I've run a few April Fool's Day hoaxes on A Bad Witch's Blog over the years, including writing about Mother Brown and Cockney Wicca, the Ancient Mystery of Fly-Fishing and a review of The Beginner's Guide to Human Sacrifice.
This April 1st, I thought I might blog about a few of my favourite things that had many of us fooled - not necessarily deliberate hoaxes though. The biggest failed prophecy of recent times has to be the 2012 Mayan calendar predictions of the end of the world. I never really believed that anything world-changing would happen on 21 December 2012 - and I blogged to that effect - but I couldn't help getting caught up in some of the frenzy. On the morning of the Winter Solstice I admit did tell my hubby that I loved him and gave him a kiss before he set off to work, just in case anything happened and I never saw him again. Of course there are those who still say that something *did* happen then, only those who weren't properly attuned failed to spot it...
Some of my favourite hoaxes are about fairies. On April 1, 2007, Dan Baines, a sculptor and illusion designer, sold the fake corpse of a fairy in an internet auction for nearly £300. He claimed the mummified remains were found by a dog walker on Firestone Hill in Duffield, Derbyshire. Despite the fact that the item was listed for sale on April Fool's Day, many people believed it was genuine - and some still do.
Some people also still believe that, in the early 20th century, two little girls - Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths - saw and photographed fairies. The Cottingley Fairies came to the attention of writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who believed they were genuine and published the pictures. At the time, some people thought they were real, but others said they had been faked. In the early 1980s Elsie and Frances admitted that most of the photographs were of cardboard cut-outs, but Frances maintained that one was genuine. The photographs and two of the cameras can be seen at the National Media Museum in Bradford.
In paganism, there are still many Wiccans who believe that the Gardnerian Book of Shadows is an ancient witchcraft text that has been passed down secretly and virtually unchanged for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. This is despite convincing evidence put forward by people such as Isaac Bonewits and Professor Ronald Hutton that the BoS is not linguistically like an ancient text and that the contents can be proven to be a mixture of material from a variety of old sources woven together with 20th century additions.
I asked some of my fellow Moon Books authors about their favourite pagan or supernatural theories that have now been discredited.
Like myself, Morgan Daimler, author of Pagan Portals - Brigid, loves the romance of fairy encounters. She said: "The Cottingley Fairies is one of my favorite hoaxes, and I don't feel bad for believing it when I was younger - even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fell for that one!"
Nimue Brown, author of Druidry and the Ancestors, pointed out that Druidry has books with dodgy provenance, just like Wicca. She said: "On the Druid side, Iolo Morganwg fooled a lot of people with his writings." She also said that she enjoys the current joke of moving the stones at Avebury every time the clocks change.
Mabh Savage, author of Pagan Portals - Celtic Witchcraft, said: "There's the thing that pops up every Easter saying it's actually a celebration of a Babylonian goddess called Ishtar. Loads of Pagans seem to believe this and share it all over the place, but it's simply not true."
Laura Perry, author of Ariadne's Thread: Awakening the Wonders of the Ancient Minoans in our Modern Lives, said: "Not a hoax so much as bunches of people being fooled by their cultural presumptions: Sir Arthur Evans, who famously excavated the ancient Minoan site of Knossos, assumed that because it was obviously an advanced civilization (fine architecture, enclosed sewers, paved streets and so on) it must have been ruled by a king, just like his own British Empire.
"He named the culture after the legendary King Minos, which is how we get the term Minoan, and called the temple complex a palace, even going so far as to name the rooms things like the King's Throne Room and the Queen's Megaron. In the century since then, we have found no evidence whatsoever of a monarchy island-wide or otherwise. Instead, the island of Crete was apparently ruled regionally, in city-state fashion, from the individual temple complexes by the priesthood and possibly the wealthy merchants as well. But for decades, every new find was interpreted based on the assumption that the island was a Bronze Age monarchy. Oops!"
Ellen Evert Hopman, author of the forthcoming book A Legacy of Druids,said: "The idea that global warming is a hoax has been bought by many. Even by those who practice a Nature Religion."
I agree with Ellen that it really doesn't matter whether we believe in fairies or not, or have different opinions on whether a book is old or new, the most dangerous fools are those who turn a blind eye to real evidence for big threats to the world we live in.
Links and other previous related posts
Mayan Calendar Prophecies: The Complete Collection of 2012 Predictions and Prophecies
The Coming of the Fairies - The Cottingley Incident