THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 250

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 250

…how many times had their sons looked at Orion the constellation, unaware of their parent’s presence, there 10 light-years distant…

How many times?

The huge sliding door at the Spaceship Expository, which looks like it weighs a million pounds, unseals like a floating bee, leading to the spaceship “NOT FOR SALE” showroom.

That opening, for Celeste and Cerella along with Deimostra, heralds Stellar Explorer’s imminent arrival. Of these three bounding beauties, it is difficult to tell who is more excited, their silky white robed trains straining to keep pace.

Ekcello was already aware {of course he was}, Sammy Mac guesses as much {dumb luck}, but it is Ekcello who has poured cold H2O on Cerella’s parade.

Disappointment

#I think it best that our newest visitors be restored slowly. They will be greeted by the McKinneys alone. We cannot have them reacting irrationally#

#But it is I who has made the necessary preparations for them. I am disappointed at not being allowed to greet them in person#

#Disappointment is futile, cherished one. You will have your chance once they have fully grasped their fate#

The McKinney women reach out and touch her empathetically. Sampson shrugs his shoulders; just another telepathically shared moment that passes him by.

#We hope that your reunion goes well# Ekcello and Cerella float away, the latter is let down for a different reason..

These newly unplanned duties discombobulate the apprehensive Eridanus McKinneys momentarily. Just as Deke & Gus, who had given up all hope of seeing mother and father again, likewise mother and father have already dealt with their grief. How many times they had longed to send the equivalent of a letter to their sons, recounting their story of survival; first on Mars, then aboard the NEWFOUNDLANDER, and finally on the misty world named Eridanus?

And how many times had their sons looked at Orion the constellation, unaware of their parent’s presence, there 10 light-years distant?

What are the inexpressible words which will best describe the twisted path that brought them here, against all odds?


THE RETURN TRIP

Twisted Path

Episode 250


page 224

Wisconsin ~ My Home – WIF Geography & Humor

Leave a comment

Wisconsin ~ My Home

If Gwen can spell O-C-O-N-O-M-O-W-O-C, that proves she is from Wisconsin.

This is hysterical Wisconsin, according to Jeff Foxworthy:

If your local Dairy Queen is closed from September through May, you may live in Wisconsin.

If someone in a Home Depot store offers you assistance and they don’t even work there, you may live in Wisconsin.

If you’ve worn shorts and a jacket at the same time, you may live in Wisconsin.

If you’ve had a lengthy telephone conversation with some…one who dialed a wrong number, you may live in Wisconsin.

If “vacation” means going anywhere North of Milwaukee for the weekend, you may live in Wisconsin.

If you measure distance in hours, you may live in Wisconsin.

If you know several people who have hit a deer more than once, you may live in Wisconsin.

If you have switched from ‘heat’ to ‘A/C’ in the same day and back again, you may live in Wisconsin.

If you can drive 75 mph through 2 feet of snow during a raging blizzard without flinching, you may live in Wisconsin.

If you install security lights on your house and garage, but leave both doors unlocked, you may live in Wisconsin.

If you carry jumpers in your car and your wife knows how to use them, you may live in Wisconsin.

If you design your kid’s Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit, you may live in Wisconsin.

If the speed limit on the highway is 70 mph, you’re going 80 and everybody is passing you, you may live in Wisconsin.

If driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow, you may live in Wisconsin.

If you know all 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter and road construction, you may live in Wisconsin.

If you have more miles on your snow blower than your car, you may live in Wisconsin.

If you find 10 degrees “a little chilly”, you may live in Wisconsin.

If you give directions and tell someone you live 30 miles East of Milwaukee, you are living on a boat and may be on the run from the Wisconsin State Police.

If you actually understand these jokes, repost this so all of your Wisconsin friends and others can see, you definitely do live – or have lived – in Wisconsin.

Gwendolyn Hoff currently lives in Illinois, but her heart remains in Wisconsin.


Wisconsin ~ My Home

WIF Geography & Humor

Not Your Boston Celts – WIF Geography

Leave a comment

Fascinating Facts

About the

Celtic People

Celtic history is steeped in mystery. You’ve no doubt heard of the Celts, but because they left behind no written records, what we know about them can often be chalked up to myth and legend. Contemporaries and frequent enemies of the Roman Empire, these warriors were quick to fight, and vicious in attack.

 But like we said at the beginning, despite what we think we might know about the Celts, much of it has been skewed and twisted throughout history, many of the tales having been told by people, such as Herodotus, who were on the outside looking in. Still, Celtic culture was, and remains, fascinating to delve into. Here are 10 things you should probably know about the Celts.

10. They Probably Didn’t Originate in Ireland

Your mind has just been blown, right? Over the years we’ve come to associate the term “Celtic” with Ireland (thanks in large part, in recent history, to the NBA team the Boston Celtics, whose logo is a leprechaun covered in shamrocks). But historians have concluded that the Celts almost certainly didn’t originate in Ireland – or Scotland, or Wales, or even England, for that matter.

Instead, their roots have been traced back to central Europe, with Austria being the likeliest point of origin. Emerging from the late Bronze Age along the Danube River, Celtic tribes are believed to have initially lived throughout continental Europe. Eventually, these tribes expanded north and did settle in the United Kingdom. But when you think of ancient tribal warriors from Ireland, the odds are pretty strong you’re not thinking of the Celts; you’re thinking of the Gaels. Of course, even  that is a little more complicated than it sounds, so we’ll come back to that later.

9. The Romans Had Nothing On Their Roads

While Romans often get credited for being the road-builders of Europe, there’s substantial evidence to suggest that the Celts beat them to the punch. Not that the history books would ever tell you that, because as we all know, history is written by the winners. And for the bulk of early recorded history, the winners resided in the Roman Empire. When you’re the biggest, baddest dude on the block, you can take what you want, including credit for things others have done.

And according to some, that includes the building of roads. Archaeological evidence now suggests that it was the Celts, and not the Romans, who were the first to build roads. Remnants of these roads would seem to indicate that they were constructed before the Roman conquest reached the British Isles. These roads were constructed largely out of wood, which was carbon dated to the Iron Age – an indication that they predated the Roman Empire expanding that far north. And speaking of the Iron Age…

8. They Were Among the First to Utilize Iron Weaponry

One aspect of Celtic culture you’re no doubt aware of is their reputation as fierce warriors. They were also technologically ahead of their time, which gave them a pretty giant leg up on their enemies. After all, this is the group that invented the exact chainmail that was later adopted by the famous Roman Legions. That obviously flies in the face of old rumors that the Celts fought naked, since we can’t imagine chainmail would feel particularly great clanging against your junk.

But it wasn’t just superior armor that gave the Celts an advantage in battle; it was superior arms, as well. The Celts are believed to be among the very first to forge iron into swords, replacing the flimsier bronze swords most had been using up until sometime around 800 BC. They also began to utilize smaller, lighter swords and daggers, also made of iron, around 600 BC. These were far less cumbersome than broadswords, enabling the Celts to be more agile and quicker to strike on the battlefield.

7. The Celts Were Hugely Wealthy

While history often paints the Celts in broad strokes as being somewhat barbaric, savage warriors, that’s not exactly the case. Sure, they did participate in some acts of barbarism, and many practiced ritual human sacrifice. And yes, we’re going to get to that in just a bit. But that aside, they were also massively wealthy, thanks in large part to being highly active in trade of the time. Being among the first to utilize iron certainly helped fill their coffers as well.

Gold was so abundant among the Celtic regions that they used it in their armor, weaponry, and art. Silver and bronze were also widely used, and they became renowned for their finely crafted and ornate jewelry. Their artistry was among the best in the world at the time, and their scientific and technological prowess was a big part of that. Through their art, their wine, their vast quantities of gold, and their advancements in technology, the Celts were able to line their pockets very nicely indeed.

6. They Had Slavery… Kind Of

Now, to be sure, the Celts did indeed practice a form of slavery. But – and not that this is justification or makes it even remotely better, in principle – it was much closer to the serfdom of Medieval times than the actual slavery we’re most familiar with from history books. And as usual when you’re talking about tribes prone to war, many of these slaves were prisoners of war who were held within the tribe’s region and forbidden traditional rights and privileges of anyone actually from that tribe.

 When a prisoner was taken, or a criminal offered to the victim’s family as restitution for his crime, he was bound to that person or family for life. He had no right of inheritance, was forbidden from taking up arms, and was more or less simply the lowest rung of the sociological ladder. Most of what we know of slavery in Celtic society comes from remnants of law texts from places like Ireland and Wales, so obviously there are pretty massive gaps in the information we’ve got. That said, while you were afforded virtually no rights as a slave held by one of the Celts, the consensus seems to be that treatment was still more humane than slaves of many other cultures throughout history.

5. They Had Progressive Views on Gender and Sexuality

While we can’t exactly call the Celts progressive in terms of their views on slavery, we absolutely can when it comes to women and sexuality. Now, don’t get us wrong: even in a somewhat progressive tribal society, it was still patriarchal. But that doesn’t mean women didn’t have a say, or couldn’t rise to power, or even become warriors or dignitaries. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Particularly before the Roman conquest, Celtic women could lead tribes, as was the case with Boudica.

Obviously, Boudica represents far from the norm, but was one of a few Celtic women to rise to power and lead her people before her death circa 60 AD. She was the queen of her tribe, and led her warriors into battle against the Roman Empire.

And speaking of gender and sexuality, one element of Celtic culture that’s become widely believed is that not only could women hold positions of power, but that Celtic men often preferred the, ahem, “company” of other men. It was commonplace for men to seek out sexual companionship with their fellow male warriors, and likewise, women practiced free love in Celtic culture, according to historical records from their contemporaries.

4. They Weren’t Savages But They Did Hunt Heads

As we’ve mentioned a few times at this point, the Celts were far from the barbarians history has often painted them to be. They were an advanced society, took great care and pride in their appearance, and were wise enough to know it was an affront to wine connoisseurs everywhere to water the stuff down like those simpletons in the Greek and Roman Empires. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t participate in at least a few practices that might qualify as barbaric and savage.

Chief among those practices – other than ritualistic human sacrifice, which we’ll get back to shortly – was headhunting. As with ritualistic sacrifices, Celtic headhunting was driven by religion, for the most part. You see, the Celts believed that the head contained a warrior’s soul, so by taking his head you are, in fact, capturing that soul. At least, that’s one popular theory as to why they hunted heads, though the exact reason is not known, and likely varied from tribe to tribe, and warrior to warrior, particularly since the practice continued even after most Celtic tribes had converted to Christianity.

3. The Number Three Had a Huge Significance

We’ll be delving into the religion of the Celts in just a moment, but a substantial part of their belief system was the concept of “triplicity.” While that may sound like a knockoff travel website, in reality it has to do with the number three. Specifically, things coming in the form of ‘triplets’, so to speak. That means three realms (Sky, Land, and Sea), and three types of gods (personal, tribal, and spirits).

Now, the Celts didn’t just have three gods, mind you. They had many. When we talk about the Celts worshipping three types of gods, we’re talking about the kinds that guide you when you’re alone, the kinds that are with you when you’re in groups, and those that protect your home. To put it simply, triplicity refers to three things that come together to form a whole. It’s an important part of cosmology and astrology, which were integral parts Druid paganism. Which leads us to…

2. For Most of Their Existence They Were Polytheistic

Eventually, some Celtic tribes adopted Christianity as their preferred spiritual path. But for the bulk of Celtic existence, they practiced polytheism; the worship of many gods. It’s not unusual that they’d have worshipped numerous gods, considering the same was true of their contemporaries, like the Greeks and Romans. And the chief purveyors of Celtic polytheism, or Celtic paganism, were the Druids.

Believe it or not, much of what we know of the Druids and Druidism comes from, of all people, Julius Caesar. Obviously, that’s part of what renders our knowledge of the Druids information that should probably be taken with at least a small grain of salt, considering Caesar and his Empire were frequently at war with the Celts. Still, Caesar relayed that the Druids were teachers and priests, and also rendered judgement and penalties resulting from crimes and squabbles within their tribes.

As alluded to in the previous entry, the stars played a significant role in the Celtic religion and Druidism. They also practiced ritual sacrifice to appease their gods (with the burning of Wicker Men – sacrificial victim or victims inside – which will send a shiver down Nic Cage’s spine should he read this), and believed in reincarnation.

1. The Celts Weren’t Really, Well, “Celts”

Confused? Don’t be. It’s a lot simpler than the header probably makes it sound. You see, the group you think of as the “Celts” isn’t really the Celts, at least not in the sense that the Romans were the Romans, or the Greeks were the Greeks. That’s because the Celts weren’t just one group; they consisted of many, including the aforementioned Gaels, the Britons, the Gauls, and the Galatians, among others. See, “Celtic” really referred to language, and the somewhat similar dialects these various tribes used.

That said, grouping all of those tribes together under one umbrella – which, again, was done by contemporaries like the Greeks and Romans, since the Celts themselves didn’t keep written records – is probably misleading. Some historians suggest that the languages were different enough, and the groups so spread out (as far east as Turkey, all the way west to the Atlantic Ocean) that it’s highly unlikely most of the tribes were remotely united. In fact, it’s believed part of the reason they were ultimately defeated by the Romans was because of their lack of unification. In essence, calling a Gaul “Celtic” would be akin to calling a German “European.” Technically correct, but highly generalized.


 Not Your Boston Celts

– WIF Geography

The Rise and Fall of Civilizations – WIF Into History

Leave a comment

Unsolved Mysteries

of

Ancient Civilizations

Archaeology has uncovered many secrets from the ancient world. But the Earth has a bad habit of eroding the past, making it difficult to piece together the stories of our ancestors. In the past couple of centuries, we’ve discovered Roman artifacts in the Americas, found ancient Greek cities in what was once thought to be the backwater of Ancient Greece, puzzled over the success of the Incan economy, and have long searched for the core of history’s first true empire.

These mysteries prove that humanity needs to keep digging to uncover the truth, lest we repeat our past mistakes.

10. The Romans May Have Discovered the New World

But the recent discovery of certain artifacts around the Americas has been putting this idea into question. We’re talking about Roman artifacts discovered both on the continent and in her waters, such as a sunken Roman ship in Brazil’s Guanabara Bay, terracotta amorphae, and tall jars clearly made during the Roman Empire’s rule.

The jars themselves date back to the 1st or 3rd century BC. Wine, grains, and olive oil were stored inside these types of jars and transported all over the Roman Empire.

Just outside Mexico City, another terracotta artifact thought to belong to the ancient Roman Empire was found. The artifact is a carved head, and experts say it’s a depiction of a Roman during the Hellenistic period, dating all the way back to 200 AD.

Finally, the discovery of several caches of Roman coins have been found buried throughout North America, and date back to the 16th century. Though some doubt has been raised as to the legitimacy of the coins, many archaeologists have seriously begun to consider the possibility that Roman settlers discovered the Americas in the ancient past.

Though, who, how, and why is still a mystery.

9. Ancient Roman Cults

Cults in the ancient Roman Empire have baffled archaeologists and historians alike because the evidence of their writings and artifacts have been poorly preserved. A mystery religion is defined by historians and archaeologists as one that offers individuals a religious experience not practiced officially by the state. The Mithraic cult, which historians seem to agree existed sometime before Christianity began to take over Rome as the primary religion, had most of its writings and artifacts destroyed after Christianity took hold. Though most scholars agree that before this, the Roman government tolerated the Mithraic cult, as its views supported the government at the time.

For every Roman god, there was probably one or two cults devoted to them, most of them starting as a family or a divergent version of the official state religion taken on by a clan. These cults would persist until the state absorbed them. Most of them featured an initiation ritual (just like today’s cults) and were typically performed inside a large sanctuary.

Just how many of these cults existed in the ancient world, and what they believed, however, remains a mystery.

8. The Lost City of Paititi

The Lost City of Paititi and the quest to find it has claimed many explorer’s lives. The legend even inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Lost World.” This lost city of gold has eluded every treasure hunter, archaeologist, and would-be explorer who have gone searching for it. Finding this city would inform much about the ancient Inca civilization which thrived between 1400 and 1533 AD, extending across western South America.

After the discovery of a letter to the pope in the Vatican archives from a missionary named Andres Lopez concerning the location of a large city rich with gold, silver, and jewels, the search for the city was renewed. Lopez’s letter claimed the city was located in the middle of the jungle and called Paititi by the local indigenous tribes. The pope and the Vatican kept the location secret for decades, but in 2016 a new expedition was set in motion. While that expedition turned up questionable artifacts in a site which is still being disputed today, the discovery of previously hidden cities throughout the Amazon (thanks to a combination of ground-penetrating radar and illegal logging and deforestation) has helped to keep the renewed fervor for the lost city alive.

7. The Economy of the Incas

Most historians agree that the Incan economy was one of the most successful in the ancient world, but perplexingly, they did not use money or gold, and only seemed to trade with outsiders. A lot of what we know of the Incas comes from the Spanish conquistadors who crushed their armies (after unleashing a plague of smallpox upon them, wiping out 90% of their population), so, much of how the Incas functioned as a society has been lost to time.

Still, the question remains how the Incas were able to create such a thriving economy without currency or even trade. Some historians believe that the secret to their great wealth came from the unique tax system they used, which required every Incan citizen to pay labor to the state. Strangely, wealthy Inca who passed away were able to continue owning property, and some historians jest that it’s almost as though they invented the idea of corporations-as-people without ever creating a market economy.

Because of the difficult terrain and harsh environment of the Amazon, much of the Incas way of life was dictated by a need to keep their people from starving, rather than developing markets and traditional forms of economics. At least, that’s what historians believe based on the little evidence that survives of the Incan civilization. Much of it still remains a mystery.

6. The Lost City of Tenea

The Lost City of Tenea was said to have been founded by prisoners of the legendary Trojan War, but it’s thought that the city was abandoned some time in the 4th century BC. Archaeologists have been on the hunt for signs of the legendary city since a sarcophagus was discovered in the Greek village of Chiliomodi in 1984.

More recently, though, archaeologists claim that the city has finally been discovered. An archaeological effort in the modern village of Chiliomodi began in 2013, leading to excavators of the site there to proclaim that proof of the legendary city was at last discovered after a series of rare coins, seven graves, and carefully constructed structures composed of clay, stone walls, and marble floors were unearthed.

Whether or not the Trojan War actually happened is up for debate, but the things learned in Tenea may provide a clue, especially if proof is found that shows that the city was indeed settled by those fleeing from their defeat in the Trojan War. Whether this was at the hands of legendary Odysseus or not, remains to be seen, and the city itself holds many mysteries which archaeologists are eager to uncover.

5. The Mystery of Teotihuacan

The ancient city of Teotihuacan stretches out for 20 square kilometers, contains nearly 2,000 single-story structures which appear to have been homes, and various impressive buildings like pyramids. The discovery of Teotihuacan may have been a major archaeological find, but its existence poses some problems for scholars, as it’s unknown who exactly built it. Originally, it was thought that the Toltec civilization must have built the city, but this was refuted when it was discovered that Teotihuacan peaked long after the Toltecs vanished.

Other theories range from the Totonacs having built the city, or immigrants fleeing the eruption of a volcano, but no conclusive theory has emerged. The city contains the hints of Mayan, Mixtec, and Zapotec cultures, further adding to the mystery.

Whoever built the city, scholars are certain Teotihuacan was originally founded in 400 BC, with the largest structures seeing their completion by 300 AD, and the city and culture reaching its peak nearly 100 years later with a population of over 200,000 inhabitants.

4. The Mystery of the Origin of the Sumerian Language

The Sumerian language appeared as early as 4000 BC and dominated Sumerian civilization for nearly 1,000 years, before being mostly replaced by Akkadian. The language was pictographic (or cuneiform) meaning that individual images represented whole words, phrases, or sentences, (much like Egyptian hieroglyphs, or later logographic languages like Chinese and Japanese).

This language is quite mysterious because beyond Akkadian there are no known ancestral forms of communication connected to it. Although some linguists think that Sumerian could be related to the Uralic languages such as Finnish and Hungarian, this view isn’t shared throughout the academic community.

Scholars suggest that, if the Sumerian people did not originate from the area of Mesopotamia, then it’s possible that their language could have been influenced by an older, still undiscovered language, but this is just a hypothesis.

3. The Fall of the Akkadian Empire

The Sumerian empire eventually fell to Sargon the Great, who established one of history’s first empires. The Akkadian Empire was ruled from Sargon’s city of Akkad. The Akkadians would succeed in nearly stamping out the Sumerian language and Sargon would be succeeded by several other rulers after his death. But sometime after Shar-Kali-Sharri took rule of the Akkadian empire, things took a turn for the worse, and eventually, what was once the world’s first true empire would collapse in 2154 BC.

What caused it, though, is a bit of a mystery.

Historians present three theories for the fall of Akkadia.

The first is that the invasion of the Gutians (a people who dwelled in the mountains) proved to be too much for the disorganized Shar-Kali-Sharri, who was already having difficulty maintaining order in the wake of his father’s death. He also waged a seemingly indefinite war with the Elamites and the Amorites at the same time the mountain people were invading.

The second is that a combination of a poor harvest, a great famine, and a great drought may have contributed or caused the collapse outright. In 2019, a study of fossil coral records from Oman provided evidence that winter dust storms, along with a longer winter than usual may have sealed the Akkadian Empire’s fate.

The third possibility is that a meteor collision with the Earth set in motion drastic changes to the Earth’s weather, causing the climate to change around an already struggling empire.

2. The Lost Ruins of Vlochos

In 2015, archaeologists uncovered what appeared to have been the site of a Greek village called Vlochos. At the time, they wrote the discovery off as of no importance, thinking that the remains atop the hill were nothing more than the remains of a Greek village. That was until they discovered the remnants of towers, gates, and a city grid which hinted at there being a deeper story to the ruins. With new information, the site is now considered to have been the center of a Greek city, one which flourished sometime during the 4th century BC, and was abandoned in the 3rd century BC.

Why it was abandoned, though, remains a bit of a mystery. Archaeologists and scholars think that a likely candidate is the invasion of Roman forces. Using ground-penetrating radar, archaeologists hope to uncover more of the lost city’s secrets.

What is interesting about this site is that this area of Greece was previously thought to have been a backwater of the Ancient Greek world, so archaeologists and scholars haven’t really paid much attention to it.

Who knows what other mysteries lie in wait for them?

1. The City of Akkad

No one knows where the city of Akkad was located. We know a great deal about the man who supposedly built it, Sargon the Great, and the empire he ruled, but the capitol city itself has long eluded scholars and archaeologists.

It has been told that Sargon the Great built the city along the bank of the western Euphrates River, possibly between the cities of Kish and Sippar, though Mari and Babylon have been offered as other potential possibilities as well.

There are a number of excavation sites which scholars think could be candidates for the City of Akkad. Most of these places are situated east of the Tigris, which is part of the Euphrates, but there is much debate as to which of these might be the true site of the capital of the Akkadian Empire.

How the city fell and where it was located is almost as great a mystery as to how the Akkadian Empire fell.


The Rise and Fall of Civilizations

WIF Into History

Thanksgiving Around the Globe – WIF Holidays

Leave a comment

Thanksgiving Festivals

From Around

the World

When we think about harvest festivals, we automatically think of Thanksgiving in the United States. But there have always been harvest festivals everywhere – autumn celebrations jubilantly thanking the gods for their gracious, abundant bounty, and praying for their blessing to live and thrive for another year.

 Harvest festivals go back to the dawn of agriculture. Naturally, the original holidays have long since faded away due to the vast social and religious changes over the centuries. But there are many modern harvest festivals and national holidays similar to the American Thanksgiving, each with its own traditions and stories. This list showcases ten harvest festivals, and their accompanying narratives.

10. Mehregan (Iran)

Mehregan, the Festival of Autumn, is the Persian version of Thanksgiving. It is a Zoroastrian festival that goes back to the 4th century BC, long before Persians become Muslims. It takes its name from Mehr, the Zoroastrian deity of love and friendship. Much of this Harvest Holiday has changed since antiquity, largely after the rise of Islam. But Mehregan is still celebrated by many modern Persians, especially since its revival in the 1960′s when the Postal Service of Tehran, to commemorate the Mehregan Festival, issued a special limited edition of postage stamps, now considered rare collectibles.

Mehregan includes family reunions across the country, prayers in front of large mirrors, and an lavishly-decorated dinner table adorned with old fashioned silver plates and disks, flowers, incense, wild marjoram, and silver coins. There’s lots of traditional food, served with sherbet, rosewater, almonds, sweets, apples, pomegranates, and lotus seeds. The extravagant settings give you the feeling that you are back in ancient Persia

9. Cerelia (Ancient Rome)

This is an ancient version of Thanksgiving, and even though it isn’t celebrated today, we can’t overlook its historical significance and the role this holiday played in Ancient Rome. Cerelia was dedicated to Ceres, the Roman Goddess of grain. It was celebrated every autumn on October 4th, so this Harvest Festival is also called the “Autumnal Festival.”

The Romans loved to party, and Cerelia was no exception. The festival included parades, sporting events in front of the ecstatic Roman crowd, and splendid Thanksgiving feasts, held either privately in the homes of the wealthy, or publicly, organized by the municipality. Revelers feasted on roasted pigs and the first products of the autumn harvest – all dedicated to Ceres as sign of gratitude. Along with the mountains of food to eat, citizens also drank rivers of wine, which helped fuel a common Roman custom not mentioned in your schoolbooks – lots of sex and orgies.

8. Chuseok (Korea)

Chuseok, also known as the Korean Thanksgiving, is a major holiday in Korea. Its date is determined by the lunar calendar, so it is held on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. The holiday usually lasts three days, and like most Harvest festivals, it includes family reunions. In Korea, families gather at their ancestral homes to give thanks and to feast on delicious traditional food, like delicate rice cakes steamed on a bed of pine needles.

After the holiday meal is over, family members visit their ancestors’ graves for Beolcho – the customary act of clearing away any weeds that may have grown up over the burial mound. They also play traditional folk games such as Ganggangsullae – a kind of dance that goes back five thousand years. In Korea, gift-giving is part of the Harvest festival, and it’s common to give attractively boxed gifts of a popular food –spam.

7. Tsiknopempti (Greece)

Fans of steak and BBQ probably value this day more than even Christmas or Easter, and there’s a good reason for that. In Greece there’s nothing similar to Thanksgiving except Tsiknopempti, the closest thing the country has to a Harvest Festival. It’s one of the traditional celebrations of February’s Carnival season in Greece. It always falls on a Thursday, and this is where it gets its name, since Tsiknopempti loosely translated means “Barbecue Thursday.” It’s the time for the Greeks to thank the Lord for the bounties He gave them during the year, and to gain strength for the next forty days of fasting, the Lenten days before Easter.

So during Tsiknopempti the mouth-watering aromas of barbecuing meats fill every corner of every street in Greece. At night, the hosts of the family reunions lay out vast amounts of souvlaki, gyros, lamb, and pork. Add lots of wine, and the night ends with plenty of high-spirited plate smashing and joyous dancing.

6. Dia de Acao de Gracas (Brazil)

The Brazilian version of Thanksgiving is similar to the American one, and there’s an historical explanation for this. Thanksgiving was established in the country of coffee in the late 1940′s by Brazilian President Gaspar Dutra after he heard the Brazilian ambassador to the United States describe the American holiday. Originally the Brazilian version of Thanksgiving was almost identical to the American one; in 1966, Brazil even officially designated the fourth Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day, just as it is in the United States. Brazilians, however, have a colorful and diverse culture of their own, and through the years they have greatly changed the holiday, so that now it’s quite different from the American Thanksgiving.

Attending Mass on Dia de Acao de Gracas is a must for all who want to offer to God their gratitude for the abundant harvest, and afterwards the younger set joins in the revelry of the Thanksgiving carnival, or takes advantage of the hot, sunny weather to go to the beautiful beaches. The Brazilian Thanksgiving meal naturally features peru (roast turkey) as the main dish, garnished with fixings for every taste – cracklings, sweet potatoes, exotic salads, cornbread stuffing, and pumpkin pie. Cranberries don’t grow in Brazil, so instead of cranberry sauce, Brazilians use a similar fruit to make aboticaba sauce, giving the meal a unique Brazilian touch.

5. Liberian Thanksgiving (Liberia)

The influence of the American Thanksgiving in Liberia is really obvious. In fact, this holiday, along with the Canadian Thanksgiving, is one of the versions of Thanksgiving most like the American one. That has a reasonable explanation, since Liberia was established as an official state only in 1822, mainly by freed African-American slaves. Naturally the former Americans carried many cultural elements of their previous country to their new land, and one of them was Thanksgiving, now celebrated in Liberia every year on the first Thursday of November. Over the years, however, aspects of African culture – and more specifically Liberian culture – were added to the American traditions, and the holiday shows the changes.

For one thing, Liberians offer their gratitude that they are free people today, and no longer slaves. But some of the biggest differences are in the food. Liberians prefer chicken to turkey, and mashed cassava is served instead of mashed potatoes. Liberians really love their food all hot and spicy, so Thanksgiving dishes are made with plenty of cayenne and fiery peppers.

4. Crop Over (Barbados)

The Crop Over summer festival is the biggest harvest holiday festival in Barbados. As early as the 1870′s, the people of Barbados organized Crop Over festivals to thank God and to rejoice in another year of bountiful sugar cane harvests. But the celebration faded away for many decades after the decline of sugar production that began the mid-1940′s.

Then in 1974 the holiday was revived, with more elements of Barbadian culture added. The Crop Over festival nowadays includes parades and colorful carnivals, with big doses of calypso music and dancing, and even bigger doses of local food, candy, and excessive alcohol – all more reminiscent of the carnivals of Brazil than of Thanksgiving in the United States.

3. Homowo Festival (Ghana)

This festival is one of the most important holidays in modern Ghana, celebrated mostly by the people of Ga, as they are known – the most adventurous and exploratory ethnic group in Ghana. The people of Ga once traveled all across Africa before finally settling in Ghana. During this migration they endured many hardships, including a terrible famine. From those memories Homowo (meaning “to jeer at hunger”) was born.

Homowo starts in May with the traditional sowing of millet by priests, and commemorates the day the ancestors won victory over hunger. After the harvest in August and September, the people feast on traditional favorites such as palm nut soup with fish. Famine is hooted at and ridiculed with songs and dancing, and the revelers praise God for the good fortune that guided them to the blessed land of Ghana.

2. Erntedankfest (Germany)

Germans celebrate their own version of Thanksgiving, but in their own unique way. The main difference between similar holidays around the world and Germany’s Erntedankfest is that in Germany it’s not a holiday that most Germans combine with family reunions. It’s a religious holiday which differs regionally depending on each location’s history and cultural traditions.

Erntedankfest, which means “Harvest Festival,” is usually celebrated in late September or early October. It’s a Protestant holiday in which the church plays a large role. An Erntedankfest celebration in a big city like Berlin typically includes volunteer work for the poor and attending Mass, followed by music, dancing, and lots of food in and outside the church. The festival is especially popular with the youngsters because it peaks with torch-lit parades and fireworks.

1. The Moon Festival (China)

The Moon Festival, also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, is the Chinese version of Thanksgiving. It is considered one of the most significant traditional celebrations in China, going back to antiquity. Legend says that the Goddess Chang’e flew to the moon, where she would stay forever. Now she is considered the Goddess of the Moon, and the Moon Festival is dedicated to her.

The children love such fairytales and myths, but the Moon Festival is also a great opportunity for family reunions, and every year, on the evening of August’s Harvest Moon, most Chinese families find a way to get together to enjoy the full moon, eat delicious pastries called “moon cakes,” dance, sing, and recite traditional “Moon Poems.’’

Unmarried people consider the Moon Festival a perfect opportunity for romance. All over the country, young men coax their best girls to slip away for a moment for a conversation commonly held on this romantic evening – a proposal of marriage under the beautiful moon.


“God Bless Us Everyone”

Thanksgiving Around the Globe

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 71

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 71

…There is no reason to panic yet, but Miss Bouchette is here to help me put some pieces together, she being the only person who spoke with either a genuine informant… or a really good guesser…

Image result for informant painting

Informant from the 1980s by Mohammad Omran

As they dash inside Roy explains, “If I did not think this was of the utmost importance, I would not have asked you here. But I need to confirm the source of a smell in my control room, before I can act on any hunches.”

The freshly minted investigative duo and one armed {with two arms} escort enter Colony Mission Control, heading straight for Braden King, who will have the latest of the late news.

“The New Mayflower has been reprogrammed to liftoff at 11:57 to dodge a meteor… oh and and the downrange tracking is ready. That puts us on t-minus 1:49.55.” Braden has really pushed the whole ground crew in Roy’s short absence.

There is no reason to panic yet, but Miss Bouchette is here to help me put some pieces together, she being the only person who spoke with either a genuine informant… or a really good guesser. And we’re not talking about an old-fashioned-Chinese-like-cyber-attack.”

“Thank you for the professional manner in which you included us in your story. Those folks on Mars are dear to us and had you just blurted the news out, we would have lost control of things.” Braden doesn’t bother her with the wrenching details of Deke and Gus’ reaction to her report.

“We will be in the briefing room Braden, and not to be disturbed!”

“If there is a hitch in the countdown, I’ll let you know – t-minus 1:42 and counting.”

He nods, checks his PDA and opens the door to the classified room by placing his palm on the encoder on its right side. It is not as neat or pristine as she would have guessed one long littered table that is used for confidential meetings, taco parties and card games. Roy enters a ten character code into the comprehensive NASA database, brightening the 75” monitor on the wall to display personnel files that may hold the clue to an inside traitor.

But it is Francine who holds the key that unlocks the dark secret. She tells him every detail she could recall from that very hectic and eventful 10 minutes, which seemed much longer than 9 1/2 hours ago.

“Are you sure he had a Pakistani accent, I know that country became part of Talibanistan ten years ago,” asks Roy who knows just about everyone who has not bought into Space Colony 1.

“He said the wordsassalamu alaikum’, I looked that up; ‘may Allah’s peace be with you’ in the Arab culture. And he referred to Korean, Nepal and Taliban joy about the accident… and we are imperialistic infidels.”

The Nepal reference strikes a nerve.

“I wasn’t aware that Nepal had an axe to grind about the Mars project. But there is somebody in this complex from Nepal, that strange little tech named Gherkin who replaced Phil Jansky. I wonder if there is a connection.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 71


page 66

Niggling, Nagging, Lasting Mythoi – WIF Myths & Legends

Leave a comment

Universal Myths

That Persist

We all have the inner yearning that calls for answers on our basic questions. Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going, and what is our purpose? In most cases, myths are obviously metaphoric and completely inconceivable. Others can be found in various societies that are completely remote from one another, where the similarities in the accounts are so distinct that they suggest a common historical basis. The following myths all led to controversial hypotheses and theories, adding mystery and wonder to our united consciousness.

10. Time

In the 17th century, Archbishop Ussher claimed the world began in 4004 BC and that it would exist for 6,000 years until the final battle with the Antichrist – leading to the 1,000-year rule of the saints and then, finally, the end. Nostradamus used this chronology and claimed the year 1999 would be the beginning of the end times.

In mythic tradition, time is more irregular, intricate, and recurring. The Mayans thought the time had a seasonal or cyclic rhythm, and the Celts believed it ran at different rates in different realms. This mythic understanding of time is backed up by modern cosmology. The English astronomer Fred Hoyle, however, claims the idea of time as an ever-rolling stream is “a grotesque and absurd illusion,” stating that everything was, will be, and has always been. According to him, the sense of past, present, and future is all an illusion.

9. Astrology

The night sky is a portrait painted by myths. We all know our “star signs” – which consists of 12 constellations of the zodiac. Few know that the 12 symbols, or signs, that we love to plan our futures on are only part of the 88 identified constellations.

The oldest astronomy/astrology (in those days it was the same thing) records to survive are those of the Chaldeans, who nightly observed the sky looking for omens and clues to their fate, more than 2,000 years before the Romans. Modern dismissals of the role these constellations play on our futures have not ended the mythic identification with the celestial bodies and probably never will.

8. Curses

What we know from the myths and legends today are that curses are either cast on humanity by the gods or by lesser, human priests and witch-doctors, or by one wronged person onto another. Either way, intentional harm or death is intended. The most famous curse is found in the Bible when the serpent is cursed for tempting Eve, followed by the cursing of Adam and Eve, leading to the doctrines of the fall of man.

In most Eastern beliefs, however, the curse is our inability to see through illusion. Today it is said that a curse only works if the victim believes in it. The Hamitic hypothesis claims that Ham (along with his son Canaan), son of Noah, was cursed after exposing his drunken father to his brothers. According to the hypothesis they were “marked” by the shade of their skin, becoming the forefathers of the black race – the curse accounts for all the suffering the black race has endured through the ages.

7. Supernatural Beings

The belief in supernatural beings is ancient. Where demons want to cause us injury, angels offer protection, direction, and religious insight. The names of the great archangels are known to Muslims and Christians alike. People have seen shining winged human beings everywhere in the world. At Fatima, Portugal in 1917, shepherd children met a beautiful young woman who claimed to be from Heaven. Subsequent visions led to a crowd of 70,000, witnessing the sun descend to earth. Today the event is commonly known as the “Miracle of the Sun.”

At this event and others that were similar, mass healings followed. Scientists have ascribed the events to mass hysteria, but another more controversial theory claims that these events (as well as the ones in ancient times) were all actually close encounters with aliens, or UFOs. Whatever the environment or circumstances, the visitation of winged messengers persists.

6. Dying Gods

Examples of gods who die and then return to life are most frequently derived from Ancient Near East religions, and practices inspired by them include Biblical and Greco-Roman myths and Christianity by extension. The archetype’s characteristics are that their birth is announced by a star, as children they teach their teachers, they predict their death, and after their death they return.

The Middle Eastern dying gods are normally searched for and resurrected or restored by their wives or sister. It has been hypothesized that religion fills a void, and that we created it to help us feel more secure and safe in a world that seemingly delivers more questions than answers.

5. The Flood Stories

Renditions of the myth of a worldwide flood, or deluge, are found the world over. Typically they agree that the entire world was inundated, that the event (though foreseen) was sudden, and that the few survivors built arks, rafts or other vessels having been warned by God (or the gods). The best known account is the biblical story of Noah.

The corresponding themes are global – arks and rafts are mostly built on high ground, and sin caused the flood. Just as odd is the wide agreement about the details (such as the size of the raindrops and hailstones, as well as the heat of the deluge). From Deucalion and Pyrrha in Greek mythology to Pralaya in Hinduism and Belgermir in Northern mythology, today it is widely believed that the global Flood was not a mythic but an actual historic event.

4. Megalithic Myths

There are normally two varieties of megalithic myths: first the myths of the builders/designers’ mysterious and supernatural powers, and second about the mystical or magical properties of the stones. Great Britain and Egypt are hosts to the most famous ones but they can be found the world over.

Having been associated with healing, fertility, giants, and the devil, the renewed interest came about when science stepped in. It became clear these stones worked as giant calendars, with individual stones marking seasons or the movement of the sun and the moon. The most interesting speculation about them came from a man called Paul Devereux, he claimed that UFOs are terrestrial emanations connected with faults in the megalithic system and that they access our brains directly as they are electromagnetic.

3. Omens

Beliefs in omens, events, or objects that forewarn us about good or evil that may be coming our way have existed since time immemorial. The Druids sought omens in the flight of birds and in Ireland each sound, position, or movement of domesticated ravens has a different connotation. Omens are also drawn by different cultures from the direction of flames, the howling of dogs, shapes of tree-roots, the state of entrails, and even from the way sandals fall when they are tossed.

At the heart of these myths is the view that everything interconnects. Jung reasoned that the collective unconscious knows all things – implying that the view may not be that absurd.

2. Creation

There are three basic questions when it comes to how the Earth, cosmos, and all life were created. How did something come from nothing? How was it created and how did the natural order of all minerals, plants, animals, and human kingdoms come to be? Theories range from the modern “Big Bang” to the older and even ancient approaches.

In most myths, the elements are favored – claiming that air, wind, fire, and sometimes vibrations caused all things to be. Another very common theme is the “World Tree” creation legends that can be found from Africa to Tonga. These are normally rooted in Paradise and all life springs from it, or it can be linked with dimensions and various created worlds. The most subtle myths imply that there is no beginning and no end, that everything is in balance, and that all is as it should be.

1. Afterlife

In all quarters of the world, the individual soul/spirit is believed to survive death. This belief goes back to as early as 80,000 BC, as Neanderthal burials would suggest that they, too, prepared for the afterlife. From the Christian beliefs of Heaven and Hell, to the Tibetan Book of the Dead that advises the newly-dead how to avoid rebirth, the belief remains despite lack of proof.

Many interesting theories exist apart from the religious views on what happens to the soul after a person dies. Edmund Fournier d’Albe was one of the first researchers that came up with an afterlife hypothesis, claiming that one’s soul leaves the body after death and lives off ultraviolet rays from the sun in another realm of the Earth’s atmosphere. Others say that the soul will find itself in a dream world or simply that only the mind will live on, becoming part of the collective consciousness.


Niggling, Nagging, Lasting Mythoi

WIF Myths & Legends

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 20

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 20

…Out of shear consideration for an ill-advised swimmer, several longshoremen move to hoist Afridi from the frigid drink…

The Longshoremen by John George Brown

The Longshoremen by John George Brown

… Afridi tackles the fifty meter swim to provisional independence; independence not freedom, with freedom attained only with asylum status for him and his family at some rare and highly fortified Western Embassy.

He wastes no time swimming at a record pace, for him, and not overlooked by the gathering swarm of bargemen & dock workers who are up early to start their day. Out of shear consideration for an ill-advised swimmer, several longshoremen move to hoist Afridi from the frigid drink, bantering away in a local unrecognized dialect. Surely they were asking him, What the hell man!”

He nods politely, pretending to understand them, but really only understanding the camel hair blanket given him. Playing dumb is his sole shot at unrecognizability. A single sentence from his intelligent tongue may well tip off any pursuers.

The oldest of these well-meaning men, seems to be on to his plight, considering all the flashing lights on the dusty streetsopposite riverbank. Drawn by the man’s kindness… and his own desperation, he takes the helping hand who leads him away to parts unknown, with the hope of a warm bath, at the bare minimum, at the end of one of these dusty streets.

Once entry is gained, there Afridi meets the better half of his clandestine champion. The ethnic matriarch seems to be upset that her man is not at work, yet somehow gathers some kindness for the stranger in their midst:

cell phone

  • Tepid bath…check
  • Dry change of clothes…check
  • Some kind of meat meal…check

He is worried about his family. ”Do you have a…?” Afridi puts a hand to his ear, the universal cellphone gesture.


THE RETURN TRIP

The Kindness of Strangers by Alberto Ruggier

The Kindness of Strangers by Alberto Ruggier

Episode 20


page 19

Far-flung Farcical Fallacies – WIF Superstitions

Leave a comment

 Strangest Superstitions

From Around

the World

superstition is essentially anything you believe with no actual good reason to believe it. It is the opposite of science and logic and, in fact, science and logic will tear it apart. So you ignore the science and logic because maybe one day you wore blue socks and got a raise at work, so now you believe wholeheartedly that your blue socks are lucky and make you money.

Historically, whole cultures have come to adopt some of these superstitions as legit beliefs and fears based on coincidence, anecdotal evidence and maybe just a fervent hope that the world has some more mystery in it than we can see. Here are some of the weirdest of the bunch.

10. Opposing Mirrors Welcome the Devil

Having a mirror facing another mirror is a cool effect and the reason the hall of mirrors in a funhouse is in a place called a “funhouse” to begin with. It messes with your head, creates an endless hallway of fun, and also provides an effect used in far too many horror and action movies to even begin to count.

But apparently none of those were filmed in Mexico because you do not want to have one mirror face another mirror there. According to Mexican superstition, when a mirror faces another mirror you’re inviting the devil in by creating a threshold of doorway for him to enter your world. Maybe all of those horror movies with mirrors in them were on to something after all.

9. Filipino Pagpag

Pagpag is a fun word if you don’t know what it means, but in practice it’s a little grim. From a Filipino superstition relating to funerals, pagpag is what you might call the safety procedure you need to engage in before going home after a funeral or wake. Once you’ve left the somber affair, you go to a restaurant or a mall or wherever. Anywhere but home. You don’t even need to do anything at this place, you just need to be there.

Why? The bad energy and negative spirits you picked up at the funeral will follow you to the mall instead of your house. Does that mean that Filipino malls are all haunted? We can only assume.

8. Don’t Whistle Indoors in Lithuania

Whistling is a good way to call your dog or pass the time if you and your six dwarf buddies are in the mines pulling out gems. It is not, however, anything you want to do when you visit Lithuania, at least not in anyone’s house. Etiquette in Lithuania is fairly conservative and even making eye contact with strangers is the sort of thing that is frowned upon, to give you an idea of how things go there.

But kicking it up a notch is the belief that whistling indoors will not only summon your dog, it will attract the attention of little devils as well. That’s not a metaphor or a euphemism, either. It’s just the genuine belief that demons of small stature might invade your home after being beckoned with a simple whistle.

7. Never Toast with Water

Everyone likes a good toast at a wedding or some dinner party that takes place in the middle of a movie, but there is some etiquette regarding how to best pull this tradition off. For instance, you better be making your toast with anything but water lest the Ancient Greeks start spinning in their graves.

According to superstition, the dead would drink from the River Lethe in Hades and that water would wash away all their ties to the mortal world. Drinking a toast with water in the living world was therefore akin to cursing someone to death or, at the very least, cursing yourself to it. How that was different from just having anon-toasted drink of water was probably up for debate, but typically a toast is meant as some kind of a blessing, so it would be a backhanded curse to use the beverage of the damned for it.

6. Upside Down Bread Invites Death

Have you ever heard that toast will always fall butter-side down? It’s not a superstition, just an unfortunate and sometimes true observation that can ruin your breakfast. But if we were in France that toast would potentially be some seriously bad luck because how you situate your bread holds some extra meaning there. Bread or baguettes left upside are believed to invite death.

Why’s that? Well, some folks think it comes from executioners having the right to snag something for free from a shop if they grabbed it with one hand, and bakers leaving loaves upside for them so other shoppers would know not to take it. Nowadays, if you leave a loaf upside down, you’re inviting death to come and take from you and who wants that?

5. Lucky Poop

You’ve probably never felt entirely lucky to step in dog poop if it’s ever happened to you but maybe you should have. Word is the French have divided stepping in dog poop into two separate scenarios that you can experience based on a very weird superstition. If you happen to land your right foot into some dog plop you’re doomed to a life of dismal awfulness. However, if your left foot hits the pile well, then call your friends and family because good luck is a-comin’!

Russia is the source of a similar superstition you may have heard about birds. In this one, it’s considered good luck if a bird poops on your or something you own. Why would that be lucky? Well, the odds of getting hit by bird pop seem to be slim so by some definitions of the word lucky, you really are lucky if you get pooped on by a bird. An alternate theory is that it’s incredibly unlucky to get pooped on or to step on it and these superstitions are at least a small way to try to ameliorate the grossness by suggesting something good will come from it.

4. Outdoor Knitting Prolongs the Winter

In North America we all routinely engage in the very odd yet annual superstition that a groundhog has the ability to determine whether or not winter’s going to last an additional six weeks or not. Why? No one bothers to ask anymore but it stems from an old Pennsylvania Dutch belief that the groundhog seeing its shadow would lead to prolonged winter, itself borrowed from a similar German belief about badgers which in turn may have come from the belief that clear weather on Candelmas means an extended winter.

Regardless of why we believe what we believe about meteorological rodents,  it spawned a really entertaining Bill Murray movie so we go with it. And that’s not the only superstition about winter overstaying its welcome in the world by a long shot. According to an Icelandic superstition, if you decide to sit on your doorstep and do some knitting in the winter, you’ve just prolonged that terrible season. Hopefully the afghan you made was extra warm.

3. Yo-Yos Lead to Droughts

Most superstitions have an aspect of history to them, they’re ancient and relics of a bygone era. You can almost understand them insofar as they’re so old you can’t blame the worlds that created them because they didn’t know the science that explained so much of the world. If people thought black cats were unlucky then oh well, so be it. But what about a superstition about yo-yos? How do you account for that? According to a 1933 article, Syria outlawed yo-yos because there was a severe drought at the time killing cattle and crops. And while everyone was praying for rain to fall from the heavens and save the day, the yo-yos of the world were going down just like rain, but then being all deceitful as they flew right back up again. The leaders at the time decided this evil influence was to blame and yo-yos were banished. Police were even told to confiscate them on site.

The Onion didn’t exist in 1933 and the paper, the Barrier Miner from New South Wales in Australia, seemed like it was on the up and up. So while the story is absurd, is it any more absurd than thinking a broken mirror brings 7 years of bad luck?

2. The Hairy Goat Curse

If you’re of the carnivorous persuasion and have never eaten goat you should really give it a try, it’s quite tasty. That said, this was not something you could have recommended to women of the past in Rwanda thanks to an insidious superstition there about goat meat. According to the story, back in the day it was very taboo for a woman to dare eat the meat of a goat for fear she might take on that most unladylike of goaty characteristics, a full on beard. They’d also take on the goat’s habit of being stubborn. So a beard and a bad attitude which, you can imagine, no woman would ever want.

Where does this belief come from? This may be nothing more than speculation but, with women unable to eat the meat, it meant that only men were enjoying it. And that does seem like a good way to be greedy and hoard all the delicious goat for yourself if you can convince everyone else it’ll cause them to grow beards.

1. Never Speak the Name of Carlos Menem

Have you ever heard of Carlos Menem? From 1989 to 1999, Menem was the President of Argentina and his legacy is a nearly Hitchcockian level of menace and bad luck. People will refuse to even say the man’s name for fear it may bring about another round of misfortune as though he were the Candyman or Voldemort.

Argentina endured an economic crisis in 2001 for which Menem, though he had been out of office for two years, is often blamed. But that’s at least a “normal” explanation for why people might dislike Menem. His legacy goes far beyond poor financial planning.

When Menem became President, two of his appointed ministers died early deaths. Had Menem cursed them? Well, apparently. And he was just getting warmed up.

In 1990, Menem patted a soccer player’s knee. He later broke that knee. Menem jinxed tennis players, race car drivers, famous dancers and singers, and even a boat racer who shook Menem’s hand and then lost his damn arm in a boat crash.  Some people even blamed him for an earthquake. And it wasn’t just others. Menem cursed himself, suffering a failed marriage and the untimely death of his own son. No one seemed safe from the man.

Thanks to the never ending stream of nightmarish coincidences and misfortune Menem became the embodiment of all that is unwanted and sinister in life. To invoke his name was to ask for bad times. So people don’t do it.


Far-flung Farcical Fallacies

WIF Superstitions

Monuments to Something – WIF Landmark Travel

Leave a comment

Mysterious

World Landmarks

The world is filled with ancient monuments built by master craftsmen in order to honor everything from kings and presidents to religious figures. And although most of these landmarks have been carefully studied and researched by scientists and historians, some are simply so old, incomplete, or obscure that we still don’t know very much about why they were built or what purpose they served. The following are 10 world landmarks that, whether by intention or simply due to the passage of time, continue to baffle the people who study them.

10. The Cahokia Mounds


Cahokia is the name given to an Indian settlement that exists outside of Collinsville, Illinois. Archaeologists estimate that the city was founded sometime around 650 AD, and its complex network of burial grounds and sophisticated landscaping prove that it was once a thriving community. It has been estimated that at its peak the city was home to as many as 40,000 people, which would have made it the most populous settlement in America prior to the arrival of the Europeans. The most notable aspect of Cahokia today are the 80 mounds of earth, some as high as 100 feet, which dot the 2,200-acre site. These helped create a network of plazas throughout the city, and it is believed that important buildings, like the home of the settlement’s chief, were built on top of them. The site also features a series of wooden posts that archaeologists have dubbed “woodhenge.” The posts are said to mark the solstices and equinoxes, and supposedly figured prominently in the community’s astronomical mythology.

The Mystery
Although scientists are constantly discovering new information about the Cohokia community, the biggest mystery that remains is which modern Indian tribe is descended from the residents of the ancient city, as well as just what it was that caused them to abandon their settlement.

9. Newgrange


Considered to be the oldest and most famous prehistoric site in all of Ireland, Newgrange is a tomb that was built from earth, wood, clay, and stone around 3100 BC, some 1000 years before the construction of the pyramids in Egypt. It consists of a long passage that leads to a cross-shaped chamber that was apparently used as a tomb, as it contains stone basins filled with cremated remains. The most unique feature of Newgrange is its careful and sturdy design, which has helped the structure remain completely waterproof to this day. Most amazing of all, the entrance to the tomb was positioned relative to the sun in such a way that on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, the rays from the sun are channeled through the opening and down the nearly 60 foot passageway, where they illuminate the floor of the monument’s central room.

The Mystery
Archaeologists know Newgrange was used as a tomb, but why and for who still remains a mystery. The painstaking design needed to guarantee that the yearly solstice event occurs suggests that the site was held in high regard, but other than the obvious hypothesis that the sun featured prominently in the mythology of the builders, scientists are at a loss to describe the true reason for Newgrange’s construction.

8. The Yonaguni Monument


Of all the famous monuments in Japan, perhaps none is more perplexing than Yonaguni, an underwater rock formation that lies off the coast of the Ryuku Islands. It was discovered in 1987 by a group of divers who were there to observe Hammerhead sharks, and it immediately sparked a huge amount of debate in the Japanese scientific community. The monument is made up of a series of striking rock formations including massive platforms, carved steps, and huge stone pillars that lie at depths of 5-40 meters. There is a triangular formation that has become known as “the turtle” for its unique shape, as well as a long, straight wall that borders one of the larger platforms. The currents in the area are known for being particularly treacherous, but this has not stopped the Yonaguni monument from becoming one of the most popular diving locations in all of Japan.

The Mystery
The ongoing debate surrounding Yonaguni centers on one key subject: is the monument a natural phenomenon, or is it man-made? Scientists have long argued that millennia of strong currents and erosion have carved the formations out of the ocean floor, and they point to the fact that the monument is all one piece of solid rock as proof that it was not assembled by a builder. Others, though, point to the many straight edges, square corners and 90-degree angles of the formation as proof that it’s artificial. They often cite one formation in particular, a section of rock that resembles a crude carving of a human face, as evidence. If they are right, then an even more interesting mystery presents itself: who constructed the Yonaguni Monument, and for what purpose?

7. The Nazca Lines


The Nazca lines are a series of designs and pictographs carved into the ground in the Nazca Desert, a dry plateau located in Peru. They cover an area of some 50 miles, and were supposedly created between 200 BC and 700 AD by the Nazca Indians, who designed them by scraping away the copper colored rocks of the desert floor to expose the lighter-colored earth beneath. The lines have managed to remain intact for hundreds of years thanks to the region’s arid climate, which sees it receive little rain or wind throughout the year. Some of the lines span distances of 600 feet, and they depict everything from simple designs and shapes to characterizations of plants, insects, and animals.

The Mystery
Scientists know who made the Nazca Lines and how they did it, but they still don’t know why. The most popular and reasonable hypothesis is that the lines must have figured in the Nazca people’s religious beliefs, and that they made the designs as offerings to the gods, who would’ve been able to see them from the heavens. Still, other scientists argue that the lines are evidence of massive looms that the Nazcas used to make textiles, and one investigator has even made the preposterous claim that they are the remnants of ancient airfields used by a vanished, technologically advanced society.

6. Goseck Circle


One of the most mysterious landmarks in Germany is the Goseck Circle, a monument made out of earth, gravel, and wooden palisades that is regarded as the earliest example of a primitive “solar observatory.” The circle consists of a series of circular ditches surrounded by palisade walls (which have since been reconstructed) that house a raised mound of dirt in the center. The palisades have three openings, or gates, that point southeast, southwest, and north. It is believed that the monument was built around 4900 BC by Neolithic peoples, and that the three openings correspond to the direction from which the sun rises on the winter solstice.

The Mystery
The monument’s careful construction has led many scientists to believe that the Goseck Circle was built to serve as some kind of primitive solar or lunar calendar, but its exact use is still a source of debate. Evidence has shown that a so-called “solar cult” was widespread in ancient Europe. This has led to speculation that the Circle was used in some kind of ritual, perhaps even in conjunction with human sacrifice. This hypothesis has yet to be proven, but archaeologists have uncovered several human bones, including a headless skeleton, just outside the palisade walls.

5. Sacsayhuaman


Not far from the famous Inca city of Machu Picchu lies Sacsayhuaman, a strange embankment of stone walls located just outside of Cuzco. The series of three walls was assembled from massive 200-ton blocks of rock and limestone, and they are arranged in a zigzag pattern along the hillside. The longest is roughly 1000 feet in length and each stands some fifteen feet tall. The monument is in astonishingly good condition for its age, especially considering the region’s propensity for earthquakes, but the tops of the walls are somewhat demolished, as the monument was plundered by the Spanish to build churches in Cuzco. The area surrounding the monument has been found to be the source of several underground catacombs called chincanas, which were supposedly used as connecting passageways to other Inca structures in the area.

The Mystery
Most scientists agree that Sacsayhuaman served as a kind of fortress of barrier wall, but this has been disputed. The strange shape and angles of the wall have led some speculate that it may have had a more symbolic function, one example being that the wall, when seen next to Cuzco from above, forms the shape of the head of a Cougar. Even more mysterious than the monument’s use, though, are the methods that were used in its construction. Like most Inca stone works, Sacsayhuaman was built with large stones that fit together so perfectly that not even a sheet of paper can be placed in the gaps between them. Just how the Incas managed such expert placements, or, for that matter, how they managed to transport and lift the heavy hunks of stone, is still not fully known.

4. The Easter Island Moai


One of the most iconic series of monuments in the Pacific islands is the Moai, a group of huge statues of exaggerated human figures that are found only on the small, isolated island of Rapa Nui, or Easter Island. The Moai were carved sometime between 1250 and 1500 AD by the island’s earliest inhabitants, and are believed to depict the people’s ancestors, who in their culture were held in the same regard as deities. The Moai were chiseled and carved from tuff, a volcanic rock that is prevalent on the island, and they all feature the same characteristics of an oversized head, broad nose, and a mysterious, indecipherable facial expression. Scientists have determined that as many as 887 of the statues were originally carved, but years of infighting among the island’s clans led to many being destroyed. Today, only 394 are still standing, the largest of which is 30 feet tall and weighs over 70 tons.

The Mystery
While there is a fairly solid consensus on why the Moai were erected, how the islanders did it is still up for debate. The average Moai weighs several tons, and for years scientists were at a loss to describe how the monuments were transported from Rano Raraku, where most of them were constructed, to their various locations around the island. In recent years, the most popular theory is that the builders used wooden sleds and log rollers to move the Moai, an answer that would also explain how the once verdant island became almost totally barren due to deforestation.

3. The Georgia Guidestones


While most of the mysterious monuments on this list only became that way as centuries passed, the Georgia Guidestones, also known as American Stonehenge, are one landmark that was always intended to be an enigma. The monument, which consists of four monolithic slabs of granite that support a single capstone, was commissioned in 1979 by a man who went by the pseudonym of R.C. Christian. A local mason carefully crafted it so that one slot in the stones is aligned with the sun on the solstices and equinoxes, and one small hole is always pointed in the direction of the North Star. Most interesting, though, are the inscriptions on the slabs, which an accompanying plaque describes as “the guidestones to an Age of Reason.” In eight different languages, the slabs offer a strange ten-point plan to ensure peace on Earth that includes vague proclamations like “prize truth–beauty–love–seeking harmony with the infinite,” to very specific commands like “maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.” Comments like this one have made the Guidestones one of the most controversial landmarks in the United States, and they have long been protested and even vandalized by groups that would like to see them demolished.

The Mystery
For all their controversy, very little is known about who built the Guidestones or what their true purpose is. R.C. Christian claimed he represented an independent organization when he commissioned the landmark, but neither he nor his group has spoken up since its construction. Since the monument was built during the height of the Cold War, one popular theory about the group’s intentions is that the Guidestones were to serve as a primer for how to rebuild society in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust.

2. The Great Sphinx of Giza


Sphinxes are massive stone statues that depict the body of a reclining lion with the head and face of a human. The figures are found all over the world in different forms, but they are most commonly linked with Egypt, which features the most famous example in the form of the Great Sphinx of Giza. Incredibly, the statue is carved out of one monolithic piece of rock, and at 240 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 66 feet tall, it is considered to be the biggest monument of its kind in the world. Historians largely accept the function of the Sphinx to have been that of a symbolic guardian, since the statues were strategically placed around important structures like temples, tombs, and pyramids. The Great Sphinx of Giza appears to be no different. It stands adjacent to the pyramid of the pharaoh Khafra, and most archaeologists believe that it is his face that is depicted on that of the statue.

The Mystery
Despite its reputation as one of the most famous monuments of antiquity, there is still very little known about the Great Sphinx of Giza. Egyptologists might have a small understanding of why the statue was built, but when, how, and by who is still shrouded in mystery. The pharaoh Khafra is the main suspect, which would date the structure back to around 2500 BC, but other scientists have argued that evidence of water erosion of the statue suggests that it is much older and perhaps even predated the dynastic era of the Egyptians. This theory has few modern adherents, but if true it would mean the Great Sphinx of Giza is even more mysterious than previously believed.

1. Stonehenge


Of all the world’s famous monuments, none has gained as much of a reputation for pure, simple mystery as Stonehenge. Stonehenge has been inspiring debate among scholars, scientists, and historians since the Middle Ages. Located in the English countryside, the landmark is believed to date back to 2500 BC, and consists of several mammoth pieces of rock arranged and piled on top of one another in what appears at first to be a random design. The site is surrounded by a small, circular ditch, and is flanked by burial mounds on all sides. Although the rock formations that still remain are undoubtedly impressive, it is thought that the modern version of Stonehenge is only a small remnant of a much larger monument that was damaged with the passing of time, and it is largely believed that the building process was so extensive that it could have lasted on and off for anywhere from 1500 to 7000 years.

The Mystery
Stonehenge has become renowned for puzzling even the most brilliant researchers, and over the years the many gaps in the history of its construction, the nature of its use, and the true identity of its builders have become known as “The Mystery of Stonehenge.” The Neolithic people who built the monument left behind no written records, so scientists can only base their theories on the meager evidence that exists at the site. This has led to wild speculation that the monument was left by aliens, or that it was built by some eons-old society of technologically advanced super-humans. All craziness aside, the most common explanation remains that Stonehenge served as some kind of graveyard monument that played a role in the builders’ version of the afterlife, a claim that is backed up by its proximity to several hundred burial mounds. Yet another theory suggests that the site was a place for spiritual healing and the worship of long dead ancestors.


Monuments to Something

WIF Landmark Travel