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  • The Saint Who Became A Cat May 7, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    The Saint Who Became A Cat

    Beachcombing has previously looked at St Christopher a dog-headed saint. But what about St Agatha who can turn into a cat? First a little background. Agatha was a martyr saint from Catania, Sicily whose five-day festival each year in early February remains one of the highlights of civic life in the city and whose climax […]

    Hill Hill Hill Hill May 4, 2011

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

    Placenames, like history, are as much a product of human incompetence as human genius. Take the phenomenon of pleonastic placenames – an intimidating word signalling the limitations of language and understanding. Rather than explain what is meant it is best to give an example, the Yorkshire placenames of Seamer Water (pictured above). Working backwards, generally […]

    Crowning Corpses in Portugal April 30, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Crowning Corpses in Portugal

    Beachcombing’s site has a long and honourable tradition of screwing up anniversaries and today will be no different: a celebration of the most bizarre royal ceremony in history, a full twenty four hours after the fairly modest William-Kate affair drew to its uncontroversial conclusion. Bizarrists will already have anticipated. Beachcombing is, of course, referring to […]

    An Early Sighting of the Loch Ness Monster? April 27, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    An Early Sighting of the Loch Ness Monster?

    Medieval saints were famous for their encounters with dangerous animals. In their Lives we read of confrontations with wolves, bears, stags and snakes; but also of meetings with more exotic creatures. Beachcombing thinks of St George facing down a dragon or St Brendan and his monks celebrating communion on the back of an enormous sea […]

    Woolly Mammoths among the Pharoahs? April 14, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Woolly Mammoths among the Pharoahs?

      **This post is dedicated to Andy the Mad Monk who put Beachcombing onto it** Beachcombing has long wondered if the publishing world would not have room for a volume on long-travelled exotic animals in Antiquity and the Middle Ages: giraffes turning up in Renaissance Italy; polar bears being brought down to the medieval Arabs; […]

    Kamikaze Exploration Irish Style April 11, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Kamikaze Exploration Irish Style

      An entry from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles for 891 claims that in that year three Irish men set out from Ireland in a boat. An everyday event you might think – certainly Beachcombing was unimpressed. But what made their voyage special was that the three travelled without oars. In effect, they decided to give up […]

    Barbecuing Friars in Late Medieval Florence April 7, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Barbecuing Friars in Late Medieval Florence

      Beachcombing promised just the other day that he would leave blood alone for at least a month. He wants then to be very clear that this post will not involve bloodshed. It will describe though one of the last ordeals by fire of the Middle Ages, an attempt to use flames to judge a human […]

    Review: Shadow Pasts April 5, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Review: Shadow Pasts

    Beachcombing has only a few minutes today before class begins – a spring cold has meant that he is sleeping double his regulation five or six hours. But he wants to take what little time he has to celebrate William Rubinstein’s Shadow Pasts: ‘Amateur Historians’ and History’s Mysteries (2007), a gem of a book he […]

    Vikings Vikinged in Dorset UK March 29, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Prehistoric
    Vikings Vikinged in Dorset UK

    Beachcombing has sometimes confessed in this place that he is not a great fan of the Vikings. Indeed, say ‘Viking’ to your average medievalist and they will get lyrical about sturdy boats and trips to Greenland. Beachcombing, on the other hand, sees burnt monastic libraries, lines of children being brought to slavery in the fiords […]

    Headless Races March 27, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Headless Races

      After all those head lice (see previous posts) Beachcombing gets back to some decapitation stories, not least because it would be the most efficient way to solve his family’s present problems. In any case, before anyone makes contact with the social workers… In response to an earlier beheading post RR wrote in with the following […]

    Reading Runes at Runamo March 25, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Reading Runes at Runamo

    The horror! The horror! Beachcombing joined the rest of his family this morning with headlice and so is rushing this post in between a delousing shower and the preparation of an application for a new job for Mrs B. Apologies too to all those many correspondents to whom he has not yet replied. He hopes […]

    Capital Punishment and Prehistoric Burials March 19, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Prehistoric
    Capital Punishment and Prehistoric Burials

                You are a member of the minor nobility in some part of northern Europe found guilty of murder in the fifteenth century. After the capital sentence is passed you are thrown in the back of a cart and driven out to the local place of reckoning.  However, as you are […]

    Frederick to Saladin: Roman Fantasies March 16, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Frederick to Saladin: Roman Fantasies

      Politics is supposedly the art of the possible, but, in medieval times,  politics was more often the art of the barely believable. Beachcombing has long loved the particularly incredible tones that the Middle Ages throw up and had a particularly pleasant memory – recently refreshed by Ostrich – of a letter exchange between Frederick I and Saladin  around […]

    The Last Foodtaster in History? March 11, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
    The Last Foodtaster in History?

      Beachcombing has long thought that food tasting must have been among the very cushiest jobs to have had in the Middle Ages. Why? (i) No one is going to be stupid enough to kill a monarch or a duke by poisoning their food if they know there’s a taster around. You are safe. Beachcombing doubts there’s […]

    Floating Yogis in the Fourteenth Century March 9, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Floating Yogis in the Fourteenth Century

    Here is a text that has long got on Beachcombing’s nerves. A fourteenth-century Arab traveller finds himself invited to the court of an Indian sultan and there has an encounter with some local yogis. *The Sultan sent for me once when I was with him at Delhi, and on entering I found him in a […]

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