The time is approaching to let all your skeletons out of the closet, dust off the spooks, stock up on sweets and take your children trick-or-treating. Halloween is just around the corner and so are the ghosts and ghouls waiting for you to be properly frightened, promising the kids their annual sugar rush.
However, in the country of Malta, a slightly different trickery is on display all year round… and it does not involve candy bars.
During a recent visit to the Mediterranean island of Malta, something odd caught my eye. Two clocks were placed on the wall of a local church with each showing a different time.
At first, I assumed one of the time pieces was broken, or perhaps a church caretaker neglected to synchronize them. Then, as I traveled across the island, the story repeated itself: one church, two clocks set to different times.
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Well, the answer turned out to make perfect sense. According to a local legend, the two clocks are there to confuse the devil.
They mean the real thing. With two clocks showing two different times, the devil will have no idea when holy mass starts, so he will not show up to cause trouble.
The concept may appear dated, and these days the islanders see it only as a fun tradition. However, the French poet Charles Baudelaire once wrote, “The greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world that he did not exist.”
In the fantasy television series “Good Omens” a demon named Crawley nicely blends into the fabric of society. He wears modern clothes and fancy sunglasses, lives in a London apartment, talks to his plants, not always nicely, and drives a vintage car. So how would we know he is not one of us?
Then, there is “The Exorcist” … a rather scary movie about a ritual still occasionally performed by the clergy of the Catholic Church.
In a 2013 interview in New York Magazine, the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia expressed his opinion on the matter, stating that we do not see the devil much anymore because “he got wilier.”
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In the capital city of Valletta, Saint John’s Cathedral, completed in 1577, appears to be sporting three clocks, but upon a closer examination only the top one is a real time piece; the other two dials indicate the date and the day of the week.
It is said that there are some 365 churches in the Maltese archipelago, which also includes the islands of Gozo and Comino. That is one church for each day of the year.
Roman Catholicism is the official religion in Malta and the residents enjoy a vast array of Christian holidays and festivals. The Christian faith in Malta goes all the way back to the apostles.
It was the year of 60 AD, when St. Paul the Apostle, who was on his way to Rome, got shipwrecked during a violent storm. According to Christian tradition, he was fished out by the locals and brought ashore along with the other travelers.
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While gathering wood for a bonfire, St. Paul was bitten by a deadly viper but somehow showed no ill effects of the venom. It was perceived as a miracle. During his three months on the island, St. Paul planted the roots of Christianity here, before the New Testament was even written.
Malta is a beautiful, historic Island, known for its picturesque lagoons, ancient fortifications and the order of the Knights of Malta.
Judging by the thickness of the fortification walls in Valletta, life has not always been peaceful.
During WWII, it was referred to as the most bombed island in Europe, suffering great damage from German and Italian air raids.
Queen Elizabeth II made her home here when she was still just a princess and her husband, Prince Philip, was stationed here with the British navy. She enjoyed her life there as it was the only place she called home outside the U.K.
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Malta gained its independence from Great Britain in 1964 and joined the European Union in 2004.
So, if you decide to visit the picturesque archipelago of Malta, do not be tricked by their clocks – the one on the right shows the correct time. The one on the left is for you-know-who.