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  • Married Life with a Mermaid: Six Useful Rules August 14, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern

    Paracelsus (obit 1541) was a Swiss German who had strong interests in science and the supernatural: though, of course, for dear old Paracelsus they were one and the same thing, the natural world. In Paracelsus’ writings there is a good deal of material on what we would call fairies, mermaids and other goblins. Paracelsus has a fascinating series of references to mermaids (in what follows ‘mermaid’, ‘undine’ and ‘nymph’ are used interchangeably). Here is what we learn.

    First, humans can seen mermaids but mermaids cannot see humans: ‘what the Undines know of us is to them merely what fairy tales are to us.’ So courtship might prove difficult.

    Second, mermaids can change to the ‘gross’ physical plane in which human live. If you really want to go and look for them Paracelsus assures us that they like resting on the shore.

    Third, mermaids are not immortal, but they can receive immortality of soul through marriage to a man. So mermaids like marrying humans.

    Fourth, mermaid-human children are human and have souls, so you can relax on that count.

    Fifth, ‘If any man has a Nymph for a wife, let him take care not to offend her while she is near the water, as in such a case she might return to her own element.’ Strong folklore echoes here.

    Sixth, ‘If anyone marries a water-nymph and she deserts him, he ought not to take another wife, for the marriage has not been dissolved. If he marries another woman he will shortly die.’ All of which begs the question, how do you divorce a mermaid?

    Other advice for anyone intending to marry a mermaid: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    Jury Hell in 1995 August 13, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Jury Hell in 1995

    Beach has previously, on this site, looked at truly awful jobs (the Worst Career in History tag): including Japanese Prime Ministers, Knocker ups, Scottish Kings and Water Thief Watchers. However, he has recently come across, with some excitement, a new chamber in hell: namely, jury duty on the O. J. Simpson trial, Jan 25, 1995 – […]

    The Ludgvan Ghost Riot August 12, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Ludgvan Ghost Riot

    Here is a nice ghost riot story from deepest darkest Cornwall, at Ludgvan near Penzance. This is a rather rare, though not entirely unprecedented thing, a rural ghost riot. Note also that this is a memory: interestingly the great Ludgvan ghost riot of c. 1820 or c. 1830 didn’t make it into the press. My first acknowledgment […]

    Joys of Supermarket Shopping in the Soviet Union August 11, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Joys of Supermarket Shopping in the Soviet Union

    The Soviet Union ran a centrally-planned economic system. This meant that bureaucrats, using five-year plans, had to anticipate the changing wants and needs of Soviet citizens looking into their cracked crystal balls. It is not that these planners did so badly, they did so with verve and cunning and best intentions: it is just that […]

    London Fairy Roadrunner August 10, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    London Fairy Roadrunner

    This is a fabulous and often overlooked ‘fairy’ sighting. The inverted commas on ‘fairy’ because it is difficult to know quite what to make of this. The story appeared in the third volume of Thomas Crofton Croker’s Fairy Legends of Ireland, only it comes from London or the outskirts of that city, c. 1800. First some […]

    Trafficking in Human Fat! August 9, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Trafficking in Human Fat!

    This story came up yesterday after inspired by the werewolf fat story. It is taken from a the Reading Mercury (10 Aug 1831)but was allegedly translated from Annals d’Hygiene Publique. ln the year 1813, a discovery was made in the Schools of Medicine, in Paris, which strongly excited the attention of the professors. The servants […]

    French Werewolves Sell Fat to Glass Factories? August 8, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    French Werewolves Sell Fat to Glass Factories?

    Beach has been messing around with wolves this week and he ran across this reference in relation to the wolf deaths in Dauphiné in the mid eighteenth century. The priest of Primarette wrote a summary of local attitudes to these killings. Enjoy the following: apart obviously from the fact that three kids had been devoured. […]

    Herne the Hunter: the Twelve Basic Facts August 7, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Herne the Hunter: the Twelve Basic Facts

    For the unacquainted Herne the Hunter is a southern English bogie, who haunted a tree in the park at Windsor Castle on the Bucks/Berks border. Almost all writing about Herne is overlaid with speculative points and useless comparisons. This post offers, therefore, an absolute basic version of the legend focusing hard on our early sources, […]

    Myths of Twentieth-Century History August 6, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Modern
    Myths of Twentieth-Century History

    Seven twentieth century myths follow. Any other contributions or angry rebuttals, drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com Great War: A Disaster Waiting to Happen, 1914 The Great War was going to happen sooner or later because two countries, Germany and France, wanted it. However, the consensus that the Great War would have inevitably led to the ‘breaking […]

    Earliest Portrayal of Dwarfs: Heysham? August 5, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Earliest Portrayal of Dwarfs: Heysham?

    Early medieval and medieval literature is full of fairies, kobolds, gnomes and other supernatural entities. But when we come to try and understand how our ancestors envisaged these supernatural beasts we run into problems. We don’t, unfortunately, have early illustrations of fairies and their ilk; or at least we don’t have illustrations that can be […]

    Missing Urban Legends August 2, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Missing Urban Legends

    In the 1970s folklorists lightened up and realised that folklore was not just about elves, witches and weather prognostications. Modern beliefs involving swallowed melon seeds and superstitions about cars from suburbia were also fair game. With this new revelation, several excited young men and women went out and began collecting tales and started writing about […]

    Beachcombed 86 August 1, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Beachcombed
    Beachcombed 86

    Dear Reader, Strangely the busiest month of the year. Summer shouldn’t be like this…. There follow the most interesting words sent in to StrangeHistory. Thanks to all contributors and linkers…  A few precious days alone here for writing: children suitably enough on a beach. I’ll get back to linking and images in September. Enjoy August! Beach Beggar for […]

    Index Biography #44: Prize a book July 31, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Index Biography #44: Prize a book

    The Index Biography is a quiz pioneered by this blog and introduced in a previous post. The creator must find a biography of a famous individual from history, they must turn to the index and write down eight peripheral facts about the individual’s life. We offered up previously here Sheridan le Fanu and Joseph Stalin (he of ripe […]

    Gaston Ouvrieu and Blindfold Driving July 30, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Gaston Ouvrieu and Blindfold Driving

    A delightful end of month story. Our hero is Gaston Ouvrieu who, in 1917, received a serious injury while serving in the French army. When he woke up in hospital he was alleged to be able to read the minds of other patients, as the doctor took his pulse: Ouvrieu needed this ‘telegraph’ effect for […]

    Immortal Meals #34: Picnic Under the Vicar’s Oak July 29, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Immortal Meals #34: Picnic Under the Vicar's Oak

    Norwood was a rural area to the south of London that was sucked into the metropolis in the mid, late nineteenth century. If you want to go and imagine where the nightingale once sang and where Surrey farmers shot rabbits, head off for the mean streets around Crystal Palace, sit down and weep. ‘This is the […]

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