In the 1950s, gay men in Britain used a secret language called Polari to communicate with each other and avoid the harsh gaze of the law. Polari was almost lost due to changing cultural elements, yet it has recently gained popularity and is being used more frequently to keep it alive.
Once upon a time, in a rotating chicken-legged hut in the depths of the forest, there lived Baba Yaga, the preeminent witch of Slavic folklore. Don’t let her wrinkled face or bony leg fool you—she is a fierce enchantress, a force to be reckoned with!
In Iceland’s rugged wilderness, legends of the huldufólk linger on. These mysterious elves, said to be able to jump between dimensions, reside within the very rocks and hills themselves—which is why Icelanders are careful not to let American companies disturb their landscape!
When a plan to eradicate cobras in 19th-century Delhi backfired spectacularly, the incident became known as the “Cobra Effect.” It has since become a cautionary tale about the unintended consequences of well-meaning policies, and a reminder of the importance of understanding the systems within which we operate.
Surfers worldwide recognize the hang loose sign, or shaka, as a symbol of goodwill and friendship. But the story of its Hawaii origins aren’t as simple as one might think. Through a combination of language, tragedy, mystery, and advertisements, the hang loose sign found its way into the cultural zeitgeist.
One of Santa’s most intriguing companions, Knecht Ruprecht is a legendary figure in German folklore, attested as early as the 17th century. A wild, shaggy-haired figure dressed in dark, fur-trimmed clothing, he is said to roam the countryside during the Christmas season, dolling out punishments to all the naughty children, while Santa rewards the good.
Dwight K. Shrute: What about an authentic Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas? Drink some gluhwein, enjoy some hasenpfeffer. Enjoy Christmas with saint Nicolas’ rural German companion, Belsnickel. Jim Halpert: Yes! That, that, that! We’re definitely doing that. Are we all in agreement? OddFeed: Yes, yes, a resounding yes!
In the Spanish city of Bilbao, there is an unusual statue in the River Nervión of a young girl drowning. The expressionless face in the famous work of Mexican hyperrealist artist Ruben Orozco Loza has attracted attention and unease. The statue’s deep meaning should not be overlooked.
Can’t Help Myself, a famous art installation by Chinese artists Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, has divided viewers on its interpretation since its 2016 debut in the Guggenheim Museum. The robotic exploration of futility may never be fully understood, but the story of its creation and reception offer insights into its meaning.
The life and works of Zdzisław Beksiński are each engrossing in their own ways. His journey from war-torn Poland in the 1940s to a fantastical style of painting in the 70s and beyond gave the contemporary art world a visual jolt of deformed bodies and vivid hellscapes that were horrific and mesmerizing to behold.
In 1941, Jorge Luis Borges invented the Library of Babel, an infinite repository of knowledge, and a dizzying plunge into the depths of uncertainty and ignorance. Several decades later, we invented the internet. The two are linked—and have a lot to do with several ancient philosophers and Émile Borel’s million monkeys.
In the eastern woodlands of the Canadian North, there lives—in the chill of the air and in the fearful whispers of the local people—the wendigo, a horrendous creature of evil with an insatiable hunger for human flesh. There is only one thing the locals fear more than being eaten by the wendigo—becoming one.
In the words of celebrated neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, the Euthanasia Coaster—essentially, a 2010 quasi-kinetic sculpture—is “not fun at all as art, and is preposterous as a technical device. But it does work as provocation, regardless of intent.” And the intent? A death-themed amusement park.
In Icelandic folklore, Jólakötturinn, or the Yule Cat, is a giant, monstrous cat said to prowl through the villages at Christmas, on the lookout for misbehaving children to eat for dinner—lest they have some new clothes!
For hundreds of years, just before they are visited by Santa, children in the Alpine regions of Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovenia have to ride out the coming of his dark companion—a long-tongued goat-like demon from Hell known as Krampus.
The main difference between Santa Claus and La Befana—Italy’s two most beloved gift-givers—is that the latter one visits children on the night before Epiphany, rather than on Christmas Eve. She’s also, well, a witch.
What do you get when you cross Celtic Halloween traditions, French cream puffs, traditional carol singing, piñata-like sweets-filled barrels, and large, large amounts of food? The answer is three Icelandic holidays, celebrated in the days leading up to Lent: Bolludagur, Sprengidagur and Öskudagur.