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. …

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 …

“Lie back and think of England”……..

This famous piece of advice was supposedly given by Queen Victoria to her 17-year-old daughter, Princess Victoria Adelaide Mary Louise, on her wedding night in 1857, and has since become a catch-phrase for anything unpalatable. But it is most unlikely that the Queen ever said it; the phrase only appeared …

A very short history of the Four-Leaf Clover…..

I am currently finishing off another small book, this time on superstitions, in my new “Short History” series. So I thought that I would share with you an excerpt –  the history of the four-leaf clover… More than any other factor, the rarity of the four-leaf clover (normally, the clover …

A very short history of beans……

I have just put together a short Kindle book on the history of beans. In which you will discover the decidedly odd history of the humble bean . Discover why Pythagarus would not eat beans, why it was forbidden for nuns to eat them, how a fart from eating beans started …