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  • Mongolian Ear Cutting September 24, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Mongolian Ear Cutting

    If you are going to carry out massacres then it is important to be able to count how many soldiers (and all too often civilians) that you are killing. From scalping in the American west to the Einsatzgruppen tally sheets on the Eastern Front in the Second World War military organizations have come up with all […]

    Werewhales! September 3, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Werewhales!

    Different countries, of course, have different shape-shifters. Northern Europe and France have a strong werewolf tradition. Amerindian peoples have a lot of changing into birds. In northern Scandinavia shaman became deer. Early modern Britons did not change into bears, but they often met headless bears that changed into other things: confusing I know. Vampires are […]

    Review: A Cabinet of Byzantine Curiosities August 30, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Review: A Cabinet of Byzantine Curiosities

    Anthony Kaldellis, A Cabinet of Byzantine Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from History’s Most Orthodox Empire (OUP 2017) Between about 1880 and 1960 British and American publishers occasionally brought out curiosity books in small print runs by capable people. These books were on delightful but inconsequential subjects: the eccentricities of Chinese court etiquette; descriptions of […]

    Review: Les Compagnons August 20, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Review: Les Compagnons

    The Hundred Years War in France and three damaged people are thrown together by events: the grand-daughter of a witch; a knight with half his face burnt off; and a cowardly young man. The knight leads them on a trail across the burning countryside. He is clearly rushing towards his destruction. The young man and […]

    Winged Ninth-Century Elves?! August 19, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Winged Ninth-Century Elves?!

    Beach has previously interested himself with winged fairies and today he came across this very early image from the Utrecht Psalter. The Utrecht Psalter was almost certainly created in northern France in the ninth century and has fabulous line drawings that will bring you as close as you will ever come to the early Middle Ages: Beach […]

    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 […]

    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 […]

    Dwarfknapped! July 23, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Dwarfknapped!

    This weird little passage comes from the thirteenth century Ynglinga saga. It is mainly about the mythic Norse past. But it also includes one of our earliest representatives of a dvergr or dwarf: in this case a rock fairy. The human victim, a Swedish king, is drunk and things don’t end particularly well. Sveigdir went […]

    Buried Standing Up July 22, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Buried Standing Up

    In the rusty old filing cabinet that provides fodder for this blog there is somewhere a file on men being buried upright. However, Beach has failed to find said file for the last three years, so despairing he hands the problem over to his readers. Famous or not so famous people from history who decided […]

    Did You Hear the One About the Ring… July 16, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Did You Hear the One About the Ring...

    Curious about ring legends? This blogger recently went through the international folklore indexes in search of rings so you don’t have to: you can waste a lot of time there… Yes, he found the boring old chestnuts: ring found in fish; ring cut from corpse etc. etc. But there are also some marvelously bizarre and […]

    Dog Glove Magic Disease Near Dublin (or Leicester) June 16, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Dog Glove Magic Disease Near Dublin (or Leicester)

    Elder daughter’s birthday party in a swimming pool coming up in minutes so this is just a curiosity pulled out of the rusty filing cabinet without too much thought. The following is dated to 1341 and appeared in the Annals of Ireland. The Irish annalistic tradition is incredibly complex in its early phase and rather […]

    Mysterious Coffin Deposit June 10, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Mysterious Coffin Deposit

    John Aubrey (1626-1697) gives this curious description in Remaines (1689). What has he found here? At Priorie St Mary in the parish of Kington St Michael [in Wiltshire], have been formerly, and also lately found upon digging in the garden, in consecrated ground, severall coffins of freestone; they have all a hole, or two in the […]

    Bog Book in Benbecula? May 27, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Bog Book in Benbecula?

    It is always such fun when folklore produces an impossible story that is actually credible. Here is one recorded from the Hebrides in J. F. Campbell’s Popular Tales of the West Highlands. Note that the Feen are the Fenians, Gaelic Robin Hoods. I was told in Benbecula how a man had found a book, containing the […]

    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 […]

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