Category: Superstition

  • Keep Your Pants On

    Saint  Pantaleon, Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Mount Sinai, 13th century

    I really dropped the ball on July 27th, but it is the Catholic Feast Day of Saint Pantaleon, Martyr of Nicomedia (modern day Turkey). He is the Patron Saint of physicians, apothecaries, midwives, livestock, the lottery and lottery winners, called on against headaches, consumption, locusts, witchcraft, accidents, and loneliness, and helper for crying children. Possibly, his name is involved in the origin of the word pants.

    That is quite a to-do list. Now I really don’t feel like I have the flimsiest excuse for not getting through mine today, although I did help a crying child (though my own of course, so that probably doesn’t count either). Oh well. Hope you bought a lottery ticket!

    Pantalone, by Maurice Sand

  • Crackers and Chastity

    Giovannina is sitting on the windowsill, Pavel Chistyakov (1864)

    July 5th Birthdays

    1794: Reverend Sylvester Graham, inventor of the cracker, diehard Puritan if ever there was. Let’s just say I don’t think he would approve of s’mores.

    Prof. A. E. Douglass and the original Steward Observatory 36-inch Telescope (moved to Kitt Peak in 1963). Public Domain.

    1810: Co-founder of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus P.T. Barnum.

    1832: Russian painter Pavel Christyakov.

    1849: Victorian era journalist William Stead. Considered to have paved the way for tabloid journalism, he died in the sinking of the Titanic.  

    1862: Microbiologist George Nuttall, who, along with William Welch, co-discovered Clostridium perfringens, the bacteria that causes gangrene.  

    1867: Astronomer A.E. Douglass Founded dendrochronology, the method of calculating the age of a tree by counting its rings.

    1889: Poet and filmmaker Jean Cocteau.

    Movie poster for Jean Cocteau’s 1950 Orpheus

    1996: Dolly the Cloned Sheep.

    Today’s tarot card is the Hierophant, the fifth card in the Major Arcana, signifying tradition, dogma, and authority. However, 5’s in traditional tarot numerology mean change and instability. Also, the moon is in Mercury, bringing swift transmutation.

    So should you change your mind or your outfit? Your outfit. The accuracy of my summary as they relate to your evening: call it the Barnum effect.

    My tree-ring Venn diagram summarizing the energy of July 5th.

  • A Guide to the Scientific Knowledge of Things Familiar and Dictionary of Phrase and Fable

    A Guide to the Scientific Knowledge of Things Familiar and Dictionary of Phrase and Fable


    E. Cobham Brewer from the 1922 book Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable

    Ebenezer Cobham Brewer — A Guide to the Scientific Knowledge of Things Familiar, 38th edition. Photographed by User:GDallimore.

    Heat, an Introduction: Ebenezer Cobham Brewer, author of A Guide of Scientific Knowledge of Things Familiar, was born in 1810. He also wrote a favorite of mine, the Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, and Sound and Its Phenomena. A true collector and man of my own heart.

    Actress Mae Murray ca. 1917

    God Save the Queen

    Also born on May 10th: German mathematician Wilhelm Killing in 1847; Actress Mae Murray in 1885; Fred Astaire in 1899, and Sid Vicious in 1957.

    “That call from J. Edgar Hoover was for me.”

    Can anyone else rectite the screenplay from the 1985 movie Clue largely from memory?

    In 1924 J. Edgar Hoover was appointed Director of the FBI. Also on this day in 1940, Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. And on May 10, 1774, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette ascended the throne in France.

    So, in short, to celebrate May 10th, you still have few hours to appoint yourself head of something, or promote yourself to inhabit and nap in tucked away office, or perhaps beat someone at checkers, which, let’s face it, is as close as most of us are going to get to a crown? Or at the very least, lie and say you did. To quote Sir Winston Churchill: “Perhaps we have been guilty of some terminological inexactitudes.”

    photo credit: Yousuf Karsh

    Originally published at theanatomyofmelancholy.com on May 10, 2018.