‘The Supernatural Spiritual Reality of the Brocken Spectre’

Thomas Mabry - Honey Badger ImagesOur Town Arts

1 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves.

2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Matthew 17: 1-2

My friend Timm Davis is a photographer and outdoor enthusiast with knowledge about atmospheric anomalies he has learned through academic pursuit and boots on the ground experience.

We decided to hike to Big Bald Mountain on the Appalachian Trail for sunset this past Sunday. Our journey was delayed by a severe, massive thunderstorm that roiled over the 5516-foot mountain. Badger is always enlightened by Timm’s observations of the weather and how it affects our journeys. If you recall, we made the trek up to the same area on 1.21.2024 where we saw a distinctive hue dressing the 20-inches of snow and the trees along the way.

We didn’t think much of the chance for another spectacular event, but Timm guardedly opined that the storm would pass through and a vacuum would be created in the atmosphere after the passing such that the clouds which ensconced the summit would drop to create an inversion and a decent sunset.

Well, lo and behold, the conditions transformed as predicted. The clouds sunk into the valleys and the sun popped through the fog. We were scurrying to and fro with our cameras when the unthinkable happened.

We witnessed first a fogbow which is rarer than the April snowbow I saw. Then as I approached Timm, who stood on the AT, yet another event caught my eye: a phenomenon known as a rare Brocken spectre. The spectre is caused by a huge shadow of a figure (in this case, my shadow) illuminated against the cloud bank opposite the setting sun. A photographer trifecta occurred when the “glory” (a circular rainbow, ALSO a rare event) wholly enveloped the spectre, which was enveloped by the fogbow.

The impression was brief and capturing it by camera was quick and challenging but successful work.

As we parted after the hike, a sense of awe and wonder persisted, spiritual in nature but also imbued in an intellectual aura. A voice from the past urged me to pursue the vision further.

After posting the photos on social media and the images being seen by an estimated 100,000 television viewers, since WLOS TV 13 in Asheville showed the photos in their Memorial Day news and weather report, a follower contacted me and merely said to read Chapter 17 of the book of Matthew. My curiosity piqued so I did. The first two verses caught my attention.

I always wondered skeptically how the Transfiguration of Jesus could possibly have occurred in the material world. Now, though Jesus threw in a miracle by subsequently bringing Moses and Elijah into the scene, I now have a clue as to how this could have happened.

While not knowing all of the symbolism of the atmospheric phenomenon we witnessed, the profundity of the occurrence has permeated my thoughts the past few days. I’ve always wondered why the Badger loves hiking and photography. Maybe it’s the unforeseen opportunity to also enjoy an occasional dalliance with the supernatural.

Thomas Mabry – Honey Badger Images

Many of the HoneyBadgerImages are on display at instagram.com/honeybadgerimages.


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