Saturday, March 26, 2011

Vatican Superfund Sites: Paradise Regained

My monthly issue of Harper's Magazine arrived in the mail the other day, and in the "Readings" section I find brief excerpts from Memoirs of an Exorcist: My Life at War With Satan. These are the memoirs of Father Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican's official devil disser, a founding member of the International Association of Exorcists and a man with a face to scare the very Devil himself. Dissing with the Devil can make any man look less than his very best.

Father Gabriele Amorth 

Father Amorth has even had the professional good fortune to find the devil in the Vatican, although since Old Nick is known to "walk up and down upon the earth" generally this should come as no surprise to anyone. Sounded like devilishly good stuff, so naturally I tucked right in and was not entirely disappointed. The excerpted samples are the usual tales - inability in a young bride to menstruate (check the rabbit, Father), unspeakable contents found in a fairly regular issue of vomit . . .

. . . expelling (from various ports) such jetsam as 10-inch nails "thick as your thumb," unpleasant exchanges with a vengeful little chap named "Zago," and so on. Nothing you haven't already seen in the regular course of your life.

But what struck me was the eerie timeliness of the Harper's piece, as I had myself only recently commented on the various geological appurtenances, protruberances, upthrusts, slopes, rifts, faults, prominences, vales, gulches, draws, radial dikes, trenches and other such topographical whatnots and fiddlesticks thrown in on a whim at the Creation which are named for the very personage featured in these fevered if somewhat hackneyed memoirs. 

Even a cursory search of Google maps will yield a landscape littered with references to His Nastiness: there are the Devil's Corkscrew, Head, Thumb, Garden, Knob (!), Nest, Gulch, Ridge, numerous Lakes and Dens, Hopyard, Reach, Eye, Elbow, Coulee, Kitchen, Punchbowl, Meadow, Playground, Backbone, Jawbone, any number of Heads, Canyons and Mountains . . . . The American landscape seems to be little more than a catalog of demonic possessions. Clearly a bit of sanctifying housecleaning is long overdue.  

"Where would you like me to sanctify first?"

I've given this a bit of thought as you may already have surmised, and I've come up with a proposal: as my ordination is already entered by the Recording Angel in the Book of Life . . .

"Spell your last name for me."

. . . as a priest, minister or general functionary in the Universal Life Church (nothing to be trifled with), I propose that the Vatican name me, Father Miguel de Montaigne, Vatican Emissary and Plenipotentiary for Landscape Exorcisms. So empowered, it would be with me but the work of a moment to sanctify Cartographic America by finding suitably blessed monikers for all the little topographic anomalies that seem to invite licentiousness and geographical blasphemy.

So, for example, Devil's Canyon is easily redeemed as St. Bridget's Cleft; Devil's Mountain becomes the Hump of St. Hilarion; Devil's Den is hallowed as the Most Hidden Place of St. Gina de Lollobrigida; Devil's Knob is the precinct of any number of the randy sanctified; the Devil's Bowl becomes the Monstrance of St. Whoever-You-Like.

When my work is done the world will be a better place and the Recording Angel will know my name.

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