Rituals and celebrations

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Revellers take part in “La Vijanera” Festival in Silio, Spain on January 5, 2014. Of pre-Roman origin, the festival sees villagers wearing masks, animal skins and brightly coloured clothing; the embodiment of the survival of archaic cults to nature.Photo by Ervin Sarkisov/Corbis

Ecology and environmental sciences
It’s not easy being green

If rational persuasion fails to make people behave environmentally, could rituals and a dash of guilt do a better job?

Stephen Cave & Sarah Darwin

Photo by Gallery Stock

Rituals and celebrations
Smoking with friends

Life can be a lonely journey. But at your local cigar bar, all the guys know your name – or give you a new one altogether

Mark Teich

Detail from Albrecht Dürer’s Young Hare (1502) watercolour, gouache; in the Albertina Collection, Vienna. Photo by Corbis

A fake of art

Museums display perfect reproductions of fragile works and visitors can’t tell the difference. Is nothing in art sacred?

Noah Charney

In the Highlands of New Guinea, 1970. Photo by Burt Glinn/Magnum

Rituals and celebrations
Possessed by a mask

Every human culture has used masks for ritual disinhibition, shaming and play. Is being online the ultimate masquerade?

Sandra Newman

Food at a graveside during the Korean festival of Chusok. Photo by Michel Setboun

Family life
Korean Thanksgiving

‘Take a photo of the spread,’ my mother says. ‘This way you can remember what to arrange when I’m dead.’

Mary H K Choi

One of the 8,000 players of the game ‘ConQuest of Mythodea’ stands on the playing field near Brokeloh, Germany, August 2014. Photo by Peter Steffen/dpa/Corbis

Rituals and celebrations
Great pretenders

Live-action role-play is venturing into some weighty social topics. Can make-believe really show us possible worlds?

Alexa Clay

Illustration by Stephen Collins

Head to head

Michelangelo and Raphael; Leibniz and Newton; Constable and Turner. Does every creative genius need a bitter rival?

Jacob Burak

Elderly Venetian women sit on a stone bench gossiping in the Piazza San Marco. Photo by Ernst Haas/Getty

Stories and literature
Happily never after

Messy plots, audience participation and uncertain endings: how digital storytelling revives the ancient art of gossip

Katherine May

A Siberian Shaman. Photo by Alexander Nikolsky/The Siberian Times

Philosophy of religion
Inside the mind of God

Punitive Big Brother; cosmic petty-thief-catcher; vigilant landlord. Why is God so interested in bad behaviour?

Benjamin Grant Purzycki

Detail from Interior with Young Woman from Behind by Vilhelm Hammershoi /Wikimedia

Biography and memoir
Like a prayer

Even secular people need time out to meditate, reflect, and give thanks. Is prayer the answer?

Heather Havrilesky

Photo by David Alan Harvey/Magnum

Love and friendship
The modern wedding

A white gown, a grand reception, a multi-tiered cake – the stuff of a traditional wedding or something else entirely?

Beth Montemurro