The mystery of “Manna of Heaven”

Nowadays, few people remember manna when falling out of the sky any unusual precipitation or successfully found natural surrogates of bread, whereas in the middle of the XIX century, almost only such a comparison and begged.

Let us consider several pre-revolutionary and modern publications of Belarusian periodicals, one way or another related to the “food” given by the will of God.

“The Sventsian Manna”

The first incident, which occurred in 1846 in the vicinity of the city of Smorgon, was covered not only by Belarusian newspapers, numerous editorials around the world wrote about it, the well-known collector of enigmatic cases Charles Fort mentioned it. With reference to the magazine “Comptes Rendus” he wrote:

“In the city of Vilna, Lithuania, on April 4, 1846, during a thunderstorm, masses of a substance consisting of nuts-sized lumps fell, which is described as resinous and at the same time gelatinous. It did not smell, but during the burning it spread a very strong sweetish smell. It is described as gelatin-like, but much denser, however, after being in the water for 24 hours it swelled and became completely gelatinous … It was grayish in color. ”

Meanwhile, this event occurred not in Vilno, but in the territory of modern Belarus, near the town of Smorgon, Grodno region. It was covered in most detail in one of the issues of the Vilensk Gubernia Gazette and the Journal of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. All other publications were only variations of these articles. Here is a text from the “Vilensk Gubernia Gazette” (No. 24 for 1846).

Folwark Zavel on the map of the second half of the XIX century

“Count Konstantin Tizengauz, in a letter written in the name of the Munich Professor of Zoology, G. Wagner, which we borrow from the” Tygodnik “published in St. Petersburg in the Polish language, reports the following:

“I think that the description of what happened in the East, a phenomenon that is curious about natural history, has long been known to you. In the Constantinople Messenger, twice the news was published of the manna from the sky, in very small numbers, in Asia Minor, in the vicinity of Sirvigisarkago Pashalyk, and in many other places in 1841, and in the present in Ennishere, where the inhabitants, Hunger, took advantage of this heavenly work, using it instead of bread, and so on.

But this rare phenomenon is all the more curious for an enlightened natural scientist, and that it has also resumed in our countries. Not far from Bait, the place of my stay, in the Zavel manor, belonging to Smarhon, lying on the right bank of the river Viliya, Vilenskaya province in Sventsyansky district, between 54 ° 45 ‘latitude and 44 ° longitude, May 22, with a clear And warm weather, at a temperature of 10 degrees Celsius on the Reaumur thermometer, and at a barometer height of 27 inches, six lines, when the state of the atmosphere did not foreshadow the storm, a significant cloud with thunderous blows appeared at the southwestern wind, at 6 o’clock in the afternoon One burned my bread shop, and the strait A warm, warm rain that went on throughout the night.

The next day, in the morning, the manager of Zabel manor, by name, Wroblewski, noticed from the window something like a hailstones covering occasionally the turf in the garden adjacent to the house; He immediately went there and, to his surprise, instead of the hailstones he found an unknown composition in the form of small fragmented balls, which he collected a full plate, and set in the sun for drying.

These balls, according to his story of different sizes, that is, from an ordinary walnut reaching the size of the Greek, were all fragmented, but from the broken parts one could conclude about the appearance of whole balls. The parts were convex from the outside, perfectly smooth, somewhat harsh in the fracture, rather transparent as jelly, but dense and fragile.

Four days later, he, Wroblewski, collected a few more remains of this composition, which, despite the continuous rain, was not damaged. The person who told me these details is known for his fidelity I’ve tested, and I vouch for the truth of his story, moreover, that he had no reason to deceive me, and did not even suspect that it was manna.

This composition, reported to me in a small amount, is completely dry and is in parts of different sizes; The biggest weigh up to 5 grams; In its natural state, this composition is porous, similar to dough, fiber, light gray, somewhat transparent and fairly firm, has no smell, it tastes barely discernible, starchy; In moss is rubbed into a very white flour.

Its comparative heaviness is not much more significant than water, being lit is burning, with a yellow flame with a noise, emitting the smell of burnt sugar, and leaving little coal. Being in the water for about a day, it doubles, getting the appearance of a student, but does not decompose. When grinding between the fingers is crushed into small pieces that do not stick to them. Decomposes, mostly in alcohol; An alcoholic solution, let in drops into distilled water, settles the turbidity in the form of a bluish cloud, which lasts for a long time on the surface before it sinks to the bottom.

There can be no doubt that the nature of this composition takes the place of the average between gum and gum, and that this can be the actual Manna Man-gu of the Holy Scripture. ”

RS This composition seems to constitute an organic matter, vegetable sui generis, and could have been accidentally formed from plant balsamic vapors accumulated in the upper atmosphere and converted electricity.

Oliver and Ehrenberg call the real manno, two sweet-starch compounds, known in the East as “Manna-Terpiyabin,” one of these compounds comes from the bush Alhagi camelorum and maurorum, in the form of Tragakant gum; The other is formed at the ends of the branches of the bush Tamarix mannifera through the insect Coccus manniparus “.

As can be seen, the composition of the precipitated substance has been described in such detail that even after more than 170 years, there remains a high probability that it can be identified by modern specialists. Not every “unknown sample” is subjected to such a thorough analysis today.

However, even then quite reasonable assumptions appeared, which were set forth in the “Journal of the Ministry of Internal Affairs”, and after being reprinted almost verbatim with the “Vilensk Gubernia Gazette”. The beginning of the article duplicates the information already known to us, but then new facts are presented.

The article from the “Vilensk Gubernia Gazette” (1846, No. 52)

“… In consequence, there was in fact a similar, though less definitive, opinion of the famous Vilenskian naturalist G. Yundzill, who believed that” every manna falling from the atmosphere is a meteoric product formed in an incomprehensible way, just like known aerolytes And the mass of atmospheric iron. ”

There was another, much simpler explanation, that all this is nothing else than “the remnants of plant roots blurred in the earth by pouring rain.”

Meanwhile, the local Provincial administration assigned to Rimkiewicz, the Doctor of Medicine, an exact and detailed inquiry into all the circumstances that accompanied the phenomenon, in the Zavel itself.

Having gone there on 16 August, G. Rimkevich began by investigating carefully the terrain of the garden in which the event took place. From the information taken from the inhabitants of the folwark, it turned out that after the former evening and night of the torrential rain on 22 March, a substance called “manna” was found in the only elevated part of the garden belonging to the farm Zawel, between fruit trees; In other places, as well as in the low-lying moist part of the garden, no trace of this substance has been discovered at all.

The designated garden is located at the most folvar structure, on the mountainous terrain, and the elevated part of it, which was the place of appearance of the so-called “manna”, faces south-east and adjoins the northern and western sides to the forest forest screening it from the winds.

It grows: Lichnis dioika (fl. Alba), Artemisia Absinthium, Artemisia vulgaris, Triticum repens, Convolvulus arvensis, Leonurus Cardiaca, Achillea Millefolium, Aretium Lappa, Polygonum Connvolvulus, Rumex acetosa, Silene inflata, Vicia cracca, Scabiosa arvensis, Plantago lancwolata , And most of all Polygonum aviculava; In the number of actually trees, except fruit, such as: apple, pear and plum, there are: Populus monitifera, Populus fastigiata, Acer platanoidos and Betula alba.

In the lower part of the garden facing the south, trees were found: Alnus glutinosa and Salix fragilis, also Rumex obtusifolius, Glyceria aquatic, Geranium sylvaticum, Geranium palustre, Spirea ulmaria, Ranunculus reppens, Cerastium aquaticum, Veronica Chamedrys, Lisimachia nimularia, Iris pseudocorus, Alchemilla Vulgaris, Potentilla anserina, Prunella vulgaris, Myosotis palustris, Epilobium palustre, Galium palustre, Viola palustris, Caitha palustris and Polygonum minus. Moreover, in this part of the garden, there is an abundance of Chaerochyllum silvestre, and, according to the quality of the soil, Ranunculus Ficaria should grow, but this last plant does not even find roots.

Then, the economist Barantsevich, the guard of the local forests of Alkhimovich and the folk craftsmen, on the inquiries made to them showed that the mentioned “manna”, except for the garden and then only in its sublime part, in no other place, at the village of Zavel, was found.

In addition, Alkhimovich showed that, on the evening of March 22, the workers on the women’s farm opened this manna on the linen sent by them in the above-mentioned garden; And, on the 23rd day in the morning, it was noticed already on the ground in the same part of the garden, in the form of separate grains or balls lying in groups.

All the space that was occupied by these piles between the fruit trees of the garden contained no more than four or five square fathoms; And the very grains or balls, immediately after opening them, were soft, like a half-cooled jelly and fairly transparent; By drying, they were strengthened and significantly lost their transparency.

On the spot, at this time, there was only a small piece of material, which was not sufficient for the positive determination of its physical and chemical properties. But, even before, this substance, in dry form and in a considerable mass, was subjected to an investigation by G. Gorskii, former under the abolition of the Vilno Medical-Surgical Academy, who found that it consisted of particles of different sizes and types, from which the most Large weights up to five grams; That these particles had the appearance of spongy, the color is white-gray, devoid of any smell at all, and the taste did not have exactly the same taste as starch; That the specific gravity of this substance is not much greater than the weight of water.

When burned, it burned with a noise, the flame emitted yellowish, and the smell of burnt sugar; That, when immersed in water, particles of its bougie; Squeezed dry between the fingers, fell into small pieces that did not stick to the fingers; In alcohol, for the most part dissolved and, by adding to a solution of distilled water, a cloudy, cloudy draft of a bluish color was produced; That, finally, chemical reagents could not open any trace of starchy or sugar substances in the indicated solution, but it seemed to be a medium belonging to the genus between resinous gums and resins.

All this gave G. Rimkevich a reason to conclude, according to Gg. Tiesenhaus and Yundzill, that these are not rain-washed roots, but – “a meteoric product.”

When this information was received in the Ministry of the VD from the Head of the Vilna Province, G. The Director of the Economic Department of the Ministry, on the order of the Minister, informed on the discussion and conclusion of G. Fisher, Director of the Imperial Botanical Garden in St. Petersburg.

Now, G. Fischer, in response to this, informed that, according to the extremely small quantity delivered to him for the determination of this so-called “manna,” he himself could not make a detailed decomposition of it; But his Senior Assistant, G. Ordinary Academician Meyer, entrusted with the consideration of this manna from the Imperial Academy of Sciences, having received more of this, made the following conclusions, with which he G. Fisher quite agrees:

1. The meteoric origin of this “manna” is not proved by any means and would be completely contrary to natural laws.

2. The layered external appearance of the substance does not occur from the rupture of the cellulose, but from uneven penetration into this moisture.

3. In this substance there is no fiber at all; But it consists exclusively of “starch material” (amulum).

4. The limited space on which this substance was, and also the fact that it was on the unfolded linen and about, leaves no doubt that the substance is nothing else than “broken starch from the laundry of rain.”

The truth of this conclusion is fully confirmed by the experiments done on starch to give it the appearance of the so-called “Sventsyan Manna”.

Despite such a prosaic explanation, proposed by Meyer, the debate about what was the “Sventsyan manna” has not abated so far.

“Fish manna”

It is absolutely impossible not to mention here another story of the manna, which was described by the Vilnius Province Gazette in the same years. It looks, perhaps, even more unusual for our latitudes, although, somewhere in Central Asia, it would not have caused a special excitement. So, the inhabitants of the city of Vilna on August 17, 1845 and August 8, 1846 on the bank of the river. Vilias witnessed the extraordinary activity of the “old man”, known in the common people as manna. ”

Here is an excerpt from an article in which the 1846 event is described: “The curiosity of the Vilna public is now occupied with an unprecedented phenomenon in our city. On August 8, at 9 o’clock in the afternoon, countless winged white insects appeared suddenly over the Green Bridge and the river Viliya […].

The next day, in the morning, the whole bridge and the nearby coastal places were covered with the same insects, already lifeless, as if densely fallen snow. The thickness of this layer […] reached two feet, but in other places it was much thinner and did not exceed two inches. ”

As already known to us Professor Stanislaw Jundzill, this insect belongs to the genus ephemerides (Ephemera). According to him, it is sometimes called “fish manna” (manna piscium), the Germans call it “coastal carrion” (ufer aas).

According to Yundzill, he himself, several dozen years before that, was an eyewitness of the same mass appearance of these insects on the bank of the Shchara River, near Derechin and in such a multitude that “surrounded by a white cloud of them, like a thick snow falling on a clear day , Two steps away he could not see anything. ” At that time, they also appeared on the banks of the Neman and the Dnieper, but for 66 years of his residence in Vilna, Yundzill had never encountered so many of these insects in the vicinity of the city.

The newspaper cites a similar case from France, when on the Ene River, when the “midges” appear, the coastal inhabitants light straw and a myriad of insects, scorched by a flame, “lay down on the shore a layer several times thick in a few minutes”.

The amount of podokonok significantly increases from the heat, and their body, cut by a longitudinal crack, is made very similar to wheat grain. That’s why the common people call them manna. The truth of the article is unclear whether their common people use food or is just a treat for fish …

Pinsk manna

One more time, “manna” is mentioned in an article from the “Lithuanian Diocesan Gazette.” In this case, we are talking about the little-known botanists (but well-known to the local inhabitants) plant, widespread in Polissya. The material is called “Pinsk” manna “:

“The Pinsk region, with its thousand-moor swamps, can be said, hitherto terra incognita for our science […]. The Pinsk swamps, awarding feathers to feathers, give them one plant that should not be sown or reaped, but it gives very nutritious food without care. In the places most uplifted and covered with meadow grass, after the first water (in April), among the marsh cereals, from their own species, there appears a plant known in the people as “manna”.

It is a thin stalk, sometimes reaching a height of arshin: its rare leaves, folded into a tube, resemble the leaves of the weather predictor – “canna”. The branches of the stem of the “manna” in May are covered with small flowers, which then pass into the ovary and grain. The latter ripens in the middle of June and then resembles one of the varieties of rye (short and full), only the color of the husk is darker and the core differs in remarkable whiteness.

The pestle holding the grain is very thin, why it is more convenient to separate the grain from it, when the grass is covered with dew. Collection of “manna” occurs in the most primitive way. Usually in the morning, women with sits come out on the dew and they knock down the heads of the plant so that the wet grains fall into the sieves. Then they are dried and the husks are separated. In the fall in Pinsk, the garnet (5 pounds) of “manna” costs 40-50 kopecks, but it is much more expensive in Kobrin, Novogrudok and Slutsk counties.

Welded in water or milk (cooked for at least two hours), manna has a sweetish and delicate pleasant taste, which can not be compared to any porridge. At the taste it is very nutritious, it is easily digested, has beneficial influence even on sick stomachs, and for children this first delicacy. Often eating Pine manna, I thought that the plant that produces it is well known and only recently, having told about it to one specialist in botany, I learned that there is no positive information about him. ”

More than 100 years later, we can be surprised after the journalist, but on another occasion: we did not find any modern traditions of using this grains in Polissya. In all likelihood, the article in question is about a mannica common or floating (Glyceria fluitans).

In the northwest of the Russian Empire it was even cultivated as a bread plant, and the croup of it was known as the Prussian, or Polish manna. At present, the culture of the mannik has lost its significance.

Red “flour”

In 2000, an event occurred in the Glubokoe district of the Vitebsk region, in many respects similar to the fall of the “Sventsyanska manna”: during a violent storm with rain and lightning, again in the garden in a small square, was found some kind of “red flour” this time. The local district “Vesnik Glybochchyny” reported this, but due to the latest trends, the word “manna” was not used.

As the journalist R. Martsynkiewicz found out, it happened in November, about 7 pm. Above the village appeared a bright pink ball, which propped up “pillars-searchlights.” One of those who watched him – Andrey Senkovets – soon heard a crackling, “like a short circuit.” When he looked in that direction, he saw that one of the rays of the ball fell on the water.

Soon the ball began to fade and was gone. AF Apatenok also observed this phenomenon from the side, but from a further distance. At first she heard the dog barking and, going out into the street, saw “a fire hanging in the air,” which propped up two pillars. Soon the fiery cloud, which somehow resembled the “wrong” ball, began to move. I made a stop over the garden, and then swam to the east.

The next day it was discovered that in the garden the trunks of many trees were sprinkled with a kind of “red flour”. And on the one hand – from the west. Hands this “flour” did not paint, she did not have a smell either.

A.F. Apatenok shows the place where she discovered a strange “flour”. Photos of Vl. Barilah

After several issues in the same newspaper, there was another note about this event, where a comment was made by Alena Kruglova, an employee of the plant protection station:

“Red plaque on the trees, in our opinion, is an ordinary lichen. This phenomenon was observed in the papyshic zone in the summer. In normal years, weakened old trees are covered with green lichen. This year the summer was dry, hence the red lichens. Why was the raid formed from one side? Apparently, this is the effect of the wind. According to the papyshic phenomenon of nature, we contacted the Research Institute for Plant Protection. The head of the fruit growing department RV Supranovich confirmed our assumptions. Moreover, he said that such red lichens settled this year in the gardens of the Diatlov district. ”


In the last case we examined, we observe similar and different traits with the fallout of the “Sventsyan Manna”. “Manna” and “flour” falls during a heavy rain, accompanied by lightning (in one case, it seems, ball) in a very small area and for some reason in a fruit or apple orchard.

There are differences – this is the size of manna. If in the first case it reached the value of a walnut, then in the second it seemed to be some kind of powdered substance (however, such a detailed description, as in 1846, in 2000 did not).

Let us here to express one more version about the “Sventsyan Manna”. The substance may in fact be a so-called gum. Spring and dry weather from microcracks in the bark of old stone fruit trees (and the plum is mentioned by G. Rimkevich in describing the structure of phytocenosis), droplets of liquid appear which gradually increase in size and solidify, becoming covered with a relatively hard crust. This is gum.

Mass release of gums in spring is observed due to damage to the trees by frost (the so-called “frost cracks”), as well as bark beetles. The latter are made in the bark punctures of a rounded shape, and in them the tree produces gum for protection.

This version we asked to comment on VV Ognev, candidate of agricultural sciences, associate professor of the Department of Horticulture and Storage of Plant Production of DonGau (RF):

“I remembered my childhood feelings of collecting and eating gum, which in large quantities was formed in spring on old trees of apricot, cherry and plum. The contents were thick and used by the kids as a chewing gum. Interestingly, in the old plantations of gum accumulated a lot. Often in a few years. During the rain, drizzling and warm, the gum swelled, became mucous and cloudy.

If the rains were prolonged, the clumps fell off and gradually decomposed. The rather pleasant aftertaste of dry gums after the rain changed. The taste became fresh and not expressed. The gum is readily soluble in alcohol, but in water it is bad and does not sink, since it is lighter than the latter. To distinguish the gum from the tree could gardeners, but in the list involved in the study of the “Sventsian manna,” their faces were not observed. ”

If it was really gum, then, apparently, in that year a certain combination of factors played a role: because of the rain with a storm, the gum could be torn from the trees and scattered near them. And, perhaps, one of the sinks was even struck by lightning.

In addition to the already expressed assumption of gums, it is possible to put forward such a version: sudden flashes of squalls can be formed from tornadoes capable of capturing water contents along the way, including algae-containing agar or cyanobacteria Nostoc commune from the soil.

After some exposure in the air, their appearance and properties change, but also resemble a gum. A nostok, for example, sometimes called a “trembler”, is quite common in damp earth. In case of accidental rain, it gives a lot of gelatinous substance – “zoolei”, in the form of lumps of greater or lesser magnitude.

Thus, some of the described “mann” could be uniquely identified, but others, despite the fact that there are several versions of their origin, may forever remain unidentified. Perhaps, the only true answer will be found already by our descendants, but we hope that we will not have to wait another 170 years …