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  • Church Porch Devilry October 9, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Church Porch Devilry

    Midsummer’s eve doubtless had significance to our distant pagan ancestors, yoked to the land and to the seasons like oxen. What is striking is how often these traditions survived Christianity, the Reformation and even industrialisation. Take one of Beach’s favourite: looking for the dead-to-come on Midsummer’s Eve. Tradition claimed – traditions that still survive in […]

    Never Forget the Church Sprite! August 8, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Never Forget the Church Sprite!

    When Beach gives fairy posts (and God knows sometimes he does too many) he tries to come up with unusual accounts, peculiar perspectives. He does not do ‘normal’ folklore. But this is a little story from Sweden that filled him with the melancholy of a dying or at least a changing world. Read it, reflect […]

    The Survival of the Marranos June 22, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    The Survival of the Marranos

    A Beachcombing favorite to day, the Marranos of Belmonte. In 1492 Spain expelled its Jews or at least those who refused to convert to Catholicism. Some of these fleeing Spanish Jews crossed the border into Portugal where they joined an already substantial Jewish population and the Jews of all descriptions there were driven out of […]

    Undead in Bulgaria June 7, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Undead in Bulgaria

    Beachcombing has celebrated deviant burials on several previous occasions in the past. There was, for example, only last week, the children immured (allegedly) in the foundations of a bridge. And then there were the various attempts to silence the dead from the Middle Ages. There were the criminals killed (and often dug into) prehistoric mounds and who could […]

    Two Thousand Infants Sold to Russia for Human Sacrifice May 30, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern, Prehistoric
    Two Thousand Infants Sold to Russia for Human Sacrifice

    ***Dedicated to Wade who sent the relevant passage in*** The custom of burying infant children in the foundations of new buildings was well established in prehistoric, ancient and even (gulp) medieval times. The bigger and more important a building the more likely it was to a have a tot dropped in the cement. It is […]

    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 […]

    Immortal Meals 9#: The Discovery of Nero’s Rotating Dining Room? May 17, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Immortal Meals 9#: The Discovery of Nero's Rotating Dining Room?

    Beach’s reading today comes from Suetonius’ Lives of the Caesars, Nero (31) There was nothing however in which [Nero] was more ruinously prodigal than in building. He made a palace extending all the way from the Palatine to the Esquiline, which at first he called the House of Passage, but when it was burned shortly […]

    Zombie Planes May 3, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    Zombie Planes

    ***Dedicated to Ricardo*** Beach is properly modest about his knowledge of aeronautics – apart from perhaps the prehistory of flight. But he is as moved as the next man to see the spitfire test in First of the Few or (1.37.40)  or, for that matter, Corky sweating in Tales of the Golden Monkey as a […]

    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 […]

    Anticipating the Telephone February 6, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Anticipating the Telephone

    Beachcombing rather cheekily talked about an anticipation of email the other day: an anticipation of the telegraph would have made more sense, sorry. But what about this anticipation of the telephone from the late seventeenth century? And as glasses have highly promoted our seeing, so ‘tis not improbable but that there may be found many […]

    Anticipating Email by Three Hundred Years February 3, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Anticipating Email by Three Hundred Years

    Beachcombing is in a technological mood and is looking for technologies that have been anticipated, against all odds, in previous ages. What about for example this late seventeenth-century anticipation of email: or perhaps we should be more modest and say the electric telegraph. But… to advance another instance. That men should confer at very distant […]

    Medieval and Ancient Rats January 18, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Medieval and Ancient Rats

    One of the mysteries of the Black Death in the Middle Ages is how the victims never – with one curious Scandinavian exception – cottoned on to the fact that rodents, particularly rats were disease bearers. In some cases there were infestations of rats before the disease struck and many rats also died, which should […]

    Vintages Past January 17, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    Vintages Past

    There is a beautiful scene in the junky teen fantasy Highlander (1986) where Connor (the decapitator) opens a bottle of eighteenth-century brandy in late twentieth century New York. ‘1783’  states our hero ‘was a very good year. Mozart wrote his Great Mass. The Montgolfier brothers went up in the first hot-air balloon. And England recognized […]

    Throne Room Tricks January 15, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Throne Room Tricks

    Beachcombing previously had some fun describing the tricks the ‘civilised’ use to frighten ‘savages’ in jungles and deserts far from the capital cities of Europe. But what about – today’s subject – the tricks that the civilised used when ‘savages’ came to visit them on home ground. Take, for example, the shenanigans found in the […]

    Flying to the Moon on Geese December 5, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Flying to the Moon on Geese

    Beach has heard rumours over the years of Domingo Gonsales’ strange voyage to the moon in the early seventeenth century [1620s], carried thither by a flock of enormous geese. But it was only this morning that he finally settled down to read DG’s adventures: perhaps inspired by the equally fantastic Zambian moon programme. For those […]

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