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  • Review: Witches, Fantasies and Fairies March 8, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Review: Witches, Fantasies and Fairies

    In 1966 Carlo Ginzburg, a WANW Italian historian, published I Benandanti. In this book, Ginzburg argued that a group of sixteenth-century Friulian peasants, who believed themselves to have  super powers – they could fly and fight witches – were the last traces of a pre-Christian fertility cult in the region. Ginzburg went on to argue that […]

    Lucy Bruce, Iona and the Fairy Investigation Society March 5, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Lucy Bruce, Iona and the Fairy Investigation Society

    Miss Lucy Bruce is a virtually forgotten twentieth-century mystic, who spent some of her life on the Isle of Iona in Scotland. She interests the writer of this post because she was a member of the Fairy Investigation Society and he is presently trying to learn more about the organization by tracking all members down: […]

    England’s First Anomalist and A Missing Manuscript? March 4, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    England's First Anomalist and A Missing Manuscript?

    Matthew Poole (obit 1679) was an English Biblical scholar from an age and a place when that meant simultaneously the most mind numbing parsing and sensationalizing of God’s word. He wrote tracts, he preached sermons and he would generally have made rather dull if hell-fire warm dinner company: perhaps the only really interesting thing that […]

    Feline Paws through History March 3, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Feline Paws through History

    ***Dedicated to Larry, Why Evolution is True and Andy the Mad Monk*** Feline lovers will curse us for saying this but the cat has not played a huge role in history. True, we have observed here in the past some its few runs across the stage of the past including the notorious cat organ, cat […]

    A Fisherman’s Tale or a Venetian Invention? February 28, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    A Fisherman's Tale or a Venetian Invention?

    Lots of emails received in the last week about the Zen brothers and the possibility of a pre-Columbian crossing of the Atlantic by a northern route in the fourteenth century. We have decided to put up the most interesting passage in this respect that relates to some wind-blown fishermen from Europe who end up ‘over […]

    Jim’s Missing Book February 26, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Jim's Missing Book

    Jim was an Iowan, an American Indian, one of a party who in 1844 crossed the Atlantic to see Europe. The Iowans had as their guide in Britain and parts of the Continent George Catlin (obit 1872), the famous American artist and a friend of the first nations, particularly the Mandans with whom he had […]

    Broad Beans, Paschal Candles and Graveside Stories February 25, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Broad Beans, Paschal Candles and Graveside Stories

    Popular superstitions survived surprisingly late in many parts of Europe. However, these superstitions had two enemies, Christianity and urbanization, enemies that gradually scoured them out of mind and memory. From the arrival of Christianity on the scene (any time between 300 and 1000) and increased urbanization (any time from 1700-1950) any superstition would have to […]

    Boggart of Shatton February 22, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Boggart of Shatton

    The Boggart is a solitary and typically pretty nasty fairy. The following is an unusually detailed early twentieth- or perhaps late nineteenth-century account. Our author (writing in the 1950s) notes that the Boggart ‘attacked man and beast’ and then continues: The Boggart would appear to have instilled in the people of the Peak a dread […]

    Review: The Face in the Window February 19, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Review: The Face in the Window

    Two useful rules for writing reviews that Beach is about to break. Never write a review about a friend’s work and never write a review before finishing a book. Well, today we incinerate these rules and celebrate Chris Woodyard’s The Face in the Window because, after having read 80%, it is clear that it deserves […]

    In Search of the Tooth of the Fairy Dog February 17, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    In Search of the Tooth of the Fairy Dog

    Fairy dogs are the Scottish and above all the Hebridean equivalent of the East Anglian shuck: black or white or green (!) hounds that appear in the night and that bring with them portents. Of course, the fairy dog is an intangible creature, probably to be looked for in the subconscious rather than in the […]

    An English Queen and Child Abuse? February 16, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    An English Queen and Child Abuse?

    There are three characters in this sorry tale: a 14 year old girl, her forty-one year old step-father and her thirty-six year old step-mother; the girl’s biological father and mother are both dead. The child attracts her step-father’s attention (sexually-speaking) and he begins to take liberties with the girl: though how far these liberties went […]

    The Lost Zen Letters: A Cautionary Tale about Children and Archives February 15, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Lost Zen Letters: A Cautionary Tale about Children and Archives

    ***Dedicated to KR who pointed Zenwards*** The story (as always) is a simple one, perhaps deceptively, perhaps dishonestly so. In 1558 in Dello scoprimento dell’ isole Frislanda, Eslanda, Engrouelanda, Estotilanda e Icaria fatto sotto il Polo artico da’ due fratelli Zeni, M. Nicolo il K. e M. Antonio (Of the Discovery of Frisolanda, Eslanda, Engrouelanda, Estotilanda and Icara […]

    Goa the Golden February 14, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Goa the Golden

    ***Sorry this was accidentally pre-released yesterday…*** Goa was both the oldest continuous and one of the most curious of European colonial territories and is included here as part of our Forgotten Kingdom series. An important medieval Indian state it was attacked and captured by the Portuguese in 1510. Portugal would then run Goa up until […]

    Inuit in Aberdeen? February 13, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Inuit in Aberdeen?

    We previously enjoyed a brief visit to eighteenth-century Orkney (Scotland) and the mysterious Finnmen there, usually identified as Inuit. Here is a record from further south that seems to describe something similar. The Rev Francis Gastrell included in his diary this detail of his visit to Aberdeen in 1760: A canoe [pictured above] about seven […]

    A Magpie Parliament? February 11, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    A Magpie Parliament?

    ***Dedicated to Ed*** Magpies are often seen in small groups and this has had a predictable reflex in folklore where there is a charming rhyme (with some regional variations) that children still learn in the UK: One [magpie] for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy… As to bigger groups […]

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