Your Zodiac Forecasts, from Jonathan Cainer



Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | Page 4 | Page 5

John Michell was a best-selling author and world authority on the mysteries of existence. Between March 2001 and August 2002, John wrote a series of articles on a variety of esoteric subjects for Jonathan's website and the Daily Mirror newspaper in the UK.

Jonathan writes: It was a thrill to have John writing for us about unexplained phenomena. I have been an admirer of his work since I was a teenager. I hope you enjoy his thought-provoking work.


June 21, 2001

Near-death experiences

What happens when we die?

This is a mystery in which everyone has a personal interest.

Many people, particularly when they are young, think that nothing happens. You die. The body perishes, and that's it.

But not everyone thinks that way. In ancient times they believed that the soul is immortal. It leaves the body, is rewarded or punished for the way it has lived, and is then reborn as a new creature, human or animal.

Evidence of this belief is in the prehistoric monuments of Britain, Egypt and most other lands. Like the pyramids, they were clearly designed in connection with the cycle of death and rebirth. It is as if their builders knew something we have now forgotten. In some parts of the world that knowledge is still preserved. In Tibet it is used by the priests to discover the reincarnations of their lamas.

One reason why the ancients accepted reincarnation is the 'near-death experience' (NDE). It often happens that someone on the verge of death is revived and tells what it was like to pass into the other world. The usual pattern is that you leave the body and can look down upon it from above. You are then impelled to enter a dark tunnel. At the end of it there is a beautiful warm light. As you approach it you become wrapped in a feeling of love and forgiveness. Then the doctor starts you heart up, and you are back in the body again.

The most significant thing about this experience is that, when you return to life, you are usually a better person - more spiritual and tolerant. An American psychologist, Kenneth Ring, who specialises in NDE studies, gives a typical example: a young woman died "apparently" in an accident. She had always been discontented in life, never succeeding in anything. As her soul entered the tunnel, she was still angry. But on entering the light, her attitude fell away. She was revived in hospital, and after that she saw the goodness in the world and attracted happiness.

The 'official' view of the NDE is that it is caused by lack of oxygen and other chemical effects that bring on hallucinations. But why are these 'hallucinations' much the same in all ages and among all kinds of people?



The NDE was first named by American researcher. Raymond Moody. His 1975 book Life After Life made it a respectable subject and brought to light many cases. A Gallup Poll of 1982 revealed that some eight million adult Americans claimed to have had a NDE.


Professor Freddie Ayer, a life-long atheist, admitted to having a NDE. He went into the tunnel and was approaching the light when he came back to life. This almost gave him a spiritual outlook. But later he concluded that there was a rational, chemical explanation for his NDE.




June 28, 2001

Who wrote Shakespeare?

Many of the greatest mysteries are kept hidden. The general public is not supposed to know about them, so they are not mentioned in school books or college courses. One of the interesting subjects that has long been suppressed is the mystery of William Shakespeare.

According to the authorities, the famous plays and poems of Shakespeare were written by a man from Stratford-on-Avon called Will Shaksper. That is what they say, but it is an unlikely story and there is no proof of it. Scholars over many generations have researched the life of Shaksper, looking for some connection with the writings of Shakespeare. But the more they discover, the more apparent it becomes that William of Stratford and the author of Shakespeare's Works were two completely different people.

Everyone agrees that the person who wrote Shakespeare was a universal genius. He must have been highly educated in classical culture, in European languages and literature, in legal, scientific and many other studies. He understood the way of courts and governments "as to the manner born". His mind and style were aristocratic, and so were his sympathies. That is why many socialists, beginning with Tolstoy, have disliked Shakespeare and his attitude towards the common people.

Will Shaksper was not a bit like that. His parents were illiterate and so was his own daughter. There is nothing to show that William himself could read and write. It is not recorded that he ever went to school. No one mentioned him personally during his life, and when he died there were no obituaries. Legal documents of the time show him as a small-time property-dealer and moneylender, involved for a time with gangsters in London's theatreland.

If you really believe that this low-life hustler was the glorious Shakespeare, you are in good company. All the professors believe it or so they have to pretend. But, they admit, this is the only case in literature where there is no connection between the life of a supposed author and the Works that bear his name.

For those who enjoy reading and also like mysteries, this is an ideal subject. But if you are young and still subject to teachers, you should not mention it to them. It only makes them angry.


Francis Bacon (1561-1626) has long been the favourite alternative 'Shakespeare'. The greatest scholar of his time, he wanted to combine all knowledge to create a rational society. As Lord Chancellor, legal adviser to Queen Elizabeth, he knew the secrets of state, and he also manipulated the world of literature. He was a wily man and could easily have inserted his own writings into the theatre under the pseudonym, Shakespeare. But he had no great reputation as a poet. He was a cold London lawyer, a bachelor, said to have been a lover of boys. Could he really have been the passionate, lyrical, country-loving Shakespeare? Perhaps. But there are other alternatives. I have summed them up in a book which is meant to lead you into this subject.




July 5, 2001

Treasure trove

The quest for lost treasures

One of my favourite mysteries is the story of the lost gold mine. It is not just one story but has many versions, and it is told in every mining district around the world.

Typically it is about a young man in the mountains, prospecting for minerals. For months he finds nothing until, one day, resting in a cave, he notices specks of gold in its rocks. He takes samples and, having marked the spot, goes quickly to town to have them assayed. It proves to be extremely valuable ore. He only has to claim the site and his fortune is made. But when he gets back to the mountains he is confused. He had forgotten the trails and landmarks, and he never finds the way back to his gold mine.

Sometimes he thinks he must have fallen asleep in the cave and dreamt it all. For many years he searches, growing old and dying alone in the wilderness.

These stories are legends, but some of them are certainly true. The earth is full of lost or hidden treasures, awaiting lucky finders. A few years ago, in Hoxne, Suffolk, a farmer lost a hammer in one of his fields. His friend with a metal detector offered to find it for him. Instead he uncovered a wonderful hoard of precious objects. It was the elegant silverware of a rich family at the end of the Roman period. They had packed it carefully in a chest, buried it and never reclaimed it. There is no clue as to what happened to them.

Because it was deliberately hidden, the hoard was declared 'treasure trove'. The British Museum took the objects, and the two finders shared its cash value in compensation.

I can think of no greater thrill than discovering something old and precious, like the Hoxne hoard. It must be the happiest, most painless way of becoming rich. Many people dream about it, and there are famous cases of treasures revealed through dreams or visions.

There is something highly mystical about this subject. Gold is called the king of metals, not just because it is pretty but because of the power it has over us. The story of the lost gold mine illustrates this. One glimpse of gold, and people are enthralled for life. It is an attractive story because it is about a quest. That makes it a reflection of one's own spiritual life. As alchemists knew, gold is merely a symbol of what they are looking for, not the thing itself.


A Druid's golden cup

Local folklore may indicate the sites of ancient treasures. Near the Hurler stone circles on a Cornish moor is Rillaton barrow, a prehistoric earth mound. Local tradition says that nearby once lived its guardian. He would offer refreshment to travellers from his magical golden cup. One day the cup was snatched from him, but the man who took it fell over a precipice. When the barrow was excavated a beautiful gold cup was found. It was presented to King George V and is now one of the treasures of the British Museum.




July 12, 2001

Ley lines across Britain

You have probably heard about leys or 'leylines'. They are long, straight lines across country, thought to have been laid out in prehistoric times. Stretches of them are sometimes visible as old roads, trackways or district boundaries. But they mostly appear as lines of ancient, sacred monuments.

This is an easy subject to research - at least, to start with. Take the Ordnance Survey map of your area (the 1 inch to 1 mile scale, now metricated as 1: 50,000). Note the ancient places and landmarks upon it, and see how they line up together. Among them are old stones and earthworks, notable rocks and hilltops. Also included are old churches, abbeys and crosses. That is because the early Christians built churches on the sacred sites they took over from the Druids. In that way they preserved an ancient mystery - a pattern of aligned sites, covering the entire country, and beyond it. Similar patterns are found throughout the world.

The trouble is that, once you start finding lines of sites across the map, you see more and more. Finally your map is so full of lines that you get confused. Some lines are probably significant; others will occur by chance. If they are genuine leys, each point in line should be visible from the next. Also, the distances between them will be in regular units of measure. These were basically the foot and the mile as used today.

An example of a measured line is from Stonehenge to the centre of Old Sarum, Wiltshire. This distance is six miles. Within the enormous earth walls of Old Sarum stood the cathedral. In the 13th century it was relocated in Salisbury . The site chosen was exactly two miles further south on the same line. It was said to have been discovered by divination.

One of the mysteries of leys is that they sometimes run along traditional paths of spirits, phantoms and the souls of the dead. Elsewhere they define boundaries or provide the line for Roman roads. Stretches are directed towards the sun or a star rising on a certain day. It is a subject that leads you into many others. I have been studying and writing about it for over 35 years, and am only just beginning to see some light. New discoveries are being made. One day the mystery will be solved. This will give a new picture of prehistoric Britain, very different from the officially-held view today.


Pioneers of ley hunting

The man who discovered leys and gave them their name was Alfred Watkins, a baker and brewer of Hereford. He became aware of them by insight while travelling about his native district. His book of 1925, The Old Straight Track, is a classic. Others include Lines on the Landscape by N. Pennick & P. Devereux. The most recent is Danny Sullivan's Ley Lines (Piatkus).

John Michell's book on this and other mysteries of ancient science is The New View Over Atlantis.




July 19, 2001

Enchantments and the power of music.

In fairy stories you read about enchantments. There are evil enchantments, as when a witch turns you into a frog and you have to find a true love to release you. And you also hear about enchanted realms, where everything is perfect and beautiful.

This is not just in fairy tales. The histories of all peoples tell of a Golden Age, a time of peaceful order and happiness. Each generation did the same as the one before it. Freely, without compulsion, they followed their old customs, and they respected the different ways of their neighbours.

What was the secret behind these enchanted countries? How were they governed, and how did they remain uncorrupted over thousands of years?

The secret, beyond any doubt, was music. Nowadays we listen to any music that comes along. Some of it is good-spirited, even noble. And some of it is ugly and vicious. That is why we are so diverse today, everyone marching to a different drummer.

In the Golden Age they ruled by music. The Druid priests and, in early Christian times, the Celtic monks kept up a perpetual chant. It went on forever, day and night. It was in tune with the seasons of the year, and it was echoed in the songs that country people sang at festivals. Music set the tone in society and kept the whole nation in harmony.

Music has many other powers. It soothes the distressed soul, inspires lovers and makes soldiers brave in battle. One of its practical uses is to make work easier. Labourers who sing together can lift or move objects that would otherwise be too heavy. That is how the huge stone statues of Easter Island were moved from their quarries and set upright.

An Arab tradition says that the Egyptian pyramids were built magically. The stones were levitated by music and mystical spells. The great walls of Thebes in ancient Greece were also built in that way. Two brothers are said to have founded the city. One of them was practical and worked hard at raising the stones. The other brother was a musician. He played certain notes on his lyre, and the stones settled into place of their own accord.


A megalithic mystery

Some of the stones moved by the ancients are so huge that modern engineers have no idea how they did it. At Locmariaquer on the south coast of Brittany there is a stone over 60 feet tall, weighing 340 tons. For five thousand years or more it stood upright. Then, probably in the seventeenth century, it fell and broke into four pieces. It is made of quartz granite, which is not a local rock but occurs naturally 50 miles away. How did they transport and erect this monster? “By unknown means.” says the guidebook.





July 26, 2001

Praying your way out of trouble.

It was reported last month that a pilot, flying over the north Pacific, had trouble with his engine and had to ditch his plane in the ocean. With three passengers he boarded a life-raft, and prayed earnestly for rescue. Hours later they were found and saved by a Russian cargo vessel.

The pilot, Mike Smith, was pleased by the answer to his prayers. Natural enough. But he was not religious and the experience did not convert him. “It almost made me a believer”, he said. I think that was quite reasonable of him. It could have been the prayers that saved him. Or it could have been luck, or the fact that he kept calm in a tight situation.

Scientists have investigated the power of prayer, but with different results. Francis Galton, the great Victorian man of science, did not believe in it at all. He pointed out that missionary ships are just as likely to be wrecked as pirates and slave-traders. And he proved by statistics that kings, who are prayed for by their subjects, die younger than other rich men, while bishops generally have shorter lives than lawyers. When criticised by clergymen, he asked them a tricky question. If there is any use in prayer, why do you put lightning conductors on your churches?

Recent experiments have been more positive. An American researcher, Franklin Loehr, planted seeds from the same packet in two different boxes. Both were tended in the same way, but the seedlings he prayed over grew quicker and stronger than the others. That is an experiment anyone can do. But there is a catch in it. The history of science shows that experiments are likely to give the result you wanted in the first place. Galton was against prayer because he was an atheist, whereas Loehr was a reverend preacher.

From personal experience - my own and others - I have no doubt that prayers and rituals can have an effect upon nature. Traditional weather magic is an example. Some years ago, during a long summer drought, a group of Indians living in the Midlands, brought over one of their rain-makers. During his ritual it began raining.

But is it always wise to interfere with nature? Your prayers may well be answered, but not in the way you wanted, and then there is nothing you can do about it. There are many cases where a priest has prayed for rain, and it has immediately come, but in such torrents that he and the congregation were nearly drowned.


The green-finger effect

Some gardeners are said to have 'green fingers'. Their plants always do better than other people's. An explanation for this is given in 'The Secret Life of Plants' by Peter Tompkins and Chris Bird. It shows that plants respond to the human mind. Prayers for their health, even from far away, can improve their growth rate. If you are not religious, concentrating your thoughts upon them works just as well. This is the book that influenced Prince Charles and made him an organic gardener.




August 2, 2001

Strange light on a lost treasure

Last month I wrote about finding lost treasures. One example was the great hoard of ancient, precious objects which was dug out of a field at Hoxne, a village in Suffolk. Strangely enough in that same village, a few years earlier, another treasure was discovered. Strangest of all is the way in which it came to light.

Hoxne is famous for its association with St Edmund. In the ninth century he was made King of East Anglia. But he was not the right man for the job. The country was being terrorised by Danish invaders. They raped and looted as they pleased, and no-one dared stand up to them. Edmund was only a boy, religious and book-loving rather than warlike. But he raised an army and took on the Danes. They easily defeated him and chased him across the country.

When he got to Hoxne he took refuge under a bridge. A wedding party was going across it to the church. The bride saw the glinting of his golden spurs and cried out. She was heard by the Danes and Edmund was captured. They tied him to a tree nearby and shot him to death with arrows. Then they cut off his head and threw it into some bushes.

Miracles then happened. A ray of light from the sky lit up a certain spot. Edmund's followers went there, and found the head being guarded by a wolf. On that spot they built a chapel. Pilgrims came to it from all over the country, attracted by the healing powers of the royal 'virgin martyr'. St Edmund was made patron saint of England - until the Normans brought in St George.

If you go to Hoxne today you can see the site of the oak tree where he was shot. It fell down in 1848, and deep inside it was found one of the Danes' arrowheads. Nearby is the bridge where Edmund was taken. To this day, no bride on her way to church will ever cross it. The only thing missing was the chapel on the spot where his head was found. Even the site had been forgotten.

A Hoxne woman, Margaret Carey Evans, determined to find it. She studied maps and documents, and then came the moment of revelation. She saw a strange light from the sky, beaming down on a spot near the village. With the help of archaeologists she investigated the site, and they uncovered the foundations of the long-lost chapel. Margaret was over 90 at the time, but she had found her treasure and she completed her life's work with a little book on St Edmund.


The wolf came too

Thirty years after his burial at Hoxne, St Edmund's remains were carried to the town now called Bury St Edmunds. The wolf that found the head is said to have followed the procession. The relics were placed within a magnificent, jewelled shrine and an abbey was built around them.




August 9, 2001

Do-it-yourself Feng-shui.

Suppose you have a house for sale and no one wants to buy it. It is perfectly sound, but people are put off by it. They seem to find it depressing. There is always a good reason for that, and once you know what it is you can put things right. One way to do it is through 'feng-shui', the mystical science of old China.

It is not a science in the modern sense, because it is based on spirit. As everyone knows, certain places have a calm, pleasant atmosphere, where you feel at peace. And at other spots you feel restless and ill-at-ease. You could say that at one place the spirits of nature are comfortable, while at another they act like demons. That is how the old Chinese saw it. In building their houses, they placed and designed them so as to attract good spirits and the luck they bring. That is what feng-shui is all about.

Most famous of all feng-shui structures is the Great Wall of China. Begun in about 300 AD, it is over 1,500 miles long. Its practical use was to keep out the warlike tribes in the north. But its real purpose was magical. Within the wall, the whole country was laid out like a beautiful park. At the same time, it was prosperous and densely inhabited. All this was the work of feng-shui experts employed by the state. The reason they built the wall was to keep out the 'sha' or dangerous spirits that come from the north. Within it they created an earthly paradise.

I wish we could do things like that these days. But we no longer see from a spiritual point of view. That is why we put up with so much ugliness around us. Feng-shui is now used only for individual benefit - to bring riches and happiness to houses, families and firms. Big companies, especially in the East, often use feng-shui experts to design their offices. About ten years ago feng.shui was made fashionable in Britain by interior decorators. It became a fad. There are some good feng-shui experts around today. And there are many charlatans. It is best, in the end, to do it for yourself First, think of beauty and the abode of peaceful spirits. Then look at you own surroundings. That is when you begin to see why your house is not selling, or why it is not attracting visitors. Then you can start doing something about it. And the moment you start, the atmosphere changes.


A feng-shui tragedy

The death of kung-fu star, Bruce Lee, was blamed on his neglect of feng-shui. The house he lived in was always unlucky, so he called in an expert to put things right. A feng-shui device was placed on the roof to deflect the bad luck. It fell down in a storm, and Lee forgot to replace it. Soon after came his sudden death.




August 16, 2001

Saint Catherine and her gifts to women

If you would like a husband - or even a change of husbands, one way of going about it is to visit St Catherine. The best time to do it is on her feast day, November 25. There are several places where she is said to answer prayers on that day. Mostly they are old chapels, set upon low, green hills. You go up to them, wish for whatever sort of man you want, and then wait and see what happens. The most famous of these places is Abbotsbury, a lovely old village in Dorset, on the south coast. The chapel is on a hill overlooking the sea. It is made entirely of stone with no timbers. That is because it also served as a lighthouse and had a fire on top of it. Below the hill is the ancient swannery, where hundreds of swans gather. They are the sacred birds of St Catherine and are looked after by a resident swanherd.

St Catherine was a fourth-century Christian lady of Alexandria in Egypt. She was a king's daughter, rich, beautiful and learned. She was also a virgin, and very obstinate. The emperor Maxentius tried to convert her to his pagan religion, but she would not listen. He sent 50 senior philosophers to persuade her, but she argued them round to her point of view. Maxentius had them all executed. Then he tried making love to Catherine. He offered to make her his queen, but she just laughed at him. That was when he lost his temper and sentenced her to death by torture. A dreadful instrument was prepared. It consisted of four wheels, set round with sharp spikes. It was designed to tear people apart. Catherine was placed on it. But as the wheels began turning, a miracle happened. The wheels fell apart and the spikes flew among the spectators. In desperation, Maxentius beheaded Catherine with a sword.

The story goes that her head and body were carried by angels to Mount Sinai. The bones are still preserved in the monastery there, but her head has been taken to Rome.

There is an earlier version of this story. Its original heroine was Hypatia, a pagan lady who was martyred by Christians. But, whether or not she was a real person, I still adore St Catherine, the patron saint of philosophers. I am not in need of a wife, but I still go to her shrine on November 25.


Shrines of St Catherine

Abbotsbury is one of several St Catherine sites in Dorset. There is a lovely one near the old abbey at Milton Abbas It was once a popular resort for unmarried women. At Guildford a ruined chapel of St Catherine stands on a pilgrims' path above the river Wye. Nearby, on a lonely hill, is the sister-church of St Martha. The city of Bath is dedicated to St Catherine. Her little church is in a secluded valley to the east of the city.




August 23, 2001

Descent from the Apes

Are we really descended from apes? That is what we are taught at school. But it is still only a theory . No-one has ever proved it. Many people are suspicious of that theory, and I am one of them - in good company with Sir Fred Hoyle and other distinguished scientists.

Charles Darwin (1809-82) invented the theory of evolution. But he admitted that he could not prove it. He hoped that evidence for it would be found in the future. Yet studies of rocks and fossils have never produced that evidence. There are no 'missing links' , between different species.

In 1912, the bones and teeth of an 'ape-man' were dug up at Piltdown in Sussex. For 40 years they were shown in text-books as evidence that Darwin was right. But 'Piltdown man' turned out to be an evolutionists' fraud. An early evolutionist was Lord Monboddo, an eighteenth-century Scottish judge. He had heard from travellers about orang-utangs in Asia - that they used walking-sticks and could be taught to play notes on a pipe. Monboddo concluded that apes were human beings in the wild state. If properly brought up and educated, he thought, they would be at home in human society.

He believed that babies are often born with tails, but midwives quietly remove them.

Religious fundamentalists - who believe that every word in the Bible is literally true - tell a different story. They rely upon Genesis, where it says that God created the world in six days. He began with heaven and earth, and then he made plants and animals. Finally he created us, "in his own image".

Which side are you on, the Creationists' or the Evolutionists'? I often hear that question, but I never give a straight answer to it. That is because I do not know how life began, or how we first appeared on earth. It is a complete mystery. One thing we do know is that our bodies belong to this earth and are similar to those of other animals. But mentally and spiritually we are quite different. We are the only creatures who can read and write articles like this one. And we are the only creatures capable of destroying this earth and everything in it. That is why it is important to consider who we are and where we came from. Are we beasts and killers by nature? Or are we good souls, fallen into bad habits but still capable of redemption?


The search for ape men

Scientific expeditions in search of the 'missing link' concentrate upon the earth's wild places. A British team, led by Dr Myra Shackley, explored Outer Mongolia, looking for 'almas' - primitive mountain folk. The Mongolians know them but avoid contact. The expedition found footprints and other evidence, but could not capture or photograph an alma. That is what usually happens in these cases. So is there really a 'missing link' creature, hiding out in the wilderness? Or is it all just rumour and imagination?




August 30, 2001

Before Columbus the Welsh were there.

The ancient Druids used to teach everything in rhymes. That was a good idea, because you remember even the silliest rhymes you learnt as a child. A useful one that we learnt at school is, 'In fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue' . That is how I know the date he discovered America. But this all turned out to be nonsense. It was not Columbus who discovered America. Many sailors had crossed the Atlantic before him. The existence of America was known as early as the fourth century BC, when Plato mentioned it. There are records of Arab and African navigators reaching it. Relics of these visits - their coins and inscriptions - are stored (or hidden away) in American museums. Also recorded are visits by Norsemen and Celtic monks. The history of St Brendan the Navigator in the sixth century tells of his trans-Atlantic mission, and how he and his followers left Ireland to settle in the New World. Most famous of the old Atlantic seamen is Prince Madoc of Wales. In 1170 he sailed from Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel to Mobile Bay, Alabama. A monument there records his landing and that he "left behind, with the Indians, the Welsh language". Madoc's voyage opened an extraordinary chapter in American history. His Alabama colony was so successful that the Mandan and other Indian nations learnt Welsh and adopted it as their 'educated' language - like Latin. That is how the Celtic preachers after Columbus communicated with the Indians they were trying to convert. Often it saved their lives. Francis Lewis, who signed the Declaration of Independence, was spared by his Indian captors after he spoke to them in Welsh. In 1685 the Rev Morgan Jones was sentenced to death by Tuscarora Indians for his aggressive preachings. Allowed to say a last prayer, he addressed his Maker in Welsh. The Indians recognised the language and were so pleased that they invited Mr Jones to stay on and entertain them with Welsh sermons. It seemed possible at one time that Welsh would become the common language of America.

A modern view is that the first Americans came from northern Asia across the Arctic ice. But can you believe that any more than the Columbus myth? And why do the Americans always want to be seen as immigrants? No one knows where the Garden of Eden was, or where the human race began. It could just as easily have been in America as anywhere else.


The Scots were there too.

Scottish knights and monks were living in the New World before Columbus sailed. In 1398 Henry St Clair, prince of Orkney, founded colonies in Nova Scotia and Rhode island. His story, and his mystical links with the Knights Templar and Freemasonry, are in two books by Andrew Sinclair, 'The Sword & the Grail' and The Discovery of the Grail. They shed interesting new light upon the hidden histories of America.



September 6, 2001

Carried away by eagles

An attempted 'avian abduction' was in the news recently. A three-year-old girl was playing on a beach in New Hampshire, when an American bald eagle swooped down and grabbed her with its talons. Her father chased the bird away and she escaped unharmed.

She was a lucky girl. Some children have been carried off by eagles, and then dropped from heights or eaten. But in some cases they have lived to tell the story. In 1977 MarIon Lowe, a boy of ten, was attacked by giant condors outside his home in Illinois. His parents and neighbours saw one of the birds carry him into the air. It dropped him when they yelled and waved. He was not hurt but so shocked that his hair grew white.

Baby-snatching by eagles was once quite common in Scotland and the Isles. The Nicholson family of Shetland are descended from a girl who, as a baby, was carried by a sea eagle to its nest on the island of Fetlar. It was under a ledge in a steep cliff-face. A boy, Robert Nicholson, was lowered to it on a swinging rope. He took the girl from among the eaglets and later married her.

Scientists are suspicious of these stories. They claim that no bird can lift more than its own weight. A golden eagle weighing 8lb pounds could just about carry off a new-born baby. But even a 12lb condor could not take an older child. Yet in every part of the world, from ancient to modern times, there are records of children being snatched by eagles.

When impossible things happen, you can only explain them as magic - or the work of spirits. In all the old tales of avian abductions, children who survived the journey through the air were mentally altered. Often they became the shaman or wise person in their society. A Persian boy, discovered in an eagle's nest, went on to become Shah.

I see a connection between the eagle-and-child story and the modern phenomenon of 'alien abductions'. Both involve magical flight, and in both cases the victims return in a different state of mind. Sometimes they return insane. So, if you take a baby to a country that has eagles, you should never leave it alone in the open. But if a bird carries it away, and you recover it from the nest, it may grow up to be even more brilliant or more mad than you are.


The sign of the Eagle and Child

Several old pubs are called The Eagle and Child. Their sign is an eagle standing over a swaddled baby. This is the crest of the Stanley family. As Earls of Derby they once ruled as kings in the Isle of Man. The source of their greatness was their 'eagle ancestor'. He was abducted as a baby and lived in an eyrie with the little eagles. But he was wise enough not to join them in flying lessons. That is how he survived to found a dynasty.