Dr. Cyrus Teed and the Koreshans,
The idea of the hollow earth was made popular by Jules Verne’s novel “Journey to the Center of the Earth”. However a doctor in New York would propose an idea that took the hollow earth theory one step further. Dr. Cyrus Teed was a physician who had a very unique view of the earth. According to Teed the earth was hollow, however we were living inside of the concave hollow earth, with the sun, atmosphere, stars, and moon located in the center. Needless to say, Dr. Teed was a very odd man, who also performed very odd experiments involving mysticism, alchemy, and subjecting himself to high voltage electrical shocks.
After subjecting himself to one such shock in 1869 Dr. Teed was visited by a divine spirit who revealed to him that he was the Messiah, and that Teed needed to use his scientific knowledge to save humanity. Dr. Cyrus Teed changed his name to “Koresh”, the Hebrew name for Cyrus. He founded a new religion called “Koreshanity” which revolved around the ideas of communal living, utopianism, celibacy (no sex), reincarnation, the non-existence of gravity, and his particular version of the hollow earth theory. Many people flocked to join his new religion, and communes were formed in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco.
In 1894 Teed declared the creation of a “New Jerusalem” in Estero, Florida. The 250 Koreshans built a prosperous small town complete with a bakery, a general store, concrete works, power plant, and a Koreshanity College. The Koreshans even created their own political party, unsuccessfully running candidates for local government positions. Teed’s death in 1908 led to the withering of the movement. The last Koreshan was Hedwig Michel, an immigrant who fled the Nazi’s during the 1930’s. In 1964 she deeded the colony to the State of Florida, which made it into the Koreshan State Historic Park.
The Caves of Faith
The Magao Grottoes (Thousand Buddha Caves) sits at the cliffs of the Soughing Sand Hill about 16 miles southeast of Dunhuang in the Gansu province of China. It is an oasis strategically located at a religious and cultural crossroads on the Silk Road.
It was first dug in the year 366 AD and kept evolving for over a millennium. The caves house over 2400 colorful clay statues and 4500 square meters of wall paintings (murals). These grottoes contain the most beautiful Buddhist inspired artwork in the world. If you are a traveler, these caves should definitely be in your top ten places to visit.
(Source: National Geographic)
Saint Anthony and the lobster devil
Jacobus de Voragine, La Légende Dorée (Legenda aurea), France 1470.
British Library, Yates Thompson 49 vol. 1, fol. 34v
There is so much oddness going on in this picture, I don’t know where to begin. The two hairy creatures on the left are sporting some very strange genitalia: the black one’s is a tail and the blue one’s is a tongue hanging from a happy face on his stomach. It would be interesting to know what this image represents.
Sokushinbutsu - The Bizarre Practice of Self-Mummification
Scattered throughout Northern Japan around the Yamagata Prefecture are two dozen mummified Japanese monks known as Sokushinbutsu, who caused their own deaths by way of self-mummification. A successful mummification took upwards of ten years. It is believed that many hundreds of monks tried, but only about 20 such mummifications have been discovered to date.
The elaborate process started with three years of eating a special diet consisting only of nuts and seeds, while taking part in a regimen of rigorous physical activity that stripped them of their body fat. They then ate only bark and roots for another three years and began drinking a poisonous tea made from the sap of the Urushi tree, normally used to lacquer bowls.
This caused vomiting and a rapid loss of bodily fluids, and most importantly, it made the body too poisonous to be eaten by maggots. Finally, a self-mummifying monk would lock himself in a stone tomb barely larger than his body, where he would not move from the lotus position. His only connection to the outside world was an air tube and a bell. Each day he rang a bell to let those outside know that he was still alive.
When the bell stopped ringing, the tube was removed and the tomb sealed. After the tomb was sealed, the other monks in the temple would wait another three years, and open the tomb to see if the mummification was successful. If the monk had been successfully mummified, they were immediately seen as a Buddha and put in the temple for viewing. Usually, though, there was just a decomposed body.
The Mysterious Cave City and Monastery of Vardzia, 1185 AD
One of the most little known marvels of the world is the ancient cave city of Vardzia. It is every bit as impressive as the Roman Colosseum or the Pyramids of Giza. Built astride and into the sheer cliff face of a mountain, it resembles something of a hybrid of ancient Petra in Jordan and the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings of the U.S…or, for those familiar with the Tolkien works, a Minas Tirith in ruins.
Known as the cave city or monastery of Vardzia, it was dug into the side of Mount Erusheli near the town of Aspindza and the Mtkvari river in southern Georgia during the late 12th century. During this time the medieval kingdom of Georgia was resisting the onslaught of the Mongol hordes. Queen Tamar ordered the construction of this underground sanctuary in 1185 AD. When completed this underground fortress extended 13 levels and contained 6000 apartments, a throne room and a large church with an external bell tower.
Standing Fudo Myō-ō (11th century) - King of Mystical Knowledge and One Really Mean god…
The Myō-ō are warlike and wrathful deities that appear with furious faces and fire to frighten non-believers into accepting the teachings of Esoteric Buddhism. Introduced to Japan in the 9th century by Japan’s Shingon and Tendai sects, the Myō-ō were originally Hindu deities. Elaborate and secret ritual practices are used to help partitioners develop and realize the eternal wisdom of the Buddha.This form of Buddhism is not taught to the general public, but is confined mostly to Buddhist believers, priests and those far along the path toward enlightenment.
Mythical Creatures - The Al-Buraq
Al-Buraq (البُراق) is an angelic being who carried the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), on the Miraj, the Night Journey through the Seven Heavens to Jerusalem and got him back in the same night. According to Islam, the Night Journey took place 12 years after Muhammad became a prophet, during the 7th century.
The Al-Buraq is a mythical creature of transportation. It is described as white in color and the size between a donkey and a mule. It is to have the face of a woman and the wings of an eagle, as well as the tail of a peacock. The symbolism of the horse-like body and the eagle wings implies rapid movement and the ability to carry a passenger. The movement of one step is said to be equivalent to the distance of the vision of the creature. So not only can it carry a passenger on its equine body, but can move quickly due to the large wings on the sides of its body. This intensely rapid movement could also be attributed to the name.
Curious History: The Dybbuk Box
The Dybbuk Box is the commonly used name of a wine cabinet which is said to be haunted by a dybbuk, a spirit from Jewish folklore. The legend of the box originated in a story written as an eBay auction listing by Kevin Mannis. Mannis purportedly bought the Box at an estate sale in 2001. It had belonged to a Polish Holocaust survivor named Havela, who had escaped to Spain and purchased it there before emigrating to the United States. Havela’s granddaughter told Mannis that the Box had been kept in her grandmother’s sewing room and was never opened because a dybbuk was said to live inside it. He offered to give the box back to her, but she became upset and refused to take it.
On opening the box, Mannis found that it contained two 1920 pennies, a lock of blonde hair bound with cord, a lock of brown hair bound with cord, a small statue engraved with the Hebrew word “Shalom”, a small, golden wine goblet, one dried rose bud, and a single candle holder with four octopus-shaped legs.
Numerous owners of the box have reported that strange phenomena accompany it. His mother is supposed to have suffered a stroke on the same day he gave her the box as a birthday present. Every owner of the Box has reported that smells of cat urine or jasmine flowers and nightmares involving an old hag accompany the Box. Iosif Neitzke, a Minnesota college student and the last person to auction the box on eBay, claimed that the box caused lights to burn out in his house and his hair to fall out. Neitzke sold it to Jason Haxton, Director of the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, Missouri. Haxton, who wrote The Dibbuk Box, and claimed that he subsequently developed strange health problems, including hives, coughing up blood, and “head-to-toe welts.”
Curious History: Hallstatt Charnel House or House of Painted Skulls
Behind the Hallstatt Catholic Church in Austria, near the 12th-century St. Micheal’s Chapel, in a small and lovingly cared for cemetery is the Hallstatt Beinhaus (bone house), also known as the Charnel House. A small building, it is tightly stacked with over 1200 skulls. Because Hallstatt finds itself in such a lovely location, it also finds itself in very short supply of burial grounds.
In the 1700s, the Church began digging up corpses to make way for the newly dead. The bodies which had been buried for only 10 to 15 years were then stacked inside the charnel house. Once the skeletons were exhumed and properly bleached in the sun, the family members would stack the bones next to their nearest kin.
In 1720, a tradition began of painting the skulls with symbolic decorations as well as dates of birth and death so that the dead would be remembered, even if they no longer had a grave. Of the 1,200 skulls, some 610 of them were lovingly painted, with an assortment of symbols, laurels for valor, roses for love, and so on. The ones from the 1700s are painted with thick dark garlands, while the newer ones from the 1800s on, bear brighter floral styles.