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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 […]

    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 […]

    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 […]

    Fairies, Children of the Forest and Game of Thrones April 20, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Medieval
    Fairies, Children of the Forest and Game of Thrones

    Beach’s students this semester constrained him to read Game of Thrones and the subsequent avalanche of books which followed on. Are these books any good? Mixed feelings. However, one thing is certain, this blogger’s normal irritation at fantasy fiction wasn’t activated: perhaps because most of the novels are about humans being nasty to each other […]

    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 […]

    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, […]

    Review: Secret of Kells March 31, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    Review: Secret of Kells

    Part of being a twenty-first century parent involves the ability to watch cartoons repeatedly with your children (discuss). Most of these cartoons are trash. A minority are witty: Mega Mind, Toy Story… And a  handful – Shrek, Bambi, Totoro, Kiki the Witch… – make modern art house films look like third-rate romantic comedies: they really […]

    Fairy Witches 2#: Bessie Dunlop March 24, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Fairy Witches 2#: Bessie Dunlop

    Here are some extracts from the trial of one of the most interesting fairy witches of them all: Bessie Dunlop who was brought before the Edinburgh Assizes in 1576. This rendering of the trial (into English rather than Scots English) comes from Emma Wilby’s worthwhile: Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits. Bessie’s first confession includes the […]

    Fairy Exorcisms in the Hebrides March 18, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Fairy Exorcisms in the Hebrides

    ***Huge apologies, this story briefly came out yesterday by accident. I’ve been doubled over with fever*** A scary fairy story from the Hebrides from about 1902. The events described here seem to have taken place on Lewis though the writer is not absolutely clear. Beach stumbled on this while looking for information about fairy dog […]

    Fairy Witches #1: Joan Tyrry of Taunton March 15, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Fairy Witches #1: Joan Tyrry of Taunton

    Who was Joan Tyrry [Terry]? Beach knows very little, too little, in fact. And everything he does know about this sixteenth-century woman comes from Keith Thomas who in the 1960s visited Wells Diocesan Records and opened the dusty old boxes with A21 and A22 where her trial is recorded. KT never gave a detailed description […]

    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 […]

    Lucy Bruce, Iona and the Fairy Investigation Society March 5, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Lucy Bruce, Iona and the Fairy Investigation Society

    Miss Lucy Bruce is a virtually forgotten twentieth-century mystic, who spent some of her life on the Isle of Iona in Scotland. She interests the writer of this post because she was a member of the Fairy Investigation Society and he is presently trying to learn more about the organization by tracking all members down: […]

    Boggart of Shatton February 22, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Boggart of Shatton

    The Boggart is a solitary and typically pretty nasty fairy. The following is an unusually detailed early twentieth- or perhaps late nineteenth-century account. Our author (writing in the 1950s) notes that the Boggart ‘attacked man and beast’ and then continues: The Boggart would appear to have instilled in the people of the Peak a dread […]

    In Search of the Tooth of the Fairy Dog February 17, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    In Search of the Tooth of the Fairy Dog

    Fairy dogs are the Scottish and above all the Hebridean equivalent of the East Anglian shuck: black or white or green (!) hounds that appear in the night and that bring with them portents. Of course, the fairy dog is an intangible creature, probably to be looked for in the subconscious rather than in the […]

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