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  • 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 […]

    Amazons #4: The Amazons Fight the Spaniards April 28, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Amazons #4: The Amazons Fight the Spaniards

    It will be remembered that the year is 1542 and that a small Spanish party is making its way down the Amazon under the command of Francisco de Orellana. There follows the fourth and the most dramatic of the Amazon episodes in the work of Gaspar de Villar (for 1, 2 and 3 follow the […]

    Blood Rain at Stoke Edith April 27, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Blood Rain at Stoke Edith

    Skyfalls are normally a tedium of frogs and snails and red lobster’s tails. But this one caught Beach’s attention because of the sheer horror of the cottager and because of the very seventeenth-century reaction: get a justice of the peace, swear to it and then bring out an absurdly portentous-sounding pamphlet, A Very Strange, But […]

    Amazons 3#: Owned by the Amazons April 25, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Amazons 3#: Owned by the Amazons

    In 1542, the party led by Francisco de Orellana, travelled down the Amazon hearing rumours of a mysterious female nation of warriors: these rumours were recounted early on in two villages, and we have already covered these episodes in the previous days (1, 2). However, by June of that year the Spaniards believed that they […]

    Grotesque Mesalliances April 24, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Grotesque Mesalliances

    There is a school of thought that says arranged marriages work and, even for die-hard romantics like Beach, there are millennia of proof that they can. But there are also cases from every static, traditional society that leave you shaking at the potential horror of an institution that allows a father or brother to choose […]

    ‘Bloody Foreigners’ and English April 23, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Medieval, Modern
    'Bloody Foreigners' and English

    The British are often characterized as being insular, stand-offish and suspicious of outsiders.  And Beach has recently been fascinated by how this parochialism (which is at least partly based in fact) has left traces in the English language and more particularly in the words that English uses for nationality. It should be said, first of […]

    Amazons 2#: ‘They’ll Kill You’ April 22, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Amazons 2#: 'They'll Kill You'

    The women warriors of the Amazon basin appear for the first time in a European account in 1542 when Gaspar de Carvajal, a friar on the expedition of Francisco de Orellana was passing down the river that would soon be named for them. Beach has already described an earlier Indian description of these women from […]

    Witches in Nineteenth-Century Hastings April 21, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Witches in Nineteenth-Century Hastings

    Ever since this blog began Beach has been fascinated by stories of nineteenth-century witchcraft. Here is one described by that old curiosity shop writer Charles Mackay. Note that we’ve not been able to find any connection between the author and the town of Hastings on England’s southern coast. Can anyone help: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT […]

    Amazons 1#: First Contact April 19, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Amazons 1#: First Contact

    In 1542, a small party led by Francisco de Orellana, a thuggish conquistador (was there any other sort?) was making its way down a huge South American river towards the sea. In the depths of this dangerous region, where no white man had ever gone before, the Spaniards began to hear strange stories of… Well, […]

    Weighing Witches April 16, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Weighing Witches

    ***dedicated to Theo*** How do I know if, c. 1750, old Mother Shipley down the road is a witch. Obviously the dying chickens, my children’s illnesses, the unpleasant cackling, the noises in the night are all clues… But we are in the eighteenth-century so how do we introduce science into this? In other ages witches […]

    Hebrew Invasion of Bedroom April 15, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Hebrew Invasion of Bedroom

    There follows a curious little piece that came out of the early spiritualist movement in the US, but that bears some resemblance to modern freakery about UFOs landing on the front lawn and greys appearing at the bottom of people’s beds with equipment far beyond the sleeper’s ken. On the night of the 21st of […]

    The Hallucinogenic Mushrooms Are More Rainbow Coloured on the Other Side of the Fence April 11, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    The Hallucinogenic Mushrooms Are More Rainbow Coloured on the Other Side of the Fence

    Hallucinogens are frequently found in the traditional religious life of hunter-gatherers and rural communities. There are, of course, literally hundreds of different ways of intoxicating yourself ranging from toad glands to nutmeg, from jimson weed to ergot spores. And naturally, these techniques which, depending on your point of view, canker or enhance reality, are important […]

    Witches Walking Upside Down April 10, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Witches Walking Upside Down

    ***By an act of all too characteristic incompetence this post was pre-published yesterday, some of you may then have missed the post before on four suicides (PS some great emails on that, just need some time to put up)*** How do witches fly? By broomstick, of course. Only consider this story, which appears  in 1825 […]

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