|'Sliming' poor polliwogs when crossing the equator|
These days, the new crew called 'pollywogs' are slimed with coloured gloop by staff dressed as doctors and nurses. In Manet's day, they were covered in pitch which was, I imagine, smellier and much harder to get off!
Here's an account of crossing the equator in 1849:
'... at last the procession appears... a priest, a choirboy; Father Line and his wife, all got up, you can't imagine how; the god Neptune, a barber, two policemen and finally the devil and his son. The procession climbed up to the poop deck; Father Line paid his respects to the captain and the first baptism got underway... this is what they do to baptise you: first you're taken to an altar for confession; the priest makes you take all sorts of vows followed by communion; then you're put into the hands of the barber who applies paint all over your face and neck, then scrapes your skin as hard as he can with a wooden razor 2 feet long ... one of the men asks you to wash in a big basin of water .. he grabbed me by the legs and threw me into a nosedive I'm not likely to forget. Then you fall into the arms of the devil ... who daubs you from top to bottom with his tail soaked in pitch.
I think these days the crossing the equator ceremony is a lot less dangerous to your health!
Quotation taken from 'Manet by Himself', edited by J.Wilson-Bareau, Time Warner Books, 2004.