In Norse mythology Fimbulwinter is the great winter immediately preceding Ragnarök. It may have been inspired by the horrifying real-life events of 536 CE.
In Psychomachia, one of the most popular poems of Medieval Europe, the personifications of Christian virtues fight the vices in a bloodthirsty battle royale. Decapitation, strangulation, squished eyeballs, vomiting bloody teeth…
The Vatican City has the shortest national railway line in the world, but it almost had none at all.
In Myanmar you can drink tea or you can eat it.
Christianity was banned in Japan in 1614. For the next 250 years, the Kakure Kirishitan (hidden Christians) worshipped in secret.
Beginning in 1976 a pseudoscientific pamphlet spread like wildfire across Europe, stating that many common food additives caused cancer – including cellulose and citric acid.
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.