Friday, August 29, 2014

Good Luck Files - The Evil Eye Stone

The eyes never lie. The famous saying "the eyes are the mirror of the soul" refers, in fact, to the ability of sight to reflect with immediacy feelings, emotions and sensations, revealing, totally or partially, the character and the intentions of the person we're staring at. The best way to understand who we have in front of us is looking him/her in the eyes. The belief that the eye reveals temperament and emotional experience of people, is known as much as the belief of the eye as "open window to a wider world " , representing the starting point of the distinction between positive and negative thoughts.

The latter, manifested through the eyes, are believed to generate negative effects on those who are the object of this envy and /or hate. The evil eye is the name given to bad luck thrown, through the eyes, at people. In almost all human societies, the only way to neutralize these thoughts is using amulets. Lots of objects have these proprieties but, among the most common, there is the Nazar.

Nazar Boncuk (pronounced as Nasar Bongiuc in Turkish), also called the "Evil Eye Stone" or Munçuk, is an amulet of the Turkish tradition, but is now common also in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Armenia, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq and Azerbaijan, where the is often hung in houses, offices, cars, children's clothing, or incorporated in jewellery and ornaments.

This Turkish Nazar (The word is derived from the Arabic نظر, "sight") is a glass bead characterized by a blue glass field with a blue or black dot superimposed on a white or yellow center. Historically old, the blue bead has gained importance as an item of popular culture in Modern Turkey. The bead probably originated in the Mediterranean and is associated with the development of glass making. Written documents and extant beads date as early as the 16th century BC. Glass beads were made and widely used throughout the ancient world: from Mesopotamia to Egypt, from Phoenicia to Persia, and throughout the Roman imperial period.

Ordinarily, these beads recall the form of a human eye. And that's the reason why they protect people from evil looks or the evil eye. And if a pearl is broken by accident, this means that worked and has protected the person, so the evil eye is gone with the crack in the glass. Glaziers use to search for blue shiny stones for making these little masterpieces, a color that, according to popular belief, have the power to absorb negativity. In our days faith, tradition or decorative taste, attract thousands of people, so it is not far fetched to say  this cultural tradition became an international trend (as you can see in the photo, even some planes have this symbol). They are a popular choice of souvenir with tourists. Bracelets and Key-rings made with these beads are a very wonderful item. A sparkling memory of a holiday to remember...

Monday, August 11, 2014

Did you know ... Why do we Throw Coins Into Fountains ?

Summer means holidays. All of you, at least once, have been in artistic cities. Here in Italy we've got plenty. And everytime you encounter a fountain, it's kind of a celebration to throw a coin into it. People have been throwing coins into fountains seemingly as long as there have been coins and fountains. The tradition all started with water, the essential compound for life . While many people in the developed world today have clean, drinkable water readily available, I'm now talking about the time when this was not always possible . Potable drinking holes in many regions weren’t the easiest things to find. Thus, where clean water was available, many early European tribes believed that such areas were a gift from the gods.

The idea that drinkable water was sent from Heaven remained even as wells and fountains were built. Often, a small statue of a god could be found next to early wells and fountains, turning them into a type of shrine. As you probably already know, presenting gifts to gods is an ancient practice that was usually meant to appease angry gods, or to act as a payment for a request or prayer. In the case of fountains and wells, people would toss in a coin while sending up a prayer. It can be considered as an early version of making a wish.

One rather prolific well can be found in Northumberland, England, and was used to pray the Celtic goddess of wells and springs, Coventina (photo above). At least 16,000 coins from different eras of the Roman Empire were found there.  Interestingly, most of the coins found in the Coventina Fountain were low denominations, much like today where people are usually more willing to part with a 5 or 10 cent coin rather than a full dollar, euro, or pound.

But not always coins were actually thrown. The St Mary's Well of Penrhys in Wales (on the right) called for pieces of clothing to be tossed in. In this case, it was thought that the water had healing powers and that the clothing carried disease, so by trowing any piece of the clothes into it (buttons, pins, fabric), you would be healed. The belief in the healing powers of the Well of Penrhys was very popular in the 18th century.

These days, believing in gods watching over the fountains or the thought that water has healing powers has largely lost believers, but people still practice this ancient tradition. But in modern times, the prayers have been replaced usually with making wishes.

Probably one of the most famous examples of a wishing fountain is the Trevi Fountain in Rome (the fountain gets its name from being the meeting place of three different roads--- Tre vie = Three Roads). The Trevi Fountain was built as the ending point of a 21 kilometer long aqueduct called Virgo, named for the goddess who would guide soldiers to water when they were thirsty and tired. Originally, throwing a coin in or taking a drink from the fountain was supposed to ensure good health. But given the number of microbe-ridden coins thrown in the fountains, perhaps it would be best not to drink from it. Eventually, the tradition evolved to what we know today: if you throw a coin over your shoulder into the fountain, you will one day return to Rome. I threw one three years ago, and I haven't returned so far. This idea was popularized in the 1954 film Three Coins in the Fountain, which also suggested that if you throw two coins in, you’ll fall in love with a Roman, and if you throw three coins in, you’ll marry him or her (idea also performed by the wonderful voice of Frank Sinatra). Since the movie, this practice has become so popular with tourists that it’s estimated that around €3,000 in coins are thrown in the fountain every day.

Obviously, all of those coins can’t just sit in the fountain forever. Romans are all but stupid people... The Trevi Fountain shuts down for one hour every day and the coins are swept out by the Roman Catholic charity, which pays for food for the poor. The coins have to be cleaned, sorted into different denominations, and sent off to the bank.

But those who understands something about hydraulic affairs certainly know throwing coins into fountains isn’t always good. In fact, all of those coins contaminates drinkable water sources. Coins can also clog up fountain mechanisms, causing it to break down. Because of these issues, in some places fountains and wells have signs up asking people not to toss coins in. The tradition is so ingrained, however, that people often don’t care.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Bad Luck Files - Opening Umbrellas Indoors

Probably one of the most international bad luck omen ever known. According to superstition, bad luck will “rain” on you if you open an umbrella indoors. But where does this idea come from? Well, I’m here for give answers to all my Snoopers.

The origins of the umbrella superstition are not totally agreed upon, but most of the historic researchers say it can be traced back to the early Egyptians. Obviously, we’re talking about ancient populations,  so your current idea of “umbrella” needs to be changed a little bit. In the ancient times, the parasol was the main kind of shade-maker and it was made  in various shapes. In some instances it is depicted as a flagellum, a fan of palm-leaves or coloured feathers fixed on a long handle. Gardiner Wilkinson, in his work on Egypt, has an engraving of an Ethiopian princess travelling through Upper Egypt in a chariot (photo on the right); a kind of umbrella fastened to a stout pole rises in the center, bearing a close affinity to what are now termed chaise umbrellas. According to Wilkinson's account, the umbrella was generally used throughout Egypt, partly as a mark of distinction, but more on account of its useful than its ornamental qualities. In some paintings on a temple wall, a parasol is held over the figure of a god carried in procession. So this particular object had a huge connection with the divine, so its use had to be very …VERY CAREFUL.
Back then, parasols protected noble people from sunrays, so its useful skills against rain were not noticed.  It was also thought that, in particular occasions, it would have ward off evil spirits  who might do them harm. But open one inside, or even in the shadows, would have been an offence to Ra, God of the Sun. So this “crime” was severely punished, if done.

Another Egyptian myth was connected with the opposite of Ra: I’m talking about Nut, the Goddess of Night (above).  In the writings, Nut used to envelope the sky after the sunset, just like an huge umbrella. The man-made umbrellas were fashioned with peacock feathers and papyrus, and represented this goddess. The shadow surrounding the person was considered sacred, and if someone other than the actual owner of the umbrella stepped on this space, it was considered a crime against the Gods. Well, it can be very odd to know that Babylonians had the opposite perception of that space. If you’re lucky to touch your King’s umbrella shadow, you’re receiving a great gift.

Talking about odd stories, another probable reason why of this superstition can be found in 18th century London.  In fact, this was the time when waterproof umbrellas were invented and popularized. There was only one little, tiny problem. It had metal spokes. Maybe not a problem for us, but it was quite an issue for Ye Olde english people. These were awkward to open and very large in size, which most of the time caused injuries and damages to the houses, breaking objects and hurting little kids. This if it was opened indoors. So the consequences were arguments among families and friends. Quite a bad luck sign, isn’t it?

Another variation of this superstition, kinda reminding me of a Murphy’ s Law, can be this: “ If rain is predicted on a given day, take the umbrella with you and it will surely not rain. Leave it at home, and it will be raining cats and dogs”.
It’s been noticed bad luck doesn’t occur has been opened outdoors and then bought inside to dry. Bad luck is more
associated with a black umbrella, for obvious reasons, and also if :
- It was given as a gift
- It has never been used outside in the rain
- If it’s opened on a ship or dropped on the floor.

Really weird stories. But I think very ironic. What do you think about this new “Bad Luck File”. Oh, and I almost forgot... talking about umbrellas, I would like to share with you a cute love story between two of them. Here's the link of the Pixar Short The Blue Umbrella. Hope you liked the article. See you soon !!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Random Facts About... Ghosts

This time I wanna give a spooky shade to my article...Surely it's very hard to separate fiction from reality, especially when it comes to supernatural events. I'm not writing to demonstrate if ghosts are real : someone believe and others don't. The truth is no one can be sure of what's beyond death. But, just to exorcise this thought, I will list here some interesting and curious facts about specters and supernatural apparitions. SO TURN OFF THE LIGHTS AND ENJOY THE FRIGHT...

1. Spirits haunt a place because they want to be noticed. Sometimes they only want to tell their story, or simply wanna be helped to pass beyond our world. Forget the usual thoughts of movie ghosts, unless they are evil ghosts. But most of the time, they're just lost souls.
2. Spirits do not always realize that they are dead. To them, its like they are stuck in an awful nightmare. In addiction, sometimes they don't even have a clear conception of time. For all of them, what we call the "actual world" is radically underdeveloped.
3. One of the overdeveloped senses they have is smell. In fact, they have a very profound one. They are often attracted to certain smells.
4. Ghosts can communicate with mortal in different ways. Appearing in dreams, using subliminal thoughts, writing through the use of pendulum of particular tables called Ouija Boards. They can also use others, more scientific ways, like the White Noise and the Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP).
5.  Ghosts are more active at night. But why?  Some people think that this is due to less electronic disturbance and that they are able to produce more energy when not having to compete with various electric and electronic devices. In the same sense, you are more likely to experience ghostly disturbances when your house is quiet. Loud noises make them feel in danger.
6. Animals and children are more likely to "see" a ghost. That's probably because children and animals are the least rational creatures around. To be more scientific, the explanation can be found in the amount of energy they emit. Increasing your personal energy , more spirits are capable of absorbing.
7. Spirits can and often do manifest. Orbs, streaks of light, mist, dark shadows, shadows within shadows, and blurs within the air are the most common. Full-body apparitions are always possible, but are not likely.
8. When spirits are bored, they often cause trouble or become mischievous. But, in other circumstances, they can be quite helpful.
9. Spirits often retain memories and emotions of their physical life. And the memories are associated to "just before death" emotions.
10. Our beloved animals have souls. And sometimes very wonderful ones. So their ghost can "haunt" too. Professional ghost hunters, when they are one of their many sojourns, rarely seek out these nimble ghosts, opting instead for shadow people and poltergeists. Animal ghosts have been reported in many cases, yet they are overlooked. The infamous Bell Witch haunting, which plagued the family of John William Bell in the early 1800s, had reports of animal ghosts, such as phantom birds and vanishing dogs. Again though, in the case of these hauntings, the animal ghosts are just mere accessories to the more heavyweight phantoms. Animal ghosts make their presence felt not just in manifestations, but also sound and smell. It is not unusual for a person experiencing a haunting which includes animal ghosts to hear these invisible animals whimpering, panting and scratching on walls and doors.
11. The most interesting hauntings are called residual hauntings. This type of haunting is extremely rare and it can be defined as a recorded tape, which you can rewind and forward, to play the same snippet over and over again, in a loop. In a residual haunting, the apparition is on loop, doing the same things over and over again. They may even do these things at certain times, which explain why some hauntings seem to be triggered or heightened at specific times of the day. One of the most famous cases of a residual historical haunting is the “Versailles Time Slip”. This occurred in August of 1901, while Charlotte Anne Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain were touring Versailles. They both experienced intense feelings, then they discover themselves walking among people dressed like they were in 18th century Paris. Everything seemed to turn unworldly at this point and Moberly even thought she witnessed Marie Antoinette, sitting on the grass, sketching. It was over as quickly as it started.
12. Have you ever seen two identical twins? But I'm not talking about brothers. Maybe two strangers. Maybe two people that have lived in two different chronological periods. Well, this is a joke caused by one of the most unique ghosts ever known: the Doppelgänger. The definition of this type of ghost is actually found in the name. “Doppelgänger” is a German word for “double goer.” This ghost type has the ability to project itself in more than one place, hence the meaning of its name. As far as is known, no other ghost type has this kind of ability. But the real unique quality of the doppelgänger is that the person it projects to others can still be alive. So it is entirely possible that a person can see their loved one when they are not physically present. Or maybe can recognize his/ her face in an ancient photo of a stranger. Another common scenario involving the doppelgänger is a person seeing the image of someone close to them, only to find out later that the person they saw died at the precise moment their image appeared. The myths of the doppelgänger is that it precedes some kind of tragedy. American President Abraham Lincoln claimed to have seen his own doppelgänger in a mirror right before he was assassinated, and poet Percy Bysshe Shelley saw his in a dream. No one knows for sure what a doppelgänger really is. Theories persist, but indicative of the paranormal, there is no certified conclusion. Doppelgängers may be astral projections of alive people or the actual spirit of the person, recently departed and visiting those important in its life.

The thirteenth fact is actually the only one when I have to put the "DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME" beware. You know that you can actually create a ghost with some friends. The artificial ghost is among the rarest of ghost types on this list and in the whole pantheon of the spirit world. It is basically a ghost that is created from the ground up.This is how it happens. A group of people come together and virtually creates a name for their ghost, plus a narrative for said ghost. Then afterwards, this group combines all of their mental and spiritual energies, sometimes with the assistance of tools, such as Ouija boards, in their endeavor of creation. And just like that, bingo, you have your own, personal ghost. Now this may sound like a joke, but actual serious research and experimentation was put into this. One such experiment by the Toronto Society for Psychical Research, was illustrated in a book, entitled, Conjuring Up Philip: An Adventure in Psychokinesis. The book details the group’s creation of an entity named Phillip using psychokinesis . The results were startling. Not only was an entity named Phillip created, but they were able to communicate with the freshly created ghost using raps and knocks, plus they attained the power of levitation. Well—that’s what they said. They went on later to create Lilith (a Canadian spy) and Sebastian (a medieval alchemist).
Personally, I think ghost stories are very exiting. What do you think about it? Hope to see you again in my blog... Have a good life, and don't be afraid of the dead. BE AFRAID OF THE LIVING ;)
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