Mythical Monday: St. Elmo’s Fire by Mae Clair

A weather phenomenon known to sailors, St. Elmo’s fire has older roots in folklore. Often seen dancing among the riggings of a ship, these “spirit fires” or playful lights were seen as signs of heavenly intervention and a portent of the future. Occurring before storms when the air was super-charged with electricity, the lights appeared blue, violet, or bluish-white in color.

sailing-ship on moonlit ocean during storm with lightningAccording to legend if one light danced in the rigging, the ship was headed to a stormy death, but if two shone brightly, the winds would fade and the sea quiet. Another belief said descending flames meant disaster while ascending meant fair weather. Some sailors believed the lights to be the souls of departed comrades come to forewarn of danger. If a light danced upon a man’s head, he was most certainly doomed.

The ancient Greeks named a single jet of fire, Helena, and a double jet, Castor and Pollux. In the Philippines, the phenomenon is known as Santelmo, and has been rumored to chase people.

Because of the electrical charge present during instances of St. Elmo’s fire, compass readings often went awry which may be one reason why the flames were sometimes viewed as an ill omen among sailors. It’s interesting to note that the name is also derived from St. Erasmus of Formia, the Italian patron saint of sailors. For this reason, the manifestation could also be derived as an omen of good will, a sign the saint was watching over the seamen on their journey.

A plasma charge in the air, St. Elmo’s fire can also be seen on land, flickering about elevated objects such as lightning rods, streetlamps, spires and even chimneys. It’s occasionally mistaken for ball lightning, and like many elements of superstition and awe, can be viewed as favorable or ominous.

I’d love to know if you’ve ever witnessed this phenomenon.

Mae Clair’s Mythical Monday: Ball Lightning

It’s Mythical Monday time and only a few days after WEATHERING ROCK’s release. Wow. Can you believe it? Given I’m still deliriously jazzed about the whole idea, I thought I’d use today’s MM post to examine an element key to the novel.

How the heck did Caleb DeCardian end up in 2012? Let’s not forget, the guy was born in 1833.

You’ve probably heard me mention ball lightning before. When I started poking around looking for an…ahem…plausible explanation of how a Civil War colonel ended up in modern times, I was drawn to weather phenomena.

With its unpredictable nature, ferocity, and visually-striking spectacles, weather seemed the perfect conduit for time travel. Although there are multiple theories about ball lightning there is no concrete explanation of cause. Most eyewitnesses have reported seeing spheres of glowing light that hiss, spin, bounce, and often explode. It’s a rarity, widely considered a mystery.

Nice mesh for my werewolf Colonel, huh?  I thought so too. 😀

Arianna Hart, the heroine of my novel, is excited when she sees it for the first time, although I’m not positive I’d be as enthusiastic.

Ball lightning was responsible for killing four people and injuring 60 others during a church service in Devon England in 1638. It shattered glass, hurled stone from the building, demolished pews, and crushed ceiling beams.

In 1726 the British sloop Catherine and Mary lost her main mast to ball lightning. It killed one crewmember and maimed another, ripping off his hand.

The HMS Warren Hastings was struck by three spheres of ball lightning in 1809. Two crewmembers were killed, another injured and, like the Catherine and Mary, her mast went up in flame.

WWII pilots and submariners often reported occurrences of what may have been ball lightning. As recent as last year, it was reported a ball of light with a two-meter tail, crashed through the window of an Emergency Services Center in the Czech Republic. It bounced and rolled from window, to ceiling, to floor, eventually disappearing. Probably made a heck of a display – – ball lightning comes in a wide variety of vibrant colors – – but I’m not sure I’d want to get caught up in that rainbow.

Caleb DeCardian has a different viewpoint. He believes the only way back to 1863 is through another shower of ball lightning.

Hmm. Will it happen?

Let’s just say there are several instances of weather-spawned phenomena in WEATHERING ROCK available for your discovery. 🙂

Thanks for spending another Mythical Monday with me. I hope you enjoy reading these posts as much as I do writing them!