Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Bethlehem Star now falls under computer's gaze - icWales

Bethlehem Star now falls under computer's gaze - icWales

A WELSH university is carrying out research into one of the world's most enduring mysteries - the star of Bethlehem.

Martin Griffiths, from the University of Glamorgan, is fascinated by the Biblical story which led the mysterious Magi from the East to the infant Christ.

Rather than dismissing the story as pure mythology, he thinks that it is likely something extraordinary did appear in the night sky 2,000 years ago.

The bright light, he speculates, may not have been an actual star but could have been caused by a unique conjunction of the planets.

Sir Isaac Newton and Johannes Kepler both sought explanations for this key event in the Christmas story. Now, computer software used to map the paths of constellations has revealed several possibilities.

Mr Griffiths said, "There were a series of significant events across a period of a few years which would all have been clearly visible and may have created an air of anticipation on the part of the Magi."

A triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn was seen in the constellation Pisces in 7BC. This blaze of light would have excited peoples in neighbouring cultures who looked for signs in the skies.

Jews were banned in their scriptures from practising astrology, but a leading theory is that the legendary Wise Men who visited Jesus at birth may have been Persian Zoroastrians.

Mr Griffiths said, "The Jews were a nation bound to God via the law of Moses. This law specifically forbade the foretelling of events, divination or consulting astrologers, so no Jew would realise the import of such a star as their culture was not steeped in the lore of ancient astrology, where celestial events would have major significance.

"The Chaldeans [whom the Wise Men are referred to as in certain sources] however would be examining the heavens and interpreting events according to their own definitions, and realised that this occurrence would have consequences for the Jews and thus travelled to Israel."

Some scholars have suggested that the story of the Magi is a literary invention, deliberately alluding to Old Testament prophecy.

"This of course is a possibility as Matthew did write his gospel long after the event, and is the only gospel writer to mention the star and the events surrounding the birth," Mr Griffiths said.

"However, I think it is more likely to have been an astronomical event, since unusual celestial events in history can have ambiguous interpretations.

"Most explanations for an astronomical occurrence focus upon comets, supernovae or planetary conjunctions."

The story of the Magi has excited new interest in recent years because it represents an interaction between different faiths at the birth of Christianity.

Some religious scholars embrace the idea of the planets being deliberately set in course to come into alignment at the time of Christ's birth. Others prefer to think of the star as a wholly supernatural sign.

Mr Griffiths acknowledges that the mystery will never be conclusively solved.

He said, "Checking these phenomena via commonly available astronomy software will enable an amateur sleuth to enjoy a rewarding hour or so contemplating this ancient thriller, and still leaves one to ponder the religious significance of this mysterious event."

Members of the public are invited to attend a free lecture on December 6 at the University of Glamorgan at which Mr Griffiths will detail different ways of approaching this story. Anyone interested in attending should contact him by emailing mgriffi8@glam.ac.uk.

Friday, August 27, 2004

BBC NEWS | Wales | Mystery of Wales turtle 'solved'

BBC NEWS | Wales | Mystery of Wales turtle 'solved'

23 August, 2004

Scientists think they may at last know why the world's largest leatherback turtle was washed up on a Welsh beach.

The 2.75m-long (9ft) creature was found near Harlech, more than 7,500km (4,700 miles) from its birthplace in the West Indies.

BBC Wildlife magazine reports a new study that suggests leatherbacks should be viewed as a UK/Irish species which simply visits the Caribbean to breed.

Five of the world's seven turtle species, many of whose numbers are in decline, can be seen off the UK coast.

The Harlech leatherback has been put on display at the National Museums and Galleries of Wales in Cardiff.

The animal weighed more than 900kg (2,000lbs) and, at 100 years old, it was the oldest recorded turtle as well as the largest.

Sadly, it was found dead in 1988 after it drowned whilst trapped by fishing lines.

More and more leatherbacks are being spotted around the coast of Britain and Ireland, suggesting the turtles are trawling our waters for their favourite food - jellyfish.

Following the Welsh discovery, marine ecologists at Swansea University and University College Cork used satellite-tracking systems to follow 10 leatherbacks from their nesting sites in the tropics.


Contrary to expectations, the tracking showed the turtles did not stay long in the Caribbean, but spent most of their time in food-rich northern waters, including those around the British Isles.

More work on the study is now underway in the Irish Sea but Peter Richardson, of the Marine Conservation Society, hopes it will lead to leatherbacks being re-classified as British/Irish - so improving the species' chances of survival.

Turtle numbers have been in serious decline worldwide because of coastal redevelopment, egg-snatching, pollution and fishing.

Long-line fishing alone is believed to kill about 50,000 leatherbacks a year when they become accidentally caught on hooks.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

BBC NEWS | Wales | Archdruid wants Stonehenge back

BBC NEWS | Wales | Archdruid wants Stonehenge back
22 June, 2004
Archdruid wants Stonehenge back

The archdruid of Wales has called for England's most famous landmark to be returned to Wales.

This week experts said remains found near Stonehenge were almost certainly among those who helped build it.

Tests on teeth found in a 4,300-year-old grave suggest the prehistoric workmen were Welsh.

That and the fact that the stones come from west Wales, has prompted Robyn Lewis - the ceremonial leader of the Gorsedd of Bards - to put pen to paper.

In a letter in the Daily Telegraph, Dr Lewis pointed out the significance of the discovery.

And, he asked : "Since the Stone of Destiny was returned to Scotland a few years since, and it is clearly only a matter of time until the Elgin Marbles are returned to Greece, may I express a request that Stonehenge be returned to Wales?"

Dr Lewis said he was staking an official claim "on behalf of my fellow druids, bards and the rest of my Welsh compatriots".

Links between Stonehenge and Wales have been recognised for generations.

Dr Robyn Lewis, Archdruid
Staking a claim : Dr Robyn Lewis
Bluestone from the Preseli hills in Pembrokeshire was used in building Stonehenge.

The discovery of the grave at Boscombe Down surprised archaeologists because it contained the remains of seven people - three children, a teenager and three men.

They were dubbed "the Boscombe bowmen" because flint arrowheads were found alongside them.

The grave was found during road improvement works.

Dr Lewis is waiting to hear the reaction of English Heritage to his demand about the UK's most ancient monument.

The archdruid is no stranger to controversy. Soon after taking up his post he was speaking about making "radical changes" to modernise one of Wales' premier cultural events, the National Eisteddfod.

His plans involved a new-style Gorsedd circle - a moveable set of fake ceremonial stones.

Fake stones will be ferried from venue to venue, but the traditional stone circles will still be erected for special ceremonies.

Supporters of the idea said mobile stones would be cheaper, and would allow ceremonies to take place at the centre of the eisteddfod field.

Another move which Dr Lewis approved of was the sale of alcohol on the festival maes for the first time in the history of the event, a decision taken by the Eisteddfod Council in February.

Another break with tradition this year will see the relaxing of the Welsh language-only rule at the event, which this year takes place in Newport.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

BBC NEWS | Wales | South West Wales | Welsh 'helped build' Stonehenge

BBC NEWS | Wales | South West Wales | Welsh 'helped build' Stonehenge: 21 June, 2004 "
Bluestone from Pembrokeshire was used at Stonehenge
Archaeologists say remains found near Stonehenge are almost certainly those of the ancient people who helped to build the monument.

Tests on teeth found in a 4,300-year-old grave at Boscombe Down suggest the prehistoric workmen were Welsh.

It was already known bluestone from the Preseli hills in Pembrokeshire were used in building Stonehenge - called C�r y Cewri which means Choir of Giants.

The grave was unusual as it contained the remains of seven people - three children, a teenager and three men.

For the first time we have found the mortal remains of one of the families who were almost certainly involved in this monumental task.

Archaeologists are calling them 'the Boscombe bowmen' because of the flint..."

BBC NEWS | Wales | South East Wales | St George found in Welsh church

BBC NEWS | Wales | South East Wales | St George found in Welsh church: 21 June, 2004 "St George found in Welsh church
The wall painting of St George in St Cadoc's (pic courtesy of Cadw)
The life-size painting was discovered during renovation work
A medieval wall painting has been uncovered during renovation work at a south Wales church.

A life-size image of St George standing on a slain a dragon was uncovered at St Cadoc's church in Llangattock Lingoed, near Abergavenny.

Discovered during recent renovations at the centuries old church, experts have described the painting as a 'special find'.

The painting is thought to have been covered up during the Reformation."

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Ghost snapped at Welsh castle - icWales

Ghost snapped at Welsh castle - icWales
May 2004

Things have been going bump in the night more than usual at Craig Y Nos Castle in the Brecon Beacons recently.

The castle is well known as the scene of many ghostly tales but these were largely taken with a pinch of salt until a professional research body carried out some research there.

During its investigations The Ghost Research Foundation International (www.grfi.org), an international organisation of ghost researchers, found evidence that the castle is indeed haunted.

On a tour of the rooms and corridors psychic Norie Miles 'sensed' a spirit on a staircase. No-one saw anything but when photographs of the stairs were downloaded onto a laptop - they realised they'd caught a ghost.

The photograph appears to be that of a shadowy figure standing on the staircase. Paul Howse, president of the organisation said: "This in itself could be explained simply as shadows. It was totally dark at the time and we were using infrared night vision photography to capture images in zero light conditions. This combined with the fact that the 'figure' was in the precise position that Norie had described makes this an amazing result."

GRFI plans to return to the castle to try and capture more evidence for a whole weekend in September 2004 when it is holding its second 'GhostCon - Ghost Convention' and the public are invited to attend.

"We need lots of extra investigators for the weekend as there is so much research to complete" said Paul Howse.

Monday, March 15, 2004

White witch spells success for Wales

DESPERATE times call for desperate measures... so we've conjured up a spot of magic to bewitch England next week!

Wales play the World Cup winners in Saturday's Six Nations showdown at Twickenham.

And you can be sure Sir Clive Woodward's boys will be baying for blood after they were whipped by Ireland.

So in the interest of national pride, we took a leaf out of Harry Potter's magic book and cast a spell on Wales to win - and to recapture the glorious day when we trounced the English at Wembley in 1999.

White witch Amanda Samson knocked up the magic words - and we did the rest here at Wales on Sunday HQ.

Amanda says the spell is supposed to "attract success" letting you "acknowledge your unlimited potential and live your dreams".

And while you lot may be sceptical, it seems the WRU didn't want to dismiss the world of witchcraft!

A WRU spokesman said: "Rugby is an increasingly scientific game where no stone is left unturned to try to get the right result. If this will help in any way then I am sure the team and fans will welcome it."

So how did we do it?

We cast the spell using a special scroll with a talisman, rose petals and "success oil".

"You don't have to be a witch to cast a SpellBox spell," said Amanda. "Just be clear in your intent and open to the answers from the universe!"

Known as the Green Witch, Amanda, who is originally from Australia, sells her spells on the internet.

"Lots and lots of our orders come from Wales, particularly Gwent," said Amanda. "We have got six shops in Wales who stock our spells. And we have certainly had lots of interest from members of the public from Wales - 10 to 15 per cent of orders were from there.

"There seem to be a lot of people open to mysticism and magic all over Wales."

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Ancient stone circle has made us ill, say ghost detectives

Ancient stone circle has made us ill, say ghost detectives

A PAIR of psychic investigators looking at the healing properties of an ancient stone circle claim it has made them seriously ill.

Brian Perinton and mother-of-two Claire Williams visited Carn Llechart stone circle in the Swansea Valley three months ago. They planned to investigate the healing properties and positive energy which standing in the centre of circle, said to have been constructed in around 2,000BC, was reputed to give to people.

Mr Perinton said yesterday, "I have never seen anything like it. Claire was bodily thrown from the centre of the circle by some kind of force. I felt it too. It was like being punched in the stomach.

"Since our visit we suffered severe headaches, stomach problems, lethargy and general illness. It was almost as if our energy was completely sapped by whatever was in the centre of those stones.

"We are starting to recover now but we want to find out if anyone else has had similar experiences. We would love to speak to them to find out if the illnesses and general feeling of weakness are the same.

"Then we can start some kind of scientific investigation into what could be causing this."

Mr Perinton, 65, and Ms Williams, 32, run a ghost detective agency in Swansea and have been called to offices, houses and other buildings in which owners or occupants claim to be troubled by spirits or apparitions.

In a recent mission they helped a pub in Neath to rid itself of an angry spirit, said to have been the ghost of a former regular who did not want to leave.

Carn Llechart stone circle, high above Pontardawe, is said to be one of the finest examples of a stone ring cairn or burial chamber in Wales.

The unusual circle is 40ft across and consists of 25 stones leaning slightly outwards giving a crown of thorns effect.

No one is entirely certain why the stone circles were created but they are a Celtic phenomenon. Archaeologists believe they could be giant calendars with stone shadows tracing the alignment of the moon and sun.

It could be the stones are tributes to the dead buried in the circle and some have even speculated they could be used to harness the energy of ley lines, thought to be lines of magnetic energy running across the earth.

Professor Clive Ruggles, of the University of Leicester, says great care is needed in interpreting them.

He said, "Just because a monument is aligned in a certain direction we might be tempted to interpret it as astronomically significant.

"But the Bronze Age people were not astronomers as we know the term today. However, celestial cycles and objects were extremely important to them."

Certain circular tombs in Britain have been found to point towards the rising sun and winter solstices.

Many believe stone circles have magic or healing powers, so much so that English Heritage was forced many years ago to fence off the country's best known stone circle, Stonehenge.

Scientists have carried out experiments at a variety of stone circles finding that the huge rocks tend to generate their own weak magnetic fields. But whether these can combine at certain times of the year as some pagans claim, so as to concentrate energy at a central point, has never been proved.

Mr Perinton said, "We would like anyone who has had a similar experience to contact our agency so we can build up a picture of what is happening."

The agency's number is 01792 417693.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

BBC NEWS | Wales | North West Wales | Spooky goings-on at museum

BBC NEWS | Wales | North West Wales | Spooky goings-on at museum: "Sunday, 16 May, 2004,"

Spooky goings-on at museum
Sunday, 16 May, 2004,
Maes Artro was a training base for RAF Llanbedr in 1941
A 36-strong team of ghosthunters say they have no doubt a former RAF base in north Wales is haunted after spending Saturday night there.

Members of the Club Zero Ghost Group stayed up around the clock to monitor any spooky goings-on at Maes Artro in Snowdonia, now a heritage museum.

It has become a magnet for paranormal investigators from across the UK.

Owner Malcolm Green believes the ghosts of two RAF men roam the site, a fighter training base during World War II.

There is definitely paranormal activity there and we are going to back for a full weekend in September....

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

"Shop of horrors"

HUBBLE, bubble, toil and trouble - shoppers can now pick up a broomstick, a pointy black hat or even a cauldron on one Cardiff high street.

Halloween may be nine months away but pagan Jai Gomer says he has had nothing but positive responses to his new store, which sells witching supplies to the people of Roath.

Jai, 36, and wife Gillie, a 26-year-old witch, opened the store at the start of December and were expecting frowns from the area's more conventional religious leaders.

"But everyone who has popped in has been really positive," said Jai. "We have high hopes for this store - this is the first time we have done anything like this but we want it to become a centre for pagans in the city."

The shop, called Natural Magic, sells incense, totem charms and candles - "for ritual use," says Jai - as well as more conventional witching supplies.

A large room above the store, on busy Clifton Street, is being converted and will be used for workshops, reiki healing and pagan "moots", or meetings.

"I say good luck to the couple," said pensioner Joyce Cole, who works in a charity shop on the same street.

"But I won't be joining in with all that - I'm 76 and what I didn't do in the past I won't be doing in the future."

Jai says that he will sell anything related to paganism or Wicca - the religion followed by an estimated 10,000 British witches - as long as he can find the right wholesaler.

For more information see the shop's website at www.natural-magic.co.uk

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Friendly Matilda found slaughtered

A HORSE that would let children ride on its back has been brutally killed in a mysterious attack. Matilda, a six-year-old black and white mare, was found dead in her field on Tuesday morning with multiple stab wounds and a slit throat.

The killing is being investigated by both the RSPCA and Bargoed CID.

Owner Mark Harrison, 34, from Abertysswg, Rhymney, said, "I just can't believe anyone could do such a thing to an animal. It was absolutely horrific.

"I'm just glad it wasn't my children who found her." The dead horse was found by Mr Harrison's father-in-law, Josh Jones.

Mr Jones, 54, said, "I was on my usual walk to check on the horse when I saw the door was ajar on the stable and the horse was lying in the field.

"I never saw such an awful thing in my life.

"It begs belief why anyone would do this."

The horse had been locked in its stable the previous night but is thought to have bolted as she was attacked.

The walls of the stable were covered with blood.

The attacker stabbed the horse with such force that the weapon passed straight

through the horse's chest.

Mr Harrison said the loss of Matilda was like a death in the family and his sons Liam, six, and Kavan, three, were particularly upset.

The approachable horse had been special to many people in the area, with children often calling by the field to feed it and ride on its back.

The crime is not the first of its kind - numerous attacks on horses have been reported around the country in the past few years - but RSPCA inspector Rachel Jones described this latest incident as the worst she had ever seen and one that she could not understand.

"I have heard of similar attacks on horses, whether through an act of revenge or some sort of satanic ritual, but nothing as bad as this," she said.

Miss Jones also considered the attack strange because none of the other horses in neighbouring fields or stables had been harmed.

However, a spokesman for the International League for the Protection of Horses, Dave Guy, said there could well be a reasonable explanation behind the death.

"It doesn't appear to be a mad rage because the attacker wouldn't have singled out this particular horse," said Mr Guy, a former mounted policeman and equine investigation specialist.

"And we've all heard the stories about satanic killings, although I've never encountered it personally.

"But 99% of the time it is normally a tragic accident and we usually have enough evidence to prove that. That's not to say this isn't one of the exceptions and all the factors have to be looked at."

Detective Sergeant Gwyn Pidgeon, of Bargoed CID, said he and his officers had been sickened by the incident and were urging anyone with any information to contact the police or the RSPCA.

Grandmother passed on the craft

GEORGENA Blything says her grandmother passed witchcraft to her when she was five.

"I told my mother that my grandmother had died half-an-hour before we were told that she had passed on," she says.

"Afterwards I used to have strange dreams. It took me some time to realise that I was a witch." She says that witches do go out in robes on Hallowe'en to celebrate the crowning of the Holly King and the festival of the dead.

But the idea is not as sinister as it might seem. To the Celts death was the door to a new life. It was part of the ancient creed that those who had passed on, still had an interest in the living and were willing to help them.

CHILDREN who run from house to house trick or treating at Hallowe'en are trivialising an ancient faith, it was claimed yesterday.

Hallowe'en is actually a celebration of new year for those who follow witchcraft, an ancient Celtic faith still observed by some in Wales.

Georgena Blything, a witch who has been practising her craft since she was five, says that Hallowe'en is a serious occasion which marks the start of the winter half of the year.

Tonight she and fellow followers will be carrying out the crowning of the Holly King, the winter lord of misrule, who is traditionally chased away at the start of Spring.

Ms Blything, who lives at Uzmaston, near Haverfordwest, said that her children don't go out trick or treating because they understand the nature of what this time of year is really about.

"I find what's been happening over the last few years with trick or treating upsetting. It's a trivialisation of a faith that dates back to pre-Christian times," she said.

Ms Blything said that many pagan rituals practised by witches and druids were hijacked by Christianity as a kind of cultural colonisation.

And she also dismissed myths about black and white witchcraft.

She said, "There's no such thing as black and white witches. We believe in the number three, that if you do anything that's wrong it comes back to you threefold.

"So we don't have black witch-craft."

She said that there were hundreds of followers of witchcraft in West Wales, and some of them would be taking part in the crowning of the Holly King tonight.

Hallowe'en is the old Celtic eve of Samhain, meaning summer's end.

Ms Blything said that apart from the crowning of the Holly King, the night was also marked by a ritual bonfire that was meant to signify the time when all bad thoughts and frustrations of the old year went up in smoke.

"Bonfire is a derivative of bone fire," claimed Ms Blything. "The Guy Fawkes night did a favour to the pagans because it meant that they could light bonfires without drawing attention to themselves."

While Guy Fawkes is not strictly a Christian ritual, Ms Blything says that Christianity took over every pagan festival and made it its own.

"Even Christmas was celebrated before Christ," she said.

"For witches mid-December marked the re-birth of the sun and the way to spring.

"So it made sense for Christians to take it as the date of the birth of Christ.

"It's a debate I've often had with vicars."

These days the most common connection between people of the craft and those outside, is through herbal remedies.

She says herbal medicine is the oldest form of medical treatment known to mankind and it is still widely used all over the world.

Treatments include herbs that have properties that can help people with all kinds of ailments, says Ms Blything.

They include remedies from everything from colds and flu to anti-depressants and treatments for arthritis and poor circulation. patrick.fletcher@wme.co.uk

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Witches cast their spell over Llandaff for a day - icWales

Witches cast their spell over Llandaff for a day - icWales
May 17 2003 by Claire Hill, The Western Mail

WITCHES throughout Wales will be convening in Cardiff today to celebrate their religion.

The Witchfest, to be held at Llandaff Rugby Club, will feature speakers on subjects ranging from teenage witchcraft to pagan artwork.

Welsh witch Jo Winter believes the success of the festival is down to a growing acceptance of witchcraft throughout the world.

She said, "I belong to the Children of Artemis and in the past few years their membership has increased from 1,000 to a million.

"It is a lot safer to be a witch now. I think because the world is getting smaller, everyone has got closer and openly discussing issues on the internet."

Today's event, to be held metres from Llandaff Cathedral, runs from 10am till midnight and has already sold out.

Ms Winter is looking forward to spending a day with like-minded people.

She believes she has always been a witch, but it took her many years for her to tell people. "I was not actually out of the broom cupboard when I was bringing up my children, but I have always been able to do things."

As a practising witch, the 58-year-old from Cardiff still hasn't told some friends about her lifestyle and has regularly had people shouting at her for being a witch.

However, she said programmes such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Sabrina The Teenage Witch and Charmed, which show witches in a glamorous light, have helped to make the religion and lifestyle more appealing.

"Anybody can do anything that they want, but people who practise witchcraft are careful at what they do and others do not believe they can do it."

The interest in teenage witchcraft will be highlighted by Teresa Moorey, mother of four, who has written a book about teenagers and witchcraft.

However, though there is some acceptance of witches in modern society not everyone is willing to allow people their own viewpoints.

Ms Winter said, "I have had people come into the shop where I work and see my pendant and decry me as the devil.

"But that is a Christian invention. Sometimes people will listen to me but others just shout.

"I feel sorry for people who would not stop and talk about things.

"I think to have any spiritual belief that you accept to follow and really believe is very enriching. I have no problems about people dying, as I have beliefs about where they go."

Witches live by very few rules, but they believe this is enough to fulfil a positive life.

"The main rule is to do as you will, but do not hurt anybody and that everything comes back to you three-fold," she said.