"Look up 'wormwood,'" is all it said.
I responded, "Wormwood like the plant? Wormwood like the junior devil in C. S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters?"
He came back with, "Wormwood like the comet."
So I obligingly did a Google search for "wormwood comet," and found out something that would be funny if the people who believed it weren't so sincere: there is apparently a growing number of ultra-Christian types who believe that Comet ISON is the "falling star" mentioned in Revelation 8:10-11:
Then the third angel sounded: And a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the water, because it was made bitter.ISON isn't a star, of course, but taking the bible literally doesn't apparently stop people from taking it metaphorically when it's convenient.
(Photograph courtesy of the European Southern Observatory and the Wikimedia Commons)
Take a look, for example, at this site, which mixes so many different kinds of crazy that it's hard to know where to begin -- biblical literalism, astrology, the magical significance of names, conspiracy theories, theosophy, and what appears to be completely original batshittery. As an example of the latter, take a look at this paragraph:
Biblically, Joseph (Israel) is at the Altar (Initiated); Gentiles are on the Porch (Un-initiated). I cannot stress enough Stay on the Porch!! The Mark of this Beast is real! The Hopi aka Welsh Gypsies continuing the Solar Cult of ancient Egypt correctly forecasted the arrival of White Men, Railroads, Interstate Highways and Jet Travel complete with Chemtrails described as Spider Webs; their prediction at Prophecy Rock will in all likelihood, come true as well!Besides that entirely incomprehensible paragraph, the site contains pages and pages of stuff that all leads us to one conclusion: ISON is Wormwood, and in a week or so we're all gonna die in horrible agony as part of the long-ago-foretold plan of the God of Love and Mercy.
Now, you might say that this website is just the work of one crazy person, which could well be true -- but stuff like this is popping up all over the internet. Some people disagree, though, which should be reassuring. On the site Escape All These Things: End Times Prophecies Made Plain, we are told that we are told that ISON can't be Wormwood because Wormwood is the "third trumpet" and the first and second trumpets haven't sounded yet, because we probably would have noticed if a third of the world's plants had been burned up and a great mountain had fallen into the sea.
On the downside, though, is the possibility that ISON could be the Planet Nibiru, a mythical planet that is best known for conspicuously failing to show every other time it was supposed to. In one of the best examples of pretzel logic I've ever seen, take a look at this page from the bizarre site Before It's News, wherein we find out that all of the other non-appearances of Nibiru were because the Illuminati wanted to play a game of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" to get us to let down our guard:
A few of those people could not live with the knowledge that millions of their fellow human beings were going to die in the future without even an opportunity to know what they were facing. There were a few who felt that the public had a right to know what was coming in order to make whatever preparations were possible. So from time to time there have been “leaks” of information. Little by little more and more information has been “leaked” until the whole grim picture has come together. In fact there were so many “leaks” of information about Planet X that some “brilliant insider” [Sic!] came up with the idea of planting disinformation designed to discredit the whole subject in the eyes of the public. So in 2001, 2002, and 2003 there was all kinds of information about Planet X being deliberately “leaked” to the public. Much of the information being released at that time claimed that the coming of Planet X would occur in May of 2003, and the public should prepare themselves for imminent destruction. On the one hand “official” sources were denying the whole story, while on the other hand equally “official” sources were steadily “leaking” disinformation to the public. Their SCAM worked like a charm. When Planet X DID NOT show up in May of 2003, most people labeled the whole subject of Planet X a hoax and began ridiculing anyone who would even bring up the subject.I don't think I've ever seen anyone come right out and say, "You should believe us because we have a record of being 100% wrong in the past" before.
Anyhow, I just wish everyone would stop freaking out every time something interesting happens in the world of astronomy. ISON has the potential to put on a great show during the first week of December, and I, for one, would love it if it did. Weather permitting -- always a dicey thing in my cloudy, snowy part of the country -- I'll be out there looking for it on the morning of December 3 through 6.
Even if it means that I have to "get off the porch."