15 Spooky Folktales, Creatures & Objects From Around The World [Infographic]

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,


Telling spooky and scary stories has long been a part of human culture. We’ve been telling all kinds of stories since our most distant ancestors drew rudimentary pictures on cave walls, but the most intriguing tales are the ones that raise the hairs on the back of your neck.

We are universally fascinated with the macabre — this is one of the reasons ghost stories are so popular. Have you ever found yourself drawn to a horrifying or thrilling movie even though you don’t like to be scared? As humans, we have an innate morbid curiosity.

This near obsession with dark legends can be seen in chilling folklore that exists in different cultures across the globe. Especially captivating myths have even extended across cultures, like El Chupacabra and the Headless Horseman. Word-of-mouth is a powerful tool — it’s impossible to keep such eerie tales to ourselves.

What’s more, some creepy objects are said to be cursed, usually causing harm or death to those that come into contact with the item. Spooky paintings are credited with fires and mortality while ancient objects are believed to be cursed.

If sinister fables pique your interest (as they naturally should), check out the spooky infographic below that Invaluable created showing 15 ominous folktales, creatures, and objects from around the world.

Spooky folktales, creatures, and objects from around the world
Spooky folktales, creatures, and objects from around the world



Traditional Temporary Tattoos: The Art of Henna

by Lindsay Shapka in , , ,


I have always been intrigued by the art of henna  — I've gotten a flower, a swirl, or a nonsense design put on one of my limbs more times than I can count while wandering a local summer festival, or hanging out at the beach. 

What I didn't know was the history behind the art, which is something that I discovered recently when chatting with a local henna artist (and a bit of research after the fact) while she drew a beautiful design on the back of my hand. 

Henna has been used for more than 5,000 years to dye skin, hair, fingernails, and even fabrics in Pakistan, India, Africa and the Middle East. The act of giving intricate henna tattoos is called Mehndi and is traditionally only done on women — never men.

Why henna is not drawn on men

According to the artist I spoke to, these intricate designs are usually applied the night before (sometimes a few days before) a women's wedding day. The elaborate designs cover her hands and feet (often up to her knees and elbows) and tradition goes that as long as they stay on the skin the women does not have to do any housework.

It isn't until the dye disappears that the new bride steps into her new role as a housewife. 

Don't worry though guys, here in the Western world, the rules are a bit different. It is completely ok for you to give henna a try. The artist I met told me that she often gives men tribal or sun designs on their arms or backs. 

And, in some hot desert cultures, both sexes use henna, not for its beautification factor, but its cooling one. Apparently soaking your hands and feet in a paste of henna helps to cool down your core temperature. 

The henna paste goes on black, but dyes your skin a brownish-orange color if left on for at least 5-7 hours

What is henna?

The leaves of the henna plant are crushed and mixed with different oils in order to make the creamy paste that is applied to the skin. My artist used eucalyptus oil and cloves (which left my hand smelling like a spa for the rest of the day).

When applied the paste looks dark brown or black, and stays on the skin until it flakes off naturally (between 5-7 hours), or — in my case — you have to rub it off before you go to bed so you don't wake up with a henna-tattooed face. 

My henna tattoo once the paste was rubbed off.  

This natural dye is completely harmless, and does not discriminate (it works on all skin types).

It works best on the hands or feet, and lasts anywhere from 1-4 weeks depending on the type of henna used and how you take care of it (for example if you exfoliate the tattoo every day it won't last as long).

Oh, and it will leave tan lines, so if you lay out in the sun with your tattoo exposed, you will extend the design's shelf-life a little longer. 

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The art of henna
 


Banned Books In The USA: Top Books Banned By Genre + Why They Are Censored

by Lindsay Shapka in , , ,


As soon as a book becomes banned, people all over the world want to get their hands on a copy to find out what the latest "controversial" novel has to say.

More often than not, they are disappointed as the content of the book seems a lot less shocking than something that you would see on TV on an average night. A few curse words are sometimes all it takes to ban a certain book from the average school.

What makes a book being banned so interesting is what it says about the people, place, and time period that thought it was bad enough to be banned. 

Using data from the ALA — the American Library Association — Invaluable has curated a list of the top books banned organized by literary genre that they've turned into an awesome infographic (below).

Check out the top reasons for banning books, the authors that get challenged the most, and what the three top offenders in each genre were banned for below. 



banned-books

The Infographic above was created by and posted with permission from Invaluable

Sources: American Library Association 1 ,2345 | The Guardian | The University of Tulsa | Writer’s Digest University | Banned Books Week | Unbound Worlds | Dallas News | Banned Library 123 | PBS 

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Banned Books In The USA
Banned Books in The USA



Why Do People In North America Wear Poppies in November?

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,


November 11, known as Remembrance Day in Canada and the other Commonwealth Nations of the world, is a day that has been observed since the end of World War I to remember the men and women who died in the line of duty. (Many non-Commonwealth Nations, like the United States, also treat this day as one of remembrance, as November 11, 1918, was the day when hostilities officially ended in WWI.)

Starting November 1 and leading up to the 11th, you will see red poppies start to appear on the left lapel of Canadians, and the symbol of the poppy will be displayed in shop windows and on signs all over the country. 

Why a poppy? 

During the war, most of the fighting took place on the Western Front that was largely countryside. While most of the landscape was turned to mud, the bright red Flanders poppy seemed resilient to the non-stop bombing and continued to grow amongst the chaos. They were especially abundant on the mass graves that were the result of bloody battles. 

In the spring of 1915 after losing a good friend in Ypres, a Canadian doctor, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, was inspired by the sight of the poppies growing amongst the dead and battle-scarred fields to write the now famous poem In Flanders Fields.

 

IN FLANDERS FIELDS
by Lt Colonel John McCrae

In Flanders' fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders' fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe;
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high,
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow  
In Flanders' Fields.

 

The beautiful poem inspired American Moina Michael to make red silk poppies to sell, and the practice quickly spread. Now, poppies are sold (by donation) around the world in November and worn as a symbol of Remembrance and of the heavy cost of war. 

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The Hangul Revolution: How The Creation of A Written Language Changed South Korea Forever

by Lindsay Shapka in , , ,


Poo-doon-mao oh don gee yo was my (phonetic) address when I lived in South Korea, and one of the first things that I learned to say (once it had been written out for me of course) in Korean. I was told that it meant something like, “the brownish-orange buildings with numbers in the 500s on them.” All I knew for sure was that when I got in a cab and said it to the driver, I would end up in the right spot. 

The fact that I didn’t know a single word of Korean had nudged at the back of my mind more than a few times while I was preparing to travel to South Korea. I tried to study as much as I could using a phrasebook on the flight over, but I forgot everything that I thought I knew the minute I was faced with actually having to speak the foreign language. 

Luckily, my desk at work ( I was an English Teacher for just over a year) was located next to Wendy, an extremely kind Korean teacher who, in my first week, wrote some basic greeting and direction words out phonetically for me to use as a cheat sheet. She also gave me her phone number and told me to call her whenever I was in need of a translator. With her help, and the fact that most South Korean’s did not speak English so I was completely immersed, it didn’t take long for me to pick up enough of the language so that I could order food, direct a cab and exchange greetings. If I ever found myself in a situation where I just wasn’t being understood, I would shrug my shoulders, say “No Korean…English”, and hope for the best.

The written form of the language, called hangul, at first glance looked like hieroglyphs to me (and I was without a Rosetta Stone) but I soon learned that it looked a lot more complicated than it really was.

It was created in 1443 by the fourth king of the Joseon Dynasty, Sejong the Great, to replace the Chinese characters, or hanja, that had been used exclusively up to that point. Hanja characters were fundamentally different from the spoken Korean language, and were not accurately conveying its sounds. At the time, thousands of symbols had to be memorized just to be able to write a simple document. To put it in perspective, today’s modern Chinese writing dictionaries contain over 60,000 symbols and knowledge of at least 3,000 of them would be needed just to read an every-day newspaper. In the 1400s, a time when education for the common classes was not a priority, the use of hanja characters resulted in aristocrats, usually male, being the only people who could read and write fluently, leaving the majority of Koreans illiterate.

Influenced by the teachings of Confucius, and the importance of education present in his philosophy, Sejong the Great designed hangul so that it was simple and easy to learn, giving even a commoner the opportunity to learn to read and write. 

Built more like modern English (or Latin), the modern hangul alphabet is made up of 24 symbols, or 10 vowels and 14 consonants, representing phonetic sounds that in combination create words.
 

CONSONANTS:

ㄱ ㄴ ㄷ ㄹ ㅁ ㅂ  ㅅ  ㅇ ㅈ  ㅊ 

\ k,g \   \ n \   \ t,d \   \ r,l \   \ m \   \ p,b \   \ s,sh \   \ ng \   \ ch,j \   \ ch’ \   

kiyok   niun   tikut     riul   mium   piup      siot      iung     chiut    ch’iut

   

ㅋ ㅌ ㅍ ㅎ 

\ k’ \    \ t’ \    \ p’,f \   \ h \

k’iuk   t’iut     p’iup   hiut


VOWELS:

ㅏ ㅑ ㅓ  ㅕ ㅗ ㅛ ㅜ ㅠ ㅡ ㅣ

 \ a \    \ ya \   \ eo \   \ yeo \    \ o \    \ yo \  \ u \    \ yu \   \ eu \   \ ee \

 

When first introduced, this more accessible form of writing faced opposition by the literary elite, more specifically aristocratic scholars, who saw it as a threat to their status. Turning a country of illiterate commoners into an educated population would have turned the rules of hierarchy on their head. Not surprisingly, because of this, the use of Chinese symbols was not completely eradicated from the country by the hangul revolution, and hangul itself was not generally used until 1945 (North Koreans have used hangul exclusively since 1948). 

Though no longer widely used, Chinese writing has stayed ingrained in South Korean society. I had students who attended hanja hagwons to learn how to read and write with the complex characters, and I even experienced old superstitions that stemmed from their use. After observing that the fourth floor was omitted from a lot of buildings, but the thirteenth was ever-present, I learned that this was because the Chinese symbol for death looks like the number 4, and so was treated by Koreans like North Americans treat the number 13.

Now the main written language of the South Korean people, hangul gives everyone in the country (no matter what class they come from) a fair start in the constant battle for intellectual supremacy.

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The Hangul Alphabet in South Korea
 



Why are Chinese Gangs Called Triads?

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,


If you read the news or watch any sort of crime drama, you are sure to have heard the term 'triad' at some point.

It refers to one of the many branches of the Chinese organized crime organization that stretches all over the world. It's a term akin to 'mob', 'gang' or 'mafia'.

But why the word 'triad'?

According to sources (see below), the word is a relatively modern term to describe this organization.

Allegedly, the British authorities in Hong Kong coined the term in reference to a triangular symbol that was being consistently used by the gangs. This symbol stretches back to The Society of Heaven and Earth or Tiandihui (created in the mid-1700s and considered by many to be the inception of the current crime organization) used on their banners and flags. 

Resources

14 Things You Didn't Know About the Triads
Triads and Organized Crime in China

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