Midsummer Is Almost Here: 5 Traditional Ideas to Try

Traditional holidays from ages past that somehow still survived to the modern day have always been a fascinating topic for me. Especially if they’re less mainstream than the ones we’re used to – Christmas and Easter are a bit too well-known, for example, so they can’t really hold much surprise in regard with their traditions. Therefore, holidays like the Cinco de Mayo or, even less mainstream, Midsummer, are the perfect occasion to explore some unknown traditions of an almost forgotten holiday and maybe try them out. Heck – even if you don’t actually try them out – it’s still an interesting cultural trip worth taking. In the case of Midsummer at least, the pagan rites that were known as Midsummer are so intriguing they would make any modern day Wiccan green with envy.

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So, let’s try to tap a bit into this mysterious summer rite, present throughout Europe, but especially prominent today in its Scandinavian part.

1. Try baking a Swedish solstice bread

Yes, it’s a pretty ambitious task, but it’s an essential part of any Swedish Midsummer celebration. In Sweden and the neighboring Scandinavian and Baltic countries, the Midsummer solstice holiday was preserved so well that it’s still a major happening. You could try recreating the event at home: invite some of your friends and serve some smoked salmon snacks, on this very special and authentic bread meant precisely for that. Tell tales of Odin and the giants and drink the night away. You can find the recipe for the bread here.

2. Make a Midsummer bonfire

This should be easy enough. For extra safety, make it as a camping fire; just abstain from the marshmallows or the country songs and drink mead with your friends instead.

3. Make a hay roll with your friends and set it on fire on top of a hill (kids, don’t try this at home!)

To symbolize the setting sun (which from now on will be less potent then until now, since Midsummer means the sun is at its peak) and the shrinking day, European peoples would make a big hay roll for Midsummer, as tall as man, and put it at the top of a hill in the evening. As the people gathered for the celebration, someone was tasked with setting the hay roll on fire and giving it a push down the hill. What ensued was the image of a fire circle tumbling down in the dark, just like the setting sun. As a disclaimer, I should probably stress again that this kind of thing is totally not safe to try unless in a large group, unless it’s a safe environment without the risk of starting a fire around and so on.

4. Make a flower wreath and wear it all day

In Central and Eastern European countries (like Poland, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria), the folk customs from the olden days would separate the boys and the girls until the big celebration with the bonfire which reunited the two groups later on. During the day, both groups would be charged with special tasks, and the girls’ tasks would often include braiding a flower wreath which could be worn on one’s head. Girls would wear them all day, and pass them on to other members of the family the next day. It was believed that wearing such a wreath would bring good luck and health until the next year, and if a girl would sleep with her wreath beneath her pillow during Midsummer night, she would have a great chance to dream of her fated one. If you’re a guy, don’t feel excluded – just make one and gift it to a girl or woman in your life and say that it’s for Midsummer.

5. Make an Eastern European sweetbread with yeast

The good part is that it will be easier to pull off than the Swedish solstice bread, so you could start with this one if you’re feeling a bit oven-shy. Eastern Europe is specialized in sweet breads, based on an yeasted dough, which are consumed especially at holidays, but hold a ritual value in themselves. For example, a bread like this will be used both at a wedding – for being broken into four and then thrown in the direction of North, South, East and West by the bride – and at a funeral, for being given away and sometimes even buried with the dead so they have something to eat on their journey to the other side. To cut a long story short, Midsummer is another great occasion for Eastern Europeans to bake their sweetbreads and you could try making one yourself. An example of an English recipe can be found here (and it’s tested and fail-proof). In Eastern European countries like Romania and Bulgaria, the skies open up during Midsummer night and prayers can be heard all the way up to heaven more easily. Bake the breads and make a wish!

Is Time Travel Possible? What Scientists Say

Since we recently covered the topic of time travel, first by philosophically musing a bit about it, and then by recommending a few nice movies built around the idea, perhaps it’s about time to discuss whether it would be plausible to conceive it or not. After a bit of digging online, trying to separate the hysterically romantic from the scientific, we’ve reached the conclusion that it’s all a matter closer to a philosophical debate anyway. Still, it’s more interesting to hear what scientists say about what would make time travel possible, philosophically, so we went with that. Here’s the summary and prepare to be surprised.

For a long time, physicists (which are the most entitled to have an opinion on the matter) widely affirmed that no, it’s not plausible to assume time travel as a possibility, since time doesn’t really exist, but is more of a human mental construct. Another popular common opinion shared by philosophers, this time, was that even if time travel could somehow be made possible, it would only be conceivable as travel to the past, since the past at least happened, but the future doesn’t really exist at all. Both points seem pretty legit, which is why the issue wasn’t pursued further than this, at least on a larger scale, until recently.

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So, Is Time Travel Possible?

General relativity was the first kind of physics that considered the hypothesis as something worth pondering about. According to this branch, certain types of movement through space could spark up some time travel, if performed in their specific way, since, you know, time and space are so closely sewn together and all. So, to make time travel possible according to general relativity, you would need to enter a closed timeline curve (sounds pretty fancy if we put it like that). In plain English, if you were to move away from Earth’s rotations, at relativistic velocities, and then you would return, more time would have passed in the meantime on Earth than for you, thus you traveled into the future a little bit. On the other hand, backwards time travel wouldn’t be possible at all, according again to general relativity theorists, because that would open the way to too many paradoxes. For example, a minor change in the past could endanger your very existence (or the so-called grandfather paradox).

Newer Views: Stephen Hawking and Brian Cox

However, fresher takes on the matter have been made by contemporary scientists that have gone as far as to deem time travel possible, but only into the future. It seems that the old philosopher’s tale about only being plausible to travel back in time is now infirmed by the newest physics theories. Let’s see what these two prominent figures have to say. Both Stephen Hawking and Brian Cox are a bit main-stream and known as the pop culture versions of a scientist, but let’s not be judgmental since the topic itself is quite bombastic, ok?

According to Stephen Hawking, who draws upon general relativity and the theory about the spatial movements, if we were to build ships which could travel faster than the speed of light, a day onboard such a ship would be a year in Earth’s time. But the motion could only be performed forward into the future, since going back in time would violate the basic principles of cause and effect. He believes that achieving the speed and light and beyond, thus making time travel possible, could help the human race to save itself, by going into our desolate future and starting over somehow (like repopulating a desolate Earth with humans long after we have gone extinct).

Professor Brian Cox shares his colleague’s views on the matter: he too says that it could only be possible to travel into the future, but once one would arrive there, returning wouldn’t be an option any more. According to him, the only thing that could make time travel possible would be the creation of a time machine (which could travel faster than the speed of light, again) and the creation or discovery of some worm holes to travel through. Those worm holes which you may be familiar with from sci-fi movies are defined as shortcuts in the space-time fabric, but most scientists continue to doubt their existence. However, this should deter us from fantasizing: as long as we have scientists as big as these two vouching for at least the possibility of it, the issue needs further investigation.

5 of the Strangest Books Ever Written

It is true that there are many excellent books in this world, but there are as many immature ones as well. Some people had no idea what they were doing when they decided to write their own books, and the result was obviously something similar to the 13th-entury penis doodles on the margins of the Bible. While some literary works capture the world as it was hundreds of years ago, others are complete and utter idiocies that can only provoke humor. Let’s take a look at five books which were written throughout the course of history, which prove that human curiosity has no limit.

1. Prodigiorum Ac Ostentorum Chronicon

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Oh wow, with a name like this you would be expecting some sort of literary or historical master-piece. This book is also known under the name of Chronicle of Portents and Prophecies, and it was written in 1557 by Conrad Lycosthenes, a French humanist. So what exactly is it about? Similar to the Codex Seraphinianus it records and reports otherworldy happenings since the dawn of time. The only difference is that, while the Codex Seraphinianus was a book of fantasy, the Chronicle of Portents and Prophecies was intended as some sort of encyclopedia. Therefore, the reports (which include disasters, meteor showers and floods) also include descriptions of UFOs or sea monsters. There are only a few copies of the book still floating around, and they sell for thousands of  dollars.

2. The Rohonc Codex

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One of the most fascinating books in existence today is the Rohonc Codex. Nobody knows what it means, or where it comes from. All we know is that the manuscript for the book was donated to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in the 19th century. The book was never deciphered because nobody could figure out in what alphabet it was written. While most alphabets contain approx. 20-40 characters, the Rohonc Codex has approximately 200 separate symbols on nearly 450 pages. Some people believe it to be a hoax, while others are still trying to decipher it. We may never know the truth.

3. The Smithfield Decretals

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This strange book is also known under the name of Decretals of Gregory IX and it is a collection of canonical law. It was commissioned in the 13th century by Pope Gregory IX. This type of writing was fairly common during that time, but the interesting thing about this one was the images that accompanied the book. There is nothing strange about them being handmade and having flowery calligraphy that takes a tone of time to make. The vast majority of religious texts were made this way. The illuminated manuscript had photos that didn’t really work with the theme of the book. Just take a look at one of them (the one featured). Besides this type of image there were giant rabbits decapitating people, geese lynching a wolf, unicorns and many more.

4. The Ripley Scrolls

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The last mention in our list of strangest books in history is The Ripley Scrolls. At some point in his life, Isaac Newton abandoned logic and started exploring the mystical world of alchemy. To help his studies he turned to the works of Sir George Ripley, a 15th century writer who produced some of the most important alchemy works. However, his most popular work was known as the Ripley Scrolls. The original manuscript was lost in time, but many artists recreated it. At the moment there are 23 reproductions, each slightly different from the other. Within this picture-book there is also the recipe for concocting the Philosopher’s Stone, which supposedly turns lead into gold.

This was our countdown of the strangest books in history. We hope you found the information interesting. Stay tuned for more bizarre news!

The World’s Strangest Pregnancies and Pregnancy Photos

When you are pregnant it is one of the most special and memorable periods in your life. If we’re being honest it can also be a little weird. Here are some of the strangest pregnancies and pregnancy photos ever.

The Oldest Mother

The World’s Strangest Pregnancies and Pregnancy Photos

Indian lady Rajo Devi Lohan is nothing if not a trier. She got married in 1943 and she and her husband immediately set about trying to have a baby. The years passed and before they knew it was the 21st century and they were still childless. She finally got pregnant and had a baby at the end of 2008, at the age of 70. She claimed that she was then going to try for a second child, although I haven’t been able to find any updates on her story since then.

The Judo Pregnancy

The World’s Strangest Pregnancies and Pregnancy Photos

What’s going on in this strange pregnancy photo then? I can see some obscenely large flowers and I can see a pregnant woman in a judo outfit. Actually, it might be a karate outfit or a taekwondo one for all I know. The important thing is that the bloody flowers are trying to attack her. Thankfully, the charming chap is there to protect her and the unborn baby.

The Youngest Mother

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So, if the older mother in the world ever was aged 70 what age was the youngest? Would you believe that Lina Medina gave birth at the age of 5? The Peruvian girl gave birth to a healthy boy in 1939, becoming the youngest confirmed mother ever. No one knows how she became pregnant. Her father was initially held on child abuse charges but later released when no evidence was found.

The Utterly Weird Cat Photo

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Is this happy couple of parents-to-be really dressed up as cats? I think I can make out the phrase The Circle of Life on Mum’s upper chest. So, it’s a Lion King thing, then? As long as they don’t call their kid Hakuna Matata things should work out ok in the end.

The Most Pregnancies

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How many children do you think were born to the world’s most prolific mother? 20? 30? Keep going, buddy. 40? 50? Almost there now. We don’t know the name of the lady but we do know that she was the wife of a randy chap called Feodor Vassilyev. Between the years 1725 and 1765 this lady gave birth to an incredible 69 children. She was only actually pregnant 27 times. Ha, only 27 times. She had 16 pairs of twins. 7 lots of triplets and 4 bunches of quadruplets. Incredibly, good old Mr Vassilyev then had 18 more children with his second wife. Some people doubt that this story is true bit it has made it into the Guinness Book of Records as the record for the most prolific mother and one of the strangest pregnancy stories.

The Longest Time Difference Between Pregnancies

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You know how it is when you have one baby and you decide you want another right away? Sure you do. Elizabeth Ann Buttle knows too. It’s just that life kind of got in the way of her second pregnancy. Her first kid was born in 1956 and her second in 1997, a mere 41 years later.

5 Extreme Body Modification Examples

There are many ways to stand out from the crowd, ranging from being mildly extravagant to actually breaking the norm to such a degree that social reintegration can be problematic. The people who want to take a break from being a part of the regular and boring part of society usually see subcultures as a way out of the mass. But even this solution can take numerous forms, since there are plenty of different subcultures out there. The nonconformist individual can join a hippy commune to live in harmony with nature and craft things, for example, or can choose something a bit more… extreme.

Extreme body modifications don’t require their fans to go away from within the large part of society and lead a secluded life like hippie commune inhabitants do, quite on the contrary. What would be the point of going away in a place inhabited by like-minded individuals if there’s no one there to shock, right? We’re not talking here about a few tattoos or piercings (which have become adorably accepted and quite mainstream in recent years), but we’re talking about truly extreme body modifications. And here’s exactly why they’re called extreme.

1. Forked tongue

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This type of body modification has begun to show up at the end of the 90s and nowadays it’s considered among the most common (of the extreme ones, mind you) by enthusiasts. It involves a procedure to surgically cut the tongue from its tip and on, as far back as the tongue’s base, creating a double end or the fork effect. Only oral and plastic surgeons are licensed to do it, but it can also be done in various shady establishments for body modifications by unlicensed individuals as well. This procedure is reversible, but the procedure required for that may be even more painful than the first one.

2. The Lizardman

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Eric Sprague, nicknamed the Lizardman for obvious reasons, is a 38 year-old performance artist living in Austin, Texas. Over the years, he underwent many body modification procedures (including the tongue forking presented above) in order to resemble a lizard as much as possible. These included piercings, all over body tattoos, as well as 5 ridges implanted over each eye (noticeable in the photo). The earrings he is displaying are inspired by a native African custom performed by quite a few tribes, which insert such plate-like earrings in the ear-lobes and/or bottom lips of young females in order to create a larger and larger gap over time.

3. Corset piercing

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Returning to extreme body modifications, this one is real pretty. It’s usually popular among women and it consists of two rows of evenly distributed surface piercings, usually done in symmetrical rows, meant to emulate the rings sustaining the back lacing of a corset. After getting the piercings done, the wearer can insert a lace string through them to create the corset effect (pictured here).

4. Stalking Cat

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Another fan of extreme body modifications that made everything possible to look more and more like the animal of his choosing, Daniel Avner usually goes by the nickname of “Stalking Cat”. Just like his fellow artist Lizardman, his public appearances to tattoo and piercing conventions are received with much enthusiasm by his fans and body modification enthusiasts in general. Beside extensive tattooing, he made a cleft into his upper lip, got his nasal septum surgically altered and replaced his teeth with fang insertions. His ears have also been modified into feline-like tips and he has been given eyebrow implants as well.

5. Horn implants

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These implants go under the skin on one’s forehead in order to create the impression of horns and to give the wearer a devil-like appearance. They usually go hand in hand with at least a couple of other body modifications, as pictured above. The photograph depicts a member of the extreme body modification community known as “Vampire woman” and, as you can notice, horns are far from being the only thing she’s altered about herself. As a funny and unexpected background detail, she is trained lawyer, hailing from a deeply religious family, and she was married at the age of 17. She became a tattoo artist after years of suffering domestic abuse and she says that the horns are meant to be a symbol of her strength, being implanted without any anesthesia. Pretty impressive turn-around, right?