In the Women’s Weekly magazine in Australia, there is a profile of an amateur exorcist named Peter Whiffin, who provides both in-person and Skype exorcisms through prayer and blowing a shofar.
The exorcist offers all of the standard silliness we’ve come to expect from reactionaries, particularly a hatred of popular culture. He says that the Twilight series of novels “awakens” readers to the supernatural and invites demons in. He claims that rock musicians have sold their souls to Satan and that even the martial arts are suspect because they use “chi,” an imaginary energy that he not only thinks is real but thinks comes from demons. Ditto for yoga, which is even worse, because it has Hindu origins and therefore is satanic.
I bring this up mostly because of what Whiffin says in the interview, as the Women’s Weekly reporter recounts:
Peter draws our attention to a biblical reference to juniper. He points out this is the wood in broomsticks, thus linked to witches. He also tells of giants of the Bible, Nephilim (their fossilised remains, he claims, “are found all the time, but it’s hidden because there are forces that don’t want it known”) and hybrids born of fallen angels – mermaids, pan men and more.
So the anti-Smithsonian conspiracy theory to hide “giant” bones, invented by David Childress in the early 1990s, has now even seeped into the world of amateur exorcism through the pseudo-Christian Nephilim theorists and their paranoia. It’s fascinating to see it linked here to the kind of anger about black magic we see from more mainstream Christians, a sort of inverted version of the link between fringe history and horror and science fiction that animates ancient astronaut theories.
Speaking of ancient astronaut theories, you’ll remember that a few days ago I discussed a quasi-ancient astronaut theory I found in the pages of Uncle Scrooge comics. Well, it turns out I stumbled across another one, and it is a dead ringer for Zecharia Sitchin’s claims about the wandering planet Nibiru and the gold-obsessed aliens aboard it who were mistaken for gods.
The story, entitled “Mythic Mystery” and written and drawn by Carl Barks, appeared in the June-August 1961 edition of Uncle Scrooge (#34), a full fifteen years before Sitchin’s Twelfth Planet was published. In the story, a mysterious planet approaches the Earth, blackening the sky. When Uncle Scrooge, Donald Duck, and Huey, Dewey, and Louie get abducted by a flying chariot and taken to the strange planet, they discover that it is inhabited by alien beings who have the names of the Norse and Greek gods.
According to Hercules, during the planet’s first brush by Earth, Earthlings mistook the inhabitants of the wandering planet for gods.
The planet, Valhalla, is rule by Odin, who explains that it is a “wandering” planet, usually hidden behind the moon, but now approaching the Earth, as happened once before, in ancient times. The plot involves Valhalla slipping ever closer to the Earth because its magnetic field is decaying due to the aliens’ obsession with gold. Vulcan has a hammer that turns iron into gold. The rest of the story isn’t terribly important, but everything turns out well when Scrooge find a second hammer that turns gold back into iron.
While this story is clearly played for laughs, there is more than a little similarity to Sitchin’s version. Sitchin’s Nibiru is also a wandering planet that makes period approaches to the Earth over thousands of years. Its inhabitants were also mistaken for gods and bore the names of characters from mythology. Their planet also came to Earth due to gold—a need for it rather than too much of it—and the aliens were similarly obsessed with the precious metal, and in a weird shared detail both versions have problems with their atmospheres. They have rockets, not unlike the flying chariots in the story, and Earth people even meet the supposed gods by being taken up in a whirlwind, like Elijah, cited by Sitchin in his books. Barks’s aliens are a bit dim, frankly, and borrow their culture from Earth, and they don’t enslave humanity. To that end, they are the opposite of Sitchin’s nefarious slave-mongers.
The similarities are quite striking, but they shouldn’t be too surprising. The Uncle Scrooge wandering planet seems to have been modeled on Flash Gordon’s wandering planet Mongo, ruled by Ming the Merciless. When it was introduced in 1934, Mongo was called a “rogue” planet, and, yes, like Valhalla in Uncle Scrooge, it was about to crash into the Earth. It is filled with peoples and creatures derived from ancient and medieval myths and legends. It’s the closest precedent for Uncle Scrooge’s wandering planet, and given the use that Barks made of 1930s and 1940s pop culture in his 1950 and 1960s Disney stories, it’s almost certainly the inspiration. Indeed, in an interview many years later, in 1971, Barks noted his love of Flash Gordon: “I was really hooked on the Alex Raymond stuff--Flash Gordon.” In 1992, he also said that he used ideas from Flash Gordon for “the background or the atmosphere of the places the ducks had to go.”
One wonders whether Mongo stands behind Nibiru as well. I’m not sure there is any way to prove it, but given that Sitchin was a teenager at the time of Flash Gordon’s greatest popularity, at the time of the Buster Crabbe serials—which also inspired Star Wars around the same time as Twelfth Planet!--it seems possible that Sitchin was reliving his adolescent interests the way George Lucas was mining the past as well.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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