Meteor Beliefs Project

About the Project

Meteor Beliefs Project Logo

Established during the second half of 2002, the Meteor Beliefs Project was announced in early 2003. Its purpose is quite simple in essence, but potentially far-reaching and open-ended in practice. What we would like is that anyone with information to share should contact us with their favourite literary, poetic, mythological or folkloric references to meteors. At the end of 2005, we introduced a new strand, "Meteoric Imagery in SF", to feature meteoric objects as portrayed in films and TV programmes. At the same time, we also began collecting notes on meteor-related contemporary song lyrics, a strand we call "Musical Meteors", and both aspects continue. Items submitted are either re-edited as elements of compilation articles, or presented in longer pieces in a suitable format under the authorship of the contributor or in collaboration with the Project coordinators, and under the general Meteor Beliefs Project banner. All contributors are fully acknowledged, whatever the case. Publication was primarily in the IMO's journal WGN until the end of 2007, but the 2008 material was presented instead to the International Meteor Conference (IMC), and further items featured at the 2009 and 2010 IMCs. Online versions of many of the earlier WGN articles are available, and a CD-ROM containing PDF versions of all the published articles to the end of 2011, plus preprints of those IMC items not yet published, can be bought at the IMO's online shop for 4 Euros or 6 US Dollars.

Notes for contributors

When you send us your material, we need to know exactly where the reference came from, giving as much detail as possible, and including things such as specific line numbers for poems and plays, or dates, places and people for oral tales you have collected, for example. The information should be sufficient to allow any future investigator to easily find and confirm your report for written items, or to give confidence in the accuracy of oral sources.

To help better communicate with an international audience, we will need an English translation of whatever you send, but in some cases, you may feel that an original-language version should also be presented (perhaps where poetic scansion cannot be properly represented in English). If there are particular problems with words or concepts that cannot be translated into English, please make this clear. If you are unsure, contact us to discuss such things first. If you need to send material using characters not in the standard American-English ASCII computer character set, please send a hard copy by ordinary mail and not by e-mail, as this will likely cause problems and delays.

We welcome constructive comments and ideas for anything connected with this Project, as well as individual items as already outlined. If you think we've missed something in an earlier article, or if you've found a variant translation you think is interesting, let us know. We are far from infallible!

If you are not sure about what you have found, send us the material anyway, and please do not be concerned that your item may duplicate someone else's. We would rather get some material we cannot use, or several repetitions of the same thing, than miss the chance to bring to light some long-forgotten or potentially important item. In all cases, we are relying on you to help us move the Project forwards!

Articles already published

Note that all articles in this list published before January 2006 are now freely available online as full-text PDFs from the Harvard ADS abstract service. A low-cost CD-ROM with PDF versions of all the published articles to December 2009, and preprints of those presented to the 2008 and 2009 IMCs, is available from the IMO online shop for 4 Euros or 6 US Dollars, which also includes an annotated index, and a short file of corrections and additional cross-references.

  • Project introduction (includes general Project notes as outlined on this page, a bibliography of previous meteor beliefs material published in IMO sources, plus some quotes from John Milton, Thomas Gray, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Edgar Allan Poe and Piers Anthony), WGN 31:2, 2003 April, pp. 55-58.
  • Three meteoric similes in Apollonius of Rhodes' "Argonautica", WGN 31:3, 2003 June, pp. 99-100.
  • Meteoric imagery in three of William Shakespeare's plays ("Richard II", "Hamlet" and "Julius Caesar"), WGN 31:4, 2003 August, pp. 121-123.
  • Meteoric references in Ovid's "Metamorphoses" (concerning Phaethon, Hersilia and Caesar), WGN 31:5, 2003 October, pp. 145-147.
  • Meteor-dragons special, comprising four articles, with three guest authors (Vesna Slavkovic, Eva Bojurova and Elizabeth A Warner): on the European meteor-dragon's possible origins; on the Serbian meteor-dragon; on the Bulgarian Zmey; and on meteors and comets as dragons in Russian folk belief. WGN 31:6, 2003 December, pp. 189-198.
  • 'Meteor' and related terms in English usage, WGN 32:1, 2004 February, pp. 35-38.
  • Some humorous meteoric items for the Project's first anniversary (a modern Russian folk-ditty from guest contributor Galina Ryabova; portents from National Lampoon's "Bored of the Rings" by H N Beard & D C Kenney; a Romanian verse and two proverbs; and the Crumlin meteorite), WGN 32:2, 2004 April, pp. 63-64.
  • Meteors in John Donne's poems, WGN 32:3, 2004 June, pp. 92-94.
  • The Palladium (statue of the goddess Pallas Athene said to have fallen from the skies) in ancient and early medieval sources, WGN 32:4, 2004 August, pp. 117-121.
  • Meteoric activity over Romania from 15th to 19th century manuscripts, WGN 32:5, 2004 October, pp. 143-146.
  • Meteoric imagery in the works of William Blake, WGN 32:6, 2004 December, pp. 161-174.
  • Meteors as love symbols (with guest author Richard Taibi; in Dante's "Paradiso", Millet's painting "The Shooting Stars", and M Parish & F Perkins' song "Stars Fell on Alabama"), WGN 33:1, 2005 February, pp. 30-32.
  • Some quirky meteoric items from the Cambridge Conference Network's e-messages for the Project's second anniversary (the naga-fireballs of the Thai-Laos border; a meteorite fall 'poltergeist' in Lesotho; and some kind of possible ball-lightning fireballs in Iran), WGN 33:2, 2005 April, pp. 65-66.
  • An eclectic meteoric compilation from two guest contributors, Guy Ottewell and Roy Watson (an old Arab saying; Middleton & Rowley's play "The Changeling"; Robert Herrick's poem "The Night-Piece"; Byron's play "Manfred"; Walt Whitman recalling US President Lincoln's memories of the 1833 Leonids; Gerard Manley Hopkins' record of the 1872 Andromedid storm; and Charles Frazier's novel "Cold Mountain"), WGN 33:3, 2005 June, pp. 90-92.
  • Meteoric verse from Romanian poets Vasile Alecsandri, Mihai Eminescu and Lucian Blaga, WGN 33:4, 2005 August, pp. 108-110.
  • Meteorite worship in the ancient Greek and Roman worlds (the Ancile, the Aegospotami fall, the Magna Mater, Anchises' "Holy Star", fallen stones in Pliny's "Natural History", the statue of Diana at Ephesus, fallen objects in Pausanias' "Description of Greece", and the black stone of Elagabalus from Emesa), WGN 33:5, 2005 October, pp. 135-144.
  • Two articles in the 2005 December WGN (33:6, pp. 165-166 and 167-170) introduced a fresh strand to the Project, "Meteoric Imagery in SF", to tackle meteoric objects as used in films and TV programmes. We began with an introductory article, including a preliminary list of items of interest, and followed that with an article on H P Lovecraft's short story "The Colour Out Of Space", the basis for the 1965 film "Die, Monster, Die!", starring Boris Karloff in one of his last film roles.
  • Meteoric imagery in the poems of John Milton, WGN 34:1, 2006 February, pp. 30-32.
  • The third article in the "Meteoric Imagery in SF" strand, featuring some comments on four unintentionally humorous films to celebrate the Project's third anniversary: "Cat Women of the Moon" (1953), "Riders to the Stars" (1954), "The Astounding She-Monster" (1958) and "First Spaceship on Venus" (1960); in WGN 34:2, 2006 April, pp.58-60.
  • Meteoric portents from the works of Livy and Julius Obsequens, covering the period 672 to 17 BC, WGN 34:3, 2006 June, pp. 94-100.
  • Belarussian meteor folk-beliefs, including some contemporary research findings, by guest author Tsima Avilin, WGN 34:4, 2006 August, pp. 119-123.
  • A set of four short articles in the 2006 October WGN, 34:5, pp. 143-152, formed a Hallowe'en Special. These included some notes on meteors as "goats" and "torches" in Classical texts; birth, life and death superstitions and beliefs associated with meteors in Romanian and British folklore (with guest contributor Roy Watson), and the Classical world from the 5th century BC to the 5th century AD; plus some meteoric notes with a macabre slant from Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner", as also illustrated by Gustave Dore.
  • The fourth item from the "Meteoric Imagery in SF" theme, an examination of meteoritic activity in two British TV serials, "Quatermass II" (1955), and the Doctor Who story "Spearhead from Space" (1970), including the novelizations of both, and the 1956 film version of "Quatermass II", with guest author Tony Markham, WGN 34:6, 2006 December, pp. 169-174.
  • Detailed notes from Englishman William Fulke's text on meteors, entitled "A Goodly Gallerye", first published in 1563, WGN 35:1, 2007 February, pp. 23-28.
  • To celebrate the Project's fourth anniversary, we presented the fifth "Meteoric Imagery in SF" article, concerning the 1955 movie "This Island Earth", including in its cut-down more recent version, a wise-cracking approach designed to poke fun at the more obvious flaws, "Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie" (1996).
  • In WGN 35:3, 2007 June, pp. 66-68, we revisited the works of William Shakespeare (last discussed in 2003 August) to investigate three more of his plays that included meteoric imagery, "A Midsummer Night's Dream", "The Life and Death of King John" and "King Henry the Fourth" Part I, as well as the 16th-17th century AD stage effect of the 'blazing star', a sometimes possibly pyrotechnic cometary object, which featured as a portent in a number of plays (prepared with assistance from Project correspondent Roy Watson).
  • Meteors as prognosticators of strong winds in Classical beliefs from the 4th century BC to the 1st century AD, featured in WGN 35:4, 2007 August, pp. 92-94.
  • Guest author Tsima Avilin provided a series of East European meteor folk-beliefs in WGN 35:5, 2007 October, pp. 113-116, including notes from the Balkan states, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Russia and the Ukraine.
  • The 2007 December WGN (35:6, pp. 139-142) contained meteoric notes from some early medieval European and Near Eastern annals, concerning events dated from 525 to 917 AD.
  • Tsima Avilin returned as guest author in WGN 37:1 (2009 February, pp. 48-50) with some additional items on Belarussian meteor folklore, discovered since preparing his article published in 2006 August, including notes from his fresh field researches.
  • In WGN 37:4 (2009 August, pp. 130-132), we examined the Tauric Artemis in Classical times, a supernaturally-powerful idol, believed to have fallen from heaven to the Crimean Peninsula, and the many places, from modern Italy east to western Iran, that anciently claimed it had been taken to.
  • Guest author George Drobnock joined us in discussing metaphorical meteoric imagery associated with the death of American anti-slavery activist John Brown in 1859, in the 2009 December issue of WGN (37:6, pp. 191-194).
  • George Drobnock was guest co-author again in WGN 38:2 (2010 April, pp. 50-53), when we celebrated the Project's seventh anniversary with an eclectic mixture of items having an overall theme of the transformation of ideas, including notes from British observations of the 1799 Leonid storm, meteors and wishing in Anglo-American sources, meteoric imagery in Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel "The Scarlet Letter", and some notes from the humorous magazine "Punch" on meteor observing in 1861.
  • In WGN 38:3 (2010 June, pp. 87-98) Duane Hamacher and Ray Norris presented a detailed discussion of what their researches into Australian Aboriginal meteor folklore and mythology have discovered.
  • WGN 38:6 (2010 December, pp. 193-198) included a discussion of meteoritic objects from, primarily, Central and North America, which were apparently revered or otherwise considered supernaturally important by the native peoples there.
  • Our first discussion from the Project's "Musical Meteors" strand was presented to the 2009 IMC and published in Z. Andreic & J. Kac (editors), "Proceedings of the IMC, Porec, 2009" (IMO, 2010, pp. 95-99), including notes on the themes of love, satellites mistaken for meteors, items perhaps inspired by William Blake's work, imagery taken from reality and sometimes expanded beyond that, and some potentially meteoric instrumentals from the piano music of Polish classical composer Chopin.
  • An item originally scheduled for the 2008 IMC Proceedings, but for unknown reasons not published there, examining claimed events and beliefs concerning the fall of the Ensisheim meteorite in 1492 AD, between the object's landing and the twenty-first century, featured in WGN 39:4 (2011 August, pp. 110-120).
  • Another item expected to have appeared in 2008 IMC Proceedings volume, but which did not, followed in WGN 39:5 (2011 October, pp. 146-154), a discussion with guest author George Drobnock linking ideas from a modern music album by Laura Veirs back to a turbulent time in American history 150 years previously, which inspired poet Walt Whitman to compose his poem 'Year of Meteors', and the meteor beliefs of the period around 1859-60, when collection of facts was giving way to analyses and theoretical explanations in meteor science.

Forthcoming items

Six items were presented to the 2008 IMC, themed around meteorites and impacts as a commemoration of the Tunguska Event, whose centenary was on June 30, 2008, but for unknown reasons, none were published in that meeting's Proceedings volume, although the full preprint texts have been available since the Conference on the Project's CD-ROM. Two of these papers have been published since in WGN instead, and three more are expected to follow there during the next year or so. The sixth paper was re-presented to the 2011 IMC, and is now expected to be published in that meeting's Proceedings text later in 2012.

  • A discussion of genuine or supposedly sky-fallen objects from real-world sources as re-used in the science-fiction novel "Spears of God" (Howard V. Hendrix, 2006), the paper co-authored with Howard Hendrix. Items included: The Brenham pallasite as used by the Hopewell Culture, Ohio, USA, circa 500 BC to 500 AD; Beliefs in the possibly meteoritic nature of the 'Black Stone of the Ka'aba', Mecca, Saudi Arabia; 'Betyl' and its possible meaning of 'a meteoritic stone'; The Inuit seer Uvavnuk and her association with a fireball; Mesoamerican star-spears and meteorites, including a discussion of the deity Huitzilopochtli, and the Mexican Casas Grandes, Morito and Toluca meteorites; Old Irish mythological lightning or maybe meteoric/meteoritic weapons; The potentially meteoritic grail stone used in Wolfram von Eschenbach's "Parzival" (circa early 1200s AD). This is scheduled for the 2012 April issue of WGN.
  • A brief history of impact movies from 1906-1999, drawing on 25 movies featuring impacts or collisions between extraterrestrial objects and, frequently, the Earth, given in a chronological sequence to illustrate changes in how such events were portrayed, to provide clues to what effects they may have had on the public perception of meteors and impacts. This should appear in WGN too later in 2012.
  • A discussion of meteoritic iron weapons and weapon-like tools, drawing on fictional, mythological and real-world examples, co-authored with Kristine Larsen, suggesting no great significance was attached to such metal purely because of its 'heavenly' provenance prior to the early 19th century AD. Items included: Meteoritic swords in the fiction of J R R Tolkien; Meteoritic imagery from second millennium BC "The Epic of Gilgamesh"; Iron meteorite weapon and tool examples from Cape York (Greenland), Siratik (Mali), New Mexico (USA), Jalandhar (India), Prambanan (Java), Elbogen (Czech Republic), Shirahagi (Japan), Wabar (Saudi Arabia, part of a series of modern reforging experiments at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, USA, in the 1920s AD); Meteoritic objects in Avicenna's (Ibn Sina's) "Mineralia", circa 1021-1023 AD. This paper was that re-presented at the 2011 IMC.
  • An eclectic mixture of short items from texts and films to celebrate the Project's anniversary, some with an element of humour, including material contributed by George Drobnock, John Naylor and Roy Watson. The Project's aims were reiterated too. Items included: Rock crystals from 20th century AD Mesopotamia, believed to have fallen from the skies; Meteor beliefs from David A Wells' book "Natural Philosophy" (1857); Tunguska 'explained' in A P Kazantsev's 1959 novel "Flaming Island"; Impact imagery from Walter Kendrick's 1978 novel "A Fire In The Sky"; Meteoritic imagery in the 2001 films "Evolution" and "Lara Croft - Tomb Raider"; More meteoritic imagery, including a meteoritic sword, in the 2004 film "Ring of the Niebelungs". We have tentatively pencilled-in this paper for WGN in early 2013 at present.

The next item was presented as a poster at the 2010 IMC, and the full article text is expected to feature in the Conference's Proceedings volume very shortly. A PDF preprint is already available on the Project's CD-ROM.

  • An examination with guest author David Entwistle of nine prominent boulders in Britain which have had the belief attached to them that they originated in space, regardless of their true geological nature, with some comments regarding other types of pseudometeorites claimed as fallen onto the British Isles since the 7th century AD.

Future plans

Although we have materials awaiting attention that we would like to publish in the coming years beyond those items already mentioned, we are always open to fresh, positive input. We would particularly welcome more non-European material, especially information from Africa and eastern Asia, as well as other places in the southern hemisphere.

Making contact

The Meteor Beliefs Project Coordinators are Alastair McBeath and Andrei Dorian Gheorghe, who wrote the above notes on the Project, and who have either singly or jointly authored all the published articles listed here, where nobody else was mentioned.

Our postal contact details are given in each issue of WGN that features one or more Project articles, but you may contact us by e-mail too, via .

Our postal contact details are given in each issue of WGN that features one or more Project articles, but you may contact us by e-mail too, via alastair.mcbeath@mypostoffice.co.uk.

We look forward to seeing your meteoric quotes!