News Briefs 27-01-2016

News from multiple universes:

Quote of the Day:

Now I know what a ghost is. Unfinished business, that's what.

Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses

Sasquatch By Any Other Name...Is Just A Man?

Patty the Sasquatch

Bigfoot is perhaps the most famous mythological creature in human history, and there are many people making it their life’s business to seek out all information and knowledge on the subject, and to find evidence of this elusive beast, or beasts as the case may be.

But there’s an aspect of the Bigfoot phenomenon that a great many people don’t know, and it’s an issue that is formative to the entire mythology.  We all know that the name of Bigfoot, Sasquatch – which is used by most researchers because is seems to lend an air of credibility to the search – is actually a Native American / First Nations word meaning hairy wild-man, but do you really know the story behind that name?

The word Sasquatch isn’t technically a Native word; it was coined by Canadian teacher and Indian agent J.W. Burns in the 1920’s.  Burns taught for many years at the Chehalis Indian Reserve (No.5&6), which sits on the banks of the Harrison River near Vancouver, British Columbia (between Deroche and Agassiz).  That reserve houses the Chehalis First Nation band of Sts’Ailes people, who were almost wiped out by early European settlement of the area, and who have rebounded from the time of the horrible Residential Schools and the deplorable mistreatment that went along with them to a population of over 1000 band members.

Burns was, arguably, obsessed with the Indian tales of giant hairy wild-men, and he wrote extensively on the encounters that were shared with him by tribal elders and travellers.  It was through his writings that the word Sasquatch was brought into mainstream culture.  He wrote an article for the popular Canadian MacLean’s Magazine (April 1929 issue), in which he used the term frequently and since then it’s been a household name.

The problem is, the word Sasquatch was most likely a mistranslation.  That word doesn’t actually exist in the oral traditions of the people in question, nor in any other Native culture in North America.  The hairy wild-men of which Burns was a fanatic apparently do exist (depending who you ask), whether as a reality or as a fairy-tale, but they were known by many different names, depending on the specific tribe or band being referenced.  It’s generally thought that Burns confused the spelling and pronunciation of the Chehalis word ‘sasqac’.  This word means beast, but there are other contenders for the correct etymological originator, such as ‘sokqueatl' and 'soss-q'tal', both of which mean wild-man, according to cryptozoologists Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark.[1]

It isn’t necessarily that Burns made a mistake, or misunderstood what was being said, some think he deliberately combined several words in an effort to make an umbrella term to cover all of the various languages he was working with, but it’s generally accepted that he did make the word up, for whatever reason.  And as such, we now have a blanket term – a household name – for the creature or creatures that have been known to Native American and First Nations people for centuries.

There’s more to this, though, and it gets a bit weird.

World famous researcher and author Gian J. Quasar, renowned for being the authority on the Bermuda Triangle, and the creator/editor of The Bigfoot Blatt, has a slightly different theory.

Quasar says that Sasquatch has a completely different meaning, one you won’t be expecting.

In the first issue of The Bigfoot Blatt (of which there appear to only be two issues), Quasar expanded on a theory subtitled Lingua Fanca [sic]– Chinook Trading Jargon: A Skoocum Language, wherein he outlined the etymological origins and evolution of several words, apparently of the Chinook language.  He explains the origin of the word skoocum, suggesting that it began as the name of a greatly feared henchman of the Klikatats Indian band, who was known as the Casanov Skoocoom (or the henchman of Casanov, who was the chief of the tribe).  Skoocum is now used to describe someone who is good or excellent, or ‘cool’, and Quasar says that’s because the Casanov Skoocum was such a good murderer.

Quasar notes that the words in question are considered lingua franca (as he apparently tried to signify in the subtitle, listed above), or working languages, and are used to make communication possible between peoples who do not share a common mother tongue.  And it’s through this process that he claims that Sasquatch actually means Saskahaua George.

Quasar claims that Sasquatch came about as an alternative word meant to describe long haired wild-men of King George, or white men if you prefer.  He says that Indian warriors were known as sawash (or siwash), but they didn’t want to refer to non-Indian’s by the same term, so saskahaua was invented.

“Saskahaua George comes down to us as “Sasquatch” because the Indians seldom liked to refer to them as sawash (siwash a century ago). That implied they were Indians. But this is something that offended the Indians.”[2]

By implication, Quasar is saying that Burns coopted saskahaua, which ultimately became Sasquatch, which has now gone down in history as the Native word for giant, hairy wild-men, or Bigfoot.

Now, despite Quasar’s standing as a relatively respected researcher on the Bermuda Triangle phenomenon, he doesn’t appear to be a linguist, and his connection, if any, to Native American / First Nation customs is entirely unconfirmed.  That and the fact that the Chinook peoples are not related to the Chehalis people (though they were neighbours, geographically), makes his theory a little sketchy.  It’s an interesting thought though…

What if the word we’re all using to identify a huge, hairy, possibly mythological cryptid actually means white-man-of-King-George?  I doubt Quasar is going to convince anyone to give up the word now, but it does pay to understand just where our linguistic icons really come from.

[1] J. Clark & L. Coleman. The Unidentified & Creatures of the Outer Edge. Anomalist Books, 2006. ISBN 1933665114

[2] Gian J. Quasar. Lingua Fanca – Chinook Trading Jargon: A Skoocum Language. The Bigfoot Blatt - Issue 1, page 2.


News Briefs 26-01-2016

.drawkcab sevom emit erehw esrevinu rorrim a esoporp stsitneiS

Quote of the Day:

If you're not careful, the newspaper will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.

Malcolm X

On Seeking Answers

My friend Greg Bishop has often mentioned on his weekly radio show, how he used to be approached by TV producers in search of 'talking heads' needed for some UFO show or another; they would get discouraged pretty quickly with him though, because he *always* refused to say what they were expecting to hear. Instead of saying things like "UFOs are proof that a highly-advanced extraterrestrial civilization is visiting Earth in structured metal spacecraft, and they come from planet X or Y" Greg's response was "I think UFOs are evidence of a non-human intelligence, which from time to time decides to interact with us."

Eventually the producers stopped bothering him.

The kind of answers provided by Greg, and the rest of my heroes in both the UFO field or other fringe subjects, are NOT of the kind which can be easily squeezed in a neat 2-minute segment between nice CGI renditions of some close encounter of Bigfoot sighting. Another friend of mine, Joshua Cutchin, has conceded there's simply no 'elevator pitch' for his book A Trojan Feast or the sequel he's currently working on --and that's OK with him; because he, Greg, and my other friends in the Fortean blogosphere, have grown to learn you cannot give simple answers to phenomena so complex, they seem to be well beyond the scope of human comprehension.

...And perhaps that's the point of it all.

So to all newcomers to this site, be warned: If you're looking for easy answers to the mysteries of the universe, chances are The Daily Grail will not be your cup of tea. Here we suspect --uncle Bob and uncle John taught us the word 'believe' is a big No-No-- there's more to UFOs than space scientists conducting pro-bono prostatic exams, Bigfoot is more than a large ape roaming the North Pacific woods (and the undisputed hide-and-seek champion of the world) and ghosts are more than your dead grandma refusing to leave her old farm because, well... she was always a stubborn lady...

Caveat Lector, and enjoy the scenery from the less-trodden road! (Extra bonus is the travelers you'll find, will probably be the most interesting humans you'll ever meet in your life.)

[H/T Seriah Azkath]

News Briefs 25-01-2016

Welcome back, Scully and Mulder. If you're looking for fresh mysteries, you've got 14 years of Daily Grail news briefs to work through...

Quote of the Day:

Humanity has already achieved, technically, the total success all Utopians ever dreamed of; our problems now are entirely due to wrong thinking. We are in the tragic-comic predicament of two crazed men dying of thirst, fighting over a teaspoon of water in the middle of a rainstorm. We cannot see the rainstorm because we are hypnotized by emergency-reflexes fixated on the teaspoon.

Robert Anton Wilson

Oh Apple Tree, we Wassail Thee


"Wæs þu hæl" is an Anglo Saxon toast meaning "be thou hale" ("be in good health"). The toast, if not the customs which the term has come to be associated with, is thought to date from the early eleventh or late tenth century, at least.

There are two kinds of Wassailing - the first of which has come to be closely associated with Christmas and carolling. Wassailers call at people's homes then offer a song and a drink of warmed, spiced ale or cider from a Wassailing bowl (or cup) to the answerer in exchange for money or gifts.

The second originates in the South West of England ("the West Country"), where apple orchards were already providing cider for the thirsty population by the time our Roman invaders arrived. [1] Today the UK drinks more cider (by that I mean what North Americans refer to as Hard Cider - not mere apple-juice) than anywhere else in the world with the beverage being produced not just in the West Country but also in places like Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Kent, Suffolk, Norfolk, Buckinghamshire, and Cheshire, as well as in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Apple Howling and Apple Wassailing may once have been two distinct practices that have become entwined and conflated over the years. The former was once most commonly performed at New Year and was described by the American naturalist Henry David Thoreau in his 1862 essay "Wild Apples" as follows:

A troop of boys visited the different orchards and, encircling the apple tress, repeated the following words: -

"Stand fast, root! bear well, top!
Pray God send us a good howling crop:
Every twig, apples big;
Every bough, apples enow!"

"They then shout in chorus, one of the boys accompanying them on a cow's horn. During this ceremony they rap the trees with their sticks". [2]

Apple Wassailing on the other hand most commonly takes place on Twelfth Night (which on Today's calendar is January the 17th). Though the "Stand fast, root" incantation and the rest of the Apple Howling custom often forms a part of the Wassailing, there is a lot more to it.

Though it varies not just from county to county, but from village to village, the basics of Apple Wassailing are as follows: The Wassailing party gather in an orchard bringing plenty of cider with them. Toasted bread is soaked in the cider and pieces of it hung from the branches of the trees as an offering to those beneficial spirits which reside within the orchard, and also the birds which might peck at the new buds in the spring. The group gather around the largest, oldest apple tree and a Libation of cider is poured upon its roots. The leader of the party then fires a shotgun into the branches of the tree to scare away any malevolent spirits (and presumably birds, once again). Toasts of cider are then drunk to the tree and a Wassailing Song is sung.[3]

Norton Priory in Runcorn, Cheshire (about ten miles East of my home in Liverpool) was founded in 1134 AD. It was home to an Order of Augustinian Canons and saw several phases of building and rebuilding, culminating in 1391 with its elevation to Abbey status. The Abbey met its end in April 1536 during the first phase of Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries. The buildings and estate were bought by the Brooke family who lived there up until the early twentieth century.

Today, much of the original layout of the buildings - the cloisters, church, refectory and dormitory can still be seen. There is also an intact 12th century undercroft. A two and a half acre Walled Garden has been recreated as it would have been in Georgian times. There is an orchard, a trained fruit garden, a vegetable garden, various ornamental borders and the beautiful Rose Walk. [4]

This year Norton Priory held its first recorded Apple Wassail on the 17th of January. Archaeologist, folklorist, historian, storyteller, and bagpiper Tom Hughes is the man responsible for bringing the custom to the priory and he was good enough to answer a few questions about it for me.

First, I asked how the whole thing came about.

I'd personally been involved in wassailing at Stretton Watermill in Cheshire for the past four years when I was working there. Some of the Norton rangers and gardeners had come along to that and when I started work at Norton Priory on a project to develop a new museum they asked me if I would help get a wassail going there. I was only too pleased to do so! There is a nice association as well as the mistletoe we managed to get established on the apple trees at Stretton Mill came from berries in the Norton Priory walled garden.

Next I asked Tom to take us through the Appple Wassail as it occurred, step by step.

We decided to gather at 4pm so that by the time we got to the trees it would be getting dark and we'd enjoy the atmosphere of the lantern lit orchard. We'd arranged a workshop for families just before, so they could make their own willow and paper lanterns. The wassail was arranged as a thank you to our supporters and volunteers, around eighty people in total, most of whom had never encountered a wassail before, though several had heard one on The Archers omnibus that morning! We began with getting together in a straw bale building beside the Georgian walled garden and enjoyed mulled cider and spiced apple juice. We also passed around the wassail cup. With it being Old Twelfth Night we enjoyed a mummers play*, then I told the story of the Apple Tree Man**. The group then picked up drums, rattles and tambourines and set off on procession through the gardens to the orchard. I led the way, playing the tune of our wassail song as we went.

When we arrived in the orchard inside the garden we had baskets of toast for people to hang in the trees to encourage the good spirits, we have twelve or so apple trees there, mostly old Cheshire varieties, but people got quite carried away and so plums, quince and medlar trees also benefitted! We then sang the Apple Tree Wassail to the oldest tree. The version we used has a tune very similar to the old Cheshire song "Miller of Dee", the words were the version

"Oh apple tree,
We wassail thee,
And hope that thou shall bear.
For the Lord doth know where we shall be,
to be merry another new year.
For to bear well, and to share well,
So merry may we be.
Let every man raise up his cup and shout health to the old apple tree."

We then poured cider on the roots and then made lots of noise with the rattles and drums and several blasts of a shotgun through the branches.

Then we processed back to the straw bale building, this time I played the tune of the Gloucestershire Wassail. We finished with more cider, potatoes baked in the cob oven, and some more storytelling. Everyone was demanding we do it again next year.

Finally, I asked Tom what inspired him to bring what is usually considered a West Country tradition to Cheshire, and what it means to him personally.

Although apple tree wassailing is best known from the West Country, it did take place all along the Welsh borders, up through Shropshire and into Cheshire. Heading along to Norton is perhaps straying a bit east, but we felt the wassailing of the Cheshire variety trees and the use of the local tune made it as much part of our heritage.

I don't know that apple tree wassailing is a very ancient tradition, perhaps 19th or maybe 18th century. Maybe it's older, but I haven't seen proof. I feel it's one of those traditions that folklorists used to want to push back to "pre-Christian" times, rebirth of the seasons and all that, like the old books of the 1970s used to say of morris dancing and mummers. We'd tried to be true to images of older wassails along with taking the best bits of revivals. In the past decade I've enjoyed wassails at a community orchard over in Cambridge and the huge wassail festival at Chepstow. What works best is its way that it brings a community together in the depths of winter and I can imagine that was always the point of it.

I'll raise a cider to that!

* Mummers Plays are seasonal British folk plays, performed by troupes of amateur actors known as mummers or guisers (or by local names such as rhymers, pace-eggers, soulers, tipteerers, wrenboys, galoshins, guysers, and so on). Tom is himself a member of the Jones' Ale Soul Cakers - a group which started out in 1970, taking their name from the Jones' Ale folk club in Chester where they were regulars. The play they perform is taken from the Alderley Mummers script which supposedly dates from 1788.

** The Apple Tree Man is a folktale from Somerset. The Apple Tree Man is the spirit of the oldest apple tree in an orchard, and in whom the fertility of the orchard is said to reside. In the tale a man offers his last mug of mulled cider to the trees in his orchard and is rewarded by the Apple Tree Man who reveals to him the location of buried treasure.




[3] Marc Alexander, A Compendium of Folklore, Myths & Customs of Britain, Sutton Publishing 2002


Photographs courtesy of Tom (@TomTellTale) and the Norton Priory Facebook page.

News Briefs 22-01-2016

"Deep down the consciousness of mankind is one."

Quote of the Day:

“Consciousness is much more of the implicate order than is matter.”

David Bohm

News Briefs 21-01-2016

By now it feels as if the 9th planet were the Leonardo DiCaprio of the solar system…

Thanks to Spain, for the REAL mission accomplished.

Quote of the Day:

"I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity."

~Edgar Allan Poe

News Briefs 20-01-2016

"Who does not understand should either learn, or be silent."

  • Heard it all before? Jack And The Beanstalk traced, via a group of stories classified as The Boy Who Stole Ogre's Treasure, to split between Eastern and Western Indo-European languages more than 5,000 years ago.
  • Scientists discover that a weak electrical field which carries slow-moving brainwaves around the brain could be behind the spread of sleep, theta waves and epileptic seizures, after decades of research. CFL light-bulb moment?
  • String theory might merge with the other theory of everything.
  • This 1917 map of Fairyland is like a Where's Waldo of fantasy easter eggs.
  • Mystery of the 'alien skulls' and Nazi briefcase found in remote mountain woods.
  • Reference to queen Neith-Hotep, co-founder of the First Dynasty, in 5000-year-old inscriptions carved by mining expeditions rewrites history of early Egyptian Pharaohs.
  • "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" may hold earliest painting of volcanic eruption.
  • On the Borderlands between Philosophy and Esotericism: an interview with Daily Grail blogger Gary Lachman.
  • Beauty is physics’ secret weapon: A Nobel laureate maps his path to discovery.
  • Prof Stephen Hawking: disaster on planet Earth is a near certainty. But imagine the odds against us getting this far...
  • Black hole sun could support bizarre life on orbiting planets.
  • Closer to home, a weird 'fish with legs'has been found by New Zealand snorkelers.
  • The Janus point and the two-headed arrow of time.
  • Cosmic particles inside pyramids could unlock mystery of how they were built.
  • But what is Mica, a powerful radioactive insulator doing in the pyramids of Teotihuacan?
  • Ants write architectural plans into the walls of their buildings.
  • Thoth's Storm: new evidence for Ancient Egyptians in Ireland?
  • Reassembling the Lost Library of 16th-Century Magician John Dee.
  • New John Dee discovery reveals resemblance to mother and a mysterious 'dwarf'.
  • John Dee painting originally had circle of human skulls, x-ray imaging reveals.
  • Psychical society faces giving up ghost.
  • Mysterious forest rings of northern Ontario mark location of "giant electrochemical cells".
  • A new study suggests dinosaurs munched on psychedelic fungus.
  • Photographer claims microscopic ice crystals in the sky reflect lights of town in Finland.
  • The 432Hz 'God' note: why fringe audiophiles want to topple standard tuning.
  • 'Cloudwalker' spotted from Easyjet.

Quote of the Day:

It is by the straight line and the circle that the first and most simple example and representation of all things may be demonstrated, whether such things be either non-existent or merely hidden under Nature's veils.

John Dee

News Briefs 18-01-2016

"Well I'm not a scientist. But I know all things begin and end in eternity."

Quote of the Day:
"A pair of wings, a different respiratory system, which enabled us to travel through space, would in no way help us, for if we visited Mars or Venus while keeping the same senses, they would clothe everything we could see in the same aspect as the things of the Earth. The only true voyage, the only bath in the Fountain of Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to see the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to see the hundred universes that each of them sees, that each of them is; and this we do, with great artists; with artists like these we do really fly from star to star."
- Marcel Proust