Magonia #1: Introducing a Medieval Cloud Cuckoo Land May 17, 2013Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval , trackback
‘Magonia’ is a word that sends thrills down many spines. It is, of course, the name of a magical medieval land hidden from mortal man. It has been jumped on by modern UFO researchers as an example of early contact: skyboats were said to fly out of Magonia. Jacques Vallée wrote Passport to Magonia (1969 – it was first published in English), perhaps the single most influential work on UFO lore ever composed: certainly one of dazzling originality. Magonia is also the name of a (brilliant) online forum for collectors of Forteana, particularly Forteana seen in the skies or dropping from the same. But what actually is all the fuss about? Well, Beach thought that he would write a series of posts on Magonia over the next weeks – as he did recently with the Amazons – because this extraordinary place has not really received the attention it deserves and because there is something to be said for looking at the question in a larger framework. The matter is – apologies – just too big for one post.
The first thing to say about Magonia is that it exists in one measly medieval if fascinating source and that the word only appears once there: a texual emendation could get rid of Magonia for ever. Our author is Agobard of Lyons (obit c. 840), Archbishop and Carolingian intellectual. We’ll come back to Agobard and his agenda in later posts, but for now here is an extract from his Against the absurd opinions of the people concerning hail and thunder (Contra insulsam uulgi opinionem de grandine et tonitruis). Please don’t feel short-changed the subject of ‘so much foolishness’ and ‘so much stupidity’ will covered in the near future.
But we saw and heard many overwhelmed with so much foolishness and demented with so much stupidity that they believe there is a region which is called Magonia. From this region ships come in the clouds. The crops that were ruined because of hail and lost in storms are carried back into that region [i.e. Magonia]. These sky sailors, clearly, make a payment to the tempestarii [storm-makers (European witch doctors?, another post another day)], taking wheat and other crops.
Plerosque autem uidimus et audiuimus tanta dementia obrutos, tanta stultitia alienatos, ut credant et dicant, quandam esse regionem quae dicatur Magonia, ex qua naues ueniant in nubibus, in quibus fruges quae grandinibus decidunt et tempestatibus pereunt, uehantur in eandem regionem, ipsis uidelicet nautis aereis dantibus pretia tempestarii, et accipientibus frumenta uel ceteras fruges.
We have clearly run here into a bit of European folklore. Most of early medieval sources for folklore come to us in precisely this way. An ecclesiastical writer – and there were not many other types at this date – is complaining about what the plebs out in the field actually believe, as opposed to his precious Christian credo. (In passing, Beach also wants to note, against many other writers on this topic, that Magonia is NOT said to be in the heavens, we learn only that sky ships sail out of it, not quite the same thing). However, what has really caught UFO-ers and, indeed, scholars attention is the next passage, which is bloody weird. It is worth underlining that Agobard was a presiding eye-witness here: this is not hearsay.
There are those so blinded by great stupidity that they believe that these things could happen. We have seen many [of these] in a meeting [conuentu], showing off four prisoners, three men and one woman, claiming that [the prisoners] had fallen from these [sky] ships. They showed off these four, chained for several days, in this meeting, then, came into our presence, claiming that these captives should be stoned. But when truth triumphed, however, after much debate, the people who had showed the prisoners, as in the prophecy [Jeremiah, 2, 26] ‘were defeated… as the thief is defeated when captured.’
Ex his item tam profunda stultitia excoecatis, ut hoc posse fieri credant, vidimus plures in quodam conventu hominum exhibere vinctos quatuor homines, tres viros et unam feminam, quasi qui de ipsis navibus ceciderint: quos scilicet, per aliquot dies in vinculis detentos, tandem collecto conventu hominum exhibuerunt,ut dixi, in nostra praesentia, tanquam lapidandos. Sed tamen vincente veritate post multam ratiocinationem, ipsi qui eos exhibuerant secundum propheticum illud confusi sunt, sicut confunditur fur quando deprehenditur.
At this point the road divides. The reader can go down a steep, scenic yet hellishly stony track and debate whether the three men and a woman were ‘greys’, Martians or some other branch of cosmic fauna. Or we can follow the tedious road that leads to the horizon and assume that these four were innocents – taken from the normal roster of medieval scapegoats: outsiders, lepers, Jews, Gaels, Turks… – who had been set upon by a mob after a hail storm and who were saved by Agobard. Unfortunately Agobard does not resolve this issue by saying: ‘it turned out they were Swiss farmers who had come down from the hills! What a lark!’ But he does imply that the truth was got at and that this truth set the four free: this presumably involved the four sky-folk explaining their credentials satisfactorily in a language that someone in southern France could understand.
Any other paths leading off from the crossroads? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com
30 May 2013: Borky, has a different way of looking at this. Well think on this the only reason we’re aware of this Magonia’s because Agobard told us about it. The only reason we know its sailors could sail vessels among the clouds’s because Agobard told us. The only reason we know they took crops’s because Agobard told us. And the only reason we know crew members could fall from the sky and get caught’s because Agobard told us. Now bear in mind he’s supposedly reflecting on the stupidity of people believing insane things yet here he is promulgating all manner of detail about these things and even refering to a specific instance in which he himself became involved. I’m suggesting therefore two things to you. First like Augustine of Hippo who supposedly recorded all those heresies as a warning in case they reemerged Agobard was really ensuring Magonia like Augustine’s heresies wouldn’t be forgotten in the future. Second he was using one narrative to convey two quite different sets of details about two quite different types of Magonians. Those who mainly operated using hi technology who we may view as not unlike students in transition and those who operated on a much more metaphysical plane ie their ships were the very lightning clouds themselves. He’s also implying two other things I suggest 1) both the physical and the metaphysical Magonians were supposed to be carrying out God’s work but’d figuratively and literally fallen to the level of using storms to extort both physical and metaphysical vampire like energetic crops 2) he himself though he’d originally fled Dalai Lama style the invasion of Spain by the Muslims may’ve become a Sufi his way of alluding to this possibility being the hybrid term Magonia which implies amongst other possibilities a region whence mages and jinn cohabit in the fullest sense of that term as well as hinting at the Koran’s description of Dhul Qarnain rejecting the offer of tributes from the people who hardly understood a word to build the mysterious dam which’ll protect them from the extortioneers and false gods Gog and Magog until God finally bursts it asunder and allows them to descend into the world and ultimately carry off their worshippers to Hell.’ Thanks Borky!