Vulcanalia: appeasing the God of fire

In ancient Rome, Vulcan (or Volcanus) was well known as the god of fire, both beneficial and hindering fire, particularly in its destructive aspects as volcanoes. Similar to the Greek Hephaestus, he was a god of the forge, and renowned for his metalworking skills, and he is portrayed as being lame. He was patron also of those occupations having to do with ovens such as cooks, bakers, pastry makers and pizza makers. Vulcan is one of the oldest of the Roman gods, and his origins can be traced back to…

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The mystery of Lady Dai, one of the world’s most preserved mummies

Despite her quite macabre appearance, Lady Dai is considered to be one of the world’s best preserved mummies. If others tend to crumble at the slightest movement, she is so well-kept that doctors were even able to perform an autopsy more than 2,100 years after her death, probably the most complete medical profile ever compiled on an ancient individual! But not only, as they were able to reconstruct her death, as well as her life, even determining her blood type, Type A. Despite her face looks swollen and deformed, her…

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Thann, Alsace and L’œil de la Sorcière (The Witch’s Eye)

The little town of Thann lies on the eastern slopes of the Vosges, in the département of Haut-Rhin (Alsace). A historic town which once belonged to the Habsburgs in the Middle-Ages, it is renown for its remarkable Gothic church and the Rangen vineyard and, in fact, it is also the southern gate to the Alsace Wine Route. According to the legend, the town originated from a miracle attributed to St. Theobald, the Bishop of Gubbio (Umbria, Italy). In 1160, Ubald (or Theobald) saw his death coming soon and promised his…

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Dujiangyan Zhongshuge: a surreal bookstore that look like endless in China

For a book lover, stepping into a bookstore is always exciting, but a bookstore in China makes the experience absolutely amazing. Dujiangyan Zhongshuge, a bookstore in Dujiangyan, Sichuan Province, relies on strategically placed mirrors and gleaming black tile floor to create a stunning illusion that makes the place look like an endless bookworm’s paradise. The roughly 3,200-square-meters bookshop was designed by Li Xiang, founder of Shanghai-based architecture studio X+Living, and inaugurated in the Fall of 2020. Using elements like spiraling staircases, curved archways and strategically-placed mirrors, the designers of this…

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The Vestalia: Celebrating Vesta and Purifying Rome

Vesta was an ancient Roman goddess of the domestic and civic hearth whose annual festival, the Vestalia, was celebrated in this period, between the 7th and 15th of June. The Vestalia marked a pause in everyday life as the Romans honoured Vesta and purified her shrine. It was also a time to commemorate the benefits the goddess had brought to the city, and to ensure the continued safety and well-being of Rome and her people. Vesta was an Italic deity whose cult was popular in Pompeii and Latium before either…

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Floralia: the festival in ancient Rome in honor of the goddess Flora

The Floralia was a festival in ancient Rome in honor of the goddess Flora, held April 27 during the Republican era, or April 28 in the Julian calendar. The festival included Ludi Florae, the “Games of Flora” which lasted for six days under the empire. The festival had a licentious, pleasure-seeking atmosphere and, in contrast to many festivals which had a patrician character, the games of Flora were plebeian in nature. The holiday for Flora (as officially determined by Julius Caesar when he fixed the Roman calendar) ran from April…

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The Roman festival of Robigalia

Robigalia were the feasts dedicated to the god Rubigus so that the wheat did not ripen too early, exposing it to the attack of the fungus that caused the so-called “robigine”, that is the “rust of the wheat”, a devastating disease for crops. During the Robigalia, which were held from 25 to 28 April, the Romans prayed to the god and made various offerings to him so that she would protect the wheat from disease and make the crops abundant. Its main ritual was a dog sacrifice to protect grain…

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Roman festival of Cerealia

The Cerealia was one of the most important festivals in Rome. It was held for seven days from mid- to late April, but the dates are uncertain, possibly the 12th-18th, with the actual festival day on the 19th. This was the main festival for Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, grain and the harvest, associated with bread and farming, as well as being the goddess of fertility, motherhood and women. Fields and crops were sacred to her. Ceres was also one of the patron deities of the common people (the…

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Fordicidia: Springtime Festival To Tellus in ancient Rome

On the Roman religious calendar, the month of April (Aprilis) was in general dedicated to deities who were female or ambiguous in gender, opening with the Feast of Venus on the Kalends. With celebration of Fordicidia on this day, April 15, all those purifying and propitiatory festivities that characterized the month were launched: the Parilia, a feast of shepherds, on April 21, the Robigalia on April 25, to protect crops from blight, and the Vinalia, one of the two wine festivals on the calendar, at the end of the month.…

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La maison dans la Loire: the sunken structure that looks like the victim of a catastrophic flood.

Known simply as “La maison dans la Loire” (literally the House in the Loire), the three-storey building looks like the victim of a flood that once swept it away, but sometimes appearances can be deceiving…. If you walk along the river Loire, near the town of Lavau-sur-Loire, just a stone throw away from Nantes, are a rather unusual sight: a tilted building located right in the middle of the river. You’d think it was brutally swept away by some catastrophic flood, or something similar, but it was actually placed there…

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Hilaria: the roman festival that commemorated the worship of the Phrygian goddess Cybele and her devotee Attis

In the last several centuries before the fall of the Roman Empire (476 A.D.), Roman devotees of the goddess Cybele celebrated a festival of laughter and rejoicing on this day, March 25. Known as Hilaria, it was considered the day of the resurrection of the god Attis, who had died three days earlier. As the god of vegetation and beloved son and lover of the goddess Cybele, he represented the god-sacrifice who, after dying, rises again (by the hand of the Goddess) as the spirit of spring. Scholars believe that…

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March 17 | Liberalia: an ancient rite of passage

On March 17 the Romans celebrated Liberalia with sacrifices, processions, ribald and gauche songs, and masks which were hung on trees. After the abolition of the Bacchanalia, from the following year these celebrations were established, wild parties (but much less than the previous ones) in honor of the God Libero and his consort Libera, deities linked to wine, to the joy of living and crowned with ivy, such as Bacchus (the Roman version of the Greek god Dionysus). It was not uncommon for a deity to be split into masculine…

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March 14: Mamuralia

In ancient Roman religion, the Mamuralia or Sacrum Mamurio (“Rite for Mamurius”) was a festival held on this day, March 14 or 15, named only in a couple of sources from late antiquity. Apparently an old man wearing animal skins was beaten ritually with sticks. The name is connected to Mamurius Veturius who, according to tradition, was the craftsman who made the ritual shields (ancilia) that hung in the temple of Mars. Because the Roman calendar originally began in March, the Sacrum Mamurio is usually regarded as a ritual marking…

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Salii: the jumping priests of Rome

In ancient Roman religion, the Salii were the “leaping priests” (from the verb saliō “leap, jump”) of Mars supposed to have been introduced by King Numa Pompilius. They were twelve young patrician, dressed as archaic warriors: an embroidered tunic, a breastplate, a short red cloak called paludamentum, a sword, and a spiked headdress called apex. They were charged with the twelve oblong bronze shields with two recesses on the sides, called Ancilia. Among them, there was the authentic shield that Mars dropped from the sky as a gift to king…

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Navigium Isidis: the festival of Isis in Rome

March 5 was the date of an annual, ancient Roman, nautical religious festival called Navigium Isidis, literally “Vessel of Isis”, which was dedicated to Isis, an ancient Egyptian goddess who had been reinterpreted by and for the Greco-Roman world. In the Roman Empire, Isis was identified with various Greek and Roman goddesses, such as Aphrodite, Demeter, Artemis, Tyche, and Fortuna. These complex theological associations were often expressed pictorially, and she was occasionally depicted as a syncretistic deity with the attributes and iconography of one or more of these goddesses. Along…

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March 4: feast of Rhiannon, Welsh Goddess

In Ireland and Wales, the annual Feast of Rhiannon is celebrated by some still today in honor of the Celtic/Welsh Mother Goddess Rhiannon. Rhiannon was originally known as Rigatona (or the Great Queen) and was identified with continental Celtic horse-goddess Epona, a protector of horses, ponies, donkeys, and mules, but particularly a goddess of fertility. In ancient Greece the annual rite called the Anthesteria was held to honor the Keres (souls of the dead), a ritual lasted for three days. Rhiannon is a Welsh underworld Goddess. Her origin is very…

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Ancient celebrations of March 1st

March, spring month par excellence, marked the beginning of the Roman year, which did not end in winter, like ours. Nothing gives the idea of a new beginning better than the blooming of the first flowers, used to adorn the altars of Juno Lucina, the goddess who protected childbirth and brought light and fertility. March is named after the god Mars: according to the legend, Romulus chose to call the first month of the year this way in order to honor his divine father. The first day of March in…

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Anthesteria: the Greek festival of spring and the dead

The Anthesteria, in Ancient Greek Ἀνθεστήρια, was one of the four Athenian festivals in honor of Dionysus, “dead and reborn”. It was held each year from the 11th to the 13th of the month of Anthesterion, around the time of the January or February full moon. It celebrated the beginning of spring, particularly the maturing of the wine stored at the previous vintage. During the feast, social order was interrupted or inverted, the slaves being allowed to participate, uniting the household. However, the Anthesteria also had aspects of a festival…

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22nd February: the Roman Festival of Caristia.

The Caristia, also called Cara Cognatio, was one of several days in February that Ancient Romans honored family or ancestors. It followed the Parentalia, nine days of remembrance which began on February 13 and concluded with the Feralia on February 21. If for the Parentalia families visited the tombs of their ancestors and shared cake and wine both in the form of offerings and as a meal among themselves, the Feralia was a more somber occasion, a public festival of sacrifices and offerings to the Manes, the spirits of the…

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February 17: International Cat’s day

In Norse mythology, Freyja is a goddess associated with love, beauty, fertility, sex, war, gold, and seiðr, a type of magic practiced in Norse society during the Late Scandinavian Iron Age relating to telling and shaping of the future. She was also associated with war and death, and It was said that after a battle, she would lead a band of Valkyries to gather the fallen warriors—or half of them, at least. She would take her share of the dead to Folkvang, her hall in the home of the gods,…

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Appeasing the Ancestors: The Parentalia and Feralia in Ancient Rome

The Romans held their dead in great respect. They were “di manes”, the “good” dead, or honoured ancestors never to be forgotten. As such, it was customary for living relatives to visit family graves on the deceased’s birthday, to celebrate the day and remember the life of the departed one. However, Roman society as a whole also honoured the dead publicly especially in February, that was the month of the Parentalia, a festival dedicated todi parentes or dies parentales, the family dead. The Parentalia was a nine-day religious festival began…

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Fornacalia, the ancient festival of bread and ovens

In these days, from 7 to 17 February, ancient Romans were celebrating agricultural festivals of Fornacalia. It was a festivity dedicated to the goddess Fornax (hence oven, kiln), who ensured a good bread production, but also protector of the ovens in which bread was baked, and spelled roasting began. In the Forum were brought the symbols of the various curiae, which in the period of the Roman monarchy and the Roman Republic were the thirty wards of the city of Rome. Each day the offering to the goddess took place…

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Februalia: a time of purification

The ancient Romans had a festival for nearly everything and, if you were a god, you got your own holiday. February was dedicated to Februus, for whom the month is named, and it was the time in which Rome was purified by making offerings and sacrifices to the gods of the dead. The Februalia (January 30–February 2) was a month-long period of sacrifice and atonement, involving offerings to the gods, prayer, and sacrifices. In short, If you were a wealthy Roman who didn’t have to go out and work, you…

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The tomb of Jules Verne: “Vers l’immortalité et l’éternelle Jeunesse”

The world-famous writer Jules Verne died of diabetes at the age of 77 on March 24, 1905, in Amiens, France, where he was buried in the Cimetière de la Madeleine. Two years after his death, a sculpture entitled “Vers l ‘Immortalité et l’ Eternelle Jeunesse” (Towards immortality and eternal youth) was named after him, positioned on top of his tomb. Designed and built by sculptor Albert Roze using the writer’s actual death mask, the statue shows the figure of Jules Verne breaking the tomb lid and gloriously emerging from his…

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January 11: Iuturnalia in honor of Juturna, goddess of the springs

The 11th January is the day in honor of Juturna, born as a nymph of the sources and later became a true goddess of the springs, ponds and streams. On this day the Vestals drew water from her sacred spring which they would then use in lustration rituals. In honor of the nymph, wreaths of flowers were thrown into the springs and fountains, whose waters were considered sacred. According to Plutarch and Gellius, her name derived from the verb “iuvare” (to benefit), because pure waters are beneficial for human beings.…

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The legend of the ghost playing the bagpipe at Edinburgh Castle

Every self-respecting Scottish castle has its own ghost, whether scary or melancholy, based on the history of each individual manor. In Edinburgh Castle, the best known in Scotland, a ghost (and maybe even more than one) could not be missing. As story goes, on a summer night of an unspecified year a few centuries ago, a red-haired boy dressed in a worn kilt probably left by his father, and with even more worn-out shoes, was chosen for a mission that did not seem so dangerous. The access to numerous tunnels…

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The stunning statue on the tomb of the legendary Maid Marian

Little Dunmow Church, St Mary, is one of the oldest buildings in Essex, England. The building was originally the chapel of the lady of an Augustinian convent of the 12th century, and inside there is an alabaster tomb depicting one of the most famous women in British history, Maid Marian. Legendary companion of Robin Hood, the literary character was actually inspired by the life and legends surrounding the daughter of a 13th-century Essex baron, Matilda Fitzwalter. Born in the late 12th century, Matilda was the daughter of Robert, Baron Fitzwalter,…

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KNOxOUT, the mural in Warsaw that absorbs as much pollution as 780 Trees

Who would have though that simply painting a mural on the side of a regular building would have the same pollution-cleaning effect as planting 780 trees? Organized by the sportswear company Converse as part of their City-Forests campaign, the latest mural in Warsaw, Poland, is not only an aesthetically pleasing artwork, but also an ingenious way to tackle a hot-topic as urban pollution. Painted using photocatalytic paint with titanium dioxide, on a building that faces the busy metro station Politechnika, the ingenious mural reportedly attracts airborne pollutants before converting them…

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Memorial to the victims of the Baquet Theatre fire of 1888 at the Cemitério de Agramonte of Porto, Portugal

Sometimes, a visit to an old historic cemetery can provide an insight into the history of the city in which it is located. It is the case of Agramonte Cemetery, located in the city of Porto, that also houses one of Portugal’s most important collections of sculptures. Agramonte was created in a hurry in 1855, as an appropriate burial site was urgently needed for the victims of a sizeable cholera epidemic. Subsequently, in 1869, the cemetery was restructured and incorporated private cemeteries that were run by various Brotherhoods within the…

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Mabon (?) and the Autumn Equinox

Not everyone knows that the Wheel of the Year is a set of eight seasonal celebrations spaced approximately 6-7 weeks apart through the year, which mark a combination of Solstices, Equinoxes and old British Agricultural festivals. The Autumn Equinox is one of these festivals, celebrated in the Northern Hemisphere somewhere around the 21st of September, and around March 21 below the equator. This festival is usually understood to mark a time of balance and reflection and a time when light and dark are equal in measure in the day (which…

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