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  • The Wandering Jew in Burnley May 27, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern , trackback

    Today it is the turn of the Wandering Jew.

    For those who have never met him WJ refused to help Christ (as he was carrying his cross) or made fun of Jesus as he hung between the thieves. This proved a bad idea. WJ now meanders cursed around the globe and will do so until the end of time in penance for his oversight. The WJ legend in some senses institutionalises European anti-Semitism: it was a medieval, perhaps a thirteenth-century creation. But it is difficult not to feel sympathy for this extraordinary individual doomed to ‘walk the earth’ like Caine. And so an anti-semitic rant actually becomes a bridge to understanding and shared humanity.

    Most modern studies claim that by the nineteenth-century belief in the Wandering Jew had become purely symbolic. What then to make of this news report from that very century.

    We are informed that a new race of religionists have lately risen in this locality (Burnley), who pretend to have more extensive acquaintance with the ‘mysteries of the kingdom’ that any of their predecessors. They assert with much gravity that in the darkest shades of night they are permitted to hold converse with departed spirits, and for this purpose it is their custom to meet together, and hear a sweet response from heaven. The latest intelligence they have received from the invisible world is to the effect that the Wandering Jew is in some part of Lancashire, and that he will shortly pass through Burnley, when he will make a call at a certain house and communicate such important information relative to a subject that is as yet entirely ‘unknown to mortal mind’, as will ‘astonish the natives’. Really we may inquire, what will come next?

    Beach doesn’t want to set up today’s post as a Borges short story, but he found this clipping at the bottom of a pile of newspapers while preparing his tax documentation. A note says that it came from the Blackburn Times but neglects to give the date: woops… If anyone can dictate the words to any blanks here then Beach would love to fill them in. drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    In the meantime Beachcombing might note that Blackburn is something of a rival to Burnley. Was this a bit of garden green slander then or some honest to God non-conformism gone very very wrong. For what it is worth Beach’s money is on the second.  As a Yorkshireman Beach, in fact, can share the intelligence that folk across the border in Lancs (Blackburn, Burnley etc) are a LITTLE strange.


    9 June 2012: The great KMH writes: Although I know nothing specific about the Wandering Jew, I feel he may be simply a personalisation of the Jewish Diaspora which began when the Romans destroyed the temple in  70 A.D. and continued on perhaps until the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. Of course, there are still millions of Jews living outside of Israel, but they must be waiting their turn for ‘aliya’, or the permanent relocation to Israel, under more favorable circumstances. Poetically speaking, we might say that the Wandering Jew finally wound up in Germany under the Nazis and died in the Holocaust.’ Thanks KMH!