The flip of a coin……

In ancient times, people believed that major life decisions should be made by the gods. And they devised ingenious forms of divination to coax gods to answer important questions with an unequivocal “yes” or “no.” Although coins—ideally suited for yes/no responses—were first minted by the Lydians in the tenth century …

Why spilling salt is bad luck….

  Salt was man’s first food seasoning, and it so dramatically altered his eating habits that it is not at all surprising that the action of spilling the precious ingredient became tantamount to bad luck. Following an accidental spilling of salt, a superstitious nullifying gesture such as throwing a pinch …

Caligula and foreplay……

The appalling Roman emperor Caligula (12 – 41 AD) had a somewhat novel approach to foreplay according to the historian Suetonius in his De Vita Caesarum which was written in about 121 AD. Caligula was in the habit of inviting attractive aristocratic couples to dine with him. Then during a …

Danger, yawning ahead……..!

  Today, covering the mouth when yawning is considered an essential of good manners. But the original custom stemmed not from politeness but from fear—a fear that in one giant exhalation the soul, and life itself, might depart the body. A hand to the lips held back the life force. …

The worst novelist in history….

Who was the worst novelist in history? A worthy candidate would be a schoolmistress from Northern Ireland whose novels were so uniquely and thrillingly terrible that, in the early years of the last century, she became an ironic cause célèbre among the cultural luminaries of her time. Step forward, Amanda …