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4.6 HCE as Sacrament

Almost identical to the principle of the real presence in the eucharist and holy wine of Christian theology, allusions to eating the fallen or murdered king abound in Finnegans Wake, as for instance in the quotation: 'We could ate you, par Buccas, and imbabe through you, reassuranced in the wild lac of gotliness' (FW 378.2-4). The suggestion of ritual cannibalism occurs in the list of descriptions which define HCE in Chapter I.6: 'is Breakfates, Lunger, Diener and Souper' (FW 131.4); and Shaun enjoys 'boiled protestants (allinoilia allinoilia!)' (FW 456.3-4). Joyce's incorporation of Freud's Oedipus complex into the Wake is evident in the phrase 'eatupus complex' (FW 128.36) which also emphasises the parallel between Christian communion and the ritual cannibalism of earlier religions. Patrick McCarthy similarly states concerning HCE that 'both in the social and in the Eucharistic sense he is the Host'.12

Given that HCE is a publican, it is not surprising that he is associated with the holy wine as well, and there are many references in Finnegans Wake which correlate HCE with an alcoholic substance. Alcohol is a resting place for the fallen HCE, and as a publican the owner of the tavern resembles a priest in his distribution of the sacred substance. When Kersse the Tailor prays to an Osiris/HCE figure, he states 'O, lord of the barrels, comer forth from Anow' (FW 311.11-12). HCE is also associated with the Bass beer and O'Connell ale which Kersse and the Norwegian Captain drink in a re-enactment of ritual cannibalism: 'We rescue you, O Baass, from the damp earth and honour thee. O'Connibell, with mouth burial!' (FW 311.17-19). Sheldon Brivic also notes HCE's existence in the form of alcohol, and, moreover, that he is drunk in a cannibalistic ritual of reverence similar to the Christian practice of drinking wine as Christ's 'blood': HCE 'serves the people a communion of his own substance. The ''host of a bottlefilled'' (FW 310.26) says, ''trink me dregs!'' (FW 321.29)'.13 HCE's sons are described as containers of HCE in alcoholic form in their role as Napoleonic revolutionaries in Kate's museum: 'the corkedagains upstored' (FW 333.11-12) or the Corsican 'upstart'. In the Night Lessons chapter, HCE is described as 'Ainsoph', the Kabbalist supreme god, against which Issy's footnote reads, 'Groupname for grapejuice' (FW 261.23, N3). The Cad moreover is depicted as having a fondness for shooting bottles of stout, 'executing with Anny Oakley deadliness [...] empties which had not very long before contained Reid's family (you ruad that before, soaky, but all the bottles in sodemd histry will not soften your bloodathirst!) stout' (FW 52.1-6). Swept out to sea to both death and rebirth, in Book III.2 Shaun becomes an export stout as messenger of HCE: 'Wethen, now, may the good people speed you, rural Haun, export stout fellow that you are' (FW 471.35-36). Shaun also calls on the deity as alcohol in the phrase: 'Grog help me' (FW 449.5) and the importance of alcohol in terms of HCE's resurrection is clear in the song 'Finnegan's Wake', where Tim Finnegan is revived after whiskey is splashed upon him.

In addition to the fact that Shem's writing challenges dominant religious and social perceptions, he is also cast as the underdog by Shaun because he 'went to Winehouse' to do it. In a number of confrontations between the twins, Shem is cast as an immoderate drinker, as in the role of the Gripes, or 'grapes', in the Mookse and Gripes episode, where he is 'a pickle' (FW 153.19), and 'his whine having gone to his palpruy head' (FW 154.14-15). Shem, as the Gripes, almost falls out of his tree in his confrontation with the Mookse: 'my spetial inexshellsis is the belowing things ab ove. But I will never be abler to tell Your Honoriousness (here he near lost his limb) though my corked father was bott a pseudowaiter, whose o'cloak you ware' (FW 154.35-155.2). Here HCE is entombed as a bottled drink, whose time, cloak and cloaca in a reproductive sense, Shaun borrows in the age of heroes. In Book I.5 Shem is described by Shaun as 'badly the worse for boosegas' (FW 176.31) and 'drinking heavily of spirits to that interlocutor a latere' (FW 177.18-19). In the Ondt and Gracehoper episode, Shem, again dissolute, is described in terms of Joyce himself, as having 'jingled through a jungle of love and debts and jangled through a jumble of life in doubts afterworse, wetting with the bimblebeaks, drikking with nautonects, bilking with durrydunglecks and horing after ladybirdies' (FW 416.8-12).

Moreover, after Jarl van Hoother completes his creative contribution to on-going civilisation, a fecal deposit that attracts, or itself resounds with, a rumble of thunder, 'they all drank free' (FW 23.7-8). This freedom of distribution of alcoholic beverage, the sacrament of HCE, and if 'free' is read as 'tea', the enjoyment of free love, is curtailed by Shaun, who as an Ondt character, accumulates both wealth and women for his own private enjoyment. It appears that Shaun may have broken the original agreement of 'drinking for free' negotiated by the Prankquean and occasioned by the fall of HCE, and moreover he does so by invoking the names of the fallen HCE. With reverberations of the biblical fall of Satan, Adam and Eve, and Babel, Yawn explains to the Four Historians that Shem, a 'treemanangel', is cast down by 'the Muster of the hoose', a Shaun character described appropriately as 'Knockout, the knickknaver' (FW 505.34), to prevent his profligate desire to disperse three barrels of stout:

the climber clomb aloft, doing the midhill of the park, flattering his bitter hoolft with her conconundrums. He would let us have the three barrels. Such was a bitte too thikke for the Muster of the hoose so as he called down on the Grand Precusor who coiled him a crawler of the dupest dye and thundered at him to flatch down off that erection and be aslimed of himself for the bellance of hissch leif. (FW 506.27-28)

Similarly, Shem's writing and the difference of Finnegans Wake disseminates a theory of HCE contrary to the unifying dogma of Christianity. Reading and writing parallel drinking and the Christian eucharist, as forms of disseminating and partaking of the essence of the deified ancestor.

12 Patrick McCarthy, The Riddles of Finnegans Wake (London: Associated University Presses, 1980), p. 23.

13 Sheldon Brivic, Joyce between Freud and Jung (Port Washington: Kennikat Press, 1980), p. 210.