Rituals Gone Wrong

Rituals Gone Wrong

People thrive on rituals. Rituals serve as reminders of cultural roots, religious ideologies and anniversaries that mark important milestones or events. On a more mundane level they may serve to mark any reasonable excuse to get together for a party. Super Bowl Sunday is one of my favorites.

Ritualistic behavior is really nothing more than a repetitive act that either ensures the ability of a person or thing to maintain contact and equilibrium with its environment or to eat excessively and get drunk. On a social level, rituals ensure cultural bonding, a reaffirmation of life cycles; while in the extreme or at the more deviant level, they ensure a reaffirmation of perverse existence.

For example, my office manager’s husband Fred thinks that every gathering with his friends becomes a first event that should be celebrated yearly, such as the “Annual First Time We Ever Got Together and Ate Chinese Food.” He also likes to drive around playing the same Flying Burrito Brothers or Steve Goodman albums over and over again; a habit that makes his wife have to restrain herself from reaching over to strangle him. Repeatedly playing ones favorite tunes, as many of us are prone to do, is an example of a rather benign form of ritualistic behavior that makes us happy and soothes our nerves; whereas for example an Aztec ceremonial ritualistic evisceration, sexually addictive masturbation or the acts of a serial killer are not.

Some ritualistic behaviors such as repetitive hand washing however fall into the category of the mild psychosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Ritualistic gatherings such as those centered on a holiday define our common roots, bringing us all together to allow or to facilitate both celebrating and reminiscing about the good old days or to anticipate potentially better times ahead. Christmas, Hanukkah and New Years fall into these categories.

In the Catholic Church as well as in the Jewish faith, rituals not only celebrate holidays and Holy days but also center on rites of passage.

Catholics have Baptism, a ritual that abolishes Original Sin. They also have Confirmation, a ritual that inducts a young man, as a Private First Class, into the army of Christ.

In the Jewish faith there is the Bris milah or circumcision, a ritual that affirms Abraham’s covenant with God; then later on the Bar or Botz mitzvah, a ritual that signifies the rite of passage of boys or girls crossing from childhood to adulthood.

Of all the religious rituals however, circumcision seems to be the one most shrouded in mystery and the one least associated with common sense.

Even if one subscribes to the biblical proscription that it is mandatory to identify one as being a certified Jew, something that the Nazis used to their advantage in consigning people to death, this does not explain why the Islamic faiths as well as Eastern Orthodox and Coptic faiths also subscribe to this ritual; or even why the procedure is drawn on the walls of ancient Egyptian tombs.

This is especially so since there is no clear-cut medical evidence as to whether there is any benefit to the procedure except possibly for the purpose of allowing better personal hygiene, or as far as I know making absolutely no difference in the sex life of males who walk around with or without their putz intact.

The only possible reason would be eliminating the possibility of unwanted odiferous smegma ruining the potential for a good blow job.

I happen to be circumcised, for no apparent reason other than the fact that my mother was told by some Pediatrician that it was a good idea.

However the worst example of pig-headed determination to subscribe to blind ritual happened to my next-door neighbor’s daughter.

She was a Christian of German descent who had married a Jewish man she described as not only being from California but who she also referred to as being a “California Jew.” This is roughly translated into meaning that either he or his family, or both, virtually did not practice their faith at all and is equivalent to being known as a “Once a year Catholic” on Easter or Christmas.

However, when she had her first son, he insisted on having the child circumcised, which was done by a Pediatrician.But when the second son was born he went one step further by insisting that the procedure be done in the customary manner of the faith by a mohel (pronounced moyel).

A mohel is a person specifically trained to do circumcisions in a religious ceremony eight days after birth, in which some unlucky close family friend gets to hold the baby while this person cuts off the foreskin. Simultaneously the baby adopts the name of some other totally impersonal ancient dead ancestor.

In a more gruesome form of the ceremony known as a metzitzah, the mohel cuts of the foreskin after which he sucks the blood off the end of the incision. This practice was known to occasionally transmit herpes to the baby and so was largely discontinued as being an unhealthy; medieval, and outdated practice.

When you grow up how would you like to have to tell any of your potential girlfriends that story?

  • I got genital herpes from the mohel when I was eight days old and he sucked my dick.
  • Right. Pigs can fly too. Then you’ll probably tell me we need to fuck because tomorrow you’re being sent to Viet-Nam and you might die.

Like I said, brushing a little holy water on the baby’s head is quicker, simpler, neater and cleaner.

In any case, my friend’s husband insisted that the person to do the job was the “King Mohel” of Washington D.C., the mohel of all the mohels.

The only problem was that this person, who was in his eighties, had a senile hand tremor that resulted in him slicing off part of the poor kid’s penis. This accident resulted in an injury to the urethra that caused the urinary stream to blast out sideways and then required about five cosmetic repairs. The aftermath caused enormous physical pain along with emotional difficulties for the victim over his first decade of his life. It also almost resulted in a divorce as his mother then had her own cross of guilt to bear over letting this happen in the first place. She said:

  • The son of a bitch never even went to Temple and then he made me get this quack bastard mohel to do the job so he could push his own guilt aside, atone for his sins and bond with his stupid religious roots. I hate him. It makes me want to cut his dick off, too.

I told her I felt the same way about the new craze to let midwives deliver babies. I told her:

  • People forget that the reason infant and maternal mortality is so low is because we have doctors delivering babies. They also forget that the risk is still so high that these guys are at the top of the medical malpractice food chain both in litigation as well as premium costs.

It wasn’t really funny at all, but years later when I thought about it sarcastically, I could envision some tremulous old mohel in 500 B.C. bending over a baby, slicing off the poor kid’s entire penis and handing the baby back to his mother saying:

  • Congratulations. Now it’s a baby gohel.



Tools of the Trade

The Tools of the Trade

(Circumcision kit: Photo source: Wikipedia)


Godparents (1960s)


Having Godparents is a peculiar custom enjoyed by Roman Catholic Italians, although to a minor degree by other religious groups as well. These people are not parents at all but instead are usually close personal family friends.

The Catholic Godparents are present at the Godchild’s baptism at which time they are supposed to promise to ensure that the child will be properly raised in the faith, and/or to adopt the child if the biological parents die before the age of emancipation.

In the Jewish faith the Godparents are supposed to be present at the time of a male child’s circumcision; which may account for why a great many Jewish parents simply skip over this obligation, which conveniently lets their friends off the hook, so to speak. Watching a baby get anointed in oil is far easier to stomach then watching the end of his penis being guillotined.

My brother’s Godparents certainly did not set an ideal example for him as Aunt Margaret committed suicide. Also as neither she nor her husband Nick were able to successfully parent their own son, Skippy, much less possibly be required to take on my brother if my parents died; this would have created a circumstance that may have caused Uncle Nick to cash in all of his chips as well.

So much for also ensuring that any of us would be properly raised in the faith either, as not one of our Godparents ever once fulfilled their other obligations by calling the house on any given Sunday to see if we were going to church; or on a Wednesday to see if we were going to Catechism.

Knowing how my mother did not like anyone interfering in any of our family’s personal business anyway, that interlocution would have gone over as well around our house as going to a party and finding the proverbial turd in the punch bowl.

Therefore, all this custom really boiled down to was a rote mindless adherence to another outdated religious ceremony whose original purpose has been lost, and for our family, the ability to then call someone “Aunt” or “Uncle” when in fact they were not at all related to any of us. As a child, it took me years to figure this one out.

  • No. They are not really your Aunt and Uncle, but it makes us feel better if we call them that anyway.
  • Oh. OK. That explains everything, then.

Old fashioned Italians corrupt it even further by in lieu of stating the title in the pure native language “Cumpa or Cumpari” meaning friend or protector, come up instead with the guttural iterance of “Goombah” and “Goomah” when addressing the revered fraternal and maternal personages. This terminology never made any sense to me at all but only made for more inane perfunctory back slapping ceremonial stupidity when they meet each other on the street or at a holiday function.

  • Hey, Goombah. Howya doin’?
  • Fine, Sallie boy. Hey Goombah to you, too.  And by the way: how’s the little Goomah doin’? Cookin’ ya good food?
  • Not so good, the food.
  • No. Whatsa mattah, then?
  • She’s a Texan. She fries the pasta.
  • Ga-bless-shoe you then. I’ll say a prayer for you.

Goombah, Goomah. All day long.

Of course everyone is aware of the vernacular implication of someone having a Godfather protector in an organized crime family. This is a very special kind of Godfather who is best to be avoided at all cost; especially if you are not one of his own flesh and blood, or if for some unknown reason as a soldier he happens to call you in for a private meeting.

I was given my Godfather’s first name as my middle name, Nicholas. This was not the same Nick who was my brother’s Godfather, Skippy’s dad.

My Nick, a successful Orthodontist, was actually a nice, tall, husky gentleman with a great sense of humor, a sonorous deep Basso-profundo voice that filled a room when he spoke, and an even a greater sense of self-confidence. He was also someone who never seemed to lack for cash, being always very generous about gifting to me especially at Christmas time.

He lived in an upscale neighborhood in Norwalk, Connecticut, with his wife and three children who for reasons I could never determine, for the most part ignored my brother and me whenever we visited. I suppose it boils down to the plain and simple fact that they did not like us; or equally as likely because his daughter was older and the boys liked to play touch football; whereas Larry and I could have cared less about their passion for this particular pastime, much less care about an ‘older woman.’

In fact, I still can’t throw ‘the pigskin’ because my hand is too small to wrap around the goofy thing, usually resulting in a perfect end over end instead of a perfect spiral. This flaw thankfully eliminates me from being chosen for any pick-up game or being a potential groom for any woman in the John F. Kennedy bloodline.

These factors made the visits a mixed blessing because I wanted the expected gifts but then had to spend the rest of the day bored out of my mind; while uncomfortably knowing that my “cousins” were equally bored by the facts of both our physical presence combined with our mutually incompatible likes and dislikes. They just went about their own business, while occasionally paying us some parentally forced polite lip service.

Uncle Nick more than made up for it because he stirred an interest in stamp and coin collecting as hobbies that kept my adolescent mind preoccupied, although when I lost a great deal of money on both endeavors as an adult, I somehow wished in hindsight that he had kept those interests to himself.

But the best interest he cultivated as a hobby that has served me well over a lifetime, was the passion he had for billiards along with his subtle ability to get me addicted to the game.

Years after my ability to artfully run these 15 small smooth balls into their equally small 6 receptacles on a flat green table became translated into the greater insanity of wanting to do the same thing with a solitary, smaller white dimpled ball on the larger undulating grass terrain of the golf course; I spent many enjoyable hours practicing pool or occasionally hustling some half drunk bar-fly sucker out of his money. On those occasions I often thought fondly of the particular interest my Godfather took not in my religious training, but rather in something more useful in the secular domain.

Being a pool shark was considerably more fun than being a good little boy regurgitating Catechism to a sadistic nun with a Ninja ruler; and although the Pope would probably not have approved, I am sure that Don Vito Corleone would have had no issue whatsoever with me becoming adept at:


 The Olympic sport of Bar rooms and Organized Crime Private Social Clubs.




 Anybody up for an easy hole-in-one?


Pool rack: Source