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  • Udder Snakes June 21, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Udder Snakes

    One of the most curious legends, one that this blogger cannot even begin to account for, is the idea that some animals and particularly snakes and reptiles like to take milk directly from a cow’s udder. Here is a selection of some of these legends. It goes without saying that there is no truth in […]

    In Search of the Hodag June 11, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    In Search of the Hodag

    The Hodag is one of the most interesting mythical creatures from the great American wilderness. It is associated above all with Wisconsin and particularly with a hoax that dates to 1893 when newspapers reported the capture of a Hodag, apparently a small horned lizard. Full points to those who organized this brilliant photograph above, surely […]

    Where Animal Cruelty and Folk Medicine Meet June 5, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Where Animal Cruelty and Folk Medicine Meet

    Britain’s glorious nineteenth century included many unsavoury episodes. But one of the more winsome aspects was the promotion by Britain’s London and southern provincial elite of the notion of cruelty to birds and to animals, the idea that animals and birds could feel pain and that the brute creation should be protected from its even […]

    Credulity and Animal Lore in Italy May 22, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    Credulity and Animal Lore in Italy

    Beach has recently been enjoying serpent folklore. This study has led him to question, as often happens to inadequate human beings when new information comes along, ‘facts’ that has been fed him in his time living in Italy: almost a decade now. Here are six involving reptiles and their relatives. Some of these Beach discounted […]

    The Vein of Love and the Ring Finger May 15, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval
    The Vein of Love and the Ring Finger

    A beautifully realised graphic history of the engagment ring by Vashi led to thoughts about why, in the Western World, the wedding ring is worn on the ring finger, the third finger of the left hand counting from the index. The answer most authorities give, from nineteenth-century reference works, to modern wedding miscellanies, to early […]

    Late Storm Bellringing May 12, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Late Storm Bellringing

    Enjoy this short extract from a Sheffield newspaper about a folk practice in Devon in south-west England: 28 July 1899. Bells it will be remembered were for the supernatual like alcohol for bacteria: they drove away witches, fairies and, of course, storms… There is a curious survival in that pretty, quiet little south country place, […]

    Anglo-Saxon Church Eaves and Baby Burials May 11, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Anglo-Saxon Church Eaves and Baby Burials

    Burial customs are always interesting and often mysterious. Consider this one. In early medieval Britain, particularly, it seems in Anglo-Saxon regions, fetuses and children were regularly buried up against church walls or extremely close to the same. Archaeologists have long recognized that strange constellations of bodies appeared in Christian cemeteries in Anglo-Saxon England; there are […]

    Ash Magic April 27, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Ash Magic

    Your little boy is ill. The doctors can do nothing (this is the nineteenth century) and money is, in any case, short. What on earth do you do. Well, the folk answer, and one that is almost certainly as efficacious as Victorian medicine, is to look for an ash tree. This account comes from Somerset […]

    Dangers of Treasure Hunting in Sixteenth-Century Devon April 12, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Dangers of Treasure Hunting in Sixteenth-Century Devon

    Ancient mounds and barrows evoked mixed feelings in your average yokel in the medieval and modern period. On the one hand you, might find treasure: gold, silver and coins from the Empire or even before. On the other, though, you were likely to get flattened by whatever dragon or spirit guarded the hole in question: […]

    True Bosom Serpents April 5, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    True Bosom Serpents

    The bosom serpent is the useful term to refer to the folklore notion that animals (particularly reptiles) find a way into the human body and cause illness there. Stories of this kind seem to be practically universal and to date back to the earliest times: we are dealing with a proto-myth or even part of the […]

    Child Stealing and Bridge Building in Bosnia March 13, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Child Stealing and Bridge Building in Bosnia

    This story appeared in 1897 in the British newspapers, it circulated around the world appearing in New Zealand and Pennsylvania, as well, though it is one of those tales where there was no follow up: did it reflect facts on the ground or a desperate hack with nothing to write about? It related, in any […]

    The Hairy Boggart of Weeton February 6, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Hairy Boggart of Weeton

    ‘Boggart’, it will be remembered, is a British north(-western) word meaning ‘bogey’: it was a promiscuous word and covered everything from a ghost to a troll (and sometimes a scarecrow). Individual settlements in Lancashire, northern Cheshire and northern Derbyshire, parts of the Ridings (particularly the West) and surprisingly Nottinghamshire had boggart haunted areas. Sometimes they were glades, […]

    Killing the Witch’s Rooster? February 3, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Killing the Witch's Rooster?

    The most important thing about nineteenth-century witchcraft reports in British, Irish and American newspapers is that they reveal a series of beliefs that were actually practiced, but that were often too intimate and ‘stupid’ to share with a folklorist. The result is that these neglected newspaper reports are the closest that we come to the […]

    Green Children of Woolpit 3: Why Green Skin? January 24, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Green Children of Woolpit 3: Why Green Skin?

    Of the green children of Woolpit William of Newburgh writes: Ex his fossis tempore messis, et occupatis circa frugum collectionem per agros messoribus, emerserunt duo pueri, masculus et femina, toto corpore virides, et coloris insoliti, ex incognita materia veste operti. John Clark translates this, in his recent brilliant essay, as: ‘Out of these ditches, at […]

    The Green Children of Woolpit 1: All Hail John Clark! January 22, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Green Children of Woolpit 1: All Hail John Clark!

    The green children of Woolpit is one of the most fascinating stories to come out of our medieval records. Two children, coloured green, without any knowledge of English and with unusual dietary requirements turn up in a pit just outside a Suffolk village. They are adopted by the local lord, one dies and the other […]

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