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A Missing History of the Kings of the Franks in Cairo! March 9, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
A Missing History of the Kings of the Franks in Cairo!

Our latest contribution to the burning library series is glimpsed, painfully briefly, in a tenth-century Arabic source. In the year 947, by the Christian calendar, the Islamic scholar Al-Mas’udi (obit 956) was rifling the shelves of a library in Cairo when he came across a suprising work. He had stumbled upon A History of the […]

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 […]

Bonus Amicus: A Medieval Mr Ed? January 14, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Bonus Amicus: A Medieval Mr Ed?

One of these cute medieval stories that may even have a factual basis. There was a knight in Catalonia in our times, of very high birth, dashing in warfare, and gracious in manners, whose name was Guiraut de Cabrera. This man had a horse of outstanding quality, unrivalled in speed and – unprecedented marvel – […]

English Vampire in Spain December 27, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
English Vampire in Spain

This article comes from the later 1860s and describes the misfortunes of an Englishman who the locals decided was a Vampire. You have to cross the straits of Gibraltar and probably the Sahara to get this kind of incident today: memories of that fine Luise White book Speaking with Vampires. Lorcea is Lorca in Murcia. […]

The Duke, His Brother and the Locomotive December 9, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
The Duke, His Brother and the Locomotive

Great story, recently found, relating to the Spanish Civil War, presumably 1938. The narrator, of Jewish descent, has fled anschluss and arrived in Paris, en route to more permanent exile in the UK. I had run into Duke Dantin when he was a refugee in Paris, during the Spanish Civil War, he had fled from […]

River Mermaids in Southern Spain November 1, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
River Mermaids in Southern Spain

***Thanks to Invisible for this tip*** Norman Lewis’s The Tomb in Seville had, to say the very least, a bit of an unusual publication history. It is a back-looking account of a trip in southern Spain in 1934, taken with a mafioso, written decades later, while NL was in his ninetieth year and brought out […]

Medieval Horse Whispering October 19, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Medieval Horse Whispering

Beach was fascinated by the example of East Anglian horse whispering, which he stumbled upon, and above all with readers’ replies elucidating this tradition. A bit more research has led him to a medieval parallel. It is a fascinating piece. Note that our author Gervase (early thirteenth century) doesn’t see the knight horse conjurer in […]

Burning Lesbians September 6, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
Burning Lesbians

  Christianity has never been particularly friendly to homosexuality, but from the thirteenth century things started to heat up immensely. There were some footling differences between sodomy and other ‘sex crimes’, but if a man was accused of having sex with a man in any form then there was an excellent chance that both would […]

Magonia #2: Agobard of Lyons May 20, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Magonia #2: Agobard of Lyons

Very few people who write on Magonia, describe the author who has preserved that land’s memory, or at least there is rarely more than a courtesy nod in the direction of Agobard of Lyons. Let’s, for the sake of novelty, go into more detail here. Perhaps the first thing to say about Agobard of Lyons […]

Amazons 5#: Some Truths? Don’t Count On It… May 2, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Amazons 5#: Some Truths? Don't Count On It...

In 1542 Francisco de Orellana crossed from Chile (under Pizarro) and then passed down the Amazon to the sea with fifty men. It was an extraordinarily dangerous and uncomfortable journey and it says something for the courage and ruthlessness of the Spaniards that most were still alive when the Amazon vomited them into the Atlantic […]

Amazons #4: The Amazons Fight the Spaniards April 28, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Amazons #4: The Amazons Fight the Spaniards

It will be remembered that the year is 1542 and that a small Spanish party is making its way down the Amazon under the command of Francisco de Orellana. There follows the fourth and the most dramatic of the Amazon episodes in the work of Gaspar de Villar (for 1, 2 and 3 follow the […]

Amazons 3#: Owned by the Amazons April 25, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Amazons 3#: Owned by the Amazons

In 1542, the party led by Francisco de Orellana, travelled down the Amazon hearing rumours of a mysterious female nation of warriors: these rumours were recounted early on in two villages, and we have already covered these episodes in the previous days (1, 2). However, by June of that year the Spaniards believed that they […]

Amazons 1#: First Contact April 19, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Amazons 1#: First Contact

In 1542, a small party led by Francisco de Orellana, a thuggish conquistador (was there any other sort?) was making its way down a huge South American river towards the sea. In the depths of this dangerous region, where no white man had ever gone before, the Spaniards began to hear strange stories of… Well, […]

The Name ‘America’ and Amerigo Vespucci March 22, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
The Name 'America' and Amerigo Vespucci

There are perhaps a score of different theories as to where the word ‘America’ comes from. These range from various Amerindian etymologies to a Bristol-based merchant with the surname Ameryk! The theory which enjoys the greatest prestige though is that America is based on a feminised Latin version of Amerigo, as in Amerigo Vespucci, the […]

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 […]

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