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  • Human Trousers from Iceland April 8, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Human Trousers from Iceland

    Regular readers of this blog will know the name ‘Leif’, who always sends in excellent copy about Viking culture, correcting my excesses and offering new perspectives. Leif recently sent in these reflections on Lappish breeches (extraordinary and horrific picture at the foot of this post) after my post on a human drum. Here we return […]

    Medieval Shamanic Account from Iceland January 17, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Medieval Shamanic Account from Iceland

    ‘Shaman’ is a much misused word. But here is a medieval account of shamnism from northern Europe that is, to the best of this blogger’s knowledge without parallel. The text is a saga: Vatnsdaela Saga, a thirteenth-century Icelandic text. The author tells of Ingimundr the Old who was born and brought up in northern Norway. […]

    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 […]

    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 […]

    Further Thoughts on the Inventio Fortunata with Thanks to Readers December 19, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Further Thoughts on the Inventio Fortunata with Thanks to Readers

    The Inventio Fortunata (the Happy Discovery) is a text that we’ve already looked at twice on this blog. A first post described its extraordinary survival in a burnt copy of a copy of a copy in the wrong language. A second post alleged that the IF detailed an English trip to Arctic Canada in 1360. […]

    How Cats Create Neurotic Societies September 15, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    How Cats Create Neurotic Societies

    ***Dedicated to Paschal*** Cats, it has been so long… The last cat tag was about cat clocks back in February, before that it was dried cats in 2011 and then there was cat burial in Iceland, black cats and luck and musical instruments that employ cats. But, thinking of today’s post, how can cats create […]

    Eighteenth-century Scandinavian Merfolk September 7, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Eighteenth-century Scandinavian Merfolk

    Here are a number of largely overlooked Scandinavian reports of mermaids dating from the first half of the eighteenth century. The account is rather long so these are the witness statements. Historians of cryptozoology might be interested to know that the earlier part of the text includes a reference to mermaids being ‘sea-apes’, an idea […]

    Viking Decapitations and the Knife Experiment February 21, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Viking Decapitations and the Knife Experiment

    *Post dedicated to Mathias B who inspired it with his readings in Jómsvikinga saga* Beachcombing is down in the flu doldrums and so apologies for any emails to which he’s not yet replied. Several of you though (Ostrich, Swedish Anna, SY) pointed out that yesterday’s request about the letter from a Frederick to Ethiopia was a letter […]