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  • Exploding Witch Bottles November 23, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Exploding Witch Bottles

    Witch bottles were ceramic or glass or (sometimes) iron bottles into which a cursed man or woman put parts of their own body and sharp objects. Parts of their own body might be hair, nails and, classically, urine. Sharp things might be nails, pins and thorns. The logic behind all this was that the curser […]

    Witch Murder Terror at Soham (and Horseshoes) November 15, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Witch Murder Terror at Soham (and Horseshoes)

    A story from the depths of East Anglia (1843), one of the more isolated parts of the English countryside in the 19 Century. A rather amusing and novel occurrence was related to us the other day. A young man, the son of Mr. Elsden, a respectable tradesman of Soham, was walking from that place to […]

    The Witch, the Hand and the Demon Eckerken October 5, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Witch, the Hand and the Demon Eckerken

    Beach previously tried to bring honour to the name of Johann Weyer who combined a skeptical attitude to witchcraft with and a believing attitude to the supernatural. His books, which are not unfortunately easily accessible in English, are full of gems. Here is a good one which combines a nasty solitary fairy and a witchcraft […]

    Earliest Manuscript Broomstick Witches August 15, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Earliest Manuscript Broomstick Witches

    A few months ago Beach offered the evidence for early images of broomstick riding witches. There are three important manuscript sabbats that come down to us from the period 1450-1500 and that offer the best early visual evidence for the belief that witches attended sabbats by broom. The first of these images dates to about 1450. […]

    Witch Wars in Devon! July 15, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Witch Wars in Devon!

    1869, the Empire is at its height, teeming millions walk through Britain’s mighty metropolises and out in the Devon countryside the locals are consulting witches. A witchcraft case reported from South Devon. Two or three young women living at Dittisham fell ill. Their mothers, thinking they had been illwished – that is, looked upon with […]

    French Witch Burning, 1886 June 15, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    French Witch Burning, 1886

    Many moons ago, Beach began the long search to find the last witch killing in history. He quickly narrowed down to Western witch killing, because of course, there are many killings in Africa and Asia to this day. Every so often he thinks he has come close, but then another inconvenient and later murder falls […]

    The Earliest Broomstick Witch? May 27, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Earliest Broomstick Witch?

    Witches fly in many different cultures: the British anthropologist Needham argued that it was a way of expressing their power, their ability to bring maleficum to all who get in their way or on their nerves. But in the European tradition witches have been associated, above all, with broomsticks: though note that witches were also […]

    Vivid African Execution May 19, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern

      There follows a particularly vivid description of an African execution/sacrifice of a witch. The witness, Paul B. Du Chaillu (obit 1903) was describing his travels in West Africa in the 1850s: Du Chaillu has gone down in history as the first westerner to see gorillas (though there is Hanno…) Here he instead he learns […]

    Review: Physical Evidence, A Feeling for Magic May 2, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Review: Physical Evidence, A Feeling for Magic

    Ronald Hutton (ed), Physical Evidence for Ritual Acts, Sorcery and Witchcraft in Christian Britain: A Feeling for Magic (Palgrave Macmillan 2016) Academic essay collections fall into different categories including such old and tried favourites as: ‘new directions’; ‘pot pouri’; ‘the EU gave us some money so we had a conference’; and ‘x is wrong and […]

    The Hare that Got Away April 16, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Hare that Got Away

    Here is a short paragraph from the late nineteenth century about Pendle in Lancashire. He who visits Pendle will yet find that charms are generally resorted to amongst the lower classes; that there are hares, which in their persuasion, never can be caught, and which survive only to baffle and confound the huntsman; that each […]

    Perugian Witch, 1908 April 8, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Perugian Witch, 1908

    Perugia is a marvelous medieval city in Umbria, about half way between Rome and Florence. The following account of early twentieth-century witchcraft there was not, in itself, remarkable, but Perugia has a special place in Beach’s heart and so he hoped vainly perhaps, that someone could fill in the blanks. The great problem with Italian […]

    Witch Bone Breaking? March 27, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Witch Bone Breaking?

    This story needs to be linked with a veritable collection made on this blog of witch bleeding. Interesting here though that not just blood but allegedly a bone will do the trick. And the date? 14 June 1895. From Lincolnshire comes a story which in these days of compulsory education seems almost incredible. In a […]

    Penis Nests March 19, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Penis Nests

    We have previously visited a remarkable passage in Malleus Maleficarum (1485) where that work’s author, Heinrich Kramer, describes a penis theft: or rather a penis illusion, because Kramer claims the penis is still ‘there’ but hidden. That account was apparently based on a witness: this account sounds like folklore. Finally, what shall we think about […]

    Ergot Madness in Historians March 7, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Ergot Madness in Historians

    Ergot is a fungus that grows on some crops, particularly rye, and is most common in northern temporal climes. When ingested by humans or animals it can cause hallucinations, temporary neurological disorders and circulation difficulties including burning limbs and, in serious cases, gangrene: there are records of peasants who lost all four limbs to ergot poisoning […]

    Late Somerset Witch Caught as Rabbit March 6, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Late Somerset Witch Caught as Rabbit

    Beach has long tradition of posts of unusual nineteenth-century accounts of the survival of witchcraft in Britain and Ireland. Here is one from Bridgewater, Somerset (the south-west), which appeared in Notes and Queries in 1853. A cottager, who does not live five minutes’ walk from my house, found his pig seized with a strange and […]

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