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  • Peter, Abraham and Muhammad on the Wrong Side of the Urals June 16, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Peter, Abraham and Muhammad on the Wrong Side of the Urals

    Here’s a bizarre scenario (with no basis in the historical record…). c.c.c.1000 a Jewish, a Muslim and a Christian missionary find themselves on the wrong side of the Ural Mountains among a horse-killing, horse-worshipping pagan people (and before anyone writes in there is some ancient and medieval evidence for Jewish ‘evangelism’). The Christian missionary, Peter, […]

    Magonia #7: Grimaldus and Chemical Warfare June 15, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Magonia #7: Grimaldus and Chemical Warfare

    There follows another extract from Agobard’s essay on thunder and hail. It is not actually linked in any way to Magonia: so why bother? Well, first, it is certainly bizarre and should be recorded on strangehistory. And, second, because many who have written on Magonia have undeservedly conflated the Tempestarii and this strange episode. A […]

    Magonia #6: Leland Sings Magonia June 12, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Magonia #6: Leland Sings Magonia

    Elizabeth Pennell writes in her memoirs of Charles Leland, the nineteenth-century folklorist and alleged bullshitter: He got well over the gout in the spring and summer of 1891, as he travelled by easy stages several weeks at Via Reggio, Geneva, Homburg to London for his last visit there. He went on with his Heine [the […]

    Vision Quest #3: Witch Lotions June 10, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Vision Quest #3: Witch Lotions

    An interesting witch case from fourteenth-century Italy with hints of hallucinogens. The following passages appear in the work of Bernard of Siena (aka Bernardino, and Bernardine) (obit 1444). This, btw, is before the witch craze really catches fire. It has several curious features. I having preached of these charms and of witches and of sorceries, […]

    Jasper and Butternuts on the Edges of Vinland June 9, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Jasper and Butternuts on the Edges of Vinland

    ***Dedicated to Wade*** Jasper is a silica stone that was used by our ancestors both as a decoration and as a form of primitive match. Because of its fire-making properties jasper is often found in archaeological digs. A nice example of this is the dozen odd pieces of jasper that have been discovered over the […]

    Magonia #5: What’s In A Name? June 8, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Magonia #5: What's In A Name?

    One significant part of the Magonia puzzle that Beach has not yet troubled with is the name. Surely there should be a clue in those four syllables as to what Magonia really was? Well, there have been, suitably enough, four theories that have been put forward, over the years, to explain what the word ‘Magonia’ […]

    Nine Historical Mysteries June 6, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Nine Historical Mysteries

    ***Dedicated to Moonman*** Thanks to an email from an old friend of StrangeHistory Beach found himself wondering about moments from history that are mysterious, and where this blogger would chop off his own digits to get at the truth. In what follows, he has avoided the classics because, to be frank, he just doesn’t care […]

    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 […]

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