Tag Archives | myths

When People Thought Lambs Grew Right Out of the Ground

The barometz or vegetable lamb. Originally from: Lee, H. 1887.

The barometz or vegetable lamb. Originally from: Lee, H. 1887.

Ah, innocent times past … Matt Simon reminisces about the wonderful Vegetable Lamb of Tartary in his “Fantastically Wrong” column for Wired:

They say that money doesn’t grow on trees, but technically it does grow on a plant. Our greenbacks, you see, are 75 percent cotton. If you haven’t actually seen a cotton plant before, here’s how it works. It’s a remarkable little shrub, with a bundle of leaves at its base and a long stem shooting skyward. And at the top of this stem is a lamb, which swings around hopelessly like a furry tetherball.

Or so goes the story of the bizarre Vegetable Lamb of Tartary. Also known as the barometz, derived from the Tartar word for lamb, this was a useful little creature that Europeans in the Middle Ages–aware that cotton was a thing that arrived from India, yet unaware exactly how it grew–decided was the source of their newfangled threads.

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Myths of the Holidays: Who Makes Krampus Look Jovial By Comparison?

Nyssa Part 1: Loves Notes To A Stranger

Krampus by Alexey Andreev for Nyssa Part 1: Loves Notes To A Stranger

Have you noticed you can’t go far this Christmas season without seeing the krampus, a devil-like consort to Saint Nicholas? All of the sudden, the devilish fellow seems to be everywhere.

But it is far less likely that you have encountered another Christmas-time mythic character, that of Frau Perchta. She makes the Krampus seem amiable to boot.

Perchta asks,”have you been weaving your flax little girl? Have you been good? Are you eating the awful gruel and fish that are to be consumed on my holiday?” If the answer is no, the poor children are disemboweled, and their insides are stuffed with straw and stones. So, you know. Don’t mess up. By comparison to the two of them, Saint Nicholas’ ‘present’ of coal seems benign.

We may wonder what the sense is in these dark figures, during a time that we mistakenly assume should be lighthearted and merry.… Read the rest

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Fact Check: Native Americans and Alcohol

Fritz_Baumann_Trinker_1915As I grew up in a family of alcoholics with not terribly distant Native American roots, I heard a lot of things about North America’s indigenous people and alcohol. As it turns out, none of it was true. I never claimed any kind of American Indian identity, considering such disingenuous coming from a white guy from the suburbs who draws his heritage from plenty of sources both known and unknown. Anyway, here’s an interesting piece about Native Americans and alcohol, courtesy of Today I Found Out:

It is a sad truth that Native Americans suffer from alcoholism at rates far higher than those of other ethnic groups. While many causes likely contribute to this problem, some of those most commonly espoused, including lack of prior exposure to alcohol and genetic predisposition, are oft-repeated misconceptions. In fact, well before Europeans began to colonize the Americas, Native Americans were putting on a nice, polite buzz.

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Everything You Think You Know About Thomas Edison Might Be Wrong

edison-tesla_13

Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison

Was anything we learned in school true? Next it will be revealed that Benjamin Franklin never flew a kite with a key attached to the string in a storm.

via Business Insider

Thomas Edison did not try 10,000 times before inventing the light bulb, nor did he labor in a dusty workshop by himself.

That’s according to David Burkus, author of “The Myths of Creativity,” who says America’s favorite innovation story may have been the result of a tremendous publicity push.

In his book, Burkus debunks the popular tale of Edison and what he calls the “lone creator myth.” His claim? That we love the story of the solo-genius, the starving artist, the one brilliant man against the world — even if it’s not always true.

In the case of Edison, Burkus argues that the famous creator didn’t invent the light bulb so much as perfect it, with the muscle of a massive publicity machine behind him.

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Pacific Standard on the ‘Mystery of John Titor’

Picture: John Titor's military patch.

Picture: John Titor’s military patch.

The John Titor story is one of my favorite modern myths: A time traveler from a war-torn future Earth visits the past to collect a few needed computer parts. Along the way, he offers a countdown of harrowing future events that will lead to the dystopian United States that he calls home, always with the caveat that these things may not happen in this particular timeline. Titor disappeared as mysteriously as he appeared, and to this day, some corners of the internet continue to debate who he was.

Via Pacific Standard:

This is our planet’s bleak future: a second Civil War splinters America into five factions, leaving the new capital based in Omaha. World War III breaks out in 2015, starting with Russia and the U.S. trading nukes and ending with three billion dead. Then, to top it all off, a computer bug delivers where Y2K sputtered, destroying our world as we know it.

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Ancient ‘Gateway To Hell’ Unearthed In Turkey

Ancient oracles approached the ancient portal and received hallucinations and visions from the noxious fumes belching forth, reports Discovery News:

A “gate to hell” has emerged from ruins in southwestern Turkey, Italian archaeologists have announced. Known as Pluto’s Gate — Ploutonion in Greek, Plutonium in Latin — the cave was celebrated as the portal to the underworld in Greco-Roman mythology and tradition.

Historic sources located the site in the ancient Phrygian city of Hierapolis, now called Pamukkale, and described the opening as filled with lethal mephitic vapors. “This space is full of a vapor so misty and dense that one can scarcely see the ground. Any animal that passes inside meets instant death,” the Greek geographer Strabo (born 64/63 BC) wrote.

The site revealed a vast array of broken ruins once it was excavated. The archaeologists found Ionic semi columns and, on top of them, an inscription with a dedication to the deities of the underworld — Pluto and Kore.

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The Icelandic Elf School Of Álfaskólinn

Looking to go back to school? Atlas Obscura on Álfaskólinn, an institution in Iceland specializing in the study of elves:

Some Icelanders take their belief in elves very seriously — road crews in Iceland will sometimes hire folklore experts to determine if certain boulders are homes to elves, and will divert the road around the boulder if it turns out there are little people living within it.

There’s an entire school dedicated learning about these hidden people. Located in the thoroughly modern city of Reykjavik, the school has a full curriculum of study about the 13 types of elves in Iceland. This concentration comes with a set of published textbooks with drawn depictions of these creatures for reference.

The school studies Iceland’s other supernatural flora as well, such as fairies, trolls, dwarves and gnomes, but they mainly focus on elves, because they are the most commonly believed in and “seen”.

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Was Santa Claus A Stoned Magic Mushroom Shaman?

This theory may seem far-fetched but explains all; he is garbed in red and white to match the toadstool mushroom.  Mother Nature Network reveals:

According to one theory, the story of Santa and his flying reindeer can be traced to an unlikely source: hallucinogenic or “magic” mushrooms. “Santa is a modern counterpart of a shaman, who consumed mind-altering plants and fungi to commune with the spirit world,” said John Rush, an anthropologist and instructor at Sierra College in Rocklin, Calif.

According to the theory, the legend of Santa derives from shamans in the Siberian and Arctic regions who dropped into locals’ teepeelike homes with a bag full of hallucinatory mushrooms as presents in late December, Rush said.

“As the story goes, up until a few hundred years ago these practicing shamans or priests connected to the older traditions would collect Amanita muscaria (the Holy Mushroom), dry them, and then give them as gifts on the winter solstice,” Rush told LiveScience.

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Swiss Santa Claus’s Terrifying Alter-Ego Schmutzli

The harsh Germanic Santa Claus equivalent known as Krampus has seen his celebrity rise in recent years, but he’s not Northern Europe’s only the only psychologically scarring Christmas figure. Switzerland’s black-cloaked Schmutzli, also known as “the Whipping Father,” arrives each December 25th to beat and abduct children. Swissinfo says:

Known as Schmutzli in the German part of the country and Père Fouettard (from “whip”) in French, Samichlaus’s alter ego usually carries a broom of twigs for administering punishment to children.

Kurt Lussi, curator at Lucerne’s History Museum, says that the St. Nicholas custom in Switzerland became interwoven with a festival of masks dating back to pre-Christian times. Schmutzli, he says, was a symbol of the evil spirits which these ancient festivals sought to drive out with a combination of noise and light.

He gives the example of an illustration from 1486 that depicts a demon who abducts children. “This child-stealing motif returns again in Schmutzli,” he said.

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Unclear Holocaust: The Ultimate 9/11 Movie

The art group Anti-Banality Union has created a feature-length movie which is impossible to stop watching. Fifty Hollywood blockbusters portraying the spectacular obliteration of New York City were cut up and interwoven (somehow fitting together seamlessly), revealing the meta-narrative running through them all -- the "death-drive on the part of capitalist culture":
Unclear Holocaust is a feature-length autopsy of Hollywood's New York-destruction fantasy, gleaned from over fifty major studio event-movies and detourned into one relentless orgy of representational genocide. It is the unrivaled assembly of the greatest amount of capital and private property heretofore captured in one frame, that, with unfathomable narrative efficacy, suicides itself in an annihilatory flux of fire, water, and aeronautics...We see the Cinema as it really is; an unequivocal annihilation, the auto-genocidal mass fantasy of a megalomaniacally depressed First World.  
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