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  • City of Ravens: Boria Sax October 31, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    City of Ravens: Boria Sax

    The story so far. An ancient British myth going back to ‘ye olde Celtic times’ states that while ravens reside at the Tower of London then Britain will prosper. However, turn the neatly embossed tourist sign with ‘ye olde Celtic times’ over and there is a ‘Made in Taiwan’ marker stamped into the plastic. Translated? […]

    A Look Up Caterina Sforza’s Skirt October 28, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    A Look Up Caterina Sforza's Skirt

    Caterina Sforza was one of those extraordinary individuals who managed to pack five or six lifetimes into her forty odd years. Wife, alchemist, mother, warrior, seductress, torturer, hunter, general, rape victim and, don’t forget, the model for one of the three graces in Botticelli’s Primavera: she also had a lot of hot Milanese blood swilling […]

    Maggie Walls and Witch Cobblers October 10, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Maggie Walls and Witch Cobblers

    A historian is someone who spoils a good story with the truth. Bear this in mind as you read of the final extinction of the celebrated witch Maggie Walls, whose monument stands at Dunning in Perthshire. Maggie, legend tells, was burnt at the stake on this spot in 1657, though there is much doubt as […]

    Agony at the Dentists October 7, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Agony at the Dentists

    Beachcombing went to the dentist this morning and had the inside of one of his teeth removed: apparently too many peanut, honey and banana sandwiches are bad for you… But, in the inevitable passing-the-time-of-day conversation between scoops of tooth, something interesting came up – pain control. Beach had noticed in his last trips that dentists […]

    Fairy Gifts October 2, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Fairy Gifts

    ***This post is dedicated to Invisible*** Beachcombing has sometimes lamented in this place the passing of the fairy faith be that in Essex, the Isle of Man or Yorkshire. How refreshing then to learn that in one corner of Europe the locals still walk in terror of the little folk. Beachcombing refers, of course, to […]

    Eleanor’s Lovers September 26, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Eleanor's Lovers

    Eleanor of Aquitaine (obit 1204) was a powerful and self confident woman living in an age when women were supposed to be anything but. Her home in the south of what is today France gave greater property rights to daughters and wives, property rights that Eleanor knew how to manipulate. She had some wild male […]

    Hildegard’s Headaches September 23, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Hildegard's Headaches

    ***Dedicated to Moonman who got Beach thinking about this*** Hildegard of Bingen, monastic reformer, abbess and all round good egg, regularly had visions. These visions were at the very centre of her intellectual and spiritual existence. They gave her the courage to share her unique theology of the world with others: she believed that they […]

    Population Games and Rorschach Tests September 6, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Population Games and Rorschach Tests

    Beachcombing had some fun the other day writing about ancient history and population estimates. Last night reading in the ‘wee hours’ he came across another lovely example of this: the insane modern debate about the population of Roman Britain. Now post-war estimates for the population of Roman Britain  have gone as low as 200,000 and […]

    Skraelings and Demons August 30, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Skraelings and Demons

    Here’s a nice example of how intelligent men and women were able to create beasts/demons from a compounded misinterpretation. First, in the early Middle Ages, some of the Viking dragon boats sailing out of Scandinavia missed the party to the south, where the pointy-headed ones were wrecking settlements in Britain, the Baltic, northern France, Spain […]

    Irish Fairies in New Hampshire August 29, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Irish Fairies in New Hampshire

    About ten days ago Beachcombing put up a post celebrating funny fairy stories, a way, he noted, ‘to kill the fairies with kindness’. Since then he has come across a further fairy story from the other side of the Atlantic. As he is particularly interested in American fairies at the moment – a long and […]

    Cornish Mermaid – Half Priest, Half Fish August 27, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern

      First the good news. Robert Stephen Hawker (obit 1875) was the eccentric’s eccentric: a vicar who lived most of his life in the wild Cornish parish of Morwenstow. This was a man who hung a mouse for breaking the sabbath, believed that birds were ‘the thoughts of God’ (Beachcombing adores the sentiment) and, yes, […]

    Christopher Columbus’s Origins August 24, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Christopher Columbus's Origins

    There are many different kinds of historical controversies. But Beachcombing’s favourite by far are what he thinks of as ‘identity debates’: nice examples of which include the arguments over the location of Atlantis, the ‘real’ King Arthur and the ‘true’  Shakespeare. Identity debates are characterized by four things: (i) an orthodox academic position; (ii) multiple […]

    Female Flyting in the Raj? August 17, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern

    It has been a long day and Beach has not had time to look for this in all the normal works of reference. However, this story (or fiction?) rang no bells and as Beach has – disgrace upon disgrace – never had a Pakistani story before he thought he’d take a risk. A curious custom, […]

    Flight in Seventeenth-Century Warsaw? August 13, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Flight in Seventeenth-Century Warsaw?

    This is an interesting and largely overlooked reference (Frank) to flight from an English newspaper, c. 1650. The newspaper in question, The Moderate, was typically made up of a good many letters from amateur foreign correspondents and one of these came from Warsaw. It would be fascinating to see if there were any other accounts […]

    Head-hunting German Phrenologists August 9, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Head-hunting German Phrenologists

    ***This post was suggest by Invisible who shares though Beachcombing’s scepticism*** Before plunging into this modern story of head-hunting the reader should be warned. First, the quotations come from a contemporary nineteenth-century English ‘sketch’ (rather than translation) from the French: Jacques Peuchet, Mémoires tirés des Archives de la police de Paris, vol I, 161 ff. […]

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