Sunday, May 19, 2013

Snake Worship in the Bible and Beyond


This is a shiur (lecture) I gave during a joint Tikkun Leil Shavuot (all night learning session during the Jewish holiday of Shavuot) in May 2013.   I was examining how snake worship is present in the bible, even though the practice of snake worship is never mentioned directly.   The first two examples had to do with the language used to describe divination (Ob and Nachash), the third is the practice of worshipping the bronze snake Moses created in the desert.  I then looked at the words different words describing snake in the bible, primarily Seraph and Nachash, suggesting that Seraph is not an angel as much as a winged serpent (or a dragon?).  I also included other mentioned of snakes in the bible (including Moses' and Aaaron's staffs, Garden of Eden, and Dan's blessing) for the sake of completeness.   The inspiration for the lecture came from reading some 19th century Christian scholars works on snake worship (listed at the bottom), but I mostly relied upon the primary sources of the bible.



Snake Worship in the Bible and Beyond

OB: Snake as oracle
Ob is the sacred serpent of Canaan; priestess of Ob was an oracle. The serpent was known in the language of Canaan variously as Aub, Ab; Oub, Ob; Oph, Op; Eph, Ev.  

The Ophites were a gnostic sect in Rome that worshipped snakes (at time of Jesus).  Snake worship is called Ophiolatreia.  Divination through serpents is called Ophiomancy.

Hivites in Canaan is derived their name from Hivia (Aramaic word for serpent); the origin of Hhivia may be Aub.   Hivites were serpent worshipers.

Joshua 9:3-7
ג  וְיֹשְׁבֵי גִבְעוֹן שָׁמְעוּ, אֵת אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה יְהוֹשֻׁעַ לִירִיחוֹ--וְלָעָי.
3 But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done unto Jericho and to Ai,
ד  וַיַּעֲשׂוּ גַם-הֵמָּה בְּעָרְמָה, וַיֵּלְכוּ וַיִּצְטַיָּרוּ; וַיִּקְחוּ שַׂקִּים בָּלִים, לַחֲמוֹרֵיהֶם, וְנֹאדוֹת יַיִן בָּלִים, וּמְבֻקָּעִים וּמְצֹרָרִים.
4 they also did work wilily, and went and made as if they had been ambassadors, and took old sacks upon their asses, and wine skins, worn and rent and patched up;
ה  וּנְעָלוֹת בָּלוֹת וּמְטֻלָּאוֹת בְּרַגְלֵיהֶם, וּשְׂלָמוֹת בָּלוֹת עֲלֵיהֶם; וְכֹל לֶחֶם צֵידָם, יָבֵשׁ הָיָה נִקֻּדִים.
5 and worn shoes and clouted upon their feet, and worn garments upon them; and all the bread of their provision was dry and was become crumbs.
ו  וַיֵּלְכוּ אֶל-יְהוֹשֻׁעַ אֶל-הַמַּחֲנֶה, הַגִּלְגָּל; וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו וְאֶל-אִישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל, מֵאֶרֶץ רְחוֹקָה בָּאנוּ, וְעַתָּה, כִּרְתוּ-לָנוּ בְרִית.
6 And they went to Joshua unto the camp at Gilgal, and said unto him, and to the men of Israel: 'We are come from a far country; now therefore make ye a covenant with us.'
ז  ויאמרו (וַיֹּאמֶר) אִישׁ-יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֶל-הַחִוִּי:  אוּלַי, בְּקִרְבִּי אַתָּה יוֹשֵׁב, וְאֵיךְ, אכרות- (אֶכְרָת-) לְךָ בְרִית.
7 And the men of Israel said unto the Hivites: 'Peradventure ye dwell among us; and how shall we make a covenant with you?'

Radak: Hivite is from Hivia, which means snake, because the Hivites were deceptive like the snake in Eden. 

Vayikra 20:27   
כז  וְאִישׁ אוֹ-אִשָּׁה, כִּי-יִהְיֶה בָהֶם אוֹב אוֹ יִדְּעֹנִי--מוֹת יוּמָתוּ; בָּאֶבֶן יִרְגְּמוּ אֹתָם, דְּמֵיהֶם בָּם.  {פ}
27 A man also or a woman that divineth by a ghost or a familiar spirit, shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones; their blood shall be upon them. 

Devarim 18:11
יא  וְחֹבֵר, חָבֶר; וְשֹׁאֵל אוֹב וְיִדְּעֹנִי, וְדֹרֵשׁ אֶל-הַמֵּתִים.
11 or a charmer, or one that consulteth a ghost or a familiar spirit, or a necromancer.
Shmuel 28:7-9
ז  וַיֹּאמֶר שָׁאוּל לַעֲבָדָיו, בַּקְּשׁוּ-לִי אֵשֶׁת בַּעֲלַת-אוֹב, וְאֵלְכָה אֵלֶיהָ, וְאֶדְרְשָׁה-בָּהּ; וַיֹּאמְרוּ עֲבָדָיו אֵלָיו, הִנֵּה אֵשֶׁת בַּעֲלַת-אוֹב בְּעֵין דּוֹר.
7 Then said Saul unto his servants: 'Seek me a woman that divineth by a ghost, that I may go to her, and inquire of her.' And his servants said to him: 'Behold, there is a woman that divineth by a ghost at En-dor.'
ח  וַיִּתְחַפֵּשׂ שָׁאוּל, וַיִּלְבַּשׁ בְּגָדִים אֲחֵרִים, וַיֵּלֶךְ הוּא וּשְׁנֵי אֲנָשִׁים עִמּוֹ, וַיָּבֹאוּ אֶל-הָאִשָּׁה לָיְלָה; וַיֹּאמֶר, קסומי- (קָסֳמִי-) נָא לִי בָּאוֹב, וְהַעֲלִי לִי, אֵת אֲשֶׁר-אֹמַר אֵלָיִךְ.
8 And Saul disguised himself, and put on other raiment, and went, he and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night; and he said: 'Divine unto me, I pray thee, by a ghost, and bring me up whomsoever I shall name unto thee.'
ט  וַתֹּאמֶר הָאִשָּׁה אֵלָיו, הִנֵּה אַתָּה יָדַעְתָּ אֵת אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה שָׁאוּל, אֲשֶׁר הִכְרִית אֶת-הָאֹבוֹת וְאֶת-הַיִּדְּעֹנִי, מִן-הָאָרֶץ; וְלָמָה אַתָּה מִתְנַקֵּשׁ בְּנַפְשִׁי, לַהֲמִיתֵנִי.
9 And the woman said unto him: 'Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that divine by a ghost or a familiar spirit out of the land; wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die?'

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Nachash:  Instrument of the Oracle                
Bereshit 43: 33
לג  וַיֵּשְׁבוּ לְפָנָיו--הַבְּכֹר כִּבְכֹרָתוֹ, וְהַצָּעִיר כִּצְעִרָתוֹ; וַיִּתְמְהוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים, אִישׁ אֶל-רֵעֵהוּ.
33 And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright, and the youngest according to his youth; and the men marvelled one with another.
Rashi:  He hit with the cup and called Reuven, Shimon Levi, Yehuda, Yissachar, and Zevulant are the sons of one mother, they should sit in that order because that’s their birth order, and so it was for all.  When he arrived at Binyamin he said he doesn’t have a mother and neither do I so he’ll sit beside me. 

Bereshit 44:5
ה  הֲלוֹא זֶה, אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁתֶּה אֲדֹנִי בּוֹ, וְהוּא, נַחֵשׁ יְנַחֵשׁ בּוֹ; הֲרֵעֹתֶם, אֲשֶׁר עֲשִׂיתֶם.
5 Is not this it in which my lord drinketh, and whereby he indeed divineth? ye have done evil in so doing.'
Bereshit 44:15
טו  וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם יוֹסֵף, מָה-הַמַּעֲשֶׂה הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר עֲשִׂיתֶם; הֲלוֹא יְדַעְתֶּם, כִּי-נַחֵשׁ יְנַחֵשׁ אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר כָּמֹנִי.
15 And Joseph said unto them: 'What deed is this that ye have done? know ye not that such a man as I will indeed divine?'
Vayikra 19:26
כו  לֹא תֹאכְלוּ, עַל-הַדָּם; לֹא תְנַחֲשׁוּ, וְלֹא תְעוֹנֵנוּ.
26 Ye shall not eat with the blood; neither shall ye practise divination nor soothsaying.
Bamidbar 23:23
כג  כִּי לֹא-נַחַשׁ בְּיַעֲקֹב, וְלֹא-קֶסֶם בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל; כָּעֵת, יֵאָמֵר לְיַעֲקֹב וּלְיִשְׂרָאֵל, מַה-פָּעַל, אֵל.
23 For there is no enchantment with Jacob, neither is there any divination with Israel; now is it said of Jacob and of Israel: 'What hath God wrought!'

Devarim 18:11
י  לֹא-יִמָּצֵא בְךָ, מַעֲבִיר בְּנוֹ-וּבִתּוֹ בָּאֵשׁ, קֹסֵם קְסָמִים, מְעוֹנֵן וּמְנַחֵשׁ וּמְכַשֵּׁף.
10 There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, one that useth divination, a soothsayer, or an enchanter, or a sorcerer,
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Nachustan: Snake as God of Healing 
Bamidbar: 21:6-9
ו  וַיְשַׁלַּח יְהוָה בָּעָם, אֵת הַנְּחָשִׁים הַשְּׂרָפִים, וַיְנַשְּׁכוּ, אֶת-הָעָם; וַיָּמָת עַם-רָב, מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל.
6 And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.
ז  וַיָּבֹא הָעָם אֶל-מֹשֶׁה וַיֹּאמְרוּ חָטָאנוּ, כִּי-דִבַּרְנוּ בַיהוָה וָבָךְ--הִתְפַּלֵּל אֶל-יְהוָה, וְיָסֵר מֵעָלֵינוּ אֶת-הַנָּחָשׁ; וַיִּתְפַּלֵּל מֹשֶׁה, בְּעַד הָעָם.
7 And the people came to Moses, and said: 'We have sinned, because we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that He take away the serpents from us.' And Moses prayed for the people.
ח  וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, עֲשֵׂה לְךָ שָׂרָף, וְשִׂים אֹתוֹ, עַל-נֵס; וְהָיָה, כָּל-הַנָּשׁוּךְ, וְרָאָה אֹתוֹ, וָחָי.
8 And the LORD said unto Moses: 'Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole; and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he seeth it, shall live.'
ט  וַיַּעַשׂ מֹשֶׁה נְחַשׁ נְחֹשֶׁת, וַיְשִׂמֵהוּ עַל-הַנֵּס; וְהָיָה, אִם-נָשַׁךְ הַנָּחָשׁ אֶת-אִישׁ--וְהִבִּיט אֶל-נְחַשׁ הַנְּחֹשֶׁת, וָחָי.
9 And Moses made a serpent of brass, and set it upon the pole; and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he looked unto the serpent of brass, he lived.

2 Kings 18:4
ד  הוּא הֵסִיר אֶת-הַבָּמוֹת, וְשִׁבַּר אֶת-הַמַּצֵּבֹת, וְכָרַת, אֶת-הָאֲשֵׁרָה; וְכִתַּת נְחַשׁ הַנְּחֹשֶׁת אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה מֹשֶׁה, כִּי עַד-הַיָּמִים הָהֵמָּה הָיוּ בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל מְקַטְּרִים לוֹ, וַיִּקְרָא-לוֹ, נְחֻשְׁתָּן.
4 He removed the high places, and broke the pillars, and cut down the Asherah; and he broke in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made; for unto those days the children of Israel did offer to it; and it was called Nehushtan.
2 Kings 21:6
ו  וְהֶעֱבִיר אֶת-בְּנוֹ, בָּאֵשׁ, וְעוֹנֵן וְנִחֵשׁ, וְעָשָׂה אוֹב וְיִדְּעֹנִים:  הִרְבָּה, לַעֲשׂוֹת הָרַע בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָה--לְהַכְעִיס.
6 And he made his son to pass through the fire, and practised soothsaying, and used enchantments, and appointed them that divined by a ghost or a familiar spirit: he wrought much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him

Rod of Asclephius has been linked to the symbol of the Nechustan
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Nachash, Seraph: Seraph as dragons? 
Devarim 8:15

טו
  הַמּוֹלִיכְךָ בַּמִּדְבָּר הַגָּדֹל וְהַנּוֹרָא, נָחָשׁ שָׂרָף וְעַקְרָב, וְצִמָּאוֹן, אֲשֶׁר אֵין-מָיִם; הַמּוֹצִיא לְךָ מַיִם, מִצּוּר הַחַלָּמִישׁ.
15 who led thee through the great and dreadful wilderness, wherein were serpents, fiery serpents, and scorpions, and thirsty ground where was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint;
Isaih 6:2-3, 6
ב  שְׂרָפִים עֹמְדִים מִמַּעַל לוֹ, שֵׁשׁ כְּנָפַיִם שֵׁשׁ כְּנָפַיִם לְאֶחָד:  בִּשְׁתַּיִם יְכַסֶּה פָנָיו, וּבִשְׁתַּיִם יְכַסֶּה רַגְלָיו--וּבִשְׁתַּיִם יְעוֹפֵף.
2 Above Him stood the seraphim; each one had six wings: with twain he covered his face and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.
ג  וְקָרָא זֶה אֶל-זֶה וְאָמַר, קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת; מְלֹא כָל-הָאָרֶץ, כְּבוֹדוֹ.
3 And one called unto another, and said: Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.
ו  וַיָּעָף אֵלַי, אֶחָד מִן-הַשְּׂרָפִים, וּבְיָדוֹ, רִצְפָּה; בְּמֶלְקַחַיִם--לָקַח, מֵעַל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ.
6 Then flew unto me one of the seraphim, with a glowing stone in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar;
Only instance in bible where Seraph doesn’t refer directly to snake.  Suggestion that Seraph could mean winged serpent or modern day dragon. 

Isaih 14:29
כט  אַל-תִּשְׂמְחִי פְלֶשֶׁת כֻּלֵּךְ, כִּי נִשְׁבַּר שֵׁבֶט מַכֵּךְ:  כִּי-מִשֹּׁרֶשׁ נָחָשׁ יֵצֵא צֶפַע, וּפִרְיוֹ שָׂרָף מְעוֹפֵף.
29 Rejoice not, O Philistia, all of thee, because the rod that smote thee is broken: for out of the serpent's root shall come forth a basilisk, and his fruit shall be a flying serpent.
Isaih 30:6

ו
  מַשָּׂא, בַּהֲמוֹת נֶגֶב:  בְּאֶרֶץ צָרָה וְצוּקָה לָבִיא וָלַיִשׁ מֵהֶם, אֶפְעֶה וְשָׂרָף מְעוֹפֵף, יִשְׂאוּ עַל-כֶּתֶף עֲיָרִים חֵילֵהֶם וְעַל-דַּבֶּשֶׁת גְּמַלִּים אוֹצְרֹתָם, עַל-עַם לֹא יוֹעִילוּ.
6 The burden of the beasts of the South. Through the land of trouble and anguish, from whence come the lioness and the lion, the viper and flying serpent, they carry their riches upon the shoulders of young asses, and their treasures upon the humps of camels, to a people that shall not profit them.
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Nachash, Tanyin
Shmot 4:3
ג  וַיֹּאמֶר הַשְׁלִיכֵהוּ אַרְצָה, וַיַּשְׁלִכֵהוּ אַרְצָה וַיְהִי לְנָחָשׁ; וַיָּנָס מֹשֶׁה, מִפָּנָיו.
3 And He said: 'Cast it on the ground.' And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it.
Shmot 7:9-12
ט  כִּי יְדַבֵּר אֲלֵכֶם פַּרְעֹה לֵאמֹר, תְּנוּ לָכֶם מוֹפֵת; וְאָמַרְתָּ אֶל-אַהֲרֹן, קַח אֶת-מַטְּךָ וְהַשְׁלֵךְ לִפְנֵי-פַרְעֹה--יְהִי לְתַנִּין.
9 'When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying: Show a wonder for you; then thou shalt say unto Aaron: Take thy rod, and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it become a serpent.'
י  וַיָּבֹא מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן, אֶל-פַּרְעֹה, וַיַּעֲשׂוּ כֵן, כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה; וַיַּשְׁלֵךְ אַהֲרֹן אֶת-מַטֵּהוּ, לִפְנֵי פַרְעֹה וְלִפְנֵי עֲבָדָיו--וַיְהִי לְתַנִּין.
10 And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so, as the LORD had commanded; and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh and before his servants, and it became a serpent.
יא  וַיִּקְרָא, גַּם-פַּרְעֹה, לַחֲכָמִים, וְלַמְכַשְּׁפִים; וַיַּעֲשׂוּ גַם-הֵם חַרְטֻמֵּי מִצְרַיִם, בְּלַהֲטֵיהֶם--כֵּן.
11 Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and the sorcerers; and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did in like manner with their secret arts.
יב  וַיַּשְׁלִיכוּ אִישׁ מַטֵּהוּ, וַיִּהְיוּ לְתַנִּינִם; וַיִּבְלַע מַטֵּה-אַהֲרֹן, אֶת-מַטֹּתָם.
12 For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents; but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods.

Garden of Eden

Bereshit 3:1-6, 13-14
א  וְהַנָּחָשׁ, הָיָה עָרוּם, מִכֹּל חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה, אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים; וַיֹּאמֶר, אֶל-הָאִשָּׁה, אַף כִּי-אָמַר אֱלֹהִים, לֹא תֹאכְלוּ מִכֹּל עֵץ הַגָּן.
1 Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman: 'Yea, hath God said: Ye shall not eat of any tree of the garden?'
ב  וַתֹּאמֶר הָאִשָּׁה, אֶל-הַנָּחָשׁ:  מִפְּרִי עֵץ-הַגָּן, נֹאכֵל.
2 And the woman said unto the serpent: 'Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat;
ג  וּמִפְּרִי הָעֵץ, אֲשֶׁר בְּתוֹךְ-הַגָּן--אָמַר אֱלֹהִים לֹא תֹאכְלוּ מִמֶּנּוּ, וְלֹא תִגְּעוּ בּוֹ:  פֶּן-תְּמֻתוּן.
3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said: Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.'
ד  וַיֹּאמֶר הַנָּחָשׁ, אֶל-הָאִשָּׁה:  לֹא-מוֹת, תְּמֻתוּן.
4 And the serpent said unto the woman: 'Ye shall not surely die;
ה  כִּי, יֹדֵעַ אֱלֹהִים, כִּי בְּיוֹם אֲכָלְכֶם מִמֶּנּוּ, וְנִפְקְחוּ עֵינֵיכֶם; וִהְיִיתֶם, כֵּאלֹהִים, יֹדְעֵי, טוֹב וָרָע.
5 for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil.'
ו  וַתֵּרֶא הָאִשָּׁה כִּי טוֹב הָעֵץ לְמַאֲכָל וְכִי תַאֲוָה-הוּא לָעֵינַיִם, וְנֶחְמָד הָעֵץ לְהַשְׂכִּיל, וַתִּקַּח מִפִּרְיוֹ, וַתֹּאכַל; וַתִּתֵּן גַּם-לְאִישָׁהּ עִמָּהּ, וַיֹּאכַל.
6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat; and she gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat.
יג  וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים לָאִשָּׁה, מַה-זֹּאת עָשִׂית; וַתֹּאמֶר, הָאִשָּׁה, הַנָּחָשׁ הִשִּׁיאַנִי, וָאֹכֵל.
13 And the LORD God said unto the woman: 'What is this thou hast done?' And the woman said: 'The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.'
יד  וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים אֶל-הַנָּחָשׁ, כִּי עָשִׂיתָ זֹּאת, אָרוּר אַתָּה מִכָּל-הַבְּהֵמָה, וּמִכֹּל חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה; עַל-גְּחֹנְךָ תֵלֵךְ, וְעָפָר תֹּאכַל כָּל-יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ.
14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent: 'Because thou hast done this, cursed art thou from among all cattle, and from among all beasts of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.
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Dan’s blessing

Bereshit 49: 17
יז  יְהִי-דָן נָחָשׁ עֲלֵי-דֶרֶךְ, שְׁפִיפֹן עֲלֵי-אֹרַח--הַנֹּשֵׁךְ, עִקְּבֵי-סוּס, וַיִּפֹּל רֹכְבוֹ, אָחוֹר.
17 Dan shall be a serpent in the way, a horned snake in the path, that biteth the horse's heels, so that his rider falleth backward.

Ethiopian Jews – serpent voddoo god Danblhala or Damballah associated with the Tribe of Dan**** unverified

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Sources and further reading:
1)    Worship of the Serpent by John Bathurst Deane (available free at www.forgottenbooks.org).
2)    “Serpent Worship,” H Shepheard, available in The Christian Treasury (free on googlebooks).

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The case of the Libelous Valentine and the Prosecutor with too much time on his hands


In honor of today, I’m going to write about the oldest U.S. case I could find referencing Valentine’s Day.   Commonwealth v. Applegate, 33 Pa. C.C. 587 (1906) is a criminal libel case involving two women, a hate poem, and a prosecutor lacking common sense.
 
On Valentine’s Day, Anna Applegate mailed a card to her sister-in-law, Laura Mitchell. The card had a picture of a scroll, a pair of scales and a woman.  It contained a poem:

            To My Valentine.

Trouble maker. Scandal. Lies. Other Peoples Business. Slander. The Woman with a Mischievous Tongue.

To stir up a row is to you such a joy,

That the whole of your time in such work you employ.

If some one had courage to muzzle your jaws,

The neighbors would hail the good deed with applause.

How to Lie to beat the Law:

“License: This is to certify that I may lie at any time I think there is money in it.”

John M. Patterson, the local prosecutor, didn’t appreciate Applegate’s artistic contribution and charged her with criminal libel.  Applegate argued that the indictment should be dismissed because the card was sent directly to Mitchell (the libeled party) so there was no defamation of Mitchell to a third party.  The judge, Judge Staake (whose name, I learned though another poem, is pronounced Stah-Key[1]), upheld the indictment.  He distinguished between civil libel in which the libeled party would have to prove actual damages and criminal libel, which only requires alleging that the words would “tend to provoke a breach of the peace.” 


So according to Judge Staake, Mitchell could not sue Applegate directly because there were no damages, but a prosecutor could charge Applegate criminally (subjecting her to up to one year’s imprisonment) by including in the indictment that Applegate’s hate poem would provoke Mitchell to commit a public disturbance.   I guess crime was pretty low around Philadelphia and the prosecutor needed something to do that day. 

There is no published appeal to this case and, in over 100 years, this case has never been cited to.  I would assume that either the charges were dropped or the jury acquitted Applegate. 

Happy Valentine’s Day! 


[1] History of the Five o'clock club of Philadelphia: its guests and methods of entertainment, with sketches and portraits of its members, on page 209, Staake is introduced in verse explaining how to pronounce his name:  
                If you would be wrong
                In pronouncing this name,
                Say Staykie, or stackie, or stake,
                Or Starkie, or Staukie, or Stack;
                They are each alike a mistake.
                But if you’d be right
                As you always should be,
                And find your delivery rocky,
                Accentuate “ah” in the syllable “Sta,”
                Add “key,” and then you have Staake.