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  • Review: The Terror That Comes in the Night June 4, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Review: The Terror That Comes in the Night

    Beach has been lucky with his reading recently. It began with Dennis Gaffen’s Running with the Fairies, passed on to Chris Woodyard’s Face in the Window and Emma Wilby’s Cunning Folk and then there was a jump back in time with Mike Dash’s Borderlands. Another excellent addition to his library has been David J.Hufford’s The […]

    Magonia #4: Sky Ships and Moebius Strips June 3, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Magonia #4: Sky Ships and Moebius Strips

    Back to Magonia. Agobard leaves no space for doubt: in early medieval popular tradition there are sky boats and these sky boats are connected with a magical land named Magonia. Now after reviewing the evidence for Agobard himself, a crusty old sceptic, and looking too at the folklore traditions about European hail medicine (Beach would […]

    Vision Quest #2: The Rainbow Enema May 31, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Vision Quest #2: The Rainbow Enema

    How could a ‘serious’ bizarrist ignore  Brian Stross and Justin Kerr’s 1990 exploratory article ‘Notes on the Mayan Vision Quest by Enema’? After all, in this piece the two intrepid Meso-American scholars make the case that enemas were used to pump hallucinogenic substances into the bodies of Mayan visionaries. And the image above (and the […]

    Magonia #3: The Tempestarii May 27, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Magonia #3: The Tempestarii

    After a few days delay, back to Magonia… Agobard’s reference to Magonia is often quoted, in translations of variable quality. But far less attention is paid to his references in the same text (‘Contra insulsam vulgi opinionem de grandine et tonitruis’) to tempestarii or stormy-ones: In these parts [i.e. what is today southern France] almost […]

    Review: Borderlands May 25, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Review: Borderlands

    In 1997 Mike Dash brought out a five-hundred-page whopper entitled Borderlands. This book, that somehow completely passed Beach by for fifteen years, is, to use the word of one reader, a ‘small ‘s’ skeptical approach to Forteana’: lengthy examinations of earth magnetism, UFOlogy and other disciplines that survive on the margins of modern science. What […]

    Review: Cunning Folk May 22, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Review: Cunning Folk

    There is a memorable scene near the beginning of Woody Allen’s Annie Hall when Woody goes out on his first date with Diane Keaton and kisses her at the very start of the evening: oily old Woody says that he just wants to get the kiss out of the way and let everything else follow […]

    Magonia #2: Agobard of Lyons May 20, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Magonia #2: Agobard of Lyons

    Very few people who write on Magonia, describe the author who has preserved that land’s memory, or at least there is rarely more than a courtesy nod in the direction of Agobard of Lyons. Let’s, for the sake of novelty, go into more detail here. Perhaps the first thing to say about Agobard of Lyons […]

    Brunelleschi’s Cruellest Practical Joke May 18, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Brunelleschi's Cruellest Practical Joke

    Beach has recently been wondering about the potential for putting together a collection of practical jokes from history. A particular favourite is the joke played by the brilliant Florentine architect, Filippo Brunelleschi (picture) and a gang of rowdies, c. 1409. It comes down to us in various versions collectively known as the Novella del Grasso […]

    Magonia #1: Introducing a Medieval Cloud Cuckoo Land May 17, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Magonia #1: Introducing a Medieval Cloud Cuckoo Land

    ‘Magonia’ is a word that sends thrills down many spines. It is, of course, the name of a magical medieval land hidden from mortal man. It has been jumped on by modern UFO researchers as an example of early contact: skyboats were said to fly out of Magonia. Jacques Vallée wrote Passport to Magonia (1969 […]

    Dowry Fossil May 13, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Dowry Fossil

      A wrong time post… There are few things in history as fascinating as the archaic customs that have been handed down from generation to generation and that survive in our societies like the tail-bone’s pointy edge on our spines. A particular Beachcombian favourite is the dowry. Civilisations basically fall into three categories here: those […]

    Halley’s Comet and the Generations! May 12, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
     Halley's Comet and the Generations!

    ***Dedicated to Larry who got me interested in this and provided, through his emails and forwards, much of the information*** It recently struck Beach that Halley’s comet would be a perfect measure of the continuity of knowledge in ancient and medieval civilizations. After all, here is a comet that returns every 75 (and a bit) […]

    Hob and Documentation May 4, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Hob and Documentation

    Historians with their infinite archives and supercilious (and usually ill-functioning) electronic databases need lessons in modesty. And here is a ‘lesson’ that Beach stumbled upon this morning. In 1861 the following appeared in a book on archaeology. Mr. Bateman opened a circular tumulus on Baslow Moor [Derbyshire] called ‘Hob Hurst’s house’. It was a very […]

    Botched Beheadings April 29, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Botched Beheadings

    The guillotine was originally invented as an act of humanitarianism to liberate criminal kind from the axe. It made sense, after all, to remove a criminal’s head from his or from her shoulders if that criminal had to be killed. But the procedure was messy. Two important things could go wrong while removing said head […]

    Grotesque Mesalliances April 24, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Grotesque Mesalliances

    There is a school of thought that says arranged marriages work and, even for die-hard romantics like Beach, there are millennia of proof that they can. But there are also cases from every static, traditional society that leave you shaking at the potential horror of an institution that allows a father or brother to choose […]

    ‘Bloody Foreigners’ and English April 23, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Medieval, Modern
    'Bloody Foreigners' and English

    The British are often characterized as being insular, stand-offish and suspicious of outsiders.  And Beach has recently been fascinated by how this parochialism (which is at least partly based in fact) has left traces in the English language and more particularly in the words that English uses for nationality. It should be said, first of […]

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