And I will shew wonders in the heaven above, and signs on the earth beneath.
Acts ii. 19a
The world is full of strange wonders that often defy categorization, let alone understanding. A great deal of the work of the S.I.F. is to study these marvels and try to make sense of them, or at least see that they do no harm. This is often a dangerous task, as the line between marvelous and terrifying is a very, very thin one. The following is a catalog of some of the most persistent or just plain astounding events or entities the S.I.F. has catalogued over the years, and by no means represents more than a sampling of what lurks on the fringes of the modern world.
A relatively recent phenomenon, but a very troubling one, is the emergence of strange, unidentified ships in the skies. Although unusual objects have been seen in the heavens for centuries, the accounts have become ever more frequent since the middle of the century. Witnesses, including many notable astronomers, have observed lights and what seem to be actual vehicles all across the world - Mexico, Britain, France, the United States, Italy, Germany, Russia and beyond. The most common form is a cigar-shaped apparition, although other forms of mechanical constructs and, rarely, luminous discs are reported as well.
The existence of such things seems well-attested. What they are is the true mystery, and speculation is rampant. Many believe, strange as it may sound, the airships are piloted by beings from other worlds - Mars, perhaps. Others say they are secret inventions of human scientists; far-fetched, maybe, but there are rumors about unusual projects conducted by luminaries such as Edison and Tesla. The Church has no stance on such things, although many observers note the airships are sometimes accompanied by other odd phenomena such as unusual creatures and physical peculiarities, hinting at a supernatural explanation. Sister Catarina of the Lisbon convent has devoted the past five years to compiling every account she can find, and her list is many hundred entries long. While not willing to commit to any particular theory, it is known that Sister Catarina is a great devotee of Nicholas of Cusa, a medieval theologian who speculated that extraterrestrial life was not only possible but almost certain.
Angels, of course, make frequent appearances in Scripture, from barring the borders of the Garden of Eden to Adam and Eve down to the lives of the Apostles. The great archangels SS. Gabriel, Michael and Raphael all have their feast days in the church year, in honor of their roles in Scripture (where they alone, of all the angels, are named) and Tradition. In addition to these archangels, the Church also teaches that everyone has their own particular guardian angel who watches over them both morally and physically. Angels are also prominent in Jewish folklore, as well as in Islam and, in various names, many other religions aside from Christianity.
It is important to note that while angels are good, they are not necessarily nice. The story of the first Passover is just one example; it is also worth noting that many angels, upon appearing in the Bible, implore those who behold them not to be afraid. These ancient and powerful spirits are the greatest messengers and instruments of God's will in existence, a far cry from the infantile cherubs entering popular culture, and must never to be taken for granted. That said, there are many Catholic prayers for the intercession of angels and countless saints have recounted how angels were sent to their aid in times of trial.
The Antichrist and Armageddon
The Sisters are not overly concerned with the outcome of Armageddon. Scripture and reason make it quite clear that God will prevail, utterly, completely and eternally, and no human actions can alter the final result in the slightest. Their goal when those dread days come is to be a beacon of truth, using all their power to limit the lies of the Antichrist and his followers, and thus save as many souls as are willing to hear the Word of God.
Thus, the Sisters keep a sharp eye for the signs of the Eschaton, although the Lord's injunction that we shall not know the hour must always be kept in mind against mistaking speculation for certainty. One must err on the side of caution, though, and thus the great library in Goa holds hundreds of prophecies both famous and obscure, and countless commentaries on Scripture by the Doctors, saints and theologians of the Church.
There are two speculations concerning the end times that are particular to the Sisters. The first is that it will begin on Walpurgis Night, a time of darkness and witchcraft. Of course, there is dispute as to 'begin' - will this be the day the Antichrist seizes power, or perhaps the day he is thrown down by the Lord Jesus Christ? Regardless, this is a night feared by most Sisters, and the night on which their vigilance is greatest. The second speculation is that when the End Times come, the chains that bind the Nine Sleepers will be loosed, and they will bring destruction and cataclysm in their wake. Their reigns, according to St. Anna of Alexandria, will last to the very end, when Christ triumphs over all the legions of Hell.
One of the secondary phenomena associated with the Spiritualist movement is automatic writing, in which the medium enters a trance and allows spirits to guide her hand and write as they will. Most often, the entire affair is a fraud or the subconscious at work, but there have been instances not so easily dismissed as bunk. John Ballou Newbrough's 'revelatory' book Oahspe is a well-known example (and also novel for using a typewriter instead of a pen as the instrument), but there are many others of the same sort.
The Sisters have noticed that many of these revelatory tracts dictated from beyond contain creeds that defy Catholic teaching. The intent of the spirits seems to be corrupt the faithful and lead them away from the Church. The case of Günther Degenfeld, a famous Salzburg medium of the 1870s, although little-known, is very instructive, not to mention worrisome. Degenfeld was a talented and apparently genuine medium who took to automatic writing with gusto. Gradually, his missives, innocent if rambling at first, took on a sinister if not downright diabolic tone. Worse, Degenfeld found himself unable to control his entrance into the trance state. Eventually, the man was committed to a sanatorium and remains there to this day.
Black dogs are grim specters of the British Isles, where they have many names: Black Shuck (Norfolk, Essex and Sussex), Barghest (Yorkshire), Gytrash (Lancashire), Moddey Dhoo (the Isle of Man) and Gwyllgi (Wales), to name just a few. They are generally held to be a sign that those who see them are soon to die; others believe the black dogs are the hounds of Satan. The appearance of the black dogs is also varied, aside from their coloration; they may be mastiffs or hounds, they may have red eyes or yellow, and so on. Black dogs have no fixed pattern of appearance, although they may be inclined to manifest at gallows sites.
If such things do exist, and most Red Sisters believe the number and range of sightings across the British Isles and northern France is telling, they may be hell hounds, ghosts of either dogs or men, spirits of the earth (St. Sofia's 'little angels') or some form of genuine, if earthbound, angel. The similarities to the banshee of Gaelic legends cannot be dismissed, despite the differences in form.
While black dogs are portents of doom, they are usually not malevolent in their own right. The case of Bungay Market in Suffolk is one of the rare exceptions. In 1577, Sunday worship in Bungay was interrupted by a vicious thunderstorm that rattled the church to its foundations. At the height of the storm, a black dog appeared in the church and ran through the church, much to the terror of the parishioners. Two worshippers in prayer died instantly as it passed between them, and a third was severely burnt but not slain before the dog disappeared only to reappear and claim three more victims in the nearby town of Blythburgh
It is well known that the Devil is the god of this world, the terrifying monarch of darkness and deceit. He is far from alone in the wretched companies of hell, however, and all his fellow traitors have made their mark upon the course of history.
Knowing, as the Church does, that the Devil and his fallen angels have great powers of illusion and counterfeit miracles, and knowing their great desire to seduce souls, and finally knowing that God's revelations first flowed down upon the Jews of all the people of the world, it thereby stands to reason that all the 'gods' of pagan myth are likely either diabos ou delusions (devils or delusions), as St. Sofia put it. Contrary to much contemporary opinion, the Sisters recognize the absolute existence of many pagan gods, even as they reject the (sometimes) pleasant mask such gods wore. The ancients, in their ignorance, may not have known to whom they were really praying; in the eyes of the S.I.F., this explains the alleged miracles granted by pagan gods.
This belief is not held by the entirety of the congregation, however. A few - a very few - Sisters believe that the most ancient 'gods' were actually angels, guiding ancient man as God's vice-regents until He revealed himself to the patriarchs. This view skirts close to heresy, contradicting the accepted interpretation of Scripture, and has sometimes attracted the attention of the Inquisition. Those Sisters who have served in mission territory rarely hold it.
Those who investigate such shadowy deities must take care. It is easy to become fascinated with the secretive nature of their cults, or be seduced by the grand promises they offer; more than a few Cloistered sisters are confined because they succumbed to the allure.
Demons and Demonic Possession
It is a bedrock teaching of the Church that the legions of Hell have a great impact on the world of the living. From the Serpent in the Garden of Eden to the temptation of Christ in the desert, and on down to the malicious assaults and possessions of the present day, the countless devils of Perdition have waged war against God and man. One weapon in the diabolic arsenal is demonic possession, in which the victim becomes a prisoner in his own body, while a diabolic intelligence controls what he says and does.
St. Sofia herself was a witness to the horrors wrought by the minions of Hell. Not long after Sofia removed to Goa, she became friends with the Branco family, a prosperous clan of merchants. The son of the family, a young man named Afonso, was afflicted with all manner of misery ever since he was a boy. When a youth, he had an imaginary friend named Oko. This was not unusual, of course, but Afonso persisted in claiming Oko spoke with him even as a teenager, despite the discouragement of his parents. Afonso fell in with a bad crowd and was implicated of all manner of crimes and injuries. In the end, even his impious friends abandoned him - all except the sinister Oko. The last act nearly ended in total tragedy, as Oko coerced Afonso to the brink of the unforgiveable sin of suicide. Happily, though, Afonso sought refuge with his parents' confessor, and after a long exorcism in which Sofia took part, Oko was banished back to the cesspools of Hell. Afonso himself took holy orders a few years later and ended his days as a missionary in south India.
The Rite of Exorcism
The full Rite of Exorcism can only be performed by a priest, and then only under strict guidelines. The case must be carefully examined and the reality of possession verified. Mistaking disease for demonic possession is a terrible and dangerous mistake. An exorcist must be a holy man, of blameless life, intelligent, brave, and humble. He must prepare for the rite through special acts of devotion and mortification, especially prayer and fasting. Ideally, he should be assisted by a qualified physician and several strong men (deacons or laity) to resist the demonic power of the victim of possession. Cooperation of the possessed, in so far as it is possible, should be implored. Prayer, fasting, confession and reception of Holy Communion are strong weapons against the Devil.
The exorcism should take place in a church if possible, or else in a private house (whereupon witnesses are requested to avoid the appearance of impropriety, especially if the victim should be a woman). The demon should not be idly conversed with, and prayer and devotion must be unceasing on the part of the exorcist and his assistants. While crucifixes, holy water, and, if possible, relics of the saints, must be employed, the Blessed Sacrament must not be brought near the possessed lest he defile it.
The sacred rite should be repeated if immediate expulsion of the evil spirit is not obtained. If need be, the rite may be repeated several times. During performance of the rite, the exorcist should be vested in surplice and violet stole. Other holy garments such as cincture, scapulars and zucchettos may also be worn. If possible, the room wherein the rite is performed should be asperged (sprinkled with holy water), blessed and incensed.
When the rite may not be performed owing to unavailability of a priest, fervent prayers may be said over the possessed. In the Eastern churches, it is permissible for the laity to perform exorcisms, although it is still properly left to clergy. The untrained are enjoined not to attempt exorcisms on their own, for they thereby risk the wrath of evil spirits themselves.
While most Westerners dismiss the djinn as nothing more than a colorful element of Islamic folklore, they are widely believed in, especially in Arab lands. The S.I.F. knows they are very real, having encountered them more than once. They have some traits in common with the fair folk of Celtic tradition, namely their general invisibility and their distinct societies invisible from but akin to those of mankind. Like men, they have free will and can choose to serve either God or His enemy. The djinn in God's camp are rarely seen, but their wicked kindred often plague mortals, especially Arabs and travelers across Arabia.
The various priories and itinerant Sisters of the Middle East most often encounter the djinn and their furtive human agents. It is said that the city of Baghdad is home to fully a score of djinn and no less than four cults (all banned by the Ottoman authorities) devoted to them; more recent rumors place wayward djinn in the great French port of Marseille. Djinn's motives are varied, but often sinister (or, at least, the gentler djinn are very subtle and shy of involvement in human affairs, leaving their darker kin to be noticed as typical). Of late, it seems they are in a frenzy of cult-building, for whatever reason.
The Flying Dutchman
Sailors are a superstitious lot, but the sheer weight of some of their beliefs makes them worthy of consideration. The Flying Dutchman is one such tale. While details differ by the telling, the most common version (especially among the Dutch) holds that a Dutch captain named either Vanderdecken or Vanderstaaten sailing to India found his ship delayed off the Cape of Good Hope. Furious, the Dutch captain swore a blasphemous oath to round the Cape, even if it took him until Judgment Day. Sadly for the captain and his crew, God took him at his word and thus he is condemned to wander the oceans forever. Sighting the ragged, ghostly ship is an omen of doom to mariners who ply the southern seas, and it is often attributed as the cause of missing and presumed sunken ships.
While not mentioned in any of her letters, an apocryphal account written in Goa tells that Sofia had a fleeting encounter with the Flying Dutchman. The story says that on the long voyage to India, Sofia's ship put in at Cape Town. Two days after setting sail again, it sighted the Flying Dutchman as it sought refuge from a sudden storm. The ghost ship lurked on the horizon, but was driven off by Sofia's prayers (the storm likewise abated at her prayerful request). While it can never be proven if the incident took place or not, a generation later, a ship carrying what would have been the first convent in the Philippines was lost without a doubt, and in almost the exact spot the earlier story names. There have been many more recent sightings, the most notable being that of the HMS Britomartis, a British gunship lost with all hands a day after it telegraphed a sighting of a 'phantom sailing ship' near Mossel Bay.
The golem is the product of the most esoteric Jewish mysticism. Made of clay and animated by the God-given powers of especially holy men, golems are typically servants and protectors (especially against anti-Semites). Although tales of golems date back to the Middle Ages, if not earlier, the most attested example is that of Rabbi Judah Loew, a 16th century rabbi in Prague. Rabbi Loew's golem eventually became mindlessly violent and was killed by his maker by the method of changing the holy word emet (truth) upon its forehead into met (death). This method of destruction, it must be noted, is not universally effective, as there are many other forms by which the golem can be given the semblance of life.
Although golems are incredibly rare, the S.I.F. has encountered a few since it first moved into Central Europe. The most recent experience was that of the Vienna priory, which investigated the deaths of a handful of occult-leaning Pan-German politicians in the fall of 1872. The killer was apparently the creation of a local rabbi's teenage son (himself being groomed for the rabbinate); the Abbess at the time did not fully explain what became of the golem.
The Great Catholic Monarch
It has long been prophesied that one of the signs of the imminent Eschaton will be the rise to power of the Great Catholic Monarch, a good king who will rule over all of Europe and unify Christendom alongside the foretold Angelic Pastor (a virtuous pope often said to take the regnal name Peter II in a sharp break with Catholic tradition). The Sisters have spent long hours studying the various prophecies and watching for the signs of his reign, a precursor of the reign of Christ the King.
St. Sofia herself alluded to the Great Catholic Monarch in one of her Eschatological Visions, wherein she saw a "lame [crippled] warrior with a shining blade and a crown of Lilies." Both the king's frailty and the crown of Lilies (a reference to the kings of France) are typical of the genre. While the royal lines of Europe are rather tangled, with a maze of claims and counter-claims of legitimacy, especially in this age of republics, there is general agreement that the Great Catholic Monarch will come from the House of Bourbon, not so long ago the royal family of France and still the Spanish royal family. Many believe that the great king will spring from a future union of the lines of young Alfonso XIII of Spain and Philippe, Comte de Paris (who would be Philip VII were he to gain the crown in France), although the Portuguese House of Braganca, not to mention the many royal houses of the German Empire and the tangled web of royalty around Queen Victoria, are also offered up from time to time.
The generally agreed signs of the Great Catholic Monarch are thus: he will be of royal birth, he will walk with a limp, he will reclaim the Holy Land from Islam, he will ally his kingdom with Britain and Italy, he will travel to Jerusalem at the end of his days and die upon the Mount of Olives and, finally, his reign will immediately proceed the rise of the Antichrist. This last detail is the chief interest of the Sisters in the matter.
The phenomena of haunted houses is well known, with cases in the written record going back to at least the days of ancient Rome (Pliny the Elder's tale of Athenodorus and the ghost, for instance). For whatever reason, the majority of spirits tend to cling to the places they dwelt in while still living; perhaps they find comfort in familiar surroundings or seek to watch over their descendents. Most haunted houses are sad places, and only rarely do the specters seem bent on scaring, let alone injuring, those who behold them (most of the Red Sisters believe malevolent ghosts are actually demons in disguise, or at best tormented souls reaching out from Hell).
The Cacciaturi dâ Fantasmas are, unsurprisingly, particularly concerned with haunted houses and have catalogued over a thousand genuine cases over the years. Aside from such prominent locales as the Tower of London, Dragsholm Castle in Denmark, the Catacombs of Paris and the Charles Bridge in Prague, many, many homes of far humbler status have been marked as haunted, as have several locations in the wilderness, some apparently haunted by ghosts of great antiquity - the Balkans in particular seem home to many ancient spirits. A few Cacciaturi believe there may even be antediluvian specters lurking in and around what were once ancient ruins now completely lost to the ravages of time. While not quite lost, the Abbey of St. Marthe near Avignon has definitely seen better days; the same could be said of the most famous inhabitants, a score of ghostly monks murdered during the bloodiest days of the French Revolution. Oddly, they only appear on the night of the full moon.
Most in the Church are unaware of its existence, but there is a prayer for exorcising a haunted house. It can be found in a 17th century Spanish edition of the Rituale Romanum (a Catholic text containing various rituals, mostly those not found in missals and breviaries). The prayer, Exorcismus domus a dæmonio vexatæ, is roughly similar to an abbreviated form of the rite of exorcism; it calls on the priest to recite several prayers and Psalms while processing around the haunted house and sprinkling holy water upon the walls, concluding with a verse from the Gospel and the house being incensed before a final sprinkling of holy water. This prayer, although very obscure and very rarely used, is known to many of the priests associated with the S.I.F. upon gaining the approval of the local bishop.
The Victorian imagination seems obsessed with lost lands and civilizations. While few of them are likely to have existed, the search continues undaunted. After all, few believed in the existence of the city of Troy before Heinrich Schliemann's pioneering excavations. Who knows what else lies there, as yet undiscovered? The Sisters try to keep pace with such explorations, for not everything lost in the mists of history is benign.
Foremost among these quasi-historical realms is Atlantis, first brought to light by Plato, studied by some later authorities such as Newton and Bacon, and recently revived by the American lawmaker and writer Ignatius Donnelly. The lost continent, said to be home to great stores of occult wisdom and the root of all human civilization, has been placed in a hundred different locations from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic to the North Sea (often near to the homeland of the speculator, coincidentally enough). Outposts of this antediluvian empire are said to have been the font of Egyptian and Mesoamerican civilization, and some occultists believe Atlantean magi survive to this very day in remote locales. Few Sisters put much stock in these tales, or in the existence of Atlantis in general; why does no other classical source mention the great civilization and why have no relics been located? A handful of Red Sisters, however, note the similarities between the Atlantis story and apocryphal stories about the children of Adam and Eve, and have linked the two tales together. Poseidon and Clito are equated with Adam and Eve in this theory, while the first kings of Atlantis, namely Atlas, Eumelus, Ampheres, Evaemon, Mneseus, Autochthon, Elasippus, Mestor, Azaes and Diaprepes, represent their many children (Cain, Abel, Seth and numerous other sons with varying names in obscure apocryphal texts). The downfall of Atlantis is clearly a pagan echo of the Deluge.
Other similar fantastic realms are Hyperborea (placed throughout the northern reaches of the Atlantic and Europe, and a favorite of German occultists), Lemuria (a lost continent between India and Madagascar, or perhaps in the Pacific), Mu (another sunken realm, this time in the Pacific) and Shambhala (a mystical Himalayan realm from Tibetan Buddhist tradition), to name just a few. They all hold in common a reputation as repositories of ancient knowledge and mystic lore. Few real traces have been found of any of these fabled realms, but some ancient and as-yet-untranslated scrolls found in Egypt and Chinese Turkestan may perhaps be of extreme antiquity, and a very puzzling medieval manuscript (granted to the Church's Collegio Romano by Jesuit priest and scholar Athanasius Kircher) may be a copy of an antediluvian text.
St. Malachy was a 12th century archbishop of Armagh in Ireland. Although many miracles are attributed to the saint, he is best known for his vision of the last one hundred and twelve popes. This prophetic vision, first published by Arnold de Wyon's 1595 book Lignum Vitæ, is said to have been experienced and recorded by St. Malachy in Rome in 1139 and then languished in the archives of Rome for several centuries before de Wyon rediscovered it.
The prophecy, in written form, lists a hundred and eleven mottos, each corresponding to a specific pope beginning with Celestine II (reigning from 1143 to 1144) and concluding with "Peter of Rome" who will, per the prophecy, be the last pope before the Eschaton. While many of the mottos are quite straightforward, many others are quite symbolic (to be charitable). Skeptics point out that most of the excessively symbolic mottos describe those popes who reigned after de Wyon published the list, although cases can be made for the accuracy of most of the post-1595 predictions.
Beginning with the first pope of the 19th century, the remainder of St. Malachy's prophecy is as follows:
97. Pius VII (1800-1823) - Aquila rapax (rapacious eagle), he was the Pontiff during the reign of Napoleon I, whose emblem was the eagle.
98. Leo XII (1823-1829) - Canis et coluber (dog and adder), Leo XII was an unpopular Pope who could be called a dog or snake by his detractors.
99. Pius VIII (1829-1830) - Vir religiosus (religious man), a pun on Pius' regnal name.
100. Gregory XVI (1831-1846) - De balneis hetruriae (from the baths of Etruria), a reference to one of the founding houses of the Camaldolese order of monks the Pontiff belonged to.
101. Pius IX (1846-1878) - Crux de cruce (cross of the Cross), a reference to the loss of the Papal States to the Italian House of Savoy, whose coat of arms is a white cross on a red field.
102. Leo XIII (1878-) - Lumen in caelo (light in the sky), his coat of arms has a shooting star.
103. Ignis ardens (burning fire)
104. Religio depopulata (religion unpeopled)
105. Fides intrepida (intrepid faith)
106. Pastor angelicus (angelic shepherd)
107. Pastor at Nauta (shepherd and sailor)
108. Flos florum (flower of flowers)
109. De medietate Lunae (of the half-moon)
110. De labore Solis (of the labor of the sun)
111. De gloria olivae (the glory of the olive)
In persecutione extrema S.R.E. sedebit Petrus Romanus, qui pascet oues in multis tribulationibus: quibus transactis ciuitas septicollis diruetur, et Iudex tremdus iudicabit populum suum. Finis. (In extreme persecution, the seat of the Holy Roman Church will be occupied by Peter the Roman, who will feed the sheep through many tribulations; when they are over, the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the terrible or fearsome Judge will judge his people. The End.)
A medium is someone who can perceive and communicate with spirits. There are two possible forms of mediums: those who actively conjure up what are, or at least pose as, the spirits of the departed (an act forbidden by the Church) and those who are born with a form of preternatural sight that allows them to see such spirits without any voluntary act. In the eyes of the Church, summoning the dead is a mortal sin. Seeing the dead is not. St. Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theologica, argued that the residents of both heaven and hell can depart their domains at times.
From the Red Sisters' perspective, mediums raise two concerns. The first is that those who summon and those who see cannot always be sure of the identity of the spirit. Sometimes, the ghost is just who he or she claims, or appears, to be; but more often it may be a devil or angel in disguise, attempting to spread lies and wickedness, or instruct or warn, respectively. The second danger is exclusive to those who summon the dead. Thousands of years of Christian and Jewish teaching ban such practices. There is always a risk of growing fascination with the occult; one may begin at séances and end in Satanism, although this is fairly rare. More likely, a medium will summon a harmful spirit. More than a few séances have ended in injury or worse. Deception is a risk as well. The Red Sisters are not ignorant of the fact that many conjured spirits spread doctrines at odds with Christianity (and any other organized religion), which the mediums then spread among their circles.
The tatzelwurm is a rare, deadly form of serpent that dwells in the highest peaks of the Alps stretching from France as far as Austria. By most accounts (Ludtke, 1815, Benzinger, 1828, von Holzmann, 1865), the tatzelwurm resembles a very large snake, anywhere between two and six feet long, with two front legs ending in claws and a typically snaky rear body.
What makes the tatzelwurm especially menacing is its alleged ability to exhale clouds of lethally toxic fumes at considerable ranges. This strange ability is believed to be responsible for the death of the Haid mountaineering expedition in 1879, despite the official explanation. More than a few Sisters believe the 'death breath' is evidence that the tatzelwurm is some sort of demonic creature, not just a rare and strange animal.
The Unfallen World
It is an article of faith that prior to the Fall, Adam and Eve alike existed in a state quite unlike their descendants. They possessed many supernatural and preternatural gifts as a mark of their exalted state. Among these were the donum integritatis (gift of integrity; the subordination of sensual desire to moral reason; this was clearly the most blessed of all their gifts), the donum immortalitatus (immortality), the donum impassibilitatis (impassibility; freedom from suffering), and the donum scientiae (gift of knowledge; a transcendental wisdom infused into man by God); these gifts are well-known to Catholic scholars; to these, St. Sofia believed could be added such gifts as dominion over nature (donum imperium mundi) and all the beasts and birds, as well as hyper-discernment (the sixth sense, and all manner of other special perceptions) and all the other blessings imparted to various saints over the years.
One of St. Sofia's visions revealed for her Adam and Eve in this unfallen state, and she never failed to weep when recalling it, and comparing it to how far man had fallen in this sad era. She believed that all men would once again share that birthright after the Last Judgment, something to look forward to with joy (although far less than the bliss of the Beatific Vision, of course).
The nature of man was only one half of the glory of the world that once was. St. Sofia's visions revealed that the very nature of the world was different in those days, and it was this aspect that truly drew the ire of the Inquisition (and many theologians since), for St. Sofia's claims drew perilously close to animism at points. She believed that in some perhaps inexpressible way the world was more alive before Eve stumbled. Raw power flowed through the earth, connecting and binding places of special beauty and sanctity, and there were many strange spirits ("little angels" in St. Sofia's words) who dwelt in the air and water, bowing before our first father and mother and loyally serving them.
All this is gone now, though, swept away by Adam and Eve's great sin. Man lost his great gifts of immortality, integrity and impassibility, a ridiculously obvious fact. Man was also stripped of his other preternatural gifts, the full glory and birthright that once gave him total dominion over the world and all its creatures. Furthermore, all but a few remnants of that glorious epoch of the world are gone now, leaving the sad and often dangerous planet man inherits.