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August, 10, 2017

Horror Stories from Baikal: Mysterious “Witch Circles”

The expression “Baikal is a mystical place of power” has became an axiom. Baikal keeps many mysteries and miracles, interesting legends and fairy-tales. The atmosphere of the lake is impregnated with paranormal and abnormal phenomena: the attempts to describe them have been made by the indigenous inhabitants of Baikal region with the help of folk art for many centuries. There are also a number of quite “young” legends which include a story about mysterious (witch) circles.

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A strange phenomenon that could not be interpreted in an unambiguous way, and therefore was frightening: mysterious circles of different diameters were observed by locals and tourists on the island of Olkhon (on the way to the Shara-Nur salt lake), in the Tazheran steppes, on the coast of Maloe More. Long-terms residents of these places who observed the appearance of such phenomena clearly noted that:

- the circles emerged on their own, mainly on unprocessed fields, untouched by human tools;

- the shape of the circles was characterized as a perfectly flat circle, their edges were framed with a border of a higher, juicier and brighter grass. This ideal shape was not the result of the impact neither of some element, nor of the traces of animals;

- the size of the circles was often ten times as big as a typical Buryat yurt. For many people this fact meant that these could not be considered an example of everyday life of indigenous people, moreover, some circles were found on steep slopes unfit for living.

If we tried to combine all the proposed explanations of mysterious phenomena into one, then we can present three versions of solving the mystery: mythological, ufological and scientific explanations.

Strange circles are present in the legends of different European peoples. But usually these legends explained the emergence of such natural mysteries as large and small mushroom circles of chanterelles, honey fungi, champignons, morels, fly agarics... The center of these circles almost always had no grass; and the ring itself was surrounded by a patch of soil with the special kind surface: it was as if trampled down for some purpose. This gave tremendous opportunities for fruitful human imagination that came up with the most fantastic explanations.

One of the most common variants is the German one, where people believed that the rings originate in the place of the witches’ Sabbath with witches trampling the grass during their dances. According to the legend, the witches had to annually visit their solemn meetings (Sabbaths), where they had to undergo a ritual similar to a kind of lie detector, this ritual involved the use of the circles. Stepping into a circle, the witch swore that none of her actions could be used for people’s benefit. But if the circle did not confirm these words, the witch was expelled from the community.

The mythology of a series of other European peoples call circles on the grass “fairy rings”: they believed that fairies travelled between the worlds through the circles.

Other variations contained night dances performed by trolls who often offered ordinary people to join the dance. At that, if a person did not accept this invitation, the malicious little people sent him/her diseases and misfortune. Those who joined the dance were to receive even a more terrible outcome. The elves’ spell disappeared with the first rays of the dawn, and the man who danced with them was left dead in the center of the circle.

Russian fairy-tale folklore has no trolls, fairies and gnomes. And the mushroom circles that are unambiguously called “witch” circles supposedly keep hidden treasures. But first you need to find a plant of saxifrage, because the treasure can only be seen by the eyes rubbed by this plant. But the list of these details is not complete. The plant can be picked only during its flowering which happens at midnight on Ivanov’s day (Midsummer) and lasts for a very short time when you also have to manage to read three certain prayers.

The legends of both Mongols and Buryats say that the circles are traces of the circle dance left by the children of the Tengri god (to put it simple, the supreme deity of the sky), who come to the Earth to have fun and entertain themselves during the new moon.

According to the second (ufological) interpretation, the origin of the circles can be decomposed into the following, the most popular, components:

- Baikal is an UFO base. The point of entry or exit of space objects is located above the lake. Sometimes people say that this is the point of transition between parallel worlds;

- According to many versions, the extraterrestrial base is located is not in the air, but at the bottom of the lake;

- People repeatedly noted the appearance of mysterious luminous spheres in the sky over the lake;

- The circles are the result of landing of flying saucers, the result of landing of aliens’ spaceships;

- A person standing in the center of an “UFO parking” and staying there for at least 10 minutes observes a change in his/her consciousness, a sense of peace, calmness.

However, the scientists who investigated the phenomenon of the “witch” circles have an explanation that will frustrate visionaries and mystics. Under a microscope it can be clearly visible that it the circle is a mycelium. If it receives uniform nutrition, it grows in the shape of an ideal circle. The rim composed by the young mycelium is naturally brighter and higher than the mycelium from the center of the circle that is gradually dying off.

This justification is rather prosaic. But everyone has the right to believe in the things he or she believes in!

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