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  • 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 […]

    Wrong Place Castaways October 18, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Wrong Place Castaways

    Right through history castaways have been thrown up on foreign shores after a shipwreck, a storm or an argument on board (in many navies marooning was a form of punishment). For those of us interested in Wrong Place and Wrong Time phenomena these castaways are crucial. But how many were actually left behind. For example, how many […]

    Prostitutes’ Symbols October 9, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Prostitutes' Symbols

    Prostitutes have sometimes chosen to mark themselves apart, the red light at the window, and sometimes they have been obliged to mark themselves apart. This was particularly evident in medieval Europe, where the arbiters of taste would have loved to have colour-coded all society. This was the same cookie-cutter mentality that put merchants in red […]

    A Goat, A Man and Two Prostitutes September 27, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    A Goat, A Man and Two Prostitutes

    Beach recently ran across this sordid but fascinating episode in Otis, Prostitution in Medieval Society (71). Those of a sensitive disposition might just want to go and do the washing up now. Those who are determined to read on prepare yourselves… Significant, too, is the Venetian court register that records, in the trial of a […]

    Floating Islands (and the Loch Ness Monster) September 20, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Floating Islands (and the Loch Ness Monster)

    Let’s talk floating islands. A few years ago Beach had a very gentle battle with a courteous Nessie writer Roland Watson. As a sceptic with folklore interests Beach was intrigued by many parts of Ronald’s argument, but one piece of new evidence that stood out was the claim that there was a floating island on Loch […]

    The Bird Tree and Barnacle Geese September 10, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Bird Tree and Barnacle Geese

    Beach has previously looked at tall Arab tales about trees, including the mythical children tree. However, what about this pleasing nonsense associated with Britain and Ireland? The source is Rashid al-Din and we are in the fourteenth-century. Opposite [Spain] in the midst of the Encircling Ocean are two islands, of which one is Ireland. From […]

    Prostitutes Past September 6, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Prostitutes Past

    Beach has recently been reading around medieval and early modern prostitutes. Of course, contemporary sources are not particularly vivid in this respect. Between canon law and town legislation, we either get an hysterical appeal to the coldest parts of the Gospels, or pounds, pennies and halfpence. In fact, if you want to relive the medieval […]

    Index Biography #33: Prize a book August 31, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Index Biography #33: Prize a book

    ***Leif got it, spool down for the answer…*** The Index Biography is a new form of biography 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 […]

    A Royal Ghost: Harald the Something August 26, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    A Royal Ghost: Harald the Something

    Harald the Fair-Headed (aka Harald Fairhead: obit c. 932) is apparently in that very select group of monarchs who became ghosts after his death. About Harald we know practically nothing, btw, other than that he fathered Eric Bloodaxe and that he won enough battles to make him the first king of Norway. Pity the poor […]

    Medieval Marvels: Italian Dragonets August 20, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Medieval Marvels: Italian Dragonets

    Beach recently ran across this legend in the work of the endlessly fascinating Gervase of Tilbury, an English writer with a penchant for the impossible or failing that the improbable. There is an island in Tuscany pertaining to the domain of Count Ildebrandino, in which there are winged snakes which look like dragons. As soon […]

    Earliest Manuscript Broomstick Witches August 15, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Earliest Manuscript Broomstick Witches

    A few months ago Beach offered the evidence for early images of broomstick riding witches. There are three important manuscript sabbats that come down to us from the period 1450-1500 and that offer the best early visual evidence for the belief that witches attended sabbats by broom. The first of these images dates to about 1450. […]

    Burning Library: Galen in Chinese Shorthand August 10, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Burning Library: Galen in Chinese Shorthand

    The Arab writer Ibn al-Nadim included this extraordinary record of contact between east and west in his Index of the Sciences, finished in 988. He is reporting an encounter between a Chinese student, visiting Baghdad, al-Razi, perhaps the greatest of the Persian writers of the golden age, and the writings of Galen, the greatest Mediterranean […]

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