Thursday, 4 December 2008

Passing Pendle and Superstition

In 1612 in my adoptive city of Lancaster with almost no
evidence at all 10 people from Pendle were hanged as witches.

Pendle Hill, Lancashire, UK.

Not long after midday yesterday we were in the van travelling to Leeds at a speed of 41mpg * on the A59 between Preston, Lancashire and Skipton, North Yorkshire, UK. I was enjoying seeing the new importances which arrive with a coating of sunlit snow. Click the snowy image. I assumed each new trackway (left of centre, below the ridge) had been made so as to avoid the muddiness of the old one, and I stared for long enough to realise that, if nothing else, I should really have been watching the road.

Arriving at my son's family's home in Leeds I was shown the small snow white cat which had recently been trying to infiltrate the household. I don't like cats, never have done. They make me feel unappreciated, but as the late author, Derek Tangye (whom I once met), pointed out, the fault is entirely mine for thinking I need to feel appreciated.

What did they ever do for us? For 1700 years, ever since the Romans introduced them, cats have been killing birds and other small creatures in Britain and they do it when they have no need. Much as many people before me had stared at a cat, I stared at that snow white one and saw the companion of a witch. It mattered not that no witch is real, nor that there will always be insufficient evidence of a real witch, or witchcraft. Try as I might, I could not lift my dislike of cats above a very reluctant tolerance.

At a party that evening I was handed a shepherd's crook (well, a stage prop closely resembling one), and immediately it put me in mind of this one:

Seen just a few days before Halloween this year in the church of Saint Sauveur in Le Castellet (near Marseille). I'm sure you've noticed how very much the bishop's crook resembles a question mark.

"No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it's going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it's always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt", wrote Robert M. Pirsig and, "The truth knocks on the door and you say, Go away, I'm looking for the truth,; and so it goes away. Puzzling".

I'm not puzzled about witches or religious "beliefs". Both come about as the result of even the stoopidest people having mental capacity to spare and trying to fill it. What does puzzle me is that around the world a lot of people of widely varying intellectual levels are consciously preventing themselves from reaching the glaringly, and for some perhaps devastatingly, obvious conclusion. Having insufficient evidence to support the less than even half-baked conclusions into which they rushed, they use faith as a substitute for evidence which they will not find anywhere.

* A speed at which one can attain that mpg without hindering other road users.