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  • Mermaid Monday: Mermaids at Mombasa September 4, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Mermaid Monday: Mermaids at Mombasa

    African mermaids from 1825. It is one of those bulletins from ‘foreign climes’ that provided British newspapers with so much of their copy in the 1700s and through much of the nineteenth century. Note how the mermaids are just slipped in, like the silly item at the end of the news. Aug. 1. The Espiegle, 18, […]

    Review: Primates July 15, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Review: Primates

    Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks, Primates This blog has a tradition of, from time to time, flagging up excellent children’s books on history and the supernatural. Primates, a 140-page comic, falls very much into the first of these two categories. It takes the lives of three biological anthropologists, only two of whom are still alive: […]

    Paul Stoller and Dongo June 9, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Paul Stoller and Dongo

    Paul Stoller was an American anthropologist who learnt sorcery among the Songhay people of Niger. After training, in the 1970s, with Adamu Jenitongo, ‘one of the most knowledgeable and arguably one of the most powerful Songhay sorcerers of his era’, he undertook a second apprenticeship with Hamidou Salou. Unfortunately in this apprenticeship the young American […]

    White Man at Daratoleh May 8, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    White Man at Daratoleh

    22 April 1903 a British column was attacked at Daratoleh (Somali) by dervishes: the British, as so often happened in Africa, were vastly outnumbered and the Imperial troops did the only sensible thing they could in these circumstances. They formed into a square and put their maxims to best use. Superior weapons did for superior […]

    Evans-Pritchard and the Witch April 4, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Evans-Pritchard and the Witch

    Beach wants to induct E. E. Evans-Pritchard into his Rogue Researchers club for an experience that befell the great British anthropologist during his field work in Africa. This passage comes from his famous first chapter in Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande (1937). The experience is probably from 1925 or 1926: I have only […]

    Edith Turner Meets the Blob March 11, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Edith Turner Meets the Blob

    Edith Turner (deceased 2016) was a well-known British anthropologist. She is honoured here as a rogue researcher* for an experience in 1985 among the Ndembu in Central Africa. She was particularly interested in spirit healing and was allowed, at the very end of November of that year, to attend a healing ceremony where Meru, an […]

    70 Million Dead in One Second September 8, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    70 Million Dead in One Second

    The year is 1908. You are walking through a jungle territory in southeastern Cameroon in central Africa when you hear the sickening smack of the machete on flesh. Expecting the worst you emerge, your rifle half lifted, but see only a local hunter with a kill. He has taken a chimp in a trap and […]

    Visiting Duat in Dreams June 6, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Visiting Duat in Dreams

    Every culture in history has had its own unique take on dreams from Viennese voodoo to Zhuang Zhou dreaming of butterflies, from the Aboriginal dream quest to lucid ‘shamanic’ dreaming, looking at your life line on your left hand as you gently snore. However, Beach has recently become intrigued by the Ancient Egyptians and dreams. […]

    Forgotten Kingdoms: Africa Town May 30, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Forgotten Kingdoms: Africa Town

    This blog described, a month ago, the horrific experience of a group of African slaves, brought to Alabama (illegally) in 1860. In that post, Beach concentrated on the experience of slavery, remembered by men and women some seventy years later. But not the least incredible part of their experience was their decision to build a […]

    Vivid African Execution May 19, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern

      There follows a particularly vivid description of an African execution/sacrifice of a witch. The witness, Paul B. Du Chaillu (obit 1903) was describing his travels in West Africa in the 1850s: Du Chaillu has gone down in history as the first westerner to see gorillas (though there is Hanno…) Here he instead he learns […]

    The Last African Slaves to Be Brought to America: Eyewitness Accounts April 21, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Last African Slaves to Be Brought to America: Eyewitness Accounts

    The slave trade to America was banned in 1807, but slaves were still brought to America illegally in the decades that followed. The last known slave ship that brought slaves across the Atlantic was the Clotilde in 1859. What is extraordinary about the Clotilde’s journey is that the young slaves who were sold in Alabama, […]

    The Earliest Cargo Cult? March 4, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Earliest Cargo Cult?

    Cargo cults are Melanesian religious movements centred on the ability of the colonial powers to bring the kind of trinkets that fill shopping malls and dollar stores to the some of the virgin corners of the earth. The first references to cargo cults, the Vailala Madness, which began in 1919, for example, saw Papuans preach […]

    Last King Killing February 12, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Last King Killing

    Armchair anthropologists (such as this blogger) often thrill over the stories of mutilated and better still murdered kings and the rituals described by Frazer and his heirs in the tropics and reconstructed (ahem imagined) in European history. The king is the land, and as he becomes old and frail he must be sacrificed so life […]

    Morris Dancers from Hell December 18, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Morris Dancers from Hell

    Imagine that you have a problem in your west African village. A witch is believed to be among you, or worse still someone has been indulging in cannibalism. How do you deal with such miscreants: there is no police force with the resources, and the local chief is at the end of his tether. Well, […]

    Seneb the Egyptian Deneg December 4, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Seneb the Egyptian Deneg

    Seneb’s tomb in the Giza Necropolis offers the first realistic portrait in history of someone suffering from dwarfism. Seneb is sculpted seated to the left of his wife and where his feet would normally be shown coming down to the ground there are two of his three children; an unconventional touch. Size is often misleading […]

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