Monday, September 01, 2008

Pareidolia Mondays: Holy Mary, Mother of Log

For my first post after my two-week hiatus, I was delighted to find a relatively recent pareidolia-related story from Britain's Telegraph. The article, posted on the Telegraph's website last Thursday, tells of a likeness of the Virgin Mary appearing on a tree in a suburb of Toronto, Ontario. Christopher Moreau, 47, first spotted the tree's feminine features as he was sitting down to enjoy a freshly opened beer in his backyard. From the Toronto Sun article, to which the Telegraph story linked:

"'I don't know why it's there, but I think it's a blessing,' said Christopher Moreau, 47, who discovered the tree-bound Mary last week. 'It raises the hair on your neck, it gives you chills.' 'I'm not a wacko,' Moreau said yesterday, adding he was stone-cold sober. "

Moreau claimed at first he wasn't sure what he was seeing. He went inside his house to fetch his mother-in-law in order to find out if she also saw the likeness of the Virgin Mary invitingly holding her arms open.

"'At first I thought I was seeing things,' Moreau said. 'Then I went and got my mother-in-law to tell her. She was overwhelmed by it. She was crying.'"

Moreau believes this miraculous image may have cured his 70-year-old mother-in-law of her lymph node cancer. But, since neither articles offers any context at all for the woman's condition, no solid conclusions can be made about this claim. The Sun article reports that the unnamed mother-in-law received test results a week prior to Moreau's discovery showing that her cancer appears to have cleared. Would Moreau have attributed the cancer's remission to the tree sans alleged sacred image? I think not.

Moreau has generously offered the tree to others seeking salvation, or perhaps a cure for whatever may ail them. He is quoted as saying that Mary is not there just for him, but that she's there to share.

"Moreau said he doesn't want a lineup of thousands of gawkers coming to visit the tree. However, he said he hoped the tree could possibly help those who are ill or in need of a potential miracle."

While Moreau's invitation does seem rather charitable, he really has no right to make such an offer since it is not his tree, but his neighbor's. Fortunately, the Telegraph found the legal owner of the tree who provided a slightly more sensible response to the arboreal Virgin:

"Laughing off suggestions that it was a sign from God, Eulalee Hamilton, Mr Moreau’s neighbor and the owner of the tree,said that the Virgin Mary image was just the scarring from a limb that was cut off the tree a year ago."

Hamilton said she doesn't care how many people come to Moreau's back deck to see the holy tree scar, as long as no one crosses onto her property and damages her garden.

While Hamilton appears to remain agnostic on the subject of tree-born religious icons, Moreau said the sighting has only strengthened his Catholic faith. But, not even the Virgin Mary waving at him from the trunk of a tree can make him attend mass for often.

"'Why do I need to go to church?' Moreau added. 'I feel that God has come to me.'"

I think the aspect of this story that stuck out to me the most was the attitude of Ms. Hamilton, the neighbor and owner of the tree. In a nutshell, her reaction to the alleged Virgin Mary sighting encapsulates my feelings toward religion in general. I don't believe in any gods, but I'm not forcing it on anyone. People should be allowed to believe whatever they want, as long as it does not seriously affect my life or the lives of my friends and family. So to any believer who may be reading this, don't trample on my garden, and I won't trample on yours.

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