Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Junk Internets Ads as Witchcraft?

As I surf the web here and there I run into all kinds of pop up and banner ads.  Most are harmless enough,  a few are distasteful and quickly passed by.  But I have run across one species of the critters that had me a bit puzzled.

Quite a number of them seem to be offering to reveal some sort of secret described as "one weird old trick".

This trick seems to be both versatile and malleable, able to solve the woes of obesity, stretch marks and bankrupcy. 

It is the recurring phrase "weird old" that got my attention.  It is almost as if some internet mogul had purchased the copyright on it or something.

The word weird derives from the Old English word wyrd, meaning fate or destiny.  It wanders about a bit linguistically, becoming the verb werden in German, meaning to become; also perhaps mutating into the word versus.

But it is the Old Norse version that concerns us here.  In that Germanic variant we find "uror" who was one of the Three Norns.  These were the Fates, three ugly old crones who forsaw, or perhaps steered, the destiny of men.

They turn up in Macbeth, Shakespeare's "Scottish Play" as the Weird Sisters.  Although in the "first folio" they are named the Weyward Sisters-either a witty play on related words by old Will, or more likely his post facto compilers working from corrupted texts.  In any case it certainly reinforces the sense of the Sisters being out of our usual existance.

Shakespeare was a great borrower, had to be with short deadlines.  He likely lifted the Weird Sisters directly from Holinsheds 1587 history of Britain in which Banquo encounters  "three women in strange and wild apparell, resembling creatures of elder world".  Holinshed equated them with the Weird Sisters.

The notion of three women determining the fate of man goes back farther of course, all the way to the Greek legend of the Moirae who spun, wove, then cut off the fabric which represented a man's life.

In general the pervasive legends of a trio of prophetesses or witches allow them some latitude as to appearance.  Llloyd Alexander's delightful modern retelling in the Chronicles of Prydain has always pleased me.  But in their customary form the Weird Sisters do look like something you would find in an ad for wrinkle and obesity nostrums.

Just as the "before" picture.
The Weird Sisters by Henry Fuseli
Oh, well I guess this is the real explanation, and it sounds as if the Feds are already pressuring the scamsters to move on to some other flim-flam.

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