Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Good Sense of Nonsense

There are a lot of nonsense stories here in the UnTextbook, and that's because, yes, I am personally a big fan of nonsense stories, but I know there are some students who are not baffled by these seemingless pointless stories. So, in defense of nonsense stories, I offer this article at Medium:

by Jerry Griswold

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Apollo and Artemis

Here we are in the 21st century, and there are new archaeological discoveries being made, like these gorgeous statues of the twin gods Apollo and Artemis that date back to the late first or early second century C.E., almost two thousand years ago! You can read more here: Archaeologists make exciting discovery at Aptera in Crete.


Artemis (back view)


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Wikipedia Trail: From Mowing Devil to the Rowan Tree

I'm not even quite sure how I came across the Mowing-Devil (it's in my Pinterest Board), but it's a wild story, published in 1678: a farmer got angry at the wages demanded to mow his field, so he said he's "rather have the Devil mow it," and in the night, the Devil did indeed come and mow... with a result that looks very much like what we now call crop circles.

So, of course that led to the article about Crop Circles. The term just dates back to the 1980s, and apparently it's pretty easy to explain them all as creations by human pranksters, but some people still insist that they are related to extraterrestrials and UFOs, the mythical beings of modern times. Here is how someone imagined a spaceship creating crop circles:

But before UFOs and crop circles, there were fairy rings, and that is the article I visited next. They are made of mushrooms that appear (naturally) in these circular shapes, and they have been the subject of much folkloric speculation over the centuries! Shakespeare alludes to them in Midsummer Night's Dream, and here is Rackham's illustration: 

To break free of the fairies' spell, you can apparently use a twig of the rowan tree, which has all kinds of folkloric and mythical powers. It can ward off evil beings, and it is called the "wayfarer's tree" because supposedly it can keep you from getting lost. In Neo-Druidry it is the Portal Tree between this world and another. Here is a rowan tree:

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Wikipedia: From Death to Joss Paper

I'm having so much fun reading the Wikipedia Trails that people do for class that I've decided to start doing Wikipedia Trails of my own!

I came across this article because a student is working on a project on Death and she mentioned the Grim Reaper: Death (Personification). This is an incredibly detailed article which looks at personifications of death by regions and by different religious traditions. Here is an image of Death as a skeleton with a scythe:

There were so many links to go from there, and I decided to go to King Yan and the other representation of Yama in East Asia. Here is an image of the Japanese version, Enma.

And from that article I went to hell-money. This was fascinating! It is faux money that is burnt in religious rituals. These hell bank notes have the signature of the Jade Emperor and King Yan, and they can feature images of religious and mythological figures and even modern celebrities.

And that led me to joss paper, a term that is new to me! Also known as ghost money. This is a picture of joss paper that has pictures on it of things the dead might need in the afterlife like clothes, shoes, etc. This is all so fascinating, and I had never heard of it before!

And Wikipedia did not give me the origin of this word "joss," so I looked it up at, and I could not believe it: from Latin Deus!
joss (n.) "Chinese figure of a deity," 1711, from Chinese Pidgin English, from Javanese dejos, a word formed 16c. from Portuguese deus "god," from Latin deus (see Zeus). Colloquially, it came to mean "luck." Joss-stick "Chinese incense" first recorded 1831.