A piece of code from the dark web has enabled scientists to decipher a cryptic letter written by a 17th century nun who claimed to have been possessed by the devil.
A portion of the supposedly satanic letter [Image via Wikimedia Commons]
One August morning in the year 1676, Sister Maria Crocifissa della Concezione woke up from a fainting spell at the Monastery of Palma di Montechiaro. She found herself covered in ink, spelling out a message that she claimed was from Satan. The devil supposedly possessed her and made her write the message, which was written in an indecipherable mix of Greek, Arabic, Runic, and Cyrillic. The supposed devil's message has thus eluded people for centuries.
It's not for lack of trying, however. There have been a number of attempts to decipher the message, including one in the 1960s wherein the monastery offered a one-month vacation to the person who can translate the demonic ramblings. It turns out, however, that software from the darker corners of the internet can do what many others can't.
You can find a lot of things in the dark web. [Image by xijian/Getty Images]
Researchers at Ludum Science Center in Catania, Italy delved into an unsettling realm of the web in order to translate an unsettling piece of history. "Everything's on there: drugs, prostitution, pedophilia, and also programs used by intelligence services to decipher secret messages, like the one we used," says Ludum director Daniele Abate of the dark web.
Abate continues: “We primed the software with Ancient Greek, Arabic, the Runic alphabet and Latin to de-scramble some of the letter and show that it really is devilish.”
Using the software the researchers were able to decipher 15 lines of the message so far. They say that the decoded part of the message speaks about the relationship between God, humans, and Satan. "God thinks he can free mortals,” a part of the letter reads. “This system works for no one... Perhaps now, Styx is certain." In Greek mythology, Styx a deity as well as a river that separates the world of the living from the world of the dead.
The letter also goes on to tell the nun to turn away from her faith, because God is but a human invention and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are “dead weights”. This certainly sounds demonic; does this mean that the message is legitimately demonic in origin?
The Monastery of Palma di Montechiaro [Photo via Wikimedia Commons]
Of course, there's an explanation for the message and the way it was written. Sister Maria Crocifissa della Concezione, who had no recollection of writing the message on herself, likely suffered from a mental illness like schizophrenia. It's thus possible that she suffered from delusions and hallucinations.
Even so, however, how was the nun able to write this message in an undecipherable code? After all, mental illness doesn't usually make us capable of writing satanic messages in an undecipherable alphabet. Researchers say that Sister Maria Crocifissa della Concezione was actually familiar with several languages, and had spent much of her time at the monastery studying linguistics. Abate is convinced that the nun was able to create the cryptic yet precise alphabet. "Each symbol is well thought out and structured, there are signs that are repeated, perhaps an intentional and perhaps unconscious initiative,” Abate says.
If anything, this proves that possessions have a scientific explanation, and that the dark web is more than just snuff films and other sketchy business.
Get weekly science updates in your inbox!