From: Bob Kobres <>
Organization: University of Georgia Libraries
Date sent: Sun, 8 Jun 1997 18:20:48 EST
Subject: What part of the sky is most apt to fall?
Copies to:
Priority: normal

With regard to differing views on the most likely source of potential
extraterrestrial influence, I think the most important thought to keep in mind
is that we do not KNOW very much yet. There is though a considerable body of
folklore which seems to indicate that, at least during recent times, there was a
perceived connection between recognized (named) entities of the sky and impact
phenomena. See:

and read down a bit to sample examples of rather explicit references to cosmic
critters generating meteor storms which darkened the Sun, Moon and stars
simultaneously (appended sans illustrations below for those without easy Web
access.) If such tales are based on observation then it would appear that comet
type objects have been more influential recently than discrete dark objects.

Pragmatically, the thing we need to be concerned with is how do we prevent our
contemporary climate from being severely perturbed by interaction with space
debris. If there are Earth-orbit-crossing comet trails (not tails) that remain
fairly dense, these constitute a more tricky to mitigate hazard than discrete
objects will be. Paying heed only to the crater count misses this type of
potential influence on climate. Certainly a kilometer across stony-iron object
plunging into earth or water will produce a string of bad hair days but it is
very likely that some of the former hair roots from our ancestors celestial
demons could more frequently produce similar results by losing the little
integrity they possess primarily within Earth's atmosphere. A comet trail
crossing Earth's path provides much greater opportunity for interaction than
does a discrete object traversing the same space. We should keep in mind that
it is climate perturbation that would cause problems for most people who
survived an impact event not the direct fire from the sky or waves from the sea.
A bad dusting from comet type source, during a critical time of the year for
crops, would result in a lot of hungry people.

In this vein, there is a recently published book: Third Millennium BC Climate
Change and Old World Collapse, that will probably be of interest to Cambridge
Conferees. The book is published by Springer (ISBN 3-540-61892-9) and consists
of the proceedings of the NATO Advanced Research Workshop on Third Millennium BC
Abrupt Climate Change_, held at Kremer, Turkey, September 19-24, 1994. I
haven't read the book myself--it's still on preview--but I did notice in the
preface the statement that: "Obtained evidence tends to support the close
temporal link between the collapse of the Old World urban civilizations and the
relatively short dry and cold climate oscillations, which occurred over many
parts of the world around the turn of the third and fourth millennium BC."

Have a nice day.

The link between the spinning cross and birds is evident on artifacts from
many cultures. Perhaps the association of the Sanskrit term "svastika" with this
symbol can be linked to the Astika Parva in the MAHABHARATA which relates the
birth of a cosmic bird par excellence--Garuda. This fabulous winged deity had a
radiance like the Sun, could change shapes at will, and destroyed other gods
and kings by casting down fire and stirring up storms of reddish dust which
darkened the Sun, Moon and stars. Clearly Garuda was symbolic of an Earth
approaching comet.

The bird-comet connection is even more obvious in the Jamva-khanda
Nirmana Parva of the MAHABHARATA which describes a fierce
fowl with but one wing, one eye, and one leg, hovering in the night sky.
As this bird "screams" and "vomits blood":

All the quarters of the earth, being overwhelmed by
showers of dust, look inauspicious. Fierce clouds,
portentous of danger, drop bloody showers during the
night. Rahu of fierce deeds is also, O monarch,
afflicting the constellation Kirtika. Rough winds,
portending fierce danger, are constantly blowing.

The mention of Rahu, the demon of eclipse, which originally had
four arms and a tail that was severed by Vishnu to become Ketu
(comet) is interesting in that the demon is here darkening
Kirttika (the Pleiades) in the month of Karttika (latter half of
October, through mid November), for the tale goes on to relate

. . . in course of the same month both the Moon and the
Sun have undergone eclipses on the thirteenth days from
the day of the first lunation. The Sun and the Moon
therefore, by undergoing eclipses on unusual days, will
cause a great slaughter of the creatures of the earth.
Meteors, effulgent like Indra's thunder-bolt, fall
with loud hisses . . . People, for meeting together,
coming out of their houses with lighted brands, have
still to encounter a thick gloom all round . . . From
the mountains of Kailasa and Mandara and Himavat
thousands of explosions are heard and thousands of
summits are tumbling down . . . Fierce winds charged
with pointed pebbles are blowing, crushing mighty trees.
In villages and towns trees, ordinary and sacred, are
falling down, crushed by mighty winds and struck by

This is, without doubt, a mythological record of an intense meteor
storm from the still active Taurid stream which presently peaks around
the first of November and appears to radiate from near the Pleiades
star cluster. The un-airworthy bird associated with this meteor
bombardment could have been comet Encke which until recently was
thought to be the sole source for the Taurid meteors. However, the
discovery of other large contributors which are now dark but were
once active comets rules out a positive identification.

Bob Kobres

email= <>
phone= 706-542-0583


From: Leroy Ellenberger <>
To: cambridge-conference <>
Copies to: "b.j.peiser" <>, cle <>,
gans <>,
"tim.thompson" <>, jacker <>,
hhbauer <>, df736 <>,
DLeveson <>, rheinberg <>
Subject: "Is the Sky Falling?", Pt. 2
Date sent: Sun, 8 Jun 1997 12:59:11 -0500

When discussing Ben-Menahem's QJRaS paper in the
previous message, I neglected to make explicit the point
that making the best sense out of ancient texts, such
as the Bible, can happen only when all the feasible, or
possible, alternatives are considered. Otherwise, one
runs the risk of force-fitting a description into a category
in which it does not really belong, such as calling an
event an eclipse when the description does not really

Another difficulty with such interpretations is the inherent
ambiguity of many texts so that more than one category
can be consistent with what it reported. For example,
Ben-Menahem takes Ezekiel's vision in Ezek. I to be an
account of some comet in 593 BC, evidently since he
probably saw the bright comet of 619 BC. However, in
AURORA: The Mysterious Northern Lights (1994) Candace
Savage suggests that Ezek. I is the description of an
aurora given a religious interpretation by Ezek. while at
Miletus, the Greek philosopher Anaximenes (stay tuned for
Bill Mullen's address at Fitzwilliam!) gave a more "realistic"
account of the experience. Savage states: "There is no easy
way to bridge the differences between these two experiences
and explanations--Ezekiel's passionate, hallucinatory
encounter with Spirit; Anaximenes' dry invocation of matter.
For Exekiel, the fundamental reality that manifested itself
in the aurora and other phenomena was divine and living. But
Anaximenes was a pioneer in the revolutionary new mode of
human understanding that came to be known as natural
philosophy; and for him, fundamental reality was material and
mechanical. This is the viewpoint we have inherited as
'scientific'" (pp. 45-47).

While scientists such as Ben-Menahem believe that religious
texts can preserve a record of actual experience, however
disguised by metaphysical assumptions of the observer,
there is a strong tendency among scientists to discount
such sources totally and ignore them. To counter this
position, at PSA 1974 at Notre Dame Univ. (in a forum
dealing with Velikovsky) A.M. Paterson observed: "The
accumulated record of man in his physical environment
includes his experience with stars, moon, planets, and the
sun, but early in the game these physical bodies were tied
to a rich emotional milieu. The time has arrived to sever the
intellectual analysis of these physical bodies from old
cultural hysterias. To hold that ancient reports of human
experience (set aside in holy books) are the sole basis of
scientific knowledge is, of course, ridiculous. _But_ to hold,
_because_ some records of ancient human experience have
been previously set aside _as_ holy books, that they cannot
_now_ be used to demonstrate the _source_ of careless
metaphysical assumptions by the human race--is equally
ridiculous. The law of uniformity is one such metaphysical
assumption" (Kronos III:2, 1977, p. 125).

It is my belief that when Clube and Napier's Taurid Complex
model is added to the set of possibilities against which
research programs are designed and funded, that evidence
will be found and identified that supports its former energetic
presence. As a Church father once remarked about Christianity,
Clube & Napier's model has not been tried and found wanting;
it has never been tried.

Finally, I shall take this opportunity to post a letter to SKY &
TELESCOPE that was by-passed in their inscrutible wisdom
for the July issue in favor of letter trading on the Heaven's Gate
tie to our relation to comets. This letter here expands upon the
earlier letter of mine that was posted here after being written
for Newsweek.

Bradley E. Schaefer's survey "Comets that Changed the World"
(May, pp 46-51) does not go back far enough in history to give
a satisfying explanation for mankind's archetypal fear of comets.
To answer that question requires reconstruting the sky our
ancestors experienced in the third and second millennia B.C.
According to the British astronomers Victor Clube and Bill Napier
in _The Cosmic Winter_ (1990), that epoch was dominated by
the spasmodic disintegration of a particularly impressive comet
with low inclination, the progenitor of the Taurid meteor streams.

When the Taurids were young, a dense portion accompanying
the parent comet, proto-Encke, contained Tunguska-class bolides
and larger. Every 3.35 years or so when the comet came round
the Sun our ancestors noticed that 40 days or so later an
armageddon _might_ happen if Earth intercepted some heavy debris
causing monsterous fireball storms and worse. So much debris
would have been injected into the stratosphere on occasion that
the Sun, Moon, and stars wold be darkened. Such event may
be the inspiration for the "day of the Lord" described in Isaiah 13:10,
"For the stars of heaven...shall not give their light, the sun shall be
darkened...and the moon shall not cause her light to shine."

Proto-Encke, then, was an _intermittent reinforcer_ which
behaviorists recognize as being as good as God. In its hey-day,
proto-Encke may have been identified as a visible manifefstation
of the goddess Inanna-Ishtar, along with Venus and Sirius, judging
by the cometary and martial imagery in her hymns.

This comet was probably resonsible for a series of disasters
in Mesopotamia and Egypt in the third millennium B.C. and then
again for a subsequent series of disasters inflicted upon the Minoan
and Mycenean worlds in the second millennium B.C. Clube and
Napier note: "Catastrophes of this sort, delivered by visible celestial
gods, are completely outside modern experience, but it is clear
that they could have been a major reason for the preoccupation with,
anddread of, the sky manifested by the earliest civilizations."

During this early epoch, teh sky was dominated by a prominent
zodiacal light that contained structure. Clube and Napier identify
it as the "central fire" of the Pythagoreans and propse it was the
original "Milky Way" whose early descriptions by, for example,
Aristotle and Anaximander, do not conform to today's Milky Way
[see S. Jaki, _The Milky Way_]. By the mid-first millennium B.C.,
around the time of Socrates, the sky had quieted down requiring
that the astronomical lore that no longer matched experience be
rationalized. By Roman times, Schaefer's earliest reference, the
modern view of the world had arisen, although it would be
challenged when cometary encounters or enhanced fireball
activity would revive memories of a prior regime.

When proto-Encke faded and the Taurids declined in activity,
the fear inspired by a particular comet was transferred to comets in
general. Clube has also shown that all epochs of millenarian,
eschatological concerns in the past 2000 years, prior to the 19th
century, coincided with periods of enhanced Taurid fireball acitivty,
according to Chinese astronomical records. Interestingly, early
descriptions of Satan and angels are patently of comets as
indicated in Neil Forsyth's _The Old Enemy: Satan and the Combat
Myth_ (Princeton, 1987), although he does not make the connection.

Are comets evil, as Bradley Schaefer asks? Not according to
our present experience; but in an earlier age our ancestors almost
certainly had reason to think so. Issues realted to the role of comets
in the collapse of Bronze Age civilizations will be the subject of a
conference at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, this July 11-13 where
Clube, his co-workers, and other scholars will preside.

3929A Utah
St. Louis, MO

We post-Enlightenment souls are probably too sophisticated to
relate to that earlier, superstitious time when events in the sky
were believed to presage events on Earth. Although the following
example is not purely astronomical, it is impressive enough to
make the point. In A.D. 1453, the explosive eruption of Rabaul in
New Britain sent so much dust into the upper atmosphere that
the dawn and dusk sky turned blood red and the Moon looked
red. This turn of events was taken as a omen by the defenders
of Constantinople that the End was near such that they lost
the will to continue to fight. Whereupon the Turks conquered
Constantinople at that time. Sure, perhaps the Turks would
have prevailed in any event, but they did when they did in no
small part due to an accident of Nature given a bad spin by the
Christians inside the city. In an earlier seige of Constantinople
in 339 B.C. by Philip of Macedon, an almost perfect occultation
of Venus by the Moon played a role in the outcome and, for some,
is the origin of the star-in-crescent motif later adopted by Islam.

As I have noted before, I do not believe that Taurid Complex events
are the only agent of catastrophe in the Bronze Age. Eruptions and
earthquakes play a role, too, but it cannot be discounted, perhaps,
what role aerial detonations a la Tunguska had in triggering
certain eruptions and/or earthquakes. I mention this because the
minor Revelstoke event in 1965 registered on seismographs in the

Cheers, Leroy

CCCMENU CCC for 1997