Arts and Entertainment

Literary prescriptions for modern ailments

Virgin Mary seen in tree stump in Limerick

As a place of worship, it’s verging on the bizarre: a tree stump in the grounds of a church in Co Limerick, Ireland, which many believe depicts an image of the Blessed Virgin.

Cyclotherapy: The Road to Ventoux: Superstition ain't the way

How do you approach a big ride such as a long sportive? I doubt that you turn up and just do it, like the typical weekend training ride. If you're a novice, there will be justifiable trepidation and a sense of not quite knowing what you are embarking on. More experienced, and you will bring a weight of expectations, a list of curious talismanic conditions that need to be just-so for you to feel settled at the start.

Amol Rajan: Rote learning and Boris

It is one of the most deeply rooted superstitions on the Right in Britain today that only Tories believe in a thorough, rigorous academic education for all. This view has no basis in reality, and is one of those little voodoo dolls created by partisans (people on the Left do it too, of course) to give their fellow ideologues something to stick their pins into, and thereby cohere around.

At least Toure's superstition wasn't life-threatening

Kolo Toure's superstition about being the last player to take the pitch proved bad luck last week when Arsenal kicked off the second half against Roma without him as he waited for William Gallas, who had been receiving treatment. The Ivorian was then yellow-carded for scurrying on late without the referee's permission. Could have been worse, though, as another African player discovered last October after the players for Zimbabwe's Midlands Portland Cement side were ordered into the crocodile-infested Zambezi by their coach for a spot of ritual cleansing, intended to banish bad spirits. Seventeen went in; 16 came out. And they lost their next match.

A C Grayling: An antidote to the prevailing superstition

The launch of a national federation of atheist, humanist and secular student societies is one of the brightest things to happen this winter.

Miscarriage: The loneliest grief of all

Kate Evans has had six miscarriages. To her, each felt like a bereavement – yet she mourned in silence. So how do you deal with the loss of someone who never lived?

Darkness Rising, By Frank Tallis

A Freudian PI returns in this historical thriller

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Gatti, Royal Festival Hall, London

Mahler had a superstitious fear of tackling his Ninth Symphony, and the score he completed in 1909 is duly riven with anguish, nostalgia and farewell gestures. Its 1912 premiere did indeed prove posthumous.

Tanzanian albinos come out of the shadows

Al-Shymaa Kway-Geer got her job because of the way she looks. Not because of her average height, her shoulder-length hair or her fashion sense. She is a Tanzanian MP because of her skin, which is white and freckled with sun damage and her pale, almost colourless eyes.

Nigeria arrests 'exorcist bishop'

Nigeria has cracked down on the abuse of children branded as witches after a British investigation into the practice. A man calling himself "the bishop", who said he had killed more than 100 people possessed by the devil, has been arrested.

One Minute With: Poppy Adams

A Journey to Mount Athos, By François Augiérastrs Sue Dyson and Christopher Moncrieff

A youth finds himself in a strange village, near the sea, in the cool of the evening. He does not know how he got there, or who he is. A beautiful young woman explains that he is dead; if he becomes her lover, she will return him to the land of the living. Though tempted, he chooses instead to travel further into the land of death, to the island of Athos where he will try to reach the summit of the Holy Mountain.

Scandal of the children killed for 'witchcraft'

In Nigeria, rogue pastors prey on fears of black magic to drum up a lucrative trade in 'exorcisms'
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Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us