By Simon J. Bronner
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Extra info for Crossing the Line: Violence, Play, and Drama in Naval Equator Traditions
A published account of ceremonies aboard an English ship for equator crossing does not appear until , when an English traveler witnessed the paying of drinks. Crossing the line as a manly rite is codified in for the first time in a reference work, The Gentleman’s Dictionary, published in London. ’ Although the nations claiming the custom are not inventoried, the reference to East India (Indies) voyages is evidence that the colonial powers of the Netherlands, France, and Britain were primarily involved.
In the liminal, mythological space of blazing heat, of an alpha location demarcated as zero, of unnerving calm and monotony, perceived as unknown and dangerous, the sailor effects the reversible world by assuming the roles ‘out there’ that frighten him, even if unconsciously on the ‘here’ side. The pirate as the anti-sailor is especially prevalent in the historical context of fear during the mercantile period of being violated by those who could be comrades. In narrative terms, they are viewed as brothers who have crossed over into villainy; they are loathed, but at the same time admired for their daring and freedom from ethical restraint.
Kut Weibust, Deep Sea Sailors: A Study in Maritime Ethnology (Stockholm: Akademisk Avhandling, ) -. , -. Corroboration for this summary is found in Steven Zeeland’s published interviews in Sailors and Sexual Identity, in which sailors view the ceremony as ‘tradition’ rather than homoerotic display (pp. -). ’ Horace Beck, Folklore and the Sea (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, ) -. Ray Raphael, The Men from the Boys: Rites of Passage in Male America (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, ).
Crossing the Line: Violence, Play, and Drama in Naval Equator Traditions by Simon J. Bronner