Blessing in disguise


There’s something in the water!

The other night during a beach walk we saw something in the ocean- a seal? A dolphin? A Port Jackson shark? Most likely it was a sting ray. It was dusk and most sensible people were well clear of the water, but we saw one lady quite far out, although still in the shallows. The creature, whatever it was, was heading straight for her…

The Blessing of the Waters takes place on Glenelg Jetty at Epiphany, two weeks after Christmas. A group of Australian Greek adonises compete in a water race to retrieve a golden cross flung into the ocean by a priest. In a ceremony that seemingly has as much do with Christianity as a midwinter pagan festival of light, the winner is said to enjoy good luck in the year ahead.

Greek Orthodox blessing of the waters, Glenelg

All the bigwigs were here: a very dapper Premier, a relaxed looking Governor, the Mayor, the Cypriot ambassador, the Greek consul, a millennium’s worth of Orthodox priests- each of them at least a hundred years old- as the Glenelg foreshore transformed into Mykonos or Larnaca.

As they processed solemnly along the jetty, I thought “wow those old priests can belt out their Byzantines” (chants) before I realised that they had snuck in a PA system and rigged the jetty with loudspeakers. As the procession reached the end, the PA carried an announcement for the competitors not to cheat by jumping off boats, and that they had to be waist high in the water at the start. This was great for the would-be Olympians poised and flexing their muscles, but less good for the little kid wanting to emulate his older brothers. He was in up to his neck. Literally.

The Archbishop’s blessing carried a plea that the waters protect all from enemies within and without. Very timely given the number of shark sightings recently.

Back to our evening walk…

“There’s something in the water!”

We cried. We waved. We gesticulated and pointed, but the woman turned the other way to gaze at the last vestiges of the sunset, transfixed in some form of meditative or ecstatic state, blissfully unaware as the stingray drew ever closer, only for it to slide harmlessly by, just fingertips away. Perhaps the waters were blessed after all.


Photographs by kathryn_mcc.

See also Four cultures in one day.

2 comments on “Blessing in disguise”

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