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Oct 08 2012

I’d like to have a conversation with a ghoul

Look at this long line of people in Australia.

20121008-114117.jpg

They’re queued up to gaze in wonder at the 500-year-old mummified right forearm of some Catholic saint. I’ve got a few things I’d want to ask them.

“What the hell is wrong with you people?”

“Do you really think fragments of corpses have magic powers?”

“Are you aware that many people find Catholics extremely creepy? Do you have any hypotheses about why that would be so?”

“Is it true that later tonight you’ll be burrowing in the local cemetery to feast on the decaying flesh of the dead?”

102 comments

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  1. 1
    dannysichel

    Are you saying that you wouldn’t consider a 500-year-old mummified human forearm to be way cool?

  2. 2
    Sastra

    dannysichel #1 wrote:

    Are you saying that you wouldn’t consider a 500-year-old mummified human forearm to be way cool?

    Oh, sure — in the back of someone’s trunk or dangling from the kitchen doorway on a rope, no problem. Way cool. But not in a church, if you see what we’re getting at.

  3. 3
    flex

    I don’t know, I queued up once to see Galileo’s middle finger in the Instituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza in Florence.

    Although I didn’t expect it to cure my baldness.

  4. 4
    Randomfactor

    I queued up once to see Galileo’s middle finger

    Was it appropriately raised towards Vatican City?

  5. 5
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    Why gaze in wonder at a dried up old arm when they can gaze in wonder at a dried up old strong armed bureaucrat who helped to cover up decades of child rapists.

  6. 6
    stonyground

    We had some of this nonsense a couple of years ago in the UK. If I remember correctly, it was a very ornate box with somebody’s leg and foot in it. Our witless ex PM Tony Blair went to venerate it, along with several thousand other superstitious fools.

  7. 7
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    flex,

    That wasn’t there when I visited! I’m so jealous.

  8. 8
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    Stonyground, to be fair, dubya’s lap dog did come out as a Catholic.

  9. 9
    claremilner

    They’re queued up to gaze in wonder at the 500-year-old mummified right forearm of some Catholic saint.

    I had to read that about three times to ensure I’d understood correctly. A forearm? In wonder? Really?!

    Mummified remains set in the wider historical and/or geographical context with information about the process of preservation – I could be interested in that.

    A body part allegedly from someone who was supposed to have done something – I think I’ll pass.

  10. 10
    coragyps

    I saw a piece of dried liver from some multi-century old saint once in a museum.

    I hate liver.

  11. 11
    WhiteHatLurker

    Hey – I queued up for quite some time to see the Ramses exhibit at Expo 86. Not sure I see the difference, other than the age.

    My question in turn:
    How do you know what the motivations of the audience members are?

  12. 12
    Glen Davidson

    I’d do it for Saint Lucy.

    But her arm and other bones really are a bit different from ours, yet oddly similar…

    I don’t just like dead things, although if people will pay to see the dead squirrel buried in the backyard, I’d oblige.

    Glen Davidson

  13. 13
    tbp1

    Well, I’ve been to see the mummies of Guanajuato, twice even.

  14. 14
    Rich Woods

    @Janine #8:

    Stonyground, to be fair, dubya’s lap dog did come out as a Catholic.

    And it’s a fucking miracle that he didn’t have to spend at least a fortnight making his first confession.

  15. 15
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    Glen, is that dead squirrel a saint?

  16. 16
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    I wouldn’t exactly pray to Galileo, but it would be kinda cool to see this small piece of him among the things her created.
    Does anyone visit graves of famous people when you visit foreign countries? Same thing. It give the illusion of some kind of connection to this person who you admire. Not a defining moment of your life, just something… kinda cool.

  17. 17
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    I haz a sad.

    Last summer, one of the local(ish) museums had an Egyptian mummy exhibit– they had four mummies (and some canopic jars and mummified animals and whatnot) that were on loan from other museums for a few months. It was fucking awesome. When Mr Darkheart and I went to see it, there was literally one other family there and that was it. On a Saturday afternoon, there were probably 6 people total looking at the mummies.

    The moral of this story: Awesome museum exhibit, where you might actually learn something? Teh BOOOR-RING!

    Waiting in line for hours to see some pointless religious relic? Totally worth your time and energy.

    *spits!*

  18. 18
    busterggi

    So who’s got the rest of this saint?

    And isn’t desecrating the dead supposed to be a bad thing for Christians?

  19. 19
    Glen Davidson

    Glen, is that dead squirrel a saint?

    You know, I have it on good authority that it is.

    Glen Davidson

  20. 20
    Inaji

    WhiteHatLurker:

    How do you know what the motivations of the audience members are?

    You didn’t grow up Catholic, did you?

  21. 21
    flex

    Of course, if you want to see mummified human remains in Florence, I would recommend a less popular museum, the Museo di Storia Naturale. http://www.msn.unifi.it/CMpro-l-s-7.html

    It’s an old-fashioned collection, the kind you would expect to have seen 100 years ago. Cases of artifacts mainly collected in the late nineteenth-century along the Pacific Rim. The information cards are scanty. You are expected to already know something of what you are seeing; so there are no interactive displays, no placards with details of the culture, not even grainy, black-and-white photograph of the artifact in use.

    The building itself is a vast, chilly structure with stone floors echoing every step. You are likely all alone, few tourists visit this museum. It’s the type of museum that Dr. Henry Armitage would feel comfortable in.

    And then you enter the room with more than a dozen Incan Mummies staring at you.

  22. 22
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Glen:

    I’d do it for Saint Lucy.

    But her arm and other bones really are a bit different from ours, yet oddly similar…

    Is she actually on display? I saw a replica of her at the Cleveland Natural History Museum, but I don’t think the actual remains are available to the public.

  23. 23
    Bronze Dog

    I’m in favor of 500 year old mummy parts to the same extent I’m in favor of ancient Egypt. It can be fascinating to research what life was like back then, and the mythology of the times can make for entertaining fantasy. Of course, I doubt they’d let scientists take samples from the arm, which kind of spoils that potential value, and treating it like a magic healing item in real life suggests they take LARPing a little too seriously.

    As for the perceived morbidity, I’ve watched a fair bit of anime, and I’ve gathered that in Japan, Christian symbols are sometimes a bit of a creepy Goth thing over there, and thus tend to be accompanied with skull-shaped jewelry, black clothes, and lots and lots of belts and zippers.

  24. 24
    davem

    So, this guy died, and someone thought that it would be a good idea to hack off his forearm for a keepsake? Yeah, that’s creepy.

  25. 25
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    Bronze Dog, how about the christian imagery in John Woo’s over the top violent Hong Kong movies.

  26. 26
    shockwaveplasma

    I’m surprise AQIS let it in the country, you should see the paperwork it takes to get any meat or leather product through customs.

  27. 27
    raven

    When Mr Darkheart and I went to see it, there was literally one other family there and that was it. On a Saturday afternoon, there were probably 6 people total looking at the mummies.

    It’s too bad those Egyptian mummies weren’t Catholics.

    These days, I’m sure they are all Mormons though.

    How do you know what the motivations of the audience members are?

    If they are drooling and looking at you like it’s past their lunch time, don’t turn your back on them!!!

    You can just ask them. Catholics readily admit that they think pieces of old dead people have magic powers. It’s part of their religion and one reason why there was a Reformation. They used to charge a lot of money for those pieces and their powers.

    We all know what they think magic crackers and wine are.

    IIRC, every altar in every Catholic church has a “relic”, piece of the True Cross and various body parts of various people.

  28. 28
    slowdjinn

    davem –
    Step one: Take a dead ‘saint’ exhibited for profit donations to the church roof repair fund.
    Step two: Cut a bit off
    Step three: Exhibit the bits in two churches
    Result: Double profit roof repair funds…

  29. 29
    nmcc

    Am I the only filthy minded heathen that, on first sight, thought ‘It looks more like his dick and balls’ before noticing the faint image of the fingers. I thought so.

  30. 30
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    Heh. Now I am flashing back on what was probably the worst episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Inca Mummy Girl.

  31. 31
    nmcc

    I do use question marks sometimes!

  32. 32
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    flex,

    There were a lot of things to see and less and less money for tickets. I had to choose between the two and chose Museo Galileo. It is a bit more attractive.

    I would have liked Museo di Storia Naturale, especially if I wouldn’t have to elbow my way to every piece I wanted to see.

    One day…

  33. 33
    TerranRich, Yet Another Atheist

    I have a conversation with a ghoul sometimes. He works in a bar inside a makeshift city built around a still-active nuclear bomb. *goes and plays Fallout again*

  34. 34
    truthspeaker

    Mmmm, decaying flesh of the dead.

  35. 35
    Brain Hertz

    Just FYI, if you’re thinking of clicking through and looking at the actual picture of the arm, you might want to consider waiting until after lunch…

    I mean, OMC, that is seriously gross. It’s not just that there’s flesh attached to it, it’s the fact that most of the arm is just the bones and the (not-in-a-very-good-state) flesh-covered part begins somewhere around the wrist. The overall effect is something like the plastic zombie parts that can be had for a few bucks in Home Depot about this time of year, minus the green paint.

    Oh, and the assinine commentary:

    …is claimed to be the 506 year-old right forearm of St Francis Xavier who apparently used it to bless people, tend the sick and write letters.

    Seriously?

  36. 36
    Gregory in Seattle

    The Church’s “year of grace.” So if a fallen angel, whom God has said would never be allowed back into heaven, were to pass through the doors of the church….

  37. 37
    Inaji

    Brain Hertz:

    Seriously?

    In Catholicism, relics are Ooga Booga Sacred Serious Magick! That’s multiplied by about a hundred if it’s any bit of St. Francis of Xavier, who is especially revered.

  38. 38
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    …is claimed to be the 506 year-old right forearm of St Francis Xavier who apparently used it to bless people, tend the sick and write letters.

    He apparently also used it to eat, wipe his ass, blow his nose and possibly even wank. Isn’t that just amazing? *faints*

  39. 39
    michaelbusch

    @flex:

    When I was at the Museo Galileo last year, they had the middle finger, but also the thumb and index finger from his right hand. Apparently, they went missing a long time ago and were only recovered in 2009. I do wonder who had the bright idea of cutting off three fingers when his body was disinterred and reburied under his monument 95 years after his death.

    I should try the Museo di Storia Naturale when I’m next in Florence – sounds like a cool place.

    @Randomfactor:

    I think the middle finger is directed roughly towards the Medici palace (hard to tell – it is nearly vertical inside its jar). But the finger wasn’t particularly offensive in 17th-century Tuscany. I don’t know if even gesto dell’ombrello, which has about the same meaning now, was around then.

  40. 40
    nms

    In Catholicism, relics are Ooga Booga Sacred Serious Magick!

    Well, if you’re going to attribute magical powers to things, bits of dead people seems like a great place to start.

  41. 41
    vaiyt

    What I know about St. Francis Xavier is that he went to Japan, and the Japanese mock him to this day.

    Sengoku Basara plays fast and loose with history (I mean, Masamune Date riding around on a horse that can climb walls and has exhaust pipes coming out of it!), but Xavier is basically a big goofball in it. And true to history, he preaches a religion of love while shooting at everything that moves with two huge honking cannons.

  42. 42
    garydargan

    A bit of the back story to this. Francis Xavier went from Goa in India to Melacca in Malaysia and died there. He was buried underneath the altar of the church. Later the people of Goa missed their old priest and had him dug up to return his body for burial in Goa. When they discovered his body was mummified his right arm was removed supposedly for study of the “miracle”.

    A statue of him was later erected outside the church. Several years ago during a storm a branch fell from a tree and broke off, you guessed it the statue’s arm.

    The old saint enforcing artistic faithfulnesses from beyond the grave perhaps?

  43. 43
    Inaji

    Vaiyt:

    What I know about St. Francis Xavier is that he went to Japan, and the Japanese mock him to this day.

    It was China Xavier lusted after, in the being a missionary of god sense. He had success in India, but not so much in China.

  44. 44
    Anthony K
    How do you know what the motivations of the audience members are?

    You didn’t grow up Catholic, did you?

    I did. We tend to take up the position that lines like these are full of true believers, but there is some non-negligible portion that we know is just there because it’s part of an identity, something everyone in the community does. Just following the crowd at chow time, as Noah Wylie once said. Like people in this community might do for Nathan Fillion’s autograph on a photo.

  45. 45
    Anthony K

    Having said that, 17 is well put. But Catholics do like their ostentatious pomp.

  46. 46
    Inaji

    Brownian:

    there is some non-negligible portion that we know is just there because it’s part of an identity, something everyone in the community does.

    Yes, there’s an odd dissonance with Catholics, though. They might go and see an Egyptian mummy, thinking it’s interesting, in a perverse and pagan way, while having no problem being in awe of a supposed saint’s body bits or pieces of Christ*.

    *At one point, one of my great-grandmothers gave me an enormous cross, which you could open. It was lined in velvet, with supposed shaved bits of Christ’s bones. I was rather amazed she bought that story.

  47. 47
    d.f.manno

    It gets even weirder. Catholics hold that there are three classes of relics:

    1) First class – a piece of a saint, or “the instruments of Christ’s Passion” (e.g., the “True Cross”);

    2) Second class – items owned by a saint, or instruments of torture against a martyr; and

    3) Third class – any object that has come into contact with a first- or second-class relic.

    As for relics of the “True Cross,” there are so many of them floating around that the cross would have had to be the size of the Statue of Liberty.

  48. 48
    Ragutis

    A forearm?

    Piffle.

  49. 49
    sparks

    The best severed arm schtik ever is from the movie ‘Sometimes A Great Notion’ written by Kesey.

  50. 50
    zb24601

    “Is it true that later tonight you’ll be burrowing in the local cemetery to feast on the decaying flesh of the dead?”

    No, I doubt they will do that, but many of them will have a light snack of cracker magically transformed into dead flesh, delivered to their mouth by a revered child molester (or child molester enabler).

  51. 51
    b. - Order of Lagomorpha

    Could be worse; they could be exhibiting the fifth toe of his right foot that apparently some woman bit off in a state of religious ecstasy when the body was displayed back in 1556.

    My favorite part of the saint’s story is that when the Church of S. Paulo was demolished, they exhumed him and stored him in the rector’s room. Do you think the rector was ever tempted to prop Francis up in a chair and pose him with a beer in his hand?

    Yeah, religious people are weird.

  52. 52
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    How many arms of that saint are around?
    I think there are about 15 of St. Stephen and more nails that were usually not used in cruxifictions than Noah would have needed to build the ark if he had existed.

  53. 53
    moarscienceplz

    Yeah, I don’t get it either.
    Even if you believe saints had magical powers, and
    Even if you believe this particular piece of beef jerky actually belonged to the saint in question, and
    Even if you believe peoples’ bodies will be restored on Judgement Day…

    … isn’t this still rather like rummaging around in someone’s underwear drawer?

  54. 54
    laurentweppe

    Last time my mother went to visit me we spent three hours in an overcrowed, overheated Museum in Paris to marvel at ancient egyptian trinkets.

    From this I’ve drawn a few conclusions:
    • Anyone who ever had such an experience in their life have lost their right to sneer at pilgrims.
    • Mortuary Masks idealizing the features of the wife of some scribe who died 2.750 years ago have the power to draw thousands of educated people in tiny, overcrowded, oxgene deprives rooms used for the exhibition. I wouldn’t discount the powers
    • I find ancient egypt’s momification, deification of the king, and their worship of cats extremely creepy. But fuck me this is beautiful
    • On an unrelated note: anti-ghouls bigotry is running rampant here

    ***

    I queued up once to see Galileo’s middle finger

    Was it appropriately raised towards Vatican City?

    More probably it was raised at all these moronic astronomists who claimed that Galileo was wrong to insult them when they expressed dissent toward his genius hypothesis that comets are in fact optical illusions.

    ***

    As for the perceived morbidity, I’ve watched a fair bit of anime, and I’ve gathered that in Japan, Christian symbols are sometimes a bit of a creepy Goth thing over there, and thus tend to be accompanied with skull-shaped jewelry, black clothes, and lots and lots of belts and zippers.

    And giant robots: never forget the giant robots.

    ***

    What I know about St. Francis Xavier is that he went to Japan, and the Japanese mock him to this day.

    Yeah, it’s a smart way to completely ignore embarassing things: like the fact that Oda Nobunaga and his successors protected Christians as long as it was profitable only to turn against them once they controlled the archipelago and wanted to solidify their rule by enforcing absolute conformism.

    ***

    It was China Xavier lusted after, in the being a missionary of god sense. He had success in India, but not so much in China.

    One of the big ironies of history is that the communist regime has been more succesful in promoting christianity than a jesuit missionary

    ***

    Just following the crowd at chow time, as Noah Wylie once said. Like people in this community might do for Nathan Fillion’s autograph on a photo.

    There may be a non-negligible fraction of the populace who does attribute magic powers to Fillion’s autographed photo. Fans can be scary

  55. 55
    Argle Bargle

    d.f.manno #47

    As for relics of the “True Cross,” there are so many of them floating around that the cross would have had to be the size of the Statue of Liberty.

    The “Holy Prepuce” was also widespread. As wikipedia puts it:

    According to the author David Farley, “Depending on what you read, there were eight, twelve, fourteen, or even 18 different holy foreskins in various European towns during the Middle Ages.”

  56. 56
    laurentweppe

    Something got lost when I copy pasted my comment:

    • Mortuary Masks idealizing the features of the wife of some scribe who died 2.750 years ago have the power to draw thousands of educated people in tiny, overcrowded, oxgene deprives rooms used for the exhibition. I wouldn’t discount the powers

    sould be read as:

    • Mortuary Masks idealizing the features of the wife of some scribe who died 2.750 years ago have the power to draw thousands of educated people in tiny, overcrowded, oxgene deprived rooms used for the exhibition. I wouldn’t discount the powers of catholic relics

  57. 57
    Ichthyic

    Last summer, one of the local(ish) museums had an Egyptian mummy exhibit– they had four mummies (and some canopic jars and mummified animals and whatnot) that were on loan from other museums for a few months. It was fucking awesome.

    Most memorable museum exhibits I have seen so far here in New Zealand are two:

    -the actual ash casts of some of the people that were buried in the Pompei eruption, some of their jewelry, artwork, and furnishings that survived.

    Really heady stuff. There was an ash cast of a mother curled around her young child. Definitely leaves an impression (no pun intended).

    -Sue, the T-Rex.

    Sue was a reproduction of the actual skellie, which was still in Chicago, but still… very impressive.

    both represent an interest in looking at very old things I suppose.

    FWIW, I once saw a documentary on elephants where they had videoed elephants spending hours examining the bones of long dead ancestors.

  58. 58
    Ichthyic

    Christian symbols are sometimes a bit of a creepy Goth thing over there, and thus tend to be accompanied with skull-shaped jewelry, black clothes, and lots and lots of belts and zippers.

    Sounds to me like they have interpreted xianity correctly as the death worshiping cult it is.

  59. 59
    madscientist

    Apparently other pieces of the dismembered corpse are touring elsewhere – who says you can’t be in many places at one time! The exception is the penis – it seems to have mysteriously vanished and no one knows its whereabouts, but there has been an increase in the number of reported virgin births.

  60. 60
    Ichthyic

    Mmmm, decaying flesh of the dead.

    meh, give me fresh BBQ baby any day.

  61. 61
    Inaji

    Laurentweppe:

    Mortuary Masks idealizing the features of the wife of some scribe who died 2.750 years ago have the power to draw thousands of educated people in tiny, overcrowded, oxgene deprived rooms used for the exhibition. I wouldn’t discount the powers of catholic relics

    I think you’re shooting your own argument in the foot here. Mortuary Masks are works of art, they are beautiful, like much of ancient Egyptian items. They also provide a connection to a long ago people and culture.

    A decaying arm isn’t a work of art, it isn’t a labour of love and most people wouldn’t characterize it as beautiful. Interesting, yes. Also, the reason for the draw is very different – people believe that chopped off bit of corpse is imbued with godly essence. While some modern people might think/feel the same way about ancient Egyptian artifacts, it’s not the primary draw in viewing such things.

  62. 62
    Inaji

    Ichthyic:

    There was an ash cast of a mother curled around her young child. Definitely leaves an impression

    Because, no matter how long ago that happened, we experience empathy for that mother and child.

  63. 63
    Ichthyic

    A decaying arm isn’t a work of art

    is taxidermy considered an art form?

  64. 64
    Inaji

    Ichthyic:

    is taxidermy considered an art form?

    I’m sure it is, but that doesn’t have anything to do with a decayed forearm.

  65. 65
    Inaji

    And now I’m thinking of that movie, Taxidermia. Thanks, Ichthyic.

  66. 66
    Ichthyic

    my pleasure?

  67. 67
    Ichthyic

    …FWIW, I was thinking of the wall of deer heads that Georgia Rep. Broun was speaking in front of in that vid posted a few days back.

    that was indeed a work of art.

    a terrifying work of art.

  68. 68
    vaiyt

    @laurentweppe

    Yeah, it’s a smart way to completely ignore embarassing things: like the fact that Oda Nobunaga and his successors protected Christians as long as it was profitable only to turn against them once they controlled the archipelago and wanted to solidify their rule by enforcing absolute conformism.

    Nobunaga has it even worse than Xavier in SB. They made him into the most obvious villain that ever obvioused in the history of villainy.

    http://www.forevergeek.com/wp-content/media/2011/05/sengoku_basara.jpg

    He has silver and blood-red armor, lots of spikes, a Snidely Whiplash mustache, and sits on a throne made of skulls while drinking from another skull. Ah, and he’s voiced by Norio Wakamoto, the king of large hams.

  69. 69
    Inaji

    Ichthyic:

    my pleasure?

    You must not have seen it. It’s a good movie, but it’s serious weird – and I like weird. There are just some images from that flick I will never get out of my head and I wish they weren’t in there.

  70. 70
    b. - Order of Lagomorpha

    @ #54 laurentweppe

    Here I must out myself as a museum junkie. I love a good museum and have spent untold hours wandering their halls and looking in awe at all manner of beautiful objects and, admittedly, a number of body parts and/or whole bodies.

    In response to your comment:

    • Anyone who ever had such an experience in their life have lost their right to sneer at pilgrims.

    I have not worshipped any of those body parts. I have not asked the shades of any dead pharaohs or bog people to take my sins/curses/ills/whathaveyou away. I have not asked their intercession with any fictional higher being so that I might not burn in everlasting hellfire. Instead, I have looked with wonder at the works of my fellow primates. I have seen the face of a long-dead pharaoh or bog person and recognized our common humanity. I have read with interest the fascinating details of the everyday lives of people that lived a thousand or more years before me and seen the parallels with my own life today. I have also read some of the research from the study of those bodies and how information gleaned from them about how extant diseases have changed from those earlier times is helping to fight them today.

    Comparing museums to the ritualized adoration of dead “saints”, whose only purpose is to bring money into the obscenely overflowing church coffers and further reinforce the continued subservience of the parishioners? That’s just fucked.

  71. 71
    gerwynpetty

    I’ve never understood that about Catholics – the first 2 Commandments that they’re supposed to follow, make it pretty clear they should only be worshiping one God… and yet they seem to run around and bend the knee to everything except their God, especially Mary and the Saints.

    And then there’s all the idolatry, as in this case, or the Turin Shroud.

    Very odd.

  72. 72
    Inaji

    Very odd.

    It’s not odd from the Catholic view, as Catholicism is heavily based on intercession. It’s like going to confession, rather than having a one on one, private prayerfest with God. Nope, gotta go through a priest, who has a special connection with god and intercedes on your behalf. Priests, bishops, cardinals, popes, nuns, saints, Mary, etc., they all have access to the red phone, ya see. So none of the relics nonsense is seen as idolatry. Those things aren’t worshipped, they are simply venerated.

  73. 73
    robster

    Perhaps the afflicted catholics could pretend that a nice piece of pizza or similar could be, with a pedophiles blessing, become a tasty sceric of this decomposed saint for consumption alongside the wine and crackers thing at church on Sunday morning. They would get more value from the dried out leftover bits of the dead saint than they may otherwise get.

  74. 74
    chigau (違う)

    semi-OT
    I saw an exhibit of some of the Danish “bog-mummies” at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary.
    It was the worst exhibit I’ve ever experienced.
    The rooms were extremely dark and the lighting was weirdly angled and we could see only one side of the displays.
    It really sucked.
    There were lots of people looking, though.

  75. 75
    chigau (違う)

    I lived in a very small town.
    The Catholics and Protestants shared a church building.
    The statues of Jesus and Mary were “venerated” by the Catholics (my peeps) and the cupboard doors were closed when the Heretics Protestants used the church building.
    It was all very amicable.
    Then one of the local JDs* (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juvenile_delinquency) set a fire in the basement and we got a new building. (Still shared but more like a duplex.)
    *NOT a catlick

  76. 76
    michaelbarnes

    Could be worse, they could be eating it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hwJ9BozZnE

  77. 77
    Zeno

    It would be way more impressive if it were the right forearm of the patron saint of masturbation. I mean, there’s a patron saint for damn-all else, isn’t there?

  78. 78
    Zeno

    the first 2 Commandments that they’re supposed to follow, make it pretty clear they should only be worshiping one God

    The Catholics make a pretty sharp distinction between “veneration” and “worship,” although the line sometimes get pretty blurred in the case of the Virgin Mary’s most intense devotees. Hence one is allowed to “revere” or “venerate” the relics of saints, but not worship them. So you see the Church espouses carefully graded levels of superstition.

    One more note: Catholics don’t number the Ten Commandments in the same way as most Protestant sects. Catholics go directly from

    1. I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt have no strange gods before me.

    to

    2. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

    Hence #1 is viewed as the ban on idolatry and #2 (the ban on blasphemy) is what most Protestants regard as #3. Hence citing the Commandments merely by number is sure to cause confusion outside of one’s own circle. (To add to the fun, Lutherans and Catholics use the same numbering, so it’s not just Rome versus everyone else.)

  79. 79
    laurentweppe

    I think you’re shooting your own argument in the foot here. Mortuary Masks are works of art

    The rituals surrounding the relics themselves are the art-piece: watch a catholic religious ceremony and try to guess how many hegelian arts are represented (hint: it’s all of them)

    ***

    He has silver and blood-red armor, lots of spikes, a Snidely Whiplash mustache

    Well: the real one had one epic ‘stache
    *

    Ah, and he’s voiced by Norio Wakamoto, the king of large hams.

    Which basically means that they made him the most charismatic character of the game: yours is a bad example.

  80. 80
    Sids

    If it’s cool to queue up to see people live, and it’s cool to queue up to see long dead remains of our ancient ancestors, or dinosaurs or whatnot, but it’s not cool to queue up to see a 500 year old hand.
    Does that mean there’s a parabolic relation between artifact age and coolness? Or is it sinusoidal?

  81. 81
    leonardspencer

    Eternal Darkness taught me that going to see Catholic relics is never a good idea.

  82. 82
    leonardspencer

    Also, it’s the arm of St Francis Xavier? If it comes to Adelaide I’d go and see it. If authentic, it’s the arm of a significant historical figure and inspiration for interesting characters in several period pieces of varying realism. (Capcom likes crazy over the top action and robots, James Clavell likes Englishmen having sex with all the Japanese women)

  83. 83
    Akira MacKenzie

    A couple of years back, I went to a special mummies exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum with what was supposed to be the rest of my local atheist/freethought group. Only I and one other young woman (whom I am rather fond of) and her son showed up. (I think it was due to bad planning and not because of the desiccated corpses.) It was fascinating, walking among all those remains, wondering who they really were and what they were like in life.

  84. 84
    Akira MacKenzie

    Speaking of saintly relics, oddly enough I just finished re-reading “A Morbid Taste For Bones” by Ellis Peters. This forced me to re-watch every one of the Brother Cadfael mysteries on Netflix last weekend.

    Sir Derek Jacobi rocks.

  85. 85
    Akira MacKenzie

    flex @ 21

    It’s the type of museum that Dr. Henry Armitage would feel comfortable in.

    Before or after that “business” up in Dunwich?

  86. 86
    phoenicianromans

    “Do you really think fragments of corpses have magic powers?”

    Of course they do – ground up mummy is a sure cure for all sorts of ailments – just ask the Victorians.

    Hmm – homeopathic mummy dust might be a profitable enterprise

  87. 87
    Q.E.D

    Queing to see a single forearm? Pfffft, bloody amateurs. If you like dead monk bones you need to go to the Capuchin Crypt in Rome

  88. 88
    Godless Poutine

    I like the expression on the woman with the red shirt’s face towards the front?

    “Is this line gonna speed up? I have to pay the meter!”

    Oh well, I guess I’ve got another question for Leah Libresco…

  89. 89
    rogerfirth

    Is it true that later tonight you’ll be burrowing in the local cemetery to feast on the decaying flesh of the dead?

    No need to burrow. They’ve got a big supply back at the clubhouse. They routinely serve their customers dead flesh, and they let them wash it down with blood.

  90. 90
    birgerjohansson

    If they are well preserved, old human remains have power… to infect you with pathogens.
    — — — — — — —

    Do human remains have to be mummified to be cool?
    What about all the stuff I keep in my freezer?
    And is it pious to keep the heads of vanquished enemies on spikes outside the gate?

  91. 91
    birgerjohansson

    I just realised that if Aliens had nanotech able to store memories (or replicate and do other cool stuff) implanted into non-persihable parts of their bodies (the skeletons), it would actually be logical for people to visit their remains in the hope some self-repair hardware would infect them.

    Or some memory substrate to make the transfer, making them channel a powerful alien intellect without all that messy stuff with a Goa’uld.

  92. 92
    birgerjohansson

    “Why gaze in wonder at a dried up old arm ”
    — — — — — — — — — — —
    “Doctor Who :The Hand Of Fear”(Famous Scene) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4HhXEuQ3Sc

  93. 93
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    Don’t you dare call it a death cult, though.

  94. 94
    buggi

    Audley:

    Glen:

    I’d do it for Saint Lucy.

    But her arm and other bones really are a bit different from ours, yet oddly similar…
    Is she actually on display? I saw a replica of her at the Cleveland Natural History Museum, but I don’t think the actual remains are available to the public.

    There was a tour of the US a few years ago. Quite controversial because it was the actual bones and not a replica. Part of a “Treasure of Ethiopia” tour. I took the family to see it in Houston, the closest it got to Oklahoma. Also spent time at NASA and the Gulf. Best family vacation EVER!

    It was truly an amazing experience for me to see Lucy. My family thought it was cool too.

  95. 95
    Worldtraveller

    Meh, they got nothing on Vecna.

    I’ll get my coat….

  96. 96
    dcg1

    I have vague childhood memories of being dragged around numerous churches in Rome to view the relics, thinking afterwards that some of these saints had more than four limbs. Was this an evolutionary adaptation?? perhaps PZ could enlighten us??

    As for relics of the true cross, they must have felled a whole forest of Giant Redwoods to build that.

  97. 97
    madscientist

    @ichthyic#67: Yes, I find it unsettling as well. I once had dinner at a friend’s house – I knew he was also a bow hunter. What I didn’t know what that while I only hunted for food he was a trophy hunter. I told him it was kind of creepy to have the animals he slaughtered staring at us while we had our meal.

  98. 98
    Menyambal

    Isn’t there some kind of simple test the church could do to see if they had an authentic relic? Like, use it to cure warts, maybe? Something? Anything? Anyone?

  99. 99
    gravityisjustatheory

    As for the perceived morbidity, I’ve watched a fair bit of anime, and I’ve gathered that in Japan, Christian symbols are sometimes a bit of a creepy Goth thing over there, and thus tend to be accompanied with skull-shaped jewelry, black clothes, and lots and lots of belts and zippers.

    Are you sure you’re not confusing Japan with the Imperium of Man?

    And giant robots: never forget the giant robots.

    Still sounds like the IoM…

  100. 100
    chrisv

    #19. If the squirrel is/was Rocket J. “Rocky” Squirrel, yup, you’ve got a holy one there. Save the tail.

  101. 101
    teresastanton

    Not even gonna lie, relics were one of my favorite parts of visiting Italy. The beef jerkyish remains of St. Tony’s vocal cords were a delight!

  102. 102
    Ichthyic

    The beef jerkyish remains of St. Tony’s vocal cords were a delight!

    smoke flavor or terriyaki?

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