Satan hates salt in the eye

By | February 9, 2014

Blessed salt, a sacramental, can also be used in food

Have you ever spilled the salt and been told to throw it over your shoulder?

Know why? To protect you from evil.

This superstition has been known for a long time and Leonardo da Vinci even showed that spilled salt was unlucky in his “Last Supper.” There, we see Judas knocking the salt dish over with his elbow. That superstition aside, it turns out that the devil hates salt. Especially blessed salt.

Blessed salt is a sacramental — sanctified by a ritual blessing of the church. We all know about sacramentals such as holy water and blessed rosaries, but the sacramental of blessed salt is a bit less known.

Sacramentals bear a resemblance to sacraments and each sacramental evolved out of one of the sacraments.  However, while the sacraments were instituted by Christ and impart grace directly through Christ as he celebrates the sacraments, sacramentals are instituted by the church and confer grace through the church’s power of intercession (prayer).

According to Vatican II’s document on the liturgy, sacramentals “signify effects, particularly of a spiritual kind, that are obtained through the Church’s intercession. They dispose people to receive the chief effect of the sacraments and they make holy various occasions in human life.”

Blessed salt traces its history back to the Old Testament and the prophet Elisha, who was staying in Jericho at the time.

The people there complained that the water of their wells was contaminated. Elisha asked for a bowl of salt and threw it into the spring that was the source of the water. He pronounced God’s blessing on the water saying, “Thus says the Lord, ‘I have purified this water. Never again shall death or miscarriage spring from it’” (2 Kgs 2: 21). The water was immediately cleaned and remained fresh from that time on.

This became the scriptural basis for our modern blessing of salt. Blessed salt is often used in certain types of holy water and its blessing for that purpose uses words that remind us of the actions of Elisha.

Salt may also be blessed and used in the sacrament of baptism. It is no longer common to use salt at baptism and it is not necessary to do so. When it is used, it is done as a form of exorcism, to drive off evil. Whenever it is blessed, salt is actually addressed as if it is a living creature and needs to be freed from evil.

Why is salt so important? In ancient times, salt was rare and extremely valuable. Sometimes Roman soldiers were paid not with coins but with salt — which actually is the source of our word “salary.”

Salt has been valuable not just as a seasoning, but also as a preservative. Since it prevents spoilage, salt has been considered a sign of incorruptibility and was used in sacrifices by the ancient Hebrews. Even today in Middle Eastern cultures, the offering of salt with a meal is considered a sign of friendship.

When we hear the Gospel about Jesus telling his disciples that they are to be “salt of the earth” (Mt 5:13), we probably think of this as an order that they bring the spice of the good news to the world. However, it can also be a sign that they are to keep the faith fresh.

As Claretian Fr. John Hampsch says of this passage, the disciples “were to oppose the world’s corruption, reminding them that, as salt must preserve its own anti-corruptive quality, they too must preserve their anti-corruptive influence in a sin-corrupted world.”

Blessed salt can also be taken home by the faithful. When used at home as a sacramental, people seek protection from above. Blessed salt can be sprinkled at doorways, in the corners of rooms and even inside a car. Some people even use the blessed salt in their salt shakers and use it for cooking.

Would you use blessed salt for your French fries?

Why not? As popular Catholic blog priest Fr. John Zuhlsdorf says: “It is a sacramental. You can cook with it, of course. You can also sprinkle it in places as a protection from the attacks of the enemy. The enemy does not like blessed salt!”

Which brings us back to tossing salt over your shoulder.

Sources: “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy”; catholicbooks.net; Father Z’s blog at wrdtpres.com; zenit.org; and “The Catholic Encyclopedia.”

Kasten is the author of “Linking Your Beads, The Rosary’s History, Mysteries and Prayers,” published by Our Sunday Visitor Press.  Her newest book, “Making Sense of Saints,” will be published by OSV in March 2014. 

 

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