It’s our 400th post! In most religions originating in the Middle East, the number 40 equals a large unspecific number: 40 days, 40 nights, 40 years should all be interpreted as “many” days, nights, or years.
Tents appear outside a town in early 20th century rural United States. It’s not the circus, it’s the circuit chautauqua: teachers, preachers, musicians, and orators, ready to bring education and religion to the masses.
Worshippers of many different religious use beads on a string to count prayers: Catholic Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus, and Baháʼís.
In the Bible, the Witch of Endor summons the spirit of the prophet Samuel from the dead. Translators and commentators since have been torn: is necromancy real, or was it all a trick?
The Red Hand is the symbol of the province of Ulster, but its origins are lost in time. Possible sources include three different clans, pagans, fairies, and a soldier who chopped off his own hand.
In Japanese folklore, turtle monkey demons can steal your soul… by pulling it out of your anus. Fortunately, they have easily detachable arms and like cucumbers.
In 1725 Professor Beringer of the University of Würzburg dug up some extraordinary fossils: they contained the name of God written in Hebrew. A book, a court case, and the ruining of several careers ensued.
The Poison Damsels of ancient Indian mythology were assassins who could kill someone with a look or a touch.
How long would it take to study the whole Talmud, one page a day? Seven and a half years… and it’s best to begin tomorrow.
A New Year tradition from Scotland says the first person to enter your house in the new year dictates your fortunes for that year.
What is it about this time of year and the number twelve? In Spain and countries culturally connected to Spain, twelve grapes is a New Year tradition.
Is Christmas Day the twelfth day of Christmas or the first? And why does it cost US$170,298.03?
A Christmas Eve parlour game played in Victorian England involved grabbing burning raisins with your hands and eating them while they were still alight.
Certain holy sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem cannot be changed without agreement from the many local denominations. As a result, a ladder has been propped against a window ledge on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre since 1728.
In 13th century northern Europe, groups of women formed their own autonomous religious communities. Neither nuns nor wives, the Beguines forged their own route through the strictures of Medieval life.