Humankind has always pursued better ways to more effectively kill each other. It is the nature of the beast for us to want the means to gain the upper hand against our enemies, to better and annihilate them if need be. We have been in a perpetual arms race since time unremembered, practically since the first flickers of consciousness danced within our ancestor’s brains, going from hand, to stick, to stone, to sword, and beyond, ever trying to outdo those who would threaten or oppose us.
In a great many tales throughout history there have been those who succeeded in gaining the ultimate weapon, in the form of artifacts of incredible magical might, which decimated the enemy with their supernatural power but which today remain buried and lost in time. Here are tales of fantastical mystical objects of war, weapons with godlike powers, and magical military might.
Some of the most famous and indeed most mysterious mystical weapons of the ancient world are biblical in nature, and perhaps none is as well-known as the fabled Lost Ark of the Covenant, best known to most as the Nazi face melting MacGuffin from the popular film Raiders of the Lost Ark, but it is an actual artifact with a long tradition of mystery. The Ark itself was supposedly an ornate, gold gilded chest that held the stone tablets onto which had been written the Ten Commandments given to Moses by God. The Ark was said to be built around 3,000 years ago based on plans that were revealed in a vision from God Himself that Moses had while Israel was camped at the foot of Mt. Sinai. The Book of Exodus says that after the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, Moses was called to the top of Mt. Sinai by God and was given two tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments, after which he later received his vision outlining the design of the Ark in order to transport the tablets.
The Ark is said to be made up of intricately gold plated acacia wood, and to be adorned with a crown of pure molded gold and two large, golden angels. The Bible describes its dimensions as approximately 131×79×79 cm or 52×31×31 inches. The Ark was carried with the use of two poles that were put through four rings arranged at its four feet. Far from being merely a vessel in which to transport the tablets, the Ark was believed to be the actual throne of God, and that wherever it went, He went as well. The Ark was only carried by powerful priests, and was always totally concealed from view by blue cloth and lamb skins, and not even the priests themselves were allowed to look upon it. The Israelites carried the Ark with them during their 40 year trek across the desert, during which time it was usually carried around 2,000 cubits in front of their army, and it proved to be a powerful weapon in their plight.
There are numerous accounts of the Ark unleashing its alleged mighty, godlike powers. In 1,400 BC, when Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan River into The Promised Land, the Ark is said to have caused the waters to stop flowing and dry out, allowing them all to pass unhindered. On another occasion, the Israelites besieged the city of Jericho, with God commanding that the Ark be carried around the perimeter of the city once a day for seven days while blowing on trumpets crafted of ram horns. On the seventh day, the Israelites gave out a thunderous shout, and the once formidable and impenetrable walls of the city of Jericho spectacularly collapsed to the ground in a cloud of dust and pieces, allowing the Israelites to enter.
The Ark would go on to be used against the Philistines in battle, with the hopes that this powerful weapon would help the Israelites ultimately win. However, God had not ordered the Israelites to go to war with the Philistine army, and was displeased that the Ark would be used without His consent. Subsequently, the Israelites lost the war and the Ark was captured by the Philistines, who hoped that they would now be able to harness its vast holy powers for their own ends. Unfortunately for them, rather than a great ally, the Ark proved to be more of a curse upon them, causing misfortune wherever it went, such as disease and even a plague of mice. After seven months of the Ark bringing them nothing but misery, the Philistines returned it to the Israelites, and it was taken to the village of Beth-shemesh. Here it would once again display its vast power when a large group of curious villagers decided to look upon it and were immediately struck down dead by its almighty wrath.
The Ark would ultimately end up in Jerusalem, where it was housed in a temple built by King Solomon. In 587 BC, the Babylonians descended upon the city, destroying everything in their path, including Solomon’s Temple, where the Ark had been kept. It is not known what happened to the Ark of the Covenant after this, and it has through the years become one of the most mysterious and most highly sought after ancient relics in the world, with countless quests to try and locate it. Next to the Holy Grail itself, there is perhaps no other Biblical relic that has inspired so many to try and obsessively hunt it down. Was the Ark destroyed? Was it hidden away before the sacking of Jerusalem? Was it stolen? Did it ever really even exist at all? These are questions for which no one has any definitive answers, but there are many who have tried to figure them out.
Since the Ark’s disappearance there have been numerous theories as to its whereabouts, with its location estimated to be in wildly varying places, from Africa to even Japan, and occasional claims to have even found it. One recurring theory is that the Ark was whisked away by the Knights Templar, but where they hid it remains unclear, with the Chartres Cathedral crypt, the Languedoc region of France, or the Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland being popular choices. Other theories revolve around the idea that during the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians, the Ark was spirited away and hidden somewhere in a vast warren of passages beneath the First Temple. Since this site is home to the Dome of the Rock shrine, which is sacred in Islam, it is impossible to conduct any sort of excavation here to see if the story has any truth to it.
One very prominent theory is that the Ark was moved to a secure place far from Jerusalem, in Ethiopia. In Aksum, Ethiopia there is a place called the Church of St. Mary of Zion, where the Ark is said to be interred. A lone monk has been given the duty of guarding this sacred relic, never leaving the church and constantly, dutifully keeping watch over it. It is said that the monk devotes his entire life to the Ark’s safekeeping, after which another will be given the duty upon his death. It is difficult to determine just how genuine this claim is, as no one but the solitary monk is allowed to enter the church, and only this one guardian is allowed to lay eyes upon the Ark. The church could be housing anything or nothing at all. No one knows, and the location of the Ark of the covenant and indeed whether it ever even really existed at all remain unknown.
Another fairly remarkable supposed Biblical weapon of potent magical might is the Spear of Destiny, or also called the Spear of Longinus, which is said to have been forged by the ancient Hebrew prophet Phineas, as well as being the very one used by the Roman centurion Longinus to stab Christ during the Crucifixion and which is rumored to grant its wielder the power to rule the world. Indeed, the legend explicitly states, “whosoever possesses this Holy Lance and understands the powers it serves, holds in his hand the destiny of the world for good or evil.” This legend is perhaps why a long list of leaders, kings, emperors, and conquerors throughout recorded history have sought it out and even claimed to have held it, such as Attila the Hun, Herod the Great, Constantine, Maurice the Manichean, Alaric, Theodoric, Charles Martel, Charlemagne the Great, Frederick Barbarossa, Heinrich I the Fowler, Otto I the Great, and Pope John XII, among many others, all of whom reported great successes with the spear.
The problem is, the spear has been lost to history and it is not even certain if these leaders had ever held the actual Spear of Destiny or if it even really existed or not. Indeed, there are scores of conflicting tales of what happened to the spear, where it went, and even what it looked like, all made more confusing by the fact that there were said to be numerous fakes and recreations that had been crafted over the centuries. During Constantine the Great’s alleged tenure with the relic his spiritual advisor, Eusebius of Caesarea, described it:
It was a long spear, overlaid with gold. On the top was fixed a wreath of gold and precious stones, and within this the symbol of the Savior’s name, two letters indicating the name of Christ by means of its initial characters -- those letters the emperor was in the habit of wearing on his helmet at a later period. From the spear was also suspended a cloth, a royal piece, covered with a profuse embroidery of most brilliant precious stones and which, being also richly interlaced with gold, presented an indescribable degree of beauty to the beholder. The emperor constantly made use of this sign of salvation as a safeguard against every adverse and hostile power, and commanded that it should be carried at the head of all his armies.
None other than Adolf Hitler himself was long fascinated by the Spear, a fascination which started long before he was even the notorious Nazi leader, back when he was just a humble art student. As he toured the Hofsburg Treasure House in Vienna in 1912, his eyes fell upon one of the lances rumored to be the actual Spear of Destiny, which had been housed there for safekeeping after a long history of changing hands and being lost and found again numerous times. There was no certainty at all that the gilded lance that was in Vienna, which was referred to as the Holy Lance of Longinus, was the actual legendary Spear of Destiny, and in fact there were other such relics around the world that made the same claim at the time, but Hitler himself certainly seems to have been convinced that it was, saying of first time he saw it:
I knew with immediacy that this was an important moment in my life…I stood there quietly gazing upon it for several minutes, quite oblivious to the scene around me. It seemed to carry some hidden inner meaning which evaded me, a meaning which I felt I inwardly knew, yet could not bring to consciousness... I felt as though I myself had held it in my hands before in some earlier century of history -- that I myself had once claimed it as my talisman of power and held the destiny of the world in my hands. What sort of madness was this that was invading my mind and creating such turmoil in my breast?
Believing this artifact to be the real Spear of Destiny, one of the first things he did when the Nazis took Vienna in 1938 was to steal it for himself and have it sent it off to Nuremburg, and there have even been theories that Hitler’s real reason for starting World War II was to get a hold of it. Whether this is true or not, Hitler got his spear, although it does not seem to have granted him great power when he needed it the most, and his planned invasion of England failed, followed by his devastating defeat at the Battle of Normandy on June 6, 1944. After this it is not clear just what happened to Hitler’s supposed Spear of Destiny. It was supposedly returned to Vienna, but there are theories that this was actually a clever fake and that the real one is still out there.
One theory is that it was hidden away in one of the many underground bunkers, caves, caverns and catacombs that the Nazis used to store the numerous treasures they had looted from their enemies. Another is that it was kept by the Allied forces, and the famous general George S. Patton was allegedly obsessed with it, even believing himself to be a reincarnation of someone who had wielded it in the past, and he made great efforts to convince the United States to retain it and give back a fake to Austria. In this scenario the real spear is still in the possession of the United States, and is even the reason why the country has managed to remain such a top world power for so long. Still another idea was that the SS leader Himmler took it and that it now resides in the care of a secret society he formed called “The Knights of the Holy Lance.”
An even wilder theory was put forward in Dr. Howard A. Buechner’s 1988-89 books Hitler’s Ashes – Seeds Of A New Reich and Adolf Hitler and the Secrets of the Holy Lance, in which he claims that the Nazi leader had the spear sent to a secret base out in Antarctica after the war, after which it was recovered again in 1979 by an expedition led by a mysterious individual known as Col. Maximilian Hartmann, which has in turn raised conspiracy theories that the real Spear of Destiny is in the possession of this shadowy cabal bent on world domination. In the end, although we know Hitler did steal this lance, no one has any idea of whether it was the real Spear of Destiny, and in fact we have no idea at all of whether it was ever a real object to begin with, or if it is just where the genuine artifact is located. The Spear of Destiny has become a magnet for various conspiracy theories, and the insane stories of Nazi involvement have gone on to become the stuff of movies, comic books, and legend. The real whereabouts of the Spear of Destiny and whether it really holds its legendary vast powers are a mystery.
Staying on the Biblical theme we come to the legendary Staff of Moses, also called the “Rod of God” or “The Staff of God,” first mentioned in the Book of Exodus, and which was according to the lore imbued with powers beyond imagination by God Himself when he encountered Moses at the burning bush atop Mount Horeb. God supposedly began by turning Moses’ staff into a serpent and then back into a staff, upon which it was shown to have an array of powers that would become apparent throughout his journeys. Among the feats Moses was said to perform with the staff were producing water from stone and of course parting the Red Sea, among others.