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  • Beachcombed 28 October 1, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Beachcombed , trackback

    Dear Reader, Difficult month here among the Beachcombings as news of ill health haunts the family and term kicks up all the dust imaginable: think dry sand stretch after a motorbike race. Fairies have been placed on hold after an  intense elfen summer and Beach himself has turned back to more conventional history: you can only do so much of the fey before you start to see things in the shadows. However, if October has a crisp autumnal feel to it…Then there is the hell with the roof – about to be replaced – and the new aupair (here in two weeks), a girl from the scariest part of western Europe. Fingers crossed…

    Beach has gathered several of his favourite history articles sent in below with huge thanks to readers. However, other good offworld stuff included David Cameron’s encounter with British history on Letterman: taking the magna carta seriously, whatever next. There were those unusual cloud formations. Salman Rushdie’s brilliant description of the fatwa against him. Then there is paying off college debts in Kosovo and Iraq. A bit of cryptozoology in Siberia courtesy of the Daily Mail and Larry’s review on the psychology of space travel.

    Now the ten thousand most important words from the blog… Thanks to all contributors.

    Hell Fire Club: Wade writes in with an eighteenth century sources: the thing is very likely true then. Here is the unexpurgated text from the Gentleman’s Magazine 30 (1761), it appears though also, as Wade has pointed out, in The real story of John Carteret Pilkington in 1760.  The late Earl of Rosse was, in character and disposition, like the humorous Earl of Rochester; he had an infinite fund of wit, great spirits, and a liberal heart; was fond of all the vices which the beau monde call pleasures, and by those means first impaired his fortune as much as he possibly could do; and finally his health, beyond repair. To recite any part of his wit here is impossible, though I have heard much of it, but as it either tended to blasphemy, or, at the best, obscenity, it is better where it is. A nobleman could not, in so censorious a place as Dublin, lead a life of rackets, brawls, and midnight confusion, without being a general topic for reproach, and having fifty thousand faults invented to complete the number of those he had: nay, some asserted that he dealt with the Devil; established a Hell-fire Club at the Eagle Tavern on Cork-hill; and that one Worsdale, a mighty innocent, facetious painter, who was indeed only the agent of his gallantry, was a party concerned. Be it as it will, his Lordship’s character was torn to pieces everywhere, except at the Groom Porter’s, where he was a man of honour; and at the taverns, where none surpassed him in generosity. Having led this life till it brought him to death’s door, his neighbour, the Rev John Madden, (Vicar of St. Anne’s and Dean of Kilmore,) a man of exemplary piety and virtue, having heard his Lordship was given over, thought it his duty to write him a very pathetic letter, to remind him of his past life, the particulars of which he mentioned, such as profligacy, gaming, drinking, rioting, turning day into night, blaspheming his Maker, and, in short, all manner of wickedness; and exhorting him in the tenderest manner to employ the few moments that remained to him, in penitently confessing his manifold transgressions, and soliciting his pardon from an offended Deity, before whom he was shortly to appear. It is necessary to acquaint the reader that the late Earl of Kildare was one of the most pious noblemen of the age, and in every respect a contrast in character to Lord Rosse. When the latter, who retained his senses to the last moment, and died rather for want of breath than want of spirits, read over the Dean’s letter (which came to him under cover), he ordered it to be put in another paper, sealed up, and directed to the Earl of Kildare: he likewise prevailed on the Dean’s servant to carry it, and to say it came from his master, which he was encouraged to do by a couple of guineas, and his knowing nothing of its contents. Lord Kildare was an effeminate, puny little man, extremely formal and delicate, insomuch that when he was married to Lady Mary O’Brien, one of the most shining beauties then in the world, he would not take his wedding gloves off to embrace her. From this single instance may be judged with what surprise and indignation he read over the Dean’s letter, containing so many accusations for crimes he knew himself entirely innocent of. He first ran to his lady, and informed her that Dean Madden was actually mad; to prove which, he delivered her the epistle ho had just received. The Ladyship was as much confounded and amazed at it as he could possibly be, but withal observed the letter was not written in the style of a madman, and advised him to go to the Archbishop of Dublin about it. Accordingly, his Lordship ordered his coach, and went to the episcopal palace, where he found his Grace at home, and immediately accosted him in this manner: ‘Pray, my Lord, did you ever hear that I was a blasphemer, a profligate, a gamester, a rioter, and everything that’s base and infamous?’ ‘You, my Lord,’ said the Bishop, ‘every one knows that you are the pattern of humility, godliness, and virtue.’ ‘Well, my Lord, what satisfaction can I have of a learned and reverend divine, who, under his own hand, lays all this to my charge’. ‘Surely,’ answered his Grace, ‘no man in his senses, that knew your Lordship, would presume to do it; and if any clergyman has been guilty of such an offence, your Lordship will have satisfaction from the spiritual court.’ Upon this Lord Kildare delivered to his Grace the letter, which he told him was that morning delivered by the Dean’s servant, and which both the Archbishop and the Earl know to be Dean Madden’s handwriting. The Archbishop immediately sent for the Dean, who, happening to be at home, instantly obeyed the summons. Before he entered the room, his Grace advised Lord Kildare to walk into another apartment, while he discoursed the gentleman about it, which his Lordship accordingly did. When the Dean entered, his Grace looking very sternly, demanded if he had wrote that letter. The Dean answered, ‘I did, my Lord.’ ‘Mr. Dean, I always thought you a man of sense and prudence, but this unguarded action must lessen you in the esteem of all good men; to throw out so many causeless invectives against the most unblemished nobleman in Europe, and accuse him of crimes to which he and his family have ever been strangers, must certainly be the effect of a distempered brain: besides, sir, you have by this means laid yourself open to a prosecution in the ecclesiastical court, which will either oblige you publicly to recant what you have said, or give up your possessions in the Church.’ ‘My Lord,’ answered the Dean, ‘I never either think, act, or write anything, for which I am afraid to be called to an account before any tribunal upon earth; and if I am to be prosecuted for discharging the duties of my function, I will suffer patiently the severest penalties in justification of it.’ And so saying, the Dean retired with some emotion, and left the two noblemen as much in the dark as ever. Lord Kildare went home, and sent for a proctor of the spiritual court, to whom he committed the Dean’s letter, and ordered a citation to be sent to him as soon as possible. In the meantime the Archbishop, who knew the Dean had a family to provide for, and foresaw that ruin must attend his entering into a suit with so powerful a person, went to his house, and recommended him to ask my Lord’s pardon, before the matter became public. ‘Ask his pardon,’ said the Dean, ‘why the man is dead!’ ‘What!’ Lord Kildare dead!’ ‘No, Lord Rosse.’ ‘Good God,’ said the Arclibishop, ‘did you not send a letter yesterday to Lord Kildare?’ ‘No, truly, my Lord, but I sent one to the unhappy Earl of Rosse, who was then given over, and I thought it my duty to write to him in the manner I did.’ Upon examining the servant, the whole mistake was rectified, and the Dean saw, with real regret, that Lord Rosse died as he had lived; nor did he continue in this life above four hours after he sent off the letter. The poor footman lost his place by the jest, and was, indeed, the only sufferer for my Lord’s last piece of humour.’ Thanks Wade!

    Hitler and Long Knives: Jane C writes: I think you’ve made a mistake to put the long-knife deaths in your series of incredible numbers from history (which need, by the way, a tag). The point of the other examples you give is that we have inadequate sources and historians don’t have the self-discipline not to guess. Here we have fairly reliable figures that have been predictably blown up by polemics and misunderstandings. What really matters here is that Hitler is attacking his own and confirming himself to be an absolute shit! Let’s say that Hitler actually killed a hundred that night. He killed three thousand in his first year. It just wasn’t that unusual a day… How many was he killing a day by 1942? Now that number would be interesting and worth arguing over. Thanks Jane!

    Christ’s Wife: Kate starts with some full frontal skepticism: Alas! Christ’s wife has been in the news here in the Boston area for a few days now. I doubt its authenticity. And, frankly, even if Christ were married, I don’t see what difference it would make. The Roman Catholic church might have to re-think certain policies, but the essential Christian teachings are the same. IIRC, the celibacy of the priesthood came about during the late Middle Ages and was more about hereditary and property rights than holiness. Speculate all you want about Jesus and Mary Magdalene, I’ll dream about  the Papacy being a hereditary sinecure and how that might have changed the face of Europe and the greater world. Then comes KHM ‘There may be a simple explanation for this papyrus fragment. Christ was never married while on earth, but he was destined to be married later in heaven. This will be occurring at the “marriage supper  of the lamb,”  mentioned in Rev. 19:7-9 and alluded to elsewhere The marriage will equalize the spiritual status of women with men which isn’t true in Christianity now. The ability of women to become disciples of Christ was a question raised also in The Gospel of St. Thomas. The last word, number 114, is as follows: 114)     Simon Peter said to them: Let Mary go out from among us, because women are  not worthy of the Life. Jesus said: See, I shall lead her, so that I will make her male, that she too may become a living spirit, resembling you males. For every woman who makes herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever Mary was, to make a woman  male obviously refers to a spiritual transformation, not a physical one. In the papyrus, Christ would be speaking spiritually, not physically, as He was known to do on other occasions. Wade writes: An argument I was struck by in Holy Blood, Holy Grail: Jesus should have been married, and that it was a cultural imperative in that time and place for Jewish men. The fact this isn’t mentioned one way or the other in the Gospels is very odd. If he hadn’t married it should have been remarked on by someone, ergo he was probably married. As I say I was struck by the argument, but I don’t know if it is valid, or if there were many exceptions then. Wade also sent in a follow up article on Jesus and his wife. Thanks KMH, Wade and Kate!

    Confusion and Fusion: Douglas writes: Somebody very kindly sent me an article from The English Historical Review (2000) [Ward-Perkins] just the other day and it’s directly pertinent to your argument. One thing with the lack of Celtic words in EnglishThere are signs – and a discussion – that English grammar has been heavily influenced by Celtic. I suspect it’s early days as yet in how this discussion plays out: language log, and languagesoftheworld. Not sure that the Brits were as militarily weak as you suggest, but this article takes issue with that idea better than I can. Somewhere (maybe in a Michael Wood book) I remember it mentioned that post-Roman earthworks and defences can be identified that follow the old pre-Roman tribal boundaries. I’m kind of fancying the idea that the Anglo-Saxon ‘conquest’ was similar to the Brit conquest of India, with various statelets and cities allied with and played off against each other, another European power doing the same, and a messy range of battles and wars. It’s looked at as the British Conquest of India, but in reality it was far more nuanced and did not need hordes of Brits invading. I guess the Brits had better tech and trade?’ Thanks Douglas!

    Prisoners of War: CC writes in: I work on the site of what was once a prisoner of war camp during the American Civil War.  While it has been somewhat difficult to track down photos online, I have seen many in locally-produced books.  Below are some that I could find online. A slightly more intimate photo than those you featured:  Men of the 20th Tennessee Infantry after being captured by Federal forces, likely at the Battle of Missionary Ridge.    Photo taken at the Rock Island, Illinois prisoner of war camp. The photo below is captioned:  U. S. officials offer Confederate prisoners of war at Rock Island the opportunity to take an oath of loyalty and enlist for military service against Native Americans in the West. Hundreds do so over the next months.  And below, while not of POWs, is still interesting.  It’s members of the 108th Colored Infantry arrived at Rock Island to guard the Confederates.  Invisible has some images from elsewhere: Napoleonic (Dartmoor), a Napoleonic book and a British concentration camp in South Africa.    Then comes Ricardo: From the war in Canudos, Brasil. And some info on it (peasants get into war by a priest who doesn’t want the Republic and wants to keep the Emperor rule. more or less. there is also poverty, misticism and all of that. Very interesting episode of Brasil history). JT paints a picture with words. Can anyone come up with the original?: ‘i found your piece on pows very interesting( i dont know why war facsinates me so much,ive never been in the military,fired a weapon in anger,abhor violence etc etc but….) anyway it bought to mind i very disturbing memory i  have of a photo of group of a couple of hundred or so prisoners taken by the veit minh after the fall of the french garrison at dien bien phu (i think about 10 000 surrendered and about only 3000 survived captivity) it showed 2 groups or columns of prisoners-1 was of european soldiers ,still clothed,booted , many showing obvious signs of wounds- bandages,makeshift crutches etc,they were starting to be led off on a march to the camps that they would be intered in. the other group were vietnamese volunteers or conscriptees,stripped of boots and uniforms,some looked to be bound as well as blindfolded,being stood over and guarded by some of their victorious countrymen.   although the photo was grainy, black and white and not in perfect focus the fear and realisation of their fate was clearly discernable in the faces of the men squatting and sitting on the ground.-the fate of about 3000 vietnamese who fought for the french and were captured at dien bien phu is unknown. i have tried to find this photo again on the www but with no luck-i think it may of been in one of bernard falls books on the french efforts to retain their colonial interests in ‘indo-china’. i was about 8 or 9 and had graduated from ‘commando’ comics to wanting to find out about ‘real war'(i was taught and encouraged by my parents who were teachers to start to read very early& my reading material was never censored)when i first recall seeing  this image and another showing the body of a german soldier that had been squashed flat by a tank and was frozen in sludgy snow in ww2 russia.i remember being greatly horrified and disturbed by these 2 photos and the reality of war dawned upon me. i was also sickened thinking about the times my brothers and i had pestered my grandfather and uncle for stories and tales from their times at war(papua new guinea ww2 and vietnam respectively) anyway enough about me- i did find a few pics of french pows from dien bien phu-just by doing a quick search on google, not sure about what you have do do to post up a pic-aside from quality issues i mean copy right etc the french war in vietnam and the seige of dien bien phu are nearly forgotten or unheard of by most (no soldiers from the us having died there).’ thanks JT, CC, Ricardo and Invisible!

    Pigeons: The Count on pigeons: Interesting post regarding carrier pigeons in antiquity, but I think you may be missing a few points. Firstly, it would be very difficult for people to come up with the idea of using pigeons as long-distance messengers in the first place because it isn’t intuitively obvious that this would work unless you know about bird migration, which medieval Europeans didn’t – they accounted for the absence of swallows in Winter by assuming that they hibernated in the mud at the bottom of ponds, and put the strange absence of barnacle goose nesting sites down to, not the seemingly obvious hypothesis that they nested in the same manner as every other species of bird, only a long way away, but the utterly bonkers theory that they began life as barnacles! The basis for this belief was that a certain type of large stalked barnacle with most of its fleshy parts visible looks a little bit as though it might just possibly be a half-formed goose embryo. Obviously, if any tradition of scientific experimentation had existed, they could have disproved ideas like this very quickly, but it didn’t. So even though dovecotes were a common accessory to the larger houses, the only way that anyone might discover the homing ability of pigeons would be if the lord of the manor sold a number of doves to somebody else who lived a fair distance away, one of which had such distinctive plumage that when it returned, it was obviously the same one. And even then, since as noted the medieval mindset didn’t have any concept of what we would call the scientific method, it simply wouldn’t occur to them to conduct experiments such as painting numbers on lots of pigeons and letting them loose progressively further from home. In all likelihood, the miraculous return of that one special bird would be seen as just that – a miracle, or at least a prodigy. They might try to derive some sort of portent from it. But they certainly wouldn’t assume that if one bird can do this, other birds, or at any rate, other birds of the same species, can probably do it as well. Medieval Arabs, on the other hand, were somewhat more inclined to use this kind of reasoning. Their exceptional grasp of astronomy had the practical purpose of allowing them to navigate without compasses, for which reason it was important that any theories they came up with precisely matched what the Heavens actually did. Some of them were even able to navigate by the stars in the daytime! What they did was to memorize the entire night sky, keep track of where Venus currently was, and train themselves to find it in daylight, which you just about can if you have exceptional eyesight abd you know roughly where to look. I don’t know how clued up they were regarding ornithology, but they sound to me like the kind of people who would be capable of observing the regular seasonal migration of birds and drawing the most logical conclusion. I’m not sure either to what extent Arabs went in for having dovecotes as sources of meat and eggs, but since Arabic poetry frequently mentions doves as rather attractive and pleasant birds somehow tied in with love, I assume that even if they served no practical purpose, some rich Arabs would have kept doves on their estates just because they were pretty. All of which implies that they would have had exactly the same opportunities to fortuitously discover the homing properties of pigeons as Europeans did, but thanks to their different mindset, would probably have done so much sooner. And this does indeed seem to be the case. I would also submit that Frontinus’ account does not in fact suggest that the use of homing pigeons to carry messages was a “lost art” in Europe. Hirtius obviously doesn’t know the crucial fact about homing pigeons – that they will travel to one particular location from a long way away. And even if he did, that method wouldn’t have worked in this case, unless Brutus had supplied him in advance with enough pigeons to keep him informed throughout the siege. Hirtius is simply using an intuitively obvious method derived from his astute observations of the behavior of almost any type of bird. He’s clearly a clever man, but he hasn’t a clue about the pigeon post. Thanks Count!

    Plane Escapes: LTM points out that the Gran Sasso raiduses gliders and planes and Beach should add that not a single shot was fired and that no one was killed. Tacitus from Detritus has this to say that includes an attempted plane escape.Not a direct parallel to your more, er, kinetic use of airpower and escapes but the tale of Franz von Werra deserves a telling. Among many other flourishes -posing for press photos with his pet lion cub Simba!-  Franz once dug his way out of a POW camp in England and posed as a Dutch pilot.  He claimed he had been cleared for a test flight and was actually sitting in the cockpit of a British plane attempting to learn the unfamiliar controls when he was apprehended. You just can’t fully suppress someone like this, and he later went on to become one of a very, very small group….Axis POWs who made it back to Germany to fight again (Canada to US to Mexico, through Latin America, to Rome and back to Germany). His is in the category of biographies that I categorize as “larger than life”.’ Thanks Tacitus and LTM!

    Zimbabwean Goblin: The Count writes: Concerning those nasty little African monkey-fairies, here are some sites that make it clear how seriously the locals take them: (1), (2), (3).   You will note that, despite their clearly magical nature, it is completely taken for granted that they are physically real beings which can be arrested and locked up. Though nobody seems to have bothered to take any pictures, and whenever physical evidence is mentioned, it’s always somewhere else and not available for inspection. I would guess that the number of Africans who have a friend who knows someone who has seen a tokoloshe is very considerably larger than the number who honestly think they’ve seen one themselves. And I bet the latter mostly live in places where you get monkeys.This is of course the biggest problem with cryptozoology – if you assume, as many “experts” do, that the very widespread tales of tokoloshe prove the existence of a tribe of humanoid, possibly sub-human small hairy people in Africa, you also have to assume that all the aspects of the story that ore obviously complete nonsense are mythical additions that you can ignore. Well, if there’s no physical evidence that a creature exists, and most of the information you have about it is clearly made up, why can’t the whole story be completely fictional? For example, if you take Scottish tales of the kelpie as proof that many Scottish lochs contain plesiosaurs, you have to ignore the claims that all of these critters are man-eaters, since tourists in the vicinity of Loch Ness never seem to get mysteriously bitten in half. Oh, and the little point that nearly all of them can transform themselves at will into horses and/or pretty girls… Thanks Count!

    Neurotic Cats: KR writes: This particular organism has been hyped for some time in the virtual “Zombie Apocalypse” world, making it especially apropos as a bizarre subject. In light of the experiments showing that infected rats “commit suicide” by becoming attracted to cats, I would be more impressed if current researchers linking suicides in human women were able to show that these women had chosen similar suicide methods. Is there even one example of Tg+ human-female suicide via cat-attraction, such as jumping into a tiger cage at the local zoo? This site, although listed as an alternative health site, does give a list with some references of quite a few viruses that can induce psychiatric symptoms. Also it mentions parasitic infestations involving brain cysts, bornea virus, streptococcal bacteria, and toxoplasmosis. Generally whether some of these are fatal or not depends upon treatment. http://www.alternativementalhealth.com/articles/infections.htm One should not fail to mention prion diseases in connection with psychiatric symptoms, for although generally named as fatal, some can be in the body and dormant for a long time before showing symptoms, including psychiatric symptoms. AB writes with a curious line or two: Flippancy aside I once read this old Native American guy on line who was convinced all the problems of humanity were down to our brains being invaded by sentient microbes or bacteria or whatever from outer space. I thought it was a load of bollocks until I started coming across material about viruses or whatever making ants commit suicide by climbing atop the highest trees in the Amazon rain forest ie far away from the ground where they liked to be and allowing themselves to be eaten to facilitate the viruses’ breeding cycle.’ Thanks KR and AB

    Richard III: Invisible came up with this fascinating news clip from 1935: EXCAVATORS FIND BONES, POSSIBLY OF 3RD RICHARD Leicester, Eng., Oct 2 (UP) A leaden coffin containing a skeleton which may be that of Richard III has been found during excavations for the next wing of the Leicester College of Arts nad Technology, built on the site of the former church of St. Mary of Newarkes. The church was built by Henry, Duke of Lancaster, in 1353 and was destroyed during the Reformation Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. It was understood that he was buried in this church, but historians have recorded that later his body was unearthed and his bones thrown by a mob over Row Bridge into the river. L.W. Kershaw, principal of the college, says the skull of the skeleton has a receding forehead and a projecting jaw, the attributes of King Richard. Piqua [OH] Daily Call 2 October 1935: p. 3. Then Phil P with a literary fillip: In the introduction to his historical fantasy, “The Dragon Waiting“, John Ford remarks that many historians date the Renaissance as beginning with the death of Richard III, as though he had single-handedly held back the progress of history. He then added that he had always felt that a bit unfair and had decided to imagine circumstances in which Richard’s more egregious acts would have been justified. If you like historical high fantasy you might enjoy it. Thanks Invisible and Phil!

    Secret Mark: MR writes ‘I don’t know if you have seen this article Tony Grafton wrote a few years ago for a serious, but not scholarly, magazine. The latter third concerns Smith’s correspondence with  Gershom Scholem. Grafton advances the theory that the previously  correspondence as it refers to ‘Secret Mark’  suggests that Smith was not the forger, secondly the evolution in Smith’s own approach to early Christianity was a consequence of his long friendship with Scholem.  There does seem to be a fourth possibility that has been overlooked — that the letter is a genuine late C17th/18th. text by Greek monastic scribe but copying a forgery.  However it is troubling that Smith’s ‘Mar Saba’ discovery does seem to fill out preexistence questions in Smith’s earlier thought, see Francis Watsson ‘Beyond Suspicion: On the Authorship of the Mar Saba Letter and the Secret Gospel of Mark,’ JTS 61 [2010]: 128–70.  Myself the novel ‘The Mystery of Mar Saba’ is simply one of those co-incidences. If you have an interest in forgery and religious origins you might take a look at the career of Mark Hoffman. KMH, meanwhile, writes: One thing that might be worth mentioning is that the ancient Semitic definition of ‘naked’ and the modern definition are a little different. We all know the modern definition. The Semitic definition would have permitted a loin cloth or similar device to protect the genitals from unfavorable environmental happenings. The image of completely naked human beings before the fall is misunderstood  in this regard (woven vines for protection would have sufficed before the ‘aprons’ of fig leaves).  Likewise, Peter, described as naked in John 21: 7, wasn’t naked in the modern sense. The “initiation ceremony” is quizzical because, other than  the sacraments, Christianity is uncharacteristically free of the initiation concept so prevalent with other religions of the time. The only sacrament operating at the time of Christ was baptism, derived from John the Baptist.

    Ancient Fauns: KMH writes: Strange incidents such as this can occur when a religion in permanent decline confronts the new one destined to replace it. Christianity did “interact” with the Greek, Celtic and Germanic religions, and others outside of Europe. These “in-between” creatures associated with the Greek religion would most likely be paranormal in nature. However, any religion which cannot demonstrate that solid, physical specimens of their spiritual beings can actually exist on the surface of the planet, is at best not truly relevant to human life in the flesh, or at worst a deliberate deception. This applies to all the gods as well. With our burgeoning knowledge of  genetics it will eventually be possible to physically recreate the chimeras of the past and the fantastic symbolical creatures of the Bible (such as the seven headed, ten horned dragon of Revelation). They are technically monsters since they are unable to reproduce.The dead centaur (or whatever it was called) is a metaphor for the nearly dead Greek religion as a whole. AB, meanwhile, has this to say in terms of eye-witness accounts: I was aware of the faun component of this story but the centaur component’s new to me unless it’s mentioned in Passport to Magonia which I read countless times years ago and I’ve simply forgotten which would be unusual for me. You ask what this creature is and here I must declare my colours as either a nutcase or a natural mystic or probably a mixture of both because I’ve actually seen a satyr in of all places the parlour of our previous housing association place near Liverpool city centre. This was actually the least of the sort of stuff I get to interact with so feel free at this point to publicly disown me. Basically since the moment I was born I’ve had this kind of binary pulse thing operating inside me which I use to spend at times literally days on end rocking backwards and forwards but during a much shorter stint a few years back I was rocking away in my favourite armchair when I got up to make a cup of tea only for the springs of the chair to carry on squeaking away as if I was still rocking in it. Knowing this contradicted the laws of physics and deeply unnerved but determined not to be bullied by some menacing presenced dark jinn or warlock type (for want of a better explanation) into fleeing the room I stood my ground for several minutes but the bloody springs refused to stop rocking then all of a sudden something seemed to leap out the chair and start moving around the room making clip clop sounds as if it had hooves. The funny thing was although I couldn’t SEE it with my eyes I could somehow FEEL it with them almost like as if they were shooting out beams you could use for reading braille so I was able to observe its progress but after a while the braille beam effect began to alternate with an effect not unlike the one in the movie Predator and I could finally see this two foot or so tall satyr wandering round the room fascinatedly investigating things like the radio and the computer and images on books and magazines as if these were things it’d never seen before. It looked a bit like a white human adolescent just starting to develop brown facial hair though how I knew it was white and the hair was brown I don’t know because it was translucent when it wasn’t in braille mode but it seemed to be completely unaware of me something I’ve encountered in other circumstances and when it was done leapt back into the chair as if to sit in it then vanished. Meanwhile the chair springs kept squeaking away so I ended up tearing off the cushions to see what was going on but nothing I did would make them stop until I went for a cup of tea and returned to find them back to normal. Now you know why I think the weird and wacky ‘lightweight’ stuff you cover mightn’t be so lightweight afterall. Thanks to KMH and AB!

    Fairies in Madrid: Trevor from FollowtheBaldie.com writes: Perhaps your spiritualist might have come to less remarkable conclusions re the rest of the company’s lack of interest in her sighting had she visited Las Meninas in el Prado. As you know, dwarf retainers are a regular feature of Iberian romances, Arbiol says they’re still being employed in the early C18th , and I believe there’s a sighting of this type somewhere in Baroja’s chaotic compendium of mid-C19th weirdness, Memorias de un hombre de acción. Thanks Trevor!

    Jesus and Naked Men: Beach can hardly contain his excitement as this post led to a first, an ‘historical’ email from Mrs B (just back from mass). The email is in a foreign language but the gist of it is that if the post were about Islam and if Beach has embassies in the Middle East his ambassadors would be being publicly decapitated just around now.

    Armpitting: CS writes: I find it sad to tell you that such things are being done in Mexico by drug gangs and it’s spilling across the border. These post-mortem mutilations are done more as a promise of violence to any who oppose the cartels yet considering the storied history of mesoamerica, I’m certain there are other metaphysical elements behind these horrors. RR gets into specifics: A modern equivalent of armpitting could/would be the Colombian practice of slitting your victim’s throat very low down and pulling the tongue (your ‘soft tissue’ reference) out of the throat cavity and down through the knife’s slit.  The tongue then sits on the upper chest hanging vertically and is referred to a a ‘Colombian necktie’.  Similar in tone and effect as your ancient warriors’ practice.  It is gettting increasingly difficult to be shocked at mankind’s depravity.  At least, it is for me. And KMH offers the mystic’s perspective: The question is what was hacked off the body. I would take it literally and say the hands, feet, forearms, forelegs and even complete arms or legs. What is surprising to me is that they didn’t bother to separate the head from the body. Unfortunately, the ancients seem to know more about the soul than moderns do. They were aware that the soul, more specifically the lower part of the soul concerned with animal functions, can be injured and disoriented after death. The separation of soul from body isn’t instantaneous or risk free. Any tragic death, such as being eaten by an animal, for instance, can  be detrimental to the soul and might lead to prolonged life as a ghost. To aid in the separation process the body  will experience rigor mortis to  provide a framework  for the separation and take about three days for full separation. Cremating bodies prematurely can also detract  from the soul’s potential and, of course, the very high heat of a  thermonuclear blast is the worst for the soul, destroying the lower and even  adversely affecting the higher functions. What should be understood is that each religion operates differently as to exactly how much of the soul separates and how much is left behind. This may be one of the reasons  not  much attention is paid to soul separation by Christianity. The ancient religions from voodoo to the Hellenic were all aware of potential difficulties, but on the other hand didn’t hold much promise for a meaningful  life after death for the common man. Thanks to CS, RR and KMH!

    Dried Cats: Thanks for this to April: I have been long negligent in sending this missive regarding mummified and/or desiccated cats. I hope that what follows will bring to light the far wider diaspora of  cat (dead cat) usage than is normally recognized. Because most, if not all, listeners and readers, and perhaps even you, will find (or have found) what I am about to tell to be a fairy story of sorts, I have come to accept that it is expedient  to tell the tale in the-before-mentioned genre.  I do this not to keep my own image pristine (which it hardly is in this or any regard for that matter), or even to avoid the sting of ridicule, but rather to eliminate, as much as possible, the future chagrin of my audience when they discover the truth of my words.  I will not be addressing any of the numerous ‘timber lesbian’ tales as they, the TL as they are sometimes called, are well known to live in our woods and often entice hunters, tree fallers and even the occasional choker setter deeper into the woods than they should go, sometimes keeping them occupied for hours and in rare cases even a day or two (though generally with no apparent harm except an embarrassing case of poison oak). I will also refrain from the mention of splinter-cats (though the temptation to do so will be great), snipes, jackalopes,  hidebehinds, hoopsnakes, fur-bearing trout, gumberoo, wapaloosie, and other suchlike woodland residence; and certainly hodags or squonks, which are truly mere nonsense here in the Northwest being so far out of place and time,  will not be included.  So with those provisos …  Our story begins in the semi-mythic, I confess, land far from your home called The Pacific Northwest or sometimes The State of Jefferson (but normally only by somewhat militant separatist residents).  Now relax and let your mind wander into the past, all the way back to the middling 1990s.  I know, I know but if you will relax and try very hard I’m sure your imagination can allow itself to be carried back so far. And so it came to pass… that in the summer prior to her marriage a young woman — we could call her Princess, but that’s probably pushing thing — decided to acquire some earnings byway of working for a local building contractor who had successfully bid, and won, a federal grant project (no easy task) which involved raising a number of old mill houses and building foundations for them (they, the houses, never having had said foundations before). Each day when she returned to her home the young woman would share with her parents details of the strange findings which came to light from beneath these old mill houses. It was sheer luck — and an unwillingness to give up her job — that this young woman’s father  was not made aware of the fact that it was she, the young woman, being the smallest person on the crew, who was sent into the crawl spaces beneath these old houses before each was raised to disconnect pipes and drains and so on. This being the case it was the young woman, more often than not, who discovered the strange, and sometimes wonderful, findings. Now it just so happened that the mother of the young woman, was (and, truth be told, is) ever so fond of not only found treasures from years past and other such items as are discovered in dark old places, but also the shear natural beauty of skulls and bones and the curious vestiges of desiccated flora and fauna, but, perhaps most of all, she (the mother) delighted in myths and legends, not to mention history of the more obscure types.  One could speculate as to whether it was this interest in esoteric knowledge which led to a belief by friends and foes alike that the young woman’s mother (when she herself was a young woman in the 1960s) was a witch, or if the reverse were true (not that this belief was discouraged, mind you, since a certain degree of power was and is afforded to those thought to have super natural knowledge, abilities and/or connections whether they do or do not possess such connections); but this story is not about all of that, it is about cats when mummified, desiccated or otherwise preserved in a dried out condition and their usage. Getting back to the curious and unusual finds drawn forth from beneath these old mill houses, most built in the late 19th to very early 20th century… Of all the strange & delightful finds one seemed always to stand out: cats.  Not moldering piles of long since (and not so long since) decomposed, not easily identifiable animals, but rather fully furred and at times appearing to have been posed, found under most of the houses, cats. When the cats were placed there or perhaps more to the point how they were still there considering  the wet climate of the Pacific Northwest and the less than to-code conditions of the underpinnings (or lack thereof) of these old houses, remains a mystery. But why they were there became more and more apparent with each new find. To begin with, the first cat found (I like to imagine it was black but honestly I haven’t any idea) was no sooner dragged from its resting place beneath its house, than the young woman’s boss took the cat in hand, with great delight, and placed it in his truck where he kept it to show anyone who was interested (or more often not interested). That he kept it as a talisman of sorts one can, arguably, surmise. As each newly discovered cat came to light, along with old bottles, a few coins, marbles, milk bottle caps and the occasional doll’s head, arm or leg, the good fortunes of the construction work improved. Accidents almost happened but were averted, the weather remained perfect for such work, and even the annoying, get-in-your-way locals lost interest and kept to themselves. But it wasn’t long before the young woman’s mother began to wonder, ask, and receive no concrete answer as to what became of the rest of the mysterious cats after having been found. That is until the very last of the construction work was finished near the end of the summer.  It was a Saturday when the young woman and her mother decided to go on a short walk taking their usual route over the river and through the parking lot of the town hall/library/police station (there wasn’t really a river but it seemed to add a certain flare to the story). They, the young woman and her mother, no sooner stepped into said parking lot than they saw, coming from the opposite direction, two young girls of perhaps 6 or 7 (if they were, in fact, girls at all… but I’ll leave that further fairy-fare for another time, perhaps).  The girls seemed to be discussing, in an animated way, the dark item one was carrying, but as they came closer (before realizing they were being observed) they began to swing the item between them, while one was saying in a cheerful singsong, almost chanting sort of way, words that neither the young woman nor her mother could make out. Then, things changed quite rapidly, dramatically one might even say, as the girls looked up and saw that they were not the only personages walking, albeit in the opposite direction, across the parking lot. The girls stopped as if frozen except to drop the dark item they were carrying; the young woman and her mother stopped also, unsure of what to do next but well aware by then of what the item being carried was.  Yes, it was a cat. A particularly large and very flat, almost silhouette like, dark, maybe blackish, cat. Just as the young woman’s mother was about to suggest that a dead, even if desiccated, cat might not be the best play thing, the taller of the girls (though only taller by a very small amount) picked up the cat by its tall, being careful not to drag it across the ground, and resumed walking forward again, though rather more rapidly, with the shorter, but not by much, girl struggling to keep up. And as they approached the cat carrying girl began to say, more and more loudly as they drew nearer, “I hate carrying dead cats…I HATE carrying dead cats…I hate CARRYING dead cats…I hate carrying DEAD cats…I hate carrying dead CATS…I HATE CARRYING DEAD CATS!” These words spoken as the girls (sweet faced and innocent in appearance) walking passed, rather stiffly, almost mechanically in point of fact, were so obviously a mantra and certainly taught to them to be said in a very specific fashion, under very specific circumstances, that it seems unnecessary to go any further with the story except to suggest, no state plainly, that the cats found over the summer months were being collected up, one after another, by someone (or some thing?) through the use (or misuse) of mesmerized children (if they were, in fact, children at all). One more point which seems worthy of note is that the cats, clearly, were not being collected to ornament a tavern, at least not one in those environs, and one can only hope that the cats are now being used to good purpose, perhaps beneath some newly built home somewhere. But what if the final purpose for the cats is less than good? What if the little girls were not girls at all? One must (at least should) shudder to think of the uses for powder of desiccated cat!

    Ireland the Great: Leif writes: ‘In your ‘Ireland the great’ post, you mention a ‘roughly contemporary thirteenth-century Norse’ source. This sounds like the Saga of Erik the Red [Beach: confirm], which plausibly explains how the Norse and the Skrælings communicated. But what really stands out is the rest of the chapter- an encounter with a monopod, and a ‘land of the one-footers’. Since no monopods have turned up anywhere near Newfoundland in the past millennium, one might conclude that this part of the saga is a legend. This greatly increases the chance of ‘Greater Ireland’ also being a sailor’s story, but it documents an Old Norse tradition that the Irish were the first to cross the sea. One saga (probably Landnamabok) says that when the Norse first arrived in Iceland, they found Irish monks. These, of course, were immediately dispatched.  But back to the question of how the Norse and Skrælings communicated. The saga explains that the Norse captured two children, who learned the language and told of Greater Ireland. Could it be possible that the part about ‘Greater Ireland’ was appended to the saga at some later date, and the captive children invented because someone asked the same question you did? If so, they beat you to it by at least 700 years.’ Thanks Leif!!

    Negosanu: Ricardo R is quick off the blocks remembering Orson Welles’ The Immortal Story. KB writes ‘Perhaps you might find the original to this story in ancient mythology? This story seems to reference ancient myths. It occurs in Florence, named after Flora. It speaks of an extremely beautiful ‘Flora’. Flora, the goddess of flowers, spring, and fertility (who later also became the chosen goddess of prostitutes) and may have been mother of nymphs/Lympha(clear water Goddess) had flamen/priests, Flamen Flora. Lypha goddess of clear moisture was associated with Fons, god of fountains: the sexual/fertility implications are clear enough. One legend of Flora is that she gave Juno the ability to bear Mars without male assistance, who later was father of Romulus and Remus, who were nursed by a she-wolf (fauna) and thus was Flora an important goddess to Rome. Apart from this legend, without flowers there are no fruits and vegetables, no spring so Flora was important for fertility of the food sources and not merely for the sweet smell and beauty of flowers. The male character, young, large, muscular and strong, seems to be chosen for these attributes and led (by the Flamen?) to fertilize (the representative of?)the Goddess Flora. Once this purpose is accomplished, the young man is no longer welcome. He has been seduced and cast aside. That the male character is called Negosanu, a Romanian, and occurred in the late 19th century hints at an interesting possibility: Is this a tale about Grigore Negosanu, the Romanian artist? The Romanian goddess(?)of spring, Dochia, is associated with Baba Dochia (possibly becoming old and not-nice with the advent of Christianity(?) There is a legend of a beautiful Dacian named Dochia, disguised as a shepherd, running from Trajan and his invading soldiers into the mountains where she, upon realizing she will be captured, begs her own deities to save her, and is transformed into a stream, whilst her sheep are transformed into rocks. A different version has her transformed into a white stone/mountain whilst her sheep become flowers. Interesting that both Dochia and Flora are related to spring and to flowers. Interesting also that Dochia transformed to a spring related her to lymphae/nymphae while her (fauna) sheep become stones. (Is there a linguistic link Dochia/Docia/Dacia?) In either case, becoming stone symbolically links the living, (Dacians/Dochia, nomadic life/sheep) to becoming one with Earth (most often named as a Mother Goddess) and also to the monuments/memorials of death. KJ writes: The story sounds  much like one of the ‘Sam Small’ tales I read when I was younger. IIRC, Sam Small was a  fantastically heroic Yorkshireman and one of the stories was about the mysterious, supernatural almost, origins of a local strongman’ Thanks KB and KJ and thanks Ricardo!

    Pygmies and Fairies in Africa: KB writes: Your picture speaks more than a thousand words. Look at the bearing, the stance, the facial expression of the people, people not piskies, around whom the imperialist puts his arms, as if in friendship! I could go on to describe with words their apparent anger and resistance to the giant, but any who can’t see it for himself in an instant won’t see it when I bring attention to it. Now look closely at the smiling face of the giant: do I really see a crocodile? This one photo shows that “Imperial reflexes” were (and are) often simply “Imperious reflexes:” haughty, domineering, prideful and suborning the dignity of anyone or any idea seen as “other” than themselves or their new “scientific” (meaning the new religion of the day) dogma. This same Imperious reflex still dominates Western culture and education to the point that thinking is outlawed… “Other” was/is automatically defined as “lesser” of course. Anything seen as “otherworldly” is by definition “other” and therefore requires denigration. This includes most heartily denigrating and denying any otherworldliness in ones’ own native culture or mind, which is the native land of the Fae, the faith, the psyche, the soul, the spirit.  With the theory of pygmy origins for old faiths, the denigration of the foreign Pygmy tribe combines with the denigration of the beliefs of homeland elders and homeland poor, attempting to kill both cultures with a single imperious blow. No doubt you already could supply more links to your general subject than I, but here is a link for others who might want one: Jenner on pygmies in Cornish fairy faith and a modern summary. Thanks KB!

    Generals, Entrepreneurs and Politicians. Southern Man writes: ‘I would be interested to know what clever young men and women do today in the UK. My bet is think tanks or to adapt that horrible phrase that characterises the last fifteen years: try and convince people to click on things. KB writes, meanwhile:  There is nothing in genetics that shows second sons (or third or fourth) are less intelligent or less capable in any way than first ones. So this particular premise seems quite lame as an explanation for the variations of political strengths or weaknesses in any country, much less between countries. However, it does point to traditional modes of thought in reference to primogeniture: that the first son is the best son all round, and second sons are second best: unless of course first son dies, leaves, or rebels greatly against paternal control in which cases, second son will do quite nicely. A strange idea really, that second sons are stupid or useless.’ Beach should note that this may have been his rhetorical flourish rather than PJs, it certainly represents a widespread idea though. Thanks KB and Southern Man!

    Stay Alive to 1975: RuththeUnstoppablyCurious: As a psychologist, my husband has long been fascinated with this phenomenon among some parts of the population. One of the major studies on this was When Prophesy Fails, published in 1956, by Leon Festinger:  “When Prophecy Fails is a classic work of social psychology by Leon Festinger, Henry Riecken, and Stanley Schachter which studied a small UFO cult that believed in an imminent Apocalypse and its coping mechanisms after the event did not occur. Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance can account for the psychological consequences of disconfirmed expectations. One of the first published cases of dissonance was reported in this book.” If I recall correctly, to Festinger’s amazement, one (or was it both?) of his colleagues remained with the cult they were studying (they infiltrated to study it) after the prophesy fell flat on its face. Since that time when Festinger identified cognitive consonance and dissonance, there’s been a lot more study on the phenomenon and other cognitive biases.  These cults are but extreme examples of it – we are all subject to this tendency to one degree or another.  “Smoking is a common example of cognitive dissonance because it is widely accepted that cigarettes can cause lung cancer, and smokers must reconcile their habit with the desire to live long and healthy lives. In terms of the theory, the desire to live a long life is dissonant with the activity of doing something that will most likely shorten one’s life. The tension produced by these contradictory ideas can be reduced by any number of changes in cognitions and behaviors, including quitting smoking, denying the evidence linking smoking to lung cancer, or justifying one’s smoking.[8] For example, smokers could rationalize their behavior by concluding that only a few smokers become ill, that it only happens to very heavy smokers, or that if smoking does not kill them, something else will.” Or, in the case of the cults, the mostly subconscious “reasoning” might be something like – “I’ve put a lot of emotion and effort into this and it fell flat – I must have missed something, or I wasn’t loyal or pious enough, so I’ll redouble my efforts to correct that, and besides my friends are doing the same.” Cognitive biases:   “Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions; this is related to the concept of cognitive dissonance.” Grins!  Then there’s the belief in one’s own immunity to cognitive biases:  One should keep in mind that the cognitive biases served us humans well over hundreds of thousands of years – they aren’t there just to mess up rationality.  We do our best to keep them to their optimal functioning. This is a HUGE field of study, involving psychology, sociology, philosophy, history, cognition, anthropology – enormous amounts of fascinating stuff. KMH, something of a Christian mystic himself, writes: I am reminded of the church of Herbert W. Armstrong, influential in the 50’s and 60’s for its radio and TV broadcasts around the world. They had a belief that dates corresponding to the 19-year lunar cycle were important for them and everyone else. So, 1934 (the beginning of their church), 1953, 1972, 1991, 2010 were very important years. But the church split into various factions after Armstrong’s death in 1986 and nothing has come of this cycle since. It may be thought that errors, obvious or subtle, would weaken the appeal of the various Christian denominations, factions, or cults.  In fact, it is the opposite. Without these errors the members will not be energised to give their best in one way or another. The church may believe it is the one true church, that it is the only one with the right biblical interpretation, that they are the only ones knowing the true future, or they are the only “elect” among Christians, etc., etc.  Whatever it is, this type of advantage will appeal to certain types of individuals and assure the church’s future existence. Once the appeal has worn off, members will be ready to gravitate toward the more standard Christian beliefs of the larger denominations. For the record, I don’t know of any denomination that is not in error in some way or another. To be a Christian means you will have erroneous beliefs of some kind, often regarding other major religions such as Islam or Buddhism. Even the greatest saints have believed the earth was flat, that moldy cheese could generate rats, and black people were not entirely human. I also have happened to set a date for the messianic return of Christ, sometime in the middle 2040’s near the end of the third world war. This will be a time when our current national governments and religious organizations will be non-functioning or non-existent. No president, prime minister, pope, premier, or prince will be greeting Christ at that time. More detail is found in my book “The Heck Hypothesis: Crop Circle Insight.” Thanks Ruth and KMH!!

    Memory and Casualties: Rabbit Hole writes: ‘Beach, a few very small gripes here but for the sake of exactness. Of course, some of these borders were not the same in 1914 and 1939. This is true of France. But it is particularly true of Germany and Russia. Sure, it doesn’t make a huge difference but it places the number in a different context.’ KMH, instead, I can sympathize with Britain’s memory of WWI because it was peculiar in how far weaponry (the machine gun particularly) had advanced beyond effective tactics, at least in the beginning. One major participant of WWII you didn’t mention was China, estimated to have had 15,000,000 casualties…. There can only be reasonable estimates in both wars. Another factor was the large number of casualties in Eastern Europe, particularly Poland, in WW2. Japan changed from an honorable nation in WW1 to its opposite in WW2 under the influence of the Nazis. In terms of brutality and bestiality, Japan didn’t always come in second to the Nazis. The stain on Japan’s honor  continues to this day in Eastern Asia.’ KB writes: ‘It seems that there was a time after WWI when everyone was saying “Never again! We fought this Great War to end all war.” But WWII came much too soon afterward with a great disillusionment: WWI had not ended all war. Perhaps the remembrance of WWI is, in some part, a yearning for the days of relative innocence and illusion, when people believed that the sacrifices made were for the cause of ending war entirely. A thought on this I’d like to share: before we humans were civilized, we offered a human now and then in sacrifice, essentially to “keep the world safe” and honor ideals and traditions by propitiating whatever gods or monsters were imagined. Now that we are civilized, we have a war now and then “to keep the world safe” I suppose, and honor ideas and change traditions. The human sacrifices are in the millions. Not that we should go back to occasional human sacrifices. But will we ever be able to end human sacrifice altogether? Will we ever come to a time when no man tries to be god and we all stop acting like monsters?’ Thanks KB, Rabbit Hole and thanks KMH!

    Children of the Dung Heap: KB writes in: Being interested in the idea that Kopr in a name likely refers to dung (as in our modern prefix copro-) I proceeded to do an Internet search, and came up with two sites that mention the Hebrew word “koper.” One site says the word refers to pitch, another seems to say it refers to burnt offerings, and by association, to those who are redeemed by burnt offerings. If this is the root of any names beginning with Kopr, those names may refer not to dung and to discarded humans, but rather to burnt offerings and redeemed people. Given that the word is also used in the old testament referring to the pitch used to make Noah’s Ark watertight, it could be an occupationally-linked name: “pitch maker,” or alternately to a very dark skinned person. Here is one link. You must scroll down a bit to find the definition of “koper” in a lengthy sermon.  Given the ease of this search, it makes me wonder why experts agree on the dunghill connection rather than the pitch maker, the pitch colored, or the burnt offering redeemed person? Methinks one would not need to be currently Hebrew to have a Hebrew-word linked name: since words can be adopted from one language into another now, could they not have been so in ancient times? Certainly Egyptians and Hebrews were in contact quite a long time ago, as were Greeks and other Mediterranean people’s… Genesis, I assume, is old enough to fit within the eras of Greco-Egyptian language development, and in Genesis, apparently, the Hebrew word “koper” meaning “tar” or “pitch” is found.While I am not a linguistic expert, I have found that any “remarkable” consensus among usually-infighting experts should be questioned and “remarked” upon.’ Andy the Mad Monk meanwhile has some terrifying Indian statistics on infanticide. AOD writes in ‘In regards to your 2nd September article “Children of the Dunghill”: it’s probably worth noting that there was another, altogether more positive set of connotations associated with dung in ancient Egyptian culture- famously, the scarab or dung beetle was regarded as sacred, with its habit of rolling perfectly round balls of dung for its larvae earning it solar connotations and the emergence of adult beetles from these balls leading to associations with rebirth.  These beetles were enshrined in the Egyptian pantheon as the deity Khepri, whose name is likely derived from a verb meaning ‘to develop’ and who was sometimes regarded as an aspect of Ra. I’ve no idea if or in what form these ideas survived into Ptolemaic or Roman times, though note that ‘Khepri’ and the (probably unrelated) Greek root copr- under discussion have an almost-identical set of consonants.’ Thanks AOD, KB and Andy!!!

    Good October to you all…