[Chapter Fifteen: AD 429—The Rise of the Pendragons]
Chapter Sixteen: Twilight—AD 536
The last clear indication in the dendrochronological (tree-ring) record of a global catastrophic event was during the second half of AD 535, the whole of 536, and several years thereafter, with the short term effects lasting at least until 542. Sometimes associated with the "Wasteland" in the stories of King Arthur and the Grail, though we have already seen that Arthur lived a century earlier, the year 536 marked the destruction of the churches of Legions, York, and London; the Saxon invasion of Loegria; the flight of British royalty to Cornwall, Wales, and Brittany; and very closely approximates the beginning of the Dark Ages. Merlin's prophesy to Vortigern describes the geophysical events after the attack of Gormund, the Byzantine governor of North Africa, on Cerdic of Wessex circa 534. Sometime later, "It shall reign a shower of blood, and a raging famine shall afflict mankind." Keeping in mind that this was written after the fact, we can see that Merlin (or Myrddin in Welsh) was describing the very real events most closely associated with the year 536.
As with Chapter Two, the current one is much shorter than it might have been, and I will not attempt to reproduce here the entire argument of my primary sources. Readers may consult them at their leisure. I will restrict myself to the salient points that indicate not only the clearly catastrophic nature of the events described, but their hitherto unrecognized status as part of a repeating series of such occurrences whose earlier examples may be better understood by reference to those of 535/536.
Volume 6 of the journal Nature, in the issue for October 31, 1872, has the following by J. Ericsson:
History informs us that the great luminary has, during several seasons, partially failed to perform its functions. [William] Herschel states, in his "Outlines of Astronomy," that "in the annals of the year A.D. 536 the sun is said to have suffered a great diminution of light, which continued fourteen months."
The fault, of course, was not with the sun, but with the atmosphere of the earth, which had been polluted to a point that the sun was not seen at anywhere near its usual brightness.
David Keys, in his Catastrophe, enumerates the events from around the world that marked the return of what the reader, by now, should easily recognize as the Comet of Typhon. According to Trevor Palmer in his Perilous Planet Earth, Keys says that in late 535, in China (most likely before the end of the growing season if the stunted growth of trees that year is taken into account), "the Nan shi ... records great falls of yellow dust," perhaps not dissimilar to those described by Charles Fort that have occurred in modern times. "Similarly, the Bei shi ... record[s] a climatic deterioration and famine, starting in the mid 530s." Records from Japan describe similar events. Charles Pellegrino, in Ghosts of Vesuvius and also referring to Keys, points toward the composition of the yellow rain. He identifies 535 with what he calls a "sulfur event." In Italy, again in 535, the rain was red, resembling diluted blood, the same phenomenon "predicted" by Merlin and also remarked upon at length by Fort in The Book of the Damned, a monumental enumeration of peculiar rains and falls of objects during modern times.
Turning to Keys himself, he enumerates the authors who recorded the effects on the atmosphere and the visibility of the sun in the West. These were, among others:
The Byzantine historian Procopius:
And it came about during this year that a most dread portent took place. For the sun gave forth its light without brightness like the moon during this whole year, and it seemed exceedingly like the sun in eclipse, for the beams it shed were not clear, nor such as it is accustomed to shed.
John of Ephesus, at Byzantium:
There was a sign from the sun, the like of which had never been seen and reported before. The sun became dark and its darkness lasted for eighteen months. Each day, it shone for about four hours, and still this light was only a feeble shadow. Everyone declared that the sun would never recover its full light again.
Cassiodorus Senator, in Italy:
The sun seems to have lost its wonted light, and appears of a bluish color. We marvel to see no shadows of our bodies at noon, to feel the mighty vigor of the sun's heat wasted into feebleness, and the phenomena which accompany transitory eclipse prolonged through almost a whole year. The moon too, even when its orb is full, is empty of its natural splendor.
Even as the sun had dimmed, crops began to fail; droughts were common, leading to famine and cannibalism; plague began to spread from East Africa; and finally deluge and flooding occurred in places as distant from each other as Arabia and China; all mimicking the events of 2949 BC and thereafter. Clearly, if there were a comet near the earth at this time, it would be nearly invisible to its inhabitants, which would tend to explain the lack of any direct account of its passage.
There is, however, a euphemistic reference to what may be the comet. By the 540s, the Bubonic plague had reached Yemen in its inexorable march toward Egypt and Europe, and finally China. Keys writes,
An early reference to what appears to have been plague in Yemen is from one of the earliest parts of the Koran itself. Viewing the plague as an affliction from on high, and the dark skin boils as "baked clay" dropped by God-sent "flying creatures," the Koran describes what befell an army from Yemen that was threatening Mecca around 550.
It is difficult to determine how seriously we should take the metaphorical interpretation of Keys, but there is no compelling reason to assume that these "flying creatures" only appeared in 550. It is at least possible that they were visible earlier and were later associated with the whole panoply of catastrophic events. The flying creatures remind us of the dragon-like apparition of 429 mentioned by Geoffrey of Monmouth. Being a follower of the volcanic theory of catastrophes, Keys does not notice this suggestion of an astronomical cause "from on high." He, in fact, posits three theories of the origin of the event of 535, the cometary, meteor/asteroid, and volcanic. He sees these as mutually exclusive possibilities and thereby fails to recognize the unitary nature of the phenomenon. Since Comet Shoemaker-Levy struck Jupiter, the theory of comets as nothing more than giant snowballs, a position advocated by Keys, has ceased to hold any water. They are, in fact, much more substantial than this, having a major stony component, as evidenced by the events of 1803 and 1908 even after Typhon had ceased to appear in the form of a comet. The presence of large stony masses within the comet also suggests a far from insignificant gravitational field, though it is hard to imagine a purely comet-based field whose effects can be seen to extend not only to the eruption of volcanoes in tectonically sensitive areas of the earth, but to such phenomena as the change in the length of the day in 1159 BC and the alteration in the precession of the equinoxes suggested by the story of Alexander and the Gordian Knot. The sequence of earthquakes in the Near East enumerated by Claude Schaeffer also suggests the presence of a massive gravitational field.
In short, once it became clear to me that the various catastrophic events examined in the current work were cyclical, it became necessary to assign them to a recurring phenomenon, and that level of recurrence can only be found in the celestial sphere. It then becomes necessary to assign a method by which that celestial phenomenon affected the earth. Since there is no question of the object repeatedly striking our planet—i.e., the interaction cannot be strictly kinetic over such a long term—we must look for some kind of field effect, and, despite Velikovsky's attempted introduction of electromagnetic fields into non-localized (planetary scale) celestial mechanics, gravity is the most obvious candidate. This is the crux of the problem with which we are presented, for no purely cometary body, no matter how large, can be recognized as the cause of such powerful effects. This is one of the reasons Velikovsky attempted to identify the appearance of our comet with successive encounters of the earth with various planets ending with Venus and Mars, for planets are just massive enough to cause such exaggerated effects. Yet there is no surviving description of anything resembling a planet in space near the earth. The large globe of light with which the comet is often supposed to have been battling was clearly the sun. Where does this leave us? The implication of all of this is that there is something peculiar about the Comet of Typhon not found in normal comets. The appearance is of something relatively small, but with a large gravitational field, and made, at least partially, of a material subject to ignite and even to explode.
The Feathered Serpent
The years 535-536 saw the beginning of the decline of the city of Teotihuacán in the Valley of Mexico, the seat of a pantheistic religious system that included Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent. The earliest surviving indications of the presence of Quetzalcoatl date from the time of Solomon's empire. Velikovsky makes much of the later identification of Quetzalcoatl with Venus, though his serpent form would tend to identify him not with a planet but with a comet. In one version, Quetzalcoatl was virgin born, and was often associated with the creation of the Fifth Sun, the fifth age recognized by the indigenous inhabitants of Mexico. In the myth, Quetzalcoatl battled with Huitzilopochtli, the war god, which Velikovsky uses to identify him with Mars, though in fact Huitzilopochtli was the solar deity, so again we have the theme of the comet battling with the sun.
But Quetzalcoatl was not simply the comet. He was also a series of earthly incarnations of the comet, not unlike the incarnations of—sometimes the sun, sometimes the comet—that appeared in Old World religions. As Torquemada, not the most objective of sources but still useful, wrote, as quoted in Quetzalcoatl and Guadalupe by Jacques Lafaye,
The soul of this Quetzalcóatl was metamorphosed into a star ... and this comet or this star has appeared various times, and its appearance has been followed by epidemics among the Indians, and other calamities.
Thus, one must distinguish between Quetzalcoatl the god, presumably the comet, and his incarnations, the most important of which was Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, purportedly born in AD 947 and founder of the city of Tollan, whom we will discuss in a later chapter.
As drought began to ravage China in the years following 535, David Keys sees a similar drought, along with the resulting famine, as the leading cause of the decline of Teotihuacán in Mesoamerica. Rain was so important to the Native American civilizations that they worshipped it in the form of a god, called Tlaloc by the Aztecs, but whose name remains unknown under her earlier feminine Teotihuacána aspect. She is currently referred to simply as the Great Goddess. Keys describes what he sees as the final destruction of Teotihuacán by its own inhabitants, angered, even maddened, he thinks, by the inability of the priests to persuade the Goddess to bring rain. This is certainly possible, yet the violence of the destruction is such that one has to wonder if there was another explanation. After all, the fury of the inhabitants may have been great enough to justify to themselves the overthrow of huge stone statues, pillars, and blocks, strewing fragments of many objects across many square meters, but did they have the physical ability to do so? There is also evidence of massive fires, mainly restricted to the temples and pyramids and the homes of the wealthy, which Keys again uses to lay the blame at the feet of the avenging lower classes. But again, we have to ask whether a population enfeebled by famine and drought and disease, though most likely not the same disease that ravaged the Old World, would have been in a physical condition to inflict such an extensive conflagration on the religious and political infrastructure of the ruling elite. Or are we looking at the result of the approach of a cosmic object whose effects were not restricted to the pollution of the atmosphere but whose gravitational field was large enough to shake the very foundations of a great Mesoamerican city and whose substance was flammable enough to rain fire on its largest structures? What Keys fails to tell us is that the city of Teotihuacán didn't see its final collapse until somewhere close to the year 750, nearly identical with the presumed cometary approach of AD 748 that resulted in an earthquake so extensive that it was felt from Egypt to Mesopotamia.
[Chapter Seventeen: AD 854—Pope Joan]
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