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In every culture, a shaman or witch doctor figure emerges who is charged with the healing duties. He or she adopts or develops an acceptable plot to explain illnesses and malfunctions of the body and performs whatever cures or alleviations of symptoms are possible.
Patients usually expect to see something actually removed from their bodies as symbolic of the removal of the cause of their problem. With the extraction of teeth, that requirement is obviously easily met, and in cases where bullets or other missiles, slivers, or thorns are extracted, both the practical and the symbolic needs are also satisfied. In some situations, the healer may secretly introduce a small stone or twig onto the site of the operation, and since this would satisfy the need for an actual object, it can bring about more contentment from the patient, since something is produced that is identifiable as a cause of the discomfort. This is a bit of “show business” in a serious effort to bring relief to patients.
This process is known in certain African societies as “pulling the thorn.” Here, it involves a surreptitious introduction on the site of the operation of a bit of thorn or sharp object, usually via the healer's mouth, since African procedures involve sucking the wound to remove the infection. This act, though obviously potentially dangerous to both healer and patient from the infection point of view, might actually be very effective. The object is then spat out and identified as the source of the evil. The satisfaction thus evoked enhances the reputation of the healer, who is usually performing minor medicine of a very useful sort for people who have little if any other resource.
See also psychic surgery and shaman.
From the Greek for “corpse” and “divination,” the term refers to methods of obtaining information from the dead, without permission from the dead. It is a practice frowned upon by the most ethical sorcerers.
Several editions of this grimoire have appeared. Said to have first been published in about A.D. 730 in Arabic as Al Azif by Abdul Alhazred, an English translation is attributed to John Dee, though it turns out to be the invention of fantasist H. P. Lovecraft, author of supernatural and horror tales. It relates powerful formulas for calling up dangerous demigods and demons who are dedicated to destroying mankind.
(1901-1972) He was a practicing mentalist for many years who went into the wholesale/retail business in response to a demand for specialized products. For fifty years, Nelson Enterprises, Inc., has supplied ready-made horoscopes, palmistry charts, luminous cheesecloth, table-rappers, crystal balls, impression pads, and other necessities for the dishonest spiritualist and for the legitimate entertainer. The business still flourishes.
The common name given to the mythical Loch Ness monster. It is said that about A.D. 565, the Irish priest who became Saint Columba went to Scotland to convert the Picts to Christianity. When the monster threatened a follower of Saint Columba, the good man made the sign of the cross and thwarted the beast.
Nessie has been reported regularly over the years since, though some sightings have been shown to be hoaxes or honest mistakes. The likelihood of a creature anywhere near the size of the one described existing in the lake is very small — small, but not to the point where it must be entirely discounted.
Several other factors speak against the reality of the monster, however. There certainly must be more than one of them, and never more than one is reported seen. No physical remains or other traces exist. Sophisticated sonar equipment has been used to track Nessie, and no good supportive data have resulted, even though five separate serious investigations have been conducted. More importantly, lakes in Canada and the United States are now producing equally ephemeral beasts of a similar nature.
It has been postulated that since groups of seals are sometimes seen in the lake traveling in single file, such a group could be falsely reported as a single beast and identified as Nessie.
Persons who doubt the reality of Nessie are unpopular visitors at Loch Ness.
See also Abominable Snowman.
This term is used to cover many current ideas in the world of mystics, psychics, and gurus It is not “new”; it is simply the Old Age revisited. Rather than sitting in a dark room at a séance in a $5 seat holding clammy hands with a total stranger of unknown worth, a follower of channeling now sits in a fully lit auditorium in a $600 seat — beside a total stranger of unknown worth.
Religious zealots have identified new age notions with Satanism and general godlessness. Some fundamentalists in the United States have harangued police officials and the media with claims that children have been sacrificed to Satan by his worshipers. Investigator Shawn Carlson, a physicist in San Diego, California, looked into these allegations and concluded that though there were no documented sacrifices of children, there were more than two thousand children beaten to death by their parents in the United States in the year 1988 alone. Surely that indicates a misapplication of righteous zeal.
(Mrs. Samuel Guppy, ?-1917) A three-hundred-pound, rancorous and jealous English spirit medium who is credited with the first large-scale apports to be experienced at séances, Agnes is better known by her married name, Mrs. Guppy. She produced live flowers, plants, and fish, as well as earth, sand, and various other exotic items, covering her séance table with junk of every description. Her most popular apport was of human body parts and, rarely, an entire human form.
She was, at the height of her fame, the most prominent of London's mediums, only to fall from popularity when she was accused of trying to disfigure Florence Cook, her petite rival in the business who specialized in full-form materializations.
At one time Nichol lived with the sister of Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1903), the great British naturalist, who believed completely in her powers and endorsed them.
(1503-1566) One of the most renowned and still-popular champions of disaster was Michel de Notredame, the sixteenth-century physician of Provence who took the Latinized name by which he is more commonly known: Nostradamus. His major opus was Centuries, a series of almost a thousand quatrains which purported to be prophecies, and along with a great number of almanacs, letters, and various other writings, he managed to produce more than any other prophet in history. His reputation, however, is due to the ardent horde of his disciples who continue to this day to hyperbolize, bowdlerize, and invent in order to perpetuate his fame.
Nostradamus, the sixteenth-century seer of Provence who wrote The Centuries, ten books of quatrains that he said were intended as prophecies.
Under the patronage and protection of Catherine de Médicis, queen of France and the power behind three French kings, Nostradamus lived comfortably from 1503 to 1566, celebrated all over Europe and a thorn in the side of Elizabeth I of England, for whom he continually predicted, through his almanacs, a doom which never came.
Upon close examination, it can be seen that many of the quatrains penned by the seer of Provence were actually political commentaries and justifiable critiques of the activities of the Catholic church, which was then busily tossing heretics onto bonfires wherever the Holy Inquisition could reach.
Nostradamus himself was in great danger of mounting the faggots himself. He was already under suspicion, because only two generations earlier the Notredames had been the Gassonets, a Jewish family that had converted to Catholicism under pressure. Worse, letters discovered in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris prove that he was also a secret heretic — a Lutheran, surprisingly enough, in view of that sects strong anti-Semitic bias.
A good look at just one of the Nostradamus quatrains, one of the Top Ten often presented as positive evidence of his prophetic ability, serves to illustrate how far believers will go to stretch the facts in order to serve their needs. Quatrain 51 of Century II is said by the faithful to refer to the Great Fire of London in 1666. Here is the evidence for this belief.
First, quoting from the earliest available (1558) edition of the verse, it reads:
Le sang du iuste à Londres fera faulte,
Bruslés par fouldres de vint trois les six:
La dame antique cherra de place haute,
De mesme secte plusieurs seront occis.
(The reader should know that in modern French, iuste would be “juste,” Brusléswould be “Brûlés,” vint would be “vingt,” and mesme would be “même.”)
In modern English:
The blood of the just shall be wanting in London,
Burnt by thunderbolts of twenty three the Six(es),
The ancient dame shall fall from [her] high place,
Of the same sect many shall be killed.
The word feu (“fire”) is now substituted for the original fouldres (“thunderbolts”) in the second line by many copyists, so that it will better fit the Great Fire of London interpretation. Also, some editions print “vingt & trois” rather than “de vint trois,” thus showing an appreciable variation in the text and in the meaning.
Nostradamians believe that the seer was writing about an event that was 111 years in his future: In 1666, London was devastated by a fire that destroyed four-fifths of the city. It is said by one of the interpreters that the last half of line two refers to the number of houses and buildings that were burned, rather than the more popular interpretation by almost everyone else that it means 66, therefore, 1666. How that date was obtained is difficult to see.
The Nostradamians explain that “La dame antique” refers to St. Paul's Cathedral, known as the Old Lady, which was lost in the fire along with many other churches, thus the claimed validation of the line, “Of the same sect many shall be killed.” St. Paul's Cathedral was never called the “Old Lady,” as claimed. Also, the word antique in Old French meant “eccentric”; the derivation is similar to that of the English word “antic.” Though the old St. Paul's Cathedral was the highest church then known, there is no “high place” from which it could have fallen. Some fans, recognizing this discrepancy, claim that a statue of the Virgin Mary stood atop the cathedral, and that was the Old Lady Nostradamus was referring to. Not so. An early edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica provides a clear, detailed illustration of the old prefire cathedral that shows it was Gothic in style, with a square roof area and no external statues at all.
This quatrain actually refers to an event which was taking place as Nostradamus was penning his opus in 1555, but a very different event, and certainly not the Great Fire of London. Here are the historical facts:
1. Announcing a purge of her kingdom in 1554, the Catholic queen Bloody Mary I of England began executing Protestant heretics in London, beginning in January 1555. Many were prominent churchmen, intellectuals, and statesmen. One Bishop Ridley had an especially horrid exit from life. His brother-in-law, wishing to lessen his relative's suffering by hastening his death, had piled the faggots so high about him that the flames could not reach him, and the poor man cried out that he could not burn. His benefactor thereupon opened up the pile of wood, which more quickly brought an end to the bishop.
2. The trial, sentencing, and burning of these unfortunates began January 22, 1555, in groups of six. When they eventually expired at the stake, it was with an explosion like a thunderbolt, since they were burned with the “merciful” addition of bags of gunpowder tied between their legs or around their necks to quicken their passage.
3. Mary, haggard, totally obsessed with religion, disappointed in love, ill with dropsy and other assorted diseases, repeatedly imagined that she was pregnant by her husband Philip of Spain. The consort was seldom at home and in 1555 left England — and Mary — for good. She wandered about her palace half naked while the atrocities were being committed in her name. She died three years later, incoherent and considered quite insane. It was strongly suspected that her exit was hastened.
4. Over three hundred Protestants were executed in this way at that time.
When one considers these historical facts and compares them line for line and number for number with the four lines of the Nostradamus quatrain as seen in this much more accurate translation, a different view might be taken of the quatrain:
1. The blood of the innocent will be an error at London,
2. Burned by thunderbolts, of twenty-three, the six(es),
3. The senile lady will lose her high position,
4. Many more of the same sect will be slain.
An important question arises here: Did Nostradamus have time to get this historical event into his publication? The first edition of the Centuries, in which this quatrain is printed, is dated May 4, 1555 — more than three months after the first group of heretics were executed in London. Though some authorities date the 1555 edition of the Centuries as March 1, 1555, it is imprinted at the end:
Ce present livre a esté achevé d'imprimer le IIII. iour de may M.DLV.
(“This book was finished printing the fourth day of May 1555.”)
The sentences of the inevitable executions would have been passed some time before the events, since the condemned often spent many months in prison while their wealth was located and acquired by the crown; carefully applied and controlled torture effectively extracted information about concealed assets from the condemned. Nostradamus was part of a network of scholars who were in frequent communication and would have heard of this event. Thus, either publication date is adequate for the described scenario.
But why would Nostradamus, a faithful Catholic, object to this good work of burning heretics? Because he was secretly a heretic himself, a Lutheran sympathizer who clearly declared himself in clandestine letters sent to clients and scholars in Germany. In this quatrain, as in many others, the Seer of Provence was writing of an event which certainly would have made news in France, and that he had heard about.
One modern “interpreter” of Nostradamus, John Hogue, first issued his book Nostradamus and the Millennium in 1987. In that volume, he quoted his own very liberally translated versions of several quatrains that he believed predicted certain events involving the Near East, and he specified those events. He named four “anti-Christ” candidates, and for one he said that Nostradamus had clearly predicted:
[In August of 1987] a million Iranians under Khaddafi's power [will] invade Mesopotamia all the way to Egypt.
Then came the 1991 (the fourth) printing of his very successful book, after the massive Libyan invasion had failed to take place. This edition had six pages of revised text, with another anti-Christ in the person of Saddam Hussein — substituted for the Ayatollah Khomeini, who had inconsiderately died rather than fulfilling Nostradamus's plan for him — and omitted completely the above-quoted prediction along with another Hogue had made for a specifically dated alliance of the superpowers. Blank spots replaced the previous entries.
One thing, however, remained the same in both editions: the portrait of Nostradamus clutching a telescope, an instrument that had not yet been invented when the seer died.
Urd, Verdandi, and Skuld, the three Norse goddesses who represented the past, the present, and the future, in order. Their function is to guard the “Tree of the World,” Yggdrasil, the ash tree of which the cosmos is formed. Modern cosmologists differ with this concept.
The disastrous affair of the “N-rays” thoroughly embarrassed the French — and the scientific world — back in 1903, when Prosper René Blondlot, a distinguished physicist of the city of Nancy, announced his discovery of strange radiations that he said emanated from every substance — except green wood and pieces of metal that had been “anesthetized” by dipping them into chloroform or ether. The apparent existence of these rays was soon confirmed by dozens of scientists around the world through scientific papers submitted to science journals.
A single physicist, American Robert Wood, was sent in by the British Association of Scientists and reported his results to Nature magazine (then, as now, one of the leading science journals). Wood showed the French scientists that not only were their experimental processes faulty, but their rays were totally imaginary.
The N-rays affair provides the single most effective and important example of scientific error through experimenter bias and expectation, an example which might well be improved upon by the present German fascination with the equally imaginary E-rays.
The mystical attraction of basic qualities of numbers resulted in strange theories about magical powers that could be invoked or discovered by carrying out certain arithmetical operations. Such a belief, based on an idea of Pythagoras that all facts can be reduced to numbers, results from a failure to understand the true nature of the concept of number.
In applying numerology to a person's name, for example, there are many different systems in this “art” for assigning numbers to the letters of the alphabet, adding them up and arriving at a series of qualities, characteristics, and specific facts that are said to apply to that person. The dubious nature of the practice becomes obvious.
Three of the most popular systems among many, many such systems to determine “name numbers” are shown here:
The third column of numbers represents what is known as the Pythagorean system. All of these systems require the user to add together each of the digits representing each letter in the name, then to add the digits of the resulting number, and repeat that process until a number less than 10 has been arrived at. This final digit is interpreted according to the following table:
It can be seen that there is no standard and no consistency in numerology — let alone rationality — but it provides an easy method for the naive person to play a satisfying game without having to apply any intellectual powers to the matter.
Gematria is a form of numerology which employs the Hebrew alphabet, in which all the letters also have numerical values.
Modern numerologists, quick to adopt new technologies to prove and enlarge old claptrap, have now turned to a computer number system, the American Standard for Coded Interchange of Information (ASCII), for further deep meaning of the alphabet.
See also kabala.
An elemental spirit of the water. In the real world, the immature form of the dragonfly and certain other insects, or a young woman with robust sexual interests. Take your choice.