The festivity of imbuing discarded DNA

A friend of mine is studying in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and she recently participated in Loi Kratong, an all-out lantern lighting festival that falls on the full moon of the 12th lunar month (usually November) in which one places some money, a strand of one's hair and a fingernail clipping on a handmade raft (i.e. kratong) to expiate bad luck and incur some good. The kratong is then set afloat in the river with thousands of others, while paper lanterns and fireworks take over the sky.

That got me thinking about rituals, ceremonies, and superstitions involving the application or appropriation of one's DNA...For instance:

  • Superstitions in many Eastern cultures warn against clipping one's nails at night
  • Many spells (of a contested variety) are purportedly enhanced by affixing the hair or fingernail clippings of the spell's subject into the candle; voodoo dolls are similarly manufactured.
  • On the Cook Islands, firstborn sons undergo a "hair cutting ceremony" in which up to 400 friends and relatives attend, each receiving a strand of the boy's hair; the ceremony is a demonstration that the son is not afraid of giving his mana/power over to others, as perpetually long-haired ancestors believed
  • During a Danpatsu Ceremony, a retiring rikishi (i.e. sumo wrestler) will have strands of his chonmage cut by paying fans (chonmages were originally worn for pure function: to keep the samurai helmet in place; finally, a Sumo elder called an okakata will snip the remaining topknot.

And of course there are those who'll analyze your fingernails or hair (or, my favorite, your irises!) for nutritional deficiencies

China Launches Crowdfunding Campaign to Restore the Great Wall

The Great Wall of China has been standing proudly for thousands of years—but now, it needs your help. CNN reports that the wall has fallen into disrepair and the China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation has launched an online crowdfunding campaign to raise money for restorations.

Stretching 13,000 miles across northern China, the Great Wall was built in stages starting from the third century BCE and reaching completion in the 16th century. To some degree, though, it’s always been under construction. For centuries, individuals and organizations have periodically repaired and rebuilt damaged sections. However, the crowdfunding campaign marks the first time the internet has gotten involved in the preservation of the ancient icon. The China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation is trying to raise $1.6 million (11 million yuan) to restore the wall, and has so far raised $45,000 (or 300,000 yuan).

Fundraising coordinator Dong Yaohui tells the BBC that, although the Chinese government provides some funds for wall repairs, it’s not enough to fix all of the damage: "By pooling the contribution of every single individual, however small it is, we will be able to form a great wall to protect the Great Wall," he said.

[h/t CNN]

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YouTube // Deep Look
These Glowing Worms Mimic Shining Stars
YouTube // Deep Look
YouTube // Deep Look

The glow worms of New Zealand's Waitomo caves produce light, mimicking the starry night sky. Using sticky goop, they catch moths and other flying creatures unfortunate enough to flutter into the "starry" cavern. Beautiful and icky in equal parts, this Deep Look video takes you inside the cave, and up close with these worms. Enjoy:

There's also a nice write-up with animated GIFs if you're not in the mood for video. Want more glow worms? Check out this beautiful timelapse in a similar cave, or our list of 19 Places You Won't Believe Exist topped by—you guessed it—New Zealand's Glowworm Caves!


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