Harbingers of Doom: Celestial Events and Superstitions
What kind of superstitions or myths do you think of when you look up at the stars? Every culture has them; there have been stories developed all over the world to explain star constellations or natural phenomena like solar and lunar eclipses, comets, meteors and more. When the sun provides warmth to help the crops grow and night skies are used to measure the passage of time, it’s not surprising that any unexpected or unusual phenomenon is assigned meaning when the science isn’t sophisticated enough to distinguish between causation and correlation. Horrific History co-hosts, Eric Slyter and Curtis Bender, explore beliefs related to celestial events from across the globe. Hindu serpent demons, China’s dragons (or dogs) and modern conspiracy theorists watching for alien spaceships, we have a lot of “bad omens” for your enjoyment.
Lunacy and humours, werewolves and witches, this episode brings you from past paranormal superstition to modern “remote viewing” and “Flat Earth Theory” pseudoscience! From the “Tears of St. Lawrence” to angels being cast from heaven, we’ve also included many spiritual explanations for the natural workings of the heavens; we even have some signs from the aboriginal afterlife! Hear about doomsday cults, castrations, suicides and plagues all associated with cosmic events and the illusory correlations humans have assigned to them (sometimes, like with the Battle of Hastings, even after the event has long passed)! Of course, this episode wouldn’t be complete without the tale of the woman who survived being hit by a meteorite! Just remember, no squeam allowed.
So put on your eclipse glasses and pull out your Aztec sun stone to keep time as you listen to this Horrific History Podcast episode through one of your favorite podcast services (iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn and more); we’ll provide you with your own little collection of cosmic harbingers of doom to keep you entertained while you look out into space, the final squeam-teir. Come back again in two weeks to hear our Labor Day and horrible in history episode.
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Some of our favorite resources from this week’s episode:
- Inside Mexico
- Delle Rae Maxwell
- The Living Moon
- Web Exhibits
- Daily Mail
- Florida Museum
- Gap Year
- David Reneke
- Belfast Telegraph
- Space.com, 2
- Act for Libraries
- Universe Today
- The Guardian, 2
- The Daily Galaxy
- Cometary Theory in Fifteenth-Century Europe (Studia Copernicana) (link to Amazon)
- A History of Magic and Experimental Science (8 Volume Set) (link to Amazon)
- University at Buffalo
- The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution (link to Amazon)
- Washington Post
- University of Maryland
- Sky and Telescope
- National Geographic, 2
- Scientific American, 2
- Alberti’s Window
- Medieval Justice: Cases and Laws in France, England and Germany, 500-1500 (link to Amazon)
- Live Science
- Smithsonian Magazine
- Discover Magazine
- David Darling
- New England Historical Society
- National Center for Biotechnology Information
- Astronomy Today
- University of Reading
*While superstitions often seem humorous to our modern and scientific sensibilities, there have been many people over the course of history who have earnestly believed that celestial events which are as predictable as a clockwork somehow foretell doom for individuals or humanity-at-large. Cases like the Heaven’s Gate cult are not so far removed from the present as it may seem. If you have any thoughts of harming yourself or others, whether related to our upcoming solar eclipse or not, we encourage you to reach out to qualified and professional mental health assistance through your local, regional or national resources.
Commercial break music by Dead but Dreaming.
This episode was brought to you, in part, through the support of listeners just like you! This episode we’d like to give a shout out to our newest Patreon supporter: Thank you Sebastian!
Slideshow photo credit: Emmadukew Day 245 via photopin (license)
Blog post photo credit: Xuan Che aztec sun stone via photopin (license)
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8 Replies to “Harbingers of Doom: Celestial Events and Superstitions”
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Nice episode! It gave me a lot to think about as the eclipse was happening.
In regards to comet Hale-Bopp and the telescope: I can’t recall a specific instance of the telescope being used to look at the comet, but I did have one. I use my SLR camera to take a pic of the comet, so you might be recalling that photo, Eric.
Anyway, I very much enjoyed listening to this; well done!
Thanks Fish! I guess it’s too long ago for us old-timers to accurately recollect at this point. I wasn’t geeking out about astronomy at that point to the same extent that I have been in more recent years.
I’m glad you enjoyed the episode 🙂 Plenty more where that came from!
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