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  • Werewhales! September 3, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Werewhales!

    Different countries, of course, have different shape-shifters. Northern Europe and France have a strong werewolf tradition. Amerindian peoples have a lot of changing into birds. In northern Scandinavia shaman became deer. Early modern Britons did not change into bears, but they often met headless bears that changed into other things: confusing I know. Vampires are […]

    Constellation Plate and the Music of the Spheres May 26, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Constellation Plate and the Music of the Spheres

    Here is a curiosity: a plate that plays magical music to your sleeping ear. The passage comes from the writing of John Beaumont (obit 1731) a geologist and reluctant British mystic who sometimes saw ‘spirits’. In one of his works (Account, 188) Beaumont claims: I may here note, That some Persons have told my self, […]

    Self Help as Magic April 17, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Self Help as Magic

    The literature on self help dates back to the book of Proverbs and Cicero, but in its modern multi-billion dollar form it has a particularly American imprint: Dale Carnegie, Anthony Robbins, Brian Tracy and Napoleon Hill among the most interesting. Most self help coaches stress the science of self help: life changes are given as […]

    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 […]

    Grow a Tree Trick and Poltergeist Wood Chips May 8, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Grow a Tree Trick and Poltergeist Wood Chips

    This was one that really whets the curiosity. We are brought back to London in the early seventeenth-century, whereas this is being remembered in the later 1600s. What the hell is going on here? Dr Lamb, who was killed by the Mob for a conjurer, about 1640,* met one Morning Sir Miles Sands and Mr […]

    Review: Physical Evidence, A Feeling for Magic May 2, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Review: Physical Evidence, A Feeling for Magic

    Ronald Hutton (ed), Physical Evidence for Ritual Acts, Sorcery and Witchcraft in Christian Britain: A Feeling for Magic (Palgrave Macmillan 2016) Academic essay collections fall into different categories including such old and tried favourites as: ‘new directions’; ‘pot pouri’; ‘the EU gave us some money so we had a conference’; and ‘x is wrong and […]

    Real Magic Ring? March 21, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Real Magic Ring?

    This ring perhaps no longer survives, but when it was sketched in the mid nineteenth-century it was rendered thus. The ring divides. The block on the left was apparently a set of jewels that when pressed made the ring open in this fashion: a common trick? Within the ring were written a series of words. […]

    Magician Almost Lynched in France December 23, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Magician Almost Lynched in France

    Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin is often said to be the father of modern conjuring. But like many pioneers his innovations brought him difficulties and even the threat of physical violence: The great magician of the Palais National possesses at St. Gervais, in the vicinity of Blois, a pleasant domain where he spent the last summer. There, […]

    What Do Demons Look Like? November 27, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    What Do Demons Look Like?

    Beach really, really, really doesn’t like ceremonial magic, creepy pentagrams and casual acquaintances with books by the ‘Beast’ Crowley on their shelves. But he recently steeled himself to read The Magus (1801) by Francis Barrett, mainly to see what the alchemists and magi had to say about fairylore. There is a lot of material as it […]

    Blood and Judges: Murder Will Out November 3, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Blood and Judges: Murder Will Out

    There is the old folk belief that blood calls out for justice. If Beach murders his father-in-law (random example) and then successfully provides an alibi he will soon be undone. The local magistrates will call Beach forward and demand that he lay his hand on dead dad and then poor, much provoked Beach will be […]

    Georgian Magic School October 13, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Georgian Magic School

    The Magus by Francis Barrett (London 1801) is a typical work of modern magic: plagiarized from earlier works with badly drawn Hebrew letters strewn about like rice at a wedding. But the author Francis had one novel feature in his book. His announcement of, Beach can barely hold back his excitement, a magic school in […]

    Last Magic Spell Cast in Battle? September 6, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Last Magic Spell Cast in Battle?

    For many years this blog has run a weird wars tag, some of the most bizarre story from humanities adventures on the battlefield. Beach has recently got a sniff of one story that has greatly excited him, but he can’t track down the details. He throws open the problem to readers hoping that someone will […]

    Written Gibberish and Magic November 16, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Written Gibberish and Magic

    Keith Thomas includes in his classic Magic and the Decline of Religion a few precious pages on gibberish charms that were sometimes given out by ‘cunning men and women’ (aka witches) to those who wanted protection. These were typically worn about the neck of someone who wished for help against demons or better health. Some […]

    Mexican Indians Glow in the Dark August 11, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Mexican Indians Glow in the Dark

    ***thanks to Borky for the material behind this post*** The Pueblo revolt of 1680 took place in what is the Rio Grande. It was a well planned operation on the part of the local Indians against their Spanish overlords, who had dominated the territory for almost a century previously. Led by a mysterious medicine man […]

    Review : The Book of Grimoires July 21, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Review : The Book of Grimoires

    Claude Lecouteux is one of the world’s most interesting writers on folklore and magic: his work on the wild hunt, for example, is perhaps the best we have. However, this new book by CL, The Book of Grimoires: The Secret Grammar of Magic (2013 Inner Traditions, from the French original, 2002) is not strictly by […]

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