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  • Fairy Human Relations: Dangerous Reflections October 29, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Fairy Human Relations: Dangerous Reflections

    ***Dedicated to Chris with question marks*** There is a modern idea that fairies are the spirit of vegetation, the spirits of the land. Human beings, meanwhile, are their polluting, urbanizing neighbours. The two represent, respectively, the forces of life and entropy and are on a permanent collision course. Traditional views of European fairies were rather […]

    The Earthquake Ghost October 28, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Earthquake Ghost

    Odell is a small village, now in the English county of Bedfordshire. Here is a nice nineteenth-century case of ghost hysteria. For two or three weeks the neighbourhood Odell has been put into an extraordinary degree of excitement by the description of a supernatural visitation, at the village alehouse. To such a pitch had this […]

    The Judge, His Wife and the Witch’s Orgy September 22, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Judge, His Wife and the Witch's Orgy

    Beach has recently been reading the descriptions of Johann Weyer (obit 1588) who published in 1563 On the Illusions of the Demons and on Spells and Poisons. Weyer’s position was essentially this: the supernatural certainly existed (there was no question for example that the Devil abused and tempted humanity); but the witch craze, which he […]

    Dead Babies and Creature and Vitalis September 20, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Dead Babies and Creature and Vitalis

    You are reading through a medieval or early modern English record and you come across the name Vitalis or alternatively Creature, as you will from time to time. Two random examples. Vitalis, son of Richard Engaine, and Sara his wife, released his manor of Dagworth in 1217 to Margery de Cressi. 1550, Nov 5. Buried […]

    Scooby Doo Crime 3#: the Good Ladies Rob a Peasant September 17, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Scooby Doo Crime 3#: the Good Ladies Rob a Peasant

    Imagine a single story that manages to combine three favourite Beachombian tags: crime, fairies, and practical jokes. Enjoy. And similarly, as people in a certain parish in the diocese of Besançon [north-east France] believed in parallel things, some jokers dressed up as women and, appearing in this way, they entered the house of a rich peasant […]

    Margaret Murray in Her Own Words September 15, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Margaret Murray in Her Own Words

    Margaret Murray (obit 1963) was a brilliantly creative and ill disciplined scholar who not satisfied with the mysteries of the pyramids (she was an Egyptologist) decided to sort out European witchcraft in two books: The Witch Cult in Western Europe (1921) and The God of the Witches (1931). Modern scholars universally reject her methods, while […]

    Last Magic Spell Cast in Battle? September 6, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Last Magic Spell Cast in Battle?

    For many years this blog has run a weird wars tag, some of the most bizarre story from humanities adventures on the battlefield. Beach has recently got a sniff of one story that has greatly excited him, but he can’t track down the details. He throws open the problem to readers hoping that someone will […]

    Waldensian Courage, Waldensian Blood September 2, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Waldensian Courage, Waldensian Blood

    In a recent post Beach looked at the extraordinary survival of the Waldensians, a courageous proto-Protestant sect, which  managed to weather the full rage of the Church in the Alps between France and Italy. The history of the Waldensians is a long catalogue of courage and atrocity: the courage of the Waldensians and the violence of the […]

    The Longest Surviving Medieval Heresy August 26, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Longest Surviving Medieval Heresy

    Imagine this. You wake up one morning in 1216 and say ‘to hell with it’. You walk into the local square of piazza stand on an upturned wheelbarrow and talk to your neighbours about the cosmos. Perhaps you’ve learnt that Christ married Mary Magdalene and had twins; or that the angels are worms in universal […]

    Flying Fairies, Stolen Wine and the Hat Tree August 20, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Flying Fairies, Stolen Wine and the Hat Tree

    Here is a very modest nineteenth-century Cornish story: it appeared in Robert Hunt, Popular Romances (1865); the piskeys are Cornish fairies (pixies). This tale is not, note, specifically Cornish, there are lots of British versions recorded in the nineteenth century, and one earlier Scottish tale. Our story has especially to do with the adventures of […]

    Immortal Meals #24: Jaén’s Eggfight August 12, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Immortal Meals #24: Jaén's Eggfight

    Jaén in Andalucia (Spain) is a town with its roots in Spain’s troubled late middle ages, half Arab, half Christian. Jaén also stars in a wonderful book by one of our greatest living medievalists Teofilo ‘God’ Ruiz now at UCLA. In City and Spectacle, Ruiz describes life in fifteenth-century Jaén in terms of the shows, […]

    Life in the Shadow of the Mob: Jewish Norwich July 29, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Life in the Shadow of the Mob: Jewish Norwich

    The recent post on the bodies in the well from Norwich took Beach through several books on medieval Jewish communities in England and the dominant impression on reading these accounts was the danger of being Jewish in that period. Let’s return to Norwich which included one of Britain’s bigger Jewish communities after London: one estimate has […]

    Seventeen Bodies in a Well: A Norwich Mystery July 11, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Seventeen Bodies in a Well: A Norwich Mystery

    The picture above is a horrific one. The bodies of seventeen individuals, eleven of them children (the youngest two years of age) who were, at some point in the Middle Ages (dating 1150-1300), thrown down a well in the East Anglian town of Norwich.  The bodies were discovered in 2004 and various years of careful […]

    Where Are the Gods of the Modern World? July 10, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern, Prehistoric
    Where Are the Gods of the Modern World?

    Forget the Iron Age, the Nuclear Age, the Internet Age. There are three periods of human endeavor: nomadic hunter-gathering before history; agriculture, which began about 8000 BC and ended in most parts of the west in the last one hundred and fifty years (when a majority of citizens had left the land); then finally industrial […]

    Whipping Boy: Origins of a Royal Institution July 7, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Whipping Boy: Origins of a Royal Institution

    The whipping boy needs little introduction. He was the child, brought up with a prince or with a young king, and punished on his behalf, when the prince or king was naughty: crucially the royal and his proxy were friends so any pain was vicariously felt. And why not just hit the royal in question? […]

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