interests of international relations, I thought it would
be nice to relate a tale from "down under" in Australia
for a change. Make of it what you will, but I find it
a resident of Adelaide, Australia, stumbled across the
body of a bizarre creature during the summer of 1883. It
was, he said, "like a large pig, but headless".
Unfortunately, the report does not make it clear whether
the head had been severed or, alternatively, whether the
animal did not actually possess a visible head as an
appendage. This might sound strange, but several
mysterious creatures from around the globe are reported
as being headless, including Britain’s own ghostly
"Black Shuck" – a large, fearsome black dog – and the
infamous Minnesota Mothman.
creature Hoad stumbled upon also sported a strange tail
"akin to that of a lobster". Sadly, its corpse was not
preserved for scientific analysis, and no one today
knows what became of it.
Intriguingly, for several nights before and after Hoad’s
discovery of his "pigster", locals reported the presence
of a large, ape-like creature which seemed to be spying
on houses in the area. No detailed description of the
beast exists, but it was reported to have made loud,
screeching noises "like a frightened woman".
Interestingly, high-pitched screeching, screaming and
"warbling" noises are a common feature of American
Bigfoot or Sasquatch reports, but what connection if any
the ape-like creature had with the Pigster – also dubbed
by some "The Adelaide Screamer" – is unknown.
something a bit more philosophical:
The Nature of Time
years ago, I had a long discussion with an Egyptologist
about the nature of time. Was time really a succession
of events strung out in a long line, the past present
and future being dictated by where you may
metaphorically stand on that line at any given time? Or
was time far more complex? Did the past, present and
future all co-exist together? Was it possible to visit
the past, or even jump forward into the future? These
are questions that have puzzled mankind for centuries.
suggested to the Egyptologist that the importance of
time depended on one’s circumstances, and he agreed. If
we live in a city, we often need to time things to the
minute, or even the second. Remembering and
understanding calendar dates is crucial in western
society. Without an ability to measure centuries, years,
months, days, hours, minutes and seconds, our
civilisation would collapse like the proverbial pack of
cards. The ancient Egyptians understood this principle,
and thus took the measuring of time very seriously.
method of measuring time was by employing the use of a
water clock. The water clock was a simple container with
a small hole in the bottom. On the inner wall of the
container was a series of markers or divisions, each one
representing an hour. The clock was filled with water,
and the passing hours could be measured by observing
which marker the waterline approximated. As the water
dripped from the hole, the water level lowered.
clocks were employed throughout ancient Egypt, and they
had particular importance in the numerous temples
dedicated to the myriad deities worshipped along the
Nile Delta. Priests staffed the temples constantly, and
a careful eye was kept on the water clock so that temple
rituals could be performed at exactly the right time.
Performing rituals at the wrong time would have severely
offended the deities, you see.
Egyptians were fascinated by the passage of time. The
idea of building monuments that would endure for
thousands of years inspired them. By touching something
ancient, it was as if you could touch the past. Even
better, if you were wealthy enough to build a monument
or edifice for yourself, then your presence would be
immortalised for future generations. Time, they seemed
to believe, could be conquered by building things that
the actual passage of time itself could not destroy. It
was such thinking that inspired the construction of the
ancient times, the Arabs knew of the Egyptian obsession
with immortalising themselves through the construction
of almost indestructible edifices.
fears time, but time fears the Pyramids", they said.
would be wrong to think that the pyramids were merely
grandiose mausoleums. In fact, there is precious little
evidence to suggest that they were ever meant to be
burial places for the dead at all.
pyramids were not so much resting places as they were
devices. One writer has described the pyramids as
"enormous machines" designed to help the recently -
deceased king break through the veil between this world
and the next and join the gods. Numerous shafts can be
found in the pyramids. Some pointed north to the
constellation of Orion. At death, it was believed that
the soul could travel up such a shaft and journey to
Orion, and – of course – immortality. For the correct
rituals to be enacted, an understanding of time on both
a local and a cosmic level was crucial.
temple priests bore the name, "Wenuty' or "Watcher of
the Hours". Their role was to make sure that all temple
rituals were performed at the correct time on the
bird – more commonly known to us as the Phoenix – was
closely associated with the marking of time by the
ancient Egyptians. Precisely every five hundred years,
the Benu would rise and journey to Heliopolis, the
centre of solar worship in Egypt. Heliopolis (also known
as Pe-Re by the Egyptians and On by the Israelites) was
situated right at the apex of the Nile Delta, just a few
miles to the north of where Cairo stands today. In this
city the god Tehm was worshipped. Later he would be
gently superseded by another solar deity, Ra or Re.
Phoenix – and the temple dedicated to it – became the
epicentre of timekeeping and calendrical observation in
ancient Egypt. Indeed, the calendar of years was
believed to be set by the Phoenix, who eventually came
to be seen as the symbol of Ra.
spiritual perspective, it may seem as if the world of
ancient Egypt is light-years away from our modern
society. However, consider the following scenario:
Imagine that you are an explorer, and that one day, in
Egypt, you stumble across a passage that leads to an
underground chamber. The chamber has never been opened
since it was sealed in, say, the year 2000 BC. As you
begin to walk down the passage, the air you breathe will
largely be that of 2008. Perhaps we can call this
"modern air". However, the further you walk, an
increasing percentage of the air you breathe will be
from the year 2000 BC.
the chamber it is pitch black. You switch on your torch,
but the battery starts to fail. You notice a small lamp
sitting on a table. Quickly, you light it with a match
before your torch goes out completely. As you look
around you, your eyes alight upon dozens of artefacts
and items placed in their relative positions over 4000
think about your circumstances. You are in a chamber
constructed in 2000 BC. The artefacts in it are from the
year 2000 BC. The air you breathe is from 2000 BC, and
the light you see by is generated by a lamp from 2000
BC. In fact, everything around you shouts out, "2000
BC!" If someone was to ask you at that point, "What year
is it?" your instinct may be to say, "Why, its 2008!".
However, in what meaningful sense can we say that it is
2008 when all our senses are being stimulated by the
year 2000 BC?
of this scenario is to illustrate just how fickle our
understanding of time can be. Fixing a date or time on
something only makes sense if we can "lock in" to that
time, and relate it to the world around us. If we find
ourselves in the middle of New York City, then the date
and time become crucial elements. However, if we are in
the middle of a rain forest then minutes, days, years,
decades and even centuries become irrelevant, for
nothing has changed for millennia.
is that the ancient Egyptians knew far more about the
nature of time than we give them credit for. Ghosts,
perhaps, are people from a bygone age whom we are
allowed to glimpse occasionally. Somewhere – or perhaps
sometime - Julius Caesar is still landing on the
southern coast of Britain, John F. Kennedy is still
giving his famous Berlin speech and John Lennon is still
writing the lyrics to Imagine.
is only just a whisper away. The more we study ancient
Egyptian culture and religion, the louder the whisper
gets. One day, we may discover an ancient Egyptian
secret that may allow us to break down the barrier
between ourselves and the past completely. Now there’s a
© Mike Hallowell,