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  • 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 […]

    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 […]

    Four Strange Suicides April 9, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Four Strange Suicides

    Beach has covered the difficult theme of suicide before on several occasions. There was suicides and loopholes, suicides on Saipan and, staying with the Second World War, madness in the last hours in the bunker in Berlin. But suicide is still rattling around his head and this particular post has been bothering him for a […]

    Juliana Jumps April 8, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Juliana Jumps

    In 1119, a woman jumped off a castle wall, in Normandy, and, against the odds, escaped from her father who intended to kill her. However, before we get to this noble’s life-saving acrobatics some background and be warned as most things to do with the Normans it is complicated and bloody. Juliana of Fontevrault was […]

    The Evils of Chess! April 7, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    The Evils of Chess!

    Chess! The taut, horrid syllable is enough to unveil the rotteneness at the heart of that most dreadful of games. Avoid it! Turn from it! Ostracise those who play it! Ok, Beach is playing out here, but he recently came across this extraordinary quotation from an Anglican vicar from Essex, at the death of his […]

    Death By Basketball April 6, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Death By Basketball

    Humanity is extraordinarily ingenious in terms of the different ways it has found to execute people. We’ve reviewed on this blog before elephant executions; Mike Dash has recently given space to the Viking’s blood eagle; there is necklacing in Sub-Saharan Africa (a lynching rather than judicial capital punishment); the brazen bull in ancient Greece (another […]

    Why Isn’t Modern Fairy Fiction Frightening? April 5, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    Why Isn't Modern Fairy Fiction Frightening?

    In appalling fevered sleeps during a recent bout of flu – an approximation of hell – Beach dreamt constantly of fairies and witches. This had nothing to do with two fairy horror books he had supplied himself with – Graham Joyce’s The Tooth Fairy (1999) and A Kind of Enchantment (2012) – and everything, instead, […]

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