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Victorian Osiris Kills Father and Paints Fairies April 30, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Victorian Osiris Kills Father and Paints Fairies

Now that the happy days of summer are here Beach is running away, in his mind, with several projects. There are the bat boxes, visits to the animals’ secret garden in the woods (with elder daughter), an attempt (probably vain) to get a carpenter to put up some shelves and then, chief among Beach’s preoccupations, there […]

Pyramids in Italy April 29, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
Pyramids in Italy

The pyramids of the Etruscan king Porsenna (fl c. 500 BC) are one of the great mysteries of antiquity. What does this passage ‘mean’? What did they really look like (try and visualise them)? Where were they? Hell, did they ever really exist? [Porsenna] was buried below the city of Clusium in the place where […]

The Popess: A Female Pope? April 28, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
The Popess: A Female Pope?

There are popes who had children, there are popes who took part in orgies, there are popes (at least one) who did not believe in God. However, Beachcombing has so far avoided the most remarkable pope of all: Pope Joan. The story is quickly told. Pope John VIII went out to bless the people of […]

Shadowfax: A Fantasy Horse April 27, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Shadowfax: A Fantasy Horse

J.R.R. Tolkien ‘horsed’ his world with some wonderful creations. There was Roheryn the stallion of Arogan, Arod a steed so strong that he carried an elf and a dwarf together on his back and even the hobbits’ loyal pony Bill. But most memorable of all was Shadowfax, who bears the mage Gandalf, ‘like the north […]

Fairy Shysters April 26, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Fairy Shysters

One part of Beach’s fairy fascination with Ireland has been the whole question of what might be called ‘fairy shysters’. Sharp swindlers who, in the nineteenth and twentieth century, went around taking innocent and usually vulnerable men and women for  ‘a ride’. Beach has gathered some remarkable examples together, including three extraordinary instances of ‘fairy […]

Honey and the Anvils of Women’s Thighs April 25, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Honey and the Anvils of Women's Thighs

Beachcombing has been enjoying some reading in Arabic aphrodisiacs: aphrodisiacs understood as any food that creates desire or that deals with problems of desire from impotence to disinterest. The Arab world seems to have been pre-eminent in this field and opusculi were written with such wonderful titles as the medieval The Book of Exposition in […]

Chickpeas, Menstrual Blood and Witchcraft April 24, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Chickpeas, Menstrual Blood and Witchcraft

Beach offers today for contemplation this extraordinary early modern text from De morbis ueneficis ac ueneficiis (1595) by Battista Codronchi (obit 1628), a practical guide to dealing with witch’s spells. In this book BC explains a curious personal experience that led him to undertake his study: an illness that struck his baby daughter Francesca. Beach […]

Human Confetti in the Jungle of Guyana April 23, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Human Confetti in the Jungle of Guyana

Beach prides himself in getting together some of the most striking photographs possible to show his students at uni. However, he is dismayed how often good photographs require dead bodies: a revolutionary Spanish soldier with his head disintegrating, Aldo Moro curled in a fœtus in the back of that fiat, Jesse James laid out, the […]

Coincidence in Jersey City April 22, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Coincidence in Jersey City

Following on from a recent post Beachcombing has had several extraordinary emails about coincidences among our governing classes. He thought, meanwhile, that today he would premiere another of his favourite coincidence stories: the good works of Edwin Booth (obit 1893). In 1909 an American citizen wrote the following letter to The Century Magazine with an […]

Irish Merman Off Connemara April 21, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Irish Merman Off Connemara

***Beach dedicates this to Mike Dash who sent in the clipping*** The Nottingham Evening Post, Aug 26 1937 ran with a merman story that was new (at least to this mermaid enthusiast). Note curious claims for his dimensions or is this just a misunderstanding on the part of the journalist in the English Midlands. The […]

More Christ Confusion April 20, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
More Christ Confusion

    Beach wrote a few days ago of the most moving source for the historical Christ, a source that perhaps dates back to a decade after Jesus’ death. Today, instead, he thought he would look at the most amusing source for Christ’s death, a fragment from Josephus, the turncoat who supported the Jewish resistance […]

Nanny Coincidence April 19, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Nanny Coincidence

When Churchill died in 1965 at the age of 90 there was one picture by his bedside. The picture was not of his wife (though their marriage had been a success), nor of his children, nor of his parents. Rather it was of his nanny who had left the earth seventy years before (obit 1895). […]

Newspaper Archives as Controls or Filters April 18, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Newspaper Archives as Controls or Filters

Beachcombing spent more time than was strictly necessary last summer looking at nineteenth- and twentieth-century newspaper archives. It is an extraordinary world. You constantly find yourself caught up on headlines (‘Sea-monster seen in the Channel’, ‘Germans eat the French’) that cannot easily be ignored and then you take one last look over the page and […]

Misfortunes with Severed Heads: Richard Owen and Lancaster Jail April 17, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Misfortunes with Severed Heads: Richard Owen and Lancaster Jail

Beachcombing regrets that he cannot provide the primary source for the following anecdote from Richard Owen’s early life. Anyone lucky enough to have instant access to mid nineteenth-century periodicals will find it in Hood’s Magazine and Comic Miscellany vol 3 (1845), 294-303. Beach is taking this paraphrase from the excellent Dinosaur Hunters by Deborah Cadbury, […]

Pixie-Led in the South-West April 16, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Pixie-Led in the South-West

Beachcombing is back to the fairies. One subject that has intrigued him through this spring is the rare fairy-phenomenon of being ‘pixie-led’, one particularly associated with the south-west of England: hence the name as ‘the pixies’ are the fairies of Cornwall and Devon. To be pixie-led is to be led astray by the good folk […]

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