Moment in Oddity - Crown Shyness
Suggested by: Jenny Raines
Black mangrove trees do something really weird. So do eucalyptus trees and camphor trees. In the 1920s, this weird phenomenon was first documented and scientists have studied it ever since and tried to figure out why it happens. This phenomenon is known as crown shyness. You've probably seen it for yourself. Next time you are in a dark forest looking for Bigfoot or fairies, look up and see if you notice a network of cracks between the canopies of trees. This almost looks like tiles laid next to each other with grout in between or jigsaw pieces nearly connected together. One of the reasons why scientists can't figure out the "why" is because it doesn't happen all the time. Some have theorized that crown shyness is the result of abrasion. This is a fancy way to say that branches brushing against each other cause twigs to break. And it's a good theory until scientists surveyed trees in high wind areas and found no increase in crown shyness. Other scientists think that maybe light has something to do with it. This hypothesis basically states that the tips of trees can detect light levels and this will cause the tips to stop growing. Whatever the cause, it does help prevent the spread of damaging insect larvae. Looking up at crown shyness is breathtaking, but is also a phenomenon that certainly is odd!
This Month in History - Cicero Beheaded
In the month of December, on the 7th, in 43 BC, Cicero is beheaded. The year before his death, lawyer Marcus Tullius Cicero became one of the most powerful men in Rome when Julius Caesar was murdered. He was an outspoken critic of Octavian, who was Caesar's heir, and Mark Antony. Two men, Popilius and Herennius, were sent to take care of Cicero and they caught up with him as he went out to find a ship to take to the coast. When Cicero was approached by the men, he knew what they had come to do and he basically put up no fight and asked that they give him a quick and clean death. And they did. Herennius drew his sword and cut off Cicero's head. He then cut off his hands and brought the head and hands back to Antony who hung them in the Forum. Antony felt like he was vindicated by taking the hands that had written mocking speeches about him, but the Roman people saw it more as a symbol of the darkness in Antony's soul.
The Legend of Elementals
Our lives are touched nearly everyday by the four elements. We breathe air, drink water, eat things fed by the Earth and cook or warm ourselves with fire. There are stories of ancient creatures that are one with these elements and we have come to know them as Elementals. Elementals show up in a variety of places from books to comics to legends of old. Is there any possibility that these mythic beings did actually or could actually exist? On this episode, we explore the history, stories and possibilities of Elementals.
I mentioned comics and Elementals in the intro because for me, that's where I first learned about Elementals. I was a DC comic girl and for the most part I still am (sure wish they could get their movies right like Marvel) and my favorite hero and comic was Firestorm. I own nearly all of them. I remember keenly about the time I started college, in the early 1990s, Firestorm underwent a huge change and he became the Fire Elemental. I also followed Swamp Thing a bit and he was the Earth Elemental. So this was my introduction. Later though, as I got more into the paranormal and legends, I started to learn more about the Elementals and their connection to the four main elements. Kelly and I both have a real connection to nature and so for us, it's easy to be connected to the elements.
We all know the four basic elements: air, water, land and fire. Theophrastus von Hohenheim, more commonly known as Paracelsus, was born around 1493 and he was a physicist and alchemist nicknamed the "Father of Toxicology." He studied ancient beings in his works and it was his conclusions and writings that separated various mythical beings into the four classes of elements. His archetypes were Gnome or Pygmy for Earth (North), Undine or Nymph for Water (West) *Blur of color*, Vulcanus or Salamander for Fire (South) and Sylvestris or Sylph for Air (East). Paracelsus described these creatures as not being spirits, but also not being creatures. He emphasized that they were something between. For me, this is a hard concept to understand because as we study the stories about them, they can both appear as human in human clothing or be invisible. Paracelsus also did not call them Elementals, but Sagani. These are nature spirits. Each Elemental seems to have its own body type. Gnomes are short and pudgy, sylphs are similar to humans, but stronger, longer and rougher, undines are basically human in appearance and size and salamanders are long, narrow and lean. Since these beings are part of a particular element, they can move freely through that element. But this is all according to Paracelsus. We know that the belief in these creatures goes back long before this time.
Ancient cultures in the Middle East and East referred to four elements, sometimes calling them something else like wind instead of air. Many cultures, especially in places like China and Japan, would refer to a fifth element that was described as void. China would even press that elements were not physical, but more transitional and they include metal and wood as elements. Perhaps this is where the idea of elements as spirits got its start? And I find that fifth classification, the void or ether, very interesting. This was a basic way to say that we have four types of matter, but there is a fifth beyond material. This fifth element is said to not have a spirit connected to it. And what are we when we die? This energy or matter, but we are beyond the physical world. Hinduism also has their void, which they call akash, and that the human body dissolves into all of these elements upon death. Plato was believed to be the first to use the term element and Aristotle took it further breaking the elements down into qualities. Earth is cold and dry, air is hot and wet, water is both cold and wet and fire is hot and dry. Native Americans break Elementals into different classes like tree spirits, rock spirits, etc.
As we move down through history, we come to alchemy. The science of alchemy has always been tied to Elementals. After all, alchemy is about changing matter and in order to do this, elements must be used. Alchemy basically shows up during medieval times and it was Arab alchemist Jābir ibn Hayyān who not only laid out the four elements, but added mercury and sulfur into the mix. Alchemy is not just a physical science, but also philosophical. And as we look at Elementals, there is more philosophy and spirituality there than basic science. And speaking of basic science, we know we have scientists out there screaming that there are more than four elements. Clearly, we have a periodical chart with lots of elements on it and these are broken down into four states of matter: solid, liquid, gas and plasma. Although, we could argue that those are basically the four elements too.
In our episode about the Legend of Faeries, we mentioned Elementals and that people sometimes classify them together, but traditionally they are different beings. Elementals are thought to not be as developed, but rather true energy and so they do not have personality. Faeries have an affinity for elements, but are not those elements. We listened to several people talking about Elementals, but many just threw them in a mix with Skinwalkers, the Fae, Daemons and etc. One point that we heard is that the Quran mentions the Djinn and that they are described as being Elementals. We did an episode on the Djinn (Ep. 157) and they were created from fire, but does this make them the Fire Elemental?
When it comes to hauntings, we experience many different types of
spirits. There are those who were human at one time and then there are
those who could be called unborn. This is something that is not human
and never was. Obviously, Elementals fall under this. Many claim that we cannot experience Elementals or actually meet one. And we are taught from a young age that they are not real. But are they? There are so many stories of these ancient beings and Pagans say that these beings are on a different plane or dimension and that is why we may not experience them.
Malignant magick conjures Elementals. Disturbances can cause Elementals to rise up or come forth. Like mining or construction or even building a dam can cause an Elemental to be disturbed. They give off EVPs with very gruff and deep voices. They don't like metal objects and so these may have a tendancy to disappear. They can be attached to crystals, so if you bring one home, they might come with it. Earth Elementals will cause animals to behave strangely, cause a person to have fear of being buried alive or fear of leaving their home and cause earthquakes. Water Elementals cause plumbing problems, they might cause someone to commit suicide by drowning and cause floods. Fire Elementals can cause spontaneous fires, a human that develops an obsession with fire might be touched by one or if you see tongues of flame or balls of flame and spontaneous combustion. Air Elementals can throw or break objects, cause sexual assaults and cause agitation and fighting in their locale and people commit suicide through the air by jumping from high places and cause tornadoes and gales. Obviously, ley lines are deeply connected to Elementals.
A person going by username Sylunedarkchylde from the Philippines wrote of encounters with Elementals, "I'm not sure how other countries perceive Elementals to be, but here in the Philippines, they are called "Engkantos", "Anitos" and so on. These Engkantos and Anitos used to be worshiped by ancient Filipinos until Spain decided to force Christianity on us a few hundred years ago, and only then were they thought of as evil entities. Personally, I think Elementals are a part of nature, too; but were made differently - just like when someone would be born with an extra toe, no arms, no legs, etc. To me, they're like nature's "special" brothers and sisters. But of course, please do enlighten me if my understanding is wrong - because that was just an uneducated opinion formed based on what I have seen. The first story was when my family and I were on a 3-day vacation in Baguio City. I was around 16 or 17 at the time. Baguio City is famous for its many hauntings, especially after the 1990 (or was it 1991?) earthquake that pretty much reduced the city to rubble. But I honestly don't think what I saw was a ghost - somehow it had a different "feel" to it. The house that we stayed in was a vacation home owned by my mom's boss, and she was nice enough to let us use the place for free. The house was situated at the middle of the mountain, so you would need to drive up from the foot and you can drive all the way up to the top as well. The house only had one private room, and two semi-private rooms; because the rooms on the second floor may be separated by walls and two different doors, but both rooms are mezzanine types, so I can see the living room from where I was. On the first night, we were still tired as hell because of the eight-hour drive to the city and spending the rest of the day shopping for trinkets to bring home to our friends. But since I just ate, I cannot go to sleep yet because of my acid reflux - so I decided to grab the book I brought from my bag. While I was reading, I noticed something flicker, like a quick flash of light in my peripheral vision. I looked up from the book and to the window where I think I saw the light, but nothing was there. So I went on reading, and it happened again - but this time, when I looked up, I was in for a surprise. There was a bluish-white ball of light. It wasn't very bright, but luminescent. I'm guessing it's as big as a volleyball, or maybe slightly smaller. And if I were to estimate my distance from it, I'd say around ten feet--far enough to see it clearly. I was scared at first, but for a person who's easily attracted to shiny things and sometimes too curious for my own good, I continued to watch in awe. It looked almost magical. It bobbed up and down very slightly as it glided, and it left some sort of translucent, almost transparent "tail" like a comet as it moved. Then it passed behind a tree. Again, to my surprise, it emerged on the other side of the tree, but no longer as one white ball, but hundreds of tiny little swirling balls of light. It was awesome! I admit I still felt a little scared, but it was too pretty to ignore. I had this feeling that whatever it was, it was playing with me. Then, it passed behind another tree, and then when it emerged, it was one big ball again. By the third time it emerged, the window only had enough space so I had to stand up and walk towards the window to continue watching it. It kept doing the same thing - compressed into a ball, scattering, then compressing every time it passes behind a tree - until it got so far up the mountain that I couldn't see it anymore. I don't know, but to me it was awesome. I've never seen something so unnaturally pretty in my life. Of course, just like any person would do, I told everyone about it. My sister was asking why I wasn't scared, and I admitted I was at first, but when I looked at it long enough it looked so pretty and it didn't seem to mean any harm. My stepfather said it might have been "St. Elmo's Fire", but after researching about it, St. Elmo's Fire behaved differently, so I didn't really think it was what he said it might be. Then I learned about swamp lights. Of course, there isn't a swamp anywhere near there, but I needed to find out what it was. But swamp lights are chemical reactions in the swamp that causes it to light (like methane mixing with something and it burns a white, sometimes blue light) but again, it didn't look like fire. Besides, fire doesn't glide the way the mysterious white light did. Not to mention the shape, then scattering, then reshaping again. I left the city without any answers, but memories of the pretty lights. I even remember making a painting of it (it was sold already) because it just looked so pretty and mysterious that I needed to show everyone how it looked like. I have friends with different beliefs - Christians, Muslims, Satanists, Atheists, Wiccans - and when my Wiccan friend saw the painting she asked me what it was. I told her the story, and she said I might have encountered an Elemental; and it might have been the Wind - a manifestation of the Sylph. I researched online right after she said it, but none of the images I saw were the same. However, what made me think that it really was an Elemental was what she said that they are neither alive nor dead; that they have taken a different evolutionary turn from most things, and the wind elemental is most commonly seen as a white or yellow light. To be honest, I am really not sure what it was, but all I know is that I didn't feel the same fear I did when I experienced ghostly stuff. Of course, I was afraid at first, but after a while I just felt like I was drawn to it. I could just imagine how the ancient Filipinos would see this as, and no wonder they worshiped them."
Famous hauntings in history include one at the Leap Castle. Short skeletal monster with sharp claws, a decayed face and smells like sulfur. People describe it as looking like Gollum. Some believe it was conjured by Druids before the castle was there, while others claim that a fighting force conjured it in some way to bring fire to destroy the castle. Gerald Fitgerald is said to be the one who conjured it because he was adept at magick and tried to take over castle several times. That would be malignant magick. Others claim he is the spirit of an O'Carroll family, but that is not possible because it were never human. This entity is dark and sinister. Mildred Darby's account, "Suddenly, two hands were laid on my shoulders. I turned round sharply and saw, as clearly as Isee you now-a grey ‘Thing’, standing a couple of feet from me, with it’s bent arms raised as if it were cursing me. I cannot describe in words how utterly aweful the ‘Thing’ was, it’s very undefinableness rendering the horrible shadow more gruesome. Human in shape, a little shorter than I am, I could just make out the shape of big black holes like great eyes and sharp features, but the whole figure-head, face, hands and all-was grey-unclean, blueish grey, something of the colour and appearance of common cotton wool. But, oh! so sinister, repulsive and devilish. My friends who are clever about occult things say it is what they call an “Elemental”. The thing was about the size of a sheep, thin, gaunt and shadowy in parts. It’s face was human, or to be more accurate, inhuman, in it’s vileness, with large holes of blackness for eyes, loose slobbery lips, and a thick saliva-dripping jaw, sloping back suddenly into its neck! Nose it had none, only spreading, cancerous cavities, the whole face being a uniform tint of grey. This too, was the colour of the dark coarse hair covering its head, neck and body. It’s forearms were thickly coated with the same hair, so were its paws, large, loose and hand-shaped; and it sat on it’s hind legs, one hand or paw was raised, and a claw-like finger was extended ready to scratch the paint. It’s lustreless eyes, which seemed half decomposed, and looked incredibly foul, stared into mine, and the horrible smell which had before offended my nostrils, only a hundred times intensified, came up to my face, filling me with a deadly nausea. I noticed the lower half of the creature was indefinite and seemed semi-transparent-at least, I could see the framework of the door that led into the gallery through its body." The last time she saw the thing was in 1915.
The Felixstowe Fire Demon. In the fall of 1965, a group of British men were hanging out in Felixstowe, which is on the coast of the North Sea in Suffolk, England. They were driving and pulled their car over near a forested area. One of the young men, Michael Johnson, jumped out of the car and ran into the forest. His friends thought he was relieving himself, but he didn't return and then they thought they saw an UFO. It flew away and their friend stumbled out into the road and collapsed. Later at the hospital he told his friends that he had been compelled to enter the forest and he met a weird creature there that was some kind of humanoid with large sloping eyes that were glowing in the darkness and the thing was completely engulfed by orange flames. He blacked out and then woke up in hospital. The doctors found burn marks on his neck.
In Railbach Germany in 1125, a group of people described seeing a burning man who had fire coming from his nose and mouth and they said they could see his burning ribs. And the Black Forest in Germany is said to be crawling with them.
How do you get rid of an Elemental? You can't destroy them or completely banish them, but you can release them to their realm. You can make peace and coexist too. A shaman would be the best person to get help with this.
Elementals are something to explore connecting to and perhaps you will find a class you are drawn to. For me, I've always been drawn more to water. The undines help not only to cleanse water, but also the emotional and subconscious world. Gnomes clean up discord and negativity on a spiritual level. Sylphs purify the mental plane of negative thoughts like hatred, anger, resentment, pride, greed and jealousy. Salamanders are agents of bringing fire to mankind through electricity, firelight or candle flame and they are responsible for the spark of life and they keep it from decaying or disintegrating. So perhaps explore one. And see if you find that Elementals do exist. Because, that is for you to decide!