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  • 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 […]

    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 […]

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