Currently viewing the tag: "superstition"

Ghost in the Dream

In 1873, a man was convicted of murdering his wife based on the testimony of a ghost. Erasmus Shue, a West Virginian blacksmith, claimed to have discovered his wife dead at the foot of their staircase. By the time authorities arrived, he had dressed the corpse in a high-necked dress. He then cradled her head so tightly the coroner could only examine the limbs. After the funeral, during which Shue acted erratically and insisted on wrapping a scarf around the corpse’s neck, Shue’s mother-in-law claimed she was visited by the ghost of her daughter. The ghost said Shue had beaten her regularly and strangled her in a fit of rage over not making meat for dinner. The mother-in-law badgered the authorities until they agreed to exhume the body. Sure enough, there were thumb bruises and a broken neck hidden by the scarf and high-collared dress. Shue was tried for murder, and the key testimony was the mother-in-law recounting the visit from the ghost and the eerily accurate information it provided. The jury needed only an hour to find Shue guilty of murder. -Justin Kitch, Curious.com

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write the story of a murder trial that hinges on the testimony of a ghost.

Journaling Prompt: What is the strangest story you’ve ever heard about a ghost?

Art Prompt: Testimony of the ghost

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience an interesting story about unusual testimony in a court trial.

Photo Credit: Keoni Cabral on Flickr

Voodoo Doll

In 1942, reports were streaming in from around the world about “voodoo” death: South American Tupinamba men, condemned by medicine men, died of fright. Hausa people in Niger withered away after being told they were bewitched. Aboriginal tribesmen in Australia, upon seeing an enemy pointing a hexed bone at them, went into convulsions and passed away. “Voodoo” death, according to Cannon, was real: “It is a fatal power of the imagination working through unmitigated terror.”… -Daphne Chen

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story about voodoo death.

Journaling Prompt: What do you believe about superstitions like voodoo death?

Art Prompt: Voodoo death

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about voodoo death and the contagious fright involved that caused so many death.

Photo Credit: Davide Restivo on Flickr

Throwing a Coin for Luck

propitious adjective
  • presenting favorable conditions; favorable: propitious weather.
  • indicative of favor; auspicious: propitious omens.
  • favorably inclined; disposed to bestow favors or forgive: propitious gods.

Fiction Writing Prompt: Use the word of the week in whatever you write today.

Journaling Prompt: What things do you see as a propitious sign that things are going to go your way?

Art Prompt: Propitious

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt:Use the word of the week in your article or speech.

Photo Credit: Josh Vaughn on Flickr

On Pilgrimage

Mirrors appeared so magical that they were quickly integrated into somewhat bizarre sacred rituals: During holy pilgrimages, it became common practice for well-off pilgrims to take a mirror with them. When visiting sacred relics, they would position themselves so that they could catch sight of the bones in the mirror’s reflection. Back home, they would then show off these mirrors to friends and relatives, boasting that they had brought back physical evidence of the relic by capturing the reflection of the sacred scene. Before turning to the printing press, Gutenberg had the start-up idea of manufacturing and selling small mirrors for departing pilgrims. -How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story based on something that seems commonplace now being transported back to medieval times.

Journaling Prompt: Do some mirror work and then write about your experience.

Art Prompt: Magical mirrors

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about the history of mirrors and their impact on civilization in different eras.

Photo Credit: Jim Forest on Flickr

? Paradis perdu ? Paradise lost ?

They said the tree of love bloomed in a valley, its roots thrusting deep into the fertile earth, its trunk twenty arm-length’s thick and steady, a shudder of gold-tipped leaves making up its crown. From the limbs red fruits drooped, as large the head of a child. Any lovers that committed to each other in the shimmer of the tree’s leaves were blessed. -Syrek and the Curious Blessing by Sylvia Hiven

Fiction Writing Prompt: Use the first line of the week as the starting point or inspiration for a scene, story, poem, or haiku.

Journaling Prompt: What do you believe blesses a relationship? 

Art Prompt: Tree of Love

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about the key factors in having a blessed relationship.

Photo Credit: nicolas_gent on Flickr

Let Them Sleep Who Do Not Know

In Roumania St. Andrew’s Eve [Nov. 30] is a creepy time, for on it vampires are supposed to rise from their graves, and with coffins on their heads walk about the houses in which they once lived. Before nightfall every woman takes some garlic and anoints with it the door locks and window casements; this will keep away the vampires. At the cross-roads there is a great fight of these loathsome beings until the first cock crows; and not only the dead take part in this, but also some living men who are vampires from their birth. Sometimes it is only the souls of these living vampires that join in the fight; the soul comes out through the mouth in the form of a bluish flame, takes the shape of an animal, and runs to the crossway. If the body meanwhile is moved from its place the person dies, for the soul cannot find its way back. -Christmas in Ritual and Tradition, Christian and Pagan by Clement A. Miles

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story set on St. Andrew’s Eve in Romania.

Journaling Prompt: Do you or someone in your family have a superstitious ritual? Write about it.

Art Prompt: St. Andrew’s Eve

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about some of the old world superstitions that are being popularized on TV and in movies today.

Photo Credit: Annadriel on Flickr

Italians on Comb

The Hebrew for bee is dbure, from the root dbr, meaning ‘word’…indicating the bee’s mission to reveal the Divine Word, the Truth.
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The ‘truth’, a message from above, was thought to be passed on by bees in their honey so that the elect could express the truth in scholarship and poetry. Accordingly, bees were supposed to have settled on the lifps of Plato, Pindar, and the well-named Saint Ambrose of Milan as children… the women of the Ivory Coast and Senegal still rub a baby’s lips with honey as soon as it has uttered its first cry of fury at being born…
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There is still an Eastern custom whereby a spoonful of honey is poured into the palms of a newly married couples’s hands. They must lick it off for each other as a sign that they will now take all their food together, and it is said to ensure that the husband will not lift his hand to his wife except to caress her, and none but loving words will spring to the wife’s lips – not just during the aptly named honeymoon but forever after. -A History of Food by Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story or scene that uses what this reading teaches about the symbolism of bees.

Journaling Prompt: Write about bees and the feelings they create in you.

Art Prompt: Bees

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about the symbolism of bees.

Photo Credit: De Anna on Flickr

The Hunderfossen Troll

In the Scandinavian countries simple folk have a vivid sense of the nearness of the supernatural on Christmas Eve. On Yule night no one should go out, for he may meet uncanny beings of all kinds. In Sweden the Trolls are believed to celebrate Christmas Eve with dancing and revelry. -Christmas in Ritual and Tradition, Christian and Pagan by Clement A. Miles

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story, poem, or haiku about trolls dancing on Christmas Eve.

Journaling Prompt: Write about how your family spent Christmas Eve when you were a child.

Art Prompt: Dancing Trolls on Christmas Eve

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience a touching story about a holiday tradition in your family.

Photo Credit: Jan Hammershaug on Flickr

the gundestrup cauldron

Cerridwen was not only mother of birth, but also of death and transformation. In another legend, she offers Bran the Blessed her magical cauldron, which can resurrect the dead warriors placed inside it. This Cauldron of Regeneration, womb of the death mother, was one of the most famous treasures of Celtic myth. Bran later was transmogrified into the Fisher King of Grail legend, with the Cauldron of Cerridwen recast as the Holy Grail. The cup, as a universal symbol of the mother-element, water, reflects the womb-vessel, and later, the chalice of resurrection, “the female-symbolic bowl of life-giving blood.”5 As for its feminine characteristics, the Grail dispenses both material food and spiritual solace. It preserves youth and maintains life. It heals knights wounded in battle. It radiates light and a sweet fragrance; it rejoices the troubled heart. In all these ways it is a source of solace and spirituality, elevating man above the animal and toward the divine. It is the guiding symbol, the anima, for which man quests. -From Girl to Goddess: The Heroine’s Journey through Myth and Legend by Valerie Estelle Frankel

Fiction Writing Prompt: How has resurrection – physical or emotional – played a role in your protagonist’s life? Add to your character sketch.

Journaling Prompt: In what part of your life have you experienced a resurrection? How has that affected you?

Art Prompt: Holy Grail

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about the role of resurrection in myths from many cultures and why it is such a powerful symbol.

Photo Credit: mararie on Flickr

candle on the christmas tree

Not only at Christmas are ceremonial “trees” to be found in Germany. In the Erzgebirge there is dancing at the summer solstice round “St. John’s tree,” a pyramid decked with garlands and flowers, and lit up at night by candles. At midsummer “in the towns of the Upper Harz Mountains tall fir-trees, with the bark peeled off their lower trunks, were set up in open places and decked with flowers and eggs, which were painted yellow and red. Round these trees the young folk danced by day and the old folk in the evening”;? while on Dutch ground in Gelderland and Limburg at the beginning of May trees were adorned with lights.? -Christmas in Ritual and Tradition, Christian and Pagan by Clement A. Miles

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story or scene that involves a ceremonial tree of your own invention or from history.

Journaling Prompt: What do tress mean to you?

Art Prompt: Ceremonial tree

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience something personal about what trees symbolize to you.

Photo Credit: Christoph on Flickr