Written by Jeff Mayhew
Most vampires are described in folklore as flushed and ruddy, with swollen bodies and bloated faces. Often, they can be identified because they're sitting up in the grave.
According to folklore, there are a number of ways to protect yourself from vampires, including the ever-popular wearing of garlic or a religious symbol. You can slow a vampire down by giving him something to do, like pick up poppy seeds or unravel a net. (They're quite compulsive.) Cross water and he can't follow. If you can find the body, give it a bottle of whiskey or food so it doesn't have to travel. If that doesn't work, either shoot the corpse (may require a silver bullet) or drive a stake through the heart. And remember, the vampire won't enter your dwelling unless invited.
Trivia is the Roman goddess of sorcery, hounds and the crossroads.
In Dante's "Inferno" the Ninth Circle of Hell is reserved for those who betray family or country. The denizens of this deepest circle, who are frozen in ice, include Judas (betrayer of Christ) and Cassius and Brutus (betrayers of Julius Caesar).
Abe Silverstein, who headed NASA's Space Flight Development Program, proposed the name Apollo for the space exploration programs in the 1960's. He chose that legendary Greek name because the virile Apollo was a god who rode through the skies in a magnificent golden chariot. The precedent of naming manned spacecraft for mythological gods had been set earlier with Project Mercury, also named by Silverstein.
Some people consider the $1 bill unlucky because there are so many 13's on it: 13 stars, 13 stripes, 13 steps, 13 arrows and even an olive branch with 13 leaves on it. Of course the $1 bill is unlucky - if it was lucky it would be a $100 bill.
The name of the legendary Lady Godiva's horse - Aethenoth
An artificial spider and web are often included in the decorations on Ukrainian Christmas trees. A spider web found on Christmas morning is believed to bring good luck.
When visiting Finland, Santa leaves his sleigh behind and rides on a goat named Ukko. Finnish folklore has it that Ukko is made of straw, but is strong enough to carry Santa Claus anyway.
According to legend, if a hare crosses a person's path as he starts out on a journey, the trip will be unlucky and it's best to return home and start again. If a pregnant woman sees a hare, her child may be born with a hare-lip. If a hare runs down the main street of a town, it foretells a fire. Cornish legend says that girls who die of grief after being rejected by a lover turn into white hares and haunt their former beaus.
Ancient Greeks wove marjoram into funeral wreaths and put them on the graves of loved ones. The wreaths served as prayers for the happiness of the deceased in a future life.
Breaking of a glass is traditional in some wedding ceremonies. This custom symbolizes different things. To some its the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, and for some its the represents the fragility of a relationship.
In Greek culture, brides carry a lump of sugar in their wedding glove. It's supposed to bring sweetness to their married life.
Placing a wreath on a grave is part of an ancient belief it was necessary to provide comforts for the dead and give them gifts in order for their spirits to not haunt the mourners. The circular arrangement represents a magic circle which is supposed to keep the spirit within its bounds.
The Sphinx at Giza in Egypt is 240 feet long and carved out of limestone. Built by Pharaoh Khafre to guard the way to his pyramid, it has a lion's body and the ruler's head.
The Vikings believed that the Northern lights which are seen from time to time in the north sky were caused by the flashing armor and spears of Odin's handmaidens as they rode out to collect warriors slain in battle.
One gift-giving taboo in China is the giving of straw sandals, which are associated with funerals, and therefore considered bad luck.
Crossing one's fingers is a way of secretly making the sign of the Cross. It was started by early Christians to ask for divine assistance without attracting the attention of pagans.
One sign of rain that farmers once searched for was for their pigs to pick up sticks and walk around with them in their mouths.
During the Civil War, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant believed that onions would prevent dysentery and other physical ailments. He reportedly sent the following message via wire to the War Department: "I will not move my army without onions." Within a day, the U.S. government sent three trainloads of onions to the front.
Contrary to popular belief, there are almost no Buddhists in India, nor have there been for about a thousand years.
On the stone temples of Madura in southern India, there are more than 30 million carved images of gods and goddesses.
One superstition says that if a girl leaves her house early on Valentine's Day and the first person she meets is a man, then she will be married within three months.
Less romantic was the old historical opinion that Valentine's Day is a good day to prepare eels for the purposes of magic. Eating an eel's heart was once believed to enable a person to see into the future.
The reason one wears a wedding ring on the third finger is that (tradition says) there is supposed to be a vein which goes directly from that finger to the heart—i.e., the seat of love. Also, not everyone wears that wedding ring on the third finger of the LEFT hand. In some traditions, such as the Jewish one, it is worn on the right hand. Also, I'm given to understand that nuns ("brides of Christ") wear a wedding ring, again on the right hand.
To prevent evil spirits from entering the bodies of their male children, parents dressed them in blue. Blue was chosen because it's the color of the sky and was therefore associated with heavenly spirits.
Girls weren't dressed in blue, apparently because people didn't think that evil spirits would bother with them. Eventually, however, girls did get their own color: pink. Pink was chosen because of an old English legend which said that girls were born inside of pink roses.
The famous Citgo sign near Fenway Park in Boston is maintained not by Citgo, but by Boston's historical society.
In the 1700's you could purchase insurance against going to hell, in London England.
The Aztec Indians of Mexico believed turquoise would protect them from physical harm, and so warriors used these green and blue stones to decorate their battle shields.
Black cats are considered lucky in England.
Long ago, the people of Nicaragua believed that if they threw beautiful young women into a volcano it would stop erupting.
In medieval times, thunderstorms were believed by some to be the work of demons. So when it stormed, bell ringers would go up into the bell towers to ring the consecrated bells in an effort to stop the storm. This practice didn't always work out well for the bell ringer.
No one knows where the expression "to grin like a Cheshire cat" originated, but it wasn't with Carroll. The Cheshire cat is a well-known character in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, but the expression, meaning a sneering smile that shows the gums, existed long before he wrote the book. There is no such breed of cat.
Superstition says that the left side is the wrong side of the bed.
Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love.
The ace of spades in a playing card deck symbolizes death.
The dove is considered the symbol of peace.
The mythical figure Father Time carries an hourglass and a scythe.
It's a myth that owls don't hunt in the daytime because they can't see in daylight. It's just that rats and mice, the main items on owl menus, are most active after dark.
Many sailors believe a cat on board a ship means a lucky trip.
The mythical Scottish town of Brigadoon appears for one day every 100 years.
During the middle ages, it was widely believed that men had one less rib than woman. This is because of the story in the Bible that Eve had been created out of Adam's rib.
The seven deadly sins (sins serious enough to kill one's soul) are currently anger, envy, pride, sloth, lust, gluttony, and covetousness. They haven't always been so, however. Originally, there were eight deadly sins (as proposed by Avagrius of Pontus). The eight (in order of increasing severity) were gluttony, lust, avarice, sadness, anger, apathy, vainglory, and pride. Gregory the Great later decided that vainglory and pride were too much alike to be counted separately and combined them. He added envy. Later still, the Roman Catholic Church decided sadness wasn't a sin, and added sloth. Somewhere along the way, apathy was dropped as well.
Hindu men once believed it to be unluckily to marry a third time. They could avoid misfortune by marrying a tree first. The tree (his third wife) was then burnt, freeing him to marry again.
The Vikings also thought the spirits of the murdered person would guide and guard the craft.
One legend claims stealing someone's shadow (by measuring it against a wall and driving a nail through its head) can turn the victim into a vampire.