November 15, 2004


A blood libel involving the sacrifice of an infant and the consumption of his blood was levelled, not against Jews, but rather, Christians. The high priest of the Temple wore bells to alert the Jewish deity to the approach of worshippers, so that He can hide his donkey head from mortals. The first person to be tried formally for the ritual practice of magic was a Pope (in 1310); as the accused was deceased, he chose not to testify in his own defense. Societies of witches never were, and intellectuals justified the bloodthirstiness of their predecessors by falsely attributing the intellectual passion for burning witches to commoners, who by and large would have preferred to throw intellectuals on the pyre rather than their wives and sisters and midwives and neighbors. (An aside: I recall reading about a fantastic method arrived at by the finest flower of 19th century Russian revolutionaries for persuading the typical Russian peasant of throwing off his chains. Read him Hegel. In the original, incomprehensible German. On his day off. Having gotten wind of this odd method of fueling revolutionarly fervor, the Czar's police offered that same peasant a keg of vodka in exchange for the Hegel reciter. It was quite a lucrative trade...)

The aside I can't back up, unless I can dig out the notes from a long ago lecture I attended on Dostoevsky (even if it's not true, it's too good to check) but the rest of it comes from Norman Cohn's Europe's Inner Demons: The Demonization of Christians in Medieval Christendom, which is a much more serious book than my flip little summary suggests.

For more serious mysteries to ponder, I suggest this.

Perfunctory: a. superficial; hasty; done indifferently

Yes, yes, but the key thing is...done. (Didn't Green Gartside sing something along the lines of a thing worth doing is worth doing badly?)

Posted by Ideofact at November 15, 2004 11:55 PM

"He was defunct. They were perfunctory." I got that from the description of King Offa's funeral in "Mercian Hymns" by Geoffrey Hill (not a poet generally known for his jokes or, indeed, intelligibility; though the "Mercian Hymns" are, I think, his best work). I've been toying with the idea of writing a few more posts but I'm not looking forward to dealing with the frustration of Blogger and HTML again. The hit counter's got to go as well. I don't really fancy getting involved in day-to-day political affairs or polemics either. I was planning to do a proper takedown of Edward Said's criticism of Chateaubriand in "Orientalism" (which I managed to read again thanks to Amazon's Search Inside feature). Sensitive literary and political critic? Yeah, right. But is Said really worth the effort? Plus, I'd probably have to buy his book. But some other posts maybe some time soon, although they probably won't amount to much.

Posted by: J.Cassian at November 16, 2004 06:24 AM