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  • Nun Immured in Britain? April 18, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Nun Immured in Britain?

    In mid March 1846 the Hereford Philosophical and Antiquarian Association had a meeting at which the Dean of Hereford Cathedral spoke about some remarkable finds at Hill House, at Woolhope not eight miles from Hereford. He spoke with sadness and, yes, some occasional indignation as human bones had been uncovered there. This was, he suggested, […]

    Thirteenth-Century Eurasia April 8, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Thirteenth-Century Eurasia

    In 1989 Janet Abu-Lughod published her Before European Hegemony. In a series of graphics and discussions she attempted to map out not the trade routes, but the trade zones (‘trade circuits’) that divided up Eurasia and, indeed, Africa to the north of the Sahara and down the Horn. As with many bold economic books, these […]

    The Eternal Mystic March 19, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    The Eternal Mystic

    Beach is eternally worried about mystics, people who have or believe that they have paranormal powers. Where do they come from? What do they mean? Most studies of ‘mystics’ put them in a historical tradition. The Cunning Man in the English or, for that matter, New England countryside in the 1700s draws on Christianity, Anglo-Saxon […]

    Vulva Bread Spell March 17, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Vulva Bread Spell

    Location: this spell seems to have been used throughout the west Midlands and North of England. Aim: to seduce a man or to cement a sexual relationship with a man. Ingredients: flour, water, salt, a good sense of rhythm and an ample backside. Method (i) young woman makes bread (ii) when the bread is ready […]

    The Last Italian Emirate March 13, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Last Italian Emirate

    From 1060-1091 Christian warriors, ‘Normans’, defeated the Islamic powers in Sicily and returned the island to the Catholic flock. For most historians this is the end of Arab civilization there, with the exception of some starbursts of Arab architecture and Arab art through the next two to three generations. However, there is one final Arab […]

    Are Weasels Poisonous? March 6, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Are Weasels Poisonous?

    A few weeks ago Beach offered a description of fairy traditions from Marrie Walsh’s An Irish country Childhood (1996). While reading he was also struck by this tradition about weasels. What is fascinating here is that the weasel is given (in a country where snakes are in short supply) the role normally given in European […]

    The Raven Stone Spell February 10, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    The Raven Stone Spell

    Location: tradition found in the Germanic regions of Continental Europe and Scandinavia, and also in parts of Britain. Aim: The collection of the raven stone (korp-sten in Scandinavia, Lloyd 1854, 331) that will render the owner invisible, though note that the stone is also credited with bringing luck and curing humans and cattle of diseases: […]

    Beach’s Book of Shadows February 9, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Beach's Book of Shadows

    Beach has a heaving filing cabinet full of spells: spells from the Middle Ages, spells from early modern Europe and spells from as recently as the Second World War. Some of these apparently date back to deepest antiquity; some are probably the spontaneous invention of men and women with borderline psychologies and would, as such, […]

    Breaking the Ampoule January 23, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Breaking the Ampoule

    A WIBT moment from eighteenth-century France: the collision of the hoary old with the bright-eyed, metallic and ghastly new. It involves a cathedral, a hammer and the crystal fragments of a Roman perfume bottle, the Sainte Ampoule, one of the longest continuously used objects in world history. This tiny flacon had been made in the late Roman […]

    Blood, Ankles and Calculations: The Temple Mount at Jerusalem January 18, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Blood, Ankles and Calculations: The Temple Mount at Jerusalem

    One of the memories of the Crusader victory at Jerusalem in 1099 is the blood of Jewish and Muslim inhabitants spilled when the city was overrun. Contemporary Christian accounts described blood up to the ankles, up to the knees and, finally, up to the bridles of horses at the Temple Mount where most of the […]

    Images of Deviant Burials December 9, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Images of Deviant Burials

    When Beach was in his early twenties he used to spend hours, and they were happy times, looking through detailed archaeological graphics of Anglo-Saxon and Roman cemeteries. At one point he used to take them to bed and fall asleep with Winchester A or Circencester 1982 Season open on his chest. There is something, well, […]

    The Battle of the Three Kings November 27, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Battle of the Three Kings

    The Battle of Alcácer Quibir (the Battle of the Three Kings), fought in Morocco in 1578, was a freaky melee. It involved Sebastian of Portugal (obit 1578) and his Arabic patsy Abu Abdallah Mohammed II Saadi (obit 1578), the old sultan of Morocco, who both fought against Abu Abdallah’s uncle, the new sultan of Morocco, […]

    In Search of Crimean Gothic November 4, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    In Search of Crimean Gothic

    Crimea is the Ukrainian or Russian peninsula that stretches down into the Black Sea and whose large bays make it resemble a famished fish about to eat a smaller prey. Crimea’s geography has made it a natural place for enclaves. In ancient times, the Greeks and Romans held colonies here, as did the Byzantines and Genoese in […]

    God on a Medieval Fish October 29, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    God on a Medieval Fish

      The idea that words or images spontaneously appear on natural objects has long fascinated gullible human beings, and perhaps particularly the Muslim faithful: the letters ‘Allah’ on the filaments of a cut eggplant etc. Quite why there should be more interest in the generation of natural words in Islam it is difficult to say. […]

    Review: London Urban Legends October 22, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Review: London Urban Legends

    Scott Wood, London Urban Legends Urban legend junkies are perhaps the most attractive of all folklorists. Their brethren get obsessed with the minutiae of traditional culture: polkadots on dresses, superstitions about dandruff, dance rhythms… Alternatively, men and women of advanced years (who should know better) plunge into subjects that defy understanding, that are actually about not […]

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