Command Performance

The Bavarian village of Oberammergau has a special deal with God. While the bubonic plague was ravaging Europe, the town’s citizens vowed that if they were spared they would perform a play every 10 years depicting the life and death of Jesus.

God, apparently, accepted. The death rate among adults rose from 1 in October 1632 to 20 in March 1633, but then it dropped again to 1 in July 1633.

True to their word, the villagers staged a play in 1634, and they’ve done so every 10 years ever since.

High and Dry

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ararat_anomaly_1949.jpeg

This is a classified photo of Mount Ararat, Turkey’s tallest mountain, taken by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency in 1949.

That dark area is the “Ararat anomaly,” an unknown object perched on the edge of a precipice at about 15,500 feet. Biblical literalists think it’s the remains of Noah’s Ark. The U.S. government says it’s “linear facades in the glacial ice underlying more recently accumulated ice and snow.”

For now, it’s a stalemate — no one’s been able to reach it yet because the Turkish military controls the area.

She Ain’t Heavy

Kailashgiri Brahmachari is carrying his mother across India. They left the northern village of Piparia eight years ago and hope to reach Varanasi in 2013.

He says it’s the will of God.

“He is a nice son, but I am getting tired,” his mother told the BBC. “I sometimes feel like ending the journey and getting back home.”

“Get Thee Behind Me”

Here’s one way to beat temptation: file a lawsuit. In 1971, Gerald Mayo sued “Satan and his staff” in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. He alleged that “Satan has on numerous occasions caused plaintiff misery and unwarranted threats, against the will of plaintiff, that Satan has placed deliberate obstacles in his path and has caused plaintiff’s downfall” and had therefore “deprived him of his constitutional rights,” a violation of the U.S. Code.

The court noted that jurisdiction was uncertain; legally the devil might count as a foreign prince. Also, Mayo’s claim seemed appropriate for a class action suit, and it wasn’t clear that Mayo could represent all of humanity. Finally, no one was sure how the U.S. Marshal could serve process on Satan.

So the devil got away. Mayo’s case has been cited several times, and has never been overturned or contradicted.

Equivoque

An equivoque is a poem that can be read in two different ways. This one appeared in The Weekly Pacquet of Advice from Rome in 1679. Protestants were to read each line straight across, Catholics down each column:

The Jesuit’s Double-Faced Creed

I hold for sound faith What England’s church allows
What Rome’s faith saith My conscience disavows
Where the king’s head The flock can take no shame
The flock’s misled Who hold the Pope supreme
Where th’altar’s dress’d The worship’s scarce divine
The people’s bless’d Whose table’s bread and wine
He’s but an ass Who their communion flies
Who shuns the Mass Is Catholic and wise.