Sunday, December 31, 2006

Whose bones do these stones break?

It's that time of year again--when Muslims stone the guy with two horns and a tail. Oh but they do so by pelting, uh, stone. That's basically what the yearly celebration of Hajj is.

The stoning of the Devil is one of the most important rituals of the Hajj. After standing on the plain of Arafat, pilgrims spend the night on a plain called Muzdalifah. There, they gather 70 stones with which to pelt three stone pillars representing the Devil. The next day, the day of Eid-ul-Adha, pilgrims stone the largest of the three pillars with seven stones. Then, for the next three days, pilgrims pelt each of the three stone pillars with seven stones. This, along with a final circumambulation of the Ka'bah, completes the rituals of the Hajj.

Pillars in place of the real McCoy? Why not stone the Devil himself? Wouldn't that be more to the point? (Don't you wish suicide bombers blew up their victims only symbollically as well?)

I guess the Evil One is kind of impotent--he doesn't have the power to go about taking revenge on the tens of thousands who dare cast rocks at him. Or maybe he isn't evil at all. Perhaps he forgives each and every person who participates in this stoning ritual. Or maybe, just maybe, Muslims are just stoned ... stoned out on mythology.

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