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  • Struell Wells, Ireland: Pagan Customs in the Modern Age? January 15, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Struell Wells, Ireland: Pagan Customs in the Modern Age?

    Exciting article by Finbar McCormick from 2009, one that somehow passed Beach by, ‘Struell Wells’, The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland (2009), 45-62. FM begins with a careful description of a nineteenth-century Irish water shrine, the Struell Wells (Downpatrick). This shrine is credited through St Patrick with the power of curing. Crowds would […]

    Tamils in Sumatra: An Inscription January 11, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Tamils in Sumatra: An Inscription

    Inscriptions come in many shapes and sizes from graffiti scratched in Romanesque churches, to the huge stone book of Gal-Potha in Sri Lanka, to the panel recalling the first Chinese Christians. However, in Beach’s endless quest to hunt down the bizarre he recently stumbled upon this classic. It was found in Sumatra and was put up […]

    Fighting Sea Monsters with Vinegar in Medieval Iran December 28, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Fighting Sea Monsters with Vinegar in Medieval Iran

    One of the joys of ancient and medieval geographies are the small ethnographic details that sound strange, but that might just possibly be based on fact. The following comes from the works of Chang De, a thirteenth century ambassador and informant for a famous Chinese work, The Record of an Embassy to the Regions of […]

    Gypsies as Children Stealers in Italy: A Modern Myth December 24, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
    Gypsies as Children Stealers in Italy: A Modern Myth

    As noted previously on this blog the idea that gypsies steal children is an old one, at least five hundred years old if one piece of medieval German legislation is to be taken seriously. It is an idea that has died out in most western countries, but one that has survived curiously in Italy where, […]

    Why Children-Stealing Gypsies? December 21, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Why Children-Stealing Gypsies?

    The idea that someone is out to get our children has been around from classical times. Several antique Christian writers, for example, credit ‘the Jews’ with stealing children and this became, by the Middle Ages, part of the notorious ‘blood libel’ for which hundreds and perhaps thousands of men, women and, yes, children of Jewish descent […]

    Roman Coins in Iceland December 16, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Roman Coins in Iceland

    Roman coins have been found within and without the Empire. Denarii and solidii turn up in Scandinavia, Free Germany, Ceylon, Mainland India and Ethiopia, there is even one fascinating outlier in Madagascar (another post, another day). These coins will have arrived in two separate ways. Some will have been brought by Roman traders and some […]

    Roman Bowl in Ancient Japan?! December 10, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Roman Bowl in Ancient Japan?!

    Thanks to Ed for this story! This blog has long pioneered wrong place objects, artifacts that turn up thousands of miles from where archaeologists would have expected to find them. So how about a round of applause for this beautiful blue glass bowl that was removed from a tomb in the Nara prefecture in Japan […]

    Faking History on the Internet #2: Fairies Dug Up in Ireland! December 7, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Faking History on the Internet #2: Fairies Dug Up in Ireland!

    Beach is really getting into all these fake history news-stories on the internet: the champions of which are the generic sounding worldnewsdailyreport, the malodorous yet strangely attractive offspring of National Enquirer rutted with the History Channel. We have reported one of their previous fictions and have an especial joy now in spreading the word that […]

    Was Leonardo’s Mother a Slave (Chinese or Otherwise)? December 6, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Was Leonardo's Mother a Slave (Chinese or Otherwise)?

    Madness on the internet in the last few days with the announcement that Leonardo da Vinci’s mother was a Chinese slave and that she is the Mona Lisa. Many readers will have stumbled upon this theory and enjoyed its improbability, but they may not know that there has been almost ten years of similar theories […]

    An Early Icelandic Fairy December 5, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    An Early Icelandic Fairy

    Iceland has often featured on this blog for two reasons: first, because it is a part of the formula by which the thuggish Vikings made it to the New World five centuries before Columbus; and, second, because it retains in its traditions some particularly old pagan customs, customs that have been absorbed or overlaid by […]

    Why Didn’t Others Try Before Columbus? November 29, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Why Didn't Others Try Before Columbus?

    Beach has been much struck by two separate accounts that seem to suggest that people from one side of Euro Asia made their way to the other side of that landmass by sea: one of the accounts is Roman and one is early Medieval and Arab. Now there are very simply speaking three possibilities for […]

    Three Forgotten Democratic Tools from History November 24, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Three Forgotten Democratic Tools from History

    Western democracies run on a fairly limited model with relatively little variety from country to country. There follow three features that have disappeared from our contemporary democracies but that worked (and worked well) in the three most significant strands of historical democracies: ancient Greece, the medieval Italian communes and Viking ‘controlled anarchy’. Ostracisim Ancient Athens […]

    The Misericordia Polyptych Meets Allied Bombs November 22, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
    The Misericordia Polyptych Meets Allied Bombs

    The Misericordia Polyptych is a talismanic work of art by Piero della Francesca, today, and for most of its history, kept at Sanselpolcro in eastern Tuscany near the border with Umbria (Italy). It took PF seventeen years to complete the polyptych, yet it would have only taken a second for an Allied bomb to blow […]

    Ethiopian Boat Arrives in the Mediterranean?! November 20, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Ethiopian Boat Arrives in the Mediterranean?!

    Here’s a strange text to say the least. It appears in that remarkable tenth-century Arab work Meadows of Gold and Mines of Gems by Abu Zayd, the kind of miscellany of marvels that only the Arabs could write: the non-fiction reflex of Sinbad. In the Sea of Rum [the Mediterranean] near the island of Iqritish […]

    Joan of Arc and the Genesis of Her Voices November 19, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Joan of Arc and the Genesis of Her Voices

    Joan of Arc has appeared once before on this blog in that fascinating moment where she apparently picked out the Dauphin with psychic antennae. Today, two years on, Beach is turning instead to another part of Joan’s paranormal life, her voices. Joan heard, from her early adolescence onwards, voices. These voices gave her instruction and […]

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