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  • The Greater Irish Rattlesnake? October 14, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Greater Irish Rattlesnake?

    Irish children are brought up with the attractive lie that St Patrick drove all snakes from the country when he arrived in Ireland in the fifth century. Certainly there are no indigenous snakes in Ireland, but over the years small snake populations have been established; not least in the Irish boom when snakes became prestige […]

    Slaughter Hounds in Celtic Ireland May 21, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Slaughter Hounds in Celtic Ireland

    A recent story on the supposed archaeological discovery of shuck – [sorry can't give links, wordpress playing up] – has set me thinking about large violent dogs in history, the way that ancient and medieval peoples used these animals and one particularly evil-sounding example: the Irish archu or slaughter hound. First, though, some background. Dogs, of […]

    St Patrick and Confusion March 17, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    St Patrick and Confusion

    Beach has always been fascinated by questions of uncertainty in history, in part because these teach modesty, in part because they are a useful way to annoy colleagues. And, in tribute to question marks past, he thought that he would celebrate St Patrick’s day – finally a correct date for an anniversary! – by concentrating […]

    The Slave Free Centuries February 22, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    The Slave Free Centuries

    Slavery is regrettably everywhere in the past. It underlies all the great achievements of Antiquity: when Plato was discoursing on the immortality of the soul there were Syrian dancing girls and Scythian catamites lining up in the background. European colonialism grew under the shadow of the chain: it used to be said that the streets […]

    Snakes, Fairies and St Patrick January 5, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Snakes, Fairies and St Patrick

    A lead up to tomorrow’s epiphany gift to all readers: Scary Fairies: the Proto Edition. Bede begins his Ecclesiastical History of the English in 731 with a geographical overview of the island of Britain and also, given its importance in the conversion of the English to Christianity, Ireland. It is a memorable passage not least […]

    Saint Patrick’s Sinning Past December 17, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Saint Patrick's Sinning Past

    Most saints begin life as, well, saints. They help their parents with chores; they annoy more normal brothers and sisters; and they make discreet enquiries into career prospects for monks and nuns. However, there are some – Beachcombing likes to think of them as ‘the rogues’ – who have more colourful pasts. Typically these men […]

    Fasting Against God in Medieval Ireland August 23, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Fasting Against God in Medieval Ireland

            Beachcombing begins today with a reference to the medieval Irish belief – winningly surviving in parts of the Irish countryside to this day – that St Patrick not God would judge the Irish on the day of judgement. This makes for pretty awful theology, not least because St Patrick was expected […]