Vestal Virgin

In ancient Rome, the Vestals or Vestal Virgins were priestesses of Vesta, goddess of the hearth. The College of the Vestals and its well-being were regarded as fundamental to the continuance and security of Rome, they cultivated the sacred fire, not allowed to go out. The Vestals were freed of the usual social obligations to marry and bear children and took a 30-year vow of chastity in order to devote themselves to the study and correct observance of state rituals that were forbidden to the colleges of male priests. Livy and Aulus Gellius attribute the creation of the Vestals as a state-supported priestesshood to king Numa Pompilius, who reigned circa 717–673 BC. According to Livy, Numa assigned them salaries from the public treasury. Livy says that the priestesshood of Vesta had its origins at Alba Longa; the 2nd century antiquarian Aulus Gellius writes that the first Vestal taken from her parents was led away in hand by Numa. Plutarch attributes the founding of the Temple of Vesta to Numa, who appointed at first two priestesses.

Ambrose alludes to a seventh in late antiquity. Numa appointed the pontifex maximus to watch over the Vestals; the first Vestals, according to Varro, were named Gegania, Veneneia and Tarpeia. Tarpeia, daughter of Spurius Tarpeius, was portrayed as traitorous in legend; the Vestals became a influential force in the Roman state. When Sulla included the young Julius Caesar in his proscriptions, the Vestals interceded on Caesar's behalf and gained him pardon. Augustus included the Vestals in all major ceremonies, they were held in awe, attributed certain magical powers. Pliny the Elder, for example, in Book 28 of his Natural History discussing the efficacy of magic, chooses not to refute, but rather tacitly accept as truth:At the present day, too, it is a general belief, that our Vestal virgins have the power, by uttering a certain prayer, to arrest the flight of runaway slaves, to rivet them to the spot, provided they have not gone beyond the precincts of the City. If these opinions be once received as truth, if it be admitted that the gods do listen to certain prayers, or are influenced by set forms of words, we are bound to conclude in the affirmative upon the whole question.

The urban prefect Symmachus, who sought to maintain traditional Roman religion during the rise of Christianity, wrote: The laws of our ancestors provided for the Vestal virgins and the ministers of the gods a moderate maintenance and just privileges. This gift was preserved inviolate till the time of the degenerate moneychangers, who diverted the maintenance of sacred chastity into a fund for the payment of base porters. A public famine ensued on this act, a bad harvest disappointed the hopes of all the provinces... it was sacrilege which rendered the year barren, for it was necessary that all should lose that which they had denied to religion. The College of the Vestals was disbanded and the sacred fire extinguished in 394, by order of the Christian emperor Theodosius. Zosimus records how the Christian noblewoman Serena, a niece of Theodosius, entered the temple and took from the statue of the goddess Rhea Silvia a necklace and placed it on her own neck. An old woman appeared, the last of the Vestals, who proceeded to rebuke Serena and called down upon her all just punishment for her act of impiety.

According to Zosimus, Serena was subject to dreadful dreams predicting her own untimely death. Augustine would be inspired to write The City of God in response to murmurings that the capture of Rome and the disintegration of its empire was due to the advent of the Christian era, its intolerance of the old gods who had defended the city for over a thousand years; the chief Vestal oversaw the efforts of the Vestals, was present in the College of Pontiffs. The Vestalis Maxima Occia presided over the Vestals according to Tacitus; the last known chief vestal was Coelia Concordia, who stepped down in 394 with the disbanding of the College of the Vestals. The Vestalium Maxima was the most important of Rome's high priestesses. Although the Flaminica Dialis and the regina sacrorum each held unique responsibility for certain religious rites, each came into her office as the spouse of another appointed priest, whereas the vestals all held office independently. According to Plutarch, there were only two Vestal Virgins when Numa began the College of the Vestals.

This number increased to four, to six. It has been suggested by some authorities that a seventh was added but this is doubtful; the Vestals were committed to the priestesshood before puberty and sworn to celibacy for a period of 30 years. These 30 years were divided in turn into decade-long periods during which Vestals were students and teachers. After her 30-year term of service, each Vestal was replaced by a new inductee. Once retired, a former Vestal was allowed to marry; the Pontifex Maximus, acting as the father of the bride, would arrange a marriage with a suitable Roman nobleman. A marriage to a former Vestal was honoured, – more in ancient Rome – thought to bring good luck, as well as a comfortable pension. To obtain entry into the order, a girl had to be free of physical and mental defects, have two living parents and be a daughter of a free-born resident of Rome. From at least the mid-Republican era, the pontifex maximus chose Vestals between their sixth and tenth year, by lot from a group of twenty high-born candidates at a gathering of their families and other Roman citizens.

The girl ha

Texas City disaster

The Texas City disaster was an industrial accident that occurred April 16, 1947, in the Port of Texas City, Texas, at Galveston Bay. It was the deadliest industrial accident in U. S. history, one of history's largest non-nuclear explosions. A mid-morning fire started on board the French-registered vessel SS Grandcamp, detonated her cargo of 2,200 tons of ammonium nitrate; this started a chain reaction of additional fires and explosions in other ships and nearby oil-storage facilities. The events killed a total of at least 581 people, including all but one member of the Texas City fire department; the disaster triggered the first-ever class action lawsuit against the United States government, under the enacted Federal Tort Claims Act, on behalf of 8,485 victims. The Grandcamp was a re-activated 437-foot-long Liberty ship. Named the SS Benjamin R. Curtis in Los Angeles in 1942, the ship served in the Pacific theatre and was mothballed in Philadelphia after World War II. In a Cold War gesture, the ship was assigned by the United States to the French Line to assist in the rebuilding of France, along with other efforts in Europe.

Along with the ammonium nitrate—a common cargo on the high seas—it was carrying small arms ammunition and bales of sisal twine on the deck. Another ship in the harbor, the SS High Flyer, was docked about 600 feet away from the SS Grandcamp; the High Flyer contained an additional 961 short tons of ammonium nitrate and 1,800 short tons of sulfur. The ammonium nitrate in the two ships and fertilizer in the adjacent warehouse was intended for export to farmers in Europe; the Grandcamp had arrived from Houston, where the port authority did not permit loading of ammonium nitrate. The ammonium nitrate, needed either as fertilizer or an explosive, was manufactured in Nebraska and Iowa and shipped to Texas City by rail before being loaded on the Grandcamp, it was manufactured in a patented process, mixed with clay, petrolatum and paraffin wax to avoid moisture caking. It was packaged in paper sacks transported and stored at higher temperatures that increased its chemical activity. Longshoremen reported.

On April 16, 1947, around 8:00 a.m. smoke was spotted in the cargo hold of the Grandcamp while she was still moored. Over the next hour, attempts to extinguish the fire or bring it under control failed as a red glow returned after each effort to douse the fire. Shortly before 9:00 a.m. the captain ordered his men to steam the hold, a firefighting method where steam is piped in to extinguish fires, in order to preserve the cargo. This was unlikely to be effective, as ammonium nitrate produces its own oxygen, thus neutralizing the extinguishing properties of steam; the steam may have contributed to the fire by converting the ammonium nitrate to nitrous oxide, while augmenting the intense heat in the ship's hold. The fire attracted spectators along the shoreline; the steam pressure inside the ship blew the hatches open, yellow-orange smoke billowed out. This color is typical for nitrogen dioxide fumes; the unusual color of the smoke attracted more spectators. Spectators noted that the water around the docked ship was boiling from the heat, the splashing water touching the hull was being vaporized into steam.

The cargo hold and deck began to bulge. At 9:12 a.m. the ammonium nitrate reached an explosive threshold from the combination of heat and pressure. The vessel detonated, causing great damage throughout the port; the tremendous blast produced a 15-foot wave, detectable nearly 100 miles from the Texas shoreline. The blast leveled nearly 1,000 buildings on land; the Grandcamp explosion destroyed the Monsanto Chemical Company plant and resulted in ignition of refineries and chemical tanks on the waterfront. Falling bales of burning twine from the ship's cargo added to the damage, the Grandcamp's anchor was hurled across the city. Two sightseeing airplanes flying nearby had their wings shorn off, forcing them out of the sky, while 10 miles away, half of the windows in Galveston were shattered; the explosion blew 6,350 short tons of the ship's steel into the air, some at supersonic speed. Official casualty estimates came to a total of 567, including all the crewmen who remained aboard the Grandcamp. All but one member of the 28-man Texas City volunteer fire department were killed in the initial explosion on the docks while fighting the shipboard fire.

With fires raging throughout Texas City, first responders from other areas were unable to reach the site of the disaster. The first explosion ignited ammonium nitrate in the nearby cargo ship High Flyer; the crews spent hours attempting to cut the High Flyer free from her anchor and other obstacles, in order to move her, without success. After smoke had been pouring from the hold for over 5 hours, about 15 hours after the explosions aboard the Grandcamp, the High Flyer exploded, demolishing the nearby SS Wilson B. Keene, killing at least two more persons and increasing the damage to the port and other ships with more shrapnel and burning material. One of the propellers on the High Flyer was blown off and subsequently found nearly a mile inland, it is located near the anchor of the Grandcamp. The propeller is cracked in several places, one blade has a large piece missing; the cause of the initial fire on board the Grandcamp was never determined. It may have been started by a cigarette discarded the previous day, meaning the ship's cargo


Osaki is a type of spirit possession of a fox told about in legends of Japan. They are called osaki-gitsune, they can alternatively be written 尾先. Other ways of writing them include 御先狐, 尾崎狐, among others, they are in the folk beliefs of certain mountain villages of the Kantō region as well as other areas such as the Saitama Prefecture, the Okutama region of Tokyo Metropolis, the Gunma Prefecture, the Tochigi Prefecture, the Ibaraki Prefecture, the Nagano Prefecture, among other regions. There are no legends of this in Tokyo other than in Tama, this said to be because osaki are unable to cross the Toda river or because in Kantō Hasshū, there was the head of the foxes, the Ōji Inari Jinja, preventing the osaki from entering Edo. There is a legend of an osaki, a nine-tailed fox, Tamamo-no-mae, who perished at Nasu field, its golden fur flying off in the process, became a spirit, after which the nine-tailed fox transformed into a sessho-seki, when the monk Gennō Shinshō came to calm this curse by splitting this stone, one of its fragments flew to Kōzuke Province and became an osaki.

Its name is said to come from how it was born from one of the nine-tailed fox's tails, so it was called "osaki", according to the Toen Shōsetsu by Kyokutei Bakin and others, the tail split into two, why it is "osaki", there is the theory that its name comes from misaki, meaning kin of gods. Depending on the land and on the literature telling about them, the osaki's appearance can be different. In the Kyokutei Zakki by Kyokutei Bakin, it was a beast smaller than a fox and resembled a weasel, around Nanmoku, Kanra District, Gunma Prefecture, it was something like a mixture between weasel and mouse or between ural owl and mouse and said to be a big larger than a house mouse, its color has been variously described to be spotted with mixtures of orange, grey, so on, it is sometimes said to have a solid black line from its head to its tail and with a split tail, in Shimonita of the same district, there are various theories talked about such as how they have human-like ears and a nose, white just at its tip, how they have a square mouth, so on.

They are said to be quick at movement so they can appear and always move in a pack. Families that have osaki are called "osaki-mochi", "osaki-ya", "osaki-tsukai", so on, they never show themselves and are said to bring gold and silver and other things on a whim. Osaki-mochi are said to avoid contact with society and marriage with others and only marry among each other; this is said to be because if someone from an osaki family marries into another, the other family becomes osaki-mochi, this has been one cause of societal tensions in relation to marriages. According to the Edo Period Baiō Zuihitsu, if an osaki has possessed a family line, there is no way to rid it from the family no matter what means one attempts to use. There are some cases when they would not possess a family but instead an individual, the one possessed would, like in the case of the kitsunetsuki, catch a fever, experience agitation and mental abnormalities, be voracious eaters, have eccentricities. In Ueno, Tano District, Gunma Prefecture, stoats are called "yama-osaki" and they follow people behind them, but it is said that mistreating them would result in a curse.

In another town in the Gunam Prefecture, "osaki," "yama-osaki," and "sato-osaki" are considered different things, it is said that the yama-osaki does not possess people but the sato-osaki does. 石塚尊俊. 日本の憑きもの 俗信は今も生きている. 未來社. 笹間良彦. 図説・日本未確認生物事典|和書. 柏書房. ISBN 978-4-7601-1299-9. 須田圭三他. 谷川健一責任編集. 日本民俗文化資料集成|和書. 7. 三一書房. ISBN 978-4-380-90527-8. 多田克己. "『妖怪画本・狂歌百物語』妖怪総覧". In 京極夏彦編. 妖怪画本 狂歌百物語. 国書刊行会. ISBN 978-4-3360-5055-7. 吉田禎吾. 日本の憑きもの 社会人類学的考察. 中公新書. 中央公論新社. ISBN 978-4-12-100299-0