Nautilus

Why Light Inspires Ritual

Some years ago, cultural anthropologist Veronica Strang was fishing on a trip to the Orinoco River in South America. When the fish didn’t bite, she settled for a walk along the riverbank. “The light filtering through the rainforest canopy threw a shimmering green lacework onto the water, and suddenly there were bright yellow butterflies everywhere—thousands of them,” she recently recalled. “Their wings were a gorgeous egg-yolk yellow and, fluttering in the sun, they filled the air with magical, dancing light. It was like walking into a spell.”

Strang, a dynamic and compact woman in her early 50s, has taken home numerous accolades for her work, including UNESCO’s International Water Prize for two decades of studying the cultural meanings of water around the world. And from South America she took home a deep curiosity about that wondrous moment by the Orinoco River, which she has

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Nautilus

Nautilus4 min read
A Hologram Shows How Space Could Pop Into Existence: The holographic principle—with a real hologram.
I remember buying my first hologram as a college student in the mid-1980s. It showed a bed of nails. I came across it at a gallery in what was then the world’s capital of spacey trinkets, Haight Street in San Francisco. When I picked it up, the holog
Nautilus4 min read
What Color Really Evolved For
What color were the dinosaurs? If you have a picture in your head, fresh studies suggest you may need to revise it. New fossil research also suggests that pigment-producing structures go beyond how the dinosaurs looked and may have played a fundament
Nautilus8 min readSelf-Improvement
Why Monster Stories Captivate Us: Our brains are compelled by category violations.
I was 13 years old when the movie Alien was released. It scared me into a month-long spell of anxiety. The hair on the back of my neck was perpetually up and I had the jittery demeanor of a combat veteran. While the full-grown xenomorph alien was chi