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Is the Pope Catholic? March 11, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Is the Pope Catholic?

Here follows a potted biographer of one of those seventeenth-century Quakers who enjoyed riling the world. In fact, this was the period when the Society of Friends was anything but… One case, in London, may be given as an illustration in John Perrot, an Irishman, who during the times of stripping from death or imprisonment […]

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 […]

Who Needs Anti-Aircraft Guns When You Have Saints? March 7, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Who Needs Anti-Aircraft Guns When You Have Saints?

In Norman Lewis’ brilliant, astounding Naples ’44, the British writer has many curious and memorable passages from his diary of that year. However, this is one of Beach’s favourites. At Pomigliano [north-east of Naples] we have a flying monk who also demonstrates the stigmata. The monk claims that on an occasion last year when an […]

Broad Beans, Paschal Candles and Graveside Stories February 25, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Broad Beans, Paschal Candles and Graveside Stories

Popular superstitions survived surprisingly late in many parts of Europe. However, these superstitions had two enemies, Christianity and urbanization, enemies that gradually scoured them out of mind and memory. From the arrival of Christianity on the scene (any time between 300 and 1000) and increased urbanization (any time from 1700-1950) any superstition would have to […]

The Voting Diaspora February 24, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
The Voting Diaspora

A diaspora is, of course, the citizens of a country who live outside their homeland but who still have a strong or residual loyalty to the patria. Diasporas have long mattered in history because they end up influencing the foreign policy of their adopted countries and, all too often, the domestic agendas of their countries […]

A Mysterious Island, Incest and a Twelfth-century Papal Letter February 21, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
A Mysterious Island, Incest and a Twelfth-century Papal Letter

Greenland certainly had contact with the New World in the late tenth century. Did though this contact continue into the eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth century? This controversy is one we have looked at before, showing that there is some evidence that it did: though the evidence is intermittent. Here is a further document […]

The Lost Zen Letters: A Cautionary Tale about Children and Archives February 15, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
The Lost Zen Letters: A Cautionary Tale about Children and Archives

***Dedicated to KR who pointed Zenwards*** The story (as always) is a simple one, perhaps deceptively, perhaps dishonestly so. In 1558 in Dello scoprimento dell’ isole Frislanda, Eslanda, Engrouelanda, Estotilanda e Icaria fatto sotto il Polo artico da’ due fratelli Zeni, M. Nicolo il K. e M. Antonio (Of the Discovery of Frisolanda, Eslanda, Engrouelanda, Estotilanda and Icara […]

Italy’s Weird Languages February 4, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
Italy's Weird Languages

Italy is chaotic not just in day-to-day but also in geographical terms. The Apennines that come down from the Alps dominate most of the country and separate out the peninsula into two hundred semi-independent shangrilas. The result is that Italy has always been doomed to social, cultural and linguistic division. Italian itself, the ‘dialect’ of […]

Post-Mortem Occult Discovery January 27, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Post-Mortem Occult Discovery

Don Giovanni dei Medici (obit 1621) was the son of the first Medici Count of Tuscany. He had, however, the very great misfortune  to be born illegitimate and though acknowledged by his father, he was never in the Medici’s inner circle. It might have been this sidelining that led Don Giovanni dei Medici to become […]

In Search of Exotic Blood in Europe, 1000-1900 January 22, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
In Search of Exotic Blood in Europe, 1000-1900

DNA gets all over the place. We have looked before at some ‘freak’ examples from the Middle Ages, including Amerindian blood in medieval Iceland and Indian DNA in eleventh century England. But after dethroning Britain’s only Indian Prime Minister the other day Beach decided to go after easier prey, namely Europeans from 1000-1900 who had […]

Into the Lion’s Mouth January 15, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
Into the Lion's Mouth

What do Lorenzo the Magnificent (obit 1492), Henry III of Navarre (obit 1610) and Rudolph Hess (obit 1987) have in common? Well, they were men, they were all born in Continental Europe and they also went defenceless to their enemies and somehow survived to tell the tale, hence the lion’s mouth of the title. First, […]

CCSVI: The Limits of Placebo January 5, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
CCSVI: The Limits of Placebo

CCSVI is a medical condition that may or that may not explain one of the most mysterious and debilitating illnesses on the planet, Multiple Sclerosis. We look at it here because it is yet another example of a strange-history theme, the difficulty that new knowledge has in emerging against a strong orthodoxy, something that is […]

The Fairy of Florence Campanile December 29, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
The Fairy of Florence Campanile

Fairies are in short supply in Italy. But recently, working through some folklore books relating to Florence, we were surprised to find a series of urban ‘good folk’ in the city. Bellosguardo had, it seems, a fairy. Via del Corno also. As did the Bargello – it was red, for blood? – and the tower […]

The Empire of Claus December 26, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
The Empire of Claus

Who is the ruler of Christmas? Santa Claus, of course. But the red bearded one has climbed over a lot of dead bodies to get to where he is today. And every so often when you travel around western countries you find traces of Christmases past. In Spain, for example, and, indeed, through much of […]

Love Goddess 4#: Juliet, Verona and the Invention of Love December 23, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Modern
Love Goddess 4#: Juliet, Verona and the Invention of Love

***One more chapter to go… Sorry again for answered emails. Also the internet connection is playing up so this may be the last chance I have to write before Christmas. If so happy Noel*** Traditions are invented constantly and love is a major human interest: hence the custom in Verona Italy of leaving love letters […]

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