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!