The Devil’s Pitchfork

Let’s try this on for size:

The devil’s pitchfork is not the affectation of a dandy; the devil is a working gentleman with the background of a farmer.

Poetically true. Logically nonsense. But how does it sit in your head? Does it latch into place by its little hooks and become part of your cranial canon or does it bounce around and slide off into the junkpile?

Here’s the analysis:

The devil’s pitchfork is not the affectation of a dandy. Probably we can take that as a given. We’ve often seen imagery of a hypothetical devil with a pitchfork and pitchforks of any kind would be a bit silly as a salon accessory. I wouldn’t rule it out completely because it’s certain that someone would try it, but we can assume a certain likelihood of failure to pull it off and subsequent ridicule. Or maybe that’s just my personal sensibilities talking. These things are so subjective.

Here’s that second overpacked clause unrolled into individual assertions:

The devil has a farming background. I’m not sure this point has ever been made historically. The pitchfork may have been added on a whim to historical imagery as a convenient toasting fork for, well, toasting, but I’ve never seen a picture of the devil milking a cow or guiding a plow. For instance.

The devil is a gentleman. Arguments could be made that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, so … maybe?

The devil is a working gentleman. Hardly ever an attribute ascribed to Satan, but one could assume that he understand the battle for souls is not something you can sleepwalk through. Again, maybe? It remains hard to picture a blue-collar devil.

The devil is. The toughest one yet. There are so many unobservable, unprovable things you have to swallow before this one is at all appealing to believe. And yet.

And yet.

If you believe in the devil, or at least believe that the concept of the devil is a useful metaphor for the aggregate of all evil that brews in the hearts of all people — a contagious and malignant (in the sense of cancerous, even) aggregate that sometimes seems like it has its own will and agenda — then it’s easy to expand that concept to include that of a devil farmer who knows that a good crop requires plowing and fertilizing and hard work at both ends of the season to ensure a good harvest.

Perhaps the failure is in the English language for having only one word for both kinds of truth.


October 20, 2010 · by xalieri · Posted in Everything Else  


2 Responses to “The Devil’s Pitchfork”

  1. docc on October 21st, 2010 4:06 pm

    Being keenly interested in anti-intellectualism, I always perceived the Devil’s finery as that of the slick-talking city boy, here to run off with your girl and your soul.

    The message to most common folk being that you shouldn’t ask questions, as you will just bring yourself heartache and closer to damnation.

    And the pitchfork, while the word pitch having conotations to hell, I think is really a trident. The trident being something that can pluck your life from you from a distance.

    two cents :)

  2. vidicon on October 21st, 2010 4:22 pm

    You’re almost certainly correct about the trident thing. It gets called a pitchfork because that’s what it looks like to people who are more familiar with farm equipment than esoteric weapons of the Roman era. What was the real end of Odysseus’s travels? When his oar was mistaken for a winnowing fan?

    Mostly I was talking about the split between poetic truth and literal, actual truth, and how the former seems to follow more narrative laws than logical, but my interest in the mythology of the devil covers quite a bit more territory than that.

    Frankly I find it fascinating that in the book of Job he seems to be on God’s payroll as somewhere between a district attorney and quality control officer, yet popular modern treatments has him as a rebellious agent and damned near God’s equal… Every time I think about it I have to wonder what happened.

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