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  • Cat Cruelty in Nineteenth-Century Magic May 21, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Cat Cruelty in Nineteenth-Century Magic

    ***Unexpected summer flu, the result of sitting up all night and writing about boggarts then taking students up a mountain: act your age!*** Why is it always the cats that suffer? Beach has not the slightest idea but here is yet more proof that few animals get a worse deal from the esoteric world. The […]

    Soul-Selling in Nineteenth-Century London May 19, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Soul-Selling in Nineteenth-Century London

    Another soul-selling episode from London, this time c. 1840: more entertaining and yet so much more disturbing. On Friday night a large number of thieves, prostitutes, and other blackguards residing in the vicinity of Westminster Abbey, collected in the churchyard belonging [to] that venerable building. They began to congregate soon after eleven o’clock at night, […]

    Brunelleschi’s Cruellest Practical Joke May 18, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Brunelleschi's Cruellest Practical Joke

    Beach has recently been wondering about the potential for putting together a collection of practical jokes from history. A particular favourite is the joke played by the brilliant Florentine architect, Filippo Brunelleschi (picture) and a gang of rowdies, c. 1409. It comes down to us in various versions collectively known as the Novella del Grasso […]

    In Search of the Science Behind Misleading Wisps May 16, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    In Search of the Science Behind Misleading Wisps

    Beach has covered, on previous occasions, stories of will o’th’ wisps (never know how to spell that damn word/words) and lights that apparently have a mind of their own. First, it is worth making a division between memorates (experiences) and folk-lore. Memorates often include descriptions of being out on this or that moor and running […]

    Forgotten Kingdoms: August Gissler’s Cocos May 15, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Forgotten Kingdoms: August Gissler's Cocos

      When August Gissler (obit 1935) became, at last, governor of Cocos Island, off Costa Rica, in 1897, he was not interested in the tiny and transient population of tobacco growers there, most of whom he had brought over from his home country. The German was obsessed, instead, by the vast quantites of gold (allegedly) […]

    The Boggarts of Royde and Royd May 14, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Boggarts of Royde and Royd

    Today, an almighty confusion of boggarts: the fairy-shape-shifting-ghosts that haunt the south Pennines and the North West of England. Ellen Royde is a gentile house, now used as a health clinic, in the Lower Calder Valley at Elland near Halifax. There, in the garden, was a boggart chair, some kind of seat or structure, suggesting […]

    Dowry Fossil May 13, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Dowry Fossil

      A wrong time post… There are few things in history as fascinating as the archaic customs that have been handed down from generation to generation and that survive in our societies like the tail-bone’s pointy edge on our spines. A particular Beachcombian favourite is the dowry. Civilisations basically fall into three categories here: those […]

    Soul Selling in Eighteenth-Century London May 10, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Soul Selling in Eighteenth-Century London

    A melancholy day today and so Beach thought that he would enjoy some soul-selling. We are in eighteenth-century London and in the middle of one of those stories that are a little difficult to credit. A young maid, who lived formerly at Kensington, but, removing from thence, lived in St. Martin’s le Grand, London, being […]

    Witches and Brambles May 9, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Witches and Brambles

    This is a summary borrowed from Owen Davies’ excellent Witchcraft, Magic and Culture. In December 1924, Alfred John Matthews, aged forty-three, a small-holder of Clyst St Lawrence, Devon, appeared at the Cullhompton petty sessions for scratching and drawing blood from Ellen Garnsworthy, a middle-aged, married woman of the same village. Matthews had a sow which […]

    Academic Quotations from Aged Newspapers May 8, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Modern
    Academic Quotations from Aged Newspapers

    There follows what may be the most boring post ever put up here. Apologies ahead of time: I tried to make the title as tedious as possible to keep thrillseekers and glue-sniffers away. First, some background. In the last two years I have published half a dozen academic articles that include or, in two cases, […]

    Astrology and Burning Cities May 7, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Astrology and Burning Cities

    Astrology was the one portion of occultism that survived, with its respectability intact, into the modern age. Indeed, up until, the eighteenth century there were those who insisted that astrology should be included among the natural sciences. Then, with the Enlightenment and the birth of modern astronomy, astrology took a dive in prestige from which […]

    Hob and Documentation May 4, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Hob and Documentation

    Historians with their infinite archives and supercilious (and usually ill-functioning) electronic databases need lessons in modesty. And here is a ‘lesson’ that Beach stumbled upon this morning. In 1861 the following appeared in a book on archaeology. Mr. Bateman opened a circular tumulus on Baslow Moor [Derbyshire] called ‘Hob Hurst’s house’. It was a very […]

    Ragamuffin Purring in 1873 (Preston) May 3, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Ragamuffin Purring in 1873 (Preston)

    In the early days of this blog Beach celebrated the ancient Lancashire sport of purring or clog fighting (1, 2), where an opponents shins are reduced to bloody jelly with the white bone showing through. Sorry for that. In the hope of reviving this thread of posts here is a nineteenth-century allusion to the sport […]

    Amazons 5#: Some Truths? Don’t Count On It… May 2, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Amazons 5#: Some Truths? Don't Count On It...

    In 1542 Francisco de Orellana crossed from Chile (under Pizarro) and then passed down the Amazon to the sea with fifty men. It was an extraordinarily dangerous and uncomfortable journey and it says something for the courage and ruthlessness of the Spaniards that most were still alive when the Amazon vomited them into the Atlantic […]

    Botched Beheadings April 29, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Botched Beheadings

    The guillotine was originally invented as an act of humanitarianism to liberate criminal kind from the axe. It made sense, after all, to remove a criminal’s head from his or from her shoulders if that criminal had to be killed. But the procedure was messy. Two important things could go wrong while removing said head […]

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