Feb 09 2014

Our Lady of Perpetual Ice

Woman #1: Oh, that looks just like the Virgin Mary. Helen*, do you see that?

Woman #2: Oh! Ya.

Woman #1: Harry, Harry, look! Doesn’t that look like the Virgin Mary?

Man: No, I’m not religious.

I didn’t laugh out loud. I’m more polite than that. I didn’t even look behind me to figure out who was having the conversation. I just made sure Ben took a picture of the “virgin” after they moved on. That’s why we were at the Apostle Island National Lakeshore after all, to take pictures of ice.

Picture of icicles hanging from a cliffside. Outline has vaguely human proportions.

Image by Ben Zvan. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Harry’s statement was such a perfect description of culturally primed pareidolia. I didn’t see a virgin when I looked at the ice either, even though I was able to identify which formation she had to mean. I saw something else.

The angel of death released from the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Pretty form.I would see that, though. I’d seen it just a couple weeks before. Still, I think mine is closer to the actual shape of the ice. I don’t remember “Our Lady” walking around in ragged robes.

What are you primed to see?

* Names may have been changed or may be accurate. I don’t actually remember what names were used.


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  1. 1

    Looks like Cthulhu to me!

  2. 2
    Stephanie Zvan

    Hah! That took less time than I expected. :)

  3. 3

    Looks like a bunny rabbit…
     Ah… No… That’s clouds…

  4. 4
    Emu Sam

    The head of an elephant eating seaweed . . . oh, I guess that’s what Cthulhu would look like.

  5. 5

    Usually I can spot these things right off. This time it took me a while to spot it.

  6. 6
    Marcus Ranum

    It looks like a shoggoth, actually.

  7. 7
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Well, since I live in a sufficiently catholic country, yeah, with lots of imagination and being told to look for Mary, The ice formation vaguely resembles those images where her headscarf flows over her shoulders and she holds her hands downwards, plams turned to the front.
    Wirthouut the prompting I go for Cthulu as well

  8. 8

    i could tell you what it looks like to me, but it would be far from lady-like-or-dainty to do so, and I am currently scrambling for dainty and lady-like after a horrific cold (indelicately, let’s say I’ve been less than properly groomed for more than a few days) so I am going to not-share.

    Which just means that I have an eye for the indelicate. Chalk it up to motherhood.


  9. 9

    I see a pre-Victorian gentleman (Ben Franklin, maybe) with a cane in his right hand and a small lantern in his left. He’s looking slightly to his left in a very formal pose.

  10. 10
    Marcus Ranum

    Maybe someone should ask Francis Collins if that’s Mary mother of god, Mary Poppins, or Mary Tyler Moore.

  11. 11


  12. 12
    Pierce R. Butler

    Looks to me like the traditional over-draped Mary, but heavily pregnant.

    Howcum xians hardly ever depict Mary with a belly on? She’s a fertility goddess, no?

  13. 13

    Aww, I see the DDOS prevention at my previous comment:

    Weeping Angel?

  14. 14

    It’s clearly a wispmother from Skyrim.

  15. 15

    It looks like one of the ghost warriors from The Return of the King, needs a little more pollution.

    Octopod @1- Cthulhu demands your repentance.

  16. 16

    It looks like a vaguely irritated jellyfish.

    I’m not sure how a jellyfish would be vaguely irritated, or how we would tell if it was. Actually, I’m not sure what, if any, emotional states a jellyfish is capable of, to begin with.

  17. 17

    I dunno, looks just cold to me, a good reason to stay home in front of my HDTV or behind my Kindle, under a cozy blanket. But then it’s been a long winter already.

  18. 18

    Cousin Itt, minus the hat and sunglasses.

  19. 19
    Chris Evo

    Something from star wars, definitely. Maybe the naboo starfighter, maybe an A-wing. I haven’t seen star wars for a while.

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