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  • The Realm of the Assassins February 10, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Realm of the Assassins

    This particularly forgotten kingdom was to be found in a small area of medieval northern Syria near Antarados (marked on white on the map above). At its height it included ‘ten strong castles with the villages and environs’ and perhaps 60,000 citizens: its real centre was at Kadmous and Masyad. So what, thinks the reader, […]

    Red Fairies #4: Added in Translation? February 5, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Red Fairies #4: Added in Translation?

    Perhaps the real key to the Red Fairies problem is language. As we have established they are referred to as y Gwilliaid Cochion Mowddwy in Pennant our first extensive source. Let’s work backwards. Mowddwy refers to their region, modern Mawddwy. No problem there. Cochion refers to a deep red colour. Again no problem or controversy. (Some […]

    Red Fairies #1: The Fairy Bandits? February 2, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Red Fairies #1: The Fairy Bandits?

    Imagine the scene: 1555, Lewis Owen, vice-chamberlain is passing down the road with a small bodyguard and his son-in-law, on the edge of Powys in central Wales. As they pass down the track, they come to several felled trees across their way in the midst of ‘thick woods’. Are the men anxious? Perhaps not at […]

    Film, History and Memory January 23, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Film, History and Memory

    ***Dedicated to David*** In a recent reflection about the way we remember the past, this blogger made the case that after about two hundred years we cease to ‘own’ history. ‘For Beach Waterloo seems, somehow, ‘present’. Anything before that date seems, meanwhile, completely out of reach, as if the historical imagination falls down into a […]

    Frederick II: Medieval Multiculturalism? January 5, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Frederick II: Medieval Multiculturalism?

    Frederick II stands as one of the most fascinating figures of the Middle Ages. Not the least interesting aspect of his personality was his entirely unmedieval attitude to God and to matters religious, perhaps partly a result of his upbringing in a still residually Muslim Sicily: he had a disconcerting habit of acting like an enlightenment […]

    A Linguistic Family Tree of North-West European Fairies January 4, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    A Linguistic Family Tree of North-West European Fairies

    Word history is particularly fraught where supernatural creatures are involved. Uncanny things multiply with such disconcerting speed (often varying from valley to valley) that the normal philological approaches can easily get stuck in the mud. A particularly painful example of this is what might be called the bugge family. Bugge meant demon or spirit in Middle English: […]

    Index Biography #25: Prize a book December 31, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Index Biography #25: Prize a book

    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 offered up previously here Sheridan le Fanu and Joseph […]

    Sugar Hell December 28, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Sugar Hell

    Nutritionists disagree on almost everything. However, if you go and visit several score one of the few points of consensus (along with ‘eat vegetables’) is that sugar is bad for us: in fact, there is far more agreement about sugar than about fat. Humanity’s dalliance with sugar dates back to the first time that a brave […]

    ‘God, I Hate That Field’ December 20, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    ‘God, I Hate That Field’

    You are a modest farmer in one of the English shires and you have twenty fields to your name. Note that these fields are not the ‘quarters’ of the North American prairies, from Manitoba to Iowa. These are the irregularly shaped bits (often very small bits) of arable land begged from the landscape and from […]

    The Army That Was Defeated by a River December 7, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Army That Was Defeated by a River

    There are good historical records of armies fighting animals, armies fighting frost bite (the Wehrmacht from 1941 onwards) and one doubtful case of an army accidentally fighting itself. But Beach has recently been reading about a remarkable instance of an army that fought a river, and lost. The year is 1221, the army in question […]

    Witchcraft and European Penis Theft December 3, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Witchcraft and European Penis Theft

    The Malleus Maleficarum (1485) is the classic witch hunter’s book. It is the first ‘convincing’ attempt to place witches in a diabolical formula with magically affected victims at one end, the devil in the middle and large and roaring fires at the other. The author, though, Heinrich Kramer, very naturally sucked up a lot of […]

    Hating Medieval Cats #4: Waldensian Cats November 20, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Hating Medieval Cats #4: Waldensian Cats

    Another in our description of the cult of hate for medieval cats. The following text is anonymous and appeared in a fourteenth-century hand in MS Cotton Julius D, xi, fol. 84 r. It is short and it entitled Errores Valdensium, the Errors of the Waldensians. The Waldensians, for the uninitiated were a Christian sect that […]

    Hating Medieval Cats #3: Dominic’s Cat November 11, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Hating Medieval Cats #3: Dominic's Cat

    Looking at medieval cat hating Beach came across this reference, from Etienne of Bourbon (again ran into the story in that wonderful book of Barillari, Protostoria della Strega, the translation though is not hers). We are no longer with the cat in a sabat. But this has to be one of the best demon descriptions of […]

    Hating Medieval Cats #2: The Rod Cat November 5, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Hating Medieval Cats #2: The Rod Cat

    A few days ago Beach started the hunt for cat hating in the Middle Ages. Here is a second text from Etienne de Bourbonne (aka Stephen of Bourbon) who has sometimes appeared here before. Etienne was a Dominican inquisitor and so is something of an expert, let’s say. Auvergne is in central France. Similarly something of […]

    Hating Medieval Cats #1: The Rope Cat November 2, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Hating Medieval Cats #1: The Rope Cat

    The black cat has been visited before on this blog: particularly the question of luck and cats. In three special posts we want to visit the question of why black cats came to be so hated in many parts of Europe. Here is one of the most interesting early texts, which comes from Walter Map, […]

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