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Ancient Traditions

Welsh love spoon.

Spooning in Early Modern Wales: The Sweet Symbolism of a Welsh Love Spoon

Roses are red Violets are blue, Presenting a spoon Means I love you While one often thinks of presenting his/her loved ones with flowers or candy as a gesture of romance, it was once more common to...
Statue of lovers

How to Win Love and Ruin A Marriage in 5 Easy Steps: ‘Ars Amatoria’ by Ancient Love Guru, Ovid

Before Tinder and Plenty of Fish took over the dating world , men and women used to resort to meeting each other the old-fashioned way—in person, or not at all. Before the internet, dating advice...
Left:  Hopi snake dancer ( adobegallery) Right: A Hopi male during the annual snake dance and ritual prayers for rain, 1946 (public domain)

Dances with Snakes: The Real Reason for the Hopi Snake Dance – Part II

The day prior to the final Snake Dance performance in the plaza, before sunrise with Orion and Sirius rising, two warriors of the Snake society make several circuits around the Snake and Antelope...
Detail of ‘Hopi Snake Dance’ by Cornelia Cassady-Davis.

Dances with Snakes: The Real Reason for the Hopi Snake Dance

For thousands of years the Hopi tribe of northern Arizona has performed a secretive, sacred ceremony that embodies the manifold and richly evocative archetypal nature of the serpent. In modern times...
Wewelsburg Caste

Teutonic Knights’ Castle Turned into Nazi Cult Site?

The word ‘crusader’ conjures up images of scarlet-cross Knights Templar. Although these heroes of the 12th century may dominate popular culture, their Order was rivalled by the black-cross Order of...
The laughing jester // Art museum of Stockholm, Sweden.

Jokes and Pranks: Here is the April Fools’ Day Origin Story

April Fools’ Day has a special twist in 2018. This year, April 1st is not only a day for pranksters, but also Easter celebrations. You can imagine there will be many egg jokes and maybe an Easter...
Easter procession in Bilbao, Spain

Under the Hoods: The Brotherhoods (and Sisterhoods) of Spain’s Holy Week

“Spain is different!”. Napoleon took this view after his defeat by Spanish guerrilla warfare tactics. Generalissimo Franco’s government later made use of this slogan to promote Spain’s unique appeal...
Forty days in the wilderness: Temptations of Christ, St Mark’s Basilica.

The Surprising Truth About Fasting for Lent

M J C Warren / The Conversation The excesses of the carnival are over, the clean-up completed. And so begins the year’s traditional period of abstinence. Leading up to Christianity’s most holy day,...
‘God Speed’ (1900) by Edmund Leighton. (Deriv.)

How to Be A Chivalrous Knight in Shining Armor: Follow the Code!

The chivalry of a Medieval knight is indisputable, right? I mean, they had a Code of Chivalry and everything. But wait, not all knights were chivalrous, nor did they have a universally agreed upon...
'Meeting of Mary and Elisabeth’ by Marx Reichlich. (Deriv.)

Bizarre Methods of Baby Detection: A Short History of the Pregnancy Test

From the dawn of time, people have been trying to figure out ways to detect early pregnancy before physical signs begin to show. Whilst you may be familiar with the hCG pregnancy strip test that is...
Foreigners accompany a triumphal procession of the King; design by Anand Balaji (Photo credit: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York); Deriv.

Echoes of Eternal Egyptian Art: Effulgence and Beyond at Amarna—Part II

Egypt witnessed religious and cultural upheaval on an unimaginable scale when Pharaoh Akhenaten assumed the reins of power and declared the Aten as the supreme god. One of the noteworthy...
 “Litany of Ra” scene in the tomb of King Merenptah (KV8), Valley of the Kings, Luxor; design by Anand Balaji

Echoes of Eternal Egyptian Art: Masters of Form and Finesse—Part I

The ancient Egyptians were pioneers of various forms of art and architecture. Down the millennia, the world has been left awestruck by the design and purpose of their grandiose monuments, their...
Village Doctor Looking at a Urine Sample (1640s) by David Teniers the Younger.

The Urine Wheel and Uroscopy: What Your Wee Could Tell a Medieval Doctor

In modern medicine, urine samples are routinely examined in laboratories to obtain clinical information about a patient. This procedure, known as urinalysis, developed from an older medical process...
Fantasy linen dress wanderer by ArmStreet

Linen: The Ancient Cloth That Still Beats Modern Fabrics

There is a relic of early humanity in the windows of basically every modern fashion outlet every summer. After years of cotton being the ideal textile for breezy summer clothing, the world’s oldest...
Skeleton with a hole in the skull.  Source: wellphoto/Shutterstock.com via The Conversation

Drilling Holes in the Skull was Never a Migraine Cure

Trepanation – the technique of removing bone from the skull by scraping, sawing, drilling or chiselling – has long fascinated those interested in the darker side of medical history. One stock tale is...
Detail of the Berlin bust of Nefertiti; and the latest 3D sculpture of the queen based on the mummy of the Younger Lady; design by Anand Balaji

Religion and Magic in Amarna: A World of Confusion in Akhetaten—Part II

The population that inhabited Akhenaten’s brand new city, Akhetaten, in Middle Egypt was ill at ease with the massive religious uncertainty their monarch had unleashed. A question mark hung over not...

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