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Review: Cunning Folk May 22, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
Review: Cunning Folk

There is a memorable scene near the beginning of Woody Allen’s Annie Hall when Woody goes out on his first date with Diane Keaton and kisses her at the very start of the evening: oily old Woody says that he just wants to get the kiss out of the way and let everything else follow […]

Cat Cruelty in Nineteenth-Century Magic May 21, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Cat Cruelty in Nineteenth-Century Magic

***Unexpected summer flu, the result of sitting up all night and writing about boggarts then taking students up a mountain: act your age!*** Why is it always the cats that suffer? Beach has not the slightest idea but here is yet more proof that few animals get a worse deal from the esoteric world. The […]

Witches and Brambles May 9, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Witches and Brambles

This is a summary borrowed from Owen Davies’ excellent Witchcraft, Magic and Culture. In December 1924, Alfred John Matthews, aged forty-three, a small-holder of Clyst St Lawrence, Devon, appeared at the Cullhompton petty sessions for scratching and drawing blood from Ellen Garnsworthy, a middle-aged, married woman of the same village. Matthews had a sow which […]

Witches in Nineteenth-Century Hastings April 21, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Witches in Nineteenth-Century Hastings

Ever since this blog began Beach has been fascinated by stories of nineteenth-century witchcraft. Here is one described by that old curiosity shop writer Charles Mackay. Note that we’ve not been able to find any connection between the author and the town of Hastings on England’s southern coast. Can anyone help: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT […]

Weighing Witches April 16, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
Weighing Witches

***dedicated to Theo*** How do I know if, c. 1750, old Mother Shipley down the road is a witch. Obviously the dying chickens, my children’s illnesses, the unpleasant cackling, the noises in the night are all clues… But we are in the eighteenth-century so how do we introduce science into this? In other ages witches […]

Fairy Witches #3: Meilyr of Wales April 12, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Fairy Witches #3: Meilyr of Wales

The third in our series of fairy-witches is a certain Meilyr, who died at Usk Castle in 1174. True, in the account that follows, taken from that old cobbler-merchant Gerald of Wales, no fairies are mentioned and no maleficium (the normal defining feature of a witch). But there is something in Meilyr’s relations with the […]

Witches Walking Upside Down April 10, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Witches Walking Upside Down

***By an act of all too characteristic incompetence this post was pre-published yesterday, some of you may then have missed the post before on four suicides (PS some great emails on that, just need some time to put up)*** How do witches fly? By broomstick, of course. Only consider this story, which appears  in 1825 […]

British Witch Initiation c. 1970 April 3, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
British Witch Initiation c. 1970

Witchcraft became a force to be reckoned with in Britain after the Second World War. There is a lot of writing, but most by the witches themselves (who can’t be trusted) or by CofE bishops who are just too silly for words because they take said witches seriously. Intelligent third-party descriptions like the following are […]

Bleeding-heart Yard and Nineteenth-century London Witches March 27, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Bleeding-heart Yard and Nineteenth-century London Witches

London legends rarely stretch back beyond the 1800s which is why this one, which is perhaps based on an Elizabethan legend, is such fun. The extract dates to 1841. Let any man walk into Cross-street, Hatton-Garden, and from thence into Bleeding-heart Yard, and learn the tales still told and believed of one house in that […]

Dogs of God! Christian Werewolves? March 21, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Dogs of God! Christian Werewolves?

This is one of those rare times in the early modern witch craze where one feels sorry for the judges.  I mean they turn up at Jurgensburg in Livonia on the Baltic expecting an easy burning: old man widely thought to be a witch hauled up in front of them (though on another charge) and […]

The Last Witch in Dorset? March 20, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
The Last Witch in Dorset?

This news story comes from the first quarter of the nineteenth century and from Bridport (Dorset, UK). It is a particularly vivid bit of witch-hunting from the south-west of the country at a date when these things were quickly vanishing into the past: though there would be another century of such attacks in rural Britain. […]

Fairy Witches #1: Joan Tyrry of Taunton March 15, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Fairy Witches #1: Joan Tyrry of Taunton

Who was Joan Tyrry [Terry]? Beach knows very little, too little, in fact. And everything he does know about this sixteenth-century woman comes from Keith Thomas who in the 1960s visited Wells Diocesan Records and opened the dusty old boxes with A21 and A22 where her trial is recorded. KT never gave a detailed description […]

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 […]

Wiccans and Fairy Shamans: Priority? January 23, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
Wiccans and Fairy Shamans: Priority?

In the last thirty years there have been growing numbers of men and women who have expressed a belief in fairies: for a minority of these communion with fairies has come to take on the outlines of a of religious system. We even read of ‘fairy shamanism’ and special ‘congresses’ where believers experiment with contact […]

A German Vampire? December 6, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
A German Vampire?

A vampire in seventeenth-century Germany? Perhaps, perhaps not, but something strange was going on here. The year is 1685 and we are in Augsburg. George Schmetzer’s wife had just given birth and suffered back ache. While in the delicate state after child birth: the dreams began. She felt that someone was pressing down on her […]

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