A very short history of the wedding ring……

  The origin and significance of the wedding ring is much disputed. One school of thought maintains that the modern ring is symbolic of the fetters used by barbarians to tether a bride to her captor’s home. If that be true, today’s double ring ceremonies fittingly express the newfound equality …

King of the colons…..

Apologies for the lack of recent posts. I have been finishing off my new book on Irish eccentrics which will be out sometime in September. On the subject of eccentrics, I would like to point you in the direction of a Sir William Arbuthnot Lane (1856 – 1943) There have been …

A very short history of St Patrick…….

Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was born in either Scotland, England, Wales, or France, but definitely not in Ireland. His given name was not Patrick but Maewyn. Or Succat. He barely became bishop of Ireland, because his superiors felt he lacked the finesse and scholarship the position called …

To catch a Tartar……

While opinions vary about the origin of the word “Tartar,” all agree that 13th-century western Europeans used the term to refer to invading Mongol tribes. The word was actually a derivative of the name the ancient Romans used to refer to Tartarus, the area in the underworld where evil people …

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 …

American football, mascara and the Evil eye…….

A “dirty look,” a “withering glance,” “if looks could kill,” and “to stare with daggers” are a few common expressions that derive from one of the most universal of fears, the evil eye. It has been found in virtually all cultures. In ancient Rome, professional sorcerers with the evil eye …

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. …