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Witches, Confessions and the Truth November 25, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
Witches, Confessions and the Truth

Scholars of witchcraft in the burning years have an overwhelming problem. As rationalists they do not believe in the sabbat, devil sex or flying broomsticks. And yet, and yet… Women who were investigated often come up with the most extraordinary stories about the Satanic things that they have done. The problem for historians is why does […]

Crowds #6: Bully Crowds November 19, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Crowds #6: Bully Crowds

We have so far shown numerous posts on crowd photographs: crowd art, crowd speeches, August 1914 crowds, POWs in crowds and religious crowds. Here is by far the most unpleasant of the series – you have been warned! – bullying crowds. A group of people with power, perhaps newly acquired power, decides to revenge itself […]

Panty-stealing Zimbabwean Goblin August 16, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
Panty-stealing Zimbabwean Goblin

This news story ran at the end of July. Why, on earth, didn’t it receive more international attention? Perhaps the world was tired of Zimbabwean mermaids. The version here comes (cut) from the The Herald (Zimbabwe). A sixty-two year-old Gokwe man has come out in the open and claimed ownership of a goblin which has […]

Sixteenth-century Conjuring Tricks June 30, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Sixteenth-century Conjuring Tricks

It was a slow day in the cave, the sabre-tooth tigers were roaring outside and the grass shoots and snails had all been consumed. Ug was playing with the knuckle bones of one of his late wives and with remarkable dexterity (given how poor he had been at hunting recently) he made the bones dance […]

All Hail the Male Witch! June 21, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
All Hail the Male Witch!

Why were witches, in the early modern period, women? The simple answer is that they were not. In all parts of Europe there were male witches and in some part of Europe male witches (witch = those put on trial for that crime) outnumbered narrowly or substantially the number of female witches. So at one […]

Shape-Shifting in a Nineteenth-Century Court-Room May 18, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Shape-Shifting in a Nineteenth-Century Court-Room

Beachcombing has visited the Isle of Man on several occasions in this blog (he has only been once physically): there was the mermaid sighting from an early submarine, the drunk Manx buggan, and the early medieval kingdom of Mannau. But he is confident that this story will trump them all. Our author has been describing […]

Chickpeas, Menstrual Blood and Witchcraft April 24, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Chickpeas, Menstrual Blood and Witchcraft

Beach offers today for contemplation this extraordinary early modern text from De morbis ueneficis ac ueneficiis (1595) by Battista Codronchi (obit 1628), a practical guide to dealing with witch’s spells. In this book BC explains a curious personal experience that led him to undertake his study: an illness that struck his baby daughter Francesca. Beach […]

A Witch’s Secret Letter April 11, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
A Witch's Secret Letter

This is perhaps the most extraordinary ‘witch’ source of them all. In 1628 Johannes Junius, aged fifty five, burgomaster of Bamberg was taken in by the local authorities as a witch. After days of interrogation he writes a secret letter to his daughter explaining his decision to confess to witchcraft. Here is the voice of the victim that […]

How Many Burnt in the Burning Years? April 8, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
How Many Burnt in the Burning Years?

Beachcombing has made fun in the past of historians and numbers: be they numbers for the population of Britain in Roman times or numbers of prisoners taken by the barbary pirates. Most historical numbers are simply partial facts or very partial facts multiplied by guesses. A classic example of this are the numbers of ‘witches’ […]

The Gospel of the Witches: Missing or Faked? April 6, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
The Gospel of the Witches: Missing or Faked?

Beach is not waving but drowning in the flood of work, but the summer is coming closer and – oh wonderful – closer. Soon he’ll be able to settle down to four months of light teaching and heavy research. Most of the cherry-blossom time will be given over to fairies. However, Beach has also been […]

Breathing Out the Spirit: Another Modern Witch March 11, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Breathing Out the Spirit: Another Modern Witch

Catastrophe in the Beachcombing household. Our beloved aupair has just heard that her mother has been involved in a serious car accident in the States, so we have spent most of the last twelve hours looking for flights and looking for a replacement. She is going tomorrow or the day after: and just last night […]

Witchcraft Murder in Modern London March 3, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
Witchcraft Murder in Modern London

Beachcombing has spent rather more time than is good for him over the last year looking at cases of, what are in legal terms, child abuse. Nineteenth-century Irish families who (to use an inadequate word) ‘punished’ children because they believed that they were fairies or ‘changelings’: the real child had, the families believed, been spirited […]

Burning Libraries! Two Lost Folklore Collections January 20, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Burning Libraries! Two Lost Folklore Collections

Historical blindspots: every age has them. Take the relative lack of interest in folklore prior to the eighteenth century. When folklore heats up in the later nineteenth century you cannot walk across the parlour without tripping over a book on fairies or witches. This means that anything written before say 1860 is particularly precious and any loss all […]

Lancashire Voodoo c. 1850 December 26, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Lancashire Voodoo c. 1850

Beach promised no more fairy stories in 2011 but he thought he would go out with a witch tale from nineteenth-century Lancashire on the wrong side of the Pennines. There is something reminiscent of an earlier post from Hebden Bridge here and also of the curious case of the witch who suffered spontaneous combustion in […]

Spontaneous Human Combustion and Witchcraft! November 27, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Spontaneous Human Combustion and Witchcraft!

This letter appears in an English journal in 1800 relating to events on 10 April 1744. It is an interesting document because it combines two paranormal facts typically kept apart: witchcraft and spontaneous human combustion. The following narrative will probably amuse some of your readers: though many may think it is a falsehood, it is […]

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