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  • 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 […]

    Fairies, Children of the Forest and Game of Thrones April 20, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Medieval
    Fairies, Children of the Forest and Game of Thrones

    Beach’s students this semester constrained him to read Game of Thrones and the subsequent avalanche of books which followed on. Are these books any good? Mixed feelings. However, one thing is certain, this blogger’s normal irritation at fantasy fiction wasn’t activated: perhaps because most of the novels are about humans being nasty to each other […]

    Vision Quest 1#: Blood Loss April 17, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Vision Quest 1#: Blood Loss

    Around the world different peoples have pioneered different methods to ‘open the doors of consciousness’ through what doctors call hallucinations. Possible keys to said doors include mushrooms, toad poison and smoked grasses (of various descriptions). Beach knew about all these but he was surprised, recently to read about blood loss causing hallucinations. The science behind […]

    Weighing Witches April 16, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Weighing Witches

    ***dedicated to Theo*** How do I know if, c. 1750, old Mother Shipley down the road is a witch. Obviously the dying chickens, my children’s illnesses, the unpleasant cackling, the noises in the night are all clues… But we are in the eighteenth-century so how do we introduce science into this? In other ages witches […]

    Death As A Basketball April 14, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Death As A Basketball

    Death by basketball… We examined this quaint pre-Columbian custom just last week. But what about the strangest death of them all death AS a basketball? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com The place is Central America and we are in pre-Columbian times again. This is the epoch of the great ball games of the Maya and […]

    Fairy Witches #3: Meilyr of Wales April 12, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Fairy Witches #3: Meilyr of Wales

    The third in our series of fairy-witches is a certain Meilyr, who died at Usk Castle in 1174. True, in the account that follows, taken from that old cobbler-merchant Gerald of Wales, no fairies are mentioned and no maleficium (the normal defining feature of a witch). But there is something in Meilyr’s relations with the […]

    The Hallucinogenic Mushrooms Are More Rainbow Coloured on the Other Side of the Fence April 11, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    The Hallucinogenic Mushrooms Are More Rainbow Coloured on the Other Side of the Fence

    Hallucinogens are frequently found in the traditional religious life of hunter-gatherers and rural communities. There are, of course, literally hundreds of different ways of intoxicating yourself ranging from toad glands to nutmeg, from jimson weed to ergot spores. And naturally, these techniques which, depending on your point of view, canker or enhance reality, are important […]

    Juliana Jumps April 8, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Juliana Jumps

    In 1119, a woman jumped off a castle wall, in Normandy, and, against the odds, escaped from her father who intended to kill her. However, before we get to this noble’s life-saving acrobatics some background and be warned as most things to do with the Normans it is complicated and bloody. Juliana of Fontevrault was […]

    The Evils of Chess! April 7, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    The Evils of Chess!

    Chess! The taut, horrid syllable is enough to unveil the rotteneness at the heart of that most dreadful of games. Avoid it! Turn from it! Ostracise those who play it! Ok, Beach is playing out here, but he recently came across this extraordinary quotation from an Anglican vicar from Essex, at the death of his […]

    Death By Basketball April 6, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Death By Basketball

    Humanity is extraordinarily ingenious in terms of the different ways it has found to execute people. We’ve reviewed on this blog before elephant executions; Mike Dash has recently given space to the Viking’s blood eagle; there is necklacing in Sub-Saharan Africa (a lynching rather than judicial capital punishment); the brazen bull in ancient Greece (another […]

    British Witch Initiation c. 1970 April 3, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
    British Witch Initiation c. 1970

    Witchcraft became a force to be reckoned with in Britain after the Second World War. There is a lot of writing, but most by the witches themselves (who can’t be trusted) or by CofE bishops who are just too silly for words because they take said witches seriously. Intelligent third-party descriptions like the following are […]

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