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  • The Non-Discovery of Shuck May 26, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Non-Discovery of Shuck

    Shuck (aka shock) was a demonic hound that haunted much of East Anglia in the early modern period: and in the absence of satisfactory ancient and medieval records may have been running around with blazing red saucer sized eyes, since the time when the druids were the new kids on the Neolithic block. However, in […]

    Love Goddess #10: Lactating German Virtues May 25, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Love Goddess #10: Lactating German Virtues

    Another love goddess, though this time from Germany. If you go to Nuremberg and make sure you don’t get distracted by recent traumatic events there (trials, fire storms etc) you will discover a beautiful medievalish city in the heart of Bavaria. On the edge of Lorenzer Platz you will find perhaps the most curious fountain in Western […]

    Slaughter Hounds in Celtic Ireland May 21, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Slaughter Hounds in Celtic Ireland

    A recent story on the supposed archaeological discovery of shuck – [sorry can't give links, wordpress playing up] – has set me thinking about large violent dogs in history, the way that ancient and medieval peoples used these animals and one particularly evil-sounding example: the Irish archu or slaughter hound. First, though, some background. Dogs, of […]

    In Defence of the Dark Ages May 18, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    In Defence of the Dark Ages

    The Dark Ages is a much despised term for the period from the collapse of the Roman Empire to the tailing off of Viking raids in the tenth and eleventh centuries and the arrival of a new stability in Europe. Most historians agree that the period deserves a name, in other words it stands out […]

    The Cuckold’s Horns May 16, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Cuckold's Horns

    ***Thanks to Ricardo and Neil for help with this post*** The cuckold’s horns is a sign, usually indicated by two fingers placed over the head, of a man whose wife has been unfaithful. In many countries – not least the UK, see photo – the actual symbolism has been forgotten and only the offence remains. […]

    The Index Biography #6: Prize = A Good Book April 30, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Index Biography #6: Prize = A Good Book

    **LeifEd just won this at about 10.00 am GMT, for answer scroll below*** The Index Biography is a new form of biography pioneered by this blog and introduced in a previous post. The creator must find a biography of a famous individual from history, they must turn to the index and write down eight peripheral facts […]

    11 Burning Libraries: Book Lovers Beware April 29, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    11 Burning Libraries: Book Lovers Beware

    This blog has pioneered a series of burning libraries: books that didn’t make it (23 to date)… But what about real burning libraries? Libraries that, at some point in Antiquity or the Middle Ages, were gutted by fire, accidental or deliberate. I have included here a list of eleven devastatingly bad ‘burning libraries’ or ‘burning […]

    A Pre-Christian Custom in Eighteenth-Century Scotland? April 26, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    A Pre-Christian Custom in Eighteenth-Century Scotland?

    A recent article on Chris’  Haunted Ohio Books quoted an eighteenth-century source for an unusual form of Scottish divination: the whole passage (from Martin Martin, obit 1718) is well worth reading, as is Chris’ thoughts on the same. But one bit particularly stood out: it relates to the Hebrides. The second way of consulting the […]

    Jan Ziska, the Human Drum? April 23, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Jan Ziska, the Human Drum?

    One-eyed Jan Ziska was one of the wildest and the best of the generals of the late medieval religious wars. As a Hussite he defended his people, predominantly Czechs, from carnivorous Catholic neighbours and his enemies breathed a huge sigh of relief when, in 1424, JZ was struck down by the plague. However, one of […]

    Who Built Offa’s Dyke? April 14, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Who Built Offa's Dyke?

    Offa’s Dyke is an important earthwork that runs along, very approximately, the English Welsh border. Its name comes from the little known (but apparently impressive) eighth-century Mercian king Offa (obit 796). The problem is that the dyke’s name may be a misnomer. Certainly, over the last generation there have been increasingly forceful attempts to wrest […]

    A Medieval Brass Robot and the Unutterable Name of God April 12, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    A Medieval Brass Robot and the Unutterable Name of God

    This account is given by William of Malmesbury in one of his histories. It is interesting for many reasons, not least because it supposedly came from a doctor in his monastery, who told it to William, when the future historian was a boy. When I [William's informant] was seven years old despising the mean circumstances […]

    A Year-Long Dance in the Eleventh Century? April 5, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    A Year-Long Dance in the Eleventh Century?

    A busy day here but really this strange twelfth century text (about an eleventh century event) needs little in the way of explanation. Wonder should be enough. William of Malmesbury, who quotes this account, apparently has a witness to hand. Note that Ethelbert sounds an Anglo-Saxon name but it is presumably an Anglified version of […]

    Migrating Birds and the Edge of the World April 3, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Prehistoric
    Migrating Birds and the Edge of the World

    Year in year out birds follow migratory routes from north to south and from south to north. These travelling birds have long intrigued humans who have looked amazed as waves upon waves of birds fly to destinations unknown. These birds have entered human legend: the storks going to Africa to fight the pygmies, the wild […]

    Love Goddess #8: Simonetta Vespucci March 30, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Love Goddess #8: Simonetta Vespucci

    Our latest in the love goddess series (for a full list see below) is Simonetta Vespucci (obit 1476), a woman that had the reputation for being the most outstanding beauty of Florence at the apogee of that city’s golden age. We know that she came from Genova (her maiden name was Cattaneo de Candia), we […]

    A Medieval Phoenix and Heliopolis March 25, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    A Medieval Phoenix and Heliopolis

    The phoenix has been written about for well over two thousand years. Here though is a late version, a medieval version, in fact. It is interesting for its vividness and also for the curious confusion over Heliopolis, which the author situates in Ethiopia (rather than Egypt): any help with where this confusion begins, drbeachcombing AT […]

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