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  • The Male Midwives Called Peter and the Empty Box Trick June 17, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Male Midwives Called Peter and the Empty Box Trick

    The Chamberlen brothers were first generation French Hugenots whose father had fled to Britain in 1569: one brother Peter was born in Paris (1560) and the other brother Peter was born in Southampton (1572). Yes, you read that right. Two sons and both were called Peter: a fair introduction to a very unusual family. (And […]

    Dog Glove Magic Disease Near Dublin (or Leicester) June 16, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Dog Glove Magic Disease Near Dublin (or Leicester)

    Elder daughter’s birthday party in a swimming pool coming up in minutes so this is just a curiosity pulled out of the rusty filing cabinet without too much thought. The following is dated to 1341 and appeared in the Annals of Ireland. The Irish annalistic tradition is incredibly complex in its early phase and rather […]

    Review: Teach Us to Sit Still May 13, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    Review: Teach Us to Sit Still

    Tim Parks, Teach Us to Sit Still Tim Parks is an acerbic and to this blogger’s tastes over-intellectualised British writer based in Verona northern Italy. He writes novels and, much more enjoyably, books explaining Italy to Anglo-Saxons: TP is one of those very rare foreigners who neither patronises nor idealises the bel paese.  Teach, however, […]

    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 […]

    Singing for Health in Tudor England October 3, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    Singing for Health in Tudor England

    Sir Thomas Elyot (c. 1490-1546) was a Tudor polymath who wrote on politics, classical learning and Christian living: his day job, meanwhile, was as a diplomat to Henry VIII. In Elyot’s most interesting book (at least to the modern reader) The Castell of Helth the author sets out tips for good living and cures based […]

    70 Million Dead in One Second September 8, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    70 Million Dead in One Second

    The year is 1908. You are walking through a jungle territory in southeastern Cameroon in central Africa when you hear the sickening smack of the machete on flesh. Expecting the worst you emerge, your rifle half lifted, but see only a local hunter with a kill. He has taken a chimp in a trap and […]

    Dead Hands, Live Wens: Latest Record? March 3, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Dead Hands, Live Wens: Latest Record?

    There is a well attested belief that the bodies of executed criminals could heal certain illnesses. This led in past centuries to bits of executed felons being bought, sold and even eaten. Though the most gentle version was as simple as going to the gallows and begging the hangmen to let you run the dead […]

    British Iron Age Peyote February 28, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    British Iron Age Peyote

    There are lots of internet sites out there talking (and sometimes raving) about how to have visions courtesy of plants that grow in the British and Irish countryside: the ‘fruits of the forest’ as Beach’s disreputable younger brother calls them. This is not the aim of the present post. Rather it is to ask: what […]

    Dying from Fright: Women and the Weak Minded? February 14, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Dying from Fright: Women and the Weak Minded?

    A lazy morning and so Beach inspired by his recent post of a girl who died of fear decided to look a little deeper. How many people really die because they are frightened? To carry out a half decent experiment he surveyed the British press from January 1850 to December 1859. He ignored probable urban […]

    Death by Boggart (or Meningitis)? February 7, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Death by Boggart (or Meningitis)?

    This is a one of these stories where the problem is not with the facts but with interpretation. As it involves human facts it is not a very happy story: be warned a little girl dies. We are in 1871 in Ashton-under-Lyne just outside Manchester. Mr F. Price is the coroner and he held his […]

    Bosom Serpents and False Operations January 20, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Modern
    Bosom Serpents and False Operations

    Bosom serpents refers to the belief that an animal, typically a reptile or amphibian has taken up residence in a human body. Two truisms to start with. First, there is no way that these animals could live in a human body. Second, if the patient believed in the BoS, the doctor had to deal with […]

    Seneb the Egyptian Deneg December 4, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Seneb the Egyptian Deneg

    Seneb’s tomb in the Giza Necropolis offers the first realistic portrait in history of someone suffering from dwarfism. Seneb is sculpted seated to the left of his wife and where his feet would normally be shown coming down to the ground there are two of his three children; an unconventional touch. Size is often misleading […]

    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 […]

    In Search of Chinese Tooth Worms October 22, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    In Search of Chinese Tooth Worms

    Last month Beach took some time to look up, while recovering from toothache agony, traditional tooth cures. He was particularly impressed by the widespread belief in tooth worms, the little parasites which apparently cause toothaches. These non-existent parasites were believed in throughout Euro-Asia-Africa and can be traced back to Babylonian times: it is always a […]

    Ghost Pills! October 6, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Ghost Pills!

    How do you get rid of supernatural worries: call the priest, the alienist or the local bobby? Why no, you buy a tube of nineteenth-century vitamin pill, of course! This at least was the solution offered by one Irish newspaper in 1840. The belief in supernatural appearances has generally prevailed during the superstitious ages has […]

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