Thursday 19 July 2007

Publicity and offense.

This story is just great on so many levels:

A giant outline of Homer Simpson brandishing a doughnut was enough to make even pagans go "D'oh".

In my ideal world, the job of a newspaper editor would be to remove that sort of writing. Not at The Mail. Anyway, if you've finished laughing uproariously, I'll continue.

Painted opposite famous fertility symbol, the Cerne Abbas giant, the idea had been to plug the new Simpsons movie due out later this month.

I do recommend you follow the link to see the picture. It's quite brilliant.

But instead the image has incited the wrath of British pagans who have now pledged to perform "rain magic" to rid their sacred site of its unwelcome guest.

Ring any bells? A religious group is throwing a tantrum over a cartoon, the poor dears. Thankfully, these nutters aren't threatening to cut off our heads, so we can just sit back and enjoy the spectacle of their batshit-crazy outrage without having to run for the hills or buy lots of Lurpak like last time.

Pagans, eh? A mysterious and ancient religion, predating the Roman invasion of Britain. They have obscure traditions and strange rituals whose origins are lost in the mists of time, and are presided over by the great spiritual leader ...

Ann Bryn-Evans, joint Wessex district manager for The Pagan Federation

Joint district manager? Of a federation? Jesus wept. Oh, sorry — er, someone wept. Maybe it was Herne. I don't know. Anyway.

Ann Bryn-Evans, joint Wessex district manager for The Pagan Federation, said: "It's very disrespectful and not at all aesthetically pleasing.

"We were hoping for some dry weather but I think I have changed my mind. We'll be doing some rain magic to bring the rain and wash it away."

Rain magic! Oo! That's the special Pagan magic where they somehow make it rain. In Britain! During the rainiest Summer in over a century! It's only because they're so deeply in harmony with Mother Earth that they can pull this sort of thing off, you know.

She added: "I'm amazed they got permission to do something so ridiculous. It's an area of scientific interest."

Yes, that's why Pagans object to someone ridiculing their religion: it's unscientific.

Anyway, what's really interesting here is that The Mail appear to have done their research properly, but have mysteriously glossed over its results.

The 17th century chalk outline of the naked, sexually aroused, club-wielding giant is believed by many to be a symbol of ancient spirituality.

That's a good sentence, that. If you weren't concentrating, you might not notice that it's "a symbol of ancient spirituality" rather than "an ancient symbol of spirituality" — an important distinction, because, like it says at the start of the sentence, the Cerne Abbas Giant is not actually ancient, as it only dates from the Seventeenth Century. Paganism wasn't big at the time. Britain had been a Christian country for over a thousand years.

Until only a few years ago, the figure was believed to be an Iron-age monument of some sort. But recent historical research has revealed that this is not the case: not only is the carving a mere four-hundred years old, but it is quite likely to be a satirical cartoon of Oliver Cromwell. Now, if I were a Pagan and I'd built up a load of beliefs and rituals around something that turned out to be a hoax and might well be a picture of a famous Christian, the last thing I'd want to do is draw attention to my (excuse the pun) cock-up. Not so British Pagans, it seems: their approach appears to be a quite staggering degree of disingenuity.

Catherine Hosen, who is the Wiltshire representative for The Pagan Federation ...

I wonder, is a representative more or less spiritually accomplished than a joint district manager? And do they get a special hat? Anyway.

Catherine Hosen, who is the Wiltshire representative for The Pagan Federation, said: "I find it quite shocking and very disrespectful.

"It's just a publicity stunt for a film and we are talking about a monument which is definitely of great historical significance and a lot of people feel has important spiritual significance as well."

Look at that: it's definitely of great historical significance, yes, and a lot of people feel that it's also of spiritual significance, and if I don't mention that the actual reason for its historical significance and the wished-for and now disproven reason for its spiritual significance are completely and utterly unrelated, you'll never notice, will you? It's a great bit of maneouvring: grudgingly concede that the thing's only four-hundred years old but claim that it is nevertheless a symbol of Iron-age beliefs. Of course, it is conceivable that a bunch of Seventeenth-century Pagans carved the figure in honour of their ancient beliefs, but it is unlikely that the local Christian church would then have started paying for its upkeep — which is where the earliest records of its existence come from. The Cerne Abbas Giant simply isn't Pagan.

So, to recap. The Cerne Abbas Giant is a cartoon. Another cartoon has been temporarily placed next to it. Pagans are outraged over this "disrespectful" treatment of something that is not a part of their religion.

Am I breaking Blunkett's religious intolerance law yet?

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