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  • 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 […]

    Milk Stealers: Paleolithic or Neolithic? November 21, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Prehistoric
    Milk Stealers: Paleolithic or Neolithic?

    It is a snakey week and here is a second snake post in almost as many days. There are many legends about snakes and other reptiles taking milk from nursing mothers, there are also many legends about snakes and other reptiles (and sometimes birds) taking milk from cattle. Beach has given examples of these tales […]

    Sadistic Supernatural Creatures November 18, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Sadistic Supernatural Creatures

    The Auld Lord was a creepy monster associated with Lowther in Westmorland (the old English county between Lancashire and Cumbria). The Auld Lord spent most of his time spinning around the countryside with headless outriders and running his coach down impossibly steep inclines. But when back at home at Lowther Hall his dark side would […]

    Witch Murder Terror at Soham (and Horseshoes) November 15, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Witch Murder Terror at Soham (and Horseshoes)

    A story from the depths of East Anglia (1843), one of the more isolated parts of the English countryside in the 19 Century. A rather amusing and novel occurrence was related to us the other day. A young man, the son of Mr. Elsden, a respectable tradesman of Soham, was walking from that place to […]

    Bosom Lizards in Ireland September 2, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Bosom Lizards in Ireland

    Beach has recently run across an incredible folklore and forteana resource: the transcripts of the 1930s Irish Schools survey where local traditions were written down by budding students and their teachers: thanks to Stephen D for sending it in. There is a lot to get excited about but first off here are three bosom serpent […]

    The Spectres of Souther Fell 6: Folklore August 8, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Spectres of Souther Fell 6: Folklore

    There have been a couple of attempts to explain Souter Fell in terms of local folklore traditions, though this barely featured in our two main sources. The first explanation appears in volume one of Moncure Daniel Conway, Demonology and devil-lore (New York 1879): Thus it may be noted that, in the instance just related, the […]

    Historical Children Scarers July 2, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Historical Children Scarers

    ***Dedicated to Invisible*** Parents have scared children for generations with conjured horrors: the fairies, the black boggart, Jenny Greenteeth and many, many more. However, Beach today wants to look at a very select category. Historical personalities who were so horrific (or at least were imagined to be so horrific) that parents could credibly say: ‘Get […]

    What is a Headless Bear? June 28, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    What is a Headless Bear?

      There are many different kinds of British bogeys, but one of the oldest attested is the fearsome ‘headless bear’? The most famous record of this monster is, without any question, Shakespeare in Midsummer Night’s Dream: Sometime a horse I’ll be, sometime a hound, A hog, a headless bear, sometime a fire; And neigh, and […]

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