A Story about the figureheads…
Do boats have souls? ….. I always believe so… I treated every boat I owned, I sailed or I worked on, as they have souls.
On the other hand, the lore, legend, salty stories of seasoned sailors always fascinate me. Let’s have a look at the lore and the history of why and how we believe that the boats have souls.
In ancient times, they certainly believed that the boats have souls. When they build a new boat, sailors are said to make a valuable sacrifice to the gods to give their new vessel a good fortune and protection by the deities who are looking after the oceans. The lore indicates that most of the time this sacrifice was a human…. A virgin female… After the sacrifice, they placed the human heads at the bows of vessels as they start their first voyages. These great sacrifices were intended to ensure the safe passage of the vessel and her crew across the stormy waters ruled by Neptune, Aeolus, and other maritime deities.
When the heads fell off the bow, the sailors took it as a sign that the gods had accepted the sacrifice, and that the young woman’s soul had entered the ship. That’s why in the old sailor beliefs;
- A boat always being referred to as SHE because she has the souls of a virgin girl.
- Having women on board is bad luck. Because the female spirit of the boat may get jealous about the female passenger onboard and act strangely.
As humanity evolves and starts climbing the ladder of progress, human sacrifice became a dark piece in human history. But the sea tradition carried on…. Hand-carved figures of beautiful maidens replaced the actual cut off heads and they called Figureheads. And where the hang the actual head for the spirit of the virgin to enter the vessel is called as the bow spirit.
Even today a naming ceremony of a boat involves a sacrifice… Your most precious drink replaces the blood of the virgin (in most cases it’s the champagne) …. You spill your sacrifice on the decks, the hull… a little bit in the air for Aelous and a bit in the water for Poseidon…. Then the most of it to the foredeck… near bow spirit…. Then you save the last sip for your self…. To become with your boat.
Today boating, sailing, cruising is very technological. Supported by science and hard logic. But the romantics (like me) still believe and treat their boats (or ocean companions) as living beings. (Which keeps me still passionate after many years)
Safe passages you all…