Nowadays we have the Burning Man festival. But back in the 19th century, they had the Burning Rat festival.
Some years since a gentleman, who had just returned from Rome, informed me that he had witnessed the extraordinary spectacle of a large number of rats, after having been dipped into spirits of turpentine and set on fire, being turned loose at the top of the flight of steps which leads from the Vatican to the Plaza below. A great crowd of persons was assembled to witness the spectacle, which took place at night; and I think my informant stated, was customary on the evening of a particular day of the year: the miserable rats, which left the top step of the flight like living balls of fire — amidst the shouts of the populace — arrived at the bottom mere masses of scorched flesh.
Is this custom still kept up at Rome? If so, on what day in the year?
Thanks to my pal, KW Jeter, who now lives in Ecuador, I learned about the existence of that country's own Bigfoot monster, "Wawa Grande."
Wawa Grande, which takes its name from the Quechuan word for baby and the Spanish word for big, reportedly stands upright on two legs and has thick, light gray or reddish hair. The Wawa legend dates back at least 200 years in Ecuador's southern Andes but several reported sightings since the 1980s sparked international interest.
Of course, a monster whose name translates as "Big Baby" instantly assumes less fearsome dimensions.
Wait a minute--my spam filters are all set up to protect against "Nigerian pen pals!" Not to vilify a whole country just on account of a few million citizens who are scammers, but I don't think Nigeria would be my first choice when seeking global camaraderie.
Anthropologist Holly Wardlow did extensive fieldwork among the Huli people of Papua New Guinea. She offers this account of a curious way that Huli women get the upper hand (so to speak) in marital disputes:
many women when falsely accused [of adultery by their husbands] will lop off their index or pinky fingers at the first or second joint. This practice is quite common: of the fifty women with whom I conducted life history interviews, ten of them had one or two finger joints missing. Indeed this practice by Huli women is so pervasive that children say they make a point of hiding all knives and axes whenever their parents argue, not only to prevent them from injuring each other, but to prevent their mothers from lopping off their fingers. Like suicide, finger-lopping is motivated by anger and indignation, but it is highly performative as well; for example, one is supposed to maintain enough presence of mind to hurl the finger at one's accuser and yell something like, "keba biba haro, inaga ki bi pugu ngerogoni" (In order to cut off/finish my anger, I'm cutting off my finger and giving it to you.)