In one of those [Varanasi] temples we saw a devotee working for salvation in a curious way. He had a huge wad of clay beside him and was making it up into little wee gods no bigger than carpet tacks. He stuck a grain of rice into each—to represent the lingam, I think. He turned them out nimbly, for he had had long practice and had acquired great facility. Every day he made 2,000 gods, then threw them into the holy Ganges.
–Mark Twain, Following the Equator
“It is said that no snakes enter the city of Aleppo, and if any of its soil is sprinkled on a snake it dies immediately. No gnats are ever found in it, and if a man puts his hand outside its walls a gnat might alight upon it; when he brings it inside, the gnat flies away.”
–The Ultimate Ambition in the Arts of Erudition, trans. Elias Muhanna