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  • Late Storm Bellringing May 12, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Late Storm Bellringing

    Enjoy this short extract from a Sheffield newspaper about a folk practice in Devon in south-west England: 28 July 1899. Bells it will be remembered were for the supernatual like alcohol for bacteria: they drove away witches, fairies and, of course, storms… There is a curious survival in that pretty, quiet little south country place, […]

    Jacob of Edessa’s America March 9, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Jacob of Edessa's America

    Many readers of Beachcombing will know Beach’s fellow bizarrist, Esoterx, who writes fascinating posts about ancient, medieval and modern history and in Beach’s humble opinion has the best and wittiest headlines on the internet: a recent discussion of Hellenic religion was called, for example, ‘Muppet Theology’. Often Beach knows Esoterx’s sources, as the two share […]

    Struell Wells, Ireland: Pagan Customs in the Modern Age? January 15, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Struell Wells, Ireland: Pagan Customs in the Modern Age?

    Exciting article by Finbar McCormick from 2009, one that somehow passed Beach by, ‘Struell Wells’, The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland (2009), 45-62. FM begins with a careful description of a nineteenth-century Irish water shrine, the Struell Wells (Downpatrick). This shrine is credited through St Patrick with the power of curing. Crowds would […]

    Great War Organ Gun November 28, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Great War Organ Gun

    The organ gun, also known as the ribadulequin, was one of those crude innovations in military technology that shifted humanity towards the ‘elegant’ killing of the machine gun arc. Organs were basically guns with many barrels and one trigger and were as liable to explode in the gunner’s face as to blast away the opposition. Beach recently […]

    Telephony and Music: the Perils of Modernity October 23, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Telephony and Music: the Perils of Modernity

    In 1876 the telephone was born after a half dozen inventors had scrambled for the right formula for years: who could forget poor old Philip Reiss with his beer barrel, sausage skin, kinitting needle and two cups of mercury? The telephone was, in fact, one of those technologies that took off remarkably quickly and was […]

    Bathing Mystery at Lahinch October 21, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Bathing Mystery at Lahinch

    In 1892 Laurence Gomme gave a presidential address to the Folklore Society. Gomme was particularly interested in the parallels between British (by which was meant at this date British and Irish) folklore and the folklore of the ‘savages’. If he could snap some branches from the golden bough while proving that the Aborigines and the […]

    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 […]

    The First Automatic Door Bell in History? October 2, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The First Automatic Door Bell in History?

    ***Thanks to the person who sent this in. Sorry I can’t find your name now!*** It is the middle of the first century AD and you need holy solace from priests in your native Alexandria. You head down the dingy streets of the city as the sun is just breaking and then turn out in […]

    The First Funeral Wreath, c. 60,000 B.C.? September 29, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Prehistoric
    The First Funeral Wreath, c. 60,000 B.C.?

    Archaeology is an extremely vague art and the greatest danger its practitioners face is the temptation of joining chance findings together to create imaginary narratives. Take the first flower funeral in history. In 1960 Ralph Solecki, a US archaeologist, excavated a Neanderthal grave in Iraq in the famous Shanidar Cave: one of several Neanderthal graves […]

    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 […]

    Ancient Chinese Automata August 14, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Ancient Chinese Automata

    There are a series of early texts that describe automata, small mechanical toys that allegedly operated in antiquity and that carried out wonders. The most famous is perhaps Archytas of Tarentum’s work with mechanical birds (another post another day). He is said to have created, credibly enough, a mechanical pigeon in the fifth century B.C., […]

    Animal Sacrifices in Christianity?! August 4, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Animal Sacrifices in Christianity?!

    Christians don’t sacrifice animals, do they? There is some uncomfortable stuff to do with sacrificing Christ in the mass: particularly if you believe in transubstantiation. But that’s a man/god. Yes, Christians routinely kill animals either directly or as consumers: the growth of vegetarianism in the west in the last century has nothing to do with […]

    Last Zombie Burial in Western Europe? July 15, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Last Zombie Burial in Western Europe?

    At least twice a year there are news stories about zombie-proof burials. Archaeologists dig up a body that has been given special treatment by gravediggers: we have enjoyed some of these stories at StrangeHistory in the past including a particularly haunting one from Ireland. Sometimes corpses are decapitated and the head placed between the legs; sometimes […]

    Neo-Pagan Partisans May 2, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Neo-Pagan Partisans

    Ask a well-read person today about neo-paganism and many will identify it as something that came out of flower power in the late 1960s. However, this is not, for the most part, true. Neo-pagans were actually around before the Great War and in some incarnations neo-paganism can be traced back to late nineteenth-century eccentrics, such […]

    A Pre-Christian Custom in Eighteenth-Century Scotland? April 26, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    A Pre-Christian Custom in Eighteenth-Century Scotland?

    A recent article on Chris’  Haunted Ohio Books quoted an eighteenth-century source for an unusual form of Scottish divination: the whole passage (from Martin Martin, obit 1718) is well worth reading, as is Chris’ thoughts on the same. But one bit particularly stood out: it relates to the Hebrides. The second way of consulting the […]

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