A Letter From a “Possessed” Nun Was Just Translated and It’s Weird
A so-called possessed nun in the 17th Century Wrote a Letter Claiming it Was From the Devil, and Modern Software Just Translated It.
During the 17th century, a nun in Sicily wrote a letter. In itself, there’s nothing too unusual in that. Nuns live a cloistered life by definition, so writing letters was a great way to pass the time. This letter was a little different though, as it was supposedly written by the devil.
On August 11, 1676, Sister Maria Crocifissa della Concezione awoke covered in ink. She told her fellow nuns at the Monastery of Palma di Montechiaro that during the night she had been possessed by Satan, who forced her to write the letter which supposedly condemned God. The text consisted of an archaic alphabet that read more like a cipher than a letter addressed to anyone, but the nun told the others what it was and they believed her.
At the time, Satan was kind of a big deal. Episodes like this would have been considered proof of his existence, and if Sister Maria hadn’t already been in a Monastery, she would probably have faced hostile townsfolk. People were burned at the stake for far less in those days.
Looking back, she – like so many others accused of being “cursed” or “possessed by the devil” – probably had some form of significant mental illness, possibly schizophrenia. It’s a problem that continues to this day. Still, the letter remained a point of fascination for centuries after the nun’s death. Many tried to decipher or simply translate it, but none were able to offer more than a hint at what it said – until now.
The Ludum Science center in Catania recently got ahold of the letter and decided to run it through a piece of code-breaking software – and not just any code-breaking software. They didn’t just google “code breaking software+buy” and then one-click it over to them from Amazon. They found the software on the deep web, aka the dark web, and they believe it might be a copy of a government code-cracking tool. This is the type of software people wearing tin foil hats see and feel justified.
“We heard about the software, which we believe is used by intelligence services for codebreaking,” Daniele Abate, director of the Ludum Science Center, told The Times. “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.”
The letter is only 14 lines or so, and the software was able to put forth a rough translation of what the 31-year old nun wrote that night in 1676. According to the translation, the letter focused on the relationship between God, Satan, and humanity, and included the lines, “God thinks he can free mortals. This system works for no one… Perhaps now, Styx is certain.”
For those not up on their Greek mythology, the river Styx is the river that separates the land of the living from the land of the dead. It’s also a prog-rock band from the 80s, but it seems unlikely that Sister Maria was referring to them.
The letter was also filled with some rambling pieces that seem to have no true meaning, but it went on in an attempt to make the sister abandon her faith, calling Jesus and the Holy Ghost “dead weights” and stating that God is actually just an invention of man.
The letter was a mixture of multiple alphabets and languages, all of which Sister Maria would almost certainly have been aware of in her role as a nun where she studied linguistics. Still, the letter was a specific attack on the nun’s faith that has kept people talking for hundreds of years.
Following the nun’s night with Satan, the church saw the letter as evidence of her battle, and the sign that she was able to fight them off. The letter also contains the phrase “Ohimé” (translated as “oh me,” it was the only phrase in the letter that was immediately recognizable), which they thought was a sign that Sister Maria was fighting back as the devil attempted to coerce her into signing the letter and damning herself. The church later blessed Sister Maria.
Shortly after the translation, the entire team at the Ludom Science Center DISAPPEARED WITHOUT A TRACE!
No, not really, but wouldn’t that have put an interesting spin on things? The team is currently considering whether or not to submit their translation findings for peer review.