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Review: Return of the Ancestral Gods February 12, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Medieval, Modern
Review: Return of the Ancestral Gods

When this blogger thinks ‘neo-paganism’: he conjures up images of well-meaning Wiccans dancing nude in the New Forest or Californian ‘fairies’ sitting earnestly in a circle around a lonely pine and talking gnomes. But neo-paganism is not a uniform phenomenon as Mariya Lesiv’s wonderful new book, The Return of the [Ukrainian] Ancestral Gods, shows all […]

A Beautiful Korean Water Thief February 11, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
A Beautiful Korean Water Thief

The clepsydra or water thief refers to clocks, typically used in ancient times and even the Middle Ages, that measured time through dropping water: e.g. 300 drips in an hour etc etc. By the European middle ages clepsydra were on their way out but in some other corners of the world they were continually refined […]

A French Crusader and A Chinese Sword? February 3, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
A French Crusader and A Chinese Sword?

Little is known of Jean d’Alluye’s life. He belonged to the nobility of central France and he travelled to the Holy Land as a crusader in 1241 coming home three years later, 1244. Given that it will have taken him many months to get to Outremer and many months to return this was a relatively […]

How To Create A Golden Age: Instructions for Use January 27, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
How To Create A Golden Age: Instructions for Use

There are grey moments in history and there are black moments and, then, every so often there are wonderful conflagarations as the very paper that the past is written upon catches fire. Think the sheer brilliant evenescence of Athens in the fifth-century B.C.; Baghdad in the ninth century; or, indeed, Florence in the fourteenth and […]

The Dragon of Dornoch? January 26, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
The Dragon of Dornoch?

Dragons… It has been so long. The last dragon story of kinds was the serpent crown in the summer of 2012 and the last proper dragon tale was back in spring of 2012, a seventeenth-century Essex wyrm. Here, instead, is a fascinating but potentially dodgy source for a twelfth- or thirteenth-century dragon: a letter sent […]

The Dragon’s Tail! A Continent or a Ghost? January 24, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
The Dragon's Tail! A Continent or a Ghost?

La cola del dragón (the Tail of the Dragon), was a book published in 1990 by Paul Gallez (obit 2007), a Belgian/Argentinean historian. In this book Gallez alleged that a map by Martellus (obit 1496), dating to 1489 showed South America. If you are trying to understand why this should matter read the last sentence again: […]

A Pregnant Christ?! January 23, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
A Pregnant Christ?!

This beautiful mosaic is an eleventh-century work in the church of San Miniato in Florence, one of the most extraordinary religious buildings in the world. The mosaic is unusual as, though put together in central Italy, it shows, as does an accompanying mosaic outside the church, clear eastern influences. Are we to think of itinerant […]

Pre-Columbian Trips to America? Ballast! January 19, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
Pre-Columbian Trips to America? Ballast!

Imagine the excitement of the archaeologists who had gathered at NA-57 off the Florida coast near Fernandina in 1972. In some offshore piles they had found various bits of ‘rubbish’ from European settlers: ceramics, pipes, glass fragments… Nothing special you might think. But what was unusual was the dating. British settlements began in the area in […]

Medieval Shamanic Account from Iceland January 17, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Medieval Shamanic Account from Iceland

‘Shaman’ is a much misused word. But here is a medieval account of shamnism from northern Europe that is, to the best of this blogger’s knowledge without parallel. The text is a saga: Vatnsdaela Saga, a thirteenth-century Icelandic text. The author tells of Ingimundr the Old who was born and brought up in northern Norway. […]

Bonus Amicus: A Medieval Mr Ed? January 14, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Bonus Amicus: A Medieval Mr Ed?

One of these cute medieval stories that may even have a factual basis. There was a knight in Catalonia in our times, of very high birth, dashing in warfare, and gracious in manners, whose name was Guiraut de Cabrera. This man had a horse of outstanding quality, unrivalled in speed and – unprecedented marvel – […]

The British and Invasions January 13, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
The British and Invasions

I watched a few years ago an even then old documentary in which a  celebrated/notorious British Member of Parliament Enoch Powell interviewed (God knows how they pulled this off) a Soviet general and shared with him an unusual geographical philosophy. EP said that Britain and Russia were both protected by geography, one by water ‘as […]

Chinese Dragons Head West January 3, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Chinese Dragons Head West

Dragons have long been part of the mythic corpus of Europe, Asia and Africa and, if you include the various Amerindian Giant Serpents, the Americas as well. However, different cultures celebrated or reviled dragons in different ways and a dragon from Sweden with a breath that reaked of ragnarok and a wingless dragon from China […]

More, Good Digestion and a Prayer December 31, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
More, Good Digestion and a Prayer

Beach, in the tradition of rather straitened New Years Day posts wishes his readers the best of 2014 with this little prayer that was sent in by a friend. As always replace ‘Lord’ with ‘Allah’, ‘First Contact’, ‘the Universe’, ‘Historical Materialism’ till your tastes are satisified… Give me a good digestion, Lord, And also something […]

A Newland to the West of Iceland 1285? December 28, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
A Newland to the West of Iceland 1285?

Those stray British, Scandinavian and Dutch references to exploration in the medieval northern Atlantic have frequently been set out on this blog: remember the inventio fortunatatae, or the incest island, brave bishop Erik or, for that matter, Vinland the Good?  Occasionally there is a hint that adventurers or, more typically, storm-driven sailors had stumbled into […]

Finns, Snow and Magic December 23, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Finns, Snow and Magic

The earliest eyewitness account of the Laplanders (the Sami) to leak into European writing comes in Alfred’s translation of Orosius (late ninth century). It depends on the testimony of one Othere (aka Ohthere), a Viking who had travelled along the freezing coast of Norway and who had encountered the peoples of the White Sea. Note […]

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