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  • Big Ben Superstitions April 10, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Big Ben Superstitions

    Big Ben the great bell that rings out from Westminster is a central part of British identity: not least because its chimes have, for many years, sounded on national radio and television programs. It would hardly be surprising then that there are superstitions about Big Ben, but what is surprising is that these seem not […]

    Granddad Became a Seal March 21, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Granddad Became a Seal

    Busy day here as the students are to be crucified in a ritual quiz. Here is a curious seal story from Ireland; there are, Beach thinks, other British or Irish story of humans becoming animals at death, but he can’t find them. Can anyone help? drbeachcombing At yahoo DOT com I don’t exactly know whether […]

    The Eternal Mystic March 19, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    The Eternal Mystic

    Beach is eternally worried about mystics, people who have or believe that they have paranormal powers. Where do they come from? What do they mean? Most studies of ‘mystics’ put them in a historical tradition. The Cunning Man in the English or, for that matter, New England countryside in the 1700s draws on Christianity, Anglo-Saxon […]

    Are Weasels Poisonous? March 6, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Are Weasels Poisonous?

    A few weeks ago Beach offered a description of fairy traditions from Marrie Walsh’s An Irish country Childhood (1996). While reading he was also struck by this tradition about weasels. What is fascinating here is that the weasel is given (in a country where snakes are in short supply) the role normally given in European […]

    Early Alien Encounter February 5, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Early Alien Encounter

    This is a particularly precious account from the Athenian Mercury, a late seventeenth-century publication. As Beach is always interested in encounters with supernatural entities he thought that he would print it in full: this might stand as an early alien encounter. He likes the way the narrative unwinds. He didn’t see the climax coming. Not […]

    Kidnapped by the Pombero February 2, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    Kidnapped by the Pombero

    The story starts nicely enough and then takes a decided turn for the bizarre. In July of last year (2016) a two and a half year old child was lost in the Argentinean countryside in an area of ‘bush and mountains’. Beach’s youngest is two and he shivers to think what this means. The little […]

    Mermaid Lies January 24, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Mermaid Lies

    Thomas Crofton Croker was an early mid, nineteenth century Irish writer, most famous today for his Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland, which appeared in three volumes between 1825 and 1828. Croker was not, in the modern sense, a folklorist. Some of the stories he wrote out he had heard as a […]

    Epiphany Gift: Superstitions of the Irish Peasantry January 6, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Epiphany Gift: Superstitions of the Irish Peasantry

    These nine stories were published in 1825, then somehow fell through the cracks of history. William Wilde (Oscar’s dad) claimed in 1852 that they were the best things out there on Irish folklore. Yeats later (from what Beach can see) pretended to have read them, but there is suggestive evidence that he had not. Here […]

    Fairy Armies: A Medical Explanation? January 5, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Fairy Armies: A Medical Explanation?

    We have literally hundreds of British and Irish fairy sightings from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and it is striking how often fairies are seen in battle garb: the fairy armies. Yes, there are important folklore traditions about fairies fighting each other: the hosts of Ulster against the host of Connaught, the host of Ireland […]

    In Defence of Fakelore January 4, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern
    In Defence of Fakelore

    ***dedicated to RJ*** Fakelore – fake folklore – is a term which we owe to Richard Dorson, who first employed the word in print in 1950. Beach recently followed suit in an article and was surprised at the howl of rage from several readers. It seems that fakelore is off-limits in decent society: whoops! Here is Francisco […]

    Priest as Cunning Man December 15, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Priest as Cunning Man

    This is an interesting case from 1867 recorded in a local newspaper. Readers might need to be reminded that Britain was an overwhelmingly Protestant country at this date; that the Protestant majority despised Catholicism and that Lancashire, in the North-West of England was one of the places where English Catholicism had survived best, albeit as […]

    Misruled by the Planets and Unfound by Bread December 7, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Misruled by the Planets and Unfound by Bread

    This is the kind of tragic little story that is worth absorbing, because it shows how certain superstitions survived deep into the nineteenth century in the UK and the strange mélange of learned with popular superstition. Let us start with Sarah Evelyn Walker, 24 and a governess, daughter of a farmer from Everdon (Northamptonshire) the […]

    Beware the Shutterkin! December 6, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Beware the Shutterkin!

    Beach has previously given examples of bosom serpents, the idea that animals, particularly snakes can live within the human body. But consider the following freaky description. What is this thing? The quotation comes from the Athenian Oracle (II, 380) where reader’s questions were answered. Whence proceeds the Shutterkin? Physicians have imputed this Shutterkin (which resembles […]

    Murder Will Out: Unusual Bleeding Corpses December 4, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Murder Will Out: Unusual Bleeding Corpses

    This passage comes from one of Beach’s recent favourites (for which he must thank Mike G), the Athenian Mercury. The AM was a late seventeenth-century journal that has been described as the first advice column in history. Readers would write in questions and the editors, a cabal of level-headed Londoners, would then do their best to […]

    The Ghost in a Tree November 26, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Ghost in a Tree

    This little account appeared in Wilkinson and Harland, Lancashire Folk-lore (1867), 164. But they were quoting a story that had appeared in a newspaper in 1856. Beachcombing has been unable to trace the original, but honestly he didn’t try that hard. Will it be credited that thousands of people have, during the past week, crowded […]

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