Baptism of the Line
A curious rite performed on persons crossing the equator
for the first time. The sailors dressed themselves in quaint costumes.
The ‘‘father of the line’’ arrived in a cask, accompanied
by a courier, a devil, a hairdresser, and a miller. The unfortunate
passenger had his hair curled, was liberally sprinkled with
flour, and then had water showered upon him, if he was not
dunked. The origin of this custom is not known, nor is it quite
clear what part the devil played in it. The custom is reminiscent
of the traditional initiatory rites of apprentices in trade guilds
such as printing, and it may also be a precursor of initiations
in college fraternities.