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  • 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 […]

    Medieval Marvels: Carving Liquid for Stone and Marble July 20, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Medieval Marvels: Carving Liquid for Stone and Marble

    Beach has sometimes looked, in this blog, at the marvellous works of Gervase of Tilbury, 104. Here is another from his book of curiosities. A liquid that allows for the moulding of stones. In our times, during the papacy of Alexander III [1155-1181], when I was a boy, a phial was found at Rome full […]

    Arab Embassy to Dark Age Scandinavia July 19, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Arab Embassy to Dark Age Scandinavia

    The Vikings were attacking everyone in the ninth-century and this included the Arabs of southern Spain. After their most famous raid, in 844, when Seville was memorably captured by those northern psychos, the Emirate of Seville did something quite extraordinary. He decided to send an embassy to the Viking homelands to buy them off. This […]

    Did William the Conqueror Fall? July 8, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Did William the Conqueror Fall?

    One of the stories handed down to generations of British school-children is the idea that William the Conqueror, on arriving in England, slipped as he was coming ashore. This, of course, was a terrible omen (for the Anglo-Saxons). In his eagerness to get to the shore, as he leaped from the boat, his foot slipped, […]

    Curious Royal Epithets July 4, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Curious Royal Epithets

    There is a long tradition in Europe of giving kings, queens and even aristocrats epithets: e.g. Catherine the Great, Louis the Pious… Of course, epithets make particular sense when dynasties repeat names endlessly: you need to distinguish one George from another, say. Beach has spent an hour looking through collections of lists of these epithets, […]

    Tenth-Century Sasquatch? July 3, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Tenth-Century Sasquatch?

    ***Thanks to Ed, an old friend of this blog, for sending this in and making the sasquatch connection*** Do we have evidence from the Urals for a Sasquatch like figure in the tenth century? No one seems to have made this connection before but consider the passage charitably before we drag out the sledge hammer […]

    Historical Children Scarers July 2, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Historical Children Scarers

    ***Dedicated to Invisible*** Parents have scared children for generations with conjured horrors: the fairies, the black boggart, Jenny Greenteeth and many, many more. However, Beach today wants to look at a very select category. Historical personalities who were so horrific (or at least were imagined to be so horrific) that parents could credibly say: ‘Get […]

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