Monday, 5 November 2007

The shape of evil

In my last post I wrote that I could not really see the connection between the Whore of Babylon and Hudson Bay (which the French, in that sly way they have, call baie d'Hudson). Several readers emailed me with comments on this, none of them, sadly, on behalf of the Cree and Inuit people who make up most of the population of the coastal villages of this 1.23 million square kilometres of very cold water. Most of these correspondents told me that a quick glance at the map should have made it perfectly clear to me that the shape of this closely resembles that of the allegorical figure of pure evil, though one pointed out that the issue is clouded somewhat by the assertion made by some that the Whore of Babylon is in fact the Roman Catholic Church, which by no stretch of the imagination could be called Hudson-Bay-shaped.

Well, maybe. Anyway, there seems to be no agreement as to what shape the W of B actually was. Put Whore of Babylon into Google Images and you are offered over fifty thousand pictures, many of them, frankly, of an indelicate nature, and none looking remotely like any part of Canada. So over to Wikipedia, which has this one; it is a charming German woodcut showing her doing a bit of juggling before an appreciative audience, but it doesn't really get us any further forward:

(Great Britain undoubtedly has the shape of an old woman riding on a pig, but that is quite another matter and has nothing whatsoever to do with the Book of Revelation. Don't know why I mentioned it, really.)

11 comments:

Grumio said...

Well, her juggling goblet has definite echoes of the Ottawa Subway Map*, so it may well be that you are on to something. It would also explain why the audience is so appreciative, indeed perhaps there are some of your actual Ottawans in the crowd.

I've always held that OMF had hidden depths.

* If you include the O-Train, of course.

Tony said...

Yes indeed. The one on the right looks very like Anne's sister, who lives just outside Ottawa. Apart from the beard, of course.
These are deep waters.
Though not as deep as those which will engulf us all at Christmas.

crowbar said...

The aghast expression of the tower in the background adds to the complexity of the graphical metaphor. There was, I think, something in Revelations about "all the earth being agog", or if there wasn't there should have been, and presumably that would include towers, silos, garden what-nots and other masonry constructions.
I do feel the artist was pushing it a bit, though, with the unkempt arches attempting to play Costello to the tower's Abbott. This is no place for a comic touch. Unless, of course, in keeping with the wheels-within-wheels nature of Revelatory exposition, this is meant to reference the Winnipeg duo of Chase and Hamill, the "Canadian Abbott & Costello"; Manitoba being critically placed so as to keep the W. of B. from slipping off the backside of the Beast.
Deep waters indeed.

Tony said...

Well, thank you, Crowbar, that's as subtle an exegesis as I've read since I stopped taking the Winnipeg Sun.
Are you by any chance related to the Leila Crowbar I remember meeting in curious circumstances in the Levant?

Grumio said...

Hang on, why doesn't Anne's sister's beard live with her, just outside Ottawa? What kind of a crazy beard-owner doesn't live with her beard?

crowbar said...

Ah, Auntie Leila. Now there's a tale of the whims of fortune that can separate a woman from her beard.

We don't speak of her; it upsets Uncle Eddie too much.

ruth said...

The problem here is that she is riding side-saddle, when she should be astride (see Hudson Bay whore for correct posture).
This personification, rather fetchingly got up in a woolly all-in-one costume, is urging the pig-like monster convincingly on towards the British Isles.
However, a tidal wave from the South-east should drown him before he gets over here.

outeast said...

Pareidolia, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder: until you shared your vision with the world here I had never seen the hag on the pig. But she's there, right enough...

Tony said...

I suppose, clever-clogs, that you thought to impress me with your use of a such a rare word.
Well, you succeeded.
Wikipedia's note on the phenomenon is fascinating. Christ on a tortilla and the Virgin Mary on a grilled cheese sandwich make the pigwoman on Great Britain, and a mere whore as Hudson Bay, seem a bit humdrum, really.
By the way, I live adjacent to the pig's rear trotter.

Gumby said...

I am not sure I agree with your interpretation of Great Britain as a lady astride a pig...we were taught in middle school that it was, in fact,the Whore of Babylon in the queue for an x-ray.
But that was public school.

Tony said...

Even if you were using public school in the English sense and not the North American, I don't believe you were taught anything of the sort, Gumby, you mendacious little minx.