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  • Review: Cunning Folk May 22, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Review: Cunning Folk

    There is a memorable scene near the beginning of Woody Allen’s Annie Hall when Woody goes out on his first date with Diane Keaton and kisses her at the very start of the evening: oily old Woody says that he just wants to get the kiss out of the way and let everything else follow […]

    Cat Cruelty in Nineteenth-Century Magic May 21, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Cat Cruelty in Nineteenth-Century Magic

    ***Unexpected summer flu, the result of sitting up all night and writing about boggarts then taking students up a mountain: act your age!*** Why is it always the cats that suffer? Beach has not the slightest idea but here is yet more proof that few animals get a worse deal from the esoteric world. The […]

    Soul-Selling in Nineteenth-Century London May 19, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Soul-Selling in Nineteenth-Century London

    Another soul-selling episode from London, this time c. 1840: more entertaining and yet so much more disturbing. On Friday night a large number of thieves, prostitutes, and other blackguards residing in the vicinity of Westminster Abbey, collected in the churchyard belonging [to] that venerable building. They began to congregate soon after eleven o’clock at night, […]

    In Search of the Science Behind Misleading Wisps May 16, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    In Search of the Science Behind Misleading Wisps

    Beach has covered, on previous occasions, stories of will o’th’ wisps (never know how to spell that damn word/words) and lights that apparently have a mind of their own. First, it is worth making a division between memorates (experiences) and folk-lore. Memorates often include descriptions of being out on this or that moor and running […]

    The Boggarts of Royde and Royd May 14, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Boggarts of Royde and Royd

    Today, an almighty confusion of boggarts: the fairy-shape-shifting-ghosts that haunt the south Pennines and the North West of England. Ellen Royde is a gentile house, now used as a health clinic, in the Lower Calder Valley at Elland near Halifax. There, in the garden, was a boggart chair, some kind of seat or structure, suggesting […]

    Soul Selling in Eighteenth-Century London May 10, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Soul Selling in Eighteenth-Century London

    A melancholy day today and so Beach thought that he would enjoy some soul-selling. We are in eighteenth-century London and in the middle of one of those stories that are a little difficult to credit. A young maid, who lived formerly at Kensington, but, removing from thence, lived in St. Martin’s le Grand, London, being […]

    Astrology and Burning Cities May 7, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Astrology and Burning Cities

    Astrology was the one portion of occultism that survived, with its respectability intact, into the modern age. Indeed, up until, the eighteenth century there were those who insisted that astrology should be included among the natural sciences. Then, with the Enlightenment and the birth of modern astronomy, astrology took a dive in prestige from which […]

    Hob and Documentation May 4, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Hob and Documentation

    Historians with their infinite archives and supercilious (and usually ill-functioning) electronic databases need lessons in modesty. And here is a ‘lesson’ that Beach stumbled upon this morning. In 1861 the following appeared in a book on archaeology. Mr. Bateman opened a circular tumulus on Baslow Moor [Derbyshire] called ‘Hob Hurst’s house’. It was a very […]

    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 […]

    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 […]

    ‘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 […]

    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 […]

    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 […]

    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 […]

    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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