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  • 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 […]

    Fairies, Children of the Forest and Game of Thrones April 20, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Medieval
    Fairies, Children of the Forest and Game of Thrones

    Beach’s students this semester constrained him to read Game of Thrones and the subsequent avalanche of books which followed on. Are these books any good? Mixed feelings. However, one thing is certain, this blogger’s normal irritation at fantasy fiction wasn’t activated: perhaps because most of the novels are about humans being nasty to each other […]

    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, […]

    When Cats Killed Men April 18, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    When Cats Killed Men

    Can a cat kill a human being? In the modern world you would need to invent a rather elaborate scenario involving microbes, extreme allergies or a long flight of stairs to make that one work. But in ancient Egypt cats regularly murdered their human neighbours: though first their human neighbours had to kill them. Diodorus […]

    Vision Quest 1#: Blood Loss April 17, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Vision Quest 1#: Blood Loss

    Around the world different peoples have pioneered different methods to ‘open the doors of consciousness’ through what doctors call hallucinations. Possible keys to said doors include mushrooms, toad poison and smoked grasses (of various descriptions). Beach knew about all these but he was surprised, recently to read about blood loss causing hallucinations. The science behind […]

    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 […]

    Death As A Basketball April 14, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Death As A Basketball

    Death by basketball… We examined this quaint pre-Columbian custom just last week. But what about the strangest death of them all death AS a basketball? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com The place is Central America and we are in pre-Columbian times again. This is the epoch of the great ball games of the Maya and […]

    Mrs T’s Revolving Eyes April 13, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Mrs T's Revolving Eyes

    In the tradition of writing topical posts a week after they have ceased to be topical, Beachcombing thought that he would celebrate, today, Margaret Thatcher’s eyes as part of his occasional maverick politicians series. Coming of age in a country where that loathed/loved woman reigned, this blogger has long been fascinated by the way that […]

    Fairy Witches #3: Meilyr of Wales April 12, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Fairy Witches #3: Meilyr of Wales

    The third in our series of fairy-witches is a certain Meilyr, who died at Usk Castle in 1174. True, in the account that follows, taken from that old cobbler-merchant Gerald of Wales, no fairies are mentioned and no maleficium (the normal defining feature of a witch). But there is something in Meilyr’s relations with the […]

    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 […]

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