Monday, November 30, 2009

Dragons! Creatures of Worldwide Mythology

European dragons are legendary creatures in folklore and mythology among the overlapping cultures of Europe. In European folklore, a drago is a serpentine legendary creature. The Latin word draco, as in the constellation Draco, comes directly from Greek drakon -"gazer." The word for dragon in Germanic mythology and its descendants is worm (Old English: wyrm, Old High German: wurm, Old Norse: ormr) meaning snake or serpent. In Old English wyrm means "serpent," and draca means "dragon."

Though a winged creature, the dragon is generally to be found in its underground lair, a cave that identifies it as an ancient culture of earth. Likely, the dragons of European and Mid-Eastern mythology stem from the cult of snakes found in religions throughout the world.

In Western folklore, dragons are usually portrayed as evil, with the exceptions mainly appearing in modern fiction. In the modern period the dragon is typically depicted as a huge-fire-breathing, scaly, and horned dinosaur-like creature with leathery wings, with four legs and a very long muscular tail. It is sometimes shown with feathered wings, crests, fiery manes, ivory spikes running down its spine and various exotic colorations. Iconically it has at least combined the Chinese dragon with the western one.

Many modern stories represent dragons as extremely intelligent creatures who can talk, associated with (and sometimes in control of) powerful magic. In stories a dragon's blood often has magical properties: for example in the opera Siegfried it let Siegfried understand the language of the Forest Bird. The typical dragon protects a castle or cavern filled with gold and treasure and is often associated with a great hero who tries to slay it, but dragons can be written into a story in as many ways as a human character.

This includes the monster being used as a wise being whom heroes could approach for help and advice, so much so that they resembled Asian dragons rather than the European dragons of myth. Roman dragons evolved from serpentine Greek ones, combined with the dragons of the Near East, in the mix that characterized the hybrid Greek/Eastern Hellenistic culture. From Babylon, the musrussu was a classic representation of a Near Eastern dragon.

John's Book of Revelation-Greek literature, not Roman describes Satan as "a great dragon, flaming red, with seven heads and ten horns." Much of John's literary inspiration is late Hebrew and Greek, but John's dragon is more likely to have come originally through the Near East. Perhaps the distinctions between the dragons of western origin and Chinese dragons are arbitrary, since the later Roman dragon was certainly of Iranian origin: in the Roman Empire, where each particular identifying signum (military standard), after the Dacian Wars and Parthian War of Trajan in the east, the Dacian Draco military standard entered the legion with the Cohors Sarmatarium and Cohors Dacrum (Sarmatian and Dacian cohorts)- a large dragon fixed to the end of a lance, with large gaping jaws of silver and with the rest of the body formed of colored silk. With the jaws facing into the wind, the silken body inflated and rippled, resembling a windsock.

This signum is described in the surviving epitome of Vegetius De Re Militari 379 CE: "The first sign of the entire legion is the eagle, which the eagle-bearer carries. In addition, dragons are carried into battle by each cohort, by the 'dragoneers.' "

I hope to do another "Dragon" article very soon-perhaps tomorrow if I get a chance. I believe all of this information so far is from the "main" dragon section of Wikipedia and the "European" dragon section-I thought it would be good to have a lot of background for the next part. Thanks again for all of your wonderful comments!
The first image is a painting by Viktor Vasnetsov called "Zmey" -the Russian word for dragon and the second image is of a Romanian 5,000 Lei bill with a dragon pictured on top of the buildings.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Dragons! Creatures of Worldwide Mythology

From Wikipedia: Dragons are legendary creatures, typically with serpentine or otherwise reptilian traits, that feature in the myths of worldwide cultures. The two most familiar interpretations of dragons are European dragons derived from various European folk traditions, and the unrelated Oriental dragons, such as the Chinese dragon. The English word "dragon" comes from the Greek language (drakon-dragon, serpent of huge size, watersnake, which probably comes from the verb drakein-"to see clearly").

Dragons are usually shown in modern times with a body like a huge lizard, or a snake with two pairs of lizard-type legs, and able to emit fire from their mouths. The European dragon has bat-like wings growing from its back. A dragon-like creature with no front lets is know as a wyvern. Following discovery of how pterosaurs walked on the ground, some dragons have been portrayed without front legs pterosaur-fashion when on the ground, as in the movie Reign of Fire.

Although dragons occur in many legends around the world, different cultures have varying stories about monsters that have been grouped together under the dragon label. Some dragons are said to breathe fire or are poisonous. They are commonly portrayed as serpentine or reptilian, hatching from eggs and possessing typically scaly or feathered bodies. They are sometimes portrayed as having especially large eyes or watching treasure (very similar to gryphons-see posts below), very diligently, a feature that is the origin of the word dragon (drakein-"to see clearly").

Some myths portray them with a row of dorsal spines. European dragons are more often winged, while Oriental dragons resemble large snakes. Dragons can have a variable number of legs: none, two, four, or more when it comes to early European literature. Modern depictions of dragons tend to be larger than their original representations, which were often smaller than humans, but grew in myths and tales over the years.

Dragons are often held to have major spiritual significance in various religions and cultures around the world. In many Asian cultures dragons were, and in some cultures still are, revered as representative of the primal forces of nature, a religion and the universe. They are often associated with wisdom-often said to be wiser than humans-and longer lived. They are commonly said to possess some form of magic or other supernatural power, and are often associated with wells, rain and rivers.

In some cultures, they are also said to be capable of human speech. The term dragoon, for infantry that moved around on horseback yet still fought as foot soldiers, is derived from their early firearm, the "dragon" a wide-bore musket that spat flame when it fired, and was then named for the mythical creature.

Greek Mythology: In ancient Greece the first mention of a "dragon" is derived from the Iliad where Agamemnon is described as having a blue dragon motif on his swordbelt and a 3-headed emblem on his breastplate, however, the Greek word used-drakon-genitive drakontos could also mean "snake." In 217 AD, Philostratos discussed dragons in India in The Life of Apollonius of Tyana (II, 17 and III, 6-8). The Loeb Classical Library translation (by C.F. Conybeare) mentions (III,7) that "In most respects the tusks resemble the largest swine's, but they are slighter in build and twisted, and have a point as unbraided as shark's teeth."

According to Aelian's On Animals, Ethiopia was inhabited by a species of dragon that hunted elephants. It could grow to a length of 180 feet and had a lifespan rivaling that of the most enduring of animals.

European Dragons: European dragons exist in folklore and mythology among the overlapping cultures of Europe. Despite having wings, the dragon is generally depicted as having an underground lair or cave, making it an ancient creature of the earth element. Chinese Dragons: Chinese and Oriental dragons generally, can take on human form and are usually seen as benevolent, whereas European dragons are malevolent though there are exceptions (one exception being Y Draig Goch, the Red Dragon of Wales). Malevolent dragons also occur in the mythology of Persia and Russia, among other places.

Dragons are particularly popular in China and the 5-clawed dragon was a symbol of the Chinese emperors with the phoenix or fenghuang the symbol of the Chinese empress. Dragon costumes manipulated by several people are a common sight at Chinese festivals. Japanese Dragons: Japanese dragon myths amalgamate native legends with imported stories about dragons from China, Korea and India. Like these other Asian dragons, most Japanese dragons are water deities associated with rainfall and bodies of water, and are typically depicted as large wingless, serpentine creatures with clawed feet. Gould writes (1896: 248) in his book Mythical Monsters: "the Japanese dragon is "invariably figured as possessing three claws."

Vedic Religion: In the early Vedic religion, Vritra, was an Asura (power-seeking beings, sometimes seen as deities and sinful) and also a "naga" (serpent) or possibly dragon-like creature, the personification of drought and enemy of Indra (The king of the Gods of Devas, Lord of Heaven). Vritra was also known in the Vedas as Ahi ("snake"), and he is said to have had three heads.

Persian Dragons: Azi Dahaka is the source of the modern Persian word azhdaha or ezhdeha, (Middle Persian azdahag) meaning "dragon," often depicted upon a banner of war. The Persians believed that the baby of a dragon will be the same color as the mother's eyes. In Middle-Persian he is called Dahaq or Bevar-Asp, the latter meaning "[he who has] 10,000 horses." Several of the dragons and dragon-like creatures, all of them malevolent, are mentioned in Zoroastrian scripture.

I hope people enjoy this next series on mythical/imaginal creatures. I wanted to get more done this morning in this post, but am typing too slow and have to get ready for Thanksgiving. By the way, I hope any Americans dropping by have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend, and any people from other nations a wonderful Thursday and upcoming weekend also! Thanks again for your thoughtful and intelligent comments and links-I really appreciate them!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Unique Physics Experiment?

Ettore Majorana (b.1906) was an Italian physicist, who was famous in his time. Nobel laureate Enrico Fermi, compared Majorana's genius with Newton and Galileo. Fermi was also Majorana's supervisor at the Institute of Physics in Rome. These days Majorana is credited with predicting that neutrinos have mass, something which has been confirmed only in the past decade. He also had an idea that was developed by the famous physicist Richard Feynman. This was called integral path formulation, which states that the state of a particle at any time is the sum of an infinite number of paths that it could have followed until then.

Majorana had the idea a decade before Feynman developed it in 1948. On 27 March 1938, at the age of 31, Majorana disappeared during a boating trip between Palermo, Sicily and Naples. His body was never found, and people have argued over whether he committed suicide, was kidnapped, or changed his identity and began a new life.

In the summer of 2006, theoretical physicist Oleg Zaslavskii of Karazin University, Ukraine, suggested that the ambiguity about the fate of Ettore Majorana was designed by he himself as a "living" demonstration of quantum superposition. This paradox, in which a particle can simultaneously exist in two mutually exclusive quantum states, is usually demonstrated by Schrodinger's Cat, a thought experiment in which the cat can be both alive and dead at the same time-until it is observed.

The poor feline is usually (in thought only) put in a box where a container of poisonous gas is hooked up to a device with a small hammer that will break the glass container that holds the gas and kill the kitty if it is triggered. This is where the observer paradox comes in. The device is always thought to be triggered by the radioactive decay of an atom that has exactly a 50/50 chance of decaying at any one time.

The physics equations tell us that until someone looks in the box and sees whether the cat is alive or dead that the feline exists in a state of being equally alive and dead at the same time! Majorana is thought to have wanted to mirror this paradox with events in his own life, says Zaslavskii. The argument is based on three messages that Majorana sent to his family and to Antonio Carrelli, the head of the Institute of Physics at the University of Naples.

First, he sent a letter expressing his intention to commit suicide, which he followed with a telegram refuting the idea that he was suicidal. In the third letter, Majorana says he hopes that Carrelli received both the original letter and the telegram at the same time. "A sender should hope that the second message came first, to cancel the earlier one with the more disturbing content," said Zaslavskii. Instead, Majorana wanted two mutually exclusive outcomes-his suicide-or survival-to co-exist, making it, as Zaslavskii said, the "quantum mechanical version of the Hamlet question." It was when Zaslavskii looked into the background of Majorana's disappearance that he became curious-and suspicious.

For instance, Majorana is thought to have hired impostors to pose as himself during the boat trip: "I suddenly realized that all these separate and seemingly extravagant details are united by the same underlying idea. It was very impressive," he said. Some people believe that Majorana survived the boat trip and from 1940 to 1973 lived in Mazara, Sicily, under the name of Tommaso Lipari. There he refused any kind of charity, and carried a wooden stick that had a pin at the end to pick up cigarette butts to smoke.

The life 'Lipari' had in the town caused people to call him the "Dog Man" because he lived like a solitary stray dog searching through trash bins. One man who lived in Mazara said that 'Lipari' had confessed to being Majorana. Another was trying to help his son with a difficult mathematics project and found 'Lipari' was familiar with complicated theories in maths and physics and helped solve his son's project.

If Mr. Majorana did indeed do this to "prove a point" in modern physics-and who is to say-I just chanced on the story glancing through old issues of Fortean Times magazine-here is what I wonder (unless he was completely unhinged-this little "experiment" of his would have been extremely cruel on any family members he had if he came from a loving family). I wonder if he did this because he knew if he planned his disappearance well enough, that a lot of people would be looking at his case-looking at him essentially-and trying to decide the truth.

Maybe Mr. Majorana thought "his" reality would change-in the same way of the "Schrodinger's Cat" experiment because of the interaction of different human consciousnesses trying to decide if he was alive or dead? It was just a thought for why someone would do this, and that is if he did indeed do this for reasons of modern science. Certain things about his case are irrefutable-the boat ride-suicide notes-etcetera. I thought it very interesting to think about whatever the truth to the story might be-and very much like the "observer paradox"-maybe it just depends on who is looking? New Scientist, 5 August 2006; Fortean Times 220:09

I hope to be back soon and start again with the mythical (or not so mythical:-) creatures series. Health issues keep on sidetracking me, but hopefully I can get back on course. I do have a lot of information written down already for the next creature-it's just not quite ready to go. Thanks again so much for your kind, thoughtful and intelligent comments!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fairy Cool Stuff!

Originally I was going onto a completely different type of "mythical/imaginal" creature. I do want to do a great deal about the plethora of beings or creatures under the "fairy," "gnome," "elemental," "nature spirit," or "elf" label-but I don't feel I have the quite all the right information to work from yet. However, yesterday I was compelled to write this information down and post it. I do not try to fight intuitions-hunches whatever have you so I wanted to do the following quotes from W.Y. Evans-Wentz's The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries from page 112 to 116 before going onto the next subject/creature: The Testimony of Murdoch MacLean: The husband of Marian MacLean had entered while the last stories were being told, and when they were ended the spirit was on him, and wishing to give his testimony he began:

Lachlann's Fairy Mistress- "My Grandmother, Catherine MacInnis, used to tell about a man named Lachlann, whom she knew, being in love with a fairy woman. The fairy woman made it a point to see Lachlann every night, and he being worn out with her began to fear her. Things got so bad at last that he decided to go to America to escape the fairy woman. As soon as the plan was fixed, and he was about to emigrate, women who were milking at sunset out in the meadows heard very audibly the fairy woman singing this song: "What will the brown-haired woman do. When Lachlann is on the billows?" 'Lachlann emigrated to Cape Breton, landing in Nova Scotia; and his first letter home to his friends stated that the same fairy woman was haunting him there in America.' note: This curious tale suggests that certain of the fairy women who entice mortals to their love in modern times are much the same, if not the same, as the succubi of Middle-Age mystics. But it is not intended by this observation to confuse the higher orders of the Sidhe and all the fairy folk like the fays who come from Avalon with succubi and fairy women in general were often confused and improperly identified the one with the other. It need not be urged in this example of a 'fairy woman' that we have to do not with a being of flesh and blood, whatever various readers may think of her.

Abduction of a Bridesgroom.- I have heard it from old people that a couple, newly married, were on their way to the home of the bride's father, and for some unknown reason the groom fell behind the procession, and seeing a fairy-dwelling open along the road was taken into it. No one would ever find the least trace of where he went, and all hope of seeing him again was given up. This man remained with the fairies so long that when he returned two generations had disappeared during the lapese of time. The township in whihc his bride's house used to be was depopulated and in ruins for upwards of twenty years, but to him the time had seemed only a few hours; and he was just as fresh and youthful as when he went in the fairy-dwelling.

Nature of Fairies.- Previous to his story-telling Murdoch had heard us discussing the nature and power of fairies, and at the end of this account he volunteered, without our asking for it, an opinion of his own: 'This (the story just told by him) leads me to believe that the spirit and body [of a mortal] are somehow mystically combined by fairy enchantment, for the fairies had a mighty power of enchanting natural people, and could transform the physical body in some way. It cannot be but that the fairies are spirits. According to my thinking and belief they cannot be anything but spirits. My firm belief, however, is that they are not the spirits of dead men, but are the fallen angels.'

The his wife Marian had one more story to add, and she at once, when she could began: The Messenger and the Fairies.- 'Yes, I have heard the following incident took place here on the Island of Barra, about one hundred years ago: A young woman taken ill suddenly sent a messenger in all haste to the doctor for medicine. On his return, the day being hot and there being five miles to walk, he sat down at the foot of a knoll and fell asleep; and was awakened by hearing a song to the following air: "Ho, ho, ho, hi, ho ho. Ill it becomes a messenger on an important message to sleep on the ground in the open air."

And with this, for the hour was late and dark, and we were several miles from Castlebay, we bade our good friends adieu, and began to hunt for a road out of the little mountain valley where Murdoch and Marian guard their cows and sheep. And all the way to the hotel Michael and i discussed the nature of fairies. Just before midnight we saw the welcome lights in Castlebay across the heather-covered hills, and we both entered the hotel to talk. There was a blazing fire ready for us and something to eat. Before I took my final leave of my friend and guide, I asked him to dictate for me his private opinions about fairies, what they are and how they appear to men, and he was glad to meet my request. Here is what he said about the famous folk-lorist, the late Mr. J.F. Campbell, with whom he often worked in Barra, and for himself:

Michael Buchanan's Deposition Concerning Fairies: 'I was with the late Mr. J.F. Campbell during his first and second tour of the Island of Barra in search of the legendary lore strictly connected with fairies, and I know from daily conversing with him about fairies that he held them to be spirits appearing to the naked eye of the spectator as any of the present or former generations of men and women, except that they were smaller in stature. And I know equally that he, holding them to be spirits, thought they could appear or disappear at will. My own firm belief is that the fairies were or are only spirits which were or are seen in the shape of human beings, but smaller as regards stature. I also firmly believe in the existence of fairies as such; and accept the modern and ancient traditions respecting the ways and customs of various fairy tribes, such as John Mackinnon, the old piper, and John Campbell, and the MacLeans told us. And I therefore have no hesitation in agreeing with the views held by the late Mr. J.F. Campbell regarding the fairies:

The Reciters Lament, And Their Story.- The following material, so truly Celtic in its word-colour and in the profound note of sadness and lamentation dominating it, may very appropriately conclude our examination of the Fairy-Faith of Scotland, by giving us some insight into the mind of the Scotch peasants of two generations ago, and in their prevailing happy social enviorment under which their belief in fairies flourished. For our special use Dr. Alexander Carmichael has rendered it out of the original Gaelic, as this was taken down by him in various versions in the Western Hebrides. One version was recited by Ann Macneill, of Barra, in the year 1865, another by Angus Macleod, of Harris in 1877. In relation to their belief in fairies the anti-clerical bias of the reciters is worth noting as a curious phenomenon:

'That is as I heard when a hairy little fellow upon the knee of my mother. My mother was full of stories and songs of music and chanting. My two ears never heard musical fingers more preferable for me to hear than the chanting of my mother. If there were quarrels among children, as there were, and as there will be, my beloved mother would set us to dance there and then. She herself or one of the other crofter women of the townland would sing to us the mouth-music. We would dance there till we were seven times tired. a stream of sweat would be falling from us before we stopped-hairful little lassies and stumpy little fellows. These are scattered to-day. Scattered to-day over the wide world! The people of those times were full of music and dancing stories and traditions. The clerics have extinguished these. May ill befall them! And what have the clerics put in their place? Beliefs about creeds, and disputations and churches! May lateness be their lot! It is they who have put the cross round the heads and the entanglements round the feet of the people. The people of the Gaeldom of to-day are anear perishing for lack of the famous feats of their fathers. The black clerics have suppressed every noble custom among the people of Gaeldom-precious customs that will never return.' (Now follows what the Reciters heard upon the knee of ther mother):

' "I have never seen a man fairy or a woman fairy, but my mother saw a troop of them. She herself and the other maidens of the townland were once out upon the summer sheiling (grazing). They were milking the cows in the eventual gloaming, when they observed a flock of fairies reeling and setting upon the green plain in front of the knoll. And, oh King! but it was they the fairies themselves that had the right to the dancing, and not the children of men! Bell-helmets of blue silk covered their heads, and garments of green satin covered their bodies, and sandals of yellow membrane covered their feet. Their heavy brown hair was streaming down their waist, and its lustre was of the fair golden hair of summer. Their skin was as white as the swan of the wave, and their voice was melodious as the mavis of the wood and they themselves were as beauteous of feature and as lithe of form as a picture, while their step was as light and stately and their minds as sportive as the little red hind of the hill. The damsel children of the sheiling-fold never saw sight but them, never aught so beautiful.

" 'There is not a wave of prosperity upon the fairies of the knoll, no, not a wave. There is no growth nor increase, no death nor withering upon the fairies. Seed unfortunate they! They went away from the Paradise with the One of the Great Pride. When the Father commanded the doors closed down and up, the intermediate fairies had no alternative but to leap into the holes of the earth, where they are, and where they will be." I heard upon the knee of my beloved mother. Blessings be with her evermore!"

I hope people will enjoy this detour before going into the next creatures. I should be able to start the next series of articles pretty soon. All the best to anyone stopping by and thanks so very much for your wonderful comments! Without Michael Skaggs at The Hidden Agendas blog there would be no My Favorite Monsters-it was his encouragement that led me to start a blog of my own-so if you have ever seen anything you like here- thank Michael! This bit should have been in the post where I mentioned my year blogging on 16 November. The Hidden Agendas is an amazing blog with a huge variety of topics but I had always intended to point out this series he did last December -Great work Michael and thanks again!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

In The News...

October 1974: By this tiime the controversy over Uri Geller's "wild talents" had divided into two hostile camps. On one side, you had those who believed unreservedly that Geller could bend spoons with the power of his mind (psychokinesis); on the other side (the skeptics who of course included most scientists) were ready to believe he was a complete charlatan on two counts: the phenomenon was so obviously impossible it was absurd (tee-hee that leaves a lotta room for debate) and Geller had fled to England, refusing to perform for a group of skeptics led by the editor of Nature magazine. In the U.S., however, Geller had agreed to be tested by Drs. Russell Targ and Hal Puthoff. These days we know these men were actively recruiting remote viewers for the U.S. military. Strangely enough, the Targ-Puthoff testing of Geller (which did not include spoon-bending) was reported in none other than Nature itself. FT 7:2ff

March 1975: On the second of this month, six schoolgirls were walking along the beach at Llanaber to the north of Barmouth and were astonished to see a huge beast. It looked like a huge turtle but without a shell. The giant creature lumbered across the sand and entered the sea just about 200 yards (183m) ahead of them. They all agreed on the description: it was about 1oft (3m) long and had clawed feet and a long, square tail. It was black in color and had a small head on a long neck and green eyes. It was never identified. There were several reports of a large unidentified sea creature from around the North Wales coast that week. FT 10:18; 11:22

May 1975: Reports reached the international press via Dar-es-Salaam, about a fisherman from southern Tanzania at Kilwa who netted a "fish-like creature." This stirred up some interest because it was said the "fish" had two legs with the human complement of toes! From its chest emerged two arms, two eyes (one of which glowed) and a horn. The staff at Fortean Times asked some of their friends at the British Natural History Museum to ask their contacts in Tanzania for any more news about the stange catch, but nothing more was heard about the marine wonder. FT:15:13

October 1984: The previous month, the Phillipines president Ferdinand Marcos was proclaimed "President of the World Government of the Age of Enlightenment" (sheesh what a name!-I wonder if Imelda was going to be named "Minister of Footwear"?)-oh-I needn't have wondered-his wife Imelda, the First Lady, was named "Crown of Consciousness of the Royal Order." Both awards, in fact, were bestowed by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, whose followers poured into the Phillipines for the actual ceremony in mid-October. Imelda stunned the local newsmen by announcing "There is a hole in outer space through which cosmic rays bear down on our islands."

Other signs and wonders pointing to the greatness of the Marcos clan trickled into the Fortean Times newsroom. These included the arrival of a team from the Austrailian Hollow Earth Society seeking a cave system beneath Manila that led down 19 miles (30km) to another civilization! (they said;-). Within a few months, Ferdinand Marcos became seriously ill, and some reports had him close to death. But the Marcos team was to stay in power until February 1986. Both fled their country to Hawaii then because of widespread demonstrations in favor of Corazon Aquino, who had just ran against Marcos in the presidential election. Aquino was the wife of slain opposition leader Benigno S. Aquino, who was gunned down right at the airport in Manila upon returning home on 21 August 1983. FT 43:24ff

August 1986: The latest series of Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) sightings were still going on in Egypt, months after a mission of the Coptic Orthodox Church looked into the phenomenon at St. Demiana's church. The team from the mission had seen it for themselves in April 1986. Like the apparitions at Zeitoun, a suburb of Cairo, in 1968, most of the sightings were of bright, white lights, likened to the "Holy Doves," but others said they could see the Blessed Virgin "clad in white," sometimes carrying the infant Jesus, or beams of light from the buildings domes. FT48:10

May 1995: On the anniversary of the outbreak of Ebola virus in Kikwit, Zaire and the 19th anniversary of the original outbreak in 1976, Larry Harris, a white supremacist nutter, was arrested in Lancaster, Ohio, for buying a sample of the bacterial agent that causes bubonic plague. He had reconstituted the freeze-dried sample and police were certain that he meant to use it. FT82:10

July 1996: In a bizarre hostage taking plan, that wasn't very intelligent but memorable, Roderick Baker tried to ward off police by holding 140 chickens hostage at knifepoint. The trouble began when sanitation workers, accompanied by the police, were ordered to clean up Baker's trash-filled yard in Uniondale, New York. Baker seized a kitchen knife and threatened to kill one chicken every minute if the invaders did not leave. He had decapitated three before the police stormed in to arrest him. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals then relocated the rest of the chickens to Long Island to "live a normal chicken life." FT 92:11

2001-2003: In 2001, 84 kidnapped garden gnomes were recovered after the Garden Gnome Liberation Front left them on the steps of the cathedral in Saint-Die-des-Vosges, near Strasbourg, with a banner that read "Free at last!" In October the local police station still had 43 unclaimed gnomes, destined to spend the rest of their days in a dusty cupboard. Since 1997, around 6,500 French gnomes have been stolen before being left in forests or at lake fronts. In one memorable case eleven were found hanging from a bridge in Briey, France with a suicide note. Reuters, 28 October; Daily Telegraph, 29, October 2003; FT182:08

November 2003: The Rev. Canaan Sodindo Banana, the first president of independent Zimbabwe, died on 10 November 2003 aged 67 after a long illness. Banana fell (or slipped ;-) from grace in 1999 when he was convicted of homosexual assaults on gardeners, cooks and bodyguards. The scandal tarnished his wonderful reputation (I have to wonder if anyone could possibly be worse than Robert Mugabe) for having helped end the ethnic violence in Matabeleland. Banana fled to South Africa after hearing that Mugabe planned to have him assassinated. His flight to safety spawned a series of punning headlines about his last name in normally serious newspapers. Here are some examples: "Rape Conviction Squashes Banana," "Banana Absconds To Save His Skin," "Banana Splits Zimbabwe," "Banana In Botswana With A Bunch Of Supporters," "Search For Banana Fruitless," "Banana Slips Into SA." Daily Telegraph, 4 December 1998; 12 November 2003; Guardian, 12 November 2003; FT 182:12. The cartoon I hope to post is by Zapiro and appeared in the Sowetan newspaper in 1998.

2006-2007: Demonstrators marched through the streets of Nantes, France on New Year's Eve 2006 carrying banners saying "No to 2007" and "Now is better." They even called the United Nations to stop the "mad race" of time and declared the indefinite suspension of the future.. Fonacon, the group that organized the protest, said that the ending of a year is another step towards the grave and therefore a tragedy, not a cause for celebration and joy. Independent, 9 December 2006; Scotsman, 2 January 2007; FT220:09

I hope you enjoyed these. I also hope to come back and add at least one more image-the cartoon about Rev. Banana. All the best to anyone stopping by!

Monday, November 16, 2009

My Favorite Monsters Turns One Year Old Today!

Here it is- a year later. Time has really flown by this past year. There has hardly been time to really reflect deeply on what is going on in the world these days. Everything seems to be happening so fast to me-and all at once! I have learned a lot more from everyone else and the work at their blogs than they have from me I think. I do hope that here and there I have been able to come up with some interesting thoughts or subjects that people have enjoyed. I hope to be around for another year-hopefully;-) and I hope all of you I communicate with are around a very long time also! Love to all of you and thanks so very much for keeping in touch and reading and commenting!

Gryphons! Creatures From The Imaginal World?

Study of subjects like the gryphons was ridiculed by many in the same forms used to dismiss and "debunk" paranormal phenomena these days. Even among the learned men who did accept the reality of the gryphons, they couldn't agree on all of the details.

Herodotus did believe in the strong, cruel, gold-hoarding eagle-lion. However, the barbarous, one-eyed Arimaspeans were just a bit too much for him to credit! Pausanias repudiated the notion that gryphons had spots, saying, "Those who like to listen to the miraculous are themselves apt to add to the marvel, and so they ruin the truth by mixing it up with falsehood." We can almost imagine a modern "nuts and bolts" ufologist saying the same thing about the field of study being corrupted and discredited by the publication of the more bizarre reports.

Some people wondered if the gryphons were simply more mundane animals that had been misinterpreted and given a gleam of the fantastical, in the same manner theat some scientists believe the Loch Ness Monster is a pleiosaur or a whole family of them that have survived for millions of years, or a landlocked sturgeon or seal. It is very fascinating that the attitudes of ancient skeptics and believers, in everything from their writings, explanations and class dispersions are very similar to the modern day sceptics and believers in the paranormal.

Dr. Mahalia Way, who received her Ph.D. in Classics at Berkeley, thinks that the ancient attitudes towards the gryphons are so similar that we can use them as a case study for how human beings react to the unknown. Here is a quotation from the final part of Dr. Way's article in the June 2003 article of Fortean Times magazine on page 55: "Say you notice unknown lights in the sky, unfamiliar movements in your house, something in the woods, or that your penis has shrunk (tee-hee presumably she means males only for this one!) -pick your favorite fortean subject. Your mind will naturally seek an explanation (this is the great thing about being human). When you find one, do not forget to ask yourself what has shaped your conclusion. All too often, when confronted with things we cannot explain, we interpret them without reflection."

"We are unaware of the patterns of thought and behaviour to which we are susceptible. For instance, why do certain identifications "make sense" to some, but seem ridiculous to others? How much of this is influenced by a person's attitude toward authority? When people claim that certain information will "change the way people see themselves in the Universe," or "be too threatening to the powers that be," what dichotomies are they thinking with? Do their dichotomies paint an accurate picture of the world? Have certain phenomena become "sacred" or "polluted" simply because they do not fit into the way we mentally recognise the Universe? How influential is "distance" (i.e., the necessity of relying upon the descriptions of others for information?) Does it guide us toward some conclusions and away from others? Can the distancing effect of another person's description make unlikely conclusions more credible? To what extent are past theories limiting what we can see now? Are we unable to see the dinosaur before our eyes because there is a griffin standing in the way?"

I really enjoyed Dr. Way's work in this article and this subject in general. Maybe I can find more information on them in the future. As I go forward with the "mythical" beings series I would like to continue to ask questions such as these. Thanks for your wonderfully thoughtful and intelligent comments!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Exoplanet Madness!

Back in April of this year, astronomers announced the discovery of the lowest mass planet ever found outside our solar system. The planet belongs to the Gliese 581 system which now has four planets that have been discovered in it. The Gliese 581 system lies 20.9 light-years (the distance light travels in a year-about 6 trillion miles) from our solar system. The system is the 87th closest system to the sun and is in the constellation Libra (the scales). The 1.9 Earth-mass planet lies too close to its small star to be in the habitable zone (the zone around a star that astronomers and exobiologists presume can support life -more like we know it to be based on) and orbits the small red-dwarf (classification M3V, the V means the star is on the main sequence where a star spends most of its life). This low mass planet orbits Gliese 581 in just over 3 Earth days. The Gliese star has about 33 percent of the mass of the sun.

In the current "Big Bang" theory, which is the dominant theory of how the universe began, and may very well be wrong, the universe isn't old enough for any of its M type stars to evolve off the main sequence as they stay on it for tens of billions -perhaps a 100 billion years. In comparison, our Sun which is a G type star will stay on the main sequence for right around 10 billion years, according to current theories and has used about 5 billion of those up. I will post a link for the stellar classification which goes from type O the largest downward in size to B, A, F, G, K and M. There are ten sub-types in each class running from 0 to 9.

Even though the 1.9 Earth-mass planet is not in the habitable zone, a planet of 7 Earth masses in the same system is. This planet was discovered by the well-known Michel Mayor and his team at the Geneva Observatory. Mayor, along with Didier Queloz discovered the first ever planet detected outside of our solar system on 6 October 1995. This was the 51 Pegasi b planet. So far it is the only planet detected in the 51 Pegasi system, and is larger than the 1.9 Earth mass planet in the Gliese system by a factor of 80. Michel Mayor says it's "amazing to see how far we have come since we discovered the first exoplanet around a normal star in 1995...This is tremendous progress in just 14 years."

Due to its size, it is quite likely that the 7 Earth-mass planet in the Gliese system is not a rocky world like Earth is. In fact, it is conceivable that the planet could be entirely covered by a huge and deep ocean. It is the first likely 'water world' candidate discovered. However, as water is such an abundant element in the universe, astronomers believe there may be countless numbers of these worlds to be discovered. This planet orbits Gliese 581 in about 67 days. It is very fascinating to speculate about what other types of life may be in other solar systems. The water worlds are a good place to start theorizing about other forms of life, as scientists believe life on our planet started in its oceans.

The planets in the Gliese system, as in many other systems (although it is not the only way planets can be detected now) were found by the "wobble" method. When a planet or even a star orbits around another star, astronomers can look at images of the star's light spectrum taken at different times. By comparing the results, astronomers can see a detectable "wobble" in the star's light, and from this they can even tell what the mass of the planet is and how long it takes to orbit the parent star.

Originally, most astronomers only thought life could evolve around stars of stellar types F, G and K. They thought the red dwarf M stars were simply to dim-and many thought that it was unlikely M stars would even have planets due to their small mass. This has certainly been proven wrong.

It is estimated -and of course this is a very, very round number estimate, that there are approximately 70 sextillion stars in the visible universe. That's 7 X 10^22 power of stars. M stars would be about 75% of this number of stars! For reasons yet to be understood, the universe favors creation of low-mass stars over the larger ones. If even just a tiny percent of M type stars can be found to support life, the possibilites for what might be out there in the universe are truly astonishing. The "Steady State" theory of creation is one that posits a universe infinite in space and eternal in time. This theory is coming back into vogue with some scientists. If this theory is correct-and there are many reasons to believe that creation and the universe might be infinite -then who knows what we may discover if we don't blow ourselves up first-or erase ourselves off the face of the planet by any number of other means.

The image is an artist's conception of what a planet in the Gliese 581 system could look like. Here are some links: . I will return to gryphons and mythical creatures the next time I am online. It may not be today as my back is still killing me and I haven't slept in awhile. Thanks again for your great comments and all the best to anyone stopping by!

An Interesting "Timeslip" Case!

I always wanted to do something here about "timeslips"-cases where people believe they see an event from the past or the future happening before their eyes. Sometimes they describe the eerie "Oz" feeling coming over them as this is happening. This case is directly from "The Anomalist" blog from a 12 November entry entitled "A Scottish Spinster at the Battle of Nechtansmere" from CFI blogs. The "Anomalist" is a wonderful site and it is listed on the "great links" part of my blog.

"Mike Dash recounts a fascinating "timeslip" case, in which a witness apparently travels back through time to witness some event in the past at first hand. (my note: timeslips can happen in the other direction-the future-but are reported much less often in that manner. For instance a man had a vision in a near death experience of a house. In this house were a couple of things that were not around during the time of his NDE. One of these was something that was in a wall that he couldn't explain. Later in his life the man realized he had seen his own future house! The thing or device that he had no reference for was a central air unit for the house).

"In this instance, the witness who was at a cocktail party in the town of Brechin (Scotland) on January 2, 1950, came to believe she had experienced the aftermath of the Battle of Nechtansmere, which took place on May 20, 685 in Scotland. In the dark and bad weather, the 55-year-old woman skidded her car into a ditch. Upon continuing her journey on foot she saw groups of lights moving in the distance which, as she walked on, gradually resolved themselves into a shadowy group of figures carrying flaming torches. As the figures approached, she said, "they were obviously looking for their own dead...the one I was watching, the nearest one, would bend down and turn a body over, and if he didn't like the look of it, he just turned it back on its face and went onto the next one..." She then goes on to provide the specifics of the fight, its precise location, and the Pictish dress and equipment of the day, all of which she knew nothing of before the incident." Battle of Nechtansmere information Here

Perhaps I should have posted more gryphon information. I just didn't want to get anyone "burned out" on mythical creatures-including myself-even though I think it is fascinating learning and studying works about them. I thought this would break up the series a bit, and am truly interested in "timeslips" as I am with most things fortean and paranormal. I have a book by the wonderful researcher Jenny Randles called Time Storms about this subject, and can maybe post information from cases in her book here in the future. Thanks again for your wonderful comments and best to anyone stopping by! I couldn't sleep tonight once again due to back pain this time so I was like -what the hell? see if you can find something appropriately weird and wonderful to post about!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Gryphons! Creatures From The Imaginal World?

The creation and sustaining of authority was also a great factor of behavior around these ancient bone discoveries. If one possessed a sacred object one also possessed its power. This authority could even be acquired by cities. Because possession of a hero's body conferred a right to the land it came from, cities all over ancient Greece became very focused on acquiring the bones of heroes from rival cities. This could legititimize one city's dominance over another, and led to a frenzy of unnearthing dinosaur's bones all over Greece in the 7th to 5th centuries BC.

Authority is meaningless unless others know that you possess it. It became quite important to display these bones to the public. The collections grew apace with the passion for collecting bones of the "heroes." Not only bones, but such objects as Medusa's hair, pickled mermen, and the egg Leda laid after her encounter with Zeus which occurred after he had been turned into a swan!

Gryphon claws and eggs were in these collections too and some were still on display in the Middle Ages. That these completely misunderstood bones should have held such importance to the ancient Greeks and Romans shouldn't probably be much of a surprise.

In much later years the Habsburg dynasty and their remains were treated rather "specially" too. In 1618 the church of the Capuchins in Vienna, a 'new' order renowned for an asceticism and evangelizing fervor, was selected as the last resting-place for the bodies of the Habsburgs. However, their viscera and hearts were placed in silver caskets, rather like the Canopic jars of the Pharaohs, and presented to the church of the Augustinian order, where they were kept like Phillip II's relics, in rows behind the high altar. The entrails, the seat of the emotions, were the right of the Cathedral of St. Stephen's, where they were received with due reverence in their silver caskets. There is something in human nature which makes people want to venerate the bones (and other body parts) of mythical (or imaginal) creatures, religious saints and royalty.

Not everyone believed in the truth of what these bones were said to represent. The more orthodox scholars, such as Thucydides and Aristotle, seem to have ignored the subject completely. They-like other men of learning were already sure that the myths associated with such difficult to clarify bones (and the supposed creatures who left them) were false. Others were not so sure. We know now, of course, that the bones were not those of actual gryphons. However, could they have existed on another level of reality alongside us? Daimonic creatures seem to exist along some sort of spectrum, some appearing at the personal level; others at the impersonal level.

From Patrick Harpur's Daimonic Reality: A Field Guide to the Otherworld: "The most stiking of these apparitions come in animal form, notable bird-like creatures, black dogs and cats, lake monsters, and "big hairy monsters...Already these suggest an affinity with a certain element or type of landscape as the Neoplatonists noticed. Olympiodorus, for example, remarked that daimons can be celestial, ethereal, aerial, or subterranean. (He adds, for the benefit of ufologists, that "irrational daimons originate from the aerial governors...") My emphasis added.

I should have about one or two more articles to go for the "gryphon" part of this series. After that, I would like to keep going with looking at other mythical (or not so mythical) creatures and some other things in between. Thanks for your intelligent and thoughtful comments! All the best to anyone stopping by!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gryphons! Creatures From The Imaginal World?

Any theory that we can come up with also needs to explain the huge popularity of the gryphons. Many different cultures over thousands of years were fascinated with them. Could the gryphon have been "made" in the minds of those who coneived of them by combining the actual physical artifacts with conceptual patterns? There are some truly fantastical accounts of peoples and beings encountered by ancient travellers. India was said to be home to many bizarre people-the Sciapodes ("Shadow-feet"), a people whose feet were so large that they blocked the sun by raising their legs! The Headless people of Western Libya weren't blind because they had eyes on their breasts-and so on.

Two patterns can be discerned among the amazing variety of these supposed "peoples." 1) They had a trait that was made extreme by either lack or abundance, or 2) They are an "impossible" hybrid, such as the goat-footed men of northern Scythia, or the flying serpents of Arabia. The one-eyed Arimaspeans would belong in the first category and the gryphons in the second.

To the Greeks it was very important to value perfect physical proportion and to keep groups of things, animals and peoples properly divided. In the Greek mind and philosophy these notions were a very big part of "Greekness." The strange peoples and animals they imagined were a reflection of these ideals, but in a negative form. The Greeks had very exacting ideas about what the perfect proportions of the human body should be, so they thought that grotesquely out of proportion features were extremely interesting.

The "hybrid" people and animals imagined by the Greeks were as equally important as the disproportionate features of them. The Greeks thought that many of the hybrids were horrible because they were often unions of qualities that they thought were mutually exclusive. Hermaphrodites were a case in point. The blurred distinction between male and female was considered an extreme aberration in a strict patriarchy. These days we might not even recognize all unions of opposites because they embody dichotomies that aren't recognized as opposites anymore. The gryphon and the winged serpent would have been seen as hybridized opposites, since they mingle animals of the land with those of the sky.

All too often, we lose track of just how important dichotomies can be to a culture. The very fact that most creation myths rest of the establishment and separation of such opposites, shows us how important they are when looking at the way humans perceive reality. Light and dark, wet and dry, fire and ice or men and animals-each so very different, but each impossible to describe its Janus-faced opposite perspective with. Hesiod's account of creation begins with Chaos a word that originally meant "undivided." Those who threaten these distinctions are exiled from the Garden of Eden or are banished from some sort of primordial paradise forever.

Human interest in creatures who straddle dichotomies and situations where original distinctions become fuzzy is a way for people to explore and "feel" these distinctions. The Greeks also felt a sense of superiority and order when looking at non-Greek cultures. In the Greek world a man was a man, a woman a woman, and a dog a dog-there was no mixing between categories. The Greeks not only felt that there was a superiority to their way of life but their bodies also.

The gryphon also served this purpose, but not for the Greeks. Many years after the gryphon had lost its status as a real animal and had passed into the realms of fantasy, it continued to be a popular representation of opposing forces. Good and evil, God and Satan, Heaven and Hell. The gryphon also took on vastly different "personalities." It could be an extremely unthinking attacker or a victim of thieves, a greedy, vigilant hoarder or a selfless and generous protector. The gryphon, in embodying such opposite meanings, became an easy and safe way to talk about the true meaning of good and evil, charity and greed, etcetera. "Safe" in the previous sentence means several things. Uniting forces that are usually seen to be at opposite ends of the spectrum can be a dangerous practice.

The refusal to identify something as obviously either good or evil can be seen by many not as consciousness raising-but threatening. It can be seen as a way fo questioning the established order. Whatever the case may be-things that defy categorization exist. How does a culture deal with these things "safely." Anthropologists have shown several ways cultures do this. The first is to locate the strange creature or behavior as far away in space and time. Marginal things should be in marginal (or maybe imaginal?) places, the wilderness of the Earth, where the rules and laws of civilized life don't apply anyway.Another way to deal with them was by placing them in the securely vague "once upon a time." In this way they could be conveniently put to death by a hero or champion like Heracles-who bludgeoned many strange creatures to death. Or the creatures could simply disappear.

One way a society could deal with the ambiguous was by declaring it sacred. This was a smart way to deal with uncomfortable creatures and things because they could be accepted by the society, but kept apart from normal life. This was a typical destiny for the dinosaur bones that the Greeks and Romans found close to home. They interpreted these as the bones of gigantic (mortal/immortal) hybrids, as ancient heroes and treated as minor deities. A shrine might be set up or even a priesthood to guarantee the hero's worship in perpetuity. A great example of this is the shoulder blade of Pelops. Pelops was a youth who was chopped to pieces by his father and served to the gods to test their all-knowingness. The scheme was detected, but not before the goddess Hera had eaten a portion of the boy's shoulder, which the gods were kind enough to replace with ivory. Miraculously, Pelops's shoulder was found and enshrined in Olympia along with the rest of his body sometime before the Trojan War!

I hope to have the next article in the series here tomorrow, but can't promise anything. Thanks again so very much for your thoughtful and intelligent comments! The sources I have used or will use (so far) for this series are Wikipedia; Bulfinch's Mythology; Andrew Wheatcroft's wonderful book, The Habsburgs: Embodying Empire; Patrick Harpur's Daimonic Reality: A Field Guide to the Otherworld; and especially for the last two articles, Dr. Mahalia Way's fantastic article in the June 2003 issue of Fortean Times magazine -"The Terrible Griffin." All the best to anyone stopping by!

Gryphons! Creatures From The Imaginal World?

The gryphon was believed to be a real flesh and blood creature well into the Middle Ages. It made its debut in written texts sometime around 700 BC. The illiterate masses were very familiar with the gryphon also, as it was a popular subject from 3000 BC onwards. Skeptics fall all over themselves trying to explain away the gryphons longevity in the consciousness of ancient and not so ancient mankind.

Amazingly, belief in gryphons flourished without a single reported sighting or mythological story to tell among a tribe, town, village or city. It seems that awareness of the gryphon was passed along in the FOAF (friend of a friend) manner. For anyone travelling in the Caucausus region of the world in ancient times it was often necessary to listen to tales told by local Scythians of a mysterious tribe, the Arimaspeans. The Arimaspeans fought the gryphons for the gold they hoarded. The Scythians were a nomadic people whose burial mounds (kurgans) have been found as far west as Hallstatt, Austria, and northwest as Brandenburg, Germany-all the way to surround the Black Sea area, excepting the southern part where modern Turkey is.

The Arimaspeans were said to be one-eyed cannibals! The fantastic tales about the Arimaspeans were not at all ripped asunder by lack of any evidence or direct testimony of them. We can ask why-but yet again why not? Classicist Adrienne Mayer has an interesting theory that the popular belief in gryphons may have originated with actual fossil finds. The parts of the world that the gryphons were said to inhabit-an enormous area stretching between the Altai and Tien Shan mountian ranges and through the Gobi desert-was a popular nesting ground for a real creature.

The protocerartops was a dinosaur that had a wide bony frill arrayed around its beaked head. The remains of not only protoceratops, but other frilled beasts as well, are numerous around the region. In fact, there are so many that some paleontologists consider them a nuisance! Looking at a protoceratops fossil through ancient eyes, it would be very easy to recontstruct a gryphon from the skeleton. There would have been a prominent beak, large eyes and big claws left behind, and these are archetypal features of the gryphon. The bony ridge, of which usually only fragments are found could account for the high ears and the decorative knobs that can be found on some early sculptures of gryphons.

The body of the protoceratops was about the size of a lion. The gryphon has one feature thhat is much debated-wings. These are not always present, and could have been guessed at from protoceratops' avian-like shoulder blades and collar bone, and the fact that it also laid eggs. An extremely fascinating aspect of this ancient detective story is that gold is also common in this very same area. Over millions of years, rainwater has washed flakes and nuggets down from the mountains. These wind up in any shallow area they flow over. The net effect of this would be to make the nests of protoceratops very good places to find a "hidden hoard" of gold. Skeletons of the hatchlings could have led to the other theory that the gryphons fought to protect their young rather than the gold. Such finds may have been the inspiration for an Olympian bronze relief of a gryphon chick crouching underneath its mother's wing.

The tales of the one-eyed Arimaspeans may have also have had a paleontological origin. This is because this same region of our little planet is also home to dwarf elephants and their skeletons. The skulls of these creatures have a large, round nasal cavity in the middle of the forehead, and unusually low eye sockets. In esscence, the people of Central Asia were doing the same thing as modern paleontologists; trying to reckon the appearance and habits of unknown animals from ancient fossils. These people were not aware of the dinosaurs, of course, and different geologic eras, so they compared what the found to what the knew. The Meditteranean traders who heard their descriptions secondhand (FOAF) did the same. The gryps was already a motif in Near Eastern art. The Greeks just gave the Scythian creature a name, although the natives called it something else (Waltraud Bartscht: The Griffin in Mythical and Fabulous Creatures: A Source Book and Research Guide, Malcolm South, ed. (NY, 1987), p 88. It is also possible that the near-eastern images were also based upon Cerotopean skeletons).

Perhaps the mystery of the gryphon is solved then? Not necessarily. The gryphon is such a unique creature that you have to wonder why the ancients just didn't identify the bones as something they were much more familiar with-like a reptile or amphibian? The Chinese and Indians identified the same bones as dragons, and this would seem to make more sense instead of combining a bird and a lion-something the ancients knew was physically impossible. The guarding of the gold seems to recquire quite a stretch of imagination, as the bones were only found with gold. If this is really how a "true" history of the gryphons came about, people were assigning a human value system to them. To be continued...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Gryphons! Background Notes

In his 2006 book 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, Daniel Pinchbeck talks about a subject that might be useful here for this series. At first glance one might think what do the "Grays" of ufology and Gryphons have to do with each other? Hopefully this will illuminate that question. From pages 142-144 of 2012: "The Grays are analagous to bacteria, but operating on the level of the psyche. Earthly bacteria derives energy from breaking down complex organic compounds that they take in from the enviorment. The visitors seem to be entities that sustain themselves from the negative emotions, such as fear and anxiety, emanated by the human nervous system and energy body. Just as earthly bacteria play a crucial role in the global eco-system, we may eventually understand that our infraterrestrial intruders occupy a necessary niche in the ecosystem of consciousness, is it develops or decays."

"Are the visitors "real" or "imaginary"? They are both, and they are neither. Like quantum phenomenon, they do not exist or not exist, they also do not exist and not exist, nor do they both not exist and not exist. According to Dzogchen, a tradition of teachings and practices linked to Tibetan Buddhism, ultimately there are no entities. Any entity only possesses relative reality, including ourselves. Overcoming dualism is essential to Dzogchen, as Chogyal Namkai Norbu writes in Dzogchen: The Self-Perfected State: "Duality is the real root of our suffering and all of our conflicts. All our concepts and beliefs, no matter how profound they may seem, are like nets which trap us in dualism. Where we discover our limits we have to try to overcome them, untying ourselves from whatever type of religious, political, or social conviction may condition us. We have to abandon such concepts as "enlightenment," "the nature of the mind," and so on, until we no longer neglect to integrate our knowledge with our actual existence."

"Entities who manifest in other forms of conciousness, such as the Grays, are, at the same time, separate from us and aspects of our psyche. We are the ground for their manifestation, and it is only by attaining a nondual perspective that we can understand them."

"Reality, according to Eastern mysticism, is maya, illusion-a tonal tapestry, or spectrum of vibrations called, in the Mayan tradition, tlalticpac, the dream-world of Earth. There is, according to Dzogchen, neither being nor nonbeing. However, there may be an infinite number of relatively real entities, possessing varying forms of conciousness. Overcoming dualism, we can recognize such beings as fractal shards or autonomous archetypes of our own psyche, as well as self-directed entities undergoing their own forms of evolution."

"From a nondualistic perspective, it makes sense that some encounters with the Grays are neutral or positive. Betty Andreasson, a woman whose accounts of abductions were published in the 1980s, described a classical mystical vision in which they Grays showed her a giant golden phoenix that was consumed by a flame. In her descriptions, and many others, the intruders reveal an ambivalent polarity. Monsters produced by "the sleep of reason," they have a necessary part to play in the evolution of human consciousness-the process of psychic transmutation that alchemists called the "Great Work."

"Connected to our technological development, the Grays embody a malignant, supersensible element lurking beneath our fascination with mechanization, revealing the irrational basis of our constricted rationality. They also have lessons to teach us. As the critic Lewis Mumford noted, "Our capacity to go beyond the machine rests on our power to assimilate the machine. Until we have absorbed the lessons of objectivity, impersonality, neutrality, the lessons of the mechanical realm, we cannot go further in our development toward the more richly organic, the more profoundly human." Like transhumanist zombies, the Grays embody the reductive perspective that sees everything-matter, genes, human souls-as resources to be used for the purposes of control and domination. In this way the visitors serve as a warning, as well as an innoculation against a nightmarish fate we can recognize, and reject, in the time that remains to us."

"...According to occult tradition, humanity has a responsibility to all of the elemental beings, those other forms of consciousness that express themselves through the natural world. We are supposed to learn to work with the elementals and, also, alleviate their suffering-it is clear from the abduction accounts that the visitors are suffering...They are intelligent and sentient, hence aware of their exiled status. Unable to escape their de-souled condition,they desire to draw humans into their lower world, sustaining their half-lives on our subtle energies. They appear to be utilizing their dream-world technologies in a serious and desperate attempt to find a way out of the cul-de-sac."

I wanted to include this bit from Daniel Pinchbeck's book not only because it is one of the best explanations or theories about the "Grays" that I have ever read (I would be very interested to know what you think)-not necessarily all of our "visitors" by a long-shot. But I also thought this part of his book goes a long way towards explaining the thinking about how something (including us) can be real and not real, or have a relative reality.

These paragraphs from 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl explained in a lucid way not only what and why the "Grays" may be doing here when they visit us-but also gave a wonderful overview of how to look at the "imaginal realm" -the "real" and "unreal" at the same time world, where not only the Grays may come from, but perhaps Gryphons, Dragons, Garudas, Elves, Gnomes, Bigfoot, etcetera-and maybe just maybe this is the realm where our so called "myths" spring from and perhaps we humans ourselves! I say our "so called myths" because one thing I am starting to realize is that it seems that so many "myths" are being played out in our so called "real world" {:-)>{ in "real time" right before our "real eyes"! All the best to anyone stopping by and I hope to have the main "Gryphon" article here in a couple of days. Thanks again for your wonderful comments and links!

Gryphons! Background Notes

The next two articles will be some information that should probably have come first for this series. I always do things bass-ackward around here! This information will largely be about thinking and theories on just what the "imaginal realm" is, if indeed there is one-I believe there is. Henry Corbin (14 April 1903-7 October 1978) was a philosopher, theologian, and professor of Islamic Studies at the Sorbonne in Paris. As a boy he had a profound sensitivity to music. Although he was born a Protestant he was educated in the Catholic tradition and at the age of 19, received a certificate in Scholastic Philosophy from the Catholic Institute of Paris. Three years later he received his "licence de philosophie" under the great Thomist (the philosophical school that arose a a legacy to the work and thought of St. Thomas Aquinas) Etienne Gilson.

In 1928 he encountered the formidable Louis Massignon, director of Islamic Studies at the Sorbonne, and he introduced Corbin to the writings of Suhrawardi, the 12th century Persian philosopher and mystic whose work was to have a huge impact on Corbin's life. The stage was set for a personal drama that had deep signficance for understanding those cultures whose roots lie in both ancient Greece and the prophetic relgions of the Near East going all the way back to Zoroaster.

Years later Corbin said, "through my meeting with Suhrawardi, my spiritual destiny for the passage through this world was sealed. Platonism, expressed in terms of the Zoroastrian angelology of ancient Persia, illuminated the path that I was seeking."

Corbin is responsible for redirecting the study of Islamic philosophy as a whole. In his Histoire de la philosophie islamique (1964), he disproved the common view that philosophy among the Muslims came to an end after Ibn Rushd, demonstrating rather that a lively philosophical activity persisted in the Muslim World-especially Iran and continues to our own time. The philosophical work or Corbin can be divided into 3 phases. The first is the 1920s and 1930s, when he was involved in learning and teaching western philosophy. The second is the years between 1939 and 1946, in which he studied Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi and the School of Illumination in Istanbul. The last begins at 1946 until his death, in which he studied and reintroduced eastern and Islamic philosophy.

It is the second and last phases of Corbin's life that are most important to us. In 1949, Corbin first attended the annual Eranos Conferences in Ascona, Switzerland, where he was to become a major figure along with Carl Jung, Mircea Eliade, Gershom Scholem, Adolf Portmann and many others. In 1954, he succeeded Louis Massignon in the Chair of Islam and the Religions of Arabia. From the 1950s he spent autumn in Tehran, winter in Paris and spring is Ascona.

The 3 major works upon which his reputation is largely based in the English speaking world were first published in French in the 1950s: Avicenna and the Visionary Recital, Creative Imagination in the Sufiism of Ibn 'Arabi' and Spiritual Body & Celestial Earth. His later work on Central Asian and Iranian Sufisim appears in English with an introduction by Zia Inayat Khan as The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism. His magnum opus, as yet untranslated, is the four volume En Islam Iranien: Aspects spirituels philosophiques. His life was spent teaching, working lecturing, and editing critical editions of Persian and Arabic manuscripts. His published work includes over 200 critical editions, translations, books and articles. He presented his last paper in June 1978, entitiled "Eyes of Flesh, Eyes of Fire: the Science of Gnosis." He died later that year.

The term "imaginal realm" is somewhat strange and new to most people. To understand it better we should go to Henry Corbin himself, as he coined the phrase. In his study of Sufi and Persian texts, he discovered that in these literatures there was believed to be a realm that existed above our ordinary three-dimensional reality and consciousness. Some parts of the imagination are clearly unreal. But these same texts also suggest that there is also a place in our minds and imaginations where things are real in a form where they exist independently of the "imaginer"-they have some degree of ontological reality. The imagination would then appear to have two aspects: one is intentionally false; the other comes to us as a "real" place. Corbin used the term mundis imaginalis (imaginary realm) to differentiate between the "imaginary" (i.e. something equated with the unreal or with fantasy) and the "imaginal" (i.e. a world that is ontologically as real as the world we know from our senses and intellect). Something imaginary is "made up" and comes from us, whereas the imaginal comes to us from another realm. The difference would be that of thinking about some fantastic thing like a pink elephant wearing a tutu (imaginary)-and having a dream image of that same elephant (from the imaginal realm).

In Corbin's view and that of Jungian philosophy the motifs, symbols and images that come from the mundus imaginalis are a reality in some dimension other than the sensible and intellectual dimensions that we are more likely to encounter in our workaday world-and that we have been taught (in some societies, like Pavlov's dogs) to value and respect. This concept can be a very difficult one to accept for a person grounded in the materialist and rationalistic perspective. The most unlikely of saviors, however, science is starting to provide a framework for understanding these other realms of being. It can't be stressed enough-and maybe I have gone too far in this blog with these ideas-that science can only take us so far. God, Godhead or Transcendence will never be found in a particle accelerator (although maybe some other things will;-).

These other realms can also be experienced through dreams, prayers, meditation or even when we are moved by some powerful image in our own culture, such as from a film, book, or even the news. I am often very moved by either "real" stories on the news etc-or completely "fictional" stories in books (some books I have read are so good it makes me wonder-only half jokingly here-that the places and characters described in the book might really exist somewhere in some form!). Music also moves my spirit tremendously at times. When an image does make itself known to us, we may be inspired, awestruck, surprised puzzled, or very touched emotionally. Overall these images awaken or stir an emotion or feeling in us.

Looked at from Jungian or archetypal psychology, we are supposed to work with these images not interpret them. Dr. Carl Jung believed that the soul and image/archetype were one and the same. They exist as a mediating factor between body and mind. As a mediating factor, soul/image allows the integration of the body and the mind, which have been so long separated in dualistic consciousness since Descartes, although the split goes back even further in time. Henry Corbin went further in his later work and said that images are the thoughts of the heart and that the heart is the seat of the imagination, which in turn is the true voice of the heart. To speak from the heart is to speak imaginatively. The English poet John Keats said, "I am certain about nothing but the holiness of the hearts affections and the truth of the imagination."

I hope to be back again today with another article -hopefully a bit shorter than this one and to catch up with friends! It is lawyer time now. This is just a strategy meeting and not the actual hearing. All the best to anyone stopping by! I wanted to mention also before I go that there are many fantastic links and comments in the comments section of this blog. Thanks again for all of your intelligent, thoughtful comments and great links and information!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Gryphons! Creatures From The Imaginal World?

I wanted to do a bit about these interesting -mythical? creatures because I think they are so cool. I prefer the "gryphon" spelling instead of the way it is usually spelled-"griffin"-I don't know why. I hope to have the main article about this subject here by the 10th or 11th. Please forgive me for not having it all ready to go. I was getting tired of seeing the post below at the top of the page. The guys and girl in it are very good looking, so it's nothing to do with that. I was just ready for a change.

From Bulfinch's Mythology pages 128-129 and the index: "The Griffin or Gryphon is a monster with the body of a lion, the head and wings of an eagle, and back covered with feathers. Like birds it builds its nest, and instead of an egg lays an agate therein. It has long claws and talons of such a size that the people of the country make them into drinking cups. India was assigned as the native country of the Griffins. They found gold in the mountains and built their nests of it, for which reason their nests were very tempting to the hunters, and they were forced to keep vigilant guard over them. Their instinct led them to know where buried treasures lay, and they did their best to keep plunderers at a distance. The Arimaspians, among whom the Griffins flourished, were a one-eyed people of Scythia. Milton borrows a simile from the Griffins, "Paradise Lost," Book II:

"As with a Gryphon through the wilderness,

With winged course, o'er hill and moory dale,

Pursues the Arimaspian who by stealth

Hath from his wakeful custody purloined

His guarded gold," etc.

Here is the description of the gryphon from Bulfinch's index, page 909: "A fabulous animal, with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle, dwelling in the Rhipaean mountains, between the Hyperboreans and the one-eyed Arimaspians, and guarding the gold of the North."

From Wikipedia: "The griffin (griffon or gryphon) is a legendary creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle. As the lion was traditionally considered the king of the beasts and the eagle was the king of the birds, the griffin was thought to be an especially powerful and majestic creature. Griffins are normally known for guarding treasure. In antiquity it was a symbol of divine power and a guardian of the divine.

Most contemporary illustrations give the griffin legs like an eagle's legs with talons, although in some older illustrations it has a lion's forelimbs; it generally has a lion's hindquarters. Its eagle's head is conventionally given prominent ears; these are sometimes described as the lion's ears, but are often elongated (more like a horse's), and sometimes feathered.

Infrequently, a griffin is portrayed without wings (or a wingless eagle-headed lion is identified as a griffin); in 15th century and later heraldry such a beast may be called an alce or a keythong. In heraldry, a griffin always has forelegs like an eagle's; the beast with forelimbs like a lion's forelegs was distinguished by perhaps only one English herald of later heraldry as the opinicus. The modern generalist calls it the lion-griffin, as for example, Robin Lane Fox, in Alexander the Great, 1973: 31 and notes, p. 506, who remarks a lion-griffin attacking a stag in a pebble mosaic at Pella, perhaps as an emblem of the kingdom of Macedon or a personal one of Alexander's successor Antipater ca. 397BC-319BC). Antipater was a Macedonian general who supported Alexander the Great. In 320 BC, he became regent of all of Alexander's empire."

The first image is one I stole from somewhere;-). The second image is of a gryphon outside of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice. The third image is a very early appearance of gryphons, dating from before 2000 BCE. Two of them are shown with the Sumerian deity, Ningishzida-a Mesopotamian deity of the underworld. Ninghiszida was also a patron of medicine-Ningishzida is the earliest known symbol of snakes twining around an axial rod. It predates the Caduceus of Hermes, the Rod of Asclepius and the staff of Moses by more than a millenium. Here are some links (done the lazy way-sorry!): , ,

Here is a link to Loren Coleman's Twilight Language blog that Anadae Effro was kind enough to point out about the sad death at the age of 34 of paranormal/Fortean/UFO investigator Mac Tonnies Loren Coleman's blog has many other fascinating articles in it also for people interested in all sorts of different subjects.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

In The News...

November 1975: On 5 November one of the most controversial cases of abduction by UFO occurred. It happened in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, in northeastern Arizona. Travis Walton, who was one of seven forestry workers saw an unusually bright light in the night sky above the trees, as the men were going home. Travis got out of the truck to approach it and was struck by a beam of light. When his colleagues searched and couldn't find him, it was assumed that Walton had been taken up into a UFO. This was the first case of an "alien abduction" in which the search for the "abductee" was conducted with the story producing not only U.S. but international interest. Five days later, Travis Walton appeared. He was dazed and had a terrifying tale of his ordeal at the hands of bizarre "gray" type alien "doctors." His family and friends conspired to sell the story to the National Enquirer (one of whose writers later said that most of the story was made up under the influence of hypnosis and booze) a few days before Walton was allowed to speak to anyone else.

Walton would later write a book about his ordeal. Fire in the Sky, a movie about his experience was made using his account in the book. Most ufologists these days don't believe Walton's tale, as it began to fall apart as soon as it was investigated. However, the story was enormously influential in molding the publics conception of UFO, their occupants and the alien abuction process. FT13:5. Walton case link HERE

November 1976: Roger Sandall, one of the founders of the periodical Magonia sent Fortean Times magazine a story of extreme strangeness this month. This story could have been a clever hoax, but did appear in the Guardian at the close of the month. The story-truth or fiction-has some fascinating elements in it either way. In an anonymous letter, a 'Wiltshire schoolteacher' spoke of a"peculiar incident" when he taught in an East Anglian village school. One December day, "a lad brought me a small plastic toy pistol he had found near the school" and thinking little of it, the teacher put it away in the expectation it would be claimed later. During a "hectic" afternoon, the teacher became exasperated at the ceaseless talking from a girl and, on impulse, pointed the toy at her "saying, mentally, 'Gotya!' To my astonishment she immediately vanished." The stunned and amazed teacher continued with the class until the kids went home ("OZ Factor?"), then sat in the classroom unsettled by the event. He became aware of a man, "wearing a boiler suit," standing close to him. He thought the man was a parent until, silently, the man held out his hand, in which held yet another toy pistol!

"Wordlessly, I passed the first one over to him." The odd man checked it, flicked a ratchet and pointed it to a corner of the room. "To my utter amazement [the girl] reappeared," still talking as she realized school was over and she could go home. The stranger left too, leaving the teacher more puzzled than before. This story contains the classic element of 'misuse of a fairy gift.' Once it is taken into account that the school caretaker claimed to have seen "strange orange lights" on the playing field the previous evening there is yet another merging between ufology and its "metalogical" visitors. FT21:30f

June 1984: A letter to the Times proclaimed some religious phenomena had happened in Poland during the period of the famous strikes by the Solidarity Union in Gdansk. a wooden cross close by in Lublin, was said to have wept salty tears and the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared in a manner that a person could physically touch. In a fascinating twist Fortean Times magazine had mocked up a cover for their issue #36 of a Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) apparition outside the Gdansk shipyard gates over two years earlier, but they never used it.FT43:8-9

November 1986: A beautiful location in Rostrevor, Ireland, known to locals as Fairy Glen, came under attack by Armagh county housing planners. Just a year before, a 'fairy tree' at Ballybott in Newry, was put under a smilar situation by county planners who wanted it moved to make way for a new housing estate. At Rostrevor, however, no such fairy tree or stone was concerned, instead the angry locals claimed that the land belonged to a colony of 'little people' they called "the Brooneys" who lived there. FT48:15

May 1994: This month a postman, Tony Ingle, 51, and his wife, Susan were staying in their camper at Laneside, England on the Derbyshire Moors. On the sunny afternoon of 5 May, Mr. Ingle was out walking along nearby Aston Lane with his retriever, Ben. Sometime between 4:40 and 5 p.m. he saw a huge World War II airplane, only 40 to 60 feet above the moors and banking to the left, obviously in some sort of trouble. "I was so convinced it was going to crash," he said, "I raced 100 yards up the lane to a gateway and the plane went out of sight. I expected to see the wreckage, but there was nothing, just an eerie silence and the sheep grazing. Then I realized as I calmed down a bit that although I had seen the propellers turning, the plane had been absolutely silent."

Tony remembered the plane in such detail that he was able to identify it later as a WWII era Dakota. Research at the Sheffield Journal showed that Mr. Ingle's sighting was only 50 yards from where a USAF Dakota crashed in heavy mist in July 1945, killing all seven crewmen. In the last week of June, a plaque commemorating the dead Americans and the six-man crew of a Royal Canadian Air Force Lancaster which crashed near the same spot a few weeks earlier, on 18 May 1945, killing all six crew, was unveiled 1,800 feet upon Bleaklow moor. Mr. Ingle's sighting wasn't the first. Over the last 30 years, several people claim to have seen ghostly aircraft in the area. "I don't believe in ghosts. I am just not that type. I can't explain what I saw and I find it very disturbing. Since it happened, the dog will not go up that lane," said Mr. Ingle. Sheffield Journal 1 June 1995; Strange Days #1 (a collection of stories from Fortean Times magazine) pg 103.

October 1994: A couple of reports from the L.A. Weekly talk of odd happenings at the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace since the 37th president was entombed there on 26 April 1994. These happenings include a night watchman who claimed to see a luminous green mist over the president's grave. He also claims to have seen a man enter the house where the former president was born. When he went to arrest the culprit, no one was there and the door was locked. He has also heard tapping sounds emanating from the Watergate display room. On several occasions, the audiotape machines that play the Watergate tapes have malfunctioned. Could the restless spirit of the old crook be trapped here on the Earth plane? L.A. Weekly, Sept 30, 1994, October 6, 1994; Strange Days #1, page 103. A new link HERE about happenings regarding Nixon's library.

November 1995: Puerto Rico's famous and infamous 'goat-sucker'-El Chupacabras had been in its local media since March 1995. The mayor of Canovanas, Jose Soto, claimed farms on the outskirts of town had been attacked at least 35 times in eight months. The international news media carried the story in November with the iconic drawing of the bizarre cryptid (or nightmare!), bu the island's best known ufologist, Jorge Martin. This created the archetypal Chupacabras image of a snarling, vampire-fanged mix of a crazy wolf and rabid "manimal" with strong kangaroo-like legs and spiny bristles down its back. FT85:9

March 2004: The former chairman of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London was found garroted in his bed, surrounded by cuddly toys and a bottle of gin, at his palatial, locked apartment in Kensington, West London, on 27 March. Richard Laceleyn Green, 50, who co-edited a book about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the fictional detective Holmes, was found with a shoelace tightened around his neck with a spoon. Pathologist Sir Colin Berry said this form of death was so unusual that he had only come across it once before in 30 years. Nicholas Rathbone Utechin, a relative of cinema's Sherlock Holmes portrayer Basil Rathbone and a friend of Richard Green, said his death had revived rumors of "the curse of Conan Doyle," that several people associated with the late author had suffered death, nervous breakdowns and other assorted unpleasantness in their lives.

In the days before his death, Green had become paranoid. He told friends that his house was bugged, he was being followed and a mysterious American was out to impugn his reputation. He was also upset about the imminent sale of a collection of Conan Doyle's papers, which he thought should go to the British Library. On 23 April 2004, coroner Paul Knapman recorded an open verdict. He said there was insufficient evidence to rule whether it was a suicide, murder, or a deviant sexual act taken too far. The Conan Doyle auction made almost one million pounds on 19 May 2004 (about the equivalent of 1.4 to 1.6 million US dollars I think).Guardian, Daily Telegraph, 24, April; 20 May 2004. FT186: 31.

August 2005: In this month, the late dictator of Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niyazov, commonly known as "Turkmenbashi," banned miming. "One can see on television talentless old singers lip synching their old songs," he said at a cabinet meeting aired on state television. But wait-that's not all! In a move to "protect" Turkmen culture from "negative influnces," he then banned lip synching and recorded music at public events, weddings, private parties and in restaurants. A few days earlier, he banned female news presenters from wearing make-up and dyeing their hair. Turkmenbashi took three months pay away from his education minister, blaming him for falling standards in schools. This was hardly unexpected, because in June 2004 Turkmenbashi fired all the teachers who had qualified abroad, including Russia (Turkmenistan was a former Soviet republic), and this pretty much wiped out the profession. On 24 August 2005, a copy of the Rukhnama (Book of the Soul), Turkmenbashi's unreadable book, which all Turkmen are obliged to study, was sent into orbit in a container launched from a Russian facility in Kazakhstan. Daily Telegraph, 25 August 2005; Brisbane Sunday Mail, 28 August 2005; FT203: 11. Read more about Turkmenbashi HERE ;-)

June 2006: Teacher Sue Messenger, had schoolchildren hunting for clues at a mock crime scene she staged during a class outing in Florida. Unfortunately, her students from St. Thomas Aquinas High School, stumbled across the body of an actual corpse. David Bodie, a 45 year old homeless man had died in a corner of the Fort Lauderdale park she had chosen for the summer school excercise in criminology. Initially, her 29 students thought the body was a really good fake. Guardian, 7 June 2006; FT216:22

I hope someone enjoys this. I will now try to see if my links work-which they often don't and hopefully correct those, and any other mistakes. Best to anyone stopping by! A note on the images. The first image is a poster for "Fire in the Sky" the 1993 movie about the Travis Walton case. The second image is our own "Tricky Dick" in all of his former glory, and the last image is of "Turkmenbashi" in all of his former glory. Some have said "Turkmenbashi" resembles the singer Wayne Newton. I will leave it up to the reader to decide whether they agree;-) Edit-of course one of my links doesn't work and I can't get it to. Not gonna mess with it anymore this am -(it is the Nixon Link) do a Yahoo search typing in "Richard Nixon Haunting" and it will be the third link down-a 2009 LA Times article "The Past Haunts the Richard Nixon Library." Sorry for the technical difficulties!