Weird Universe Blog — May 5, 2021

The Sacred Chickens of Rome

Strange custom: The ancient Romans were reportedly loath to embark on any major undertaking, particularly battles, before they had consulted sacred chickens. As told by

The pullarius [keeper of the sacred chickens] was responsible for keeping sacred chickens and using them to make divinations or "predictions." These holy birds, which had been sourced from the island of Negreponte (now Euboea, near Athens), were kept unfed in their cages for a predetermined amount of time before being released and presented with some grain. If they ate the grain, the venture upon which the Romans were consulting them was deemed favourable. If they didn't touch it, however, the venture lacked the god's backing and was therefore to be abandoned.

Publius Claudius Pulcher And The Sacred Chickens

However, the advice of the sacred chickens wasn't always followed. As told by the Anecdotes from Antiquity blog:

During the First Punic War, Publius Claudius Pulcher turned to the sacred chickens for approval of his plan to launch a surprise attack on the Carthaginian fleet at the harbour of Drepana. When the chicken watcher notified Pulcher that they were not eating, which constituted a bad omen, he replied, ‘Since they do not want to eat, let them drink!’ and had them hurled into the sea. The naval battle which ensued saw the near annihilation of the Roman fleet.

Posted By: Alex - Wed May 05, 2021 - Comments (1)
Category: Animals | Customs | Religion

Dannie Druehyld, Only Official Witch of Denmark, Has Passed

Some interesting videos, not in English, at the obituary.

Dannie Druehyld knew every single plant and stone in Rold Skov, after calling the forest [her] home for more than 30 years. Now Denmark has lost its only officially registered witch. Dannie Druehyld died on Monday, aged 74. She leaves behind a daughter and a granddaughter.

According to Dannie Druehyld, she was a witch before she was born, and in Rold Skov she has over the years taught children and adults about the forest's magic, folk beliefs and ancient wisdom through her workshop in the Rebild Center. She has also published several books, including "The Witch's Handbook", which tells about witch life all year round.

Posted By: Paul - Wed May 05, 2021 - Comments (0)
Category: Eccentrics | New Age | Religion | Rituals and Superstitions | Supernatural, Occult, Paranormal | Europe

May 4, 2021

Downsizing the human race

I never saw the 2017 movie Downsizing, but I understand that it involved the premise of shrinking people so that they would use fewer resources.

Perhaps the speculations of "theoretical biologist" Thomas Easton, published in Omni magazine in January 1983, may have inspired the movie:

The burgeoning birthrate will cease to be a problem once we've bred a race of humans half normal size. That at least is the prediction of Thomas Easton, a theoretical biologist and technical writing teacher at the University of Maine.

"Cut people down to about three feet in height and they won't eat as much food," Easton says. "Cars could then be the size of little red wagons, with all the old gas guzzlers converted to buses. In fact man's appetite for open space and raw materials would decrease to match his stature.

"This new breed of human," Easton says, "would have far more muscle, with the ability to run and jump almost like a cat. Reduced weight would ease the wear in joints, cutting the prevalence of arthritis. Since less blood would be pumped through a small circulatory system, the heart's work load would be diminished and there would be fewer cardiac arrests.

"The technology to shrink humans," Easton says, "will probably be available within a decade. A genetically engineered virus, carrying genes coded to create small people, could be placed in a reservoir or released in the air. Then everyone infected would absorb the genes and produce lilliputian offspring."

Posted By: Alex - Tue May 04, 2021 - Comments (3)
Category: Body Modifications | Futurism | 1980s

Follies of the Madmen #506

Not sure how a cigar-smoking toddler promotes coffee...

Posted By: Paul - Tue May 04, 2021 - Comments (1)
Category: Business | Advertising | Tobacco and Smoking | Children | Coffee and other Legal Stimulants | Nineteenth Century

May 3, 2021

Compost Fence

A dispute between neighbors in Lodi Township, Michigan has resulted in one of them (a farmer) creating a 250-foot wall of cow manure along the property divide. The non-farmers are calling it a "poop wall" and complain that it smells awful. The farmer disagrees, saying that it's merely a "compost fence". Plus, it turns out that it's perfectly legal since it's on his property.

More info: mlive, fox detroit

Posted By: Alex - Mon May 03, 2021 - Comments (3)
Category: Pranks and Revenge

The Creeping Devil Cactus

The Wikipedia page.

In cool maritime climate of Baja California Sur, creeping devil cacti can grow at a rate of up to two feet per year, forming large, sometimes impenetrable colonies of thorny stems, but when transplanted to more arid climates, their growth rate drops to two feet per decade. But even in their endemic environment, these succulents are isolated from pollinators so they rely on self-cloning for survival.

As it grows parallel to the ground, the stem of the creeping devil cactus will start to take roots toward their tip, and once it is solidly fixed into the sandy soil, the old body dies, rotting and eventually turning into nutrients that help the new stem grow. It is this process that also allows the cactus to creep through the desert over time. In a way, the cactus has to die in order to survive.

Posted By: Paul - Mon May 03, 2021 - Comments (0)
Category: Freaks, Oddities, Quirks of Nature | Nature | Natural Wonders | Regionalism | North America

May 2, 2021

Combined hat and comb

In 1920, Alva Dawson of Florida was granted a patent for a "combined head covering and hair comb". In his patent he explained:

Among the objects of the invention is to provide a combined head covering and comb so constructed and arranged that the wearer of the head covering may comb up his hair coincidentally with the removal of the head covering from his head, and hence without rendering himself conspicuous in so doing.

I'm pretty sure it wasn't possible to use this hat-comb without rendering yourself very conspicuous.

Popular Science - Oct 1920

Posted By: Alex - Sun May 02, 2021 - Comments (0)
Category: Headgear | 1920s | Hair and Hairstyling

Jan Švankmajer’s “Lunch”

Creator's Wikipedia page.

Posted By: Paul - Sun May 02, 2021 - Comments (2)
Category: Food | Movies | Surrealism | 1990s | Eating

May 1, 2021

Work continues during gas attack

"So business will not be interrupted if enemy airplanes should loose gas bombs on Rome before quitting time, a new transparent gas mask that enables a typist to see clearly while enjoying protection from noxious fumes has been introduced into the war-minded Italian capital."

Elmira Star-Gazette - Feb 4, 1935

Posted By: Alex - Sat May 01, 2021 - Comments (0)
Category: War | 1930s

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