Mysterylights Group Message 0251

Subject: Fwd = In the coils of the Naga
From: Frits Westra <fwestra@...>
Date: 13 Mar 2003 02:22

Forwarded by:     fwestra@... (Frits Westra)
Original Date:    Thu, 13 Mar 2003 01:47:15 +0100 (CET)

========================== Forwarded message begins ======================

                          IN THE COILS OF THE NAGA

From: Fortean Times

FT 166

Richard Freeman

--[snipped for brevity -- FULL article at above URL]----

   The next day was an important one. The naga mystery, with its complex
   folklore, has become entangled with many mysteries over the years; one
   of these is the naga fireballs.

   On 13 October each year, balls of red light are seen shooting out of
   the Mekong river. Locals believe these to be the breath of the naga,
   heralding the end of the rainy season. Huge crowds assemble to
   celebrate and view the phenomenon from the banks of the Mekong. The
   fortean in me recalled the balls of blue light associated with giant
   snakes in the Amazon (believed to be their bioluminescent eyes) and I
   thought, too, of the earth lights often reported over water. Perhaps
   two fortean phenomena were occurring here side by side.

   During daylight, before the appearance of the nocturnal lights, a huge
   parade took place, with hundreds of people in traditional dress, bands
   playing, and floats carrying images of the naga. It ended with a
   temple made entirely from bamboo leaves being floated upon the river.

   By nightfall, I found myself surrounded by 100,000 screaming Thais
   shining spotlights and laser pointers on the water and letting off
   fireworks. Traditional long boats illuminated with candles and lamps
   passed by as we waited for the phenomenon to begin. Suddenly a shout
   went up: a fireball had been spotted. Shortly after I saw a red light
   spring upwards from the opposite bank, then fade away. Soon, more
   followed - first in ones, then in twos, threes and fours. Swiftly,
   something dawned upon me; if this were a natural phenomenon, it would
   surely be occurring across the entire width of the river. The lights
   were springing up from the far bank - the Laotian side - in what
   appeared to be an extremely orchestrated fashion. They also seemed to
   be coming from areas where lamps were visible and people, presumably,
   were present. The fabled naga fireballs seemed to be nothing more
   mysterious than fireworks of the relatively noiseless kind that fade
   away rather than exploding, much like maritime distress flares.

   So, the fireball mystery bit the dust. I was satisfied that the
   Laotians were having a good chuckle at their friends across the river.
   But other riddles awited me.

--[snipped for brevity -- FULL article at above URL]----

   Richard Freeman is a cryptozoologist based at the Centre for Fortean
   Zoology in Exeter. He has worked in animal sanctuaries and as a
   zookeeper at Twycross zoo, where he became head curator of reptiles.
   He is currently working on a book about dragons.


   The annual appearance of the mysterious naga fireballs - on the full
   moon of the 11th lunar month each year and coinciding with the
   Buddhist equivalent of Lent - has become an important part of
   Thailand's tourist industry. Celebrated in the Bang Fai Phaya Nark
   festival, the phenomenon is a huge boon to the local economy of the
   north-eastern border province of Nong Khai. 2002's event saw in excess
   of 400,000 visitors, both Thais and foreign tourists, joining the
   celebrations along the Mekong river, mostly in the districts of Phon
   Phisai, Sri Chiang Mai, Pak Khad, Rattana Wapi and Bung Kan. The
   mysterious balls of red, pink and orange light were supplemented by a
   special light and sound show over the festival's four-day run,
   bringing in more tourists than ever before.

   At the height of festivities, a total of 829 fireballs was reported -
   noticeably less than in some previous years, when thousands were seen.
   The largest concentration was in the Rattana Wapi district, where 483
   of the mystery lights were seen rising from the river. 188 fireballs
   were reported from Phon Pisai, 86 from Bung Kan, 62 from Pak Khad,
   seven from Sangkhom and a rather disappointing three from Bung Khong
   Long. One newspaper report blamed the "unusually poor show" in some
   areas on the weather; a heavy downpour and strong winds also dampened
   the spirits of visitors, many of whom had made the trip after seeing
   the recent hit Thai movie Mekong Full Moon Party, a comedy centred
   around the fireball festival.

   The Thai government has apparently commissioned an investigation into
   the mystery orbs, whose cause remains unknown. While they are
   traditionally believed to emanate from the naga - some legends say
   they are the serpent's eggs - scientists have suggested that the
   fireballs are produced by flammable natural gas deposits in the river
   bed drawn to the surface by the moon's gravitational pull; although
   this hardly explains why it should happen only in the month of October
   or early November.

   A recently-aired TV documentary has further muddied the waters,
   suggesting that the entire fireball phenomenon is a hoax perpetrated
   by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to bring money to the
   region and that the `fireballs' were created with tracer bullets from
   AK-47 rifles on the Laotian side of the Mekong. Prasit Chanthathong, a
   Nong Khai MP, responded that since the fireballs had been seen for
   hundreds of years, this wasn't a very convincing debunking:"How did
   anyone have a gun back then to create this show?" he asked, apparently
   forgetting the earlier Chinese use of gunpowder and rockets.

   Bangkok Post 22+23 Oct; The Nation, 22 Oct; Ananova, 22 Oct; Bangkok
   Post, 3 Nov 2002; FT105:22.

              © Copyright Fortean Times. All rights reserved.

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