Thursday, May 29, 2014

Weird News of the Week

Healthy Aging? A Question of Taste

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A 50 Million Euro Mistake

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McDonald's new Mascot, McScary?

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Run Away Tortoise

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Vatican Astronomer willing to Baptize ET's

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Creature of the Month
The Piasa and the Manticore:
Part One: The Peculiar Piasa
by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart

The Manticore is equally appealing,
He jumps about and has a prickly tail.
Three rows of teeth and two superb mustaches,
You’ll find him leaping over hill and dale.
—Barbara Wersba (1932–), The Land of Forgotten Beasts

0. Modern Piasa painting on cliff face above Alton, Illinois.

The Peculiar Piasa

      Called “one of the most haunted towns in America,” Alton, Illinois, is about twelve miles north of St. Louis, situated between the mouths of the Missouri and Illinois Rivers, on the east bank of the mighty Mississippi featured in the stories of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. But Alton is also the home of a deeper and more ancient legend—and an intriguing monster of mystery.
      Writing in 1836, Professor John Russell of Bluffdale, Illinois, described the perpendicular bluffs and cliffs, rising to a height of 100 feet, that bordered the river’s edge:

In descending the river to Alton, the traveler will observe, between that town and the mouth of the Illinois, a narrow ravine through which a small stream discharges its waters into the Mississippi. This stream is the Piasa (pronounced Pi-a-saw). Its name is Indian, and signifies, in the Illini language, “The bird which devours men.” Near the mouth of this stream, on the smooth and perpendicular face of the bluff, at an elevation which no human art can reach, is cut the figure of an enormous bird, with its wings extended. The animal which the figure represents was called by the Indians the Piasa. From this is derived the name of the stream.1

Fig. 1. Fr. Marquette discovers Piasa petrograph. Image credit Alton Museum of History & Art.

      This now-famous petrograph had been first reported in 1673 by Pere Jacques Marquette, who was recording his famous journey down the Mississippi River with Louis Joliet. Here is the entry from Fr. Marquette’s diary:

While Skirting some rocks, which by Their height and length inspired awe, We saw upon one of them two painted monsters which at first made Us afraid, and upon Which the boldest savages dare not Long rest their eyes. They are as large As a calf; they have Horns on their heads Like those of a deer, a horrible look, red eyes, a beard Like a tiger's, a face somewhat like a man's, a body Covered with scales, and so Long A tail that it winds all around the Body, passing above the head and going back between the legs, ending in a Fish's tail. Green, red, and black are the three Colors composing the Picture. Moreover, these two monsters are so well painted that we cannot believe that any savage is their author; for good painters in France would find it difficult to reach that place Conveniently to paint them. Here is approximately The shape of these monsters, As we have faithfully Copied It.2

Fig. 2. Drawing of Piasa from Fr. Marquette’s diary, 1673.

      Interestingly in light of later images, the creature originally described and “faithfully Copied” into his diary by Fr. Marquette is wingless. Created long before the arrival of any European explorers in that area, the so-called Piasa petroglyph was of no flying monster, but was actually a typical representation of the Underwater Panther, a powerful and dangerous creature appearing in the mythology of several native traditions, particularly in the Great Lakes region, the Northeastern Woodlands, and the Mississippian culture. These include the Anishinaabe tribes, the Odawa, Ojibwe, Potawatomi; and also the Innu, Algonquins, and Nanabozho.
      Variously called Michi-Pichoux, Mishibizhiw, Mishipizheu, Mishupishu, Mishepishu, or Mishibijiw (“great lynx”), or Gichi-anami'e-bizhiw (“fabulous night panther”), these aquatic monsters combine features of several animals: the body of a mountain lion or lynx; horns of a deer or bison; a ridge of spiky scales on the back; sometimes bird feathers; and parts from other beasts as well, depending on the particular myth. They are generally represented with exceptionally long serpentine tails. The roar or hiss of the creatures may be heard in the sounds of rushing rapids, and they are even believed to be able to cause storms. Compare this basket design with Fr. Marquette’s original drawing:

Fig. 3. Underwater Panther basket design, George Gustav Heye Center, National Museum of the American Indian.

      Underwater Panthers are seen as an opposing yet complementary force to the Thunderbirds (see my previous “Creature of the Month”), with whom they are engaged in eternal seasonal conflict. Said to inhabit the deepest parts of lakes and rivers, some were believed to be helpful, protective creatures; but usually they were feared as malevolent monsters that brought death and misfortune. They often need to be appeased for safe passage across a lake. As late as the 1950s, the Prairie Band of Potawatomi Indians performed traditional ceremonies to placate the Underworld Panther and maintain balance with the Thunderbird.
      One variant, Michi-Pichoux, figured prominently in the folklore of the Cree Indians of eastern Canada, where it dwelled among the islands of the St. Lawrence River. It was described by French priest Fr. Louis Nicholas in his Histoire Naturelle (1675) as a hairy, tiger-like beast more than 18 feet long, with huge, clawed feet and a paddle tail like a beaver’s. Its enormous head had fangs more than two feet long, and it preyed upon humans, especially children.

Fig. 4. Underwater Panthers in beadwork design.

      Moreover, it turns out that the term Piasa is actually from the Miami-Illinois word páyiihsa—supernatural dwarfs that attack travelers—and contrary to Russell’s assertion, has no meaning of “man-eating bird.”3
      The so-called Piasa petrograph was created prior to the arrival of any European explorers in the region, and possibly before 1200 CE. It may have been an older iconograph from the large Mississippian culture city of Cahokia, which began developing about 900 CE. The largest prehistoric city north of Mexico, Cahokia was at its peak about 1200 CE, with 20-30,000 inhabitants. The Piasa mural may have been painted to warn strangers traveling down the Mississippi River that they were entering Cahokian territory.3

Fig. 5. Michi-Pichoux. Ojibwa petrograph from Lake Superior Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada. Note canoe and giant water-snakes.

      The Alton petrograph was noted subsequently by LaSalle and other 17th-century French explorers. Additional sightings were reported in the early 19th century, and a sketch was made in 1825 by William Dennis, who added wings and labeled it as a “Flying Dragon.” In 1841 the “Piasa Bird” was included in a lithograph by John Casper Wild (Fig.6). And in 1846, the petrograph was sketched by Henry Lewis for a collection of lithographs published in 1854. In 1847, Swiss artist Rudolf Friederick Kurz described the image as “a colossal eagle.”4

Fig. 6. “Piasa Bird” lithograph by J.C. Wild, who explored the area in 1841. The picture shows how the bluffs below Riverview Park looked before quarrying operations six years later created the hollowed-out place below the park. The small figures show the relative size of the Indian petrograph that was so awe-inspiring to all who viewed it. (Telegraph archive)

      In his 1836 article titled “The Bird That Devours Men,” John Russell, professor of Greek and Latin at Shurtleff College, Upper Alton, Illinois, referred to the “Piasa Bird” for the first time. He also related a legend, which he later admitted having invented, that became the widely-accepted explanation of the petrograph:
      According to Russell’s imaginative fable, long, long ago there lived a terrible bird so vast that he could carry off grown men, swooping down upon them unexpectedly and bearing them off to his inaccessible caves in the cliff to be devoured; the beast having acquired a taste for human flesh from the corpses of an intertribal battle. Hundreds of warriors attempted to vanquish the monster, but without success. His depredations depopulated entire villages, and all the tribes were in despair.
      Finally, following a vision from the Great Spirit, Ouatogo, the great chief of the Illini, selected twenty of his bravest warriors and concealed them in ambush. Standing in open view as a willing sacrifice for his people, Ouatago chanted the death chant as the great bird plunged toward its victim. But moments before the deadly claws could strike, twenty poisoned arrows were shot simultaneously into the monster’s body. Uttering a fearful scream of pain and rage, the mighty raptor died without touching the courageous chief.
      To commemorate this great victory, the image of the Piasa was painted upon the face of the bluff, below the caves where the bird had taken his victims. And forever after, every Indian passing by that spot in his canoe would fire arrows (and later, guns) at the effigy.
      Early French explorers, such as St. Cosme, indeed reported that by 1699 the images were badly worn due to the custom of the local Indians to “discharge their weapons” at the petrographs as they passed. In 1836, Russell confirmed, “The marks of the balls on the rock are almost innumerable.” In his 1838 book Illinois and the West, author A.D. Jones also describes the ravages of weapons (firearms) upon the images, and further refers to the paintings as being named “Piasua.”

Fig. 7. Indians shooting at the Piasa on the cliff face. From The Valley of the Mississippi Illustrated, by Henry Lewis, 1846.

      In March of 1836, led by “an intelligent guide, who carried a spade,” Russell claimed to have made the arduous climb over the perpendicular face of the 150-foot cliff to reach a cave, about fifty feet above the surface of the river, which was attributed in legend to be one of those where the Piasa had carried his victims. Clambering with great difficulty through the opening, he found himself in a cavern about twenty by thirty feet wide, with a vaulted ceiling at least twenty feet high. Astonished, he said that “the floor of the cavern throughout its whole extent was one mass of human bones. Skulls and other bones were mingled in the utmost confusion. To what depth they extended I was unable to decide; but we dug to the depth of three or four feet in every part of the cavern, and still we found only bones. The remains of thousands must have been deposited there.” 5
      Tragically, the entire cliff, petrographs, cavern, and alleged bones were dynamited into oblivion only eleven years later in 1847, when the property was purchased by a limestone quarry, the Mississippi Lime Company. In 1882, although he had never seen the original image, or the drawing of it in Fr. Marquette’s diary, Professor William McAdams, an Illinois State geologist, drew up an entirely imaginative illustration of the “Piasa Bird” that subsequently became the definitive version:

Fig. 8. The Piasa by William McAdams, 1882.

      Based on McAdams’ drawing, various renditions of the original pictograph have been painted on the Mississippi River bluff at Alton since 1924, only to weather away over time. While Fr. Marquette described the original petrograph being only “as large As a calf,” in 1983 a 39-foot-wide reconstruction of the supposed image of the Piasa based on McAdams’ drawing was created in painted steel by the Alton-Godfrey Rotary Club, and attached to the limestone quarry wall, along the Mississippi River at Norman's Landing at Alton, Illinois, near the original location. The site became a place of annual pilgrimage by local Indians in ceremonial costume, perhaps unaware of its dubious provenance.6

Fig. 9. A performance of the Piasa Indian Dancers during the dedication ceremony in 1983 celebrates the conclusion of a more than year-long volunteer effort coordinated by the Alton-Godfrey Rotary Club.

      Unfortunately, this colorful cartoon version of the Piasa was removed in 1996 by the landowners because the increased traffic flow became a nuisance. It was later moved to a new Sports Complex at Southwestern high School, Madison County, Illinois, where the Piasa was adopted as the school’s mascot. The corroded metal monster was refurbished by the industrial art students, and there it remains to this day.

Fig. 10. Final home of painting of Piasa on metal plate at Southwestern high School.

      The most recent painting of the Piasa was created in 1998 by artist Dave Stevens of Godfrey, Illinois. It measures 48 feet long and 22 feet high, and is located in a new facility called Piasa Park, along the Great River Road. The park covers an area of 2.5 acres within the old limestone quarry.

Fig. 11. Piasa painting on quarry wall by Dave Stevens, 1998.

      However, there is something odd about these modern images, which we are supposed to believe are replicas of the original petrograph. They do not at all resemble either the 1673 drawing in Fr. Marquette’s diary, or even the later renderings by William Dennis, J.C. Wild, Henry Lewis, and others. Rather, they bear an uncanny similarity to a pen drawing from a 17th-century bestiary manuscript, titled “The Manticora Monster of Tartary,” which would seem to be the prototype upon which McAdams based his popular Piasa image from which all subsequent versions derived. Note the fierce bearded human face with horns, the draconic wings, the large body scales, and the knobby scorpion tail which appear for the first time on graphic interpretations of the Piasa. I am unaware that anyone else has noticed this remarkable resemblance, and I may be the first to make this connection:

Fig. 12. “The Manticora Monster of Tartary,” 17th century.

      Look for part 2 to post in June. 

1.       McAdams, William, “The Bird which Devours Men,” Records of Ancient Races in the Mississippi Valley, C.R. Barnes; Cambridge, UK, 1887.
2.       “The Piasa Bird,” The IBEX Archive, (2007)
3.       “Piasa,” Wikipedia.
4.       “The Piasa Bird,” Op cit.
5.       McAdams, Op cit.
6.       Taylor, Troy, “The Legend of the Piasa Bird,” 1999, Ghosts of the Prairie: Haunted Illinois, (2007)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Positive News of the Week

Deaf Companions

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Japan's Luckiest Cat

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Breathprint for Disease Control

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Henna Heals

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Flush with Cash

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Weird News of the Week

Grilled Cheese by Parachute

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Cartwheeling Spider

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Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS),
a Cure for Depression?

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A "one-in-a-million" Case of Serendipity

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Will provision made for a Philodendron

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

In Her Memory

Thinking of Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart and all of whom she touched with her amazing light.  
She will be missed! 
Love, Light, and Swift Journeys Sweet Goddess!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Fall 14 New Release Announcement

Ancient Mysteries
Sky People: Untold Stories of Alien Encounters in Mesoamerica
by Dr. Ardy Sixkiller Clarke
December 14 Release
“Dr. Ardy Sixkiller Clarke has for more than 20 years done a tremendous amount of field work and has carefully and with spiritual sensitivity collected these stories from the original witnesses. This book is an impressive documentation of the scope and depth of the UFO enigma."
—Håkan Blomqvist, Cofounder and Chairman, Archives for UFO Research (AFU), Sweden

Compassion Conquers All: Teachings on the Eight Verses of Mind Transformation
By Tsem Rinpoche with Foreword by His Eminence Ken Rinpoche
December 14 Release
Deeper and deeper, from learning to cherish all beings as precious, to realizing that those we perceived as enemies are our supreme teachers, the teachings in Compassion Conquers All transport us into our innermost heart where we discover that we are the light we have been longing for. Indeed, compassion conquers all.

Peace: Steps to Achieving Happiness Through Acts of Love, Compassion, Kindness, Tolerance, and Forgiveness
By Tsem Rinpoche with Foreword by His Eminence Telo Rinpoche
December 14 Release
In this compilation of short teachings, Tsem Rinpoche brings us back to the basics of what it means to create peace and lasting harmony within ourselves and with the people around us.  He reveals surprising truths, offers us refreshing new perspectives, and gives us practical solutions for dealing with daily situations.

The Alchemy of Self Healing: A Revolutionary 30-Day Plan to Change How You Relate to Your Body and Health
By Jeannine Wiest, CMT, CST
October 14 Release
The discovery that your body (not your mind) is listening to you will transform your life. Your mind runs old programs, "defaults" to all that is familiar in your life, even when what’s familiar is pain. The Alchemy of Self Healing will show you how to tap into your body wisdom that craves health and joy. 

Change Your Mind, ChangeYour Health: 7 Ways to Harness the Power of Your Brain to Achieve True Well-Being
By Anne Marie Ludovici, MS with Foreword by Dr. James O. Prochaska
December 14 Release
Reveals proven techniques used by behavioral experts, researchers, health coaches and psychology professionals to inspire and empower people to embrace the enriching power of change. Change isn’t an outcome, it’s a process—a journey of personal independence, self-discovery and transformation leading to a new, healthier you.

Optimum Health the PaleoWay: A 28-Day Plan to Adopt the Paleo Lifestyle With a Diet Designed to Help You Get Healthy and Feel Great
By Claire Yates
July 14 Release
Eating the Paleo way is not about becoming a caveman! Instead, it’s all about listening to your body, getting back to a more natural, seasonal way of eating, nourishing your body with tasty whole foods, and living a more balanced lifestyle. Along the way, you’ll automatically consume far less sugar, avoid preservatives and processed foods, and throw away the calorie counter.

Sex, Sorcery, and Spirit: The Secrets of Erotic Magic
By Jason Miller
November 14 Release
Jason Miller draws upon his training in Eastern and Western mystery schools to produce a frank, comprehensive exploration of sexual sorcery and spirituality. In clear language, he will show you how to take your magic to the next level.

New Thought
The Akashic Records: Sacred Exploration of Your Soul's Journey Within the Wisdom of the Collective Consciousness
By Ernesto Ortiz
September 14 Release
This book provides a thorough map of the energetic territory you will be exploring and the many ways you can use the Akashic Records and the guidance of the masters and teachers.  

The Multidimensional Traveler: Finding Togetherness, or How I Learned to Break the Rules of Physics and Sojourn Across Dimensions and Time
By Khartika Goe
January 15 Release
An inspiring journey that awakens readers to worlds beyond physical limitations. In addition to illuminating the existence of vast multidimensional realities, it provides specific examples of adventures through time, space, and the universes. Freed of limitation, you are initiated into the lost knowledge of multidimensional travel.

Strange Electromagnetic Dimensions: The Science of the Unexplainable
By Louis Proud
November 14 Release
This exciting and controversial new title shows how all things, from the mundane to the mysterious, are tied together by a vast—and largely invisible—electromagnetic web. It examines ESP, poltergeist disturbances, psychokinesis, UFOs, electric people and other paranormal phenomena from an electromagnetic perspective. It also reveals how the artificial, alien energies we’ve been introducing into our environment shape the way we experience the paranormal.

The World’s Most Haunted House: The True Story of the Bridgeport Poltergeist on Lindley Street
By William J. Hall
August 14 Release
In this unprecedented work, the story of the 1974 Bridgeport, Connecticut poltergeist is at last revealed. A crowd of more than 2,000 onlookers gathered. National media reported jumping furniture, floating refrigerators, and attacking entities.
Decades after the publicity quieted, more than 40 hours of never-before-released interviews with police officers, firefighters, and others tell the story as it actually unfolded. 

The Andreasson Affair: The True Story of a Close Encounter of the Fourth Kind
By Raymond E. Fowler with Foreword by Dr. J Allen Hynek
October 14 Release
Something extraordinary happened to Betty Andreasson. Maybe she encountered non-human visitors or maybe something even more strange. Whatever the origin of her experience, her immensely powerful story awed me. Its rich and provocative imagery will remain with me forever."
—Whitley Strieber, author of Communion

Unidentified: The UFO Phenomenon
By Robert Salas with Foreword by Stanton T. Friedman
September 14 Release
In 1969 the U.S. Air Force issued a statement saying, “No UFO reported, investigated and evaluated by the Air Force was ever an indication of threat to our national security.” This statement is patently false. It has been proven untrue by the testimony of many military officers and airmen and documentation of incidents involving UFOs and nuclear weapons, testimonies of which the U.S. Air Force was fully aware.

Experiences From the Light: Ordinary People's Extraordinary Experiences of Transformation Miracles, Spiritual Awakening
By Keidi Keating
January 15 Release
It sometimes seems that the world in which we live is falling apart. We are experiencing more turmoil than ever before and desperately seeking a light in our lives. Experiences From the Light will teach you to have faith in your life situations, warm your overwhelmed heart, remind you to look for the signs that the universe provides, and awaken you to new and bright possibilities.

The Light: A Book of Wisdom
By Keidi Keating
October 14 Release
This powerful book contains chapters by 22 of the world’s leading luminaries in the field of personal development and spiritual transformation, including bestselling authors Neale Donald Walsch and Don Miguel Ruiz.
Covering topics from co-creating a peaceful world, forgiveness, healing, finding purpose and happiness, to chapters about health, well-being, destiny, and the mysteries of kundalini, The Light also includes practical exercises and guidance, empowering readers to achieve their greatest potential.

Your Journey to Love: Discover the Path to Your Soul’s True Mate
By Simran Singh with Foreword by Iyanla Vanzant
November 14 Release

The greatest quest in life is to love and be loved. Love continually reveals everything unlike itself.  Through self-discovery, real connection, and communion, the relationship that unfolds is the greatest love of all. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Positive News of the Week

@irispainting, Healing Art

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Putting the Leg in Lego

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Creating Music

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Above & Beyond

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