One of today’s topics comes from Mr. Ryan Holiday of Kentucky.
I’ve enjoyed your Nyogtha column since it’s beginning, even with the
Occasional cheap shot at Kentucky notwithstanding. After finishing your latest installment, I must say “bravo!” to every word. I’ve recently finished up my master’s in psychology and I’ve always had an interest in the more abnormal side of psychology (I’m an InsidePulse reader, so that shouldn’t be much of a surprise).
Anyway, I just wanted to say that I commend you for expressing your belief that Freud was a hack. I’ve noticed that seems to be a rapidly growing opinion and I for one, could not be more pleased. Please keep up your fantastic work.
Ah hell, since I’m already writing this email, I might as well make a request. In a future column, could you please address the various myths surrounding sleep paralysis? One more thing…EXCELLENT catfish recipe. I’ve never been too moved to flex my culinary muscles but this recipe has inspired me.
Thank you for your time.
This topic is close to me because as a small child I used to suffer from an aspect of Sleep Paralysis called “Night Terrors.” I’ve never been very good at the whole sleeping thing, but Night Terrors are what caused me to learn how to do lucid dreaming, so something good comes out of something bad I suppose.
I’ll be covering Sleep Paralysis as a whole, and then move on to two sub-classes that relate to folklore and urban legends: The aforementioned Night Terrors and what is called “hag attacks.”
To begin with, no one is 100% sure how/why we dream. It’s mostly theory with a few things we do solidly know about what happens while we are out cold, resting between a pillow and some sheets. So please remember that I am working only with hypothesis and theories mired in a few facts. Funny that we can get to the moon, yet aren’t sure how or why we think or sleep exactly.
Sleep Paralysis is thought to occur due to an irregularity in the brain stem where three functions of sleep occur. These are
a) Reticular Neurons. These prevent bodily movement while at rest
b) Vestibular Neurons. These block sensory input while slumbering
c) Oculomotor Neurons. These provide the brain with the activity that occurs while in REM sleep.
All of these are what prevent your brain from moving and reacting to dream stimuli. They help the brain distinguish between dreams and reality. Which is good, because what if you were dreaming about urinating, eh?
There’s one part of your body immune to the aforementioned neurons. These are your eyes. And this is where all the sleeping disorders we will be talking about generate from.
There are two kinds of general Sleep Paralysis. The first is known as hypnogogic paralysis, which is when you are still mentally awake when the body has entered dream paralysis. The second is when your mind wakes up from the Dreaming, but your body is still asleep and paralyzed. This is known as hypnopompic paralysis. The latter is far, FAR more common and where all the weirdness occurs so we’ll discuss this.
Hypnopompic paralysis occurs after a strong REM session occurs and your mind is jolted awake, but your body has yet to awake and so you are paralyzed. Although this state occurs for roughly only two minutes or so, the differentiation between mind and body/dreams and reality causes various hallucinations to occur. Please note that even though studies show this occurs for only two minutes, individuals suffering it report it feels like much longer, which is understandable.
A very common hallucination is that of the “Hag Attack.” Various cultures have their own name for this condition. The Japanese call it “kanashibari,” Mexicans call it, “subida del muerto”, and the Arabic countries refer to it as “karabasan.” This is also the phenomenon responsible for the concepts of incubi, succubi, and other demonic concepts. It is also believed the Hag Attack is also what occurs in people who believe they have been abducted by aliens.
A hag attack occurs in hypnopompic paralysis where one awakens to the sensation of a crushing weight on his or her chest. Other hallucinations that occur with the hag attack include a sense of doom or an evil presence, fear, and auditory or visual hallucinations. These are all understandable because one tends to panic in this state, unable to understand how or why they are frozen.
The hag attack has been documented since ancient times. In second century Greece, the wise physician Galen believed the phenomenon was caused due to indigestion, a theory that still holds today.
The problem is that 15% of the world’s population suffers from, or has suffered a, hag attack. And this is a significant minority and how it has caused cultures to believe a hag attack is supernatural or demonic in nature, especially if both a husband and wife or a mother and child had one. Instant “DEMON! RUN!” alert through the village.
The syndrome received its’ name from the English Middle Ages, when it was believed witches or “hags” would sit on a person’s chest to cause grief, exhaustion, and other negative conditions. And since a crushing weight is a common hallucination (the conscious mind trying to explain the paranoia), well this just “proved” the superstition to be fact. This is also where the term “hagridden” came from, which means to feel rundown or exhausted.
Because one is exerting a lot of mental energy while the body is paralysis and is basically fighting themselves, they do end up exhausting a lot of the energy they stored during sleep in a very short amount of time, creating a self-fulfilling delusion.
Sometimes one does have a visual hallucination with this as well, but often times a hag attack is characterized as a malevolent invisible force.
There is also the condition known as “Night Terrors,” although there is little if any paralysis that occurs here. Night Terrors are also known as pavor nocturnus. Night Terrors are a parasomic sleep disorder in which one is both awaken and dreaming at the same time, neither fully in one state or the other.
A night terror occurs when a person awakens abruptly from the fourth stage of sleep (the one right before REM). A night terror is NOT a nightmare and should not be treated as such, although since the night terror is usually a horrific dream, the two are easily confused by the unaware. Even if the dreamer appears fully conscious, one must remember they are not, and are in fact trapped between the two states. What this means is that the person is awake but dreaming, or dreaming whilst in reality.
If this is still confusing, let me relay an example as a child. I seem to be unique in that I remember all my childhood night terrors, where the large majority of sufferers can not remember them at all, only the emotion associated with them. Let’s say I dreamed as a child about being rolled down a very large hill by the folkloric witches (not Wicca’s!) who would poke and jab and claw me. If I was to awaken, I would know that I am not in a barrel or on a hill. I would be in my bed and think I am awake, but there before me would be a very real hallucination of a witch. It would seem amazingly real and would induce massive panic due to reality being compromised by a dream that isn’t actually there except in my half conscious mind.
Night terrors last about 10-20 minutes until the person either falls asleep or wakes up completely and this fear is compounded by the fact night terrors are almost entirely exclusive to single digit children, with the vast majority of people experiencing them ranging between the ages of four and six.
The young age of night terror suffers can be attributed to the body not being mature and handling the sleep function properly, but considering this age group believes in many things that adults to not and do not have a firm grasp of reality at all due to concepts like Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and so on, well, you can understand why they suffer the mental trauma. To a four year old, that really IS the boogeyman standing there. It’s hard to say “I’m only dreaming.”
Thankfully a sufferer of night terrors experience them infrequently between a period of a few weeks to months, with rare exceptions suffering them more frequently or for years, but then they abruptly stop. There is no known reason for why or how. Studies do show night terrors occur in the first few hours of sleep, and that they are genetic and can (and usually are) be passed from parent to child.
As I said before, no one knows what causes these sleep disorders but there are a few theories. The ancient Greeks believed it was indigestion. Some suggest inhibited synapses. Others say it is low level of melatonin which prevents muscle and brain stimulation. It’s also believed that sleep paralysis is tied in with narcolepsy, but sleep paralysis occurs to almost every person at least once in their life, while narcolepsy is a lifelong disorder.
But again, it’s all speculation and a mystery to researchers, so I won’t insult your intelligence by giving you half-assed guesses. Only facts here in Nyogtha.
I hope this answers your question Ryan. It’s not too terribly in-depth, but it does give an understanding of what the disorder is and how it has spawned folkloric beliefs.
The next section comes from a letter I accidentally deleted and then my trash bin emptied and so I can’t give you credit for the question. Terribly sorry. But the question WAS about Ouija boards and where they came from.
Ouija boards were invented by an American named Elija Bond in 1892. The name is derived from the French and German words for yes. The Ouija board is derived from “talking boards” and before that, the Planchette.
A Planchette is a thin heart shaped wooden platform with three legs. Two of the legs have wheels attached to them while the third is a pencil. The user places his or her fingertips on the platform and invites spirits or ghosts to use them as a medium to guide and write with the planchette. This is also known as automatic writing. The Planchette got its name from a French spiritualist, M. Planchette, but in fact it is much older. And guess who the original creator is? Pythagoras! Yes, the Greek mathematician!
A talking board IS an Ouija board, just without the branding. Like tissues not called Kleenex or a photocopier not called Xerox.
There are two schools of thought on these boards. The first is that Ouija boards do in fact allow you to communicate with the dead, and there are two sub groups, one that believes anything you talk to is inherently evil, and the other that says you can get both. The second school of thought is the pointer is guided consciously or subconsciously by people touching it. If you want to know what school I belong to, I have to say that in high school a friend and I got a board in a hardware store that was going out of business for 10$. It was made by Parker Brothers. If a board game company has developed the ability to commune with the netherworld, I think it would sell for a bit more, don’t you?
And no, nothing happened. Anytime I used it, it would only go to the letter F. So I named it “F.” We decided if the board was channeling anything, it was an illiterate ghost.
Sorry, I just can’t believe they work and find myself laughing whenever I hear stories of people who used them and swear things happen.
Someone pointed out to me how little I ever cover desserts here in Nyogtha. And the truth is, I just don’t think about sugar that often. I’m not a dessert kind of guy. But hey, since I rarely get comments about the food part of this column anymore, I thought I’d honor this request.
It’s also been a while since I touched fruit and my favorite of all, the blueberry. Even though it’s only 40 degrees here in Minneapolis, summer IS coming, and so I thought a nice summary desert would work.
This is also a more intricate recipe than I normally do, if only because deserts always seem to be more complicated to me than meats and fish. But it’s well worth the time and prep.
Blueberry Cobbler with Brown Sugar Whipped Cream.
For the Biscuits:
2 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Three-fourths cup light cream, plus an additional 2 tablespoons to brush on the top of the
1 large egg
2 tablespoons raw sugar (turbinado)
1 tablespoon white sugar (go raw!)
1. Preheat the oven to 360 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or non-stick baking mats, or use a nonstick cookie sheet.
2. Sift together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Cut the butter into the flour mixture, rubbing them together with your fingers or a pastry cutter, until the mixture is crumbly and sandy, Whisk the three-fourths cup cream and the egg together. Add the flour mixture and stir until the dough comes together.
3. Roll or pat the dough out to one-half inch thick on a lightly floured surface. Using a biscuit or cookie cutter, cut into eight 2-inch circles. Transfer to the prepared cookie sheet. Brush the tops with cream. Sprinkle with sugar, and bake until BARELY golden brown. They will still be undercooked. This will take about 10-12 minutes.
Note the biscuits can be made a day in advance if needed. If you do store them in a cool place in an airtight container.
For the Cobbler:
3 pints fresh blueberries
One-fourth cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons all-purpose sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 9 inch square baking dish.
2. Mix together the blueberries, sugar, lemon juice and flour in a large bowl and let sit for 15 minutes.
3. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish, arrange the biscuits on top and place the baking dish in the oven. Put a rimmed baking sheet on a lower rack to catch any overflow.
4. Bake until the mixture begins to bubble and the biscuits are golden brown. This will be about 25-30 minutes.
5. Remove from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes before serving
For the Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream, very cold
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Whip all the ingredients together until soft peaks form. Spoon the cobbler into bowls and top with whipped cream.
Last week I reviewed both Pokemon Emerald and Psychonauts. This week, look for my Haunting Ground review.
In Games, Yeager reviews the new Star Wars game while a bunch of the staff talk about the new Xbox 360.
In Comics, Coren reviews the new Demon issue, while Mathan reviews a comic that shows how Batman SHOULD be portrayed. God I miss the 70’s and 80’s teams.
In Wrestling, Eric S reminds me it’s been years since I’ve watched wrestling and couldn’t tell you what half the guys he speaks about look like. And Gordi wrestles with the age old concept of performing for art’s sake or for cold hard cash.
In Music, Gloomchen talks about Bon Jovi, and Toby B finds love in his heart for all.
In Movies, Robert Sutton convinced me to go out and buy The Merchant of Venice. I was afraid they’d louse it up what with Al Pacino playing Shylock. Oh yeah, there’s also Shaun Norton, who got suckered into reviewing House of Wax. Stick with the Vincent Price rendition people!
In Figures, PK shows me that that the Black Queen bust is smokin’, and Batesman makes me cry from some ugly Mortal Kombat toys.
In TV, there is way too f*cking much commentary on or about reality TV. Ew.
As always, feel free to hit me up with new topics! Any questions or foods you’d like me to cover? Well, it’s what I’m here for.