If there's one animal that divides humanity with its symbology, it is the pig. To some cultures it's a gluttonous, dirty, lazy, obstinate beast: not a suitable animal to own, and especially not one you should eat. To others it's a beautiful and complex creature, one of extremely high intelligence, and even a possible loving family companion… and then there's people who will just see a bacon sandwich.
The Chinese viewed the pig with such high regard that they included it in their horoscope - albeit slightly tainted by laziness as the pig was the last animal to arrive at the Emperors meeting, and so was given the 12th and last position in the Chinese zodiac. But if you are born during the year of the pig, you are blessed and bestowed with determination, honesty, helpfulness, and sincerity - which certainly makes up for being a tad late every now and again.
One of the reasons why pigs are seen as such dirty animals is because they are often seen rolling around in the mud. But the reason why these clever creatures do this is because, unlike us, they don't actually have the sweat glands to regulate their body temperature, so other than shade, mud is the only way they can keep cool on a hot day; a lot of pigs also have quite pale skin, in which case a fresh all-body mudpack also acts as a serious sun-screen.
In a previous blog post we learnt how the Greek goddess Persephone brings us spring when she returns from her annual winter underworld holiday spent beside her husband, Hades, King of the Dead. In ancient Greece, to mark the return of the Goddess Persephone and the coming of spring, women would hold a three day festival which would involve the bizarre ritual of Thesmophoria: where reared piglets would be sacrificed and thrown to the earth, whilst the piggy remains of the previous years sacrifice would be dug up and then mixed with the soil to fertilise the coming future crop. Thankfully, as any rose gardener will tell you, it's not the actual pig but their manure which is used to enrich soil today.
Image © Daniel Mackie
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The earliest depictions of the use of the heart symbol is believed to derive from the ancient culture of Cyrene, a North African city which was founded by the Greeks in 631 BC, and then later ruled by the Romans.
There’s a lot of ancient mythical beasts which seem pretty isolated, unique to a country’s culture, or even to a specific region. Others, like mermaids, dragons, and giants, are intercultural, being known by many. The Phoenix is one of these mythical superstars, and was known by the Greeks, the Romans, the Egyptians, and even by the Chinese.
In the year 1500 BC, the Israelites who had settled in Egypt had significantly grown in numbers. So much so that the Pharaoh at the time grew fearful of them: paranoid that they would eventually take over. Forgetting that it was actually an Israelite by the name of Joseph - yes, the guy with the groovy coat - who had guided the Egyptian people away from famine a few hundred years earlier, the Pharaoh made all the Israelites slaves. Things then took a most heinous turn when the Pharaoh ordered the midwives to drown all male Hebrew babies at birth.