Thursday, July 29, 2010

Crop Circles: older than you think

 The occurrence of crop circles has been much maligned and with good reason.  There have been any number of videotapes that catalog exactly how organized fakers have perpetrated such hoaxes and there have been crop formations whose artistic inspiration obviously came from around these parts. As so..

That one looks to me like an old dot matrix print out, like the kind I did of Snoopy when I was in grade school .  Even looks like it's on that same tan and green striped paper.  Oh the biomass I destroyed with all of those printouts.  Oh the small of ribbon cartridges and overworked CPUs.  But I digress...
I did not know that crop circles are hardly a new phenomenon.  In fact, they go back at least as far as the 17th Century.  This article details an English newspaper report from August, 1678 that describes an "apparition overnight of a strange design in a field of oats, so neatly pressed that ‘no mortal man was able to do the like’ which was attributed to the ‘devil or some infernal spirit’. By convoluted logic this apparition confirmed the existence of God since, it was argued, if devils have a Hell then there must be a Heaven, and a God."
In addition to enjoying the bit of theological discourse towards the end, I was intrigued by the idea that these sorts of crop formations have been around since before the advent of electronic mass media.  Pressing on, I found that the incident in the newspaper report was blamed on a Satanic entity known as "the Devil Mower."  As is typical with these sorts of things, there was a folkloric tale that accompanied it, all about a farmer who would "rather the Devil mow a field than himself" or some such.  Then speak of the devil and the devil appears.
The nature of the explanation makes sense for the times.  There has been a solid argument that unexplained events of the past were blamed on the fantasies of the day; faeries, spirits, succubi, and the like (hopefully my brother will read this and weigh on the matter as he is far more knowledgeable on this subject than me.)  Now, in the age of computers, nuclear power, and space travel, we have new forms for "demons" who come in the night to abduct us, scrawl graffiti in our fields, and exsanguinate our cattle.  I of course am talking about aliens. 
I'm not a big fan of crop circles.  The sheer weight of the evidence for fakery is overwhelming.  Yet this 1678 anomaly does intrigue me.  Are we dealing a secret society of hoaxers that goes back hundreds of years?  Or is it a natural occurrence that we just don't yet understand, something to do with ball lightning or electromagnetism?  Or is it something else altogether stranger? 

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