340 years ago, at the age of 15, a Sicilian nun named Sister Maria Crocifissa della Concezione claims she was “possessed” by Satan. On August 11, 1676, she awoke from the experience, covered in ink and in possession of a letter that was written in a jumbled archaic alphabet. Because it was the 17th century, her claim was taken seriously and many attempted to decode the letter. However, all failed. Finally, using a decryption program found on the deep web, scientists have deciphered the first 15 lines of her letter.

Sister Concezione was staying at the Monastery of Palma di Montechiaro when she was reportedly possessed. In the years that have passed, many have attempted to understand what she wrote. In the 1960’s, a monastery even offered a month-long vacation to anyone who could decode it. None have been able to — until now.

Using a code-breaking software obtained from the deep web, the Ludum Science Center in Catania has been able to decipher the first 15 lines of the letter, reports Italian News Radio 105Said Daniele Abate, director of the Ludum Science Center:

“We heard about the software, which we believe is used by intelligence services for codebreaking. 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.”

This letter was written in 1676 by a nun who claimed she was “possessed”.

The Times reports that so far, their work has revealed that the letter speaks of the relationship between God, Satan, and humans. It reads, “God thinks he can free mortals. This system works for no one… Perhaps now, Styx is certain.” Styx likely references the River Styx that separate the Earth and the Underworld in Greek and Roman mythology. The letter goes on to try and convince the nun to abandon her faith, arguing that God is merely the invention of man and that Jesus and the Holy Ghost are “dead weights.”

By now, you’re probably wondering, “How did the nun manage to write this?” According to the researchers, it is likely she was bipolar and was prone to experiencing delusions or hallucinations. Because she was familiar with several languages and had spent a lot of time studying linguistics, it is possible an “episode” produced the letter.

“My theory is that this is a precise alphabet, invented by the nun with great care by mixing symbols she knew,” said Abate. “Each symbol is well thought out and structured, there are signs that are repeated, perhaps an intentional and perhaps unconscious initiative. The stress of life in the monastery was very strong.” 

Johannes Sadeler (Belgium, 1550–1600), Hell, c. 1590. Engraving. Lent by Kirk Edward Long.

While Abate’s hypothesis is plausible, it is worth pointing out that Sister Concezione’s experience is not entirely unique. The phenomena of “automatic writing” is well-known in many religious circles, and the Catholic church warns against it due to “inviting” unwelcome spirits.  Additionally, one cannot dismiss the fact that the nun was 15-years-old when the letter was crafted. Though she studied various languages, her mastery of Greek, Arabic, the Runic alphabet, and Latin were likely to have been limited.

Though we may never know what compelled Sister Concezione to write the letter, what is clear is that the deciphered sentences directly relate to her claim. That in itself might inspire some believers.

h/t Italian news Radio 105