Because the universe was full of ignorance all around and the scientist panned through it like a prospector crouched over a mountain stream, looking for the gold of knowledge among the gravel of unreason, the sand of uncertainty and the little whiskery eight-legged swimming things of superstition.
Occasionally he would straighten up and say things like Â»Hurrah, I’ve discovered Boyle’s Third law.Â« And everyone knew where they stood. But the trouble was that ignorance became more interesting, especially big fascinating ignorance about huge and important things like matter and creation, and people stopped patiently building their little houses of rational sticks in the chaos of the universe and started getting interested in the chaos itself â€“ partly because it was a lot easier to be an expert on chaos, but mostly because it made really good patterns that you could put on a t-shirt.
And instead of getting on with proper science scientists suddenly went around saying how impossible it was to know anything, and that there wasn’t really anything you could call reality to know anything about, and how all this was tremendously exciting, and incidentally did you know there were possibly all these little universes all over the place but no-one can see them because they are all curved in on themselves? Incidentally, don’t, you think this is a rather good t-shirt?
Artists and writers have always had a rather exaggerated idea about what goes on at a witches’ sabbath. This comes from spending too much time in small rooms with the curtains drawn, instead of getting out in the healthy fresh air.
For example, there’s the dancing around naked. In the average temperate climate there are very few nights when anyone would dance around at midnight with no clothes on, quite apart from the question of stones, thistles, and sudden hedgehogs.
Then there’s all that business with goat-headed gods. Most witches don’t believe in gods. They know that the gods exist, of course. They even deal with them occasionally. But they don’t believe in them, They know them too well. It would be like believing in the postman.
And there’s the food and drink â€“ the bits of reptile and so on. In fact, witches don’t go for that sort of thing. The worst you can say about the eating habits of the older type of witch is that they tend to like ginger biscuits dipped in tea with so much sugar in it that the spoon won’t move and will drink it out of the saucer if they think it’s too hot. And do so with appreciative noises more generally associated with the cheaper type of plumbing system. Legs of toad and so on might be better than this.
Then there’s the mystic ointments. By sheer luck, the artists and writers are on firmer ground here. Most witches are elderly, which is when ointments start to have an attraction, and at least two of those present tonight were wearing Granny Weatherwax’s famous goose-grease-and sage chest liniment. This didn’t make you fly and see visions, but it did prevent colds, if only because the distressing smell that developed around about the second week kept everyone else so far away you couldn’t catch anything from them.
After she’d rattled it a couple of times there was a thump as the chair wedgedunder the handle on the other side, the better to deter ravishers, burglars and other nocturnal intruders, fell over.
Granny Weatherwax’s boots protruded from under the covers at one end of the bed. Nanny Ogg’s bare feet, Nanny being something of a night-time revolver, were beside them. Faint snores rattled the jug on the washbasin; these were no longer the full-nosed roars of a quickforty-winks catnapper, but the well-paced growls of someone who intends to make a night of it.
I hope this light up your gifting day