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Not only are the soiled diapers that swaddled the newborn Jesus considered holy, but so are Christ’s handkerchief, His loincloth, the tablecloth from the Last Supper, and the stained shroud He was wrapped and buried in after crucifixion. Today, some special-interest groups seem to have problems with the sacredness of certain bodily fluids like urine (depicted in Andres Serrano’s ‘Piss Christ’) and excrement (witness Chris Ofili’s ‘The Holy Virgin Mary’). But there has rarely been a problem with other bodily fluids such as sweat, blood, puss, spittle, or even the postmortem alkaline fluid that seeps from a decomposing corpse, like that found on the Shroud of Turin.

At funerals, the aborigines of Victoria, Australia rub themselves all over with the moisture exuded by the deceased until they each smell like the corpse. In Polynesia, on the Marquesas Islands, Paul Gaugin imagined obtaining a piece of the Holy Shroud to place in his anus. He writes, “… perhaps if I ever have hemorrhoids I shall set about plotting how to get a fragment of the Holy Shroud to poke it into myself, convinced that it will cure me.” (Martin Luther, too, was known to frequently suffer from hemorrhoids and constipation.) Likewise, Elvis spent many long hours constipated on the “throne.” Indeed, Elvis is thought to have died there while reading a book on the Shroud of Turin.

Joseph of Airamathaea collected the blood of Christ in a chalice as it dripped down from the cross. In the New Testament, Christ used spit to heal blindness: “He spat upon the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and anointed the eyes of the blind man with clay.” (John 9:16) The Holy Handkerchief or Sweatcloth of Veronica is worshipped as the sacred facial print made by the sweat and blood of Christ. The loincloth (or underwear) that Christ wore on the cross is preserved in the Schatzkammer in Vienna, and even His severed foreskin is worshipped as a most sacred relic. In the cartoon series South Park, the name of the character “Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo” seems to be combination of “hanky,” possibly referring to the Holy Handkerchief, and “Christmas poo” recalling the tradition of the Yule log.


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Partner to a press called Tenement, Hotel is a publications series for new approaches to fiction, non fiction & poetry & features work from established & emerging talent. Hotel provides the space for experimental reflection on literature’s status as art & cultural mediator. 

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