Sunday, September 25, 2022


With the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the British royal family is once again in the headlines. I thought it would be a good time to share this list of Superstitions Of The British Monarchy. I assume King Charles III will continue the traditions.

Most of us have our family traditions and even superstitions that we've upheld through the years, maybe even several generations. Ours, however, aren't declared for the whole world to know. But if you're a member of the British royal family, it seems your family superstitions are out there for the world to see regardless of how old or obsolete they are.

Here are some of the weirdest superstitions the monarchy still upholds.

The Tower of London ravens

It's believed that ravens took up permanent residence in the Tower of London back in the 1800s. To the royal family, they have been looking out for the monarchy since it was reinstated in the 1600s with King Charles II following the time of Oliver Cromwell. It's believed that if the ravens flew away, it would bring bad luck. The legend says: "If the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it." There are still ravens that live in the tower and serve as a tourist attraction. There are people assigned to full time duty of taking care of the ravens.

Wedding dates

Are you wondering why it was cause for concern that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were getting married on May 19, 2018? It's because the month of May is considered unlucky, at least according to royal family superstition. This belief dates back to Queen Victoria's reign. The late monarch's line on the matter was: "Marry in May, and rue the day."

(Queen Victoria makes multiple appearances on this list because she was so superstitious.)

 The gems and jewels

Kate Middleton's gorgeous sapphire ring isn't just an ode to her late mother-in-law, Princess Diana. The royal family has long believed that gemstones hold magical powers. Sapphires are a particular favorite because they are believed to bring on financial success and stability. Queen Victoria also wore a sapphire.

The Ceremony of the Keys

Modern security systems keep the crown jewels under tight security at the Tower of London. Even though the monarch hasn't lived there in ages, the Ceremony of the Keys continues its centuries-old installment. Every evening, a ceremonial guard (one of the Beefeaters) walks the halls of the tower and locks all the gates to insure that thieves don't break in.

The monarch's residence

For the last couple of centuries Buckingham Palace has been recognized as the home of the reigning monarch. This wasn't Queen Elizabeth II's official address. Her official residence was technically St. James' Palace in London. The reigning monarch lived at St. James' Palace prior to Buckingham House becoming Buckingham Palace. The first monarch to live at Buckingham Palace but keep St. James' Palace as the official residence was (surprise, surprise) Queen Victoria.

Paying the rent

No one actually pays rent at Stratfield Saye House. This is an annual ceremony paying homage to the Duke of Wellington and the 1815 Battle of Waterloo when the British defeated Napoleon. The Duke was given Stratfield Saye House as a gift for the victory. Every year the current Duke delivers a silken French flag to the queen to commemorate the win, i.e. "pay his rent." A new flag is produced every year and is draped over the bust of the first Duke of Wellington.

The royal touch

Dating back to the Middle Ages, it was believed that being touched by the monarch could cure you of any illness. This act was put into practice by King Charles II, with the belief that his touch was God-given and could cure a skin disease called scrofula. Needless to say, modern medicine has made this "divine" practice a bit obsolete.

No touching the royals

One tradition the monarchy has not been able to shake is the superstition that the members of the royal family cannot be touched by non-royals. This belief dates back to the Middle Ages. From medieval times, monarchs were divinely appointed to rule by God, so they were seen as gods and demanded to be treated as gods. Everyone from LeBron James to Michelle Obama has been criticized for throwing a friendly arm around the royals.

 Searching the cellars

In 1605, Guy Fawkes and a group of co-conspirators called the Gunpowder Plotters enacted a plot to assassinate King James I while making his speech to Parliament. The plan was foiled when Fawkes was apprehended in the cellars below the House of Lords the night before the speech. To this day the tradition continues as the queen's royal guard still searches the cellars for Fawkes.

No shellfish allowed

One of the better-known superstitions among the royal family is that they don't eat shellfish. This old-school tradition, which Queen Elizabeth II upheld throughout her reign, comes from the fear of being poisoned or having a severe allergic reaction. Shellfish still doesn't appear on the Buckingham Palace menu, but some members of the family eat it. (Prince Charles and Kate Middleton are known seafood fans.)

Holding a hostage

Once upon a time, the monarch and Parliament didn't get along very well. They didn't trust each other to the point that the royal family didn't trust the safety of the sovereign while with Parliament. So, in exchange, Parliament would have to send over one of its members to be "held hostage" to insure the monarch's safe return. Even now, when Queen Elizabeth II gave her speech at The State Opening of Parliament, a member still stayed at Buckingham Palace as a hostage.


Towards the beginning of each year, Queen Elizabeth II selected High Sheriffs during a meeting of the Privy Council. This is referred to as the Pricking Ceremony. She selected names from a list by poking through paper with a sewing needle. The origin isn't clear, but many believe this odd tradition was started by Queen Elizabeth I. She was asked to choose her High Sheriffs while she was in the middle of embroidering. She used her needle as a selecting tool.

Anne Boleyn's ghost

Of all the figures in the monarchy's history, Anne Boleyn continues to be the most intriguing. With that in mind, perhaps it's not surprising that the royal family supposedly believes that her ghost walks around. According to family superstition and local lore, there are at least seven different locations where her ghost has been seen. They include the Tower of London where she was executed. Her ghost allegedly walks around without a head.

The royal 'we'

As mentioned above, monarchs of times gone by believed they were chosen by God to rule. So when Queen Victoria spoke, she used the pronoun 'we' instead of 'I' showing that she was speaking for both herself and her divine creator. Queen Elizabeth II used the plural when she addressed Parliament, but to convey that she was speaking for both herself and the nation.

The Coronation

For centuries the royal family has believed that the coronation of a new monarch has to go perfectly without even the slightest hiccup. One mistake can be a sign that the monarchy is in trouble. 

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Say Goodbye To Summer And Hello to Autumn

Thursday, September 22, 2022, at 9:03pm U.S. Eastern Daylight Time, marks the official end of summer and start of autumn here in the Northern Hemisphere—the Autumnal Equinox, the date that daylight and darkness are equal.

This week in my little corner of the world, we've had a momentary brief reprieve from this horrible summer. But, unfortunately, it's temporary and definitely short-lived. The forecast shows the temperatures in the mid to upper 90s with humidity, expected to reach triple digits again by Tuesday. The start of autumn brings on anticipation of cooler, crisp days and the disappearance of the retched humidity of summer. That change to cooler, drier air brings a renewed vigor, a revived energy to replace the lackluster feeling resulting from the summer heat and least for me. (Do you get the impression that I don't function well in heat and humidity?)

Just as I love the renewal of life in the spring—bright green new leaves on the trees, colorful flowers, the awakening of nature from winter's long hibernation—I also love the change of the leaves to their brilliant array of fall colors in autumn. This year has been below average rainfall, so I'm not expecting a very colorful autumn. I recently moved (same city, new house) and now have two large oak trees in my front yard and two large oak trees in my back yard that offered some shade from the summer heat. And across the street from me is a small park-like area of grass and trees, a small 'pocket park.' I'm hoping for some fall color views.

I can say with all sincerity that I'm happy to welcome the end of summer 2022. Oh, yeah…also happy to welcome the start of fall. But it's mostly the end of this year's summer's heat and humidity that thrills me. The summer of 2022 was worse than last year, with most of July and August producing triple digit temperature days and high humidity that went along with those triple digit temperatures to produce dangerous heat warnings. Ugh!

Welcome autumn...I'm thrilled to see you! But, on the other hand, I'm hoping for a mild winter unlike the extreme summer we had. 

Sunday, September 11, 2022

13 of the World's Most Common Superstitions and Their Bizarre Origins part 2 of 2

This week is part 2 of my 2-part blog about superstitions and their origins. Last week I covered number one through six (in no particular order). Now, let's take a look at the rest of the list.

7. Crossing your fingers:

This one has two meanings with numerous possibilities about the origin of the "good luck" version. Some theories say that crossed fingers were used by early Christians to identify each other when their religion was still illegal in the Roman empire, that crossed fingers were a way to ward off witches, and that medieval archers crossed their fingers when pulling their bow back for better accuracy. The other version—the idea that crossing your fingers means you don't believe what you say and are lying—may have also originated from a belief in witches. It was believed that the act of crossing your fingers was a way to swear an oath to the devil without actually giving up your soul.

8. Toasting with water:

Raising a glass in celebration should be a show of good faith regardless of what is in the glass. However, if it's water, the opposite is true. When toasting someone with water, it actually means you're wishing death upon them. The ancient Greeks were the first to warn of this practice, as they would only toast with water to honor the dead. This belief stemmed from the myths that drinking the water from the River Lethe served to help the souls of the Underworld pass on.

9. Being third on a match:

Historical origins for this superstition are set in World War I. It was a conventional wisdom among soldiers in the trenches that if you kept a match lit long enough for three people to light their cigarette from it, the enemy would spot the flame and determine your position. Soldiers brought the belief back with them, but there's evidence to suggest that after the war, match companies rather cynically helped popularize the superstition to sell more matches.

10. Stepping on a crack will break your mother's back:

It's been popularly suggested that this superstitious saying has evolved from a more racist 19th-century version of the rhyme, but historians suggest that both versions probably came about at the same time. The rhyme is likely an American formulation of a long-held British superstition in which stepping on pavement cracks represents crossing other unseen lines that will have bad consequences.

11. Tossing spilled salt over your left shoulder:

You've probably seen some people do this, but do you really need to be tossing seasoning at the dinner table? According to superstition, if you don't, the devil standing over your shoulder is sure to stick around. The basis for this superstition is as practical as it is religious, as salt was once considered extremely valuable—in some cultures it was actually a form of money. Only someone under the influence of evil would waste such a priceless resource. Tossing it over your left shoulder and into the devil's face prevents further temptation.

12. Knocking on wood:

Have you ever told a friend you're hoping for some good news? Or that you really hope something terrible doesn't happen? You better find the nearest wooden table or chair and knock twice, or else you're going to be in for a bad time. That's because early pagans believed that trees contained fairies, spirits, and other mystical creatures. By knocking on wood, they believed these creatures would grant them good luck or even keep evil spirits from influencing their lives.

13. The number 13:

And finally, the number thirteen itself. Friday the thirteenth is considered the unluckiest day of the year. Most tall buildings are built without a designated thirteenth floor. Of the infinite combinations of numbers in existence, why is thirteen so universally feared? Norse mythology is the culprit. In one legend, Loki, the god of mischief, was the thirteenth guest at a feast in Valhalla and caused the death of Balder, god of light and purity. The evils of thirteen later became associated with the Last Supper, as Judas was the thirteenth guest.

I could have eliminated one of the superstitions and restricted the list to only twelve, but presenting a list of thirteen superstitions seemed more appropriate.  :) 

Sunday, September 4, 2022

13 Of The World's Most Common Superstitions And Their Bizarre Origins part 1of2

I have another multi-part blog for you.  This week is part 1 of 2 presenting a look at superstitions and their origins. I was going to save this for a Friday the thirteenth blog, but that next date dedicated to superstitions isn't until January 2023. I'm sharing six of the superstitions this week and will conclude next week with the remaining seven.

Some people are very superstitious and believe the ancient myths about good and bad luck. However, for the most part those who really worry about broken mirrors and stepping on cracks don't know where those beliefs came from.

Let's take a look at the wild explanations behind these commonly held superstitions.

1. Opening an umbrella indoors:

This superstition has somewhat recent origins. Umbrellas were much more cumbersome objects than they are now. People in the 19th and early 20th centuries viewed opening the bulky, sharp-pointed objects indoors as a safety hazard to everybody in the room. Over time, this evolved from a safety concern to a more general sign of bad luck.

2. Walking under a ladder:

The suspicion about walking under ladders goes all the way back to ancient Egypt. In that culture, triangles had magical symbolism and supposedly supernatural properties. The triangle shape that formed by leaning a ladder against a wall allegedly created an area that would trap both living and dead souls. Passing through that triangle had to be avoided. Bits of this belief continued throughout history. It eventually became considered bad luck rather than soul-stealing.

3. Breaking a mirror:

We can thank the ancient Greeks for the superstition about breaking a mirror causing seven years of bad luck. Like Narcissus, many Greeks looked at their reflections in the water. Over time, a superstition developed that distortions in the water reflecting their image were symbolic of distortions of the soul. As mirrors became more widely used, this superstition evolved and eventually became associated with the number seven, which has numerological significance in Judaism and Christianity.

4. A black cat crossing your path:

This is another superstition that goes back to ancient Egypt, where cats had religious significance and were thought to have supernatural powers. The interesting thing about the black cat superstition is that it represents different things in different places. In the U.S., a black cat crossing your path is bad luck. In England, black cats are considered good luck—a belief given some validity when King Charles was charged with high treason the day after his favorite black cat died.

5. Hanging a horseshoe:

An old Irish legend tells of St. Dunstan, a blacksmith who was visited by the devil in search of horseshoes. Dunstan decided to nail a searing hot horseshoe to his hoof, removing it only when the devil agreed to avoid any place marked with one. A more grounded explanation comes from the ancient Greeks, as they believed iron's flame-resistant properties made the metal magical. They also shaped the horseshoes to resemble the crescent moon, a symbol of good luck and fertility.

6. Saying "God Bless You" when someone sneezes:

Saying "God bless you" has its origins in the Middle Ages and is associated with the black plague. Since sneezes often foretold much more serious illness, people thought a sneeze was a sign that the soul was trying to escape the body. By offering a blessing, they hoped God would spare the person the illness and their soul could remain with their body just a little bit longer.

Be sure to check back next week when I present the remaining seven superstitions and their origins in part 2 of my 2-part blog.

Sunday, August 28, 2022


Satellites have become integral to our daily lives—such things as telephone, television, internet, weather forecasts, and GPS tracking just to name a few.  The Hubble telescope allows us to see billions of light years into the vastness of space.  And we can't disregard things long forgotten and/or overlooked.

Phytoplankton Blooms

It's kind of bizarre to think that some of the smallest living things on Earth can make a display that you can see from space. In August of 2012, NASA's Aqua satellite captured some remarkable images of a massive phytoplankton bloom surrounding Russia's Novaya Zemla island. These particular plankton contain plates of a calcium-containing mineral that give them a bright blue color, and when they gather in massive numbers they make an incredible visual image. Temperature and salinity conditions have to be absolutely right to trigger this phenomenon, so capturing it this clearly is pretty amazing.

Hundreds Of Sunken Ships

Much of the ocean is resistant to satellite photography because we don't have cameras powerful enough to penetrate those depths from space. However, there are still amazing things to be seen in the shallows, such as the ghost fleet of Mallows Bay. At the start of World War I, the United States needed to quickly build transport vessels. In April of 1917, 1000 ships were ordered to be built. By the end of the war, the boats had become obsolete and eventually they were sunk to the bottom of the Potomac River at Mallows Bay. From space, the ship graveyard is a striking and amazing sight.

A Marijuana Farm

If you're doing something illegal, it used to be sufficient to put up a fence and keep prying eyes out. But when the eyes are in the sky, things change. Spotting marijuana growths from small planes has been common practice for quite a while. But the owners of a massive marijuana growing operation in Switzerland found that out the hard way in 2010 when Google Earth satellite images revealed their pot fields. Police in Zurich discovered the two-acre field by chance while looking up the address of area farmers, and quickly moved in for the bust. Sixteen people were arrested and over a ton of marijuana was impounded.

Kazakh Geoglyphs

The people of the ancient world did some things that still confound us today. One of the most perplexing is the practice of creating geoglyphs—massive drawings in the earth that are too large to be comprehended from the ground, but show up clear as day from high above. The Nazca lines of southern Peru are the most famous. In 2014 archaeologists happened across a completely new set of geoglyphs in Kazakhstan. The drawings, which depict a number of different geometric shapes, have yet to be explained.

A Hidden Rainforest

It's well-known that the truly wild areas of the planet are dying at a rapid rate, but satellite imagery can often reveal hidden oases that mankind hasn't managed to ruin…yet. That happened in 2005, when scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens were going over Google Earth images from Mozambique. At the top of Mount Mabu, isolated by steep slopes, was one of the largest untouched rainforests that scientists had ever seen. Villagers had used the site to hide from the civil war that rocked the nation, but aside from that it was on no map and not recognized by the government. Three years later, an expedition found previously undiscovered plants and animals there.

Lost Egyptian Pyramids

One of the most frustrating parts of the archaeologist's craft is having to guess about ancient civilizations buried beneath the surface. Egypt, with its constantly-shifting sands, is especially tough. Thankfully, satellites equipped with infrared cameras have changed the game completely. In a 2011 survey of the country, heat-sensing photography was used to reveal the shapes of seventeen lost pyramids, as well as thousands of other buildings buried beneath the desert.

A Methane Hotspot

Satellites don't just take photos of things we can see with the naked eye. Their advanced sensors allow them to record wavelengths we can't perceive. That's how we found an enormous packet of the greenhouse gas methane hovering over the American southwest. The Four Corners area, where Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah meet, is a hotbed of natural gas extraction. Scientists believe that the methane was released as a side effect of that industry, and claim that it's equivalent to the entire greenhouse gas output of Sweden.

A Meteor Crater

One of the coolest things about satellite surveillance is that it allows us to see things that would be virtually invisible from the ground. Case in point: the crater from one of Earth's most recent meteor impacts, a scant 5,000 years ago. Measuring just 150 feet wide, this tiny hole in Egypt was first noticed in 2008. But it wasn't until a team analyzed Google Earth images in 2010 that they realized what makes it unusual. The site is what's known as a "rayed crater," featuring lines of lighter-colored rock emanating from the impact area. These craters are common on the Moon but typically eradicated by erosion on Earth, so it's an advantage to science to find a new one.

A New Species Of Hominid

One of the most fascinating discoveries in the history of paleontology—a completely new hominid species that fills in information about the evolution of Homo sapiens. In 2007, South African professor Lee Berger was using Google Earth to examine caves around the so-called "Cradle of Humanity" area of South Africa when he started to notice a pattern. Following it out, he marked 500 other sites that he thought had the potential to produce fossils. The next year, he started to explore them on foot, and one gave up an incredible find: the first bones of Australopithecus sediba, a species that some believe might be the missing link between man and ape.

A Mars Lander

Let's look away from Earth and cast our attention to our nearest planetary neighbor for a look at a mission gone wrong. In 2003, the European Space Agency launched a mission to Mars that involved landing an unmanned craft called the Beagle 2 to take samples and return data. Unfortunately, after launch the ESA lost contact with the Beagle and it vanished into space. A dozen years later, NASA staff operating the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's cameras spotted an anomaly on the planet's surface. Upon investigation, they realized they had found the long-missing Beagle 2. The craft's solar panels had failed to open, resulting in mission failure, but it's been sitting on Mars this whole time. 

Sunday, August 21, 2022

10 Of History's Overlooked Mysteries

History is filled with mysteries, some small scale like the origins of a book and others on a very large scale such as the disappearance of an entire civilization.

I recently came across a list of 10 historical mysteries that don't seem to get too much attention.

The Tarim Mummies

An archaeological excavation beneath the Tarim Basin in western China unearthed more than 100 mummified corpses dating back more than 2000 years.  Even though dug up in China, when a college professor viewed the mummies in a museum, he was shocked to discover they had blonde hair and long noses.  In 1993 he returned to the museum to collect DNA samples from the mummies.  Tests validated his belief, showing that the bodies were of European genetic stock.  Ancient Chinese texts from as early as the first millennium BC mention groups of Caucasian people living in the far east, but there is no mention on any living in the Tarim Basin.

The Voynich Manuscript

This is quite possibly the most unreadable book in the world.  The 500-year-old, 240 page manuscript was discovered in 1912 at a library in Rome.  It contains illustrations and writing in an unknown language.  The best cryptographers have been unable to decipher the text, but statistical analysis of the writing shows that it does seem to follow the basic structure and laws of a working language.

Who Was Robin Hood?

The possible real-life existence of a bandit living in the forest who stole from the rich and gave to the poor is more plausible than the legendary King Arthur and a magical sword named Excalibur.  The historical hunt for the real Robin Hood has discovered several candidates including Robert Hod, a fugitive in Yorkshire who went by Hobbehod as well as Robert Hood of Wakefield.  The name Robin Hood eventually became synonymous with being an outlaw.  His identity would later become even murkier as various authors wove more characters into the tale such as Prince John and Richard the Lionhearted.

The Carnac Stones

As with the construction of Stonehenge, it was a backbreaking task for the people responsible for the Carnac Stones.  On the coast of Brittany, in northwestern France, there are over 3000 megalithic standing stones arranged in exacting lines and spread out over 12 kilometers (7.2 miles).  The local myth explains them as a Roman legion on the march when the wizard Merlin turned them to stone.  The identity of the Neolithic people who build them is unknown.

The Bog Bodies

Hundreds of these ancient bodies have been discovered buried around the northern wetlands of Europe.  Researchers who inspected them have found tell-tale signs of torture and medieval foul play.  These clues have led some to suspect that the dead were victims of ritual sacrifice.  [I recall reading about an incident in England, I think in the 1800s, where a body was found in a bog and it was so well preserved that the locals believed it to be a recent murder which resulted in a police investigation.]

Disappearance Of The Indus Valley Civilization

The ancient Indus Valley people were India's oldest known civilization.  Their bronze-age culture stretched from western India to Afghanistan with a population of over 5 million.  Their abrupt decline rivaled that of the Mayans.  Excavations in 1922 uncovered a culture that maintained a sophisticated sewage drainage system and immaculate bathrooms, but found no evidence of armies, slaves, social conflicts, or other vices prevalent in ancient societies.

The Lost Roman Legion

After an underachieving Roman army led by General Crassus was defeated by Persia, legend says that a small band of POWs wandered through the desert and were captured by the Han military.  An Oxford historian who compared ancient records claimed that the lost Roman legion founded a small town near the Gobi Desert named Liqian, which is Chinese for Rome.  DNA tests are being conducted to hopefully explain some of the residents' green eyes and blond hair. [Which leads one to wonder if there is a connection with the Tarim Mummies.]

Fall Of The Minoans

The fall of the Minoan Empire has proven just as puzzling as the collapse of the Roman Empire.  Approximately 3,500 years ago, life on Crete was disrupted by a huge volcanic eruption on the neighbor island of Thera.  Ancient clay tablets show that the Minoan Empire continued for another 50 years.  Theories about their demise include a blanket of ash devastating their crops and another one says their weakened society was left vulnerable to an eventual Greek takeover.

Lost City Of Helike

The Greek writer Pausanias wrote about a great earthquake that destroyed the city of Helike followed by a tsunami that swept away what remained.  The once flourishing city had been a worship center devoted to Poseidon.  No trace of this legendary society existed outside of ancient Greek texts until 1861 when a bronze coin was found showing the head of Poseidon.  In 2001, the ruins of Helike were located beneath coastal mud and gravel.  Work is currently under way to unearth what some consider the real Atlantis.


Rongorongo is an indecipherable hieroglyphic writing used by the early inhabitants of Easter Island, often referred to as the other Easter Island mystery.  Rongorongo appeared mysteriously in the 1700s, at a time when no other neighboring oceanic people had any type of written language.  The language was lost along with the best hopes of deciphering it when early European colonizers banned it because of its pagan roots. 

Sunday, August 14, 2022

The English Language part 2 of 2

As pointed out in last week's blog, the English language (or at least the American branch of the language) is often confusing even to those who were born here with this being the only language they speak.

Here is a list of 20 common errors. Some are spelling/using wrong spelling of word with same pronunciation, some are different pronunciations of words spelled the same way, and others relate to literally using the wrong words in popular phrases.

1)  It didn't phase me, should be: It didn't faze me.

2)  For all intensive purposes, should be: For all intents and purposes.

3)  He has another thing coming, should be: He has another think coming.

4)  Escape goat, should be: Scape goat.

5)  One in the same, should be: One and the same.

6)  Given free reign, should be: Given free rein.

7)  Low and behold, should be: Lo and behold.

8)  Case and point, should be: Case in point.

9)  Peak your interest, should be: Pique your interest.

10)  Hunger pains, should be: Hunger pangs.

11)  Suppose to, should be: Supposed to.

12)  Should of, should be: Should have.

13)  Nipped that problem in the butt, should be:  Nipped that problem in the bud.

14)  Mute point, should be: Moot point.

15)  Piece of mind, should be: Peace of mind (unless you are giving someone a piece of your mind as in venting your anger).

16)  Beck on call, should be: Beck and call.

17)  On accident, should be: By accident.

18)  Expresso, should be: Espresso.

and tied for most commonly misused:

19)  I could care less, should be: I couldn't care less.

20)  Irregardless, should be: Regardless.