Not being an artillerist, this St. Barbara stuff was all new to me. The closest I ever got to being involved with a cannon crew was at one of my first reenactments. A misfire had blown a man' arms off and I helped wheel the cannon away through jeering crowds. Needless to say I decided then and there that I would continue to do only an infantry impression!

Being a Boy Scout leader I like rituals, and the one Hawk describes at the end is a doozie. - Jonah

St. Barbara's Feast Day Ritual

as practiced in Douglas' Texas Battery, recounted by "Hawk"

Friday Dec 4th is the Feast Day of St. Barbara, patron saint of artillerymen.

We start off with the Master of Ceremony calling the body to order, and recognizes: (1) Anyone who has received the "Order of St. Barbara" or "Molly Pitcher," and then (2) Those who have received a "Medallion of St. Barbara."

The MC then recounts the Legend of St. Barbara:

Saint Barbara was the extremely beautiful daughter of a wealthy heathen named Dioscorus, who lived near Nicomedia in Asia Minor. She was so beautiful, her father was fearful that she be demanded in marriage and taken away from him, so he shut her up in a tower to protect her from the outside world. Shortly before embarking on a journey, he commissioned a sumptuous bathhouse to be built for her, approving the design before he departed. Barbara had heard of the teachings of Christ, and while her father was gone, she spent much time in contemplation. From the windows of her tower, she looked out upon the surrounding countryside and marveled at the growing things; the trees, the animals and the people. She decided that all thse must be part of a Master Plan, and that the idols of wood and stone worshipped by her parents must be condemned as false. Gradually she came to accept the Christian faith.

As her belief became firm, she directed that the builders redesign the bathhouse her father had planned, adding a third window so that the three windows might symbolize the Holy Trinity. When her father returned, he was enraged at the changes and infuriated when Barbara acknowledged that she was a Christian. He dragged her before the prefect of the province, who decreed that she be tortured and put to death by beheading. Dioscorus dragged her behind a horse to the top of a mountain, and there he beheaded her with his sword. As he did the deed, there was an enormous clap of thunder, he was struck dead by lightning, and his body consumed.

Saint Barbara lived and died about the year 300 A.D. She was venerated as early as the 7th Century, and the manner of her father's death caused her to be regarded as the patron saint in time of danger from thunderstorms, fires, and sudden death. When gunpowder made its appearance in the Western world, Saint Barbara was invoked for aid against accidents resulting from explosions, and since early artillery pieces had an unfortunate tendency to explode instead of actually firing the projectile, Saint Barbara became the Patroness of Artillerymen in all of Christendom.

Saint Barbara is usually represented standing by a tower with three windows, carrying the palm of a martyr in her hand. Often, too, she holds a chalice and a sacramental wafer and sometimes cannon are displayed near her. In the present calendars, the Feast of Saint Barbara falls on December 4th, and is traditionally recognized by a formal Dining-In or military dinner, often involving presentation of the Order of Saint Barbara.

The Order of Saint Barbara is an honorary military society of the United States Field Artillery. Both U.S. Marine and Army field artillery, along with their miltary and civilian supporters are eligible for membership. There are two levels of recognition. The most distinguished is the Ancient Order of Saint Barbara, and those who are selected for this honor have achieved long-term, exceptional service to the field artillery surpassing even their brethren in the Honorable Order of Saint Barbara. Members of the Orders are permitted to award the "Medallion of Saint Barbara" to artillerymen who are members of the Field Artillery Association for various achievements.

Thus, Artillerymen of the present are linked with artillerymen of the past in a brotherhood of professionalism, selfless service, and sacrifice symbolized by Saint Barbara.

Now, onto mixing the punch. The honorary "stirrer" constantly stirs the mixture with the artillery saber while the ingredients are added:

Into a large iron kettle, or suitable crock pot, the first soldier pours a container of previous years' punch, and explains that this represent "Tradition."

The second soldier pours in bright red fruit punch. He explains that this represents the official color of artillery in every army.

The third pours in some dark rum, representing the "Coming of the Storm."

The fourth pours in some deep red wine, which represents the "Bloodshed of Our Brothers."

The fifth pours in golden-colored rum, representing the "Hope of Victory."

The sixth pours in peach brandy, representing "Confiscated Officers' Stores."

The seventh pours in spring water, representing the "Importance of Fresh Water."

The eighth pours in bourbon, representing the "Southern Gentleman's Drink."

The ninth pours in lime/lemon juice, to "Ward off scurvy."

The tenth drops in some rose petals, representing "Love for our Women."

The eleventh pours in molasses, representing "Axle Grease," to keep the wheels turning.

The twelfth pours in mixture of lemon juice and brown sugar, "Squeezings from the Sponge."

The thirteenth pours in dark apple cider, "The cleaning water from the Sponge Bucket."

The fourteenth puts in some coffee and parched corn, "Food for the common soldier."

The fifteenth puts in mixture of water and brown sugar, "Mud from the battlefields."

The sixteenth puts in the black cake decoration, "Gunpowder."

The seventeenth puts in chocolate covered cherries, "Canister Shot."

The eighteenth puts in a horse-shoe to "Honor the horses."

After this..... The youngest member of the group is asked to come forward and taste the concoction, to see if it is suitable.... He grimaces, and says, "This won't do. Something is missing." The groups wonders what it can be. Finally the oldest member of the group pipes up from the rear, "I know what is missing," and comes to the front with a wool sock, dusted with powdered sugar, representing the dust of the march. He dusts it off a time or two to scatter the sugar, and throws it into the container, which is stirred again. Then the Commander is asked to come forward and taste it again.

He exhibits an air of sublime pleasure... and orders everyone to come forward and partake.