May 2024


This column is going to press during Passover, which ran from the evening of April 22nd until sunset on April 29th (inside Israel) or April 30th (outside Israel). As most alert readers (ARs) already know, for thousands of years this has commemorated the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. It must be noted that their liberation didn’t come easily, but required a lot of not so gentle persuasion in the form of escalating plagues to induce the Pharaoh to allow them to leave.

According to the Book of Exodus, the first plague turned the Nile River into blood. When this didn’t work there was an infestation of frogs that jumped all over Egypt, even into the Pharaoh’s private quarters. The frogs were followed by a plague of lice and then another one of flies. These were followed by a pestilence that afflicted all of the Egyptian livestock: cattle, sheep, horses, donkeys, oxen, camels etc.

Then came a plague of boils that broke out on people and animals across the land. This was followed by a plague of thunder, hail and fire. Next there were plagues of locusts and darkness. The tenth and final plague, that of the firstborn, gave rise to the term “Passover.” When God passed through the land of Egypt killing the firstborn of every household, the homes of the Jews were spared or “passed over.”

I mention these plagues because scientists have told us to expect a massive swarm of cicadas this spring, as many as a trillion, beginning during Passover. The reason is, the Great Southern Brood (Brood XIX), which is on a 13-year cycle, and the Northern Illinois Brood (Brood XIII), which is on a 17-year cycle, will be emerging simultaneously for the first time since 1803, back when St. Louis was still part of Napoleon’s empire.

Anticipating the criticism of some ARs who know their entomology, I hasten to add that I know that locusts are not the same as cicadas, even though the words are often (and mistakenly) used interchangeably. Locusts can cause extensive damage to crops, as the Egyptians learned to their chagrin. Cicadas, on the other hand, are more benign. They are a valuable food source for birds; they can aerate lawns and improve water filtration into the ground; and they add nutrients to the soil when they decompose. That said, they can make quite a racket, generating calls of around 100 decibels or more, comparable to the noise level of a lawnmower or passing jet aircraft.

Before leaving the subject of Biblical plagues I want to state for the record that The Schlafly Tap Room is on a street in St. Louis named for a tree native to Missouri, not an obnoxious insect. And the recent solar eclipse that was visible south of St. Louis, for which we brewed a special line of beers, was a marvelous spectacle, not at all comparable to the plague of darkness that was placed on Egypt. The traffic to and from the sites for viewing the eclipse, however, was pretty hellish.

In addition to being the second day of Passover, April 23rd was pretty close to the date of William Shakespeare’s 460th birthday and was definitely the 408th anniversary of his death. On this point some ARs might say, “Not so fast.” And they’d be technically correct. It’s true that Shakespeare was born around April 23, 1564 (the exact date is not known.) And it’s also true that he died on April 23, 1616. BUT! And this is important to keep in mind. England was still following the Julian calendar at the time. According to the Gregorian calendar, which the Catholic countries were already following and which England has finally come around to following along with almost all of the rest of the world, Shakespeare would have been born and died on May 3rd.

Several weeks after Shakespeare’s birthday, on May 29th to be precise, The Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis opens its season in Forest Park with its production of As You Like It. Once again Schlafly is proud to be a sponsor of the performances in Shakespeare Glen, which are “free forever to everyone always.” They will feature the familiar poem “Seven Ages of Man” which opens with the oft-quoted line, “All the world’s a stage,” as well as new songs from St. Louis indie singer-songwriter Beth Bombara… all enhanced by a chorus of cicadas making their first combined appearance in St. Louis in over two centuries.





Tom Schlafly
Chairman – The Saint Louis Brewery