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  • Suger’s Sherbert Holder October 13, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Suger's Sherbert Holder

    In previous posts Beachcombing has celebrated objects that have long and interesting histories: take, for example, the Baltic buddhas, Cellini’s canon or the Dauphin’s heart. It was with some excitement then that he just recently stumbled upon a vase that made, in the Middle Ages, its way from Moorish Spain through the hands of several […]

    ‘Psychic’ Joan and the Dauphin October 8, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    'Psychic' Joan and the Dauphin

    Joan of Arc has always made rationalist historians – among whom Beachcombing would count himself – a little bit anxious. After all, a voice of God on tap, prophecies, and a telepathic relationship with a sword are hardly going to put an empiricist at ease. Among her several supposed psychic achievements was the moment when […]

    Blondie at Cresson October 6, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Blondie at Cresson

    A weird war post today, recommending a twelfth-century act of crusader stupidity to the widest possible audience. 1 May, 1187 one of Saladin’s raiding parties, passed into Christian lands near Nazareth and a party of knights – Templars, Hospitallers and local nobles – were sent out to meet the enemy. In the ‘best’ sources we […]

    Boethius’s Astronomy: Did it Exist? October 4, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Boethius's Astronomy: Did it Exist?

    Beach has always had a thing about Boethius (obit 525). Boethius penned the great Consolation of Philosophy, a strangely affecting study of human priorities, while waiting for his execution. Boethius hovers between Neo-Platonism and Christianity: he is, in some senses, the missing link between the two religions. Then Boethius also  wrote books that do not […]

    Fairy Gifts October 2, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Fairy Gifts

    ***This post is dedicated to Invisible*** Beachcombing has sometimes lamented in this place the passing of the fairy faith be that in Essex, the Isle of Man or Yorkshire. How refreshing then to learn that in one corner of Europe the locals still walk in terror of the little folk. Beachcombing refers, of course, to […]

    Eleanor’s Lovers September 26, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Eleanor's Lovers

    Eleanor of Aquitaine (obit 1204) was a powerful and self confident woman living in an age when women were supposed to be anything but. Her home in the south of what is today France gave greater property rights to daughters and wives, property rights that Eleanor knew how to manipulate. She had some wild male […]

    Hildegard’s Headaches September 23, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Hildegard's Headaches

    ***Dedicated to Moonman who got Beach thinking about this*** Hildegard of Bingen, monastic reformer, abbess and all round good egg, regularly had visions. These visions were at the very centre of her intellectual and spiritual existence. They gave her the courage to share her unique theology of the world with others: she believed that they […]

    In the Margins September 20, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    In the Margins

    Marginalia: things scribbled in margins. There is a lot to be said for this form of literature that, to date, has been little studied: there are only a handful of books including Robin Alston’s Books with Manuscript: A Short Title Catalogue of Books with Manuscript Notes in the British Library (1994) and Henry Richards Luard’s […]

    Deviant Burials September 19, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Deviant Burials

    The dead are prepared for the after life in almost every way imaginable. In some cases they are eaten, in some cases they are burnt, in some cases they are fed to animals, in some cases they are embalmed and in some cases they are buried in the ground. Beach has not yet come across […]

    A Dragon in Medieval East Anglia September 16, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    A Dragon in Medieval East Anglia

    Beach had a fabulous evening trying to convince his elder daughter (3) that dragons do exist. This involved placing a small bean bag draco at various inaccessible points of the house and creating a domestic dragon mythology: dragons only eat salted foods; dragons hate men; dragon baby’s mothers steal keys etc etc. The picture above […]

    Strange Historical Personal Names September 15, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Strange Historical Personal Names

    Full crisis here. A think tank that Beachcombing sometimes works for needs some urgent help with a text: in a format that no program on his computer can open… And Mrs B has a pressing deadline – more help needed – with a project she has worked up about what good Europeans (ha!) the young […]

    Death in the Garden September 13, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Death in the Garden

    It is a gentle summer evening in York in 1108. Archbishop Gerard nods his head at a couple of monks, smiles beatifically at the veiled wife of a local well-to-do and then passes into the cathedral rose garden. Here, however, his expression changes. He now has the face of a man who knows what he […]

    Did You Hear the One about the Fairy and the Alien? September 9, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern

    Beachcombing has never bothered to write them down, but he has a mental list of irritating academic titles ranging from ‘The Erotics of Medieval Backgammon’ to the ‘Semiotics of Transgression in Aquitanian Saints Lives’ etc etc etc. When he recently then stumbled across ‘Between One Eye Blink and the Next: Fairies, UFOs and Problems of […]

    Population Games and Rorschach Tests September 6, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Population Games and Rorschach Tests

    Beachcombing had some fun the other day writing about ancient history and population estimates. Last night reading in the ‘wee hours’ he came across another lovely example of this: the insane modern debate about the population of Roman Britain. Now post-war estimates for the population of Roman Britain  have gone as low as 200,000 and […]

    Dubious Archaeology September 4, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Dubious Archaeology

    Reading Kenneth Feder’s Encylopedia of Dubious Archaeology Beach was reminded of an adage by Benjamin Franklin. Franklin once said that before you start arguing with someone you need to make a fundamental decision: do you want to change that person’s opinion or do you want to draw blood? It is a frightening question because 90% […]

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