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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Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
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Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
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Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
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Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
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British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
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Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
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Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
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Wayne Rooney warms up ahead of the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at White Hart Lane
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Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
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Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
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War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015