By the inimitable Helen King
and more here
Things I come across day to day that are awesome, gross, or grossly awesome.
“the conceptual world of pre-eighteenth-century zoology must-from: From a ‘domestic commodity’ to a ‘secret of trade’: snails and shells of land molluscs in early
have accorded little importance to the orientation of a
shell”. We will refer to this as the ‘Gould hypothesis’.
"If drowning children sounds brutal, then consider the preferred object of [the kappa's] thievery: the human liver. As river dwellers, kappas were thought to lurk beneath the old fashioned toilets that overhung the river and to use that vantage point to truly invade people's private space. By reaching through the anus, kappas could snatch the internal organs of an unsuspecting toilet-goer. Collateral damage in this transaction was a mythical organ called the shirikodama, a little globe that was believed to plug the anus."
"Some authors mentioned a "Pythagorean diet", the abstention from eating meat, beans, or fish. Firenze debated the Pythagorean diet in 1743.
Some stories of Pythagoras' murder revolve around his aversion to beans. According to legend, enemies of the Pythagoreans set fire to Pythagoras' house, sending the elderly man running toward a bean field, where he halted, declaring that he would rather die than enter the field – whereupon his pursuers slit his throat. It has been suggested that the prohibition of beans was to avoid favism; susceptible people may develop hemolytic anemia as a result of eating beans, or even of walking through a field where bean plants are in flower. It is more likely to have been for magico-religious reasons, perhaps because beans obviously demonstrate the potential for life, perhaps because they resemble the kidneys and genitalia. There was a belief that beans and human beings were created from the same material.
According to accounts from Diogenes Laertius, and or Eustathius, it is thought that the fava bean was particularly sacred to the Pythagoreans; this is because fava beans have hollow stems, and it was believed that souls of the deceased would travel through the ground, up the hollow stems, into the beans where they would reside.
Callimachus is quoted: Keep your hands from beans, a painful food: As Pythagoras enjoined, I too urge.And Empedocles, is quoted: Wretches, utter wretches, keep your hands from beans."
In 1847, shortly before 23-year-old Marie Duplessis, one of 19th-century Paris’s most celebrated courtesans, died of consumption, she told her maid, “I’ve always felt that I’ll come back to life.” Her prophecy came true: she found enduring fame in the work of a former conquest, Alexandre Dumas fils, “La Dame aux Camélias” (there’s a newly translated version by Liesl Schillinger, a regular contributor to the Book Review), as well as in “La Traviata,” the opera Verdi based on Dumas’s novel and play.
"In 1802, a 42-year-old Frenchwoman named Marie Gresholtz arrived in London, with her four-year-old son and three wax statues. The son was the product of a short-lived marriage to one François Tussaud; the three Sleeping Beauties were part of her inheritance, left by her guardian Philippe Curtius, stormer of the Bastille and sculptor extraordinaire.
The woman, who would become known as Madame Tussaud, had lived in the company of wax since she was six. Apprenticed to Curtius, she was summoned to Versailles to teach Louis XVI’s sister how to make wax flowers and medallions. Soon she found herself producing effigies of the royal family’s decapitated heads."