Sunday, November 13, 2011

Enduring Belief in the Supernatural

Let's take a look at popular television shows on commercial (does not include Cable or Satellite television) today and in the not too distant past:

The Vampire Diaries
Once Upon a Time
Grimm
Supernatural
The Circle
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Beauty and the Beast (fairy tale - see Grimm and Once Upon a Time, above)

These are shows that came readily to mind; I'm sure there are lots more!

I am absolutely fascinated with the reality that today, more than ever, there are such shows being broadcast in prime-time.  All these shows - and we've got the Tea Party religious freaks trying to roll us back to the 18th century - pre French-Revolution!  I think to myself that this is just another form of "escapism" from today's really crappy world -- bad politics, bad economy, USA sinking into third world status, etc. etc. -- but - what the hell is really going on?  I mean - what does this mean

Minerva (online) has an interesting synopsis that probably dates to around Halloween (October 31, 2011), on witches -- it doesn't have a date on it, but I suppose it doesn't have to.  A disgraceful episode in American colonial history.  And, unfortunately, "witches" are still being hunted and killed today, all around the world.

The Witching Hour approaches


Abundant textual evidence in the medieval and post-medieval period attests to the practice of witchcraft. Perhaps the most celebrated case is the Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692. Archaeological evidence pertaining to witchcraft is understandably thinner on the ground than historical testimony given its secretive practice. A recent discovery in Tuscany may alter this perspective.

Archaeologists have recently discovered the skeleton of a woman from the early 13th century at Piombino. The bones were associated with 13 nails apparently driven into the jaw of the deceased. Lack of material evidence indicates that the woman's body had not been interred in a coffin or wrapped in a burial shroud as was customary in the medieval period.

Alfonso Forgione, based at the University of L'Aquila who is directing the excavation, believes that the unfortunate individual was executed for practising withcraft. Other nails were found surrounding the skeleton that had been nailed into items of clothing and the unorthodox characteristics of the burial lead him to his conclusions: 'This indicates to me that it was an attempt to make sure the woman even though she was dead did not rise from the dead and unnerve the locals who were no doubt convinced she was a witch with evil powers.'

In 2009 a female skull was found near Venice with a stone driven into its mouth. Contemporary superstition implemented such a technique to prevent vampires rising from the grave. Forgione believes that the nails driven into the skull of the woman in Tuscany had a similar intent. Interestingly, another female skeleton was recovered from the same site in Venice surrounded by 17 dice – an unlucky number that was associated with death in medieval times. It is curious that the number 17 can be arranged to create the Latin 'VIXI', meaning literally 'I have lived', in other words, 'I am dead'.

A possible contention against Forgione's hypothesis is that the discoveries outlined above were interred in consecrated ground in churchyards. He refutes this by suggesting 'that perhaps both women came from influential families and were not peasant class and so because of their class and connections were able to secure burial in consecrated Christian ground'. Whatever the truth to this hypothesis it makes a chilling and topical story as we approach the witching hours of Halloween at the end of October. Mark Merrony

2 comments:

Robert Moore said...

Belief is different to knowledge. Belief in the supernatural is one thing. Knowledge of the supernatural is something else. And witchcraft is something else.

I have met a few people who call themselves witches. In my experience these people are perfectly sincere - in a belief - they believe ideas they have read in books that most academics assert were written by frauds and charlatans.

Buffy and Merlin are entertainment - stories. A new series of Merlin is on the BBC at the moment, prime time, Saturday nights - it certainly is popular.

The supernatural is something else. There have been some intelligent and serious people who have considered this question, as a phenomena to be investigated seriously and scientifically, eg Arthur Koestler.

The best commentator on all of this, including Merlin, is Carl Jung. Jung collaborated with Wolfgang Pauli. Pauli was the Nobel prize winning physicist who discovered Uncertainty - how can atoms decay 'at random'. Pauli opened the door into chance by showing that the universe is not a machine running by clockwork. Chance, or fate, are real things that happen to real people - but they don't work according to the laws of Newtonian mechanics.

The witch scares were a primitive attempt to explain fate - that evil woman jinxed me. The explanation was primitive and incorrect. But the phenomenon of chance exists nontheless.

Jan said...

Hola darling! Yes, Buffy and Merlin are entertainment - but I think there is a reason we see an abundance of this type of show, and seemingly growing this season, as things have deteriorated in the world situation. Maybe it's just escapism, or maybe there's something Jungian at work. Have you read any Jane Roberts' "Seth" works?

What were the odds that so many upsetting things would happen to me today (read my post about my first chess lesson - it, itself, was a good thing, not bad, but oh my goddess, the trip to get to that point, OY!) I'm not what I would consider a superstitious person, but the events of today had me thinking on that long slow bus ride to my chess lesson that maybe it was meant as a SIGN. Now, when people start to think in terms of SIGNS and such, that is not rational; but over the years I've had enough strange things happen that I pay attention, rational or not. So, does this mean I shouldn't be taking chess lessons? Or it it Lady Chance throwing up roadblocks because she realizes that I might actually achieve a pipe dream of becoming the world's oldest chess champion - ever - of either sex! Okay, maybe that's taking things a little far...

Jan

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