Sunday, September 21, 2008


Lord of the Mice

Martin Beckford, Mickey Mouse must die, says Saudi Arabian cleric, Telegraph (Sept. 15, 2008):
Sheikh Muhammad Munajid claimed the mouse is "one of Satan's soldiers" and makes everything it touches impure.

But he warned that depictions of the creature in cartoons such as Tom and Jerry, and Disney's Mickey Mouse, had taught children that it was in fact loveable.

The cleric, a former diplomat at the Saudi embassy in Washington DC, said that under Sharia, both household mice and their cartoon counterparts must be killed.

Mr Munajid was asked to give Islam's teaching on mice during a religious affairs programme broadcast on al-Majd TV, an Arab television network.

According to a translation prepared by the Middle East Media Research Institute, an American press monitoring service, he said: "The mouse is one of Satan's soldiers and is steered by him.

"If a mouse falls into a pot of food – if the food is solid, you should chuck out the mouse and the food touching it, and if it is liquid – you should chuck out the whole thing, because the mouse is impure.

"According to Islamic law, the mouse is a repulsive, corrupting creature. How do you think children view mice today – after Tom and Jerry?

"Even creatures that are repulsive by nature, by logic, and according to Islamic law have become wonderful and are loved by children. Even mice.

"Mickey Mouse has become an awesome character, even though according to Islamic law, Mickey Mouse should be killed in all cases."

Last month Mr Munajid condemned the Beijing Olympics as the "bikini Olympics", claiming that nothing made Satan happier than seeing females athletes dressed in skimpy outfits.
There is a somewhat more humane way of dealing with the problem of mice in Geoponica 13.5 (tr. James George Frazer):
Take a sheet of paper and write on it as follows:—"I adjure you, ye mice here present, that ye neither injure me, nor suffer another mouse to do so. I give you yonder field" (here you specify the field, perhaps a neighbour's) "but if I ever catch you here again, by the mother of the gods, I will rend you in seven pieces"; write this and stick the paper on an unhewn stone in the field before sunrise, taking care to keep the written side uppermost.
Otto Weinreich discusses this exorcism of mice in his Ausgewählte Schriften III (Amsterdam: B.R. Grüner, 1979), pp. 43-45. It is a good example of epipompē, the method of getting rid of evil not by destroying it but by sending it somewhere else.

In Greek religion, mice were under the control of the god Apollo Smintheus, first mentioned by Homer in the Iliad 1.37-42 (tr. A.T. Murray):
Hear me, thou of the silver bow, who dost stand over Chryse and holy Cilla, and dost rule mightily over Tenedos, thou Sminthian, if ever I roofed over a shrine to thy pleasing, or if ever I burned to thee fat thight-pieces of bulls or goats, fulfil thou for me this prayer: let the Danaans pay for my tears by thy shafts.

Κλῦθί μευ ἀργυρότοξ᾿, ὃς Χρύσην ἀμφιϐέϐηκας
Κίλλαν τε ζαθέην Τενέδοιό τε ἶφι ἀνάσσεις,
Σμινθεῦ, εἴ ποτέ τοι χαρίεντ᾿ ἐπὶ νηὸν ἔρεψα,
ἢ εἰ δή ποτέ τοι κατὰ πίονα μηρί᾿ ἔκηα
ταύρων ἠδ᾿ αἰγῶν, τὸ δέ μοι κρήηνον ἐέλδωρ·
τίσειαν Δαναοὶ ἐμὰ δάκρυα σοῖσι βέλεσσιν.
G.S. Kirk, The Iliad: A Commentary, Volume I: Books 1-4 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), p. 57 (on 1.39 Σμινθεῦ), notes:
according to Apollonius Sophistes (Erbse I, 20) Aristarchus insisted that the epithet was derived from a city in the Troad called Sminthe, against those who thought 'unfittingly' that it came from σμίνθος = 'mouse' (in Mysian) and therefore meant 'mouse-god' or protector against mice; for in Rhodes at least there was a festival called Smintheia for Apollo and Dionusos, because they killed the mice who were destroying the young vines.
Martin P. Nilsson, Geschichte der griechischen Religion, I (München: C.H. Beck, 1992), p. 213, connects Apollo Smintheus with other gods who warded off pests:
The cult of Apollo Smintheus, especially widespread in northwest Asia Minor, has often been discussed. In Chryse the god's statue put its foot on a mouse, and in the temple in Hamaxitus tame mice were kept. As Zeus Apomyios warded off flies and Apollo Parnopios locusts, so Apollo Smintheus warded off field mice, which in Greece wreaked great havoc on the growing crops.

Oft besprochen worden ist der besonders im nordwestlichen Kleinasien verbreitete Kult des Apollon Smintheus. Das Kultbild in Chryse stellte den Fuss auf eine Maus, und im Tempel in Hamaxitos hielt man zahme Mäuse. Wie Zeus Apomyios der Abwehrer von Fliegen, Apollon Parnopios der von Heuschrecken ist, so ist Apollon Smintheus der Abwehrer der Feldmäuse, die in Griechenland grossen Schaden an den wachsenden Saat anrichten.
Much of our information about the cult of Apollo Smintheus comes from Strabo and Aelian.

Strabo 13.1.48 (tr. Horace Leonard Jones):
In this Chrysa is also the temple of Sminthian Apollo; and the symbol which preserves the etymology of the name, I mean the mouse, lies beneath the foot of his image. These are the works of Scopas of Paros; and also the history, or myth, about the mice is associated with this place: When the Teucrians arrived from Crete (Callinus the elegiac poet was the first to hand down an account of these people, and many have followed him), they had an oracle which bade them to "stay on the spot where the earth-born should attack them"; and, he says the attack took place round Hamaxitus, for by night a great multitude of field-mice swarmed out of the ground and ate up all the leather in their arms and equipment; and the Teucrians remained there; and it was they who gave its name to Mt. Ida, naming it after the mountain in Crete. Heracleides of Pontus says that the mice which swarmed round the temple were regarded as sacred, and that for this reason the image was designed with its foot upon the mouse. Others say that a certain Teucer came from the deme of Troes, now called Xypeteones, in Attica, but that no Teucrians came from Crete. As a further sign of the close relationship of the Trojans with the people of Attica they record the fact the Erichthonius was one of the original founders on both tribes. Now this is the account of the more recent writer; but more in agreement with Homer are the traces to be seen in the plane of Thebe and in the Chrysa which was once founded there, which I shall soon discuss. The name of Smintheus is used in many places, for in the neighborhood of Hamaxitus itself, apart from the Sminthium at the temple, there are two places called Sminthia; and there are others in the neighboring territory of Larisa. And also in the territory of Parium there is a place called Sminthia, as also in Rhodes and in Lindus and in many other places. And they now call the temple Sminthium.
Aelian, On Animals 12.5 (trans. A.F. Scholfield):
Those who live in Hamaxitus in the Troad worship a mouse, and that is why, according to them, they give the name of Sminthian to Apollo whom they worship, for the Aeolians and the people of the Troad still call a mouse sminthos, just as Aeschylus too in his Sisyphus writes: "Nay, but what sminthos of the fields is so monstrous?" And in the temple of Smintheus tame mice are kept and fed at the public expense, and beneath the altar white mice have their nests, and by the tripod of Apollo there stands a mouse. And I have also heard the following mythical tale about this cult. Mice came in tens of thousands and cut off before they ripened the crops of the Aeolians and Trojans, rendering the harvest barren for the sowers. Accordingly the god at Delphi said when they enquired of him, that they must sacrifice to Apollo Smintheus; they obeyed and freed themselves from the conspiracy of mice, and their wheat attained the normal harvest. And they add the following story. Some Cretans who, owing to a disaster that befell them, were sent out to found a colony besought the Pythian Apollo to tell them of some good place where it would be advantageous to found a city. There issued from the oracle this answer: in the place where the earth-born made war upon them, there they should settle and raise a city. So they came to this place Hamaxitus and pitched their camp in order to rest; but a countless swarm of mice crept stealthily upon them, gnawed through their shield-straps and ate through their bow-strings. So they guessed that these were the "earth-born" referred to, and, besides, having now no means of getting weapons for defence, they settled in this spot and built a temple to Apollo Smintheus.

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