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  • Butter Tricks and Witches August 29, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Butter Tricks and Witches

    Here is a silly story from nineteenth-century Wales followed up with a serious point: or as serious as this blog ever gets. Mrs. Braithwaite [of Caergwrle, Flintshire] supplied a Mrs. Williams with milk, but a short time ago refused to serve her, and the cause was as follows: Mrs. Braithwaite had to that time been […]

    Witch Violence in Nineteenth-Century Cumbria August 14, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Witch Violence in Nineteenth-Century Cumbria

    A modest attempt to shed some light on a peculiar act of near murder from Yorkshire, August 1874. We are at Garsdale in Cumbria in one of the wildest parts of the UK and Levi Abbott an excavator on the railway (navvy?) is in court because he has wounded Ellen Bowers, his landlady who kept […]

    Witching Spiders from Suffolk August 13, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Witching Spiders from Suffolk

    This witching story from the late seventeenth-century is interesting for two reasons: first because it is inherently weird and creepy; second because it may be the source for one of the greatest twentieth-century horror stories. Frightened of spiders? Then go click away. At St. Edmund’s Bury, in Suffolk, Sept. 6, 1660, in the middle of […]

    Killing the Witch’s Rooster? February 3, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Killing the Witch's Rooster?

    The most important thing about nineteenth-century witchcraft reports in British, Irish and American newspapers is that they reveal a series of beliefs that were actually practiced, but that were often too intimate and ‘stupid’ to share with a folklorist. The result is that these neglected newspaper reports are the closest that we come to the […]

    Witchcraft and the Walking Toad! January 21, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Witchcraft and the Walking Toad!

    If you want to know what beliefs were really held out in the wilder parts of the English countryside in the nineteenth century there are two important sources: folklore collections and, more to Beach’s taste, legal proceedings. Every so often a member of the British rural classes with conservative inclinations and beliefs, which would have […]

    Witch Oven Near Florence December 19, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Witch Oven Near Florence

    This story appeared in 1893. It is a witchcraft report from Italy in a period when Leland assures us that there were still many cunning women and planet rulers making their living in the country. What is unusual is the advice given. In any case, first the preliminaries… At Ponte a Ema, about three miles […]

    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 […]

    The Biography of a Difficult to Bury Witch November 10, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Biography of a Difficult to Bury Witch

    Here is a little bit of gossip from Cornwall 1880 and a dose of human misery. An extraordinary but well authenticated instance of belief in witchcraft comes from St. Blazey, Cornwall. A woman named Keam, who died the other day, was believed by her neighbours to be a witch, and great difficulty was experienced in […]

    Very Late Witch Case from Norfolk, 1941 October 11, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Very Late Witch Case from Norfolk, 1941

    This blog has long taken pleasure in noting late cases of witchcraft from Britain and Ireland. From time to time Beach announces, in arrogance, that this case or other was absolutely the latest: just last month it was an assault on a witch from 1924 from Devon. However, the following remarkable case seems to make […]

    Late Witch Attack, 1924 September 16, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Late Witch Attack, 1924

    ***This post is dedicated to Jill*** This blog has long had an interest in witchcraft from western Europe and particularly bizarre late examples of witchcraft including alleged human sacrifice in Britain during World War II and even some witch killings in the nineteenth century. Here is a case of late witchcraft scratching: it was sincerely […]

    Highland Cat Killing and Cat Demons September 2, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Highland Cat Killing and Cat Demons

    There is a long tradition of cats being either pampered by humans or being killed in various ghastly ways. As noted before on this blog – the cat throwing of the Lowlands, for example – cat cruelty was, in the early modern period, institutionalized. Here is one horrific example from the Hebrides. Cat lovers might want […]

    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 […]

    So You Want to Become an Early Modern Witch: 16 Steps July 18, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    So You Want to Become an Early Modern Witch: 16 Steps

    We are back in the seventeenth century and your neighbours are really getting on your nerves, money is tight and, frankly, you want to let down your hair and deny God and the mother Church. How do you get involved with early modern Satanists and impress at the Sabbat? Well, luckily for you someone was […]

    The Fortune Teller and the Children Tax May 19, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Fortune Teller and the Children Tax

    This appeared in a news report from 1888 A remarkable trial has been opened in the city of Mexico [i.e. Mexico City]. During the past year an old woman, living in a little town near the capital, has been exacting a monthly tax trom the fathers of families to prevent her from taking the lives […]

    Headless Witch Zombies in Nineteenth-Century England! April 16, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Headless Witch Zombies in Nineteenth-Century England!

    Strangehistory has given some publicity in the past to the peculiar custom, found throughout the English-speaking world and beyond, of blood-letting to break witchcraft: the victim must draw blood from the witch, preferably from the face. It would be pointless to give yet another example of this barbarity. But though blood-letting features in the following […]

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