Decommissioning the magical tat.


We’ve had compulsory education since 1880 and over a thousand years of Christianity, and people will still toss coins into wells, puddles, pools and fountains to propitiate the spirits and bring luck.
I starting thinking about this last night. Dropped by to see someone, he had a cow to calve to I jumped into his Landrover to go with him and give him a hand, and there, dangling from the rear view mirror, was a dream catcher.

Right then, why have you got a dream catcher in a Landrover? Let’s think this one through. According to the Ojibwe who appear to have invented dream catchers, bad dreams are trapped in the web and disappear in daylight, so you only dream good dreams.
Apparently there is another explanation of Lakota origin which says the bad dreams pass through, but the good dreams are caught and slide down the dream catcher to the person sleeping below. (In this case probably the Border Collie in the foot well.)
Now it might be that we have two different styles of construction, or different traditions with different materials. But when I discussed this with my lady wife she pointed out that she had made Dream Catchers when in the Girl Guides, from any materials that were to hand and attempting to vaguely follow pictures in a book.
Now setting aside for one moment the dispute between Ojibwe and Lakota, if dream catchers work, the last thing we want is to have them constructed by total amateurs with no training and the wrong materials. It makes as much sense as cooking up toadstools in the microwave in the hope of extracting the mescaline.
So back to our chap with the dream catcher in his Landrover; is he trying to ensure good dreams for his dog, or is it just foreign magical tat his granddaughter made at Guides that is probably lucky?

The problem with weird magical stuff is that people don’t know what to do with it when it’s no longer needed. One Sunday morning we turned up at our Parish Church to open up ready for the service and there, on the door step, was a cheap pewter crucifix and a rosary. We looked at it and wondered what on earth it was doing there. Then it struck us, someone had been cleaning out Grandma’s house after she died and had found the Crucifix and the rosary. Well obviously you cannot just sling them into the bin, they’re magic, packed with mana and if you aren’t careful they might leak or even ‘go off’ and then who knows what could happen. Far better leave them where someone who knows about that sort of thing can decommission them and make them safe.
I was talking to a priest and she’d noticed the same. People keep giving her elderly bibles because they feel bad about just slinging them into the recycling. We’ve not come a long way from Treasure Island where they gave Long John Silver the ‘black spot’.

The sea-cook looked at what had been given him.
“The black spot! I thought so,” he observed. “Where might you have got the paper? Why, hello! Look here, now; this ain’t lucky! You’ve gone and cut this out of a Bible. What fool’s cut a Bible?”
“Ah, there!” said Morgan. “There! Wot did I say? No good’ll come o’that, I said.”
“Well, you’ve about fixed it now, among you,” continued Silver. “You’ll all swing now, I reckon. What soft-headed lubber had a Bible?”
“It was Dick,” said one.
“Dick, was it? Then Dick can get to prayers,” said Silver. “He’s seen his slice of luck, has Dick, and you may lay to that.”

Now if Dick knew what was good for him he’d have thrown a coin in a well and wished, or perhaps invested in an upgrade for his dream catcher technology.
Eat your heart out Richard Dawkins; you’re trying to convert folk to atheism when a fair chunk of the population still shares a level of spirituality common in the early Iron Age.


Mind you, it’s not quite deep spirituality, but you’ll probably enjoy it

As a reviewer said, “Benor finds a wan looking lad on the point of being lynched for a murder and rescues him. It turns out that a dead man owns the young man’s soul. Benor offers to help get back the affidavit which will free him. Nothing is ever as simple as it sounds!

I enjoy the setting and the characters of these Port Naain stories and the dry sense of humour does it for me every time. This story, though not my favourite of the series, is well told.”

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10 thoughts on “Decommissioning the magical tat.

  1. willmacmillanjones September 28, 2013 at 7:09 pm Reply

    I’ve been reading a book called ‘Common British Goblins’. It’s a bit of a misnomer, as it actually was written by an American diplomat in Cardiff (?) at the end of the 19th century, describing in meticulous detail the welsh folklore about goblins, fairies and ghosties. Many of the more credulous reports had been copied from books and pamphlets written b y clergymen.

    • jwebster2 September 28, 2013 at 7:16 pm Reply

      They were almost certainly Anglican Clergymen, the CofE (and probably the Church of Wales) has a fine tradition of eccentric clergy who contributed massively to nature study, railway memorabilia, (Thomas the Tank Engine anyone) and were leading lights in all sorts of esoteric erudition 🙂

  2. handkmiller October 4, 2013 at 8:37 am Reply

    What is at the heart of this problem is the `belief` in such things. Every time my niece quotes her Horoscope, usually on facebook, I gently reprimand her by referring to her HORRORscope.The message has not yet sunk in. She thinks I am joking. The HORROR of course is in the fact that she believes in it. My Christian `Aunt-in-law` (if there is such a thing,) visited Canada many years ago and brought home for us an eight-inch long totem pole, (lower case deliberately used) carved in black rock of some kind. It is a work of art which she was extremely proud to give to us. As you say, I haven`t the heart to throw it away so it is there in our display cabinet as “A WORK OF ART.” Just what it is. No more than that to us. Touching wood, crossing fingers, fear of the number thirteen, crossing knives on the table, picking up pins etc.,etc., I feel sure that many people do these things because it is something they have grown along with. Customs rather than superstitions. I deliberately avoided telling my children about such things and I think I can say that they have grown-up fairly superstition-free. It should be remembered that stories about goblins and elves and `little people` derived from our own islands after the earliest invaders, mainly the Gauls robbed, pillaged and overtook the rough dwellings and hunting grounds of the early inhabitants, driving them into the woods. When they tried to come back to fight for what they believed was rightly theirs, they were driven back and nasty tales evolved about their being demonic, evil characters. Hence the superstitions.
    The message that comes through to me is that most people need `something` to believe in other than the tangible that is all around us; that after death there must be something more. That opens up a whole new discussion.

    • jwebster2 October 4, 2013 at 9:02 am Reply

      We seem to upgrade the old stories as well. In the old tales it was ‘cold iron’ that kept the fairies and suchlike away. But that was from a time when a family might not have much iron in the house, even the spade would have a wooden blade with an iron cutting edge riveted to it.
      As iron became more common, then silver became the metal necessary to keep the bogie men at bay

  3. handkmiller October 6, 2013 at 7:06 pm Reply

    That is a new one to me Jim.I am not sure of the significance of the “unreachable”or should i say “Unatainable?” as those metals obviously were to people of the time.

    • jwebster2 October 6, 2013 at 8:36 pm Reply

      If evil creatures are kept off by iron and everyone has iron, then there’s no horror story because the fairies cannot come anywhere near you. So that you’ve got to invent a new legend so the magic will still work

  4. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt September 25, 2019 at 9:59 am Reply

    Always amusing to see that people who don’t believe in God believe in werewolves and Nessie.

    • jwebster2 September 25, 2019 at 1:20 pm Reply

      Well Chesterton had one of his characters say, “The first effect of not believing in God is to believe in anything:”

  5. Linda Sutherland September 28, 2019 at 7:45 pm Reply

    “A serious house on serious earth it is,
    In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
    Are recognised, and robed as destinies.
    And that much never can be obsolete,
    Since someone will forever be surprising
    A hunger in himself to be more serious,
    And gravitating with it to this ground,
    Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
    If only that so many dead lie round.”
    (Philip Larkin, ‘Church Going’)

    • jwebster2 September 28, 2019 at 9:34 pm Reply

      I’ve not come across that one, thanks

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