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Vigil, coming from the Latin word for “awake”, has a positive connotation in the context of religion:

Exodus 12:42 (New International Version)

42 Because the Lord kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honor the Lord for the generations to come.

Other versions translate vigil with less directness but it and some of its derivatives have been on my mind. Words like vigilance, vigilante and vigilantism. These are times for vigilance — being awake while others sleep — when sleight of hand (or mouth) may divert attention from the man behind the green curtain. But there are also negative connotations of the word.

sleight of hand


1. skill in feats requiring quick and clever movements of the hands,especially for entertainment or deception, as jugglery, card or coin magic, etc.; legerdemain. [synonyms: dexterity, adroitness, deftness, skill] “impressive sleight of hand”

2. the performance of such feats. 

3. feat of legerdemain. 

4. kill in deception: “this is financial sleight of hand of the worst sort” [synonyms: deception, deceit, dissimulation, chicanery, trickery]

In writing (as I often do) about Crispin Creek and Gnostic Grove, it occurred to me that, among the many events associated with that special place, it may have witnessed vigilantism of some sort: self-appointed enforcement of the law, without authorization.

Agincourt has been a place to explore the differences between syzygystic pairs — words like justice and the law — that seem closely related, if not actually interchangeable. Etymologically, they aren’t, however, and indeed their divergence is far greater than any perceived similarity. A few of Agincourt’s citizenry, Sheriff Joe Pyne, for example have leaned in the direction of justice when the choice presented itself.


The eponymous “V” got his name from perverted science as the fifth in a series of medical experiments; he is tattooed with “V” as the Roman numeral, though vigilance and vendetta are implied. The film has been on cable more than usual, it seems, driven perhaps by the tenor of these times. Surely in its 160-year history (the history of record), there have been acts of vigilantism at both ends of the spectrum of morality.

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