On Boxing Day, 1971 a group of Australian Kangaroo hunters claimed to have seen a beautiful young half-naked blonde woman among kangaroos on the semi-arid plains of Nullarbor, South Australia. The claim was supported by a film footage of a woman holding a kangaroo by the tail. A huge round of publicity saw many visitors descending upon the town of Eucla with a population of 8 people at that time.
Later the hunters confessed that they had cooked up the story over a few drinks and had a local woman dressed up in kangaroo skins for the pictures just to get some publicity and tourists into their obscure town. One of the hoaxers said, “It amazed us how it kept going and we got bloody sick of it in the end.”
The Nullarbor Nymph may never have existed but that did not stop a sculpture of her being created and poems being written.
Amazing indeed how some stories and beliefs keep going on and on in spite of it not having a basis in reality. This is true in different areas of life where accepted beliefs become self-evident and gets a canonical status which puts it beyond questioning. This is not only true of religious beliefs and traditions but also of science where many myths are busted and new ones created. It takes awareness to turn the light on oneself to question the value and truth of one’s own beliefs and practices or even to trace their reasons and origins.
Tony de Mello’s story of the Guru’s Cat is relevant here.
Each time the guru sat for worship with his students the ashram cat would come in to distract them, so he ordered them to tie it when the ashram was at prayer.
After the guru died the cat continued to be tied at worship time. And when the cat expired, another cat was brought into the ashram to make sure that the guru’s orders were faithfully observed at worship time.
Centuries passed and learned treatises were written by the guru’s scholarly disciples on the liturgical significance of tying up a cat while worship is performed. (Anthony de Mello: Song of the Bird)