Return to Magonia (and The Anomalist)
I want to thank my pals at Patrick Huyghe’s Anomalist, especially WM, who regularly provides notices of my ramblings and offers correctives as needed.
This one’s for them….
I haven’t mentioned, in a while, Chris Aubeck’s and Martin Shough’s book Return to Magonia: Investigating UFOs in History. [Anomalist Books, TX, 2015]
While re-reading the book – I’m a Chris Aubeck fan – I was struck by the passages inside the discourse on the Airship phenomenon of the late 1800s. [Chapter 15, Strange Mid-air Ships, Page219 ff.], particularly the passages about the alleged “sightings” and incidents recorded in Medieval church documents [Page 231 ff.].
My “critical review” appeared here a year ago:
Most of you, I presume, recall the often mentioned (in UFO literature) the account of Archbishop Agobard [779-840] in the 9th Century that supposedly related an encounter by parishioners with “people” who descended from a craft floating in the air like a ship at sea:
“ … many people [were] exhibiting four captives, three men and a woman, [who] had fallen from these very ships. [The four] were chained up for some days [and being prepared to be stoned by their captures]” which Archbishop halted.
A Chinese writing from June 1523 by Qiu Fuzuo is interesting:
“Two ships suddenly came out of a cloud and landed in front of Lu Yu’s school. The five or six pilots of two flying boats were just two feet tall and wore red hats and held long poles. The students came out of the school to see the ships. The beings stretched out their hands and the students’ noses and mouths turned black. They found they were unable to speak and fled in fright.
“The ships remained on the ground for a while. Several people came out … Shortly both ships took off … and flew over a mile away. They landed in a cemetery … the students’ [sic] regained the ability to speak … Five days later, Lu Yu died suddenly.” [ibid; Page 234]
Other accounts (from the period] tell of ships from which “beings” descend from floating ships, many grabbed by people only to be released when they (the beings) professed to be “drowning” or unable to breathe, suffocating in the air in which they were sailing.
Many of the church registered episodes tell of “anchors” being caught on spires or other protuberances and cut away by the crew members in the ships (to escape) and then saved by church members to adorn some facet of the church, like a door.
(I haven’t heard or read, anywhere, that some UFO researcher has checked out the churches mentioned to see if an “anchor” is installed as part of the church façade. The book glosses over the matter.)
These accounts by Aubeck and Shough supplement their elaborate renditions of Airship sightings, which provoked a yawn from me, as noted in my 2016 “review.”
Yet, the tales told (and recorded by church fathers) fascinate.
Why? Are they true or apocryphal or, perhaps, “deliberate inventions with a political message” [Page 234], the “water” meant to be read figuratively, the authors write. [Page 233]
Sociology and Science (at the University of California. San Diego, Andrew Schull, writes in his book Madness in Civilization: A Cultural History of Insanity from the Bible to Freud, from the Madhouse to Modern Medicine [Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2015] this:
“In Europe, medieval societies in the centuries that followed the breakdown of the Rona imperium were riven by the twin scourges of poverty and disease, heir depredations exacerbated by endemic violence and insecurity. This was a world of malnutrition and famine with mass starvation … And to those largely helpless and dependent victims of misfortune, we may add the mad – epileptic, frenzied, melancholic, hallucinating, demented. [Pages 69-70]
Would that account for the “sightings” and incidents as recorded by monks and bishops of the Church?
Even Abogard challenges the mind-set of his parishioners:
“Among those so blinded with profound stupidity … they believe these things … “ [Aubeck /Shough, Page 231]
Michel Foucault in Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason [Vintage Books/Random House, NY, 1965] writes:
“Something new appears in the imaginary landscape of the Renaissance; soon it will occupy a privileged place there: the Ship of Fools, a strange ‘drunken boat’ …Page 7]
“It is possible that these ships of fools … haunted the imagination of the entire early Renaissance …” [Page 9]
“But if the navigation of madmen is linked in the Western mind with so many immemorial motifs, why, so abruptly, in the [middle ages] is the theme suddenly formulated in literature and iconography?” [Page 13]
Foucault equates “madness” with “folly,” an innocuous mind-set that seems more likely to be the “affliction” of those church members who thought they had seen “ships” and caught some of their crew, “swimming” down toward them.
But why so many tales from different times and different locales, some outside Europe as the China account?
No real research or investigation taken by UFO enthusiasts, as noted in the lack of search for those “anchors” supposedly collected and added to church facilities.
And is there a kind of collective mind-set that pairs these early airships to the 1896 Airships, the reports of which are debunked by UFO skeptics?
Or did some phenomenon show up, created by Vallee’s “control system” or Caravaca’s “external agent”?
Like Grimm’s fairy tales, the stories may have been generated for any number of reasons -- liturgical metaphor, political purpose, or entertainment – and changed by geographic context or existential context.
Or are the stories actual accounts, a journalistic reprise of real events?
Madness prevails either way: in a real context or an hallucinatory context.