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  • Lawrence’s Missing Tree May 11, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Lawrence's Missing Tree

    D.H.Lawrence, the high priest of love, the enemy of the bourgeoisie (and their closest ally), an indifferent stylist, a brilliant novelist and the man our great grandmothers prayed that they would not be seated next to at a dinner party. DHL had a lifelong, masturbatory relationship with Italy: a country that was, in his mythology, […]

    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 […]

    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, […]

    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 […]

    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 […]

    Shakespeare’s Missing Head April 4, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Shakespeare's Missing Head

    We’ve already enjoyed some of the adventures of Orville W Owen in Bacon land, most particularly digging up the River Wye in search of treasure. The New York Times article that we quoted there ends with the accusation that some journalists have misquoted Orville. Then, again, [Orville] is quoted as expressing the belief that Bacon, […]

    Non-Existent Werewolf Boy and the Lord of the Forest(s) March 29, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Non-Existent Werewolf Boy and the Lord of the Forest(s)

    Charles Mackay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions is a wonderful sources for witchery and bizarre history, but Mackay is a poor historian and, a bit like this blogger, references nothing. Take this passage that fascinated Beach. One young man at Besançon, with the full consciousness of the awful fate that awaited him, voluntarily gave himself up to […]

    Bleeding-heart Yard and Nineteenth-century London Witches March 27, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Bleeding-heart Yard and Nineteenth-century London Witches

    London legends rarely stretch back beyond the 1800s which is why this one, which is perhaps based on an Elizabethan legend, is such fun. The extract dates to 1841. Let any man walk into Cross-street, Hatton-Garden, and from thence into Bleeding-heart Yard, and learn the tales still told and believed of one house in that […]

    Review: Witches, Fantasies and Fairies March 8, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Review: Witches, Fantasies and Fairies

    In 1966 Carlo Ginzburg, a WANW Italian historian, published I Benandanti. In this book, Ginzburg argued that a group of sixteenth-century Friulian peasants, who believed themselves to have  super powers – they could fly and fight witches – were the last traces of a pre-Christian fertility cult in the region. Ginzburg went on to argue that […]

    Richard III: Between the Bust and the Face February 18, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Richard III: Between the Bust and the Face

    ***Dedicated to Jround*** The excitement over the discovery of Richard III’s body has been entirely understandable: the documentaries, the articles, even an obituary in The Economist. But there at the centre of it is that reconstruction (above), which means that Richard III has now the best known of all English monarchs’ faces. How accurate though […]

    A Magpie Parliament? February 11, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    A Magpie Parliament?

    ***Dedicated to Ed*** Magpies are often seen in small groups and this has had a predictable reflex in folklore where there is a charming rhyme (with some regional variations) that children still learn in the UK: One [magpie] for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy… As to bigger groups […]

    Wanted Balkan King! January 26, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Wanted Balkan King!

    A question. What modern European country asked a cricketer, the son of a Sultan, a German prince, a circus acrobat and a Gaelic-speaking Scot to be their monarch within ten short years? The answer is, of course, Albania. A tiny Adriatic power to the north of Greece, Albania has a history that you wouldn’t wish […]

    Wiccans and Fairy Shamans: Priority? January 23, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Wiccans and Fairy Shamans: Priority?

    In the last thirty years there have been growing numbers of men and women who have expressed a belief in fairies: for a minority of these communion with fairies has come to take on the outlines of a of religious system. We even read of ‘fairy shamanism’ and special ‘congresses’ where believers experiment with contact […]

    In Search of Exotic Blood in Europe, 1000-1900 January 22, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    In Search of Exotic Blood in Europe, 1000-1900

    DNA gets all over the place. We have looked before at some ‘freak’ examples from the Middle Ages, including Amerindian blood in medieval Iceland and Indian DNA in eleventh century England. But after dethroning Britain’s only Indian Prime Minister the other day Beach decided to go after easier prey, namely Europeans from 1000-1900 who had […]

    Irish-speaking Argentinean Indians!! January 8, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Irish-speaking Argentinean Indians!!

    One of the weaker proofs of Pre-Columbian contacts with Europe is the legend of the ‘white Indian’. Typically, a pioneer in the sixteenth or seventeenth or eighteenth or even the nineteenth century comes upon an Indian who by his appearance or his actions shows that he is really of European descent. Prior to today Beach […]

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