Sunday, June 29, 2014
Diana Alive Hours Before She Died
Republicans Turned By Size Of Obama's Package
Bugs Fly Around With Wings Called Flying Bugs
Tiger Woods Plays With Own Balls, Nike Says
Statistics Show Teen Pregnancy Drops Off Significantly After 25
Federal Agents Raid Gun Shop, Find Weapons
Marijuana Issue Sent To Joint Committee
Homicide Victims Rarely Talk to Police
17 Remain Dead In Morgue After Shooting Spree
Bridges Help People Cross Rivers
Worker Suffers Leg Pain After Crane Drops 800-Pound Ball on His Head
City Unsure Why Sewer Smells
Study Shows Frequent Sex Enhances Pregnancy Chances
Meeting On Open Meets Is Closed
Man Accused Of Killing Attorney Receives New Lawyer
Puerto Rican Teen Named Mistress Of The Universe
Barbershop Singers Bring Joy To School For The Deaf
Hospitals Resort To Hiring Doctors
New Sick Policy Requires Two Day Notice
Man With 8 DUIs Blames Drinking Problem
Starvation Can Lead To Health Problems
Parents Keep Kids Home To Protest School Closure
Total Lunar Eclipse To Be Broadcast Live On Northwoods Public Radio
Miracle Cure Kills Fifth Patient
The Bra Celebrates A Pair of Milestone This Year
In the past two years, more than 100,000 Muslims in the mostly Buddhist nation of Myanmar (aka: Burma) have left their homes out of fear of mobs, violence and assaults. Some have been forced into isolated makeshift camps while others have made the dangerous trek across the border to Thailand, Malaysia and Bangladesh in search of safety and a source of income. Hundreds have been killed and many more have been detained.
These Muslims are Rohingyas, members of an ethnic group that the United Nations considers one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. There are about 1.3 million Rohingyas in Myanmar, most of whom live in the country’s Rakhine State, also known under its colonial name Arakan. The group is named after the language it speaks.
Since the spring of 2012, Buddhist extremists have renewed a push to drive the Muslim group out of Myanmar, using ruthless tactics and brutal violence. Tomás Ojea Quintana, a former United Nations' special reporter on human rights for Myanmar, said recently that the systematic violence against the Royhingya may amount to crimes against humanity.
Myanmar’s rulers have gained international praise in recent years for democratizing the country and releasing hundreds of political prisoners after five decades of authoritarian rule. While the elected government of President Thein Sein has denounced the violence against the Rohingya and promised to take action against those seeking conflict, he has also said they are not citizens of Myanmar and should be placed in U.N. refugee camps or move to countries that are willing to accept them.
In 1982, Myanmar approved a law that restricted citizenship to members of the country's "national races," a categorization that does not include Rohingya Muslims. They are therefore deprived of many essential rights, such as the right to work, travel, marry and bear children without permission.
A 2014 report by Fortify Rights, a nonprofit human rights organization, says that Rohingya couples cannot live together unless they are married and need the authorities’ permission to actually get married. Since 2005, a strict two-child policy has been enforced for members of the group, and childbirth out of wedlock is prohibited. And, Rohingyas can only travel between townships with permission from local authorities and are rarely allowed to leave the state.
The Rohingya say that their origins lie in western Myanmar and that members of the group have lived in the area for hundreds of years, but many Buddhists maintain that they immigrated illegally from mostly Muslim Bangladesh during the British colonial period.As a result, the national government, local authorities in Rakhine State and Myanmar's 969 Movement, a popular radical Buddhist organization that includes some monks, argue that the Rohingya have no right to reside in Myanmar. In addition, they say they feel threatened by the group's growing numbers and believe that Muslims are plotting to take over the Buddhist-majority country. Experts say that this is a widespread belief in the country even though it may seem unreasonable, given that 89 percent of Myanmar’s approximately 55 million residents are Buddhist and only 4 percent are Muslim. Nevertheless, the 969 Movement has massive support and few moderate Buddhist leaders or national politicians have dared to speak out against its radical beliefs. The International Crisis Group said in an October, 2013, report that the people's hatred for the Rohingya stems from "considerable pent-up frustration and anger under years of authoritarianism that are now being directed towards Muslims by a populist political force that cloaks itself in religious respectability and moral authority."
However, anti-Muslim sentiment has a long history in Myanmar, dating back to the colonial period when large numbers of Indians followed the British into the country. Many of them were Muslims, although Hindus and members of other religions moved in as well. Tensions between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State became violent for the first time during World War II, when the Rohingya supported the country's colonial rulers and the Buddhists sided with Japanese invaders. Violence and repression flared in the decades that followed and intensified in earnest in the spring of 2012. The rape of a Buddhist girl by several Muslim men set off a wave of reprisal violence in Rakhine State, and members of both communities took part in attacks.
Months later, in October of 2012, a new wave of violence by ethnic Buddhists against Rohingya Muslims broke out, this time in a much more organized way. Local authorities and extremist Buddhist monks riled up Rakhine's Buddhist majority, releasing pamphlets that demonized the Rohingya and public statements that called for their expulsion. Buddhist mobs responded by razing and torching Muslim villages, forcing the inhabitants to flee for their lives. More than 200 people were killed in the violence of 2012, and about a hundred thousand people, mostly Muslims, were forced to leave their homes. The majority ended up in segregated makeshift camps, where their movements became more restricted than ever before. The following year, attacks spread to the center of the country and were no longer restricted to the Rohingya community, instead targeting Muslims as a whole. Dozens of people were killed and entire neighborhoods destroyed in two waves of riots in the spring and fall of 2013.
Since violence flared in 2012, some 140,000 people, the majority of them Rohingyas, live in confined camps in what the United Nations considers appalling conditions. In Rakhine, I witnessed a level of human suffering in displacement camps that I have personally never seen before, with men, women, and children living in appalling conditions with severe restrictions on their freedom of movement, both in camps and isolated villages, U.N. envoy Kyung-Wha Kang said in June 2014 after a visit to the region.
Rohingyas are rarely allowed to venture and work outside of the camps, making the community dependent on aid for survival. According to the U.N., the refugees lack adequate access to basic services like health care, education, water and sanitation. One of the camps visited by the U.N. envoy was severely isolated, had no schools and lacked effective latrines because it was so close to sea level. Waterborne illnesses and malnutrition are common in the camps outside Rakhine's State capital, Sittwe. On a recent trip to those same camps, a Time magazine reporter found emaciated refugees and children many with diseases like tuberculosis and diarrhea.
The humanitarian crisis in the camps took a turn for the worse in March of this year, when local leaders forced international aid organizations out of the region, accusing them of favoring the Rohingya over Rakhine's Buddhist population. The provisions that so many of the camps' inhabitants relied on to survive like food rations, basic health care, prenatal care, vaccines, medicines evaporated. It was not ideal before March, Liviu Vedrasco, a coordinator with the World Health Organization (WHO), told Reuters. NGOs were not providing five-star medical care. But they were filling a gap. Of the various organizations that provided medical and food aid to the camps, only the World Food Program was eventually allowed to return. Authorities insist that government teams have taken over medical care from the expelled non-governmental organizations (NGOs), but foreign aid groups told Reuters that the government doesn't provide the necessary care. Pharmacies are nearly empty and some of the camps haven’t seen a doctor in weeks. In addition, many Rohingyas are too nervous to enter government hospitals.
As a result of all of this, the Rohingya have fled in unprecedented numbers in recent years, often undertaking dangerous, illegal trips to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Bangladesh. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNRA) estimates that more than 86,000 Rohingyas have left on boats since June 2012, and that at least 1,345 of those have perished, although the actual number is likely much higher. The majority of the refugees pay human traffickers exuberant prices to leave Myanmar. Survivors have told the agency stories of boats that are overcrowded, lack food and water, and are plagued by abuse and killings.
Even after reaching land, the refugees’ perils are rarely over. For example, in Bangladesh, one of the world's poorest nations, Rohingya refugees are not allowed to work or leave the refugee camps. Those who live outside the camps have little protection from arrest or abuse. In Malaysia, many Rohingya refugees are struggling to make ends meet. Without legal status, they lack access to employment and education. And in Thailand, smugglers hold Rohingya migrants in camps near the border with Malaysia until the refugees' relatives paid money for their release.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Misconceptions, myths and falsehoods exist in just about everything. You might have even been taught some of them in school, but that does not make them true. Here are some of them.
The Official Residence of the Queen of England is Buckingham Palace
The Queen of England may technically live at Buckingham Palace, but she calls St. James’ Palace her official place of residence, and it has been so for British sovereigns for over 400 years. St. James' Palace was built by Henry VIII between 1531 and 1536, and was where British royalty lived until 1837. When Queen Victoria ascended to the throne, she made her home in Buckingham Palace and it has been so ever since. But on paper. the official royal residence is St, James' Palace.
Catholic Priests Cannot Be Married
In order to clear this one up, we need to first understand the nature of the Catholic Church. In the Catholic Church there are sections the most common one is, of course, the Roman (or Latin) Catholic Church. Also, there is the Eastern Catholic Church (not to be confused with the Orthodox which is a different rite). Both of these churches fall under the jurisdiction of the Pope and all believe the same doctrines. However, there are many differences between the two groups and these affect the style of worship and certain rules. In the Eastern Church, priests are allowed to be married; however, a married priest cannot become a bishop. Also, married clergy from other religions such as the Church of England are allowed to become priests if they renounce their religion and become Catholic even though they are married, so married priests can be found in all parts of the Roman Catholic Church. Finally, in the former Communist Czechoslovak, Catholic priests were permitted to marry.
The Vikings Were Blood-thirsty Warriors
Only a very small percentage of the Vikings were warriors. The majority of them were farmers, craftsmen and traders. Yes, for the Vikings who took to the sea, pillaging was one among many other goals of their expeditions. But, that was also true of most of other peoples around the world. For the most part, the Vikings settled peacefully in many places such as Iceland and Greenland. And, they were international merchants who peacefully traded with almost every county of the then-known world.
Masturbation Causes Blindness
There is a popular belief that masturbation can cause blindness. In France it is said it will cause deafness. Neither is true and the idea has probably been spread in order to prevent children from masturbating because of adult religious beliefs. Sperm contains a large amount of zinc and a serious zinc deficiency can cause a decline in vision. However, it is impossible to cause a zinc deficiency through masturbating.
Stonehenge Was Built by Druids.
The link between Druids and Stonehenge was made in 1640 by archaeologist John Aubrey and was a total fabrication by him. Modern archeologists think that Stonehenge was built by many unknown people and the construction took place over hundreds of years. Recent radiocarbon dating of Stonehenge has identified the first stones as being raised between 2400 B.C. and 2200 B.C., while most recent evidence of construction in the area dates to 1600 B.C. which was well before druids occupied that region.
Adolf Hitler Was a Vegetarian and Did Not Drink Alcohol.
This is a very common and popular myth but it is actually not true. What is true is that Hitler did prefer a diet of vegetables, but he had a strong fondness for German Sausage and ham, and his cook in the 1930s, Dione Lucas, said that his favorite dish was stuffed baby pigeon. And, Hitler’s drink of choice was Beer or watered-down wine. All of this was also confirmed by Hitler’s Italian waiter, Salvatore Paolini.
You Should Not Eat Before Going Swimming
There is an old wives’ tale that says that if you eat within an hour of swimming you will get cramp. The Red Cross says that eating directly prior to swimming does not increase risk of cramp at all. However, they do recommend waiting for digestion to begin if you have eaten a particularly fatty meal. They also recommend that you not eat gum or food while you are swimming.
Tarantula Bites Are Deadly
Tarantulas are thought to cause death or serious injury with a single bite. But contrary to popular belief, these enormous, hairy and only mildly venomous spiders, are actually gentle members of the arachnid family. Tarantulas live in subtropical grassland, mountain, and rainforest habitats, and may prey on a variety of invertebrates and even small mammals or reptiles. When a human handles a tarantula, a bite may occur if the animal feels threatened—but never out of aggression. Swelling, redness, and sharp pain may follow, but human deaths are nearly unheard of from both wild and pet tarantulas. Handling a tarantula does not put you at risk of a fatal bite. The greater risk is actually from the spider shooting its stinging hairs into your eyes.
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) Should Be Avoided
MSG is a naturally occurring substance found in things like tomatoes, mushrooms, and seaweed. It was first isolated and presented in pure powder form in 1907. MSG is a flavor enhancer that excites the fifth taste sense umami (the others being salt, sweet, sour, bitter). MSG is to umami, as sugar is to sweet. Another term for umami (and a relatively good description of it) is “savory”. When you add MSG to a bland soup or stock, it can greatly increase the flavor and add a roundness that cannot be obtained elsewhere. Most fine chefs will use natural MSG when possible but many will also use the powder. The myth that MSG makes you ill was created caused by the media which failed to point out that it is used in chips, fast-food and pre-packaged foods. The English “ready-made” gravy granules “Bisto” contains a large amount of MSG, as do many seasonings and sauces that are available at the supermarkets of the world. And an Australian study showed no link and realistic scientific evidence of harm due to ingesting MSG.
In the U.S., Suicide Rates Increase During Holidays
In fact, the evidence suggests that suicide rates in America are lower during holidays (specifically Thanksgiving and Christmas). The real high-risk period in America seems to be April and May. Interestingly, that’s also when Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a major suicide factor, ends for most of the population. In spite the widespread debunking of this holiday misconception, a study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that 50 percent of articles in 2010 continued to perpetuate the myth. In 2012, it was back up to to 76 percent of articles.
A Mirror Image Reverses Left and Right
When we look in a mirror, our left and right sides appear to be reversed, in other words, left is right and right is left. In fact, what has really happened is that the mirror has inverted us front and back. The reason that we think it is a left-to-right reversal is that we are used a person’s left and right being reversed when they face turn to face us. Imagine a person with their back to us doing a hand stand to face us, rather than turning around. Their right and left remain the same but their top and bottom swap. Looking in to a mirror has the same effect. Nothing reverses in the mirror – not bottom and top, not left and right.
Paper Money Is Made Of Paper
Paper money is not made from paper. It is made from cotton and linen pressed together with gelatin. This is because it retains its color better and lasts longer than it would were it made from paper. In some countries paper money has been replaced with plastic "paper" money (polymer). Among them are Australia, Great Britain, Nigeria, Mauritius, Bermuda, Costa Rica, Brunei, Canada, Thailand, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Romania and Vietnam.
Thursday, June 19, 2014
by Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)
Oh, when I flung my heart away,
The year was at its fall.
I saw my dear, the other day,
Beside a flowering wall;
And this was all I had to say:
"I thought that he was tall!"
The year was at its fall.
I saw my dear, the other day,
Beside a flowering wall;
And this was all I had to say:
"I thought that he was tall!"
Etymology is the study of word origins. The origins of common words can be a fascinating subject, one full of history, accidents and folklore. Often, popular tales of a word’s origin arise. Sometimes these are true, but more often than not they are false. While that can be disappointing, almost invariably the truth is stranger than fiction. Here are a few examples.
Assassin n. Murderer, generally somewhat professional; esp. one who murders a prominent figure.
During the time of the Crusades the members of a certain secret Muslim sect engaged people to terrorize their Christian enemies by performing murders as a religious duty. These acts were carried out under the influence of hashish, and so the killers became known as hashshashin, meaning eaters or smokers of hashish. Hashshashin eventually evolved into the word assassin.
Avocado (aka: avocado pear) n. Pear-shaped fruit with dark green, leathery skin, a large stony seed, and greenish-yellow edible pulp. Also the topical American tree on which this fruit grows.
Originally the Aztecs called this fruit ahucatl after their word for testicle. This is may be partly due to the fruit's resemblance to a testicle, but also because it was supposedly believed to be an aphrodisiac. To the Spaniards ahucatl sounded like avocado (Spanish: advocate), and so the fruit came to Europe, via Spain, under that name. Avocado pears are also sometimes called alligator pears. The etymology of this is far more obvious; the skin of these fruits is dark green, thick, leathery, and knobbly, rather like that of an alligator.
This term evolved from the Arabic al zahr, which means the dice. In Western Europe the term came to be associated with a number of games using dice, which were learned during the Crusades whilst in the Holy Land. The term eventually took on the connotation of danger because, from very early on, games using dice were associated with the risky business of gambling and con artists using corrupted dice.
Malaria n. Infectious disease characterized by chills and fever and caused by the bite of an infected anopheles mosquito.
The word comes from the mediaeval Italian words mal (bad) and aria (air), describing the miasma from the swamps around Rome. This bad air was believed to be the cause of the fever that often developed in those who spent time around the swamps. In fact, the illness now known as malaria was due to certain protozoan present in the mosquitoes that bred around these swamps, which in turn, caused the recurring feverish symptoms in those they bit.
Pedigree n. A line of ancestors; descent; lineage; genealogy; a register or record of a line of ancestors.
This word is believed to be derived from the old French ped de gru, which meant crane's foot (the modern French equivalent is pied de la grue). The crane's foot is said to resemble the /|\ symbol on genealogical trees. It has also been suggested that it comes from par degrés, the French words for by degrees. A pedigree chart records the relationship of families by degrees.
British thieves and swindlers of old used many secret code words. One such word was fawney which referred to a gilt ring. They would sell these, saying that they were made of real gold but the rings were not genuine gold. The word phony which come from word fawney and came to be used for anything that is fake or not genuine.
Quarantine n. Any forced stoppage of travel or communication on account of malignant, contagious disease, on land or by sea.
From the French quarante (forty). Adding the suffix –aine to French numbers gives a degree of roughness to the figure (like ish in English); therefore, quarantaine means about forty. Originally when a ship arriving in port was suspected of being infected with a malignant, contagious disease, its cargo and crew were obliged to forego all contact with the shore for a period of around forty days. This term came to be known as period of quarantine.
America is treating its low-wage workers so badly that it's starting to get shamed by the rest of the world.
The International Monetary Fund on Monday for U.S. economic growth this year, warned of sluggish growth for years to come, and made a bunch of suggestions for getting America's economic house in order including raising the abysmally low federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
"Given its current low level (compared both to U.S. history and international standards), the minimum wage should be increased," the global financial-stability group wrote in its of state of the U.S. economy. "This would help raise incomes for millions of working poor and (help) ensure a meaningful increase in after-tax earnings for the nation’s poorest households."
The IMF didn't say how much it thought the minimum wage should be. President Barack Obama has proposed an increase to $10.10 an hour. If the minimum wage had been adjusted for inflation regularly, it would be , according to the National Employment Law Project. Many fast-food workers would prefer . If wage floors had been raised to keep up with inflation and productivity, then they would be .
However it is figured, the minimum wage is too low and among the world's developed economies. However, as with most things, the point is moot at the moment, because want nothing to do with a higher minimum wage. But, individual states and cities are starting to take matters into their own hands, led by Seattle, Washington (State), which recently raised its minimum wage to an hour, which is still too low given the cost of living in the U.S.
In fact, Republicans in Congress oppose many of the suggestions the IMF made for getting U.S. economic growth moving again, including infrastructure investment and immigration reform. Without such things, the IMF said, it expects U.S. gross domestic product growth to average 2 percent a year for "the next several years," below its historic average of more than 3 percent. The IMF also cut its forecast for growth this year to 2 percent from an earlier estimate of 2.8 percent.
The IMF also called for the U.S. to "fundamentally reform" its Social Security retirement fund.
In 2013 the average American CEO was paid 331 times what the average worker in the United States earned and 774 times what full-time minimum wage workers made, according to a new analysis released Tuesday by the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor union. Chief executives took home on average a haul of about $11.7 million in 2013, while the average employee earned $35,293.
To calculate the CEOs’ earnings, the AFL-CIO relied on filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission as well as the website Salary.com, which provides compensation figures for chief executives for 3,000 firms. Data about workers’ wages were drawn from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The AFL-CIO's figures were in line with other analyses of executive pay. A survey of the CEOs of the 100 largest publicly traded companies by the firm Equilar for the New York Times found the median pay for top executives was $13.9 million in 2013, an increase of 9 percent from the previous year.
The rising levels of executive compensation have been a well-documented phenomenon since the late 1980s, when shareholders began to offer CEOs ever more generous compensation packages, including stock options. A separate analysis done by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute shows the explosive trajectory over time: In 1968 the top CEOs were paid only about 20 times what workers earned. Critics, including the AFL-CIO, say that such plush salaries for the nation’s CEOs are helping widen the income gap in the United States. Moreover, many find the packages particularly galling, since many of the firms with the highest-paid CEOs operate with thousands of low-wage employees.
James Skinner, CEO of McDonald’s, for instance, made a total of $27.7 million in 2013, according to the data. Michael T. Duke of Walmart Stores Inc. hauled in $20 million in 2013, and Larry Merlo of the CVS Caremark Corp. had a salary of $31 million. Those figures are dwarfed by what Larry Ellison, the CEO of software company Oracle and the best-compensated executive in the country, made last year: $78 million.To put those numbers in perspective, a minimum wage employee would have to work 1,372 hours to make what Duke earns in a single hour in his job at the helm of Walmart.
The wage gap is a statistical indicator often used as an index of the status of women's earnings relative to men's. It is also used to compare the earnings of other races and ethnicities to those of white males, a group generally not subject to race- or sex-based discrimination. The wage gap is expressed as a percentage (e.g., in 2012, women earned 80.9% as much as men aged 16 and over) and is calculated by dividing the median annual earnings for women by the median annual earnings for men.
The Equal Pay Act was signed in 1963, making it illegal for employers to pay unequal wages to men and women who hold the same job and do the same work. At the time of the EPA's passage, women earned just 58 cents for every dollar earned by men. By 2011, that rate had increased to 82 cents. Minority women fare the worst. African-American women earn just 69 cents to every dollar earned by white men, and for Hispanic women that figure drops to merely 60 cents per dollar. Asian women are the exception, earning 87 cents for every dollar earned by white men--a sum higher than women of all other races/ethnicities as well as African-American and Hispanic men.
The Institute for Women’s Policy Research looked at a 15-year model and found that women's cumulative earnings show a far greater disparity than annual comparisons. Women’s lower work hours and their years with zero earnings due to family care certainly are factors affecting the report's findings: women workers in their prime earning years earned 62% less than men, or only $0.38 for every dollar men earned. During that 15-year period, the average woman earned only $273,592 while the average man earned $722,693 (in 1999 dollars).
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
A lexophile is a word used to describe those that have a love for words,. Lexophiles love to create puns such as "you can tune a piano, but you can't tuna fish", or "to write with a broken pencil is pointless." Here are a few more:
When fish are in schools, they sometimes take debate.
A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.
When the smog lifts in Los Angeles U.C.L.A.
The batteries were given out free of charge.
A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail.
A will is a dead giveaway.
With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.
When you've seen one shopping center, you've seen a mall.
Police were called to a day care center where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.
Did you hear about the fellow whose whole left side was cut off? He's all right now.
A bicycle can't stand alone; it is two tired.
The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine is now fully recovered.Those who get too big for their pants will be exposed in the end.
He had a photographic memory which was never developed.
When she saw her first strands of grey hair she thought she'd dye.
Acupuncture is a jab well done. That's the point of it.
He had a photographic memory which was never developed.
When she saw her first strands of grey hair she thought she'd dye.
Acupuncture is a jab well done. That's the point of it.
Monday, June 16, 2014
The ancient world had a huge variety of religions. Most of them were polytheistic and have faded away. Their gods, temples and statues have disappeared and their gods barely remembered. It is important to realize that these religions were believed in with the fervor that we now believe in Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Who knows whether people will view today's faith as myths too.
Many of the details of the various Celtic religions have been lost to time, and most of what we know about them has been clipped from Christian or Roman sources. But, we do know of a number of gods that the ancient Celts worshiped. The high god was the Dagda. He renowned for his enormous penis and potent sexuality. Despite being portrayed as rough and ill-mannered, he managed to mate with several female goddesses. We also know that there were many variations in the religious practices of the individual Celtic tribes, that bogs and marshes were considered sacred and that druids presided over religious ceremonies.
The religion of the Canaanites who lived in the area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River does not have a name. So, for thousands of years the only evidence we had of their religion was from the Torah and the Bible because they were enemies of the Israelites. However, between 1927 and 1937, a number of Canaanite tablets were discovered on the northern coast of Syria. The Canaanite religion was a polytheistic religion with a number of deities, the most important ones among them being the supreme deity, El, and Baal, his son and the god of thunder and rain. One of the most popular myths was of a fight between Baal and Mot, the god of death. Baal challenges Mot and is easily overpowered, leading to a drought. All of the other gods, led by El, band together to free Baal. Anat, the virgin goddess of war, ends up going to the Underworld, slaying Mot, and freeing Baal. Influenced by a number of neighboring sects, the religion was slowly eroded by Israelite conquests and religious pressure until it totally vanished.
Orphism, so called because its beliefs were contained in the religion's poems which were said to have been composed by the musician Orpheus, sprang from Greek mythology. It centered around an alternate version of the creation of man that had Zeus fathering a child with his daughter Persephone. The child was named Zangreus, and Zeus intended to make him ruler over the other gods. The Titans, however, grew jealous of the future leader and devoured him before he could take his place over the pantheon. Zeus smote them with a thunderbolt in his anger, and from the ashes were born the first humans. According to the tradition, man inherits the divine soul of Zangreus, but the devouring of the god is similar to an original sin. Man must live out several life cycles of reincarnation before being purified and reborn into bliss in the other world. And, the followers of Orphism had a number of taboos, many of which stemmed from their belief in reincarnation. Meat eating, for example, was prohibited because it was eating another being. Wearing wool was also prohibited, though that was part of a larger belief system shared by several of its religious contemporaries. Pregnancy was also discouraged, as it was viewed as the imprisonment of another soul in a human body. Orphism’s strict taboos made and lack of procreation lead its eventual disappearance.
Introduced by Pharoah Akhenaten (1353-1346 BC; aka: Amenhotep IV) of Egypt, Atenism was the first known monotheistic religion and it was the official religion of Egypt during his reign. However, after he died, the old polytheistic beliefs were brought back. Aten was an obscure Egyptian god and the traditional name for the sun-disk itself. At first, Atenism was accepting of the other Egyptian deities but, over time, they were all rejected. Because of its restrictive nature (only Akhenaten could talk to Aten), ordinary Egyptians retained most of their old beliefs even during Akhenatan's reign which made the transition after his death much easier. Tablets found in the early 20th century stated that Akhenaten had become more and more obsessed with his new religion, especially after the death of his wife, the fabled Queen Nefertiti. He was also the father of Tutankhamun, who changed his name from Tutankhaten after pressure from priests.
Another polytheistic religion without a name was the religion of the Minoan inhabitants of the island of Crete. Their religion had a great deal to do with nature. The evidence of this is the bull masks and horns found during archeological digs. There is even evidence that indicates the ancient Minoans may have had contests during which they tried to chase down a bull and ride it. As with many ancient religions, there was no text and much of the information we have is derived from cave paintings and various archaeological discoveries on the island. The main Minoan deity was actually a female nature goddess, making this one of the few matriarchal religions. In addition to the bull, snakes and double-headed axes played integral parts in their rites.
One of the oldest religions in the world, Tengriism is said to have originated sometime during the Bronze Age (3600 and 1200 B.C.). Developed by the people of the Altai Mountains in Central Asia, it is a monotheistic religion with heavy elements of ancestor worship. It has no sacred writing and much of its origins and early beliefs are unknown. However, it is believed the Huns of the Northern Caucasus may have worshiped a god named Tengri, to whom they were said to have sacrificed horses. Also, there are a number of close similarities with Christian traditions. The most important holiday is known as the Tengrian Epiphany and takes place on December 23. That holy day involved bringing home a Yule tree and decorating it. While it fell out of popularity during the Mongol era, Tengriism is still practiced to this day and there are some politicians in Kyrgyzstan who are trying to make it the official state religion.
Mithraism was brought to Europe from its Persian roots after Alexander the Great’s conquests. Extremely popular among Roman soldiers, it became one of the ancient Roman mystery cults, religious sects which were restricted to initiates and were generally quite secretive. Mithras, as he was known to the Romans, was the Persian god of the sun, or at least the airy light between heaven and earth. There is not much surviving text about Mithraism. Most of what we know about the religion comes from the ruins of its temples. These were commonly located underground and were cheaply constructed. A detail which separates Roman worship of Mithras from the Persian god is that he is often shown slaying a bull, which has led to a lot of confusion among archaeologists. One of the most important dates in their calendar was December 25, which was recognized as Mithras’ birthday.
The Hittite religion called itself the “religion of 1,000 gods” because to its large number of deities, many of which were only worshiped by individual villages. There were hundreds of local gods, many of whose names have been lost and are now only known through images. The Hittites were open to additions their pantheon and both recognized and adopted foreign deities. But, in spite of its huge number of gods, several reigned supreme. The chief gods were a thunderbolt-hurling sky god similar to Zeus, and his wife, a mother goddess revered as his equal. One of its myths is the “vanishing” god of agriculture who leaves the Earth for a time and causes a period of scarcity, much like the story of Persephone, Demeter, and Hades. As the text is incomplete, it isn’t known why the god leaves except that he was angered for some reason. After numerous gods attempt to find him, the mother goddess succeeds by sending a bee into the fields. It finds him and stings him to wake him up, then the other gods appease him with gifts to restore the world to its previous state.
The national religion of the Assyrian people, Ashurism was nearly identical to the older Babylonian religion but with one major difference: Instead of worshiping Marduk as the supreme deity, the Assyrians chose to honor Ashur. A polytheistic religion with thousands of gods, Ashurism contained about 20 important deities, including Ishtar and Marduk. Since it is so similar to the Babylonian religion, Ashurism shares a number of common stories with Judaism and Christianity, namely the creation myth, the “Great Flood,” and the Tower of Babel. They also shared the apocryphal tale of Lilith, the woman-demon hybrid who was said to be Adam’s first wife. The New Year’s Festival, known as Akitu, was the most revered date in Ashurism, lasting 11 days, and Ashur was worshiped during it. The religion was founded sometime in the 18th century B.C. and lasted until the fifth century B.C., when the country of Assyria was destroyed.
Vedism is the religion of the ancient Indo-Aryans in what is now India and was practiced from 1500 B.C. to 500 B.C. It can also be seen as the origin of the modern Hindu belief system, as they share the same holy texts, the Four Vedas, but there are differences between the two. It was polytheistic in nature, with gods falling into two categories: Devas, gods of nature, and Asuras, gods of moral concepts. Oral hymns were extremely important to followers of Vedism and priests played a huge role in the various ceremonies, said to improve the lives of the followers by pleasing the gods. While Vedism did practice animal sacrifice, it was not very common. Milk and grain were used much more frequently. Indra was the supreme god of Vedism, and one of its most popular myths was that of Indra and the children of Diti. After Indra had killed most of her children, Diti began performing magic to help her last unborn son become more powerful than Indra. When he found out, Indra hurled a thunderbolt at her womb, destroying it. And, the impact of the thunderbolt turned the unborn child into 49 demons.
The ancient Basque religion had several deities but it centered on a “Great Goddess", Mari. She was seen as both a kind and compassionate goddess and a wrathful and destructive one. She could just as easily deal out lawful judgment to the wicked as well as cause violent hailstorms for no apparent reason. A subterranean goddess, ancient Basques believed that her underworld home was a paradise that influenced the world via caves and holes. She and other beings were called and the would step into the affairs of humans and eliminate any dishonesty. One story said that if a farmer tried to withhold some of his crops from those in need by saying that he had less than he actually had, either Mari or the would take away his crops and leave him only what he said that he had.
A polytheistic religion without a name, Finnish paganism was the indigenous religion of Finland until it was Christianized. Evolving from shamanism, it shared a number of features with other religions in that area including ancestor worship. The Finns also put great stock in the power of words and thought that both animate and inanimate objects had souls. Finnish pagans were greatly involved with nature and they thought the world was created from the egg of a diving duck. The main god of the religion was Ukko, the sky and thunder god, and his feast day, held on April 4, was one of the most important dates in their calendar. He shared a few common traits with the Norse god Thor, namely a magic hammer, and thunderstorms were said to be caused when Ukko slept with his wife Akka. Ukko’s sacred animal was the ladybug which was known as “Ukko’s cow.”
Superstition: It is bad luck to wear the color blue onstage, unless it was countered with something silver.
In the early days of theater costuming, it was extremely difficult to make blue dye, and thus expensive to purchase. Companies that were failing would wear blue garments to try and fool their audience as to their success, and likely go bankrupt due to the cost of the costumes. The silver that countered it was proof of a successful company, as it proved to the audience that they could afford real silver or they had a wealthy backer.
Superstition: Having three lit candles onstage is bad luck.
Actor's believe that the person nearest to the shortest candle will be the next one to marry or the next one to die. Before electric lights were commonplace in theater, the stage was lit by candles and the candles had to be on the stage, for instance, as part of the set. Logic prevails on this one as with dim lighting, busy people and highly flammable fresh paint on the set, you are running the risk of burning down the theater.
Superstition: To avoid chaos, peacock feathers should never be brought on stage, either as a costume element, prop or part of a set.
Many veteran actors tell stories of sets collapsing, curtains catching alight and other disastrous events during performances with peacock feathers. The feather is said to represent a malevolent "evil eye", that bestows a curse on the show. The association between peacock feathers and the evil eye is best illustrated by the Greek myth of Argus, the monster whose body was covered with a hundred eyes. These "eyes" were transferred to the tail of the peacock.
Superstition: It is bad luck to have mirrors on stage.
The myth is that many believe that mirrors are a reflection of the soul and breaking one can mean seven years bad luck, not only for the breaker but for the theater itself. However, having a mirror on stage can cause technical issues, such as reflecting light into the audience or into places never intended to be lit. It can also be a source of distraction for vain actors. However, the mirror superstition has since been challenged with the successful musical Chorus Line, which contained a famous mirror scene.
Superstition: There should always be a light burning in an empty theater to ward off ghosts.
Conventionally, the light is placed downstage center, illuminating the space when it is not in use, to keep ghosts with enough light so that they can see, which keeps them at bay. This is another superstition with a practical value: The backstage area of a theater tends to be cluttered with props, set pieces and costumes, so someone who enters a completely darkened space is prone to being injured while hunting for a light switch. It prevents those still living from having to cross the stage in the dark, injuring themselves and leading to new ghosts for the theater. It’s also known as the “Equity Light” or “Equity Lamp”. (Actors Equity is the stage actors union.)
Superstition: Saying the play title Macbeth in a theater will result in extreme bad luck.
Theater people avoid using it, referring to the play as "The Scottish Play" or "The Bard’s Play". If the name is spoken in a theater, there is a cleansing ritual one can do to rectify the mistake. The ritual is that the offending person is required to leave the theater building, spit, curse and spin around three times, before begging to be allowed back inside. Other variants include reciting a line from another Shakespearean work, brushing oneself off, running around the theater counter clock-wise, or repeating the word Macbeth three times while the actor also taps his or her left shoulder.
There are several possible origins for this superstition. One is the belief in witchcraft. According to one notion, Shakespeare got the three witch's words from a real witch's coven, who, after seeing the play weren’t impressed by their portrayal. Another says the props master from the original performance stole a cauldron from said coven and then said the witches stole it because they were not impressed with the play. Still another explanation is that Shakespeare put a curse on the play so that no-one, other than he would be able to direct it correctly.
Superstition: To say "good luck" before a show is bad luck.
Generally, it is considered bad luck to wish someone good luck in a theater, the expression “break a leg” replaces the phrase “good luck”. There are many theories of the origin of this superstition of wishing luck to the actors. One is that after a good performance during Elizabethan England, actors were thrown money on the stage and they would kneel down to collect the money thus ‘breaking’ the line of the leg. Another is that when actors bow or curtsy during curtain call, they place one foot behind the other and bend at the knee, thus "breaking the line of the leg".