Monday, February 29, 2016

Nemeta: Sacred Sites of the Ancient Celts

C. Hudson, 2016"No bird nested in the Nemeton, nor did any animal lurk nearby; the leaves constantly shivered though no breeze stirred. Altars stood in its midst, and the images of the gods. Every tree was stained with sacrificial blood. the very earth groaned, dead yews revived; unconsumed trees were surrounded with flame, and huge serpents twined round the oaks. The people feared to approach the grove, and even the priests [druids] would not walk there at midday or midnight lest he should then meet its divine guardian." -- Lucan, Pharsalia

To the Celtic peoples, Nemeta were sacred places, often a copse or rock outcropping, utilized for ritual purposes. The goddess Nemetona was the divine guardian that Lucan spoke of. Given that even Romans such as Marcus Aurelius allied her with the war god Mars, it can be concluded that she was seen as fearful indeed.

These Nemeta can be found in Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, and in the UK and Ireland.
The Nemeton derives its name from the Latin nemus (plural: nemora), meaning forest or woods. The related word, Lucus, refers specifically to a sacred grove.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Lunacy of Lost 'London'

The famous lost Lon Chaney film, "London After Midnight" (aka "The Hypnotist") was said to be the driving force behind the murder of Julia Mangan in London's Hyde Park in October of 1928.

The killer, a Welsh carpenter named Robert Williams, believed that Chaney's unnerving depiction of a near-supernatural killer in the film had driven him insane. It was reported that Williams could see Chaney in a corner, shouting and making faces at him and that he felt as if steam were coming out of his own ears.

Williams seemed to think he had been set into a dissociative
state by this apparition because he could not remember pulling a razor from his pocket and slitting Mangan's throat or attempting then to take his own life.

The defense attempted to pin his unhinging on the disturbing visage Chaney donned for his character in London After Midnight, but the jury didn't buy it: They sentenced Williams to death on January 10, 1929.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Blue Man

Someone I know recently shared a strange encounter he had at a Walmart in Texas (I know, I know...narrow it down, right?) that left him a bit bewildered and somewhat unsettled.

An elderly man in sunglasses spotted him from across the crowded store, and seeing him leaving, somehow managed to beat him outside where he cornered my friend and began speaking to him as if the two had been long time pals. The elderly man proceeded to harangue him on myriad topics, including politics. However, the man seemed to have no specific information upon which to talk, forming instead a Dadaist rant that left my friend unnerved. To be fair, much of his discomfort stemmed from the fact the old stranger was... Well, he was blue. His skin was blue.

After several minutes of this rambling conversation, my friend managed to extricate himself from the situation and the elderly blue gentleman drove off in his Cadillac.

So my friend asks me if I had ever heard of people with blue skin. As it turns out, I have.

Methemoglobinemia is a rare condition (often genetic) that occurs when there is too much methemoglobin in the blood, a situation that can leave the skin with a bluish cast. On a fairly pale skinned individual, this would likely present as a striking blue shade.

A 19th Century Kentucky family, known as the "Blue Fugates" were a famous example of this oft-heriditary condition. And in 1942, the "Blue Men of Lurgan" were treated by Irish doctor, James Deeny.

Still, this doesn't explain the other weird aspects of my friends own blue man encounter that left him disturbed.