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  • 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 […]

    Naked Fertility Rituals from Missouri January 8, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Naked Fertility Rituals from Missouri

    Imagine these three scenes all from Ozark country in Missouri: A man and a woman walk into a flax field naked chanting, while throwing seeds, ‘Up to my ass, an’ higher too!’ The man throws the seed against the woman’s buttocks. ‘Then they just laid down on the ground and had a good time.’ Date: […]

    Chime Hours and Chime Children January 3, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Chime Hours and Chime Children

    The ‘chime child’ was born at a magic time of the night (the times varied but involved bells). She or he had psychic abilities; think of it as a temporal version of the seventh son or the caul. The idea of chime children has become an increasingly popular one in recent years. Beach typed in […]

    Benedict’s Pool (Worcestershire/Gloucestershire) December 29, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Benedict's Pool (Worcestershire/Gloucestershire)

    This ghost story is a curiosity, a maverick. It is not that there are not haunted pools or even haunting monks. But no book read by this blogger has ever troubled to put them together and certainly no tradition makes the monk into a nasty piece of work. This is a nineteenth century, which seems […]

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