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  • 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 […]

    Papal Sorceror? July 19, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Papal Sorceror?

    ***Thanks to an old friend of the blog, Stephen D. for this one*** Urban VIII (obit 1644) was one of the most exquisitely cultured popes ever to sit on the throne of Peter. He is famous today for being the man who brought Galileo to Rome to rap his knuckles very hard: but that is […]

    Brazen Heads and Medieval Robots? March 7, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Brazen Heads and Medieval Robots?

    In the Middle Ages there emerged two kinds of artificial humans into the Christian imagination: the real thing needs, unfortunately, to be dismissed with Aztec jet planes and Pharonic nuclear bombs. First there were moving statues, brass and gold figures that were somtimes found guarding treasure hordes or, what might loosely be called, fairyland. These […]

    Jasper Maskelyne and Magic Machine Guns in WW2 March 5, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Jasper Maskelyne and Magic Machine Guns in WW2

    ***Dedicated to Moon Man who put me onto Jasper Maskelyne*** Jasper Maskelyne is a fascinating character from the ranks of fighting WW2 Britons. A stage magician, he found himself in the Royal Engineers at the start of the War and gave himself over to camouflage work. His book, Magic Top Secret (1949), which I’m itching […]

    Magic Bathing in the Far North February 9, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Magic Bathing in the Far North

    This was a story that came up in the search for nineteenth-century superstitions relating to Loch Ness. We are c. 1870. The lake in question is apparently Loch mo Naire (which might be the Serpent’s Lake or the Lake of Shame) aka Lochmanur just on the northern tip of Scotland. Dipping in the loch for […]

    Welsh Leaf Mould, Pies and Cunning Magic January 10, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Welsh Leaf Mould, Pies and Cunning Magic

    A nineteenth-century letter detailing some very unusual goings on at Hawarden on the Welsh borders. On Sunday the 17 inst., it was discovered that some earth had recently been dug up under the east window of the church. At first it was supposed that some still-born infant had been deposited there [!!!]; but on procuring […]

    Finns, Snow and Magic December 23, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Finns, Snow and Magic

    The earliest eyewitness account of the Laplanders (the Sami) to leak into European writing comes in Alfred’s translation of Orosius (late ninth century). It depends on the testimony of one Othere (aka Ohthere), a Viking who had travelled along the freezing coast of Norway and who had encountered the peoples of the White Sea. Note […]

    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 […]

    Cursing, Roman Style August 26, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Cursing, Roman Style

    ***Dedicated to Mac, Invisible and Southern Man who sent the latest British curse tablet in*** The Romans were, as is well known, good at everything. They could start land wars in Asia and win; they could sell their soul for the fruits of the known world and enjoy said fruits; they could sail to southern […]

    They Do It With Drawers You Know July 30, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    They Do It With Drawers You Know

    To a twenty-first century reader one of the strangest things about nineteenth century séances were the materialisation of physical objects at the hand of talented mediums aka conjurers. What seems to be just absurd to us was actually taken as a proof of the genuine nature of the swindlers, because they were typically searched before […]

    Sixteenth-century Conjuring Tricks June 30, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Sixteenth-century Conjuring Tricks

    It was a slow day in the cave, the sabre-tooth tigers were roaring outside and the grass shoots and snails had all been consumed. Ug was playing with the knuckle bones of one of his late wives and with remarkable dexterity (given how poor he had been at hunting recently) he made the bones dance […]

    So You Want to Catch a Fairy… June 16, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    So You Want to Catch a Fairy...

    So you want to catch a fairy. Well, first get a butterfly net and collecting jars and for good measure a mousetrap bated with sugar and nutmegs… Ok seriously here are a couple of ‘recipes’ from a seventeenth-century (?) alchemist’s collection. An excellent way to gett a Fayrie. (For myself I call Margarett Barrance; but […]

    Magic Translation and Flowers November 17, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Magic Translation and Flowers

    Beachcombing previously in this place examined magical displays from medieval India and particularly levitation, which Beach still hasn’t got his head around. As a follow up of sorts he thought that today he would quote this description of parlour magic plus from the sub continent in the late nineteenth century. Some of the tricks sound […]