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Archive for the ‘History’ Category

I love obscure mysteries, the ones you’ve never heard of, the ones no one pays attention to. The grisly, the evil, the just downright mind-boggling weird. The first one is about a ghost ship, only ghost were not the only thing on board…

The Ourang Medan (roughly translated from Malay “Man from Medan” was a dutch cargo ship that allegedly took off from Indonesia between the months of February and June, either in 1947 or 1948, supposedly bound home to Germany. This is difficult to verify as there isn’t a registry for this ship in either the Indonesian or Dutch registration offices. According to two boats passing through the waters near Indonesia, they both received a distress signal in Morse code. It read “All officers, including captain, are dead, lying in the courtroom and bridge.” This was followed by a length of undecipherable Morse code, ending with the radio operator’s chilling final words, “I die.”

The ship Silver Star attempted to execute a rescue mission and set off to find the ship. When he saw it, he was struck by the fact that there didn’t seem to be any damage to the ship at all. The Silver Star attempted to hail the boat with a series of different communication methods, but never received an answer, they decided to board it to look for survivors. What they found is one of the most puzzling mysteries to have taken place in the Strait of Malaccah. Upon boarding, the found the bodies of all of the crew (including the ship’s dog) dead; eyes open and faces tilted to the sun at it’s position during the time. Though they lay on there backs, their arms were outstretched in front of them toward the ceiling, and each had a look of pure terror on their faces, often looking as though they were screaming. When examined by the crew, they discovered no obvious external injuries to any of the dead, including the dog.

After looking through and attempting to count the bodies, the crew of the Silver Star decided the best course of action would be to tow it back to the nearest port and examine it further, but just as this decision was made, they noticed rolling black smoke escaping the hull. They barely had enough time to get back to their own ship when the Ourang Medan caught fire and exploded, sinking out of sight.

Many people are highly skeptical of this story due to the fact that there are absolutely no records to support that a ship like that ever even existed, let alone went missing. Among believers, on the other hand, theories of how the ship may have met it’s fate is varied. Some assert that the ship was secretly smuggling illegal drugs from and to Indonesia, (including potassium cyanide and nitroglycerin, which both become toxic if mixed with sea water) and highly experimental nerve agents, which would all be extremely toxic to the crew. Even stranger claims are of alien abductions and vengeful ghosts. Whatever the case may be, we’ll probably never know the answer about how these people died and what exactly was is that happened to the Ourang Medan, if it even existed.

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There are quite a few myths propagated by the pagan community about the various witch hunts throughout history. Many believe that the witch hunts were covers for a larger scheme of genocide, while some simply doubt the very existence of such actions. There is a lot of truth in the myth, but not as much as some would have you believe. To begin, there are the Salem witch trails of 1692. Contrary to popular belief, which that hundreds of men, women, and children were captured, tortured, and executed, only twenty people died during the Salem witch trials (nineteen hanged, one pressed under stones), most of them were men, and none of the ones executed were actually involved in witchcraft.

During the Middle Ages, the Christian view of witchcraft was that it wasn’t real. People might think they were witches, but they were either lying, fooling themselves and others, or the Devil had possessed them. Most authorities thought that witchcraft could do no serious harm because it didn’t exist. It took many years, various arguments of theologians, a number of inquisitor’s manuals, and a series of papal bulls (written letters by the Pope of judgment and command) to contradict that traditional Christian idea, and identify witchcraft as heresy and blasphemous. Eventually in1484, Pope Innocent VIII, in his bull Summis desiderantes, allowed the Inquisition to pursue “witches”.

Surprisingly, the Protestant reformers often agreed with Rome, that witches were a clear and present danger. All four of the major western Christian “churches” (Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, Anglican) persecuted witches to some degree or another. (Eastern Christian, or Orthodox Churches, carried out almost no witch hunting). Many witch hunters, particularly the authors of the Malleus Maleficarum, held that women were far more susceptible to temptation by the Devil, and based this theory on the temptation of Eve in Eden, thus women more frequently became witches. Some witch hunts did almost exclusively target women, in percentages as high as 95% of the victims. Nonetheless, men were often accused of being witches, and executed for it.

Europe suffered many intense hunts, such as provinces in France and Germany; others experienced several moderate persecutions, such as England or Hungary; others held comparatively few trials, such as Spain or the Dutch Netherlands. None of the hunts were constant over the years 1400 to 1800, but came in concentrated periods, especially intense between 1550 and 1650. Historians are still trying to explain the reasons for this great variety in witch hunting. Important factors could have been the power of the central government, the independence of local authorities, tensions created by war, failing economies or famine, and uncertainties about religious conformity.

The number 9 to 10 million often cited is grossly exaggerated; no respectable historian supports them anymore. Modern figures concerning the number of executed witches are based on a much closer examination of the surviving historical records, combined with reasonable guesswork and statistical analysis for those areas and periods lacking clear sources. The hunts were anything but constant, systematic or frequent. Even the much lower figure of under 50,000 dead would have meant over a hundred thousand put on trial. Then, considering all the personnel involved in the justice system as court officials and witnesses, friends and family members, and those who even felt the “fear” caused by the hunts, millions of people’s lives changed, usually for the worse, because of the witch hunts.

The idea of a “witch hunt” is not limited to witches, though. People against witches were also against jews, muslims, lepers, or any group of people the Church disliked. These hunts included those people. Very few people that were involved in these hunts had any tie to magic or witchcraft that historians are aware, meaning that the trials had nothing to do with actual witchcraft, and everything to do with religious fanaticism. So, for a witch to claim that the “Burning Times” were a turning point in the history of witches is silly, because is was a dark time in human history. Being a witch has nothing to do with it.

(I am in no way judging witches, as I am one myself. Don’t jump my case for “persecuting” you.)

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