.
Bishop: As the venerable old sea water prelate he is, he comes dressed in a tall epimedium of colored red cardboard painted Neptune fork, and with sid mantle of canvas bag decorated with glitter and color.
Props: Crosier and Certificates of Crossing.
Barber: is a fellow of doubtful appearance with large becket mustache and sideburns, long black wispy hair and a not entirely sober nose. Barber often need a apprentice as an assistant.
Props: Large wood or cardboard scissors, large razor of ditto material (1 m long!), A large paintbrush and a position in a mild, foaming soap water.
Guard: (guards, police, soldiers) - should be King Neptune and his entourage to hand in at least 2 copies or more, so that as many as possible can be actively involved in the game. They should be "reassuring" and bring forward any unwilling baptizee, and ensure that no one can escape. Guard should be tangible guys, one of which is appointed to the head, general or chief of police.
Props: They should have a sufficient respectable masking and dressing, in a warlike style. Vikings armed with spears, shields and swords - or the force with epaulets on the shoulders, whistles and sticks of coiled newspapers.
Herald: - of unbaptized often called "the messenger" - is the first of King Neptune's court who leave the wet element for entering the ship, and the last one to stepp down. He is equipped with three-cornered (Napoleon hat) in black cardboard painted death's-head or Neptune fork, he has black patch over one eye, big beard and bristling hair - and is also equipped as a color happy pirate captain of the good old ones. He has a flashy uniform jacket with enormous epaulets and wide gold cords, and large sea-boots.
Props: Something to make trouble with, trumpet, pan lid, drum or something else that rumbles.
Otherwise, the party might be extended by example: Princess’, musicians (like an entire orchestra), assistants (to the doctor and the barber) - and several guards ...
Introduction: The day before the actual baptism things start to happen to emphasize the importance of the forthcoming crossing ceremony and to create a little mystery and excitement surrounding the event. At a time when as many people as possible hear it, ask one of the initiated if the skipper has "remembered to send the papers". There is little fuss, and a man sent out in bribes to get the "big envelope".
Until the "envelope" appears somebody talks mysterious about King Neptune and his high standards for all those who have not previously crossed the Equator. They must undergo a cleansing process, before the ship eventually allowed to pass.
When the skipper has the"papers", he gives orders to three long bursts of whistle to call the Sea Peoples attention. On lee site he takes out the envelope contents and explains the "people of the ocean" that the documents are the ship's registration certificate, crew lists, etc., as well as a list of those to be baptized before crossing the equator. The papers are put back in the envelope, which accompanied by some well-chosen and solemn words to "His Majesty" is thrown into the sea and to sink immediately (some old iron scrap is also in the envelope for it to sink quickly).
Later in the evening, a colorful and fanciful telegram which turned up on the bulletin board, or otherwise announced. It contains the message from King Neptune that he will be accompanied to inspect the ship and its crew the following day.
The arrangement: When the time is approaching for King Neptune's arrival an alert "visit on board"is given. A few minutes before King Neptune arrives the Herald enters with noise and commotion. He saluts the ship and its crew and convey the solemn message (read from deep tank), that King Neptune are in the waters and are expected on board at any time. The King will check if there are unbaptized crew on board!
Rumble and noise! King Neptune and his entourage are coming. Procession is welcomed with three bursts of ships whistle. King Neptune and his queen are heading towards the ceremony area. Followed by the "orchestra", which blows fanfare or otherwise make them loudly remarked! Then comes the others (singing the same or another song), in this order: bishop, astronomer, any princesses, the doctor and the barber with any assistants (aides), and finally the suburbs.
Promote the ceremony rather than putting King Neptune and consort to the throne. The bishop and the astronomer stands on each side of the "royal". The other officials and their aides, as well as guard, breaks down the flanks. The orchestra is behind the king and his consort.
When all the people with their deep-water king are in place, facing the audience, asking the master of silence and keeps his welcoming speech. The orchestra gives applause with their instruments. King Neptune rises. In his hand he has a big, wet envelope (imagine it was thrown overboard the night before). He thanks for the welcome words and gives the order to the astronomer to measure declination of sun's meridian and calculate the distance from the Equator. ( "We do not trust newfangled navigation methods!")
Astronomer measure and count and declare that the position is good. King Neptune raise his hands to silence and continued his speech. He explains that the ship is not allowed to cross the “Line" before the Gentiles has undergone a thorough spiritual and physical cleansing through baptism and renamed. He stressed that those who set themselves against the cleansing and baptism by flight or resistance, will be collected by his guard and be taken to the ocean floor - or so the ship must turn. (You may like the orchestra and the party musisere and sing a little further to emphasize the gravity of the King's words.)
The bishop is now taking over and tell the poor the first time passing - which is only counted as freshwater sailors and land crabs, and that so far has splashed around in the sea north of the Equator - that they will henceforth be considered as fullbefarne salt-and deep-water sailors, baptized in the real sea water from the equator 3000 meters. The Northern Hemisphere road dust should be washed off. It is a harsh remedy that requires strong medication, thorough washing and heavy scraping before one can get "His Majesty" certificate for that one is free to sail in all seas and cross the Equator again without further purification. And then he calls out, "Doctor and shaving - do their duty according to the old ritual".
The name of the first baptize is called out, whom promptly is taken care of by the guard and brought before King Neptune and his court - and placed in the doctor's chair (or on a bench)!
Baptism: Give to each of the candidates a suitable maritime nickname - eg. fish names, with the addition of "characteristic" features and notes about why the candidate has been given this nickname. The bishop presents the chosen ones.
Baptizee is examined carefully by the doctor, who is listening in his stethoscope, taking "temperature" and handing out "pills" and "medicine". Any aftertaste is to be washed down with lots of ice water. He is then "vaccinated" with three colored stripes on the arm, and handed barber.
Barber cuts with his scissors, soaps in with his broom and shaves with his great razor. If baptize complaints, he gets an extra step with the diet with soapy water! After this time the barber tilted candidate in water basin - or shower thoroughly with several buckets of water. It must ensure that the newly baptized will be thoroughly washed.
The newly baptized are entitled to look at astronomical telescope. In it, they will see the red Equator line (ie that are painted on the bottle bottom). Rub to the bottle with sooty cork, so that the candidate gets apparent "rings" around the eyes after seeing in the binoculars.
People, who for various reasons can not or not want to review the crossing ceremony, can negotiate with King Neptune to be spared - for a suitable "replacement" like a gift to ship/club or a significant contribution to the evening celebration.
Removal: When all are baptized, it is time for parting with King Neptune and his entourage. The King thanks and ad notice that the journey back to "The big deep of equator" will take place through the anchor cross. He notes that baptism is approved under strong doubt, when examining the candidates actually were significantly milder than tradition dictates.
No such ceremony would have the intended effect without costumes. The simplest means may be used to good effect. For hair and beard you can use untwined rope yarn or cotton waste. Wood and cardboard are fine materials for swords, knives and other necessary equipment. Use your imagination!