Do Aliens Glow in the Dark?

Astronomers have been searching our cosmos for decades trying to find intelligent life. Every year, our ability to locate intelligent life grows and our technology expands. But could the key to intelligent life be looking for a bit of the shine? I’m not talking Stephen King’s shine...but, glowing planets.

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This August, Cornell’s Carl Sagan Institute released Biofluorescent Worlds II: Biological Fluorescence Induced by Stellar UV Flares, a New Temporal Biosignature, which was published in the Monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. This paper, in short, purports that we may be able to find an alien world by looking for glow. The idea is similar to how bioluminescence works here on earth. Some creatures render potentially harmful ultraviolet radiation into harmless visible wavelengths. These wavelengths create the glow, and also indicate life.

Blaine Friedlander, of Cornell, writes: “Astronomers generally agree that a large fraction of exoplanets – planets beyond our solar system – reside in the habitable zone of M-type stars, the most plentiful kinds of stars in the universe. M-type stars frequently flare, and when those ultraviolet flares strike their planets, biofluorescence could paint these worlds in beautiful colors.” 

As our telescopes begin to develop and become more advanced, they may be powerful enough to catch the glow from these small planets to further analyze. We aren’t quite there yet, but it is estimated that in 10-20 years the telescopes developed will be able to capture this glow.

This bioflurescence may have the ability to expose biospheres we would not notice otherwise, thanks to the glow that occurs when a flare from a star hits the planet. Lead author of the paper, Jack O’Malley-James notes, "These biotic kinds of exoplanets are very good targets in our search for exoplanets, and these luminescent wonders are among our best bets for finding life on exoplanets,"

Currently, there are a few potential exoplanets that may have a bit of shine. One of them is named Proxima b, which orbits Proxima Centauri (the closest star to earth, besides the sun).

Dr. O’Malley-James, succinctly summarizes this new way to search for life: "This is a completely novel way to search for life in the universe. Just imagine an alien world glowing softly in a powerful telescope.”


Image Source: ‘Artist's impression of the exoplanet Proxima Centauri b shown as of a arid (but not completely water-free) rocky Super-Earth. This appearance is one of several possible outcomes of current theories regarding the development of this exoplanet, while the actual look and structure of the planet is known in no ways at this time. Proxima Centauri b is the closest exoplanet to the Sun and also the closest potentially habitable exoplanet as well. It orbits Proxima Centauri, a red dwarf with a surface temperature of 3040 K (thus hotter than light bulbs and therefore whiter, as depicted here). The Alpha Centauri binary system is shown in the background.‘ The image is liscensed under CC BY 4.0, ESO/M. Kornmesser.

Baba Yaga: An Overview

For centuries, stories of the famed Baba Yaga have frightened children across the globe. Her origins in Slavic folklore is of a wild, wicked witch who is often accompanied by frightening companions and an even more frightening house. Her name, “Baba” is often ascribed to a mother-figure, although children cower from Baba Yaga. In some countries, like Poland, “Babica” connotes cruelness and ugliness. The origin of the ‘Yaga’ is not entirely clear but, it has been compared to words meaning abuse, horror, witch, and pain. Baba Yaga has been a staple in Slavic folklore so much so that stone statues and altars are often discovered dedicated to her, hoping to keep their children safe.

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Unlike typical depictions of witches, one of the most interesting things about Baba Yaga is how she gets around. Instead of a broom, she moves around in a low-flying mortar. Historically, mortars were used for cooking and other domestic tasks so it is just a slightly weirder broom...if you think about it. She steers this giant mortar, sitting at the top, with a large pestle that can also be used as a weapon. Although in some versions of folklore, she can fly...many acknowledge this stranger form of travel. She also moves thanks to her mobile home. Her home is similar to Slavic stilt homes...except instead of wooden legs, Baba Yaga’s house is supported on chicken legs which dance her and her home through the forest, allowing her access to new victims every night.

However, if you are pure of heart you have no reason to fear Baba Yaga. Baba Yaga seems to prefer to prey on those who have a long list of misdeeds or naughty children. It is said, though, that if she does decide to make you her prey...it may at first seem like salvation. Though her appearance may frighten you at first, she will bring you to her home after you have been hopelessly lost in the forest. Then, she will warm you up by he fire and feed you. However, you won’t realize that you’re sitting on a giant shovel...which, at your moment of highest comfort, she’ll jump on to throw you into her stove.

Baba Yaga, depending on the story or origin of the folklore, is usually believed to be different things. In some stories, she is a witch (this is the most typical) and something for children to be afraid of. In some stories, she is a manifestation of winter and represents the harsh reality of what happens to one when they are lost in the woods. In others, she is some sort of hag-like goddess related to weather. Despite the question of “what” Baba Yaga is, her physical description remains fairly consistent. This is surprising for a being whose origin changes from story-to-story. But one thing is for certain, no matter what Baba Yaga you meet in the woods, she’s going to physically frighten and disgust you. 



The header image is by Viktor Mikhailovich Vasnetsov - http://slavput.ru/archive/gallery/ and is in the public domain.

Kodama

You might have read ‘Kodama’ and thought instantly of Princess Mononoke. While Kodamas appear in Princess Mononoke, they are stories Yokai with a rich folklore history in Japan. These spirits are known as protectors but, if wrong, can bring ruin to a person or even an entire town

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Kodamas are closely associated with trees and typically reside in them. Although they rarely leave their tree-homes, when they do they are typically said to look like small humanoid orbs of light. Some people believe they are the very soul of the trees. Other folklore says they are the gods of the trees and use their presence to protector the forest, especially the older trees. 

If taken care of appropriately, the Kodamas will bless the forest and the land with fertility. Additionally, they are said to be able to bring good luck to those near them. Some of the oldest trees had small shrines built at their base and nearby villagers would come and pray to them and tend to the forest.

They are said to prefer the oldest, largest trees in an area and stay inside them to protect the ancient tree and the forest as a whole. If you ever come across an older tree in the forest you should pause before you cut it down. First, check to see if there is a rope tied around the tree. This rope is a sacred, blessed rope called a shimenawa that denotes that Kodamas are living in the tree. If you don’t see a shimenawa, it is still suggested you cut into it a little. If the tree bleeds it is a sign that Kodamas are currently inhabiting it. 

However, if you decide to just hack into a tree or ignore the blood warning the Kodamas will seek their revenge. How? You may have bad luck for a few days, or years...or perhaps forever. In some cases, an entire town is cursed. 







The above image is of inside Kasugayama primeval forest in Nara (Nara prefecture), taken by CK Tse. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.


Why Do Ghost Hunters Use EMF Readers?

If you’ve ever watched a ghost hunting show, or perhaps even gone on a haunted tour there’s a good chance you’ve heard of an EMF reader in association with connecting to the otherside. Let’s start with the basics: EMF stands for electromagnetic field and an EMF reader, in the non-paranormal world, is usually used to find wiring issues and other electrical anomalies. So, how did they wind up in the ghost hunter’s toolbox?

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The basic understanding is that ghosts (or energy from the otherside) are supposed to cause unusual, unexplained spikes which can be captured by EMF readers. This is simply a theory and has not been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. Much of the theory is actually based on the law of thermodynamics - energy cannot be created or destroyed, only change in form. Thus, when people die their energy must change in form…and perhaps that form can be noticed by electromagnetic spikes.

i09 reports, “Professor Johnjoe McFadden from the School of Biomedical and Life Sciences at the University of Surrey proposes that the conscious mind consists of an electromagnetic field, a field that does not disintegrate when we die. The firing of electrical impulses along nerves in the brain is sort of like an alternating current system as well, but with a lot more directions and cascade effects.”

Now, EM waves constantly bombard us in the world and in our homes so it is not the existence of EM waves that are notable, but rather their fluctuation. An EMF meter measures this by working off an inductor. This inductor than senses a changing magnetic field and induces a small voltage. The EMF reader than amplifies this voltage and gives an output measurement to the user.

To correctly use an EMF reader (or, as correctly as possible) it is suggested you calibrate your EMF. To calibrate, place two identical EMF readers next to each other, turn them on, and make sure there is no reading, then place the second one about a foot away...make sure they read the same and you’re good to go! After you calibrate, you should also take some baseline readings and note the lowest and highest EMF readings in the area you’re ghost hunting. Doing this will help you better understand when you’re seeing a spike. As a note, a spike of 1.5 points or more is considered strange, so be sure to investigate. Finally, be sure to be critical of the EMF readings you gather - why are there spikes? Have you eliminated the obvious? What could be manmade?

Once you have found the most interesting reading in the room, you can move onto the next item on your toolbelt and record an EVP or, for something a little different, try out the Estes Method...which I wrote about in a different post.


The above image does include and EMF reader but is of Harry Price's ghost-hunting kit, which amongst other things contained both reflex & cinematograph cameras, tools for sealing doors & windows, apparatus for secret electrical controls, steel tape, drawing instruments, torch, bottle of mercury and powdered graphite for developing finger-prints. It is liscensed under the Public Domain.

Finfolk

Throughout the world, there are many myths regarding humanoid creatures that dwell in watery depths (we’ve even covered some on the blog, like Rusalka and Qalupalik), so it is no surprise Celtic mythology has their own spin on the mermaid myth. Finfolk hail from Orkney and are sorcerers of the sea and fathers of mermaids.

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Finfolk, like many sea-dwelling humanoids, generally resemble humans in shapes and forms, and do not have a fishtail like other mythical mermaids. However, their bodies are draped by fins which are said to resemble cloth and clothing, so they can just barely pass as typical humans and can even be difficult to tell apart at a distance. The closer you get, though, the more obvious their fins become.

Finmen were said to be athletically built and have brooding faces with sad eyes. Finmen often made deals with human fishermen and would help them for an exchange of goods, or sometimes even currency. However, one would have to be wary of where one was fishing. Finwomen were known to be haggard and swarthy. However, in their youths they were always beauties. Unlike Finmen, Finwomen began their lives with a fishtail and would live out their maidenhood as mermaids. During this time, many of these young Finwomen/mermaids would feel compelled to marry a human man. If they were to marry a human man, she would remain beautiful. However, if the mermaid married a Finman she would turn into an ugly Finwife. 

Although they often haunted the shores of Orkney and even human towns near the sea, the Finfolk did have their own kingdom and town named Finfolkaheem. This was located in the bottom of the sea and was known as an underwater paradise, described similarly to opulent fairyland. The town was centered around a gorgeous coral palace with sprawling gardens and dozens of Finfolk. The houses were often laden with pearls, some rumored to be the size of boulders, and due to the number of pearls said to be around Finfolkaheem many humans attempted to find it.

Certain locations are reserved for Finfolk only and if a human is found fishing in one of these locations, the FInfolk would show no mercy. Finmen would often place a small hole in the boat in a place that would be unnoticeable until the fisherman was out to sea with little hope of saving his boat, or even himself. 

Some Finfolk were also said to be sorcerers and were much feared. They were often known to steal away humans, to keep as husband and wives, in their underwater palaces or the magical, unfindable islands they called home. Unexplained disappearances and sudden deaths were often attributed to Finfolk, particularly Finmen who often stole away human women to avoid the fate of marrying a Finwomen.


The Light at the End of the World Shadowgate from Novara, ITALY - The Light at the End of the World liscensed under CC BY 2.0.

Second Sight in Scotland

The Scots are well known for being a culture enmeshed in folklore, fate, and fairies. One of the less-discussed traditions is that of the Second Sight. Although this is in no way unique to the Scots, their seemingly endless stories of prophets and seers make the version of the Scottish Second Sight quite interesting. Often, those with Second Sight have to live with the burden that their knowledge usually foretells destruction and disaster. But how does one get Second Sight, and what are some of the most popular tales from the Highlands?

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In Scotland, it is usually called “an da shealladh”, which translates to “two sights.” 

The knowledge of the Scottish Second Sight reached beyond the Highlands, though. The first professor of mathematics at the University of Glasgow, George Sinclair, wrote in his book Satan’s Invisible World Discovered, “I am undoubtedly informed, that men and women in the Highlands can discern fatality approaching in others, by seeing them in waters, or with winding sheets about them.”

Although in some cultures, having second sight is considered a gift in Scotland it is regarded as a misfortune and heavy burden. In fact, it is even to be feared as it is believed Second Sight comes entirely from the ‘otherworld.’ In Scottish lore, the otherworld is a realm of supernatural beings that exist beyond the bounds and constraints of the human world. Additionally, Scottish Second Sight is not wholly related to fortune-telling, it is largely only able to see the outcomes of those far away and/or about to die. 

In some cases, Second Sight was given to people by otherworld creatures or randomly shared with at birth...and in some rare cases, there were even ways one could win the Second Sight for themselves. A ritual called Taghairn was one way to achieve Second Sight. This is a surprisingly intense ritual and involves ritualistic sacrifices of cats. You have to roast a number (usually 5-7) live cats over multiple days. The person performing the ritual would not be able to eat, sleep, or take a break from constantly turning the spit over the fire. Once a cat died, another would replace it and the ritual would continue. In retribution for their horrible deaths, the spirits of the cats would slowly begin to return to haunt the person performing the ritual. The goal of the cats would be to drive the ritual performer mad and end the ritual. 

Eventually, the Cat-Sith, a powerful cat demon, would arrive to bargain with the torturer to end the killing of the animals. In this exchange, you could request Second Sight and be given it. However, you will eventually pay a heavy price. According to lore, everyone who carried out this grisly, heinous ritual would die in painful or horrendous ways. 

However, stories of those who received their Second Sight without the help of a ritual often became as legendary as the Second Sight itself. Kenneth Mackenzie, also known as the Brahan Seer, is one of the most well-known Highlanders with Second Sight. Kenneth’s Second Sight was not born out of random chance and, instead, comes from the actions of his mother. Mackenzie’s mother met the spirit of a powerful Danish princess and promised to lead her back to her grave...as a thank you, the princess declared her child would have Second Sight. Kenneth, a young child at the time, awoke the next morning with a strange stone with a hole cut through its middle in his bed. He picked it up and peered into the hole and was instantly overcome with visions. As time wore on, he began to be able to control his gift which made him a powerful tool to powerful men, since he could make predictions for his own clan and the Highlands as a whole. In fact, he even saw the downfall of his own clan.

One day, he described what the Second Sight had shown him...and it was very specific: “When the big-thumbed sheriff officer and the blind man of the twenty-four fingers shall meet, then MacNeil of Barra shall prepare for a flitting“ (flit, in this case, is slang for moving). While strange, this specific prophecy came to fruition in 1838 when the last of the MacNeils of Barra left Kisimul Castle behind bankrupt and left the seat of the clan. Most of his predictions follow this vein, with many being very specific and a little macabre.

Although the lore of having second sight is not unique to the Scottish Highlands, there is no doubt that the Highlanders have their very own specific version of the power and burden of premonition.

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. Attribution: Keith Ruffles.

El Silbón

El Silbón, The Whistler, is a legendary figure that hails from Colombia, specifically Los Llanos. The legend of El Silbón was born, allegedly, when a vindictive young man murdered his father out of rage when he did not bring home the groceries he requested (a deer heart). The rest of his family was horrified at this cruel act and his brother punished him by whipping him and spreading hot pepper on the wounds and chased him out of the family home with a dog. It is unclear how he became the legendary El Silbón, seemingly ageless and with great power, but he has been doomed to carry a bag of his father’s bone and torture the living ever since.

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Although El Silbón was once human, his appearance has become warped and changes from his years hunting in the plains. He is said to be alarmingly thin and surprisingly tall, towering above all others at seven feet tall. He wears a tattered white suit, a wide-brimmed hat, and shoes that are close to falling apart. It is said the dog his brother sent after him is still after him, and whenever El Silbón slows down too much he bites and attacks him. 

But how did he get his name? El Silbón, which translates as The Whistler,  because he whistles as he makes his way slowly across the plains. The tune is said to be the musical notes C,D,E,FG,A,B (in that order). It is said his whistle, in particular, catches the ears of drunks and angry men. Whistling alone would be upsetting enough, but El Silbón likes to toy with his victims and changes the distance of his whistling. It is said that the whistling sounds close when he is far away and out of sight, and far away when he is right on his victims back.

He is said to particularly hate womanizers and drunks. If the El Silbón runs into a drunk, it is said he will suck the blood and alcohol from them, wizening them and killing them. To womanizers, he tears them limb from limb and adds their bones to the sack on his back, along with his father and other victims.

However, it is said that by the time you notice the whistling at all you are already doomed. Although some are said to have escaped El Silbón, very few live to tell their tales. One can escape by carrying around a whip, having hot peppers on their person, or even making sure their dog is near them. These are the only earthly things that El Silbón fears and could keep him at bay.



This image, taken by Alejo Rendón (David), is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

 


The Grand Grimoire

Grimoires are one of my favorite astonishing things to explore. At their core, grimoires (despite their spooky name) are simply textbooks of magic and spells. However, some grimoires are black magic grimoires and imbued with evil and power...like the one we’re talking about tonight. The Grand Grimoire, also known as the Red Dragon, focuses its content primarily on how to communicate with the Devil, specifically how to summon a demon (or the devil) and instructions on making pacts with demons. Additionally, it does provide some of your basic spells for love, talking to the dead, and making oneself invisible. 

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According to legend, it was said to be written around the 16th century but didn’t surface until the 18th century during the grimoire boom in France during this time in which is was reproduced. Furthermore, the original Grand Grimoire is said to be kept in the Vatican’s Secret Archives and the Church does claim official ownership of this strange relic. The original Grand Grimoire is said to have supernatural powers in and of itself...it is said that it cannot be burned, torn, or in any way damaged or torn apart.

Speaking of the original, it was first discovered in Jerusalem in 1750, somewhere in the tomb of Solomon. It was written in Biblical Hebrew and/or Aramaic. However, the book itself is inscribed with a date of 1522. Some theorists believe that the manuscript was copied orally or from a different original source and that the first version was created as early as the 1200s (though, obviously, little to no proof exists of this timeline) but there is a link to Honorius of Thebes. Honorius, like many occult figures, has not had his existence concretely proven...or disproven. Some people believe he may have been Pope Honorius III, others believed he is the author of the Sworn Book of Honorius (which the Grand Grimoire takes a lot from). 

It is believed that at one point, Honorius was either Satan wearing a human suit, or that he was possessed by Satan himself. This is especially compelling if Honorious was a pope because what better way to send a finger to the almighty than possessing one of his most important vessels? If you go the possession route, it is believed that Honorious wrote grimoires under the instruction of Satan himself so that they could be spread throughout the world.

The specific spells for summoning, restraining, and making a deal with Satan is what makes this grimoire so potent and so powerful all these centuries later. The tools needed to summon Satan are various - some of them, like blessed candles, can be found easily while others seem near impossible to find.  In addition to Satan, several other high demons are mentioned such as Beelzebub and Astaroth. The three of these demons make up the evil trinity.

If you have any interested in learning more about the Grand Grimoire...or reading a copy of a copy of a copy, you can do so here. Be forewarned, Astonishing Legends does not support, condone, or suggest one carry through any of these rituals. 



The above image is from Flickr user theilr and is liscensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Life on Titan

The Dragonfly is going to land...eventually, and on Titan. NASA’s newest mission is searching for life on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. Why a moon? Well, although Titan is a moon and orbits Saturn...it actually behaves and seems to have more similarities to Earth than one might initially guess. Titan is larger than Mercury, has evidence of hydrocarbons, has lakes and oceans...and even rain! Unlike Earth, though, the liquid on this planet is primarily liquid methane. 

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The Dragonfly will be unmanned and will garner its power from a radioisotope thermoelectric generator, which will run on radioactive decay from a reserve of plutonium-238. Sounds a little science-fiction-y? Of course it does, we’re searching for life! The Dragonfly will be able to remain warm and powered for months thanks to the way the RTG is set up, as well as gather surface composition information. The mission will be led by Elizabeth Turtle, a planetary scientist. 

Beginning in 2026, for roughly two years, it is planned that the Dragonfly will travel over 175 kilometers (over twice the distance all of the Mars rovers have ever covered) and discover if their may be water, and even life, in the ice volcanoes and subsurfaces of Titan.

Unlike the Mars Rover, the Dragonfly, as its name suggests, is more of a flier. It will be able to fly around the surface of Titan and take samples of the sand on the planet in various places. Because of Titan’s incredibly dense atmosphere, flying is actually easier!

Thomas Zurbuchen, a NASA associate administrator, said “Titan is unlike any other place in the solar system, and Dragonfly is like no other mission. It’s remarkable to think of this rotorcraft flying miles and miles across the organic sand dunes of Saturn’s largest moon, exploring the processes that shape this extraordinary environment. Dragonfly will visit a world filled with a wide variety of organic compounds, which are the building blocks of life and could teach us about the origin of life itself.”

How will it collect the samples? It won’t have a robotic arms but it will have an instrument located on its undercarriage that will cover the ground with neutron radiation. Once this is done, it will use gamma rays released to learn about and differentiate between terrain types. Dragonfly’s landing skids will also carry a drill that is capable of taking samples. These samples will be fed through a pneumatic tube to a mass spectrometer that will analyze their composition.

Science Magazine notes, “The moon’s stew of organic molecules and water, many scientists believe, could have resulted in reactions to create amino acids and the bases used to build DNA’s double helix. It’s as if Titan has been conducting experiments on life formation for millions of years, Turtle says. “Dragonfly is designed to go pick up the results of those experiments and study them.”

The journey to Titan will be about 8 years so it won’t be landing until 2034...and although that seems quite far, in terms of space travel it is the blink of an eye to make such a monumental journey.



This illustration shows NASA’s Dragonfly rotorcraft-lander approaching a site on Saturn’s exotic moon, Titan. Taking advantage of Titan’s dense atmosphere and low gravity, Dragonfly will explore dozens of locations across the icy world, sampling and measuring the compositions of Titan's organic surface materials to characterize the habitability of Titan’s environment and investigate the progression of prebiotic chemistry.

Credits: NASA/JHU-APL

Gates of Hell

As discussed in several blog posts and, of course, our Jersey Devil series...a lot of weird things are happening in New Jersey. In addition to witches and time machines being built in the Pine Barrens, there is also the Clifton Gate. These gates are rumored to be the very gates of hell. 

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Calling the Clifton Gate a gate is a bit misleading, as it is really a series of drains. What makes this drain system different than any other in America or the world at large? Well, they are said to go on for an unfathomable amount of distance and are said to be layered seven times, mirroring the seven circles of hell. The deeper you go it is said you will find bones, decay, and other terrifying images.

This particular tunnel system was originally built as a drainage run-off for Weasel Brook, a stream. Likely one of the reasons it got its terrifying names is that during times of heavy rain the usual trickle of water throughout the tunnel becomes a raging torrent instantaneously.

It is said the intensely private and winding corridors of this system have led to it be a gathering place for alleged rituals, KKK meetings, and other untoward activities. In fact, so much evil and debauchery are said to have happened here that the devil himself has made himself a regular guest in the deepest, darkest, most difficult to find room in the system. 

Even if you’re hell-bent on meeting the devil, you still might not get an audience with him. This room can only be found and accessed by the devil’s chosen ones. There are several trials you must go through before meeting, including lifting giant axes that block the door. Once you enter the antechamber, there would be a glowing human skull. Then, you would descend even further (which would seem impossible) until you met the room where the devil waited for you. Now, if you want to meet a devil it seems like it’d be much easier to make a deal with him at a crossroads...but hey, who doesn’t like feeling like a chosen one?

In addition to a meeting place with a devil, the Gates of Hell also includes its very own guard. Nicknamed Red Eyed Mike, it is unclear if this creature’s goal is to keep people out or to keep those who enter safe. It is said if you knock on the railroad ties located above the entrance three times, you will hear a horn sound from somewhere within the tunnel. Once you know his presence is there, you may feel safer upon entering. However, you should respect the space because Red Eyed Mike can soon turn mischievous and hurl rocks at you, create strange noises, mimic others in your group, and generally freak you out.

While this story is likely an interesting urban legend it is interesting that it has such staying power. Does your small town have a meeting place with the devil? How does it differ from this story?

The header image of this post is not related to the tunnel and is an image of ‘greenwich foot tunnel... cold, wet and creepy‘ by flickr user jo.sau and is liscensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

Bats & Witches

In the infamous Witches’ Song in Macbeth the first verse goes…

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and caldron bubble.

Fillet of a fenny snake,

In the caldron boil and bake;

Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog,

Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,

Lizard's leg and howlet's wing,

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

But why are snakes and news and frogs and bats and dogs and lizard’s so powerful when it comes to witchcraft and witch lore? Well, I can’t answer all of those questions just yet...but how about we start with bats?

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One of the most obvious connections between bats and witches is that, largely, humans are afraid (or at least wary of) both. Furthermore, both bats and witches are capable of flight. Bats were often compared to rats or referred to as flying rats. Rats were known for spreading disease and pestilence, and, like witches with their power to create evil, were feared. Thus, a flying rat was likely to be considered more like a witch than many other animals. The pervasiveness of bats and witches in culture has stood the test of time and seems as relevant (if not as serious) today as it was hundreds of years ago.

In addition to black cats and toads, bats have often been depicted as familiars of witches and, in some cultures, witches have the ability to transform into bats (similar to vampires). They make particularly interesting creatures to turn into because of their nocturnal nature and ability to fly in the dead of night. In fact, in the infamous ‘flying’ ointment, bats’ blood is a major ingredient. 

However, it would be unwise to pigeon-hole bats as being used as ingredients or elements of witchcraft for only negative uses. For the same reasons bats make good familiars, their blood, excrement, and wool are also powerful in folk potions that are said to aid vision, cataracts, and more. In addition to sight-aid, bat ingredients were often popular in sleeping-draughts and to help sleep issues. One would think a nocturnal creature’s elements would not be as helpful in these situations, but here we are.

It seems that bats are often in spells and witch lore because of their similarities to actual witches. In addition, their ability for flight, strange appearance, and nocturnal behavior seems to link them with evil and being closer to the veil. Their unique physical qualities, like echolocation, flight, and communication also make them useful in spells and folk healing which typically include ingredients from animals and nature that reflect what they are trying to accomplish in the greater world.








The above image is from Flickr User Daniel Spiess and is licensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)


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The Dybbuk

Don’t worry, you read that title correctly. This blog post isn’t about the infamous Dybbuk Box, but rather the demon and lore of Dybbuks at large. Before the name became synonymous with a cursed object, a Dybbuk was a spirit. The name ‘Dybbuk’ translates from Yiddish to ‘cling’...so it’s safe to say Dybbuks are hard to shake.

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According to lore, it is believed that Dybbuks escaped from Jewish purgatory (known as Gehenna), or were barred from entering Gehenna due to evil acts in life. They are believed to be an animating force that lingers after death to seek out and then possess the body of a living person for evil purposes. The kind of person a Dybbuk seeks out to possess seems to vary. In some tellings of the lore, the Dybbuk specifically seeks out an evil person to possess as some kind of punishment. However, other lore seems to suggest that the Dybbuk is capable of possessing almost any kind of person, although those with weaker wills are easier to take over.

Whoever the living host may be, one thing is for certain: Dybbuks are hell. 

For example, a Dybbuk that died alone may inhabit a person and drive them to isolate themselves further and make them as miserable as the Dybbuk was in life. Or, a Dybbuk with certain vices like drugs or alcohol may also turn those who they possessed into drug addicts or alcoholics. Even worse, Dybbuks who died before they could finish what they had started on earth may force their will and evil actions on who they possess.

However, if a person was possessed by a Dybbuk there were exorcist rites that could be taken up in order to rid the person of the clinging spirit. However, the rites are anything but simple and painless. Ceremonies would have to be conducted within a synagogue and be witnessed by ten men wearing white corpse shrouds, arms bound with sacred parchments. Prior to this, these ten men would have had to have purified themselves (usually with rituals and fasting). 

Then the exorcist and leader of the ritual would enter the space wearing all black and immediately address the Dybbuk and not the victim. As the exorcist approached the Dybbuk he would begin listing all the crimes that the Dybbuk had made the victim commit. Once the Dybbuk was faced with its sins and the strength of those backing up the ritual, it may be convinced to leave the body it's possessing. If it was more stubborn more rituals would arise, curses would be made, incantations to rid the Dybbuk would be read aloud, and different combinations of the 42-letter name of God would be pronounced. Eventually, the Dybbuk would be shamed and ritual-ed out with a lot of warnings to never inhabit another living person again.

Why does shame work? Well, Dybbuks are believed to be the souls of humans and thus were once human...so they are still likely to fall prey to the same things as any person like shame, fear, and fear of consequences. 




 


The above image is in the public domain and is Ephraim Moses Lilien (1874–1925) - Book of Job, appearing in Die Bucher Der Bibel.






Eastern Airlines Flight 401

At the time our story takes place the Tristar Jet (Lockheed L-1011) was a mere four months old in December 1972 and the height of commercial aviation. In fact, it’s release was just a little later than the equally nascent Boeing 747. On December 29th, 1972 there were 163 passengers abroad along with 10 flight attendants, and three crew members. The Eastern Air Lines flight 401 was headed out of chilly JFK Airport in New York towards Miami. However, most of those aboard this flight would not reach their final destination...and some, they say, still wander the skies.

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Captain Bob Loft was the pilot at the controls and with over 30 years of experience and normal flying conditions, there was no reason this flight wouldn’t be like the hundreds he had flown. Additionally, Donald L. Repo, an aircraft mechanic, and First Officer John Stockhill, a flight engineer were aboard. However, an issue was encountered when the front nose gear was having some issues and despite attempts to lower it, the signal that it was actually down and locked never appeared. Air Traffic Control was alerted and the plane was put into a holding pattern over the Florida Everglades.

The three-man crew worked diligently to solve the problem. Once autopilot was engaged, the malfunctioning light was dismantled by Captain Loft and First Officer John Stockhill, while flight engineer Luis Repo attempted to use a porthole in order to get a visual on the gear. 

Sadly, their driven focus on the interior landing light was so all-consuming that they failed to realize that one of the crew members had accidentally switched off the autopilot. As they steadily lost altitude, the crew nor the people on board were aware that their lives would be in grave danger soon. Because ATC had them in a holding pattern over the Everglades, there were no city lights or other visual cues that could help alert anyone aboard that they were plummeting. 

By the time the crew realized how horribly wrong their flight was going, it was too late. Flight 401 crash-landed into the Everglades as jet fuel engulfed it at over 250mph. The National Transportation Safety Board reported after an investigation that the main fuselage broke into four sections, which killed First Officer Stockhill instantly. 

A mere 67 of the 163 passengers managed to survive the crash, along with 8 of the flight attendants. Repo and Captain Loft died en route to the hospital and during the rescue, respectively. 

The crash of Flight 401 on December 29th, 1972 remains one American aviation’s worst aerial disasters. 

But what does this do with Astonishing Legends (...well, besides the fact that Scott really likes planes, trains, and automobiles?). Well, shortly after the crash rumors and sightings began to swell in the aviation community and beyond.

One of the biggest reasons people attribute to the flight crew and other strange things happening on other Tristar Jets is the fact that the undamaged parts of Flight 401 were used in other Eastern Air Lines planes.

A little over a year later in 1973, an Eastern Airlines Tristar was boarding at JFK to its flight down to Miami. That morning, one of the Vice Presidents of Eastern Airlines was traveling, so he decided to board the airplane quite early. As he moved towards his seat, he noticed a company captain in full uniform in the first class cabin walking around. Excited to have a chat with the pilot, he walked over and the two began to discuss the flight. However, the VP soon realized something was amiss as he realized that not only did he recognize the man, this man was no other than Captain Loft. Stunned and confused, the VP called for a crew member and as he turned his head the apparition of Captain Loft vanished. Seeing this as a sign the VP requested that a full search of the plane be carried out to find either the Captain or something wrong with the aircraft. Nothing was found and the flight had no problems...but maybe that is from Captain Loft’s double-check.

Another story recognizes Repo as the haunter of the Eastern Air L-1011. A flight engineer arrived at the L-1011 and was shocked to see another engineer had beat him there. Thinking there was some kind of confusion, the flight engineer approached the other flight engineer and before he could speak, he recognized the engineer...it was Don Repo. Before the flight engineer could turn or scream or do anything, Repo simply said “You don’t need to worry about the pre-flight, I’ve already done it.” before disappearing.

However, the most infamous sighting of the doomed crew members was on Flight 903 from JFK en route to Mexico City. A Stewardess, Fay Merryweather, was busy in the galley prepping meals for the flight. As she reached for the oven door to put in the next round of food, she screamed as she saw the face of Repo staring back at her. Frightened, she brought another stewardess and the aircraft engineer on board to check the oven. Shockingly, and unlike other sightings of Repo, his face remained...and looked as if it was trying to communicate with them. Finally, after a few seconds, the apparition muttered “Watch out for a fire in this plane” before it disappeared into the ether.

The flight reached Mexico City without any hiccups, except for a few frightened members of the team, however, on the return flight there were problems with the starboard engine. An inspection was done but the flight was cleared for take-off. However, as it rose the engine failed and backfired repeatedly. The engine was shut down right before it caught on fire and no one was injured.

After this incident and the many little stories that had swirled around Eastern Air and beyond, it was rumored that pilots would refuse to fly planes that had parts of Flight 401. Interestingly enough, all of the salvaged parts of Flight 401 were removed from Eastern Air’s L-1011. 

On Eastern Air, at least, there were no other Tristar Jet crashes...and one has to wonder if the crew members were making amends for the problem they couldn’t solve on that night in 1972

Today, the Tristar is the last non-Russian wide-body airliner to enter production that is not manufactured directly by Airbus or Boeing. In popular culture, it remains a popular aviation ghost story...however, it’s more than just words. The airplane prop in the first episode of Lost was directly derived from a dismantled Tristar Jet that had belonged to Delta. 







The above image is of a Lockheed L-1011 Tristar Jet. It is not the same plane as Flight 401, nor is it specifically rumored to have ever contained any of 401’s parts. The above image is of Eastern Airline L-1011, though. It is licensed under CC by 3.0 and was taken by VersaGeek.


Palo Santo and Cleansing

On the blog, we’ve covered cleansing rituals before that do not focus on smudging. Palo Santo Wood is another cleansing tool that has a long, interesting history and folklore...and is more widely available than one would think. This particular wood has a long history with a variety of geographic locations including South America, Africa, and Asia. It’s long, widespread tradition as a part of medicinal treatment and ceremonial use have carried its story through the centuries.

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Although most popularly used in South America, Palo Santo can be found at the root of many folkloric traditions dating back centuries. Many of these traditions directly relate to healing or cleansing power of the wood. Palo Santo is the Spanish word for the tree (Bursera graveolens), which is part of the Burseraceae family like frankincense and myrrh. Palo Santo literally translates to ‘Holy Wood’ which denotes how important it is in healing practices.

Palo Santo is usually treated and then burned either by directly inhaling it by the person looking to be cured or cleansed or as a fumigant to cleanse larger spaces and groups. It has also been used in teas and orally through an essential oil.

Cleansing a space with Palo Santo is a fairly simple process. First, you light one end of a palo santo stick on fire (or, if you have a small bundle multiple ends), blow out the fire after a few seconds to produce the smoke, and then guide the smoke towards and throughout the space, you are looking to cleanse.

Palo Santo is often used before a more intense ritual or at the beginning of a ritual in order to prepare the space/body and usually amplifies the positivity in the space. In addition to cleansing a space, Palo Santo also helps to attract and sustain positive energy in a space, thus making it an even more desirable cleansing tool since it is able to harness and amplify ‘the good.’

As far as use, Palo Santo trees are still very populous in South America and buying Palo Santo sticks and/or bundles is much more sustainable and environmentally friendly than something like sage. In fact, it is believed that the best and most potent Palo Santo wood is gathered from branches and trees that have already fallen, instead of freshly felled trees.



Picture taken by wikimedia commons user, liscensed under CC by 3.0.

Tarot: A Brief Overview

Tarot cards have a surprisingly mundane and non-esoteric beginning. In fact, it began as a card game similar to bridge. So, how did a mere card game grow from a form of entertainment into one of the most powerful esoteric tools?

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The earliest references to tarot all date back to around the 1440s and have their origin in Italian cities like Venice, Milan, Florence, and Urbino. However, historians do often point out that due to the complicated nature of tarot at the time of its emerging popularity it is likely that it had begun evolving earlier in the century. 

In the late 15th century the game continued to develop and even became art pieces and a way to show off family wealth. Collector’s Weekly notes, “Wealthy families in Italy commissioned expensive, artist-made decks known as “carte da trionfi” or “cards of triumph.” The tarot cards were marked with “suits of cups, swords, coins, and polo sticks (eventually changed to staves or wands), and courts consisting of a king and two male underlings. Tarot cards later incorporated queens, trumps (the wild cards unique to tarot), and the Fool to this system, for a complete deck that usually totaled 78 cards. Today, the suit cards are commonly called the Minor Arcana, while trump cards are known as the Major Arcana.” 

It is believed that, originally, the imagery was designed to reflect important aspects of the real world that the players lived in, as well as mixing some Christian-with-a-dash-of-occult symbolism in the cards. 

Throughout the late 15th century and into the early 16th-century diving became more popular, especially by the more elite classes who often had fortune tellers, magicians, and more to entertain them. As tarot’s divinatory usage became more popular, illustrations evolved to reflect a specific designer’s intention. “The subjects took on more and more esoteric meaning,” says graphic designer Bill Wolf, “but they generally maintained the traditional tarot structure of four suits of pip cards [similar to the numbered cards in a normal playing-card deck], corresponding court cards, and the additional trump cards, with a Fool.”

But when, exactly, did the card game transition from pastime to divination tool? Well, we can likely thank the enlightenment era in the late 1700s and Egyptomania. A Frenchman by the name of Jean-Baptiste Alliette, a seller of prints and entrepreneurial astrologer, wrote several books and other works under the pseudonym ‘Etteilla’ (which is Alliette, reversed). These writings purported to offer a way to entertain oneself with a pack of tarot cards. One of the ways was using the alleged (but likely false) Hermetic-Egyptian-astrological significance and following the techniques of cartonomancie (card-drawing), to allow the reader to analyze and ascribe particular meanings to the cards drawn, based on what they were and where they faced.

This isn’t exactly how tarot cards are read today, but it was the first step in making them the occult tool they are known as today. Alphonse-Louis Constant, who also wrote under a pseudonym (Éliphas Lévi) decided to further raise the occult importance of the tarot card based on Alliette’s works. Aeon describes his transition much more succinctly than I could: “Constant/Lévi was struck by the coincidence between the number of tarot trumps, the letters in the Hebrew alphabet, and the paths along the kabbalistic Tree of Life: 22. He devised a system of arcane correspondences, disgorging a fresh wave of potential symbolic associations between individual cards and occult wisdom traditions, incorporating astrology, Mesmerism, and alchemy, as well as the Kabbalah. Lévi wrote that a prisoner with no books, but only the tarot and the knowledge of how to use it, could ‘acquire universal wisdom, and speak on any subject with unequaled knowledge and inexhaustible eloquence’.”

Over the centuries people have taken this understanding and run with it, developed it, and continued to practice. Today, there are largely two schools of Tarot: The school of thought who think that the cards help them access unconscious wisdom and those who believe that the deck channels the supernatural or has its own power/energy to channel.






The header image is liscensed Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) under by Mike Licht.

The Black Bird of Chernobyl

With the new HBO series, Chernobyl has re-entered the collective consciousness in a big way. But, did you know Chernobyl has its own Mothman-esque story? Lightly touched upon in our series the Black Bird of Chernobyl was spotted by many before and during the disaster, similar to how Mothman sightings were rampant during the Silver Bridge Collapse.

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Weeks before that fateful April day, workers at the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant had been reporting and discussing a strange creature that many had witnessed. It seemed to fly high in the sky, so the descriptions were obscured but it was agreed that the creature was unnaturally large and bird-like, and quite unlike anything seen in that area previously.


Some of the stranger descriptions described it as a man-bird, but one that lacked a head and was only a neck. Its wingspan was believed to be around 20 feet and those who were close enough also reported seeing red eyes...sounds similar to America’s Mothman, doesn’t it?

Shortly after sightings, those who had witnessed the strange creature reported headaches, bad dreams, and even strange, seemingly threatening phone calls where no one appeared to be on the other side of the phone. Although one may have only seen the being for a moment, simply bearing witness to it seemed to have long-lasting effects that far outweighed the time the person saw the creature.

The connections to the Mothman story of 1968 are strikingly similar, especially regarding the threatening phone calls that led up to a major disaster. The sightings of the black bird of Chernobyl seem to further support the theory that is often brought up in connection with Mothman - that these beings may not be inherently evil or bad, but rather an omen for coming disaster.

Archaeologist Robert Maxwell commented on the connection noting,

“Because the workers apparently described the Blackbird as a headless, large-winged black creature with no head, but with fire red eyes — which most people take to mean the eyes appear in the torso, it sounded very similar to the Mothman sightings in the west. Many people believe the Mothman, like the Blackbird of Chernobyl, are the harbingers of doom, in the same way the banshee was a herald of doom and death to many Celtic societies.”




The above image is from Gyurika at Hungarian Wikipedia and is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.



The Loveland Frogs

The sightings of the Loveland Frogs are some of the strangest in American cryptid history. Sometimes referred to as frogmen, these strange creatures were often spotted near water and, in particular, bridges. Sometimes witnesses described seeing these creatures as trolls or reptilians, but the defining features is that the Loveland Frogs are, without a doubt, frog-like.


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One of the first times the Loveland Frogs made their way into the National Cryptid Narrative was in 1955 when a traveling salesman happened upon a crew of them. He was headed down a quiet road late at night and slowed when he saw three figures standingly strangely in the dim glow of his headlights. As he approached what he thought were people, it soon became apparent that these creatures were not like him. He described the figures as standing bent over slightly on their hind legs, reaching about 4 feet tall, with leathery skin and, most shockingly, faces like frogs.


As the salesman approached cautiously in his car, he claims he saw the creatures seeming to engage in conversation. Then, as if out of a movie, one of the Frog People grasped a stick like a wand, and held it over its head as it emitted sparks. This frightened the salesman so completely he sped past the strange moonlit gathering.


Frightened and unsure what to do next, the salesman figured out where the police station was and quickly and strangely told his tale. The policemen seemed to have believed him enough to drive with him back to that lonely stretch of road...but they found nothing. However, it was noted that there was a strong, odd scent of alfalfa and almonds.


This story would fall into folkloric memory for over twenty years until another major sighting occurred in 1972. On St. Patrick’s Day, Ray Shockey got the shock of his life.  As he was cruising, he noticed what he believed to have been a dead dog on a bridge near Riverside Drive. However, when he approached the dog-like mass it rose and bore a frightening resemblance to a man-crossed-with-a-frog. Unsure of how to proceed and shaken up about what he had witnessed, he told the tale to fellow officer Mark Matthews who, later on, decided to investigate the scene.


Matthews was driving near the scene, along the Little Miami River, when he saw something strange and unnatural scurry across the road in front of him. He decided to shoot at the creature and even hit it. Matthews walked over trepidatiously to the body and realized the strange creature was simply an iguana without a tail, not a frogman at all. Shockey confirmed that the strange creature was exactly what he had seen and the case of the Loveland Frogs seemed to be solved.

However, the folklore continues and sightings do crop up now and again. So, are the Loveland Frogs simple misunderstandings of animals? Or, are there really strange frog-like people hidden away in Ohio?



This photo is of an Artist's impression of a Loveland frog at the side of the road and is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Stikini

Owls and the paranormal seem to have gone hand-in-hand for centuries. Native Americans across North America, in particular, have bountiful lore about owls and their powers and prowess. One of them is the Stikini, of Seminole folklore, which is also known as the Man-Owl.

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Stikinis were said originally be human witches that grew more terrible and powerful the more evil they bestowed upon people and the world. One of their most notable powers was the ability to transform into owl-like humanoids to terrorize local villages.

It is said that by day the Stinkini looked like other Seminole people, but by night they changed completely. Unlike a vampire turning into a bat which seems like a seamless transition, the Stikini had more of a werewolf-like transformation. Once the moon came up they would vomit up their souls, internal organs, and blood and transform into undead owl-monsters that feasted upon human flesh.

Based on my research, I cannot tell if this transformation was purposeful or forced by the coming moon, but either way it does seem wholly unpleasant. There seems to be some routine to it, though, as it is often said that they would purposefully travel deep into the woods to transform away from prying eyes. Furthermore, it was also said they would hang their internal organs high in trees to prevent wild animals from snatching them. This also means that if you are in the forest late at night and spy some organs dangling above you...you should leave them alone and head to safety. It is believed this transformation represents the spiritual being of the Stinkini and the ‘human’ appearance it wears during the day is simply a mask.

It should be noted that in its human form, while resembling Seminole people, it also rejects cultural norms and may seem standoffish or strange to the people it comes in contact with.

The owl-humanoids have tremendous strength and power and can rip a grown man apart with ease. The word itself is so powerful that among some Seminoles it is believed simply speaking the word aloud would attract Stikinis to you, or that you yourself would risk becoming one. Often, Stiniki lore was only spoken aloud by powerful Medicine Men and Women in the community, as they could protect themselves against these hateful creatures.

In addition to their habit of eating hearts, they also take on a banshee-like role. It is said the cry of a Stikini is very guttural and horrible. If you hear the cry of one, it is said to be an omen of coming death.

There are some ways to protect against the Stikini. For example, if you fear one is using your town as hunting grounds venture into the forest and try to find where they hung their organs. Once found, you can destroy them leaving the Stikini unable to return to its human form. They, like vampires and other creatures of the night, will be killed or grievously harmed in direct sunlight without the option of retreating to their human form.






The above image is from Flickr User Katja Schulz and taken on the Kolokee Loop Trail in the Seminole State Forest. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

The Plain of Jars

The Plain of Jars located in Laos is a strange place to behold. This grassy, hilly area features thousands of prehistoric stone vessels that reach for hundreds of miles. Some of the biggest of these jars reach up to ten feet tall and weigh in at a whopping several tons. But what was the purpose of this prehistoric display that likely took an immeasurable amount of human effort and time?

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Most of these giant jars are, as expected, empty. Some believe they were pillaged hundreds or even thousands of years ago...and others have a different theory. One of the local legends of the area is that these jars were not jars at all...but cups. These huge, to humans, containers were used by giants. Others believed that the jars were used in funerary rites to enhance decomposition or as tombs. Researchers often refer to the jars as ‘jars of the dead.’

And, there is some evidence for this moniker. Although not present in every single jar, there were several human remains, dated at about 2,500 years old, that have been found in and by some of the larger jars.

Although the site has been well known for almost a hundred years globally, and much longer locally, it has been hard to discover a lot of new information because the plain contains many unexploded bomb parts from Vietnam. However, researchers are slowly but surely making their way back to this confounding archaeological site.

The jars are not the only prehistoric vestiges in the area. Around them it is very common to find tools, decorative ceramics, glass beads, spindles, and even jewelry! According to ScienceAlert, a team of researchers in 2016 also discovered “a collection of beautifully carved discs, which they think are burial markers, although strangely enough they were found buried with the intricate side face down.” Furthermore, "Curiously we also found many miniature jars, which look just like the giant jars themselves but made of clay," says one of the team, archaeologist Dougald O'Reilly.

If not tombs, the jars may have also been used as an important step in the funerary process. LiveScience reports that, “archaeologists think that at least some of the carved stone jars were used to hold dead bodies for a time, before their bones would be cleaned and buried...Although the remains of elaborate human burials have been found at some of the jar sites, archaeologists aren't sure if the jars were made for the purpose of the burials or if the burials were performed later.”

Furthermore, expeditions in the past ten years have revealed that some of the stone jars were surrounded by pits filled with human bones that were covered by large, carved stone discs as a sort of marker.

Today, the Plain of Jars is being considered a tentative addition to the World Heritage List. However, the region is still pocked with unexploded landmines, bombs, and other weapons. In fact, it is one of the most heavily bombed places on the planet...which makes discovery and research difficult. In 2019, a new team of researchers will use the data and photographs collected at the newly discovered jar sites to create a virtual reality experience at Monash University. Then, archaeologists around the world can use this VR to safely examine this fascinating site.

The above image is by Jakub Halun, entitled Równina Dzbanów - obszar archeologiczny numer 1, English: Plain of Jars - archaeological site number 1 taken in 2017. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

The Sluagh

You might think fairy world sounds whimsical and romantic but fairies are fickle creatures and exist on a spectrum of good and evil. Tonight, we’ll be exploring the Sluagh, which are said to the manifestation of the Wild Hunt. The Wild Hunt is typically depicted as chaotic, overwhelming, and even be a forewarning to catastrophe. So, you can imagine the fae that embody this fearsome event are equally intense.

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The Sluagh are unrestful fae that are, at best, troublesome and at worst malevolent and destructive. These creatures are the most dreaded of the fairy world and are feared by all who run the risk of seeing them. In fact, the Sluagh are so frightening it is said Death himself is frightened of these creatures.

The Slaugh have quite a frightful appearance. Sometimes, they have great wings or shapeshift into fearsome birds. When in their human-like form they appear haggard and old. Their skin sags and seems to nearly fall off the bone. Their appendages are long and gangly, ending in sharp nails. Their leathery wings give them the appearance of wearing a cape or cloak when not in use.

What the Slaugh are is up for some debate. Some believe they are unrestful souls of the dead, specifically people who were exceptionally evil and cruel during their lives. Others believe the Slaugh are actually a form of fae gone horribly wrong (think of the theory that Orcs are corrupted Elves in Lord of the Rings). Whether they were human at one point or not, the Slaugh certainly consider human beings their prey.

Why?

Well, they exist and gain power from human souls, especially the souls of the dying. They are said to group together in great clouds, usually compared to birds or insects. They are most active during the night and usually hide in dark, forgotten places during daylight hours. They are said to steal the souls of the dying by flying through west-facing windows. Others believe that the brood of these creatures pick up unsuspecting travelers who are out and about late at night. They are particularly powerful during Samhain.

In addition to feeding on humans, they also seem to get power or joy from tormenting people and animals. They are said to have poisonous breath that they use to poison fields, kill livestock, and spread sickness.

Despite Death being scared of the Slaugh and their wild power, it is not impossible to evade their clutches. Simple measures can be taken, like trying to be inside after dark and obstructing west-facing windows. Like all fairy folk they are also susceptible to iron and salt.





The above image is not directly related to the above story and is an image of The Wild Hunt of Odin by Peter-Nicolai Arbo. This work is in the public domain.