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  • Shadowfax: A Fantasy Horse April 27, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Shadowfax: A Fantasy Horse

    J.R.R. Tolkien ‘horsed’ his world with some wonderful creations. There was Roheryn the stallion of Arogan, Arod a steed so strong that he carried an elf and a dwarf together on his back and even the hobbits’ loyal pony Bill. But most memorable of all was Shadowfax, who bears the mage Gandalf, ‘like the north […]

    Fairy Shysters April 26, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Fairy Shysters

    One part of Beach’s fairy fascination with Ireland has been the whole question of what might be called ‘fairy shysters’. Sharp swindlers who, in the nineteenth and twentieth century, went around taking innocent and usually vulnerable men and women for  ‘a ride’. Beach has gathered some remarkable examples together, including three extraordinary instances of ‘fairy […]

    Honey and the Anvils of Women’s Thighs April 25, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Honey and the Anvils of Women's Thighs

    Beachcombing has been enjoying some reading in Arabic aphrodisiacs: aphrodisiacs understood as any food that creates desire or that deals with problems of desire from impotence to disinterest. The Arab world seems to have been pre-eminent in this field and opusculi were written with such wonderful titles as the medieval The Book of Exposition in […]

    Chickpeas, Menstrual Blood and Witchcraft April 24, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Chickpeas, Menstrual Blood and Witchcraft

    Beach offers today for contemplation this extraordinary early modern text from De morbis ueneficis ac ueneficiis (1595) by Battista Codronchi (obit 1628), a practical guide to dealing with witch’s spells. In this book BC explains a curious personal experience that led him to undertake his study: an illness that struck his baby daughter Francesca. Beach […]

    Human Confetti in the Jungle of Guyana April 23, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Human Confetti in the Jungle of Guyana

    Beach prides himself in getting together some of the most striking photographs possible to show his students at uni. However, he is dismayed how often good photographs require dead bodies: a revolutionary Spanish soldier with his head disintegrating, Aldo Moro curled in a fœtus in the back of that fiat, Jesse James laid out, the […]

    Coincidence in Jersey City April 22, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Coincidence in Jersey City

    Following on from a recent post Beachcombing has had several extraordinary emails about coincidences among our governing classes. He thought, meanwhile, that today he would premiere another of his favourite coincidence stories: the good works of Edwin Booth (obit 1893). In 1909 an American citizen wrote the following letter to The Century Magazine with an […]

    Irish Merman Off Connemara April 21, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Irish Merman Off Connemara

    ***Beach dedicates this to Mike Dash who sent in the clipping*** The Nottingham Evening Post, Aug 26 1937 ran with a merman story that was new (at least to this mermaid enthusiast). Note curious claims for his dimensions or is this just a misunderstanding on the part of the journalist in the English Midlands. The […]

    More Christ Confusion April 20, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    More Christ Confusion

        Beach wrote a few days ago of the most moving source for the historical Christ, a source that perhaps dates back to a decade after Jesus’ death. Today, instead, he thought he would look at the most amusing source for Christ’s death, a fragment from Josephus, the turncoat who supported the Jewish resistance […]

    Nanny Coincidence April 19, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Nanny Coincidence

    When Churchill died in 1965 at the age of 90 there was one picture by his bedside. The picture was not of his wife (though their marriage had been a success), nor of his children, nor of his parents. Rather it was of his nanny who had left the earth seventy years before (obit 1895). […]

    Newspaper Archives as Controls or Filters April 18, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Newspaper Archives as Controls or Filters

    Beachcombing spent more time than was strictly necessary last summer looking at nineteenth- and twentieth-century newspaper archives. It is an extraordinary world. You constantly find yourself caught up on headlines (‘Sea-monster seen in the Channel’, ‘Germans eat the French’) that cannot easily be ignored and then you take one last look over the page and […]

    Misfortunes with Severed Heads: Richard Owen and Lancaster Jail April 17, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Misfortunes with Severed Heads: Richard Owen and Lancaster Jail

    Beachcombing regrets that he cannot provide the primary source for the following anecdote from Richard Owen’s early life. Anyone lucky enough to have instant access to mid nineteenth-century periodicals will find it in Hood’s Magazine and Comic Miscellany vol 3 (1845), 294-303. Beach is taking this paraphrase from the excellent Dinosaur Hunters by Deborah Cadbury, […]

    Pixie-Led in the South-West April 16, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Pixie-Led in the South-West

    Beachcombing is back to the fairies. One subject that has intrigued him through this spring is the rare fairy-phenomenon of being ‘pixie-led’, one particularly associated with the south-west of England: hence the name as ‘the pixies’ are the fairies of Cornwall and Devon. To be pixie-led is to be led astray by the good folk […]

    Freedoms Fliers by J. Todd Moye April 15, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Freedoms Fliers by J. Todd Moye

    Wars have the habit of shaking up the social order in a way that a hoary old conservative like Beachcombing finds rather disturbing. Children join militias: think the moving photographs of fourteen and fifteen year German ‘soldiers’ guarding the Atlantic wall or ‘that scene’ in Doctor Zhivago. Gender relations are bent in knots: women are […]

    Did Christ Exist? April 14, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Did Christ Exist?

    Beach should start this piece with a disclaimer: he is not a Christian – ‘not that there is anything wrong with that’ – and is unlikely to ever become one. And with this bit of initial hand-wringing out of the way on to today’s question, provoked by some recent internet articles, did Jesus exist? Well, […]

    Singing Enemy Songs: Lili Marleen April 13, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Singing Enemy Songs: Lili Marleen

    One of the most moving moments in cinema is the extraordinary ending of Kubrick’s Paths of Glory. A young German girl is pulled in front of a crowd of French soldiers and forced to sing. The poilu mock her but as she nervously begins  the mood changes. The soldiers join in and drown her anxious, […]

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