Posts Tagged ‘old meme’

Which is all very well, since it would indubitably be Vogon-awful.


In the process of researching silly memes for my meme-post, which I will post tomorrow(1), I came across this gem:

“The two-horned mitre, which the Pope wears, when he sits on the high altar at Rome and receives the adoration of the Cardinals, is the very mitre worn by the priests of Dagon, the fish-god of the Philistines and Babylonians.”


Do I have to list things that are wrong with this one very short sentence? Yes, I have:

1. It’s not two-horned. Don’t even try to suggest that it’s anything like the Mesopotamian Hörnerkrone, because you will be wrong, and I will tell you why you are wrong, where you are just wrong, and where you are wronger than wrong, and then proceed to verbally abuse you just because I can.

2. The pope, as far as I can tell, rarely sits on an altar.

3. Especially not when the cardinals are present, I should think.

4. No one has any bloody idea as to what the priests of Dagon actually wore.

5. And it was most likely different in different places and periods, and, you know. Dagan was a god with more or less 2000 years of well attested worship history from Middle Euphrates area to the Levantine coast. Does anybody(2) really expect there would be a standardised priestly uniform in that entire area during the 2000 year period? No, I didn’t think so.

6. Dagan was not a fish-god. This is in fact an old meme, made up by St Jerome and other early Christian theologians.

7. The Levantine coast was full of people, and, le gasp, not all of them were Philistines.

8. Babylonians weren’t really so hot about Dagan. He was primarily a Syrian deity.

This is how many things are wrong with just one sentence. Shall we even proceed? Yes, we shall, because I’m a nasty person and will not hesitate to kick a defeated meme, even after it already died and, went stiff, decomposed, and even stopped smelling funny ages ago.

The Mystery religion of ancient Babylon / Assyria, was noted for the priestly class of “Dagon” in much the same way that the “Mystery” religion of Rome has copied it.


1. While Dagan was indeed also worshipped in Assyria and Babylonia, he was primary a Syrian deity. Please note also that in the cuneiform his name was spelled “Dagan”, because cuneiform has no sign for “o”.

2. This is also a good moment to mention that while the imagination of modern day ignoramuses would suggest that there were only two different groups in the Ancient Near East, namely a) the Jewish people, b) the pagan people, this is a very inaccurate impression. There were marked differences between the inhabitants of southern and northern Mesopotamia, Elam (parts of modern Iran), various regions of Syria (the contrast that is easiest to see is inland Syria – coastal Syria), the Levantine coast, etc. The contrast between the Jewish people and the neighbouring pagan people, on the other hand, wasn’t as great as it’s usually made out to be in monotheistic memes.

3. There was very little “Mystery” in the ANE religions, I’m afraid(3).

4. Even less mystery in the Catholic Church(3).

5. It’s easier to parse cultural exchange when you think that religious concepts were copied by C&P sort of a deal between various religionists, but the thing is, this is absolutely incorrect. It would be more accurate to say that from a large pool of shared ideas, the most attractive were chosen and improved upon (there are gods in my city; they are stronger than the gods of our neighbours –> there is god in my city; he is stronger than the gods of our neighbours, because they don’t exist, etc).

There’s nothing in the Bible that indicates that Jesus wore such a hat.

Or a watch. Or boots. Or a dozen of other things, and yet. What sort of an argument is that?

Also, I don’t think there’s a tendency in most world’s religions to clothe the class of religious specialists in what their god used to wear.

Incidentally, even with my tenuous grasp of Catholic theology I  understand perfectly well that it’s not Jesus but St Peter whom the pope is supposed to represent, anyway.

But there’s moar!

“…there are strong evidences that Dagon was Nimrod…. All scholars agree that the name and worship of Dagon were imported from Babylonia. ”
– The Two Babylons, Hislop, p. 215

Absolutely not. All scholars agree that the name and worship of Dagan were exported to Babylonia.

“In their veneration and worship of Dagon, the high priest of paganism would actually put on a garment that had been created from a huge fish! The head of the fish formed a mitre above that of the old man, while its scaly, fan-like tail fell as a cloak behind, leaving the human limbs and feet exposed.”
– Babylon and Nineveh, Austen Henry Layard, p. 343

And here we get to the crux of crankery! Because A.H. Layard, one of the fathers of assyriology, was born in 1817, and died in 1894. This means that when he was excavating Nimrud – or, as the ancients called it, Kalhu – in the late 1840, he knew virtually nothing about the history and cultures of the Ancient Near East apart from what the Bible told him. Cuneiform – the writing system that was used by many civilisations in the ANE, was being deciphered at the time. Not only were there not nearly enough tablets recovered from ancient sites for the scholars to have any sensible idea of what the civilisations of ANE looked like, but the cuneiform tablets that were recovered? Well, bummer, but people couldn’t really read them yet. By 1851 Rawlinson and Hicks could read about 200 signs, and while it is enough to read most texts that are concerned with daily life, it is not enough to read religious texts at all. Which you would have to find and identify as religious texts first, anyway.

What we have is: an awe-struck Victorian scholar, uncovering for the first time in thousands of years monumental buildings and sculptures(4) that depicted stuff that must have been so absolutely incomprehensible to him as to be almost alien. He had no primary sources to help him interpret what he saw, apart from the Bible, and the works of early Christians and Roman literati. The Roman (and Greek) literati would have been awestruck, too, only none of them really saw what Layard did, because most Babylonian and Assyrian cities had long been destroyed by the time they were active (or, their Assyrian or Babylonian architecture, and do bear in mind that in a war, palaces and temples are the first to be plundered).

Therefore, when Layard saw men in fish costumes what could he possibly do but make up exciting stuff about wicked oriental pagan cults?

fish genius from Kalhu, has nothing to do with Dagan at all

There you go; a brief googling provided us with a photo of the nice fish guy from Kalhu. Nowadays we know that he was no priest, but a so-called genius, who was supposed to protect the king (whose palace was located in Kalhu) from evil.

(Incidentally, there was no temple of Dagan in Kalhu at all, which is to be expected in an Assyrian city)

“The most prominent form of worship in Babylon was dedicated to Dagon, later known as Ichthys, or the fish. In Chaldean times, the head of the church was the representative of Dagon, he was considered to be infallible, and was addressed as ‘Your Holiness’. Nations subdued by Babylon had to kiss the ring and slipper of the Babylonian god-king. The same powers and the same titles are claimed to this day by the Dalai Lama of Buddhism, and the Pope. Moreover, the vestments of paganism, the fish mitre and robes of the priests of Dagon are worn by the Catholic bishops, cardinals and popes.
-The Wine of Babylon; Pg 9

No, the most prominent form of worship in Babylon was of course dedicated to Marduk, the patron-deity of Babylon *eyeroll*. There was no such thing as “head of church” in the Ancient Near East at all. There were various temples with their own hierarchy of priests, and the importance of various temples was largely dependant on the current religio-political situation. To make is as simple as possible, in the third millenium BCE the most important temples that got most sacrifices and donations were the temples of Anum, who, it was thought,  awarded kingship to the kings. The situation changed in the second millenium BCE, when Enlil got more important than Anum(5).

The excavations done of ancient Nineveh and Babylon have shed light on the shocking connection between Dagon the fish-god and the Pope’s Mitre (hat).


Also, no Niniveh in Niniveh, really, which is something I probably should have said from the start. This only shows how really very little the first assyriologists knew about the stuff they were studying: Layard thought that Kalhu (which we discussed above, and which was the city he discovered) was the biblical city of Niniveh. The book he wrote about Niniveh is actually about Kalhu. The title of the modern editions of Layard’s book is usually left unchanged, but, for Ashshur’s sake, this stuff is on Wiki.

But I guess that if you’re a dimwitted incompetent crank you just wouldn’t bother to research that, would you?

Research, pah. It must be for Catholics or something *eyeroll*.

(1) OTOH: we (La Housemate, La Kidlet, and me) were making stuff from Salzteig, which is like home-made Play-Doh. I bravely produced: demented pig (one), demented cat (one), Dalek army (two Daleks) and the Great Cthulhu. Therefore, I might want to spend tomorrow painting it all  pink and sprinkling my Dalek army with pink glitter instead of blogging.  I am actually seriously considering my options at the moment.

(2) Anybody sane, that is.

(3) In fact, the only mystery I can think of is “so, why did they believe all that bullshit again?”

(4)Yup, some of what he found is in British Museum. It’s HUGE.

(5) This is of course a gross oversimplification. But if you’re a non-specialist you’re probably not interested in the exact chronology of which god was most important where and why.

At first I thought it would be absolutely ridiculous to deign the rumours about the Chinese eating aborted foetuses with a comment, but as the rumours spread as far as my Facebook friends’ page…

To start off, let me introduce you to the concept of blood libel. Blood libel means that a bunch of really parochial racist evil people can’t cope with living in a world that is no longer quite as parochial as they think it should be. This means that they have to invent fun and exciting stuff about it that will be more compatible with their expectations, such as,  the ‘people of (insert nationality) eat babies ZOMG OUTRAGE’ meme.

So, the meme about the Chinese eating babies?  Let’s attempt to find the Ur-source, or, at least, go as far back as possible.

1. The most recent widely quoted article  is from Seoul Times (20-09-2008). You can find it here.  It says:

An Email report received by The Seoul Times confirmed that news with several vivid and appalling pictures of human embryos fetuses being made into a soup for human consumption.

This suggests that the article is very reliable: clearly, all major news outlets get their information from anonymous, unverifiable, and ultimately unverified e-mails.

2. However, a quick googling provides us with a link to an almost identical article, from this blog. The article was written two years earlier than the ST article. The photos are also mostly the same.

Sadly, the links to the sources given in the article appear to be broken.

3. More googling proves that whenever there’s a headline along the lines of “Chinese eat babies”, the same article as above or its variations are quoted.

4. Finally, has an article on this exact meme, which explains that the photo of a cannibalistic Chinese man is in fact a photo of an artist eating a duck with a doll’s head as a part of an artistic performance.

5. And a Taipei Times article from 2001 relates a sad story of prejudice and Malaysian tabloids.

The pictures were in fact part of a performance by Shanghai-based artist Zhu Yu (朱昱), entitled Man-eater (食人).

However, Perdana‘s news story claimed that the photos were of a Taiwanese restaurant in which human fetuses are served to customers.

Yeah, brilliant thinking!

(Please note that according to this article Zhu Yu also said he really had eaten those foetuses, but that he’d stolen them from a medical school. He might have just been doing it to get more publicity, though. Anyway, he’s a guy who thought eating foetuses was artistically a brilliant plan. With a message. Let’s just ignore him.)

6. The oldest article I could find is from 2000 and describes how the Chinese blood libel meme was gradually constructed and spread by (who else?) Xian fundamentalists throughout the 1990.


The most despicable person in the entire story is in my opinion Bruce Gilley:

I had less luck getting a reply from Bruce Gilley, the author of the Eastern Express article. Now a “reputable” contributor to Far Eastern Economic Review, and author of Tiger on the Brink: Jiang Zemin and China’s New Elite it’s understandable that Gilley may want to distance himself from the fabrication that helped launch his career. That Bruce Gilley could pen such puerile nonsense, playing off the blatantly racist notion that “the Chinese will eat anything”, has to cast serious doubt on both his journalistic integrity and his relationship with the Chinese among whom he lives and earns his daily bread.

Oh, wow.

5. Debunking at AboutCom is actually the first hit if you google “Chinese eat foetuses”. Some people are really gullible and lazy not to get as far as at least there. Some part of it must be the confirmation bias, too.

6. This is how what you end up doing when 1) you’re racist, 2) your google-fu sucks.

7. Sinofoetophagophilia “East Eats Fetus Meat” Meets Defeat is an extremely informative post about everything that makes this entire meme improbable, and about racist assumptions some people tend to make about people they perceive to be less civilised than they perceive to be themselves.

8. The film Dumplings could also have provided some useful imagery and added some gory visuals to the already crowded memosphere.

(There are several different memes here, actually. The locations seem to be moving between Taiwan and Guangdong, sometimes it’s about “a Chinese restaurant”, sometimes about “traditional Chinese remedy”. Because they are about the same thing – blood libel – I just lumped them all together in one sparkly link pile)

Thanks to the guys from #ttdkn for providing some of the links!