marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

tidbits cross time

According to Herodatus, Thracians shot arrows at thunder and lightning.

A British legend held that ships sometimes heard the Christmas peals even though far, far, far out to sea. This was thought to herald good fortune.

Ancient Greek ghosts would complain that the murderer had buried them, thus hiding their bodies and preventing the full funerary rites needed to escape to Hades.

The East Indian Company rarely let settlers into India. Indigo planters were accepted -- but could not own land.

When Sarah Bernhardt visited America in the 1880s, hostesses were careful to not invite any unmarried women to receptions given for her. She was, after all, an actress.

Qin tombs have careful drainage systems, because you want the tomb itself to be buried as deeply as possible without hitting the water table.

Jews petitioning American courts for name changes during World War II frequently described even distinctively Jewish names as Germanic.

Travelers sailing to India, if becalmed near the Cape (as they often were), might be lowered in a jolly boat to shoot at the birds, both albatross and Cape pigeons.

Samurai played a game to test courage, called 100 candles. You lit 100 candles. In the dead of night, everyone tells a ghost story (supposed to be true), and then blows out one candle. It's said to evoke spirits if you get them all.

Napoleon Bonaparte once told his brother Lucien he was considering joining the East India Company's army in order to win dowries for his sisters.

An ancient Greek formula describes a restraining spell for "unsuitable" skulls. Skulls were commonly used in divination, but apparently if one proved unsuitable, it didn't mean you could just stop using it. It involves iron that must be wrought into a circle shape while cold.

When the elite Patriarch balls were set up in New York City to help maintain the status of high society, their organizer soon realized that because their small size meant few daughters could attend, there was a gap where someone else, who organized balls where young woman could be wooed, could move in on. Lesser balls for the younger sorts were founded as a consequence.

In most cultures with slaves, slaves were not allowed to wear shoes, sometimes by law.

A 19th century British colonel's wife declared that subalterns should not waste the time of young, unmarried women at the ball. They should be allowed to dance with older men, senior officers or others like a deputy commissioner, who could actually marry them.

In the 1950s, planes were usually plain, shiny aluminum, because the weight of the paint was more significant than the extra effort to buff bare metal. (The Navy painted them. They flew in areas with lots of corrosion potential.)

Vikings used raspberry flowers in funerals.

Hittite laws prescribe dogs and pigs from crossing the threshold of a temple.

Romanian folklore held that if someone was calling to you, you should wait until they called three times. A vampire could call you, but only twice.

After Nagasaki, the Japanese tortured an downed American fighter pilot to get him to tell them about the atom bomb. Knowing nothing, he told them they had over a hundred just to stop the torture -- and was thereby classified as a high-value prisoner, preventing his beheading.

The Army and Navy store in Calcutta had a manageress. She would open the store on Sunday morning, and attend the ladies who lived in purdah and came to shop then.

Plato prescribes, in Laws, that a man who claim to conjure the dead and use magic on gods and thus placate them should be exiled to a prison where he would receive food only from slaves (because he would never speak to a freeman again) and go unburied after his death -- with charges of impiety against anyone who buries him. His children should be immediately taken on by the officials in charge of orphans -- IF they are fit to be citizens.
Tags: historical tidbits

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