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

Nautilus5 min readPsychology
The Deepest Uncertainty: When a hypothesis is neither true nor false.
Georg Cantor died in 1918 in a sanatorium in Halle, Germany. A pre-eminent mathematician, he had laid the foundation for the theory of infinite numbers in the 1870s. At the time, his ideas received hostile opposition from prominent mathematicians in
Nautilus5 min readPsychology
The English Word That Hasn’t Changed in Sound or Meaning in 8,000 Years
One of my favorite words is lox,” says Gregory Guy, a professor of linguistics at New York University. There is hardly a more quintessential New York food than a lox bagel—a century-old popular appetizing store, Russ & Daughters, calls it “The Classi
Nautilus5 min readScience
Dark Matter Gets a Reprieve in New Analysis
Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine’s Abstractions blog. The galactic center shines too brightly, like the glow of a metropolis at night where maps show only a town. To mend their cosmic cartography, astrophysicists have spent years debati