Thursday, July 18, 2024

Blog Post #1- The End of the World

    Throughout all of human time, people have pondered about the end of the world. After all, if something has a beginning, then it must have an end. It is an idea that scares most people and can easily create mass hysteria. We have seen the rise of different theories about the end of the world in recent years with the y2k scare, 2012, and now, many Christians believe that the rapture is soon coming. As a Christian myself, I thought about my own theories about the "end times" while reading through this lesson. 

    After watching the video about the "prepper" from Utah who spent $65k on an unground bunker packed with supplies, I thought that most people who watched this video probably thought that this man is insane. I had a different reaction. My family and I also like to prepare for when "shit hits the fan". We have gallons of water, excess food, batteries and other essentials stored away, but we definitely do not have the finances for an elaborate setup like the man in the video has. I personally felt astonishment and a bit of jealousy when seeing the shelter, food, and weapon stockpiles that he has. I think that if we ever came into a very large sum of money, we would purchase something similar to what the man in the video has and many people would call us crazy for doing so. Ironically, those same people would come begging at our door when the time comes. 

    My theory about the end of the world revolves around the biblical predictions of the Book of Revelation. I do believe that this will happen, even if it is not during my lifetime. No man can predict the date of the end of the world, but we can look for the signs outlined in the Bible that show it is near. Even if one does not believe in the words of the Bible, it is foolish to think that there is no need to prepare for other events such as natural disasters, war, or pandemics. The future is unpredictable and we cannot trust the government to take care of us when something terrible happens. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Blog 1 - Sleep Paralysis and The Hat Man

    The phenomenon I wanted to focus on was sleep paralysis and paranormal hallucinations. Sleep paralysis can be described as a temporary paralysis that occurs after waking from sleep. In most instances the person going through paralysis can see, hear, and feel things. Sometimes they might even experience the paranormal. In multiple cases, those who have suffered from sleep paralysis claim to have experienced demons or shadow-like figures while awake and unable to move. Sometimes they may also see a loved one who either passed on or is not there. Many people claim that these entities stare at them, touch them, crawl onto their beds, or even mutter words towards them. An interesting experience has been described by many involves an entity named "The Hat Man".  The Hat Man has been described by people of many different cultures. Some claim he is 6 foot and others say he is 10 feet. Sometimes he is described as having a physical body and sometimes he is more opaque and mist-like. With all of the stories being told there are always slight differences in appearance but one thing that remains constant is the type of hat he wears and his clothing. He is said to have a black hat with a round brim (similar to a fedora), and a black trench coat.

    So what exactly causes sleep paralysis and why do people see these scary entities? Our understanding of sleep is still incomplete but our knowledge is growing every single day. Sleep paralysis is speculated to be a result of a lack of sleep, sometimes caused by other sleep related illnesses. These illnesses include narcolepsy, idiopathic insomnia, and sleep apnea. The lack of sleep causes the body to stay asleep, even after the brain wakes up. This is why the body cannot move but the person is conscious. Since the brain just woke up, it can still be experiencing a REM-like state. This can cause vivid hallucinations and make an individual feel like they are still in a dream. Since a person cannot move during these experiences, they may begin to panic, thus causing these hallucinations. There is currently no solutions to prevent sleep paralysis but many claim that a positive state-of-mind can prevent the scary hallucinations.

Blog #1

There are many fascinating and interesting mythical figures and creatures that have stories and tales that never fail to catch my attention. The Jersey devil, a legendary mythical creature from the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, has always captured many individuals imagination and thoughts, as well as mine. According to this folklore, the Jersey Devil was a creature with a horse like head, hooves, wings like a bat, and a forked tail. The Jersey Devil was the 13th born child of Deborah Leeds in 1735, and was transformed into a monster like beast creature. He is known to terrorize many individuals in the area, and many individuals over the centuries have reported sighting of him. There are several theories and opinions that suggest this tale to be just a story created to scare off settlers and discourage any exploration in areas with forests. The true reasoning behind this tale is unknown, but the Jersey Devil is still a symbol and folklore of New Jersey, and individuals are still fascinated and questioned by the unknown. Overall, some versions of the Jersey Devil legend may show that it was a curse placed on the child by the mother who wished for her unborn child to become a devil, while other versions may suggest that it is a tale told to frighten individuals that wished to settle in the area and explore mysterious forest. It is unknown and continues to remain a mystery that many individuals believe in to this day.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Blog #1 || Leviathan


After learning about several mythological beings from our lessons, I began to think about what other tales of creatures are out there in the world. One of these creatures is a huge sea serpent-like monster called a Leviathan, which is present in several religious texts in both Judaism and Christianity. In most interpretations of Leviathans, they are regarded as some of the first beings in existence and rule the seas with their sheer power and indestructibility as well as they tendency to destroy everything in their paths. According to these religious texts, in the beginning there used to be two Leviathans, one female and one male, to keep each other company. It was decided that because of the threat they posed to civilization, only one could live, and the female was killed.  There are several conclusions as to where this creature could have come from in terms of mythology. The story of this sea serpent could have been used to appeal to people who were not Christian and could have been adapted from other cultures (Greek and Babylonian mythology.) Another conclusion could be that there was, in fact, a creature in the past that inspired these stories that no longer exists (like Krakens, which are humungous squids or octopi) or that they are exaggerations of creatures that are alive today, such as crocodiles.

                                                 "The Destruction of Leviathan" by Gustave DorĂ© (1865)

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

The Wampus cat: lore and legend

 A few famous cryptids are discussed in lecture 2. Bigfoot, the Jersey Devil, and Chupacabras are all very famous and widely discussed creatures. I want to discuss a lesser-known American cryptid that I had recently heard about. If you visit the Appalachian area, you will find many superstitions due to the eerieness of the forests at night. One local legend is that of the Wampus cat (sometimes known as the gallywampus or whistling wampus). The Wampus cat is a mythological cat-like creature in American folklore. Originating in Cherokee legends and now widely believed in Appalachia, the Wampus cat ranges from comical to tragic depending on which story is told. Within southern American culture, the Wampus is a terrifying beast with yellow eyes that can pierce the souls of those who are unfortunate enough to cross paths with it. It is known for its impressive screams that are said to be spine-chilling. It sometimes is said to be a half-dog half-cat creature, and sometimes seen as having six legs instead of four. The Wampus cat is said to be a cat-like embodiment of a woman who was punished for practicing witchcraft.

In Cherokee lore, however, the story is a little different. It is said that an evil demon called Ew'ah, the spirit of madness was terrorizing the village of Etowah. The war chiefs agreed to send their strongest brave, Standing Bear, to fight off the spirit and bring honor to his family. Weeks went by without word from Standing Bear, until all of a sudden, he came back screaming and clawing at his eyes. His wife, Running Deer, knew immediately her husband had been driven mad and sought to avenge him. She visited the shamans, who gave her a mask of a bobcat's face. They told her that if she could surprise the demon, the spirit of the mountain cat could stand against Ew'ah. Following footsteps to the river she successfully found the demon and pounced when it wasn't looking. The Ew'ah spun around and saw the bobcat mask and began to writhe and tear at itself, as the spirit of the mountain cat turned its magic against itself. Falling back into the pool of water, the Ew'ah disappeared, and Running Deer returned home a hero to her tribe. Some claim that the spirit of Running Deer resides in the Wampus cat and that she continues her mission of protecting her tribe's lands from evil spirits.

The Wampus cat is so popular in the South that several schools have elected it to be its mascot!


                                    (Statue of a Wampus cat at Conway High School, Arkansas)


Friday, July 5, 2024

Blog Post #1

    I find the concept of the end of the world thoroughly fascinating, both from a skeptic's perspective as well as from a theological point of view. Eschatology, as it relates to Christianity, has always been an intriguing concept for me, and - after listening to "The End of the World" lecture and viewing the corresponding slideshow - it seems to me that much of the world, both historically and in modernity, seems to agree.

    I find this subject fascinating because I am a Christian, so it is my belief that what is predicted in the Book of Revelation will ultimately come to pass. I am, however, a natural skeptic; frequently distrusting and sometimes paranoid of the status quo, mainstream narratives, and prevalent ideas that seem to be politically motivated and/or agenda-driven. This dichotomy has led to other people's perception of myself as being somewhat confusing, enigmatic, or outright paradoxical. What both skeptics and believers often misunderstand is that these seemingly conflicting attributes have not caused cognitive dissonance or contradictions in ideology, rather, they have instead helped me to rationalize my beliefs and ground them in logically-sound conclusions. In this sense, I am just as skeptical of the scientist proclaiming impending doom due to "climate change" as I am the Christian preaching the end of days because they've interpreted and/or decoded the text "correctly." 

    In viewing the lecture, I am reminded of how many grifters and charlatans have used the passages in the Bible for manipulation and personal gain. One glaring point that stood out to me while going through the slideshow and listening to the lecture was the way in which these snake oil salesmen proclaiming to be Christians insist on putting a firm date on Jesus' return, the rapture, and/or the end of the world. I find it shocking that these self-proclaimed profits somehow missed the part of the text which states that only God knows the day or the hour of Jesus' return. Even sadder to me, though, are the supposed Christians that fall for the lie, time and time again. I wonder how many of them actually know their Bibles, because any man claiming to know the date of Jesus' return would be, to me, an act of rebuking God's word, and would thus be self-defeating.

    This is a perfect illustration of what I hope to better understand from taking this class. What fascinates me is not just if we believe something, but why we believe it; not if we know something is true, but how we know it to be true. I view this as a quest to delve into the foundations of faith and skepticism alike, and to discern between objective truth and comforting falsehoods. I hope that, in taking this course, my journey will bridge theological inquiry with critical thinking, and ultimately lead to the betterment of understanding my own beliefs as well as those of the people around me.