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  • The Army That Was Defeated by a River December 7, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Army That Was Defeated by a River

    There are good historical records of armies fighting animals, armies fighting frost bite (the Wehrmacht from 1941 onwards) and one doubtful case of an army accidentally fighting itself. But Beach has recently been reading about a remarkable instance of an army that fought a river, and lost. The year is 1221, the army in question […]

    Witchcraft and European Penis Theft December 3, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Witchcraft and European Penis Theft

    The Malleus Maleficarum (1485) is the classic witch hunter’s book. It is the first ‘convincing’ attempt to place witches in a diabolical formula with magically affected victims at one end, the devil in the middle and large and roaring fires at the other. The author, though, Heinrich Kramer, very naturally sucked up a lot of […]

    Hating Medieval Cats #4: Waldensian Cats November 20, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Hating Medieval Cats #4: Waldensian Cats

    Another in our description of the cult of hate for medieval cats. The following text is anonymous and appeared in a fourteenth-century hand in MS Cotton Julius D, xi, fol. 84 r. It is short and it entitled Errores Valdensium, the Errors of the Waldensians. The Waldensians, for the uninitiated were a Christian sect that […]

    Hating Medieval Cats #3: Dominic’s Cat November 11, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Hating Medieval Cats #3: Dominic's Cat

    Looking at medieval cat hating Beach came across this reference, from Etienne of Bourbon (again ran into the story in that wonderful book of Barillari, Protostoria della Strega, the translation though is not hers). We are no longer with the cat in a sabat. But this has to be one of the best demon descriptions of […]

    Hating Medieval Cats #2: The Rod Cat November 5, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Hating Medieval Cats #2: The Rod Cat

    A few days ago Beach started the hunt for cat hating in the Middle Ages. Here is a second text from Etienne de Bourbonne (aka Stephen of Bourbon) who has sometimes appeared here before. Etienne was a Dominican inquisitor and so is something of an expert, let’s say. Auvergne is in central France. Similarly something of […]

    Hating Medieval Cats #1: The Rope Cat November 2, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Hating Medieval Cats #1: The Rope Cat

    The black cat has been visited before on this blog: particularly the question of luck and cats. In three special posts we want to visit the question of why black cats came to be so hated in many parts of Europe. Here is one of the most interesting early texts, which comes from Walter Map, […]

    Ophelia, Shards and Suicides October 30, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Ophelia, Shards and Suicides

    In Hamlet a priest says of the dead Ophelia as she is being brought to her burial (5,1): She should in ground unsanctified have lodged Till the last trumpet: for charitable prayers, Shards, flints and pebbles should be thrown on her: But what is this about ‘shards, flints and pebbles’? The Auden Shakespeare has no […]

    Fairy Human Relations: Dangerous Reflections October 29, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Fairy Human Relations: Dangerous Reflections

    ***Dedicated to Chris with question marks*** There is a modern idea that fairies are the spirit of vegetation, the spirits of the land. Human beings, meanwhile, are their polluting, urbanizing neighbours. The two represent, respectively, the forces of life and entropy and are on a permanent collision course. Traditional views of European fairies were rather […]

    The Earthquake Ghost October 28, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Earthquake Ghost

    Odell is a small village, now in the English county of Bedfordshire. Here is a nice nineteenth-century case of ghost hysteria. For two or three weeks the neighbourhood Odell has been put into an extraordinary degree of excitement by the description of a supernatural visitation, at the village alehouse. To such a pitch had this […]

    The Judge, His Wife and the Witch’s Orgy September 22, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Judge, His Wife and the Witch's Orgy

    Beach has recently been reading the descriptions of Johann Weyer (obit 1588) who published in 1563 On the Illusions of the Demons and on Spells and Poisons. Weyer’s position was essentially this: the supernatural certainly existed (there was no question for example that the Devil abused and tempted humanity); but the witch craze, which he […]

    Dead Babies and Creature and Vitalis September 20, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Dead Babies and Creature and Vitalis

    You are reading through a medieval or early modern English record and you come across the name Vitalis or alternatively Creature, as you will from time to time. Two random examples. Vitalis, son of Richard Engaine, and Sara his wife, released his manor of Dagworth in 1217 to Margery de Cressi. 1550, Nov 5. Buried […]

    Scooby Doo Crime 3#: the Good Ladies Rob a Peasant September 17, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Scooby Doo Crime 3#: the Good Ladies Rob a Peasant

    Imagine a single story that manages to combine three favourite Beachombian tags: crime, fairies, and practical jokes. Enjoy. And similarly, as people in a certain parish in the diocese of Besançon [north-east France] believed in parallel things, some jokers dressed up as women and, appearing in this way, they entered the house of a rich peasant […]

    Margaret Murray in Her Own Words September 15, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Margaret Murray in Her Own Words

    Margaret Murray (obit 1963) was a brilliantly creative and ill disciplined scholar who not satisfied with the mysteries of the pyramids (she was an Egyptologist) decided to sort out European witchcraft in two books: The Witch Cult in Western Europe (1921) and The God of the Witches (1931). Modern scholars universally reject her methods, while […]

    Last Magic Spell Cast in Battle? September 6, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Last Magic Spell Cast in Battle?

    For many years this blog has run a weird wars tag, some of the most bizarre story from humanities adventures on the battlefield. Beach has recently got a sniff of one story that has greatly excited him, but he can’t track down the details. He throws open the problem to readers hoping that someone will […]

    Waldensian Courage, Waldensian Blood September 2, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Waldensian Courage, Waldensian Blood

    In a recent post Beach looked at the extraordinary survival of the Waldensians, a courageous proto-Protestant sect, which  managed to weather the full rage of the Church in the Alps between France and Italy. The history of the Waldensians is a long catalogue of courage and atrocity: the courage of the Waldensians and the violence of the […]

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