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  • Swan Courts? December 17, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Swan Courts?

    A previous post offered up the legends of magpie parliaments and other collections of birds in assemblies. Here, instead is a medieval equivalent. Any knowledge of swans acting in groups in this way? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com The events described here took place at Ongar in Essex probably in the twelfth century. The writer […]

    The Wessel Coins 5#: Ian McIntosh Interview December 12, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    The Wessel Coins 5#: Ian McIntosh Interview

    Huge thanks to Dr Ian McIntosh who agreed to this interview about the Wessel Coins, about progress in last summer’s expedition and about hopes for next year. Previous posts on the medieval African coins that ended up in Australia are gathered together in this link. All readers please note that there is also a relevant […]

    In Search of the Hippophugi December 10, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    In Search of the Hippophugi

    Recently reading a good deal of medieval beast lore and came across this curious creature. As always there is that half-formed suspicion that this must be something real, if only we could pare back the description to its absolute essentials: In the same regions of the river Briso [in Ethiopia, there is much debate?] there […]

    The Medieval Water That Would Not Boil! December 5, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Medieval Water That Would Not Boil!

    An early thirteenth-century source comes up with this strange little story. The modern editor suggests that Piroletti may be Piolenc near Orange in southern France: but the names are not that close. In any case whatis far, far more interesting is the fact that water from a local stream, wherever we are, does not boil. […]

    Review: Imaginary Animals November 29, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern, Prehistoric
    Review: Imaginary Animals

    Any parent will know that animals are important. Children make animal sounds before they make words. They draw and paint animals. They cherish animal toys. The books they read have animal characters. They pretend to be animals. Animals, in fact, become a kind of meta-language for their experience and their emotions: Little Miss Beach has […]

    Monotheistic Moments November 28, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Monotheistic Moments

    There seems to be no question that early human societies were polytheistic. Might it even be said that polytheism is the natural human condition? Perhaps monotheism is the equivalent of Big Macs and fried mars bars, whereas we should all really be eating freshly killed gazelle and the fruits of the forest? There is, in […]

    Romans and Fairies? November 25, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Romans and Fairies?

    ***Dedicated to Invisible who sent the Notts example in*** Beach has slowly become aware that Roman remains in Britain were misinterpreted by imaginative yokels. Of course, already by the seventh century Roman Bath (probably?) was the City of Giants in an Anglo-Saxon poem. By the twelfth century Geoffrey of Monmouth was claiming that some Roman […]

    Arty Monarchs November 21, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Arty Monarchs

    How many rulers can you think of who show a gift for the arts? By this we don’t mean a Charles I or a Cosimo de Medici who could talent spot. Rather Beach is looking for blood-line rulers who were actually good with the paint-brush or with chisel or (taking the broader sense of ‘the […]

    How Islam Created the Italian Renaissance November 16, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    How Islam Created the Italian Renaissance

    The Renaissance! What’s not to like: Leo flying; Micky chipping at marble; men in tights and women in bodices; the pop, snap, crackle of Kultur; and cherubs falling from the sky like hailstone. According to the textbooks fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Italians, more particularly the urban Italians of northern Italy rediscovered the Greek and Romans and […]

    The Last Single Combat? November 15, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    The Last Single Combat?

    Single Combat is not strictly the same as a duel, where two individuals meet to settle a matter of honour. In single combat a member of one army and a member from another meet before battle, either to warm up the ranks or, better still, to settle the affair pacifically without any one else having […]

    Were-Storks and the Origins of Storks’ Baby Carrying! October 26, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Were-Storks and the Origins of Storks' Baby Carrying!

    There is the well established legends of the storks flying, in antiquity down below the Sahara to battle the pygmies. But what about this unusual medieval legend that appears in a fourteenth-century work in two parts. First our author is describing the well-established error, one that survived into the nineteenth century, that certain birds hibernate […]

    The Law and Cauls October 25, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    The Law and Cauls

    Long-time readers of the blog may remember several posts on cauls (the membrane that sometimes sticks to a child as he or she exits the womb). ‘Hooded’ children or caulbearers are often said to have psychic gifts. But there is also a tradition of excellence in law: the reason for the connection between these two […]

    Hot Mermaids from Renaissance Venice! October 22, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Hot Mermaids from Renaissance Venice!

    Beach is feeling very shallow today and so he thought that he would celebrate a wonderful new book that arrived through the post: Alison Luchs, The Mermaids of Venice (Brepols 2010). Why shallow? Well, he can’t celebrate the scholarship of the good Prof Luchs because he hasn’t read any of her words yet (another post, […]

    Medieval Horse Whispering October 19, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Medieval Horse Whispering

    Beach was fascinated by the example of East Anglian horse whispering, which he stumbled upon, and above all with readers’ replies elucidating this tradition. A bit more research has led him to a medieval parallel. It is a fascinating piece. Note that our author Gervase (early thirteenth century) doesn’t see the knight horse conjurer in […]

    Authority in the Village from Italy to Ireland October 18, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Authority in the Village from Italy to Ireland

    Beach lives today in a small village in central Italy. The village is isolated and there has been little marriage with ‘outsiders’. Up on the hills, barely disturbed by such inconveniences as the twentieth century – the Germans occupied for a couple of weeks and blew up half a dozen houses – the folk kicking […]

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