Swinging The Ol’ Chicken Around

Swing, batta, batta, batta ...

Swing, batta, batta, batta ...

I’ve always enjoyed reading about religion, but somehow this ritual has escaped my eye. Chicken swinging:

“Hecht holds the bird, waves it three times above his head, and says the prayer of Kapparot (or Kapparos, depending on heritage). He prays that his sins will be transferred to the bird and he will escape the divine punishment that he deserves. The prayer is more than 1,000 years old, and countless Orthodox Jews will recite it in the days before Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, which begins at sundown Sunday. Hecht says waving the chicken isn’t the point of this ritual.

“The main part of the service,” he says, “is handing the chicken to the slaughterer and watching the chicken being slaughtered. Because that is where you have an emotional moment, where you say, ‘Oops, you know what? That could have been me.’ ” “

This archaic ritual is reminiscent of the ancient scapegoat ritual, in which a goat would be lead through the streets to suck in the sins of the community like a big sin sponge and then driven out into the desert.

The ancient Greeks had a similar ritual, but with a criminal instead of an animal. The criminal was called a pharmakos. Hellenized Jews, of course, would have been well aware of this ritual. Was this tradition applied to the Jesus myth? Well, duh.

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