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Rant #2:

Old English verse:
" Whoever be born on Friday or its night, he shall be accursed of men, silly and crafty and loathsome to all men, and shall ever be thinking evil in his heart, and shall be a thief and a great coward, and shall not live longer than to middle age. "
(see quotes)

   I like to keep an open mind about things, and avoid falling into either of the traps-of-thinking that Dunninger described: "For those that believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not, none will suffice."

   I find the latter part of his quote especially interesting, as it causes many otherwise rational people to refuse even to examine the evidence on such promising novel phenomena as Street Lamp Interference, Storm Sprites, or Ball Lightning. As Dunninger quite rightly points out, to blindly disbelieve something is just as bad as blind belief. I shall rant more about that side of it later.

   This rant, however, is about the former part of the quote, particularly with regard to superstition, as one might have gleaned from the title. But rather than rant myself, I will instead quote a rant about it from Theophrastus c. 300 B.C.E., which conveys some of my feelings on the subject.

   "Superstition is a desponding fear of divinities. The superstitious man having washed his hands in the sacred fount, and being well sprinkled with holy water from the temple, takes a leaft of laurel in his mouth, and walks about with it all the day. If a weasel crosses his path, eh will not proceed until some one has gone before him; or until he has thrown three stones across the way. If he sees a serpent in the house, he builds a chapel on the spot. When he passes the consecrated stones, placed where three ways meet, he is careful to pour oil from his crewet on them: then, falling on his knees, he worships, and retires. A mouse, perchance, has gnawed a hole in a flour-sack: away he goes to the seer to know what it behoves him to do: and if he is simply answered, 'Send it to the cobbler to be patched,' he views the business ina more serious light; and running home, he devotes the sack as an article no more to be used. He is occupied in frequent purifications of his house, saying that it has been invaded by Hecate. If in his walks an owl flies past, he is horror-struck; and exclaims, 'Thus comes the divine Minerva!"' He is careful not to tread on a tomb, to aproach a corpse, or to visit a woman in her confinement; saying that it is profitable to him to avoid every pollution. On the fourth and seventh days of the month he directs mulled wine to be prepared for the family; and going himself to purchase myrtles and fankincense, he returns and spends the day in crowning the statues of Mercury and Venus. As often as he has a dream he runs to the interpreter, the soothsayer, or the augur, to inquire what god or goddess he ought to propitiate. Before he is initiated in the mysteries he attends to receive instruction every month, acoompanied by his wife, or by the nurse and his children.
   Whenever he passes a cross-way he bathes his head. For the benefit of a special purification, he invites the priestesses to his house; who, while he stands reverently in the midst of them, bear about him an onion, or a little dog. If he encounters a lunatic or a man in a fit, he shudders horrifically, and spits on his bosom."

-Quoted in "Chance, Skill, and Luck - The psychology of guessing and gambling" by John Cohen, Pelican Books, 1960, p113

   The above is actually a bit of a straw-man style argument against superstition, so doesn't hold much rational weight - I am quoting it for its supreme rantiness rather than rigour. Rigour may be supplied at a later date. Or it may not. Ask your friendly local augur to find out which.

-Tim Mannveille 2004

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