Recently, we touched on a few of the ridiculous punishments meted out – from way back in the Middle Ages to animals deemed to have fallen foul of the law.

Well, this got the elves at the Duck ’n Fiddle’s Explanation of Everything in a right tizzy. As we all know, elves, like goblins and pixies aren’t entirely 100% human. They are part human and part ‘something-else’, which has baffled scientists and physicians since Noah released all the different species from his floating zoo.

Just what larking went on after dark in the Ark we’ll never know, but if you go down to the woods today, don’t be surprised. More creatures disembarked than those on the original guest list, and it appears some hybrid species conceived in that intimate space, are still being discovered today. (I wonder how many chameleons snuck on and off unnoticed.)

Anyway, our elves at the Duck ’n Fiddle, and all the others globally, are the result of some nefarious interaction on that love-boat. Somewhat miffed, and in defense of the ‘part-something-else’ in them, they churlishly decided to uncover some equally ridiculous laws and regulations laid down by humans against their fellow humans. They exposed just how silly our own laws were.

Wanton cruelty towards slaves was forbidden in the Code of Hammurabi, an ancient document written roughly 4 000 years ago. Decreed in the King’s name in Babylonia, and for humanitarian reasons, he magnanimously forbade any form of abuse or mistreatment of a slave. Seems pretty humane so far. The code, however, also stipulated that slaves were to be branded on their foreheads, and forbidden to hide the mark. There’s humanity for you.

In the mid-17th century a weird law was passed in England to boost the welfare of the peasant sheep farmers. The ruling decreed that all corpses were to be buried in a woollen shroud, whether they liked it or not. As you can imagine, this must have cheered generations of farmers up immensely, till the act was repealed 148 years later in 1814.

Now jobless, they could no longer pull the wool over anyone’s eyes, never mind an entire corpse. With the subsequent over-supply of very woolly sheep dotting the countryside, mutton didn’t have to be dressed up as lamb any more, and meat prices plummeted.

So the farmers went bust and sought refuge in alcohol. Swapping shears for cheers they congregated in pubs across the land, and joined the rowdy ranks of uncouth beer-swilling soccer yobs on the dole. Their tattooed offspring are still there and love it – why the hell work?

Around the 17th century, it was believed that witches could destroy their enemies with the curse of their evil eye’. Hundreds of women were executed because somebody died after apparently receiving an angry look from some innocent milkmaid, seamstress, or butcher’s widow.

When passing sentence, judges were so fearful of being bewitched, it was common for the accused to be escorted into court backwards or blindfolded. This is where the saying ‘if looks could kill’ originates.

Charles Bradlaugh was a devout atheist in England who wasn’t interested in the idea of taking an oath by swearing on the Bible. He was elected to the House of Commons in 1881 where he refused – in defiance of the current law – to take the biblical oath before being accepted. He was expelled. Then re-elected and expelled again, and yet again in 1881, 1882, 1884 and 1885. He finally won his point and was allowed to ‘affirm’ instead of ‘swear’. The silly law was amended in 1888.

For centuries, in the town of High Wycombe in England, a Weighing-in Ceremony was held and overseen by the regional judge. In early May, the town’s mayor, mayoress, deputy mayor, deputy mayoress, town clerk, and all regional councilors were publicly plonked on a scale in the town hall, and weighed to learn if they’d grown fat at the public trough.

Imagine the howls of protest if such a ceremony was suggested here. A forklift would be needed for a start.

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