I wonder if you noticed this item from a little while back:
Haaretz: “Archaeologists Reveal Oldest Inscription in Jerusalem: A Canaanite Curse: Brought to you by the letter representing the discovery of the earliest word, ‘the’: Somebody among the Jebusites really wanted the governor of Jerusalem to die”
It doesn’t, alas, speak especially well of human nature that the oldest inscription recovered from Jerusalem thus far is a (pre-Israelite) curse. And it’s not only in Jerusalem or in Israel/Palestine that such things have been found. Back in the nineties, I spent a couple of months in a seminar at Princeton University that was sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and that was devoted to attempting to define the quite problematic term magic. Along with a small number of academics who represented such fields as anthropology, Buddhist studies, classics, Indology, the study of the New Testament, and philosophy, and having been included in the group as a representative of the study of Islam, I spent a lot of time reading ancient “execration texts.” (We were, by the way, unable to come up with a solid definition for magic. And we doubted that any such definition on which all might agree can ever be found. The word’s most common use seems to mean something like “a religious practice that is or was performed by a group or individual of which I disapprove.”)
But this interesting line from the Haaretz article caught my attention:
“The curses would apparently be painted onto an artifact that could be smashed, such as a clay pot, so the despised one would suffer the same fate.”
The Book of Mormon offers at least two really good examples of such ancient simile oaths or simile curses. For a discussion of the topic, see “Book of Mormon Evidence: Simile Curses”; also Terrence L. Szink, “An Oath of Allegiance in the Book of Mormon,” from back in the glory days of the pre-2012 Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship (or, as it was known at the time, FARMS, aka the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies).
Mention of a hateful ancient curse from an unidentified (and possibly unhinged) person seems to lead quite seamlessly and naturally into my next topic here:
Over the past week or two, there has been a flurry of interest among the small group of usual suspects concerning who is behind the very useful Neville-Neville Land blog. They think that it’s Steve Smoot — who is something of an obsession with my very obsessive anonymous Malevolent Stalker — or that it’s Dan Peterson, or that it’s Steve Smoot at the direction of Dan Peterson. Actually, it’s none of those. (I myself learned only a few months ago who it is, because s/he told me; until then I was almost as much in the dark on the subject as my Stalker is.) Since the Steve Smoot option ultimately won’t pan out, I’m anticipating that Francis Bacon will soon be pressed into service as The Real Author and Proprietor of the blog, followed by Edward de Vere, the seventeenth earl of Oxford, and then by Homer (or Homer Simpson), Ben Jonson, Thomas Kydd, Christopher Marlowe, Q, Mae West, and Shaykh Zubayr, in no particular order.
In support of the notion that I’m the person behind Neville-Neville Land, the much less talented but ever-aspiring anonymous Mini-Stalker, whose oft-repeated mantra is “You just can’t make these things up” (which he typically invokes immediately after having just made something up), points to frequent use of the terms gadfly and blowhard, which, he says, is a verbal signature that’s unique to Steve Smoot and to me and characteristic of the two of us. (Perhaps, in his mind, I am Steve Smoot?) Now, I can’t speak for Br’er Smoot on this matter. Perhaps, every morning, after a half-hour spent believing six impossible things before breakfast, he repeats the words gadfly and blowhard fifty times each into a mirror as a matter of daily ritual practice. I myself, though, am aware of no particular propensity on my part to use either word, though I’ve probably done so at least a few times over the course of my Methuselah-like time in mortality. (Gadfly is pretty much a required descriptor when talking about Socrates, for example.) Just to check, though, I did a search here on Sic et Non — and, so far as I can tell, neither word occurs in anything that I’ve posted on Sic et Non since the blog was founded on 8 February 2012. So either I’m doing a remarkable job here of mastering my compulsion to write the words gadfly and blowhard or my Mini-Stalker is, yet again, making things up.
Anyway, here is what Neville-Neville Land had to say a couple of days ago about this bumbling recent attempt to answer “the Peter Pan authorship question”:
Hint: Given its association with Socrates, I would, personally, never apply the epithet gadfly to my Malevolent Stalker. For me, it has too positive a connotation. And I have too much respect for Socrates.
Home is where I want to be.
I’ve been on the road so long, my friend,
And if you came along
I know you couldn’t disagree.
Everywhere I go,
I get slandered, libeled,
I hear words I never heard in the Bible.
Posted from Never-Never Land