Sunday, June 07, 2009

Creative ideas from mysterious places!

The appearance of a crop circle in the shape of a jellyfish in the fields near our house last week might not seem the most obvious inspiration for a Regency author but as you know, we often get our ideas from all kinds of unusual places! When I heard about the “jellyfish” it set me to wondering when the first recorded mention was of crop circles and whether any had appeared in Regency times. I did some research and came up with some fascinating answers!

The earliest recorded mention of a crop circle appears to be in 815AD when the Bishop of Lyons wrote of corn “flattened by magical storms.” A celebrated case in 1678 records the case of the “Mowing Devil” which was shown on a contemporary woodcut. The text that accompanies the woodcut states that when a farmer asked a neighbour to cut his three and a quarter acre oat field, the man 'endeavour'd to sell the Sweat of his Brows and Marrow of his Bones at as dear a Rate as reasonably he might . . . some sharp Words had passed . . . The irritated farmer with a stern look . . . told the poor man, That the Devil should Mow his Oats before he should have anything to do with them.' The result was that that very night people saw the oat field in flames and in the morning a perfect round crop circle had been cut in the middle of the field. However, this report was discredited in some circles as being untrue and the woodcut a means of reinforcing the power of the church as a warning not to anger God with intemperate words. Even if this was the case, however, it does suggest that the concept of crop circles was something that men were familiar with at this time.

By the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth, the emphasis had shifted from religion and superstition to scientific investigation. Several scientific journals record the appearance of crop circles in this time, down to meticulous detail of how the corn was bent and flattened in some cases and cut and placed in others. Theories on crop circle formation suggested that they might have been created by swirling vortices of air or some other type of natural atmospheric process such as lightning. However, one particular account from the Victorian period near Plummer's Hill, in High Wycombe, Bucks, describes two disc-shaped objects with flashing lights hovering over a site where the very next day a circle of bent, flattened grasses was discovered! Was this the earliest suggestion that crop circles are created by aliens?

There are many ancient sites and historic events in this part of the world that could inspire a book, including the historic scouring of the Uffington White Horse and I’m tempted to include a mystery crop circle into one of my Regencies!

Nicola Cornick


Jan Jones said...

Fabulous, Nicola. I'd buy it! A mysterious crop circle with accompanying ghostly hoof-beats. (Oh, sorry, pulling in ideas from your other blog here)

Anonymous said...

Fascinating topic! A crop circle in a Regency romance certainly is a fresh idea. :) Go to it!

Louisa Cornell said...

Oh I think you should do it, Nicola! What a fascinating premise for a story. These odd sorts of events have always intrigued me.

Oh and have I told you how much I LOVED Confessions of a Duchess? One of your best yet!!

kate tremayne said...

I love this post Nicola. I have long been fascinated by crop circles and there is much evidence that although some have been proved to have been made by pranksters others are too intricate and appear in too short a time to have been man-made.
In Regency times they would have been viewed at the very least as an omen, and as the devil's work by others. The appearance of one would certainly add to the tension of a subplot where the heroine was placed in danger.

Nicola Cornick said...

Ooh, you're all selling the idea to me. I really do *have* to put this in a story now! And yes, Jan, if I include the ghostly hoof-beats it can be a mystery ghost Regency!

Thank you so much for your kind words about Confessions of a Duchess, Louisa. I am thrilled that you enjoyed it!

Marilyn from USA said...

Nicola, I had always thought that crop circles were a "modern" discovery. It is mind-bending to learn from your post that crop circles first appeared in 815AD. This is a subject that is exceedingly intriguing to me. I am fascinated by their beauteous designs, their sudden appearances, and the speculations of their origins. How fortunate that one has been found near your house. Have you gone to see it? I have only seen crop circles on TV and in books. Your idea to use crop circles in one of you Regencies is clever and inspired! Don't just be TEMPTED to use the idea . . . DO use it.

Nicola Cornick said...

Thanks, Marilyn! Yes, I thought crop circles were a modern phenomenon too until I started reading up on them. It's very odd to think of them in a historical context, but fascinating too.

I have been to see it - I asked the farmer's permission first though because they are upset that so much damage has been done to the crop. And to be honest there's not much to see on the ground because you can't get an idea of the pattern unless you see it from above. The pictures on the internet are much better!

Louise Allen said...

I love the idea - and fascinatng research, thanks for sharing it, Nicola. I have to confess to knowing some of the creators of the Wiltshire crop circles in the 70s - but I don't think they were around in 815AD, despite the miraculous powers of the local cider.

Nicola Cornick said...

I've always thought that you know some very interesting people, Louise!