Morbid Monday: Living with the Dead
Attitudes toward corpses and death in 20th century Western society range from morbid fascination to forbidden subject. So it’s unusual when the news reports stories about people who are found living with a dead relative. Typically these tend to be people who are grieving and can’t let their loved one go, or who don’t want to report the death for fear of losing public assistance, or who simply have mental illness. It’s even more rare to find entire neighborhoods that live with the dead.
Communities of people who choose to live among the dead often do so for religious or economic reasons. The Aghori sadhus of India embrace death as part of their religion and rely on human remains for ritual and food. There are also large populations of people who dwell in cemeteries in Egypt and the Philippines for economic reasons. For these people there is nothing unusual about living among the dead since corpses and tombs are part of their communities.
The enormous Olmec helmeted heads. The Olmec are now recognized as the predecessors of the Maya and Aztec civilisations. Photograph taken in 1942. Also, they’re wicked awesome
The brave new world of…2013
You may not have a robot dog, techno-comforts or kids listening to “futura-rock.” But some of the predictions in this recently-rediscovered issue of the Los Angeles Times Magazine largely hold true.
Predictions about the increased prevalence of telecommunication, smarter cars (though ours don’t look as funky as the ones seen above) and globalization all seem to be rather spot-on, considering they were made in 1988!
That said, there’s no way your morning starts out like this:
With a barely perceptible click, the Morrow house turns itself on, as it has every morning since the family had it retrofitted with the Smart House system of wiring five years ago…in the study, the family’s personalized home newspaper, featuring articles on the subjects that interest them…is being printed by laser-jet printer off the home computer – all while the family sleeps.
Photos: Los Angeles Times
Rosary, ca. 1500–1525 German Ivory, silver, partially gilded mounts
Each bead of the rosary represents the bust of a well-fed burgher or maiden on one side, and a skeleton on the other. The terminals, even more graphically, show the head of a deceased man, with half the image eaten away from decay. Such images served as reminders that life is fleeting and that leading a virtuous life as a faithful Christian is key to salvation.
Wojtek (1942–1963) was a Syrian brown bear cub found in Iran and adopted by soldiers of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the Polish II Corps. To get him on a British transport ship when the unit sailed from Egypt to fight with the British 8th Army in the Italian campaign, he was officially drafted into the Polish Army as a private and was listed among the soldiers of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the Polish II Corps. During the Battle of Monte Cassino, Wojtek assisted his unit in transporting ammunition, never dropping a single crate. Following demobilization on November 15, 1947, Wojtek was given to the Edinburgh Zoo. There Wojtek spent the rest of his days, often visited by journalists and former Polish soldiers, some of whom would toss him cigarettes, which he then proceeded to smoke. Wojtek died in December 1963, at the age of 22.
Pictured: Wojtek with a Polish soldier, ca. 1945.
Ancient Animal Mummies
Wrapped in linen and carefully laid to rest, animal mummies hold intriguing clues to life and death in ancient Egypt. One hundred years ago, the many thousands of mummified animals that turned up at sacred burial sites throughout Egypt were just things to be cleared away to get at the good stuff. Few people studied them, and their importance was generally unrecognized.
In the century since then, archaeology has become less of a trophy hunt and more of a science. Excavators now realize that much of their sites’ wealth lies in the multitude of details about ordinary folks—what they did, what they thought, how they prayed. Animal mummies are a big part of that.
Mark Your Calendars for 12 of the World’s Weird Rites of Spring
Winter’s over and spring is here, are you ready for the fire, snakes, and elephant processions? Here’s your calendar for how to have the strangest and most wonderful April and May with 12 festivals and celebrations from around the world.
Phantom islands are islands that were believed to exist, and appeared on maps for a period of time (sometimes centuries) during recorded history, but were later removed after they were proved to be nonexistent. Phantom islands usually stem from the reports of early sailors exploring new realms. Some arose through the mislocation of actual islands; errors in geography; navigational errors; the misidentification of icebergs, fog banks, or to optical illusions. Other ”errors” were later thought to be intentional, probably for financial gain in some way or another. [Source]
The image is of a 1623 map depicting an island called Brasil, or Hy-Brazil, just off the West coast of Ireland. Like many other phantom islands, the cartographic existence of Hy-Brasil was based on a combination of flimsy legend, faulty observations, wishful thinking, and outright mendacity. Its first recorded appearance on a map dates from around 1325. Sometimes fantasy became indistinguishable from fact: Hy-Brasil was rumoured to be continuously obscured by mist, except for one day every seven years. It must have been on one of those days in 1674 that captain John Nisbet, piercing a sea fog, anchored before the island, and sent a party of four ashore. The amazed sailors spent an entire day on Hy-Brasil, meeting an wizened old man who provided them with gold and silver. A follow-up expedition by a captain Alexander Johnson also found Hy-Brasil, and confirmed captain Nisbet’s findings. But thereafter, Hy-Brasil reverted to its elusive self. [Source]