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Title: Thaumaturgia
Author: Oxonian, An
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Transcriber's note: The spelling peculiarities of the original have been
retained in this etext.]







 "Bombastes kept the devil's bird,
  Shut in the pommel of his sword,
  And taught him all the cunning pranks,
  Of past and future mountebanks."



Demonology--The Devil, a most unaccountable personage--Who is he?--His
predilection for old women--Traditions concerning evil spirits &c.


Magic and Magical rites.

Jewish magi.


On the several kinds of magic.

Augury, or divinations drawn from the flight and feeding of birds.

Aruspices, or divinations drawn from brute or human sacrifices.

Divisions of divination by the ancients--prodigies, etc.


History of Oracles--The principal oracles of antiquity.

The oracle of Jupiter Hammon. The oracle of Delphos, or Pythian Apollo.

Ceremonies practised on consulting oracles.

Oracles often equivocal and obscure.

Urim and Thummim.

Reputation of oracles, how lost.

Cessation of oracles.

Had demons any share in the oracles?

Of oracles, the artifices of priests of false divinities.


The British Druids, or magi--Origin of fairies--Ancient
superstitions--Their skill in medicine, etc.

The British magi.


Aesculapian mysteries, etc.


Inferior deities attending mankind from their birth to their decease.


Judicial astrology--Its chemical application to the prolongation of life
and health--Alchymical delusions.


Alchymical and astrological chimera.

The Horoscope, a tale of the stars.

The Fated Parricide; an oriental tale of the stars.

Application of astrology to the prolongation of life, etc.


Spring.                \
Summer.                |_ influences of,
Autumn.                |
the winter quarter.    /


Oneirocritical presentiment, illustrating the cause, effects, principal
phenomena, and definition of dreams, etc.

Cause of Dreams.

Poetical illustrations of the effects of the imagination in dreams.

Principal phenomena in dreaming.

Definition of dreams.


On Incubation, or the art of healing by visionary divination.


On amulets, charms, talismans--Philters, their origin and imaginary
efficacy, etc.

Amulets used by the common people.

Eccentricities, caprices, and effects, of the imagination.

Doctrine of Effluvia--Miraculous cures by means of charms, amulets, etc.


On talismans--some curious natural ones, etc.


On the medicinal powers attributed to music by the ancients.


Presages, prodigies, presentiments, etc.


Phenomena of meteors, optic delusions, spectra, etc.


Elucidation of some ancient prodigies.

Magical pretensions of certain herbs, etc.


The practice of Obeah, or negro witchcraft--charms--their knowledge of
vegetable poison--secret poisoning.


On the origin and superstitious influence of rings.


Celestial influences--omens--climacterics--predominations.--Lucky and
unlucky days.--Empirics, etc.

Absurdities of Paracelsus, and Van Helmont.


Modern empiricism.


The Rosicrucians or Theosophists.






Children and old women have been accustomed to hear so many frightful
things of the cloven-footed potentate, and have formed such diabolical
ideas of his satanic majesty, exhibiting him in so many horrible and
monstrous shapes, that really it were enough to frighten Beelzebub
himself, were he by any accident to meet his prototype in the dark,
dressed up in the several figures in which imagination has embodied him.
And as regards men themselves, it might be presumed that the devil could
not by any means terrify them half so much, were they actually to meet
and converse with him face to face: so true it is that his satanic
majesty is not near so black as he is painted.

However useful the undertaking might prove, to give a true history of
this "tyrant of the air," this "God of the world," this "terror and
overseer of mankind," it is not our intention to become the devil's
biographer, notwithstanding the facility with which the materials might
be collected. Of the devil's origin, and the first rise of his family,
we have sufficient authority on record; and, as regards his dealings, he
has certainly always acted in the dark; though many of his doings both
moral, political, ecclesiastical, and empirical, have left such strong
impressions behind them, as to mark their importance in some
transactions, even at the present period of the christian world. These
discussions, however, we shall leave in the hands of their respective
champions, in order to take, as we proceed, a cursory view of some of
the _diableries_ with which mankind, in imitation of this great master,
has been infected, from the first ages of the world.

The Greeks, and after them the Romans, conferred the appellation of
Demon upon certain _genii_, or spirits, who made themselves visible to
men with the intention of either serving them as friends, or doing them
an injury as enemies. The followers of Plato distinguished between their
gods--or _Dei Majorum Gentium_; their demons, or those beings which were
not dissimilar in their general character to the good and bad angels of
Christian belief,--and their heroes. The Jews and the early christians
restricted the name of Demon to beings of a malignant nature, or to
devils properly so called; and it is to the early notions entertained by
this people, that the outlines of later systems of demonology are to be

It is a question, we believe, not yet set at rest by the learned in
these sort of matters, whether the word _devil_ be singular or plural,
that is to say, whether it be the name of a personage so called,
standing by himself, or a noun of multitude. If it be singular, and used
only personal as a proper name, it consequently implies one imperial
devil, monarch or king of the whole clan of hell, justly distinguished
by the term DEVIL, or as our northern neighbours call him "the muckle
horned deil," and poetically, after Burns "auld Clootie, Nick, or
Hornie," or, according to others, in a broader set form of speech, "the
devil in hell," that is, the "devil of a devil," or in scriptural
phraseology, the "great red dragon," the "Devil or Satan." But we shall
not cavil on this mighty potentate's name; much less dispute his
identity, notwithstanding the doubt that has been broached, whether the
said devil be a real or an imaginary personage, in the shape, form, and
with the faculties that have been so miraculously ascribed to him; for

  If it should so fall out, as who can tell,
  But there may be a God, a heav'n and hell?
  Mankind had best consider well,--for fear
  It be too late when their mistakes appear.

The devil has always, it would seem, been particularly partial to old
women; the most ugly and hideous of whom he has invariably selected to
do his bidding. Mother Shipton, for instance, our famous old English
witch, of whom so many funny stories are still told, is evidently very
much wronged in her picture, if she was not of the most terrible aspect
imaginable; and, if it be true, Merlin, the famous Welch fortune-teller,
was a most frightful figure. If we credit another story, he was begotten
by "_old nick_" himself. To return, however, to the devil's agents being
so infernally ugly, it need merely be remarked, that from time
immemorial, he has invariably preferred such _rational_ creatures as
most belied the "human form divine."

The sybils, of whom so many strange prophetic things are recorded, are
all, if the Italian poets are to be credited, represented as very old
women; and as if ugliness were the _ne plus ultra_ of beauty in old age,
they have given them all the hideousness of the devil himself. It will
be seen, despite of all that has been said to the disadvantage of the
devil, that he has very much improved in his management of worldly
affairs; so much so, that, instead of an administration of witches,
wizzards, magicians, diviners, astrologers, quack doctors, pettifogging
lawyers, and boroughmongers, he has selected some of the wisest men as
well as greatest fools of the day to carry his plans into effect. His
satanic majesty seems also to have considerably improved in his taste;
owing, no doubt, to the present improving state of society, and the
universal diffusion of useful knowledge. Indeed, we no longer hear of
cloven-footed devils, only in a metaphorical sense--fire and brimstone
are extinct or nearly so; the embers of hell and eternal damnation are
chiefly kept alive and blown up by ultras among the sectaries who are
invariably the promoters of religious fanaticism. Beauty, wit, address,
with the less shackled in mind, have superseded all that was frightful,
and terrible, odious, ugly, and deformed. This subject is poetically and
more beautifully illustrated in the following demonological stanzas,
which are so appropriate to the occasion, that we cannot resist quoting
them as a further prelude to our subjects:

  When the devil for weighty despatches
    Wanted messengers cunning and bold,
  He pass'd by the beautiful faces
    And picked out the ugly and old.

  Of these he made warlocks and witches
    To run of his errands by night,
  Till the over-wrought hag-ridden wretches
    Were as fit as the devil to fright.

  But whoever has been his adviser,
    As his kingdom increases in growth,
  He now takes his measures much wiser,
    And trafics with beauty and youth.

  Disguis'd in the wanton and witty,
    He haunts both the church and the court;
  And sometimes he visits the city,
    Where all the best christians resort.

  Thus dress'd up in full masquerade,
    He the bolder can range up and down
  For he better can drive on his trade,
    In any one's name than his own.

To be brief, the devil, it appears, is by far too cunning still for
mankind, and continues to manage things in his own way, in spite of
bishops, priests, laymen, and new churches. He governs the vices and
propensities of men by methods peculiarly his own; though every crime or
extortion, subterfuge or design, whether it be upon the purse or the
person, will not make a man a devil; it must nevertheless be confessed,
that every crime, be its magnitude or complexion what it may, puts the
criminal, in some measure, into the devil's power, and gives him an
ascendancy and even a title to the delinquent, whom he ever afterwards
treats in a very magisterial manner.

We are told that every man has his attendant evil genius, or tutelary
spirit, to execute the orders of the master demon--that the attending
evil angel sees every move we make upon the board; witnesses all our
actions, and permits us to do mischief, and every thing that is
pernicious to ourselves;--that, on the contrary, our good spirit,
actuated by more benevolent motives, is always accessary to our good
actions, and reluctant to those that are bad. If this be the case, it
may be fairly asked, how does it happen that those two contending
spirits do not quarrel and give each other black eyes and broken heads
during their rivalship for pre-eminence? And why does the evil tempting
spirit so often prevail?

Instead of literally answering these difficult questions, it may be
resolved into a good argument, as an excellent allegory to represent the
struggle in the mind of man between good and evil inclinations. But to
take them as they actually are, and merely to talk by way of natural
consequence--for to argue from nature is certainly the best way to get
to the bottom of the devil's story,--if there are good and evil spirits
attending us, that is to say, a good angel and a devil, then it is no
unjust reproach to say, when people follow the dictates of the latter,
that _the devil's in them_, or that _they are devils_! or, to carry the
simile a point farther, that as the generality, and by far the greatest
number of people follow and obey the evil spirit and not the good one,
and that the power predominating is allowed to be the nominating power,
it must then of course be allowed that the greater part of mankind have
the devil in them, which brings us to the conclusion of our argument;
and in support of which the following stanzas come happily to our

  To persons and places he sends his disguises,
    And dresses up all his banditti,
  Who, as pickpockets flock to country assizes,
    Crowd up to the court and the city.

  They're at every elbow, and every ear,
    And ready at every call, Sir;
  The vigilant scout, plants his agents about,
    And has something to do with us all, Sir.

  In some he has part, and some he has whole,
    And of some, (like the Vicar of _Baddow_)
  It can neither be said they have body or soul;
    And only are devils in shadow.

  The pretty and witty are devils in masque;
    The beauties are mere apparitions;
  The homely alone by their faces are known,
    And the good by their ugly conditions.

  The beaux walk about like the shadows of men,
    And wherever he leads them they follow;
  But tak'em, and shak'em, there's not one in ten
    But's as light as a feather, and hollow.

  Thus all his affairs he drives on in disguise,
    And he tickles mankind with a feather,
  Creeps in at one's ear, and looks out at our eyes,
    And jumbles our senses together.

  He raises the vapours and prompts the desires,
    And to ev'ry dark deed holds the candle;
  The passions inflames and the appetite fires,
    And takes every thing by the handle.

  Thus he walks up and down in complete masquerade
    And with every company mixes;
  Sells in every shop, works at every trade,
    And ev'ry thing doubtful perplexes.

The Jewish traditions concerning evil spirits are various, some of which
are founded on Scripture, some borrowed from the opinions of the Pagans,
some are fables of their own invention, and some are allegorical.

The demons of the Jews were considered either as the distant progeny of
Adam or Eve, resulting from an improper intercourse with supernatural
beings, or of Cain. As the doctrine, however, was extremely revolting
to some few of the early Christians, they maintained that demons were
the souls of departed human beings, who were still permitted to
interfere in the affairs of the Earth, either to assist their friends or
to persecute their enemies. But this doctrine did not obtain.

About two centuries and a half ago an attempt, in a condensed form, was
made, to give the various opinions entertained of demons at an early
date of the christian era; and it was not until a much later period of
Christianity, that a more decided doctrine relative to their origin and
nature was established. These tenets involved certain very knotty points
respecting the fall of those angels, who, for disobedience, had
forfeited their high abode in Heaven. The gnostics of early christian
times, in imitation of a classification of the different orders of
spirits by Plato, had attempted a similar arrangement with respect to an
hierarchy of angels, the gradation of which stood as follows.

The first, and highest order, was named SERAPHINS; the second,
CHERUBINS; the third was the order of THRONES; the fourth, of DOMINIONS;
the fifth, of VIRTUES; the sixth, of POWERS; the seventh, of
PRINCIPALITIES; the eighth, of ARCHANGELS; the ninth, and lowest, of
ANGELS. This fable was, in a pointed manner, censured by the Apostles:
yet strange to say, it almost outlived the pneumatologists of the middle
ages. These schoolmen, in reference to the account that Lucifer rebelled
against heaven, and that Michael the archangel warred against him, long
agitated the momentous question, what order of angels fell on the
occasion. At length it became the prevailing opinion that Lucifer was of
the order of Seraphins. It was also proved after infinite research, that
Agares, Belial, and Barbatos, each of them deposed angels of great rank,
had been of the order of Virtues; that Beleth, Focalor, and Phoenix, had
been of the order of Thrones; that Gaap had been of the order of Powers,
and Virtues; and Murmur of Thrones and Angels. The pretensions of many
noble devils were, likewise, canvassed, and, in an equally satisfactory
manner, determined; a multiplicity of incidents connected therewith were
arranged, which previously had been matter of considerable doubt and
debate. These sovereign devils, to each of whom was assigned a certain
district, had many noble spirits subordinate to them whose various ranks
and precedence were settled with all the preciseness of heraldic
distinction:--there were, for instance, devil-dukes; devil-marquises;
devil-earls; devil-knights; devil-presidents, devil-archbishops, and
bishops; prelates; and, without question, devil-physicians, and

In the middle ages, when conjuration had attained a certain pitch of
perfection, and was regularly practised in Europe, devils of distinction
were supposed to make their appearance under decided forms, by which
they were as well recognised, as the head of any ancient family would be
by his crest and armorial bearings. The shapes they were accustomed to
adopt were registered among their names and characters.

Although the leading tenets of Demonology may be traced to the Jews and
early Christians, yet they were matured by our early communications with
the Moors of Spain, who were the chief philosophers of the dark ages,
and between whom and the natives of France and Italy, a great
communication existed. Toledo, Seville and Salamanca, became the
greatest schools of magic. At the latter city predilections on the black
art from a consistent regard to the solemnity of the subject were
delivered within the walls of a vast and gloomy cavern. The schoolmen
taught that all knowledge might be obtained from the assistance of the
fallen angels. They were skilled in the abstract sciences, in the
knowledge of precious stones, in alchymy, in the various languages of
mankind and of the lower animals; in the Belles-Lettres, Moral
Philosophy, Pneumatology, Divinity, Magic, History, and Prophecy. They
could controul the winds and waters, and the stellar influences. They
could cause earthquakes, induce diseases or cure them, accomplish all
vast mechanical undertakings, and release souls out of Purgatory. They
could influence the passions of the mind, procure the reconciliation of
friends or of foes, engender mutual discord, induce mania, melancholy,
or direct the force and objects of human affection. Such was the
Demonology taught by its orthodox professors. Yet other systems of it
were devised, which had their origin in the causes attending the
propagation of christianity; for it must have been a work of much time
to eradicate the almost universal belief in the pagan deities, which had
become so numerous as to fill every creek and corner of the universe
with fabulous beings. Many learned men, indeed, were induced to side
with the popular opinion on the subject, and did nothing more than
endeavour to unite it with their acknowledged systems of Demonology.
They taught that the objects of heathen reverence were fallen angels in
league with the Prince of Darkness, who, until the appearance of our
Saviour, had been allowed to range on the earth uncontrolled, and to
involve the world in spiritual darkness and delusion.

According to the various ranks which these spirits held in the vast
kingdom of Lucifer, they were suffered, in their degraded state, to take
up their abode in the air, in mountains, in springs, or in seas. But
although the various attributes ascribed to the Greek and Roman deities,
were, by the early teachers of christianity, considered in the humble
light of demoniacal delusions, yet, for many centuries they possessed
great influence over the minds of the vulgar. The notion of every man
being attended by an evil genius was abandoned much earlier than the far
more agreeable part of the same doctrine which taught that, as an
antidote to their influence, each individual was also accompanied by a
benignant spirit. "The ministration of angels," says a writer in the
Athenian Oracle, "is certain; but the manner _how_, is the knot to be
untied." It was an opinion of the early philosophers that not only
kingdoms[1] had their tutelary guardians, but that every person had his
particular genius or good spirit, to protect and admonish him through
the medium of dreams and visions. Such were the objects of superstitious
reverence derived from the Pantheons of Greece and Rome, the whole synod
of which was supposed to consist of demons, who were still actively
bestirring themselves to delude mankind. But in the west of Europe, a
host of other demons, far more formidable, were brought into play, who
had their origin in Celtic, Teutonic, and even in Eastern fables; and as
their existence, as well as influence, was boldly asserted, not only by
the early christians, but even by the reformers, it was long before the
rites to which they were accustomed were totally eradicated.


[1] Thus the Penates, or household gods presided over new-born infants.
Every thing had its guardian or peculiar genius: cities, groves,
fountains, hills, were all provided with keepers of this kind, and to
each man was allotted no less than two--one good, the other bad (Hor.
Lib. II. Epist. 2.) who attended him from the cradle to the grave. The
Greeks called them _demons_. They were named _Praenestites_, from their
superintending human affairs.



Few subjects present to a philosophic eye more matter of curious,
important and instructive research than the natural history of religion.
Some sort of religious service has been found to prevail in all ages and
nations, from the most rude and barbarous periods of human society, to
those of cultivation and refinement. In these periods are to be traced
specimens strongly marked with exertions of the feelings, and faculties
of men in every situation almost that can be supposed. It is from the
contemplation of these exertions that we learn what sort of creature man
is; that we discover the extent of his powers, and the tendency of his
desires: and that we become acquainted with the force of culture and
civilization upon him, by comparing the degrees of improvement he has
attained in the various stages of society through which he has passed.

It seems to be a principle established by experience, that mankind in
general have at no time been able, by the operation of their own mutual
powers, to ascend in their inquiries to the great comprehensive
foundation of true religion,--the knowledge of a first cause. This idea
is too grand, too distinct, or too refined for the generality of the
human race. They are surrounded by sensible objects, and strongly
attached to them; they are in a great measure unaccustomed to the most
simple and obvious degrees of abstraction, and they can scarcely
conceive anything to have a real existence that may not become an object
of their senses. Possessed of such sentiments and views, they are fully
prepared in embracing all the follies and absurdities of superstition.
They worship every thing they either love or fear, in order to procure
the continuance of favours enjoyed, or to avert that resentment they may
have reason to dread. As their knowledge of nature is altogether
imperfect, and as many events every moment present themselves, upon
which they can form no theoretical conclusion, they fly for satisfaction
to the most simple, but most ineffectual of all solutions--the agency of
invisible beings, with which, in their opinion, all nature is filled.
Hence the rise of Polytheism and local deities, which have overspread
the face of the earth, under the different titles of guardian gods or
tutelary saints. Hence magnificent temples and splendid statues have
been erected to aid the imagination of votaries, and to realize objects
of worship, which, though supposed to be always hovering around, seldom
condescend to become visible.

After obtaining some information concerning present objects, the next
cause of solicitude and inquiry to the mind of man, is to penetrate a
little into the secrets of futurity. The same tutelary gods who bestowed
their care, and exerted their powers to procure present pleasure and
happiness for mankind, were supposed not averse to grant them, in this
respect also, a little indulgence. Hence the famous oracular responses
of antiquity; hence the long train of conjurers, fortune-tellers,
astrologers, necromancers, magicians, wizards, and witches, that have
been found in all places and at all times; nor have superior knowledge
and civilization been sufficient to extirpate such characters, by
demonstrating the futility and absurdity of their views.

Among the ancients, this superstition was a great engine of state. The
respect paid to omens, auguries and oracles, was profound and universal;
and the persons in power monopolized the privilege of consulting and
interpreting them. They joined the people in expressing their
veneration; but there is little reason to doubt that they conducted the
responses in such a manner as best suited the purposes of government. On
this account, it would not be difficult for the oracle to emit
predictions, which, to all those unacquainted with the secret, would
appear altogether astonishing and unaccountable. It would seem that this
principle alone is sufficient to explain all the phenomena of ancient

Though devination has long ceased to be an instrument of government,
abundance of designing persons have not been wanting in latter ages, who
found much interest in taking advantage of the weakness or credulity of
their fellow creatures. Against this pestilent and abandoned race of
men, most civilized countries have enacted penal laws. But what rendered
such persons peculiarly detestable in modern times, was the
communication which they were supposed to hold with the devil, to whom
they sold themselves, and from whom, in return, they derived their
information. And by this principle the penal statutes, instead of
extirpating, inflamed the evil. They alarmed the imaginations of the
people; they tempted them to impute the cause of their misfortunes and
disappointment to the malice or resentment of their neighbours; they
induced them to trust to their suspicions, much more than to their
reason; and they multiplied witches and wizards, by putting into
possession of every foolish informer the means of punishment. In several
countries of Europe, these statutes still subsist; they were not
abolished in Britain till a period still at no great distance. Since the
abolition of persecution, the faith of witchcraft has disappeared even
among the vulgar. It was long found inconsistent with any considerable
progress in philosophy.

For these reasons we read, with some degree of astonishment, a treatise
on this exploded subject, by a philosopher, an eminent physician, a
privy counseller of the then Empress Queen, and a professor in the
university of Vienna. It was long doubted whether the professor was in
earnest, but the world was at length forced to admit, that the great
Antonius de Haen certainly believed in witchcraft, and reckoned the
knowledge of it, in treating a disease, of great importance to a
physician--to the acquisition of which useful knowledge, he dedicated a
great part of his time. In the year 1758, three old women, condemned to
death for witchcraft, were brought by order of the Empress from Croatia
to Vienna, to undergo an examination, with regard to the equity of the
sentence pronounced against them. The question was not whether the crime
existed; the only object of inquiry respected the justice of its
application. The author, and the illustrious van Swieten, were appointed
to make the investigation. After reading over the depositions, produced
on the trials with the greatest care, and interrogating the culprits
themselves _most vigorously_ by means of a Croatian interpreter, these
great physicians discovered that the _three old_ women were not witches,
and prevailed with the Empress to send them home in safety. It was this
circumstance that induced de Haen to write on magic.

That some judgment may be formed of de Haen's very extraordinary and
curious production written in the latter part of the eighteenth century,
we shall here furnish our readers with an abstract of its principles and
reasoning, to which we shall subjoin some remarks.

By the crime of magic, the author informs us, he means any improper
communication between men and evil spirits, whether it be called
theurgy, soothsaying, necromancy, chiromancy, incantation or witchcraft.
He proposes to prove, in the first place, that such a communication
does actually exist. He quotes the Egyptian magicians, the witch of
Endor, the possessions mentioned in the New Testament, and many more
exceptionable authorities from the fathers, and canons of the church. He
is positive the incantations of the Egyptian magicians were real
operations of infernal agents, and that the accounts of them, delivered
by Moses, can admit no other construction.

May not the sincere believer in the divine authority of the scriptures
reasonably hesitate concerning this conclusion? Or rather, does not such
an interpretation justly expose revelation to reproach? The plain
dictates of the best philosophy are, that nothing is more simple,
regular, and uniform than the ordinary course of nature; and that this
course can neither be suspended nor altered, but by its author, nor can
by him be permitted to be interrupted by any inferior being, unless for
the most important reasons. It does not appear what good end could be
gained, on the part of Providence, by the permission of these magical
enchantments, supposing them supernatural; and if we imagine the Devil
to have acted spontaneously, with a view to support his power and
influence, he most manifestly erred in his design. Nothing could be more
impolitic than his appearance in a field of combat, where he well knew
he must sustain an ignominious defeat. Or if he worked effectually to
support the power and influence of his servants the magicians, he should
have counteracted, not repeated, the miraculous exhibitions of Moses.
That the magicians possessed no power sufficient for this purpose is
obvious, from their not exerting it. That Pharoah expected no such
exertion from them is evident from his never requesting it, and from his
application to Moses and Aaron. The truth seems to be, that Pharoah
conceived Moses and Aaron to be magicians like his own. He wished to
support the character of the latter; and he concluded this would be
effectually done, if they could only furnish a pretence for affirming
that they had performed every wonder accomplished by the former. Without
some such supposition of collusion, two of the miracles attempted by the
magicians are perfectly absurd and contradictory. They pretended to turn
water into blood, when there was not one drop of water in all the land
of Egypt, which Aaron had not previously converted into that substance.
They pretended to send frogs over the land of Egypt, when every corner
of it was swarming with that loathsome reptile. It is further remarkable
that, with the three first only of Moses's miracles they proposed to
vie; on the appearance of the fourth, they fairly resigned the contest,
and acknowledged very honestly that the hand of God was visible in the
miracles of Moses;--a plain confession that no supernatural power
operated in their own.

De Haen considers the case of the witch of Endor as an authority still
more direct. He maintains that Samuel was actually called up, either
under corporeal or fantastic form, and foretold Saul the fate of his
engagements with the Philistines. Let us attend to the circumstances of
the story, and examine whether it is absolutely necessary to have
recourse to this supernatural hypothesis. The mind of Saul was
distracted and agitated beyond measure by the most critical and alarming
situation of his affairs; his distress was so great that, forgetting his
dignity and safety, he dismissed his attendants, laid aside his royal
robes, was unable to eat bread, and, dressed like the meanest of his
people, he took his journey to the abode of the conjurer. In this state
of mind, prepared for imposition, he arrives during the night at her
residence. He prevails with her, by much solicitation, and probably by
ample rewards, to call up Samuel. To discompose still further the
disordered mind of Saul, she announces the pretended approach of the
apparition by a loud acclamation, tells the king she knew him, which
till now she affected not to do, and describes the resurrection of the
prophet, under the awful semblance of God's rising out of the earth.

During all this time the king had seen nothing extraordinary, either
because he was not allowed light sufficient for that purpose, or was not
admitted within the sphere of vision. He entreats an account of the
personage who approached, and the conjurer describes the well-known
appearance of Samuel. The prophet sternly challenges the king for
disturbing his repose, tells him that David was intended to be King of
Israel, that himself would be defeated by the Philistines, and that he
and his sons would fall in battle. The king enters into no conversation
with the apparition; but unable any longer to support his agitation,
drops lifeless on the ground. The conjurer returns to Saul, presses him
to take some food which she had prepared. He at last complies; and
having finished his repast, departs with his servants before the
morning. The whole of this scene, it is evident, passed in darkness. It
does not appear that Saul ever saw the prophet; and it surely required
no supernatural intelligence to communicate all the information he
obtained. This would readily be suggested by the despondency of the
king, the strength of his enemies, and the disposition of the whole
people of the Jews alienated from him, and inclined towards his
successor. The witch of Endor, therefore, might be a common
fortune-teller, and her case exhibits no direct proof of supernatural

We do not pretend to account so easily for many of the possessions
recorded in the New Testament, though few of these only are applicable
to the case of sorcery. We are well aware, that several writers of
eminence, who cannot be supposed to entertain the least unfavourable
sentiments of revelation, have undertaken to explain these possessions,
without having recourse to any thing supernatural, by representing them
as figurative descriptions of particular and local diseases.

We mean not to adopt, or defend the views of such authors, though we may
perhaps be allowed to observe that, were their opinions supported in a
satisfactory manner, christianity would lose nothing by the attempt. It
would be exempted, by this means, from a little cavilling and ridicule,
to which some of its enemies reckon it at present exposed, and the
design could not in the least derogate from its divinity, as the
instantaneous cure of a distemper cannot be considered less miraculous
than the expulsion of the devil. At any rate, these possessions are all
extraordinary; appeared on some most extraordinary occasion; and from
them, therefore, no general conclusion can be drawn to the ordinary
cases of common life.

We shall now translate a specimen of de Haen's[2] authorities, extracted
from the fathers. The following from Jerome will need no comment. This
father, in his life of St. Hilario the hermit, relates that a young man
of the town of Gaza in Syria, fell deeply in love with a pious virgin in
the neighbourhood. He attacked her with looks, whispers, professions,
caresses, and all those arguments which usually conquer yielding
virginity; but finding them all ineffectual, he resolved to repair to
Memphis, the residence of many eminent conjurers, and implore their
magic aid. He remained there for a year, till he was fully instructed in
the art. He then returned home, exulting in his acquisitions, and
feasting his imagination with the luscious scenes he was now confident
of realizing. All he had to do was to lodge secretly some hard words and
uncouth figures, engraved on a plate of brass, below the threshold of
the door of the house in which the lady lived. She became perfectly
furious, she tore her hair, gnashed her teeth, and repeated incessantly
the name of the youth, who had been drawn from her presence by the
violence of her despairing passion. In this situation she was conducted
by her relations to the cell of old Hilario. The devil that possessed
her, in consequence of the charm, began immediately to howl, and to
confess the truth. "I have suffered violence," said he; "I have been
forced hither against my inclination. How happy was I at Memphis,
amusing my friends with visions! O the pains, the tortures which I
suffer! You command me to dislodge, and I am detained fast by the charm
below the threshold. I cannot depart, unless the young man dismiss me."
So cautious, however, was the saint, that he would not permit the magic
figures to be searched for, till he had released the virgin, for fear he
should seem to have intercourse with incantations in performing the cure
or to believe that a devil could even speak truth. He observed only that
demons are always liars, and cunning to deceive.

De Haen imputes to the power of magic the miracles,[3] as they are
called, of the famous Apollonius Thyanaeus. He seems to entertain no
scruple about their authority. As several of the enemies of revelation
have held forth Thyanaeus as a rival of Jesus Christ, a specimen of his
performances may amuse our readers. During an assembly of the people at
Ephesus, a great flight of birds approached from a neighbouring wood;
one bird led all the rest. "There is nothing wonderful," says Thyanaeus,
to the astonished people, "in this appearance. A boy passing along a
particular street has carelessly scattered in it some corn which he
carried; one bird has tasted the food, and generously calls the rest to
partake the repast." The hearers repaired to the spot, and found the
information true.

Being called to allay a pestilence which raged at Ephesus, he ordered an
old beggar to be burned under the stones near the temple of Hercules, as
an enemy to the gods. He commanded the people again to remove the
stones, that they might see what sort of animal had been put to death.
They found not a man, but a dog. The plague, however, ceased.

A married woman of rank being dead, was carried out to be burned in an
open litter, followed by her husband dissolved in tears. Apollonius
approaching, requests him to stop the procession, and he would put an
end to his grief. He asked the name of the woman, touched her, and
muttered over her some words. She immediately revived, began to speak,
and returned again to her own house. Fleury, who relates the miracle,
remarks that some people doubted whether the woman had been really dead,
as they had observed something like breath issue from her mouth. Others
imagined she had been seized only with a tedious faint, and that the
operation of the cold dews and damps upon her body might naturally
recover her. On Fleury's remark de Haen most sagely observes, that the
persons who observed the woman breathing could not surely have
suppressed the joyful news, and would certainly have stopped the
procession before the philosopher arrived.

De Haen's second attempt is to recite all the objections that have been
made against sorcery, and to subjoin to each a distinct refutation.
There is nothing in this part of the work that merits any attention. He
concludes in these words: "I may then with confidence affirm, that the
art of magic most certainly exists. History, sacred and prophane;
authority human and divine; experiments the most unquestionable and
unexceptionable, all concur to demonstrate its reality."

The last part of de Haen's work relates to the discovering and treating
of magical diseases, to explain which seems to have been the chief
purpose of the author in composing his book. Much caution, he observes,
and attention are necessary on this head; and the physician should not
readily admit the imputation of witchcraft. No absence of the ordinary
symptoms, no uncommon alteration of the course of the distemper, are
sufficient to infer this conclusion, because these may arise from
unknown natural causes. What then are the marks of certain incantations?
De Haen holds the following to be indisputable: "if, in any uncommon
disease, there shall be found, in the stuffing of the cushions, or
cielings of the room in which the patient lies, in the feather or the
chaff of his bed, about the door, or under the threshold of his house,
any strange characters, images, bones, hair, seeds, or roots of plants;
and if upon the removal of these, or upon conveying the patient into
another apartment, he shall suddenly recover; or if the patient himself,
or his friends, shall be so wicked as to call a wizzard to their aid, by
whom the malady shall be removed; or if insects and animals which do
not lodge in the human body; if stones, metals, glass, knives, plaited
hair, pieces of pitch, be ejected from particular parts of the body, of
greater size, and weight and figure, than could be supposed to make
their way through these parts, without much greater demolition and
delaceration of the passages; in all these cases, the disease is
unquestionably magical."

The author proceeds to enquire whether the physician may presume to
remove the instruments of incantation in order to relieve the patient
without incurring the accusation of impiety by interfering with the
implements and furniture of the devil; and concludes very formally that,
after approaching them with all due ceremony and respect, after
imploring with suitable devotion and ardour, the protection and
direction of heaven in such a perilous undertaking, he may attempt to
intermeddle, and may occasionally expect a successful issue.

Such are the views, reasonings, and conclusions of, at the time, one of
the first physicians and philosophers of Germany;--views and reasonings
which would have been received with eagerness and applause two hundred
years ago, but which the philosophy and improvements of later times seem
to have banished to the abodes of ignorance and barbarity.

The origin of almost all our knowledge may be traced to the earlier
periods of antiquity. This is peculiarly the case with respect to the
arts denominated magical. There were few ancient nations, however
barbarous, which could not furnish many individuals to whose spells and
enchantments the power of nature and the material world were supposed to
be subjected. The Chaldeans, the Egyptians, and indeed all the oriental
nations were accustomed to refer all natural effects, for which they
could not account to the agency of demons, who were believed to preside
over herbs, trees, rivers, mountains, and animals. Every member of the
human body was under their power, and all corporeal diseases were
produced by their malignity. For instance, if any happened to be
affected with a fever, little anxiety was manifested to discover its
cause, or to adopt rational measures for its cure; it must no doubt have
been occasioned by some evil spirit residing in the body, or
influencing, in some mysterious way, the fortunes of the sufferer. That
influence could be counteracted only by certain magical rites; hence the
observance of those rites soon obtained a permanent establishment in the
East. Even at the present day, many uncivilized people hold that all
nature is filled with genii, of which some exercise a beneficent, and
others a destructive power. All evils with which man is afflicted, are
considered the work of these imaginary beings, whose favour must he
propitiated by sacrifices, incantations, and songs. If the Greenlander
be unsuccessful in fishing, the Huron in hunting, or in war; if even the
scarcely half reasoning Hottentot finds every thing is not right in his
mind, body, or fortune, no time must be lost before the spirit be
invoked. After the removal of some present evil, the next strongest
desire in the human mind is the attainment of some future good. This
good is often beyond the power, and still oftener beyond the inclination
of man to bestow; it must therefore be sought from beings which are
supposed to possess considerable influence over human affairs, and which
being elevated above the baser passions of our nature, were thought to
regard with peculiar favour all who acknowledged their power, or invoked
their aid: hence the numerous rites which have, in all ages and
countries, been observed in consulting superior intelligences, and the
equally numerous modes in which their pleasure has been communicated to

The Chaldean magi were chiefly founded on astrology, and were much
conversant with certain animals, metals and plants, which they employed
in all their incantations; the virtue of which was derived from stellar
influence. Great attention was always paid to the positions and the
configurations presented by the celestial sphere; and it was only at
favourable seasons that the solemn rites were celebrated. Those rites
were accompanied with many peculiar and fantastic gestures, by leaping,
clapping of hands, prostrations, loud cries, and not unfrequently with
unintelligible exclamations. Sacrifices, and burnt offerings were used
to propitiate superior powers; but our knowledge of the magical rites
exercised by certain oriental nations, the Jews only excepted, is
extremely limited. All the books professedly written on the subject,
have been, swept away by the torrent of time. We learn, however, that
the professors among the Chaldeans were generally divided into three
classes; the _Ascaphim_, or charmers, whose office it was to remove
present, and to avert future contingent evils; to construct talismans,
etc. The _Mecaschephim_, or magicians, properly so called, who were
conversant with the occult powers of nature, and the supernatural world;
and the _chasdim_, or astrologers, who constituted by far the most
numerous and respectable class. And from the assembly of the wise men on
the occasion of the extraordinary dream of Nebuchadnezzar, it would
appear that Babylon had also her oneirocritici, or interpreters of
dreams--a species of diviners indeed, to which almost every nation of
antiquity gave birth.

Like the Chaldean astrologers, the Persian magi, from whom our word
magic is derived, belong to the priesthood. But the worship of the gods
was not their chief occupation; they were also great proficients in the
arts. They joined to the worship of the gods, and to the profession of
medicine and natural magic, a pretended familiarity with superior
powers, from which they boasted of deriving all their knowledge. Like
Plato, who probably imbibed many of their notions, they taught that
demons hold a middle rank between gods and men; that they (the demons)
presided not only over divinations, auguries, conjurations, oracles, and
every species of magic, but also over sacrifices, and prayer, which in
behalf of men is thus presented, and rendered acceptable to the gods.
Indeed, the austerity of their lives[4] was well calculated to
strengthen the impression which their cunning had already made on the
multitude, and to prepare the way for whatever impostures they might
afterwards practise.

We are less acquainted with Indian magic than with that practised by
any other Eastern nations. It may, however, be reasonably enough
inferred that it was very similar to that for which the magi in general
were held in such high estimation: although they were excluded, as
beings of too sacred a nature, from the ordinary occurrences of life.
Their Brahmins, or Gymnosophists, were regarded with as much reverence
as the magi, and probably were more worthy of it. Some of them dwelt in
woods, and others in the immediate vicinity of cities. Their skill in
medicine was great; the care which they took in educating youth, in
familiarizing it with generous and virtuous sentiments, did them
peculiar honour; and their maxims and discourses, as recorded by
historians, prove that they were much accustomed to profound reflection
on the principles of civil polity, morality, religion and philosophy.


Of the magi of the Jews, it is proved by Lightfoot,[5] that after their
return from Babylon, having entirely forsaken idolatry, and being no
longer favoured with the gift of prophecy, they gradually abandoned
themselves, before the coming of our Saviour, to sorcery and divination.
The Talmud, still regarded with a reverence bordering on idolatry,
abounds with instructions for the due observance of superstitious rites.
After their city and temple were destroyed, many Jewish impostors were
highly esteemed for their pretended skill in magic; and under pretence
of interpreting dreams, they met with daily opportunities of practising
the most shameful frauds. Many Rabbins were quite as well versed in the
school of Zoroaster, as in that of Moses. They prescribed all kinds of
conjuration, some for the cure of wounds, some against the dreaded bite
of serpents, and others against thefts and enchantments. Their
divinations were founded on the influence of the stars, and on the
operations of spirits, they did not, indeed, like the Chaldean magi,
regard the heavenly bodies as gods and genii, but they ascribed to them
a great power over the actions and opinions of men.

The magical rites of the Jews were, and indeed are still, chiefly
performed on various important occasions, as on the birth of a child,
marriages, etc. On such occasions the evil spirits are supposed to be
more than usually active in their malignity, which can only be
counteracted by certain enchantments.[6] They believe that Lilis will
cause all their male children to die on the eighth day after their
birth; girls on the twenty-first.[7] The following are the means adopted
by the German Jews to avert this calamity. They draw arrows in circular
lines with chalk or charcoal on the four walls of the room in which the
accouchement takes place, and write upon each arrow: _Adam, Eve! make
Lilis go away!_ They write also on certain parts of the room the name of
the three angels who preside over medicine, _Senai, Sansenai and
Sanmangelof_, after the manner taught them by Lilis herself when she
entertained the hope of causing all the Jews to be drowned in the Red

Josephus, the historian of the Jews, does not allow to magic so ancient
an origin among them, as many Jewish writers do. He makes Solomon the
first who practised an art which is so powerful against demons; and the
knowledge of which, he asserts, was communicated to that prince by
immediate inspiration. The latter, continues this historian, invented
and transmitted to posterity in his writings, certain incantations for
the cure of diseases, and for the expulsion and perpetual banishment of
wicked spirits from the bodies of the possessed. It consisted, according
to his description, in the use of a certain root, which was sealed up,
and held under the nose of the person possessed; the name of Solomon,
with the words prescribed by him, was then pronounced, and the demon
forced immediately to retire. He does not even hesitate to assert, that
he himself has been an eye witness of such an effect produced on a
person named Eleazer, in the presence of the Emperor Vespasian and his
sons. Nor will this relation surprise us, when we consider the rooted
malignity entertained by the Jews to the christian religion, and this
writer's attempt to appreciate the miracles of our Saviour, by ascribing
them to magical influence, and by representing them as easy of
accomplishment to all acquainted with the occult sciences.

Innumerable are the devices contained in the Cabala for averting
possible evils, as the plague, disease, and sudden death. It directs how
to select and combine some passages of scripture, which are believed
both to render supernatural beings visible, and to produce many
wonderful and surprising effects. The most famous wonders have been
accomplished by means of the name of God. The sacred word Jehovah is,
when read with points, multiplied by the Jewish doctors into twelve,
forty-two, and seventy-two letters, of which words are composed that are
thought to possess miraculous energy. By these, say they, Moses slew the
Egyptians; by these Israel was preserved from the destroying angel of
the wilderness; by these Elijah separated the waters of the river, to
open a passage for himself and Elisha, and by these it has been as
daringly and impudently asserted, that our blessed Saviour, the eternal
Son of God, cast out evil spirits. The name of the devil is likewise
used in their magical devices. The five Hebrew letters of which that
name[8] is composed, exactly constitute the number 364, one less than
the days of the whole year. They pretended that, owing to the wonderful
virtue of the number comprised in the name of Satan, he is prevented
from accusing them for an equal number of days: hence the stratagem
before alluded to, for depriving the devil of the power of doing them
any harm on the only day on which that power is granted to him.

In allusion to the cabalists, Pliny says, "There is another sect of
magicians of which Moses and Latopea, Jews, were the first authors." It
was the prevailing opinion among the Hebrews, that the Cabala was
delivered by God to Moses, and thence through a succession of ages, even
to the times of Ezra, preserved by tradition only, without the help of
writing, in the same manner as the doctrine of Pythagoras was delivered
by Archippus and Lysiades, who kept schools at Thebes in Greece, where
the scholars learned all their master's precepts by heart, and employed
their memories instead of books. So certain Jews, despising letters,
placed all their learning in memory, observation, and verbal tradition;
whence it was called by them Cabala, that is, a receiving from one to
another by the ear an art said to be very ancient and only known to the
christians in later times.

The Jews divided the Cabala into three parts; the first containing the
knowledge of _Bresith_, which they call also cosmology, the object of
which is to teach and explain the force and efficacy of things created,
natural or celestial; expounding also the laws and mysteries of the
Bible according to philosophical reasons, which on that account differs
little from natural magic, a science in which King Solomon is said to
have excelled. We find, therefore, in the sacred histories of the Jews,
that he was wont to discourse from the cedar of the forests of Lebanon
to the low hyssop of the valley; as also of cattle, birds, reptiles, and
fish, all which contain within themselves a kind of magical virtue.
Moses also, in his expositions upon the Pentateuch, and most of the
Talmudists, have followed the rules of the same art.

The other division of the Cabala contains the knowledge of things more
sublime, as of divine and angelical powers, the contemplation of sacred
names and characters; being a certain kind of symbolical theology, in
which the letters, figures, numbers, names, points, lines, accents, etc.
are esteemed to contain the significations of most profound things and
wonderful mysteries. This part again is twofold--_Authmantick_, handling
the nature of angels, the powers, names, characters of spirits and souls
departed--and _Theomantick_, which searches into the mysteries of the
Divine Majesty, his emanations, his names, and _Pentacula_, which he who
attains to is supposed to be endowed with most wonderful power. It was,
they say, by virtue of this art, that Moses wrought so many miracles;
that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still; that Elias called down
fire from heaven; that Daniel the prophet muzzled the lions' mouths; and
that the three children sang in the fiery furnace. And, what is more,
the perfidious and unbelieving Jews, did not stick to aver, that our
Saviour himself wrought all his miracles by virtue of this art, and that
he discovered several of its secrets, containing a variety of charms
against devils, and also, as Josephus writes, against diseases. "As for
my part," says Cornelius Agrippa, in allusion to this subject, "I do not
doubt but that God revealed many things to Moses and the prophets, which
were contained under the covert of the words of the law, which were not
to be communicated to the profane vulgar: so for this art, which the
Jews so much boast of, which I have with great labour and diligence
searched into, I must acknowledge it to be a mere rhapsody of
superstition, and nothing but a kind of theurgic magic before spoken of.
For if, as the Jews contend, coming from God, it did any way conduce to
perfection of life, salvation of men, truth of understanding, certainly
that spirit of truth, which having forsaken the synagogue, is now come
to teach us all truth, had never concealed it all this while from the
church, which certainly knows all those things that are of God; whose
grace, baptism, and other sacraments of salvation, are perfectly
revealed in all languages;--for every language is alike, so that there
be the same piety; neither is there any other name in heaven or on
earth, by which we can be saved, but only the name of Jesus. Therefore
the Jews, most skilful in divine names, after the coming of Christ, were
able to do nothing, in comparison of their forefathers:--the Cabala of
the Jews, therefore, is nothing else, but a most pernicious
superstition, the which by collecting, dividing, and changing several
names, words, and letters, dispersed up and down in the bible, at their
own good will and pleasure, and making one thing out of another, they
dissolve the members of truth, raising up sentences, inductions, and
parables of their own, apply thereto the oracles of divine scripture to
them, defaming the scriptures, and affirming their fragments to consist
of them, blaspheme the word of God by their wrested suppositions of
words, syllables, letters and numbers; endeavouring to prop up their
villainous inventions, by arguments drawn from their own delusions."


[2] Antonio de Haen, S.C.R.A. Majestate a consiliis anticis, et
Archiatri, medicinae in alma et antiquissimo universitate professoris
primarij, plurium eruditorium societatem socii, de magia liber. 8vo.

[3] Many significations have been attached to the word miracle, both by
the ancients and moderns. With us a miracle is the suspension or
violation of the laws of nature; and a miracle, which can be explained
upon physical principles, ceases to be such. Whatever surpassed their
comprehension was regarded by the ancients as a miracle, and every
extraordinary degree of information attained by an individual, as well
as any unlooked-for occurrence, was referred to some peculiar
interposition of the deity. Hence among the ancients, the followers of
different divinities, far from denying the miracles performed by their
opponents, admitted their reality, but endeavoured to surpass them; and
thus in the "life of Zoroaster," we find that able innovator frequently
entering the lists with hostile enchanters, admitting but exceeding the
wonderful works they performed; and thus also when the thirst of power,
or of distinction, divided the sacerdotal colleges, similar trials of
skill would ensue, the successful combatant being considered to derive
his knowledge from the more powerful god. That the science on which each
party depended was derived from experimental physics, may be proved. 1.
by the conduct of the Thaumaturgists, or wonder-workers: 2. from what
they themselves had said concerning magic; the genii invoked by the
magicians, sometimes denoting physical or chemical agents employed,
sometimes men who cultivated the science.

[4] All the three orders of Magi enumerated by Porphyry, abstained from
wine and women, and the first of these orders from animal food.

[5] Vol. ii. p. 287.

[6] See Tobit. chap. viii. v. 2 and 2.

[7] Elias, as quoted by Becker.

[8] There is no mention made of the word _Devil_ in the Old Testament,
but only of _Satan_: nor do we meet with it in any of the heathen
authors who say anything about the devil in the signification attached
to it among christians; that is, as a creature revolted from God. Their
theology went no farther than to evil genii, or demons, who harassed and
persecuted mankind, though we are still aware that many curious
_nick_-names are given to the prince of darkness both by ancient and
modern writers.



The pretended art of producing, by the assistance of words and
ceremonies, such events as are above the natural power of men, was of
several kinds, and chiefly consisted in invoking the good and
benevolent, or the wicked and malignant spirits. The first, which was
called Theurgia, was adopted by the wisest of the Pagan world, who
esteemed this as much as they despised the latter, which they called

Theurgia was by the philosophers accounted a divine art, which only
served to raise the mind to higher perfection, and to exalt the soul to
a greater degree of purity; and they who by means of this kind of magic,
were imagined to arrive at what is called intuition, wherein they
enjoyed an intimate intercourse with the deity, were believed to be
invested with divine power; so that it was imagined nothing was
impossible for them to perform; all who made profession of this kind of
magic aspired to this state of perfection. The priest, who was of this
order, was to be a man of unblemished morals, and all who joined with
him were bound to a strict purity of life. They were to abstain from
women, and from animal food; and were forbid to defile themselves by the
touch of a dead body. Nothing was to be forgotten in their rites and
ceremonies; the least omission or mistake, rendered all their art
ineffectual: so that this was a constant excuse for their not performing
all that was required of them, though as their sole employment (after
having arrived to a certain degree of perfection, by fasting, prayer,
and other methods of purification) was the study of universal nature,
they might gain such an insight into physical causes, as would enable
them to perform actions, that should fill the vulgar with astonishment;
and it is hardly to be doubted, but this was all the knowledge that many
of them aspired to. In this sort of magic, Hermes Tresmegistus and
Zoroaster excelled, and indeed it gained great reputation among the
Egyptians, Chaldeans, Persians, Indians and Jews. In times of ignorance,
a piece of clock-work, or some other curious machine, was sufficient to
entitle the inventor to the works of magic; and some have even asserted,
that the Egyptian magic, rendered so famous by the writings of the
ancients, consisted only in discoveries drawn from the mathematics, and
natural philosophy, since those Greek philosophers who travelled into
Egypt, in order to obtain a knowledge of the Egyptian sciences, returned
with only a knowledge of nature and religion, and some rational ideas
of their ancient symbols.

But it can hardly be doubted, that magic in its grossest and most
ridiculous sense was practised in Egypt, at least among some of the
vulgar, long before Pythagoras or Empedocles travelled into that
country. The Egyptians had been very early accustomed to vary the
signification of their symbols, by adding to them several plants, ears
of corn, or blades of grass, to express the different employments of
husbandry; but understanding no longer their meaning nor the words that
had been made use of on these occasions, which were equally
unintelligible, the vulgar might mistake these for so many mysterious
practices observed by their fathers; and hence they might conceive the
notion, that a conjunction of plants, even without being made use of as
a remedy, might be of efficacy to preserve or procure health. "Of
these," adds the Abbé Pluche, "they made a collection, and an art by
which they pretended to procure the blessings, and provide against the
evils of life." By the assistance of these, men even attempted to hurt
their enemies; and indeed the knowledge of poisonous or useful simples,
might on particular occasions give sufficient weight to their empty
curses and innovations. But these magic incantations, so contrary to
humanity, were detested, and punished by almost all nations; nor could
they be tolerated in any.

Pliny, after mentioning an herb, the throwing of which into an army, it
was said, was sufficient to put it to the route, asks, where was this
herb when Rome was so distressed by the Cambri and Teutones? Why did not
the Persians make use of it when Lucullus cut their troops to pieces?

But amongst all the incantations of magic, the most solemn, as well as
the most frequent, was that of calling up the spirits of the dead; this
indeed was the very acmé of their art; and the reader cannot be
displeased with having this mystery here elucidated. An affection for
the body of a person, who in his life time was beloved, induced the
first natives to inter the dead in a decent manner, and to add to this
melancholy instance of esteem, those wishes which had a particular
regard to their new state of existence. The place of burial, conformable
to the custom of characterising all beloved places, or those
distinguished by a memorable event, was pointed out by a large stone or
pillar raised upon it. To this place families, and when the concern was
general, multitudes repaired every year, when, upon this stone, were
made libations of wine, oil, honey, and flour; and here they sacrificed
and ate in common, having first made a trench in which they burnt the
entrails of the victim into which the libation and the blood were made
to flow. They began with thanking God with having given them life, and
providing them necessary food; and then praised him for the good
examples they had been favoured with. From these melancholy rites were
banished all licentiousness and levity, and while other customs changed,
these continued the same. They roasted the flesh of the victim they had
offered, and eat it in common, discoursing on the virtues of him they
came to lament.

All other feasts were distinguished by names suitable to the ceremonies
that attended them. These funeral meetings were simply called the manes,
that is, the assembly. Thus the manes and the dead were words that
became synonimous. In these meetings, they imagined that they renewed
their alliance with the deceased, who, they supposed, had still a regard
for the concerns of their country and family, and who, as affectionate
spirits, could do no less than inform them of whatever was necessary for
them to know. Thus, the funerals of the dead were at last converted into
methods of divination, and an innocent institution of one of the
grossest pieces of folly and superstition. But they did not stop here;
they became so extravagantly credulous, as to believe that the phantom
drank the libations that had been poured forth, while the relations were
feasting on the rest of the sacrifice round the pit: and from hence they
became apprehensive lest the rest of the dead should promiscuously
throng about this spot to get a share of the repast they were supposed
to be so fond of, and leave nothing for the dear spirit for whom the
feast was intended. They then made two pits or ditches, into one of
which they put wine, honey, water, and flour, to employ the generality
of the dead; and in the other they poured the blood of the victim; when
sitting down on the brink, they kept off, by the sight of their swords,
the crowd of dead who had no concern in their affairs, while they called
him by name, whom they had a mind to cheer and consult, and desired him
to draw near.[9]

The questions made by the living were very intelligible; but the answers
of the dead were not so easily understood; the priests, therefore, and
the magicians made it their business to explain them. They retired into
deep caves, where the darkness and silence resembled the state of death,
and there fasted, and lay upon the skins of the beasts they had
sacrificed, and then gave for answer the dreams which most affected
them; or opened a certain book appointed for that purpose, and gave the
first sentence that offered.[10] At other times the priest, or any person
who came to consult, took care at his going out of the cave, to listen
to the first words he should hear, and these were to be his answer. And
though they had not the most remote relation to the mutter in question,
they were twisted so many ways, and their sense so violently wrested,
that they made them signify almost anything they pleased. At other times
they had recourse to a number of tickets, on which were some words or
verses, and these being thrown into an urn, the first that was taken out
was delivered to the family.[11] Health, prosperity in worldly affairs,
and all that was intermixed in the good or evil of this world were
regulated by the responses or signs which these equivocal, not to say
less than absurd, means afforded, of prying into the womb of future


The superstitious fondness of mankind for searching into futurity has
given rise to an infinite variety of extravagant follies. The Romans,
who were remarkably fertile in these sorts of demonological inventions,
suggested numerous ways of divination. With them all Nature had a voice,
and the most senseless beings, and most trivial things, the most
trifling incidents, became presages of future events; which introduced
ceremonies founded on a mistaken knowledge of antiquity, the most
childish and ridiculous, and which were performed with all the air of
solemnity and sanctity of devotion. Augury, or divinations founded on
the flight of birds, were not only considered by the Egyptians as the
symbols of the winds, but good and bad omens of every kind were founded
or rather derived from the flying of the feathered tribe. The birds at
this time had become wonderfully wise; and an owl, to whom, for reasons
not precisely known, light is not so agreeable as darkness, could not
pass by the windows of a sick person in the night, where the creature
was not offended by the glimmerings of a light or candle, but his
hooting must be considered as prophesying, that the life of the poor man
was nearly wound up.

Amongst the Romans, these auguries were taken usually upon an eminence:
after the month of March they were prohibited in consequence of the
moulting season having commenced; nor were they permitted at the waning
of the moon, nor at any time in the afternoon, or when the air was the
least ruffled by winds or clouds. The feeding of the sacred chickens,
and the manner of their taking the corn that was offered to them, was
the most common method of taking the augury. Observations were also made
on the chattering or singing of birds, the hooting of crows, pies,
owls, etc., and from the running of beasts, as heifers, asses, rams,
hares, wolves, foxes, weasels and mice, when these appeared in uncommon
places, crossed the way, or ran to the right or left. They also
pretended to draw a good or bad omen from the most trifling actions or
occurrences of life, as sneezing, stumbling, starting, numbness of the
little finger, the tingling of the ear, the spilling of salt upon the
table, or the wine upon one's clothes, the accidental meeting of a bitch
with whelp, etc. It was also the business of the augur to interpret
dreams, oracles, and prodigies.

Nothing can be so surprising than to find so wise and valorous a people
as the Romans addicted to such childish fooleries. Scipio, Augustus, and
many others, without any fatal consequences, despised the _sacred_
chickens, and other arts of divination: but when the generals had
miscarried in any enterprise, the people laid the whole blame on the
negligence with which these oracles had been consulted: and if an
unfortunate general had neglected to consult them, the blame of
miscarriage was thrown upon him who had preferred his own forecast to
that of the fowls; while those who made these kinds of predictions a
subject of raillery, were accounted impious and profane. Thus they
construed, as a punishment of the gods, the defeat of Claudius Pulcher;
who, when the sacred chickens refused to eat what was set before them,
ordered them to be thrown into the sea; "If they won't eat," said he,
"they shall drink."


In the earliest ages of the world, a sense of piety and a regard to
decency had introduced the custom of never sacrificing to Him, whence
all blessings emanated, any but the soundest, the most healthy, fat and
beautiful animals; which were always examined with the closest and most
exact attention. This ceremonial, which doubtless had its origin in
gratitude, or in some ideas of fitness and propriety, at length,
degenerated into trifling niceties and superstitious ceremonies. And it
having been once imagined that no favour was to be looked for from the
gods, when the victim was imperfect, the idea of perfection was united
with abundance of trivial circumstances. The entrails were examined with
peculiar care, and if the whole was without blemish, their duties were
fulfilled; under an assurance that they had engaged the gods to be on
their side, they engaged in war, and in the most hazardous undertakings,
with such a confidence of success, as had the greatest tendency to
procure it. All the motions of the victims that were led to the altar,
were considered as so many prophecies. If the victim advanced with an
easy and natural air, in a straight line, and without offering any
resistance,--if he made no extraordinary bellowing when he received the
blow,--if he did not get loose from the person who led him to the
sacrifice, it was deemed a certain prognostic of an easy and flowing

The victim was knocked down, but before its belly was ripped open, one
of the lobes of the liver was allotted to those who offered the
sacrifice, and the other to the enemies of the state. That which was
neither blemished nor withered, of a bright red, and neither smaller nor
larger than it ought to be, prognosticated great prosperity to those for
whom it was set apart; that which was livid, small or corrupted,
presaged the most fatal mischiefs. The next thing to be considered was
the heart, which was also examined with the utmost care, as was the
spleen, the gall, and the lungs; and if any of these were let fall, if
they smelt rank or were bloated, livid or withered, it presaged nothing
but misfortunes.

After the examination of the entrails was over, the fire was kindled,
and from this also they drew several presages. If the flame was clear,
if it mounted up without dividing, and went not out till the victim was
entirely consumed, this was a proof that the sacrifice was accepted; but
if they found it difficult to kindle the fire, if the flame divided, if
it played around instead of taking bold of the victim, if it burnt ill,
or went out, it was a bad omen. The business, however, of the Aruspices
was not confined to the altars and sacrifices, they had an equal right
to explain all other portents. The Senate frequently consulted them on
the most extraordinary prodigies. The college of the Aruspices, as well
as those of the other religious orders, had their registers and
records, such as memorials of thunder and lightning,[12] the Tuscan
histories,[13] etc.


Divination was divided by the ancients into artificial and natural. The
first is conducted by reasoning upon certain external signs, considered
as indications of futurity; the other consists in that which presages
things from a mere internal sense, and persuasion of the mind, without
any assistance of signs; and is of two kinds, the one from nature, and
the other by influx. The first supposes that the soul, collected within
itself, and not diffused or divided among the organs of the body, has
from its own nature and essence, some fore-knowledge of future things;
witness, for instance, what is seen in dreams, ecstasies, and on the
confines of death. The second supposes the soul after the manner of a
mirror to receive some secondary illumination from the presence of God
and other spirits. Artificial divination is also of two kinds: the one
argues from natural causes, as in the predictions of physicians relative
to the event of diseases, from the tongue, pulse, etc. The second the
consequence of experiments and observations arbitrarily instituted, and
is mostly superstitious. The systems of divination reduceable under
these heads are almost incalculable. Among these were the Augurs or
those who drew their knowledge of futurity from the flight, and various
other actions of birds; the Aruspices, from the entrails of beasts;
palmestry or the lines of the hands; points marked at random; numbers,
names, the motions of a scene, the air, fire, the Praenestine, Homerian,
and Virgilian lots, dreams, etc.

Whoever reads the Roman historians[14] must be surprised at the number of
prodigies which are constantly recorded, and which frequently filled the
people with the most dreadful apprehensions. It must be confessed, that
some of these seem altogether supernatural; while much the greater part
only consist of some of the uncommon productions of nature, which
superstition always attributed to a superior cause, and represented as
the prognostication of some impending misfortunes. Of this class may be
reckoned the appearance of two suns, the nights illuminated by rays of
light, the views of fighting armies, swords, and spears, darting through
the air; showers of milk, of blood, of stones, of ashes, of frogs,
beasts with two heads, or infants who had some feature resembling those
of the brute creation. These were all dreadful prodigies, which filled
the people with inexpressible astonishment, and the Roman Empire with an
extreme perplexity; and whatever unhappy circumstance followed upon
these, was sure to be either caused or predicted by them.[15]


[9] Homer gives the same account of those ceremonies, when Ulysses
raised the soul of Tiresias; and the same usages are found in the poem
of Silius Italicus. And to these ceremonies the scriptures frequently
allude, when the Israelites are forbid to assemble upon high places.

[10] The magical slumbers produced in the cave of Trophonius are justly
ascribed to medicated beverages. Here, the votary if he escaped with
life, had his health irreparably injured, and the whole class of
artificial dreams and visions, the effect of some powerful narcotic
acting upon the body after the mind had been predisposed for a certain
train of ideas.

[11] The _sortes praenestinae_ were famous among the Greeks. The method
by which these lots were conducted was to put so many letters or even
whole words, into an urn; to shake them together, and throw them out;
and whatever should chance to be made out in the arrangement of these
letters or words, composed the answer of the oracle. The ancients also
made use of dice, drawing tickets, etc., in casting or deciding results.
In the Old Testament we meet with many standing and perpetual laws, and
a number of particular commands, prescribing and regulating the use of
them. We are informed by the Scripture that when a successor to Judas in
the apostolate was to be chosen, the lot fell on St. Mathias. And the
garment or coat without a seam of our Saviour was lotted for by the
Jews. In Cicero's time this mode of divination was at a very low ebb.
The _sortes Homericae_ and _sortes Virgilianae_ which succeeded the
_sortes Praenestinae_, gave rise to the same means used among christians
of casually opening the sacred books for directions in important
circumstances; to learn the consequence of events and what they had to
fear among their rulers.

[12] Kennet's Roman Antiquities, Lib. XI, C. 4.

[13] Romulus, who founded the institution of the Aruspices, borrowed it
from the Tuscans, to whom the Senate afterwards sent twelve of the sons
of the principal nobility to be instructed in these mysteries, and the
other ceremonies of their religion. The origin of this act among the
people of Tuscany, is related by Cicero in the following manner: "A
peasant," says he, "ploughing in the field, his ploughshare running
pretty deep in the earth, turned up a clod, from whence sprung a child,
who taught him and the other Tuscans the art of divination." (Cicero, De
Divinat. l. 2.) This fable, undoubtedly means no more, than that this
child, said to spring from the clod of earth, was a youth of a very mean
and obscure birth, but it is not known whether he was the author of it,
or whether he learnt it of the Greeks or any other nations.

[14] Particularly Livy, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Pliny, and Valerius

[15] Nothing is more easy than to account for these productions, which
have no relation to any events that may happen to follow them. The
appearance of two suns has frequently happened in England, as well as in
other places, and is only caused by the clouds being placed in such a
situation, as to reflect the image of that luminary; nocturnal fires,
enflamed spears, fighting armies, were no more than what we call the
Aurora Borealis or northern lights, or ignited vapours floating in the
air; showers of stones, of ashes, or of fire, were no other than the
effects of the eruptions of some volcano at a considerable distance;
showers of milk were caused by some quality in the air, condensing, and
giving a whitish colour to the water; and those of blood are now well
known to be only the red spots left upon the earth, on stones and leaves
of trees, by the butterflies which hatch in hot and stormy weather.



Few superstitions have been so famous, and so seductive to the minds of
men during a number of ages, as oracles. In treaties of peace or truces,
the Greeks never forgot to stipulate for the liberty of resorting to
oracles. No colony undertook new settlements, no war was declared, no
important affair begun, without first consulting the oracles.

The most renowned oracles were those of Delphos, Dodona, Trophonius,
Jupiter Hammon, and the Clarian Apollo. Some have attributed the oracles
of Dodona to oaks, others to pigeons. The opinion of those
pigeon-prophetesses was introduced by the equivocation of a Thessalian
word, which signified both a pigeon and a woman; and gave room to the
fable, that two pigeons having taken wing from Thebes, one of them fled
into Lybia, where it occasioned the establishing of the oracle of
Jupiter Hammon; and the other, having stopped in the oaks of the forest
of Dodona, informed the inhabitants of the neighbouring parts, that it
was Jupiter's intention there should be an oracle in that place.
Herodotus has thus explained the fable: there were formerly two
Priestesses of Thebes, who were carried off by Phenecian merchants. She
that was sold into Greece, settled in the forest of Dodona, where great
numbers of the ancient inhabitants of Greece went to gather acorns. She
there erected a little chapel at the foot of an oak, in honour of the
same Jupiter, whose priestess she had been; and here it was this ancient
oracle was established, which in after times became so famous. The
manner of delivering the oracles of Dodona was very singular. There were
a great number of kettles suspended from trees near a copper statue,
which was also suspended with a hunch of rods in its hand. When the wind
happened to put it in motion, it struck the first kettle, which
communicating its motion to the next, all of them tingled, and produced
a certain sound which continued for a long time; after which the oracle


This oracle, which was in the desert, in the midst of the burning sands
of Africa, declared to Alexander that Jupiter was his father. After
several questions, having asked if the death of his father was suddenly
revenged, the oracle answered, that the death of Philip was revenged,
but that the father of Alexander was immortal. This oracle gave occasion
to Lucan to put great sentiments in the mouth of Cato. After the battle
of Pharsalia, when Cesar began to be master of the world. Labrenus said
to Cato: "As we have now so good an opportunity of consulting so
celebrated an oracle, let us know from it how to regulate our conduct
during this war. The gods will not declare themselves more willingly for
any one than Cato. You have always been befriended by the gods, and may
therefore have the confidence to converse with Jupiter. Inform
yourselves of the destiny of the tyrant and the fate of our country;
whether we are to preserve our liberty, or to lose the fruit of the war;
and you may learn too what that virtue is to which you have been
elevated, and what its reward."

Cato, full of the divinity that was within him, returned to Labrenus an
answer worthy of an oracle: "On what account, Labrenus, would you have
me consult Jupiter? Shall I ask him whether it be better to lose life
than liberty? Whether life be a real good? We have within us, Labrenus,
an oracle that can answer all these questions. Nothing happens but by
the order of God. Let us not require of him to repeat to us what he has
sufficiently engraved in our hearts. Truth has not withdrawn into those
deserts; it is not graved on those sands. The abode of God is in heaven,
in the earth, in the sea, and in virtuous hearts. God speaks to us by
all that we see, by all that surrounds us. Let the inconstant and those
that are subject to waver, according to events, have recourse to
oracles. For my part, I find in nature every thing that can inspire the
most constant resolution. The dastard, as well as the brave, cannot
avoid death. Jupiter cannot tell us more." Cato thus spoke, and quitted
the country without consulting the oracle.


Diodorus Siculus, Plutarch, and several other authors relate, that a
herd of goats discovered the oracle of Delphos, or of the Pythian
Apollo. When a goat happened to come near enough the cavern to breathe
air that passed out of it, she returned skipping and bounding about, and
her voice articulated some extraordinary sounds; which having been
observed by the keepers, they went to look in, and were seized with a
fury which made them jump about, and foretel future events. Coretas, as
Plutarch tells, was the name of the goat-herd who discovered the oracle.
One of the guardians of Demetrius, coming too near the mouth of the
cavern, was suffocated by the force of the exhalations, and died
suddenly. The orifice or vent-hole of the cave was covered with a tripod
consecrated to Apollo, on which the priestesses, called Pythonesses,[16]
sat, to fill themselves with the prophetic vapour, and to conceive the
spirit of divination, with the fervor that made them know futurity, and
foretel it in Greek hexameters. Plutarch says, that, on the cessation of
oracles, a Pythoness was so excessively tormented by the vapour, and
suffered such violent convulsions, that all the priests ran away, and
she died soon after.


Pausanias describes the ceremonies that were practiced for consulting
the oracle of Trophonius. Every man that went down into his cave, never
laughed his whole life after. This gave occasion to the proverbial
saying concerning those of a melancholy air: "He has consulted
Trophonius." Plato relates, that the two brothers, Agamedes and
Trophonius, having built the temple of Apollo, and asked the god for a
reward what he thought of most advantage to men, both died in the night
that succeeded their prayer. Pausanias gives us a quite different
account. In the palace there built for the King Hyrieus, they so laid a
stone, that it might be taken away, and in the night they crept in
through the hole they had thus contrived, to steal the king's treasures.
The king observing the quantity of his gold diminished, though no locks
nor seals had been broken open, fixed traps about his coffers, and
Agamedes being caught in one of them, Trophonius cut off his head to
prevent his discovering him. Trophonius having disappeared that moment,
it was given out that the earth had swallowed him on the same spot; and
impious superstition went so far as to place this wicked wretch in the
rank of the gods, and to consult his oracle with ceremonies equally
painful and mysterious.

Tacitus thus speaks of the oracle of the Clarian Apollo: Germanicus
went to consult the oracle of Claros. It is not a woman that delivers
the oracle there, as at Delphos, but a man chosen out of certain
families, and always of Miletum. It is sufficient to tell him the number
and names of those who come to consult him; whereupon he retires into a
grot, and having taken some water out of a well that lies hid in it, he
answers you in verses to whatever you have thought of, though this man
is often very ignorant.

Dion Cassius explains the manner in which the oracle of Nymphoea, in
Epirus, delivered its responses. The party that consulted took incense,
and having prayed, threw the incense into the fire, the flame pursued
and consumed it. But if the affair was not to succeed, the incense did
not come near the fire, or if it fell into the flame, it started out and
fled. It so happened for prognosticating futurity, in regard to every
thing that was asked, except death and marriage, about which it was not
allowed to ask any questions.

Those who consulted the oracle of Amphiarus, lay on the skins of
victims, and received the answer of the oracle in a dream. Virgil
attests the same thing of the oracle of Faunus in Italy.

A governor of Cilicia, who gave little credit to oracles, and who was
always surrounded by unbelieving Epicureans sent a letter sealed with
his signet to the oracle of Mopsus, requiring one of those answers that
were received in a dream. The messenger charged with the letter brought
it back in the same condition, not having been opened; and informed
him, that he had seen in a dream a very well made man, who said to him
'Black' without the addition of even another word. Then the governor
opening the letter, assured the company, that he wanted to know of the
divinity, whether he should sacrifice a white or black bull.

In the temple of the goddess of Syria, when the statue of Apollo was
inclined to deliver oracles, it deviated, moved, and was full of
agitations on its pedestals. Then the priests carrying it on their
shoulders, it pushed and turned them on all sides, and the high-priest,
interrogating it on all sorts of affairs, if it refused its consent, it
drove the priests back; if otherwise, it made them advance.

Suetonius says, that, some months before the birth of Augustus, an
oracle was current, importing, that nature was labouring at the
production of a king, who would be master of the Roman Empire; that the
Senate in great consternation, had forbid the rearing of any male
children who should be born that year, but that the senators whose wives
were pregnant, found means to hinder the inscribing of the decree in the
public registers. It seems that the prediction, of which Augustus was
only the type, regarded the birth of Jesus Christ, the spiritual king of
the whole world; or that the wicked spirit was willing, by suggesting
this rigorous decree to the Senate, to depose Herod; and by this
example, to involve the Messiah in the massacre that was made by his
orders of all the children of two years and under. The whole world was
then full of the coming of the Messiah. We see by Virgil's fourth
eclogue, that he applies to the son of the Consul Asinius Pollio the
prophecies which, from the Jews, had then passed into foreign nations.
This child the object of Virgil's flattery, died the ninth day after he
was born. Tacitus, Suetonius, and Josephus, applied to Vespasian the
prophecies that regarded the Messiah.


The oracles, were often very equivocal, or so obscure that their
signification was not understood but after the event. A few examples,
out of a great many, will be sufficient.

Croesus, having received from the Pythoness, this answer, that by
passing the river Halys, he would destroy a great empire, he understood
it to be the empire of his enemy, whereas he destroyed his own. The
oracle consulted by Pyrrhus, gave him an answer, which might be equally
understood of the victory of Pyrrhus, and the victory of the Romans his

  Aio te Aeacida, Romanos vincere posse.

The equivocation lies in the construction of the Latin tongue, which
cannot be rendered in English. The Pythoness advises Croesus to guard
against the mule.[17] The king of Lydia understood nothing of the
oracle, which denoted Cyrus descended from two different nations, from
the Medes by Mandana his mother, the daughter of Astyages; and by the
Persians by his father Cambyses, whose race was by far less grand and
illustrious. Nero had for answer from the oracle of Delphos, that
seventy-three might prove fatal to him, he believed he was safe from all
danger till age, but, finding himself deserted by every one, and hearing
Galba proclaimed emperor, who was seventy-three years of age, he was
sensible of the deceit of the oracle.

St. Jerome observes, that, if the devils speak any truth, by whatever
accident they always join lies to it and use such ambiguous expressions,
that they may be equally applied to contrary events.


Whilst the false oracles of demons deceived the idolatrous nations,
truth had retired from among the chosen people of God. The septuagint
have interpreted _Urim_ and _Thummim_, manifestation and truth, [Greek:
daelosin is alaetheian]; which expresses how different those divine
oracles were from the false and equivocal demons. It is said, in the
Book of Numbers, that Eleazar, the successor of Aaron, shall interrogate
Urim in form, and that a resolution shall be taken according to the
answer given.

The Ephod applied to the chest of the sacerdotal vestments of the
high-priest, was a piece of stuff covered with twelve precious stones,
on which the names of the twelve tribes were engraved. It was not
allowed to consult the Lord by Urim and Thummim, but for the king, the
president of the sanhedrim, the general of the army, and other public
persons, and on affairs that regarded the general interest of the
nation. If the affair was to succeed, the stones of the ephod emitted a
sparkling light, or the high-priest inspired predicted the success.
Josephus, who was born thirty-nine years after Christ, says that it was
then two hundred years since the stones of the ephod had given an answer
to consultations by their extraordinary lustre.

The Scriptures only inform us, that Urim and Thummim were something that
Moses had put in the high-priest's breast-plate. Some Rabbins by rash
conjectures, have believed that they were two small statues hidden
within the breast-plate; others, the ineffable name of God, graved in a
mysterious-manner. Without designing to discern what has not been
explained to us, we should understand by _Urim_ and _Thummim_, the
divine inspiration annexed to the consecrated breast-plate.

Several passages of Scripture leave room to believe, that an articulate
voice came forth from the propitiatory, or holy of holies, beyond the
veil of the tabernacle, and that this voice was heard by the
high-priest. If the Urim and Thummim did not make answer, it was a sign
of God's anger. Saul abandoned by the spirit of the Lord, consulted it
in vain, and obtained no sort of answer. It appears by some passages of
St. John's Gospel, that in the time of Christ, the exercise of the
chief-priesthood, was still attended with the gift of prophecy.


When men began to be better instructed by the lights philosophy had
introduced into the world, the false oracles insensibly lost their
credit. Chrysippus filled an entire volume with false or doubtful
oracles. Oenomanus,[18] to be revenged of some oracle that had deceived
him, made a compilation of oracles, to shew their absurdity and vanity.
But Oenomanus is still more out of humour with the oracle for the answer
which Apollo gave the Athenians, when Xerxes was about to attack Greece
with all the strength of Asia. The Pythian declared, that Minerva, the
protectress of Athens, had endeavoured in vain to appease the wrath of
Jupiter; yet that Jupiter, in complaisance with his daughter, was
willing the Athenians should secure themselves within wooden walls; and
that Salamis should behold the loss of a great many children, dead to
their mothers, either when Ceres was spread abroad, or gathered
together. At this Oenomanus loses all patience with the Delphian God:
"This contest," exclaims he, "between father and daughter, is very
becoming the deities! It is excellent that there should be contrary
inclinations and interests in heaven! Poor wizzard, thou art ignorant
who the children are that shall see Salamis perish; whether Greeks or
Persians. It is certain they must either be one or the other; but thou
needest not have told so openly that thou knowest not what. Thou
concealest the time of the battle under these fine poetical expressions
'_either when Ceres is spread abroad, or gathered together_:' and thou
wouldst cajole us with such pompous language! who knows not that if
there be a sea-fight, it must either be in seed-time or harvest? It is
certain it cannot be in winter. Let things go how they will, thou wilt
secure thyself by this Jupiter whom Minerva is endeavouring to appease.
If the Greeks lose the battle, Jupiter proved inexorable to the last; if
they gain it, why then Minerva at length prevailed."[19]

Eusebius has preserved some fragments of this criticism on oracles by
Oenomanus. "I might," says Origen, "have recourse to the authority of
Aristotle, and the Peripatetics, to make the Pythoness much suspected. I
might extract from the writings of Epicurus and his sectators an
abundance of things to discredit oracles; and I might shew that the
Greeks themselves made no great account of them."

The reputation of oracles was greatly lessened when they became an
artifice of politics. Themistocles, with a design of engaging the
Athenians to quit Athens, in order to be in a better condition to resist
Xerxes, made the Pythoness deliver an oracle, commanding them to take
refuge in wooden walls. Demosthenes said, that the Pythoness
philippised, to signify that she was gained over by Philip's presents.


The cessation of oracles is attested by several prophane authors, as
Strabo, Juvenal, Lucien.

Lucan, and others, Plutarch accounts for the cause of it, either that
the benefits of the gods are not eternal, as themselves are; or that the
genii who presided over oracles, are subject to death; or that the
exhalations of the earth had been exhausted. It appears that the last
reason had been alleged in the time of Cicero, who ridicules it in his
second book of Divination, as if the spirit of prophecy, supposed to be
excited by subterranean effluvia, had evaporated by length of time, as
wine or pickle by being kept is lost.

Suidas, Nicephorus, and Cedrenus relate, that Augustus having consulted
the oracle of Delphos, could obtain no other answer but this: 'the
Hebrew child whom all the gods obey, drives me hence, and sends me back
to hell: get out of this temple without speaking one word.' Suidas adds,
that Augustus dedicated an altar in the Capitol, with the following

  "_To the eldest Son of God_."

Notwithstanding these testimonies, the answer of the oracle of Delphos
to Augustus seems very suspicious. Cedrenus cites Eusebius for this
oracle, which is not now found in his works; and Augustus' peregrination
into Greece was eighteen years before the birth of Christ.

Suidas and Cedrenus give an account also of an ancient oracle delivered
to Thules, a king of Egypt, which they say is well authenticated. This
king having consulted the oracle of Seraphis, to know if there ever was,
or would be, one so great as himself, received this answer:--"First,
God, next the word, and the spirit with them. They are equally eternal,
and make but one whose power will never end. But thou, mortal, go hence,
and think that the end of man's life is uncertain."

Van Dale, in his Treatise of oracles, does not believe that they ceased
at the coming of Christ. He relates several examples of oracles
consulted till the death of Theodosius the Great. He quotes the laws of
the Emperors Theodosius, Gratian, and Valentinian, against those who
consulted oracles, as a certain proof that the superstition of oracles
still existed in the time of those emperors.


The opinion of those who believe that the demons had no share in the
oracles, and that the coming of the Messiah made no change in them: and
the contrary opinion of those who pretend that the incarnation of the
word imposed a general silence on oracles, should be equally rejected.
The reasons appear from what has been said, and therefore two sorts of
oracles ought to be distinguished, the one dictated by the spirits of
darkness, who deceived men by their obscure and doubtful answers, the
other the pure artifice and deceit of the priests of false
divinities.[20] As to the oracles given out by demons, the reign of
Satan was destroyed by the coming of the Saviour; truth shut the mouth
of falsehood; but Satan continued his old craft among idolaters. All the
devils were not forced to silence at the same time by the coming of the
Messiah; it was on particular occasions that the truth of christianity,
and the virtue of Christians imposed silence on the devils. St.
Athanasius tells the pagans, they have been witnesses themselves that
the sign of the cross puts the devils to flight, silences oracles, and
dissipates enchantments.

This power of silencing oracles, and putting the devils to flight, is
also attested by Arnobius, Lactantius, Prudentius, Minutius, Felix, and
several others. Their testimony is a certain proof that the coming of
the Messiah had not imposed a general silence on oracles.

The Emperor Julian, called the Apostate, consulting the oracle of
Apollo, in the suburbs of Antioch, the devil could make him no other
answer, than that the body of St. Babylas, buried in the neighbourhood,
imposed silence on him. The Emperor, transported with rage and vexation,
resolved to revenge his gods, by eluding a solemn prediction of Christ.
He ordered the Jews to rebuild the temple of Jerusalem; but in beginning
to dig the foundations, balls of fire burst out, and consumed the
artificers, their tools and materials. These facts are attested by
Ammianus Marcellinus, a pagan, and the emperor's historian; and by St.
Chrysostom, St. Gregory Nazianzen, and Theodoret, Sozomen and Socrates,
in their ecclesiastical histories. The sophist Libanius, who was an
enemy of the Christians, confessed also that St. Babylas had silenced
the oracle of Apollo, in the suburbs of Antioch.

Plutarch relates that the pilot Thamus heard a voice in the air, crying
out:--"The great Pan is dead:" whereupon Eusebius observes, that the
deaths of the demons were frequent in the reign of Tiberius, when Christ
drove out the wicked spirits. The same judgments may be passed on
oracles as on possessions. It was on particular occasions, by the divine
permission, that the Christians cast out devils, or silenced oracles, in
the presence and even by the confession of the pagans themselves. And
thus it is we should, it seems, understand the passages of St. Jerom,
Eusebius, Cyril, Theodoret, Prudentius, and other authors, who said,
that the coming of Christ had imposed silence on the oracles.


As regards the second sort of oracles, which were pure artifices and
cheats of the priests of false divinities, and which probably exceeded
the numbers of those that immediately proceed from demons, they did not
cease till idolatry was abolished, though they had lost their credit for
a considerable time before the coming of Christ. It was concerning this
more common and general sort of oracles that Minutius Felix said, they
began to discontinue their responses, according as men began to be more
polite. But, howsoever decried oracles were, impostors always found
dupes; the grossest cheats having never failed.

Daniel discovered the imposture of the priests of Bel, who had a private
way of getting into the temple, to take away the offered meats, and made
the king believe that the idol consumed them. Mundus, being in love with
Paulina, the eldest of the priestesses of Isis, went and told her that
the god Anubis, being passionately fond of her, commanded her to give
him a meeting. She was afterwards shut up in a dark room, where her
lover Mundus (whom she believed to be the god Anubis,) was concealed.
This imposture having been discovered, Tiberius ordered those detestable
priests and priestesses to be crucified, and with them Iolea Mundus's
free woman, who had conducted the whole intrigue. He also commanded the
temple of Isis to be levelled with the ground, her statue to be thrown
into the Tiber, and, as to Mundus, he contented himself with sending him
into banishment.

Theophilus, Bishop of Alexandria, not only destroyed the temples of the
gods, but discovered the cheats of the priests, by shewing that the
statues, some of which were of brass, and others of wood, were hollow
within, and led into dark passages made in the wall.

Lucius in discovering the impostures of the false prophet Alexander,
says, that the oracles were chiefly afraid of the subtilties of the
Epicureans and Christians. The false prophet Alexander sometimes feigned
himself seized with a divine fury, and by means of the herb sopewort,
which he chewed, frothed at the mouth in so extraordinary a manner, that
the ignorant people attributed it to the power of the god he was
possessed by. He had long before prepared the head of a dragon made of
linen, which opened and shut its mouth by means of a horses hair. He
went by night to a place where the foundations of a temple were digging,
and having found water, either of a spring or rain that had settled
there, he hid in it a goose egg, in which he had inclosed a little
serpent that had just been hatched. The next day, very early in the
morning, he came quite naked into the street, having only a scarf about
his middle, holding in his hand a scythe, and tossing about his hair as
the priests of Cybele; then getting on the top of a high altar, he said
that the place was happy to be honoured by the birth of a god.
Afterwards running down to the place where he had hid the goose egg, and
going into the water, he began to sing the praises of Apollo and
Aesculapius, and to invite the latter to come and shew himself to men;
with these words he dips a bowl into the water and takes out a
mysterious egg, which had a god enclosed in it, and when he held it in
his hand, he began to say that he held Aesculapius, whilst all were
eager to have a sight of this fine mystery, he broke the egg, and the
little serpent starting out, twisted itself about his fingers.

These examples shew clearly, that both Christians and pagans were so
far agreed as to treat the greater number of oracles as purely human

From the very nature of things, much that now serves for amusement must
formerly have been appropriated to a higher destination. Ventriloquism
may be quoted as a case in point, affording a ready and plausible
solution of the oracular stones and oaks, of the reply which the seer
Nessus addressed to Pythagoras, (Jamblichus, Vit. Pyth. xxxiii.) and of
the tree which at the command of the Gymnosophists, of upper Egypt,
spoke to Apollonius, "The voice," says Philostratus (Vit. Ap. xi. 5)
"was distinct but weak, and similar to the voice of a woman." But the
oracles, at least if we ascend to their origin, were not altogether
impostures. The pretended interpreters of the decrees of destiny were
frequently plunged into a sort of delirium, and when inhaling the fumes
of some intoxicating drug or powerful gas or vapour, or drinking some
beverage which produced a temporary suspension of the reason, the mind
of the enquirer was predisposed to feverish dreams:[21] if priestcraft
were concerned in the interpretation of such dreams, or eliciting senses
from the wild effusions of the disordered brain of the Pythoness,
Science presided over the investigation of the causes of this phrenzy,
and the advantages which the Thaumaturgists might derive from it.
Jamblicus states (de Mysterius C. xxix) that for obtaining a revelation
from the Deity in a dream, the youngest and most simple creatures were
the most proper for succeeding: they were prepared for it by magical
invocations and fumigations of particular perfumes. Porphyry declares
that these proceedings had an influence on the imagination; Jamblicus
that they rendered them more worthy of the inspiration of the Deity.


[16] The responses here were delivered by a young priestess called
Pythia or Phoebas, placed on a tripos, or stool with three feet, called
also cortina, from the skin of the serpent Python with which it was
covered, it is uncertain after what manner these oracles were delivered,
though Cicero supposes the Pythoness was inspired, or rather intoxicated
by certain vapours which ascended from the cave. Some say that the
Pythoness being once debauched, the oracles were afterwards delivered by
an old woman in the dress of a young maid.

[17] This answer of the oracle brings to our recollection the equally
remarkable injunction of a modern seer to Sir William Windham, which is
related in the memoirs of Bishop Newton. "In his younger years, when Sir
William was abroad upon his travels, and was at Venice, there was a
noted fortune-teller, to whom great numbers resorted, and he among the
rest; and the fortune-teller told him, that he must beware of a white
horse. After his return to England, as he was walking by Charing-Cross,
he saw a crowd of people coming out and going in to a house, and
inquired what was the meaning of it, was informed that Duncan Campbell,
the dumb fortune-teller lived there. His curiosity also led him in, and
Duncan Campbell likewise told him that he must beware of a white horse.
It was somewhat extraordinary that two fortune-tellers, one at Venice
and the other in London, without any communication, and at some distance
of time, should both happen to hit upon the same thing, and to give the
very same warning. Some years afterwards, when he was taken up in 1715,
and committed to the Tower upon suspicion of treasonable practices,
which never appeared, his friends said to him that his fortune wan now
fulfilled, the Hanover House was the white horse whereof he was
admonished to beware. But some time after this, he had a fall from a
white horse, and received a blow by which he lost the sight of one of
his eyes."

[18] "When we come to consult thee," says he to Apollo, "if thou seest
what is in the womb of futurity, why dost thou use expressions which
will not be understood? If thou dost, thou takest pleasure in abusing
us: if thou dost not, be informed of us, and learn to speak more
clearly. I tell thee, that if thou intendest an equivoque, the Greek
word whereby thou affirmest that Croesus should overthrow a great
empire, was ill-chosen; and that it could signify nothing but Croesus
conquering Cyrus. If things must necessarily come to pass, why dost thou
amuse us with thy ambiguities? What dost thou, wretch as thou art, at
Delphi, employed in muttering idle prophecies!"--See "_Demonologia, or
Natural Knowledge revealed_" p. 162.

[19] See _Demonologia_, p, 163.

[20] "Among the more learned, it is a pretty general opinion that all
the oracles were mere cheats and impostures; calculated either to serve
the avaricious ends of the heathenish priests, or the political views of
the princes. Bayle positively asserts, that they were mere human
artifices, in which the devil had no hand. In this opinion he is
strongly supported by Van Dale, a Dutch physician, and M. Fontenelle,
who have expressly written on the subject."--_Vide Demonologia_, op.
citat. p. 159.

[21] We learn from Herodotus (iv. 75) that the Scythians and Tartars
intoxicated themselves by inhaling the vapour of a species of hemp
thrown upon red hot stones. And the odour of the seeds of henbane alone,
when its power is augmented by heat, produces a choleric and quarrelsome
disposition, in those who inhale the vapour arising from them in this
state. And in the "Dictionnaire de Médecine," (de l'Encyclopédie
Méthodique, vii, art. Jusquiaume) instances are quoted, the most
remarkable of which is, that if a married pair who, though living in
perfect harmony every where else, could never remain for a few hours in
the room where they worked without quarrelling. The apartment of course
was thought to be bewitched, until it was discovered that a considerable
quantity of seeds of henbane were deposited near the stove, which was
the cause of their daily dissensions, the removal of which put an end to
their bickerings. The same effects that were produced by draughts and
fumigations would follow from the application of liniments, of "Magical
Unctions," acting through the absorbent system, as if they had been
introduced into the stomach: allusions to these ointments are constantly
recurring in ancient authors. Philostratus, in his life of Apollonius
(iii. 5) states that the bodies of his companions, before being admitted
to the mysteries of the Indian sages, were rubbed over with so active an
oil, that it appeared as if they were bathed with fire.



The British Druids, like the Indian Gymnosophists, or the Persian Magi,
had two sets of doctrines; the first for the initiated; the second for
the people. That there is one God the creator of heaven and earth, was a
secret doctrine of the Brachmans. And the nature and perfection of the
deity were among the druidical arcana.

Among the sublimer tenets of the druidical priesthood, we have every
where apparent proofs of their polytheism: and the grossness of their
religious ideas, as represented by some writers, is very inconsistent
with that divine philosophy which has been considered as a part of their
character. These, however, were popular divinities which the Druids
ostensibly worshipped, and popular notions which they ostensibly
adopted, in conformity with the prejudices of the vulgar. The Druids
well knew that the common people were no philosophers. There is reason
also, to think that a great part of the idolatries were not sanctioned
by the Druids, but afterwards introduced by the Phoenician colony. But
it would be impossible to say how far the primitive Druids accommodated
themselves to vulgar superstition, or to separate their exterior
doctrines and ceremonies from the fables and absurd rites of subsequent
times. It would be vain to attempt to enumerate their gods: in the eye
of the vulgar they defied everything around them. They worshipped the
spirits of the mountains, the vallies, and the rivers. Every rock and
every spring were either the instruments or the objects of admiration.
The moonlight vallies of Danmonium were filled with the fairy people,
and its numerous rivers were the resort of genii.

The fiction of fairies is supposed to have been brought, with other
extravagancies of a like nature from the Eastern nations, whilst the
Europeans and Christians were engaged in the holy war: such at least is
the notion of an ingenious writer, who thus expresses himself: "Nor were
the monstrous embellishments of enchantments the invention of romancers,
but formed upon Eastern tales, brought thence by travellers from their
crusades and pilgrimages, which indeed, have a cast peculiar to the wild
imagination of the Eastern people."[22]

That fairies, in particular, came from the East, we are assured by that
learned orientalist, M. Herbelot, who tells us that the Persians called
the fairies _Peri_, and the Arabs _Genies_, that according: to the
Eastern fiction, there is a certain country inhabited by fairies, called
Gennistan, which answers to our _fairy-land_.[23] Mr. Martin, in his
observations on Spencer's Fairy Queen, is decided in his opinion, that
the fairies came from the East; but he justly remarks, that they were
introduced into the country long before the period of the crusades. The
race of fairies, he informs us, was established in Europe in very early
times, but, "_not universally_." The fairies were confined to the north
of Europe--to the _ultima Thule_--to the _British isles_--to the
_divisis orbe Britannis_. They were unknown at this remote era to the
Gauls or the Germans: and they were probably familiar to the vallies of
Scotland and Danmonium, when Gaul and Germany were yet unpeopled either
by real or imaginary beings. The belief indeed, of such invisible agents
assigned to different parts of nature, prevails at this very day in
Scotland, Devonshire and Cornwall, regularly transmitted from the
remotest antiquity to the present times, and totally unconnected with
the spurious romance of the crusader or the pilgrim. Hence those
superstitious notions now existing in our western villages, where the
spriggian[24] are still believed to delude benighted travellers, to
discover hidden treasures, to influence the weather, and to raise the
winds. "This," says Warton, "strengthens the hypotheses of the northern,
parts of Europe being peopled by colonies from the east!"

The inhabitants of Shetland and the Isles pour libations of milk or
beer through a holed-stone, in honour of the spirit Brownie; and it is
probable the Danmonii were accustomed to sacrifice to the same spirit,
since the Cornish and the Devonians on the border of Cornwall, invoke to
this day the spirit Brownie, on the swarming of their bees.

With respect to rivers, it is a certain fact that the primitive Britons
paid them divine honours; even now, in many parts of Devonshire and
Cornwall, the vulgar may be said to worship brooks and wells, to which
they resort at stated periods, performing various ceremonies in honour
of those consecrated waters: and the Highlanders, to this day, talk with
great respect of the genius of the sea; never bathe in a fountain, lest
the elegant spirit that resides in it should be offended and remove; and
mention not the water of rivers without prefixing to it the name of
_excellent_; and in one of the western islands the inhabitants retained
the custom, to the close of the last century, of making an annual
sacrifice to the genius of the ocean. That at this day the inhabitants
of India deify their principal rivers is a well known fact; the waters
of the Ganges possess an uncommon sanctity; and the modern Arabians,
like the Ishmaelites of old, concur with the Danmonii in their reverence
of springs and fountains. Even the names of the Arabian and Danmonian
wells have a striking correspondence. We have the _singing-well_; or the
_white-fountain_, and there are springs with similar names in the
deserts of Arabia. Perhaps the veneration of the Danmonii for fountains
and rivers may be accepted as no trivial proof, to be thrown into the
mass of circumstantial evidence, in favour of their Eastern original.
That the Arabs in their thirsty deserts, should even adore their wells
of "springing water," need not excite our surprise, but we may justly
wonder at the inhabitants of Devonshire and Cornwall thus worshipping
the gods of numerous rivers, and never failing brooks, familiar to every
part of Danmonium.

The principal times of devotion among the Druids
were either mid-day or midnight. The officiating Druid was cloathed in a
white garment that swept the ground; on his head, he wore the tiara; he
had the _anguinum_ or serpent's egg, as the ensign of his order; his
temples were encircled with a wreath of oak-leaves, and he waved in his
hand the magic rod. As regards the Druid sacrifice there are vague and
contradictory representations. It is certain, however, that they offered
human victims to their gods. They taught that the punishment of the
wicked might be obliterated by sacrifices to Baal.[25] The sacrifice of
the black sheep, therefore, was offered up for the souls of the
departed, and various species of charms exhibited. Traces of the holy
fires, and fire worship of the Druids[26] may be observed in several
customs, both of the Devonians and the Cornish; but in Ireland may still
be seen the holy fires in all their solemnity. The Irish call the month
of May _Bel-tine_, or fire of Belus; and the first of May Lubel-tine, or
the day of Belus's fire. In an old Irish glossary, it is mentioned that
the Druids of Ireland used to light two solemn fires every year, through
which all four-footed beasts were driven, as a preservative against
contagious distempers. The Irish have this custom at the present moment,
they kindle the fire in the milking yards; men, women, and children pass
through or leap over it, and their cattle are driven through the flames
of the burning straw, on the _first of May_; and in the month of
November, they have also their fire feasts when, according to the custom
of the Danmonians, as well as the Irish Druids, the hills were enveloped
in flame. Previously to this solemnity (on the eve of November) the fire
in every private house was extinguished; hither, then, the people were
obliged to resort, in order to rekindle it. The ancient Persians named
the month of November, _Adur or fire_ Adur, according to Richardson was
the angel presiding over that element, in consequence of which, on the
ninth, his name-day, the country blazed all around with flaming piles,
whilst the magi, by the injunction of Zoroaster, visited with great
solemnity all the temples of fire throughout the empire; which, on this
occasion, were adorned and illuminated in a most splendid manner. Hence
our British illuminations in November had probably their origin. It was
at this season that _Baal Samham_ called the souls to judgment, which,
according to their deserts, were assigned to re-enter the bodies of men
or brutes, and to be happy or miserable during their next abode on the

The primitive Christians, attached to their pagan ceremonies, placed
the feast of All-Souls on the la Samon, or the second of November. Even
now the peasants in Ireland assemble on the vigil of la Samon with
sticks and clubs, going from house to house, collecting money,
bread-cake, butter, cheese, eggs, etc., for the feast; repeating verses
in honour of the solemnity, and calling for the black sheep. Candles are
sent from house to house and lighted up on the Samon. (The next day.)
Every house abounds in the best viands the master can afford; apples and
nuts are eaten in great plenty; the nutshells are burnt, and from the
ashes many things are foretold. Hempseed is sown by the maidens, who
believe that, if they look back, they shall see the apparition of their
intended husbands. The girls make various efforts to read their destiny;
they hang a smock before the fire at the close of the feast, and sit up
all night concealed in one corner of the room, expecting the apparition
of the lover to come down the chimney and turn the _shimee_: they throw
a ball of yarn out of the window, and wind it on the reel within,
convinced that if they repeat the Paternoster backwards, and look at the
ball of yarn without, they shall then also see his apparition. Those who
celebrate this feast have numerous other rites derived from the Pagans.
They dip for apples in a tub of water, and endeavour to bring up one
with their mouths; they catch at an apple when stuck on at one of the
end of a kind of hanging beam, at the other extremity of which is fixed
a lighted candle, and that with their mouths only, whilst it is in a
circular motion, having their hands tied behind their backs.[27]


The Druids, who were the magi of the Britons, had an infinite number of
rites in common with the Persians. One of the chief functions of the
Eastern magi, was divination; and Pomponius Mela tells us, that our
Druids possessed the same art. There was a solemn rite of divination
among the Druids from the fall of the victim and convulsions of his
limbs, or the nature and position of his entrails. But the British
priests had various kinds of divination. By the number of criminal
causes, and by the increase or diminution of their own order, they
predicted fertility or scarcity. From the neighing or prancing of white
horses, harnessed to a consecrated chariot--from the turnings and
windings of a hare let loose from the bosom of the diviner (with a
variety of other ominous appearances or exhibitions) they pretended to
determine the events of futurity.[28]

Of all creatures the serpent exercised, in the most curious manner, the
invention of the Druids. To the famous _anguinum_ they attributed high
virtues. The _anguinum_ or serpent's egg, was a congeries of small
snakes rolled together, and incrusted with a shell, formed by the saliva
or viscous gum, or froth of the mother serpent. This egg, it seems was
tossed into the air, by the hissings of its dam, and before it fell
again to the earth (where it would be defiled) it was to be received in
the sagus or sacred vestment. The person who caught the egg was to make
his escape on horseback, since the serpent pursues the ravisher of its
young, even to the brink of the next river. Pliny, from whom this
account is taken (lib. 29. C. 3.) proceeds with an enumeration of other
absurdities relating to the anguinum. This _anguinum_ is in British
called _Glain-neider_, or the serpent of glass; and the same
superstitious reverence which the Danmonii universally paid to the
anguinum, is still discoverable in some parts of Cornwall. Mr. Llhuyd
informs us that "the Cornish retain a variety of charms, and have still
towards the Land's-End, the amulets of Maen-Magal and Glain-neider,
which latter they call _Melprer_, and have a charm for the snake to make
it, when they find one asleep, and stick a hazel wand in the centre of
her spirae," or coils.

We are informed by Cambden that, "in most parts of Wales, and
throughout all Scotland and Cornwall, it is an opinion of the vulgar,
that about midsummer-eve (though in the time they do not all agree) the
snakes meet in companies, and that by joining heads together and
hissing, a kind of bubble is formed, which the rest, by continual
hissing, blow on till it passes quite through the body, when it
immediately hardens, and resembles a glass-ring, which whoever finds
shall prosper in all his undertakings. The rings thus generated are
called _Gleiner-nadroeth_, or snake-stones. They are small glass
amulets, commonly about half as wide as our finger rings, but much
thicker, of a green colour usually, though sometimes blue, and waved
with red and white."

Carew says, that "the country people, in Cornwall, have a persuasion
that the snake's breathing upon a hazel wand produces a stone ring of
blue colour, in which there appears the yellow figure of a snake, and
that beasts bit and envenomed, being given some water to drink wherein
this stone has been infused, will perfectly recover the poison."[29]

From the animal, the Druids passed to the vegetable world; and these
also displayed their powers, whilst by the charms of the misletoe, the
selago, and the samopis, they prevented or repelled diseases. From the
undulation or bubbling of water stirred by an oak branch, or magic wand,
they foretold events that were to come. The superstition of the Druids
is even now retained in the western counties. To this day, the Cornish
have been accustomed to consult their famous well at Madem, or rather
the _spirit_ of the well, respecting their future destiny.

"Hither," says Borlase, "come the uneasy, impatient, and superstitious,
and by dropping pins[30] or pebbles into the water, and by shaking the
ground round the spring, so as to raise bubbles from the bottom, at a
certain time of the year, moon and day, endeavour to remove their
uneasiness; yet the supposed responses serve equally to encrease the
gloom of the melancholy, the suspicions of the jealous, and the passion
of the enamoured. The Castalian fountain, and many others among the
Grecians were supposed to be of a prophetic nature. By dipping a fair
mirror into a well, the Patraeans of Greece received, as they supposed,
some notice of ensuing sickness or health from the various figures
pourtrayed upon the surface. The people of Laconia cast into a pool,
sacred to Juno, cakes of bread corn: if the cakes sunk, good was
portended; if they swam, something dreadful was to ensue. Sometimes the
superstitious threw three stones into the water, and formed their
conclusions from the several turns they made in sinking." The Druids
were likewise able to communicate, by consecration, the most portentous
virtues to rocks and stones, which could determine the succession of
princes or the fate of empires. To the Rocking or Logan stone, several
of which remain still in Devonshire and Cornwall, in particular, they
had recourse to confirm their authority, either as prophets or judges,
pretending that its motion was miraculous. These religious rites were
celebrated in consecrated places and temples, in the midst of groves.
The mysterious silence of an ancient wood diffuses even a shade of
horror over minds that are yet superior to superstitious credulity.
Their temple was seldom any other than a wide circle of rocks
perpendicularly raised. An artificial pile of large flat stone usually
composed the altar; and the whole religious mountain was usually
enclosed by a low mound, to prevent the intrusion of the profane. "There
was something in the Druidical species of heathenism," exclaims Mr.
Whitaker, in a style truly oriental, "that was well calculated to arrest
the attention and impress the mind. The rudely majestic circle of stones
in their temples, the enormous Cromlech, the massy Logan, the huge
Carnedde, and the magnificent amphitheatre of woods, would all very
strongly lay hold upon that religious thoughtfulness of soul, which has
ever been so natural to man, amid all the wrecks of humanity--the
monument of his former perfection!" That Druidism, as existing
originally in Devonshire and Cornwall, was immediately transported, in
all its purity and perfection, from the East, seems extremely probable.

Among the sacred rites of the Druids there were none more celebrated
than that they used of the misletoe of the oak. They believed this tree
was chosen by God himself. The misletoe was what they found but seldom:
whenever, therefore, they met with it, they fetched it with great
ceremony, and did it on the sixth day of the moon, with which day they
began both their months and their years. They gave a name to this shrub,
denoting that it had the virtue of curing all diseases. They sacrificed
victims to it, believing that, by its virtue, the barren were made
fruitful. They looked upon it likewise as a preservative against all
poisons. Thus do several nations of the world place their religion in
the observation of trifles.

The Druids were also extremely superstitious in relation to the herb
_selago_, which they reckoned a preservative against sore eyes, and
almost all misfortunes. Another herb called samotis, which they imagined
had a virtue to prevent diseases among cattle, they were very
ceremonious about gathering. The person was obliged to be clad in white,
and was not suffered to handle it; and the ceremony was preceded by a
sacrifice of bread and wine.

The Druids had another superstition amongst them, in regard to their
serpents' eggs, which they supposed were formed of the saliva of many of
those creatures, at a certain time of the moon: these they looked upon
as a sure prognostic of getting the better of their enemies. These, with
many other ridiculous fooleries, were imposed upon the credulous people,
as they were very much attached to divination. The Druids regarded the
misletoe as an antidote against all poisons, and they preserved their
selago against all misfortunes. The Persians had the same confidence in
the efficacy of several herbs, and used them in a similar manner. The
Druids cut their misletoe with a golden hook, and the Persians cut the
twigs of _Ghez_, or _haulm_, called _bursam_, with a peculiar sort of
concentrated knife. The candidates for the British throne had recourse
to the fatal stone to determine their pretensions; and on similar
occasions the Persians had recourse to the _Artizoe_.

From every view of the Druid religion, Mr. Polwhele concludes that it
derived its origin from the Persian magi. Dr. Borlasse has drawn a long
and elaborate parallel between the Druids and Persians, where he has
plainly proved that they resembled each other, as strictly as possible,
in every particular of religion.[31]


[22] Supplement to the translated preface to Jarvis's Don Quixote.

[23] That the Druids worshipped rocks, stones, and fountains, and
imagined them inhabited, and actuated by _divine intelligences of a
lower rank_, may plainly be inferred from their stone monuments. These
inferior deities the Cornish call _spriggian, or spirits_, which answer
to genii or fairies; and the vulgar in Cornwall still discourse of them,
as of real beings.

[24] See Macpherson's Introduction to the history of great Britain and

[25] This idol, which is called by the Septuagint, Baal, is mentioned in
other parts of scripture by other names. To understand what this god
was, we may observe, that the deities of the Greeks and Romans come from
the East; and it is a tradition among the ancient and modern heathens
that this idol was an obscure deity, which may plead excuse for not
translating some passages concerning it; and this is agreeable to Hosea
(ix. 10). They _went out_ into _Baal Pheor_, and _separated themselves
to their shame_. And it is the opinion of Jerome, who quotes it from an
ancient tradition of the Jews, that _Baal Pheor_ is the _Priapus_ of the
Greeks and Romans; and if you look into the vulgar latin (1 Kings xv.
13.) we shall find it thus rendered, _and Asa, the King removed_ Maacha,
_his mother from being queen, that she might no longer be high Priestess
in the sacrifices of Priapus_. And he destroyed the grove she had
consecrated, and broke the most filthy idol, and burnt it at the brook
_Kedron_. Dr. Cumberland inserts, that the import of the word _Peor_, or
_Baal Pheor_, is he that shews boastingly or publicly, his nakedness.
Women to avoid barrenness, were to sit on this filthy image, as the
source of fruitfulness; for which Lactantius and Augustine justly deride
the heathens.

[26] There was an awful mysteriousness in the original Druid sacrifice.
Descanting upon the human sacrifices of various countries, Mr. Bryant
informs us, that among the nations of Canaan, _the_ victims _were chosen
in a peculiar manner_; their own children, and whatsoever was nearest
and dearest to them, were thought the most worthy offerings to their
gods! The Carthagenians, who were a colony from Tyre, carried with them
the religion of their mother country and instituted the same worship in
the parts where they were seated. Parents offered up their own children
as dearest to themselves, and therefore the more acceptable to the
deity: they sacrificed "the fruit of their body for the sin of their
soul," The Druids, no doubt, were actuated with the same views.

[27] There is no sort of doubt that _Baal_ and _Fire_ were principal
objects of the ceremonies and adoration of the Druids. The principal
season of these, and of their feasts in honour of Baal, was new year's
day, when the sun began visibly to return towards us; the custom is not
yet at an end, the country people still burning out the old year and
welcoming in the new by fires lighted on the top of hills, and other
high places. The next season was the month of May, when the fruits of
the earth began, in the Eastern countries, to be gathered, and the first
fruits of them consecrated to Baal, or to the _Sun_, whose benign
influence had ripened them; and one is almost persuaded that the dance
round the May pole, in that month, is a faint image of the rites
observed on such occasions. The next great festival was on the 21st of
June, when the sun, being in Cancer, first appears to go backwards and
leave us. On this occasion the Baalim used to call the people together,
and to light fires on high places, and to cause their sons, and their
daughters, and their cattle to pass through the fire, calling upon Baal
to bless them, and not forsake them.

[28] In Devonshire and Cornwall it is still considered ominous if a hare
crosses a person on the road.

[29] See _Carew's Survey of Cornwall_, p. 22. Mr. Carew had a stone-ring
of this kind in his possession, and the person who gave it to him
avowed, that "he himself saw a part of the stick sticking in it,"--but
"_Penes authorem sit fides_," says Mr. Carew.

[30] The same superstition still exists in Devonshire.

[31] See account of Druidism in Polewhele's Historical Views of
Devonshire, vol. 1.



Apollo is said to have been one of the most gentle, and at the same
time, as may be inferred from his numerous issue, one of the most
gallant of the heathen deities. The first and most noted of his sons was
Aesculapius, whom he had by the nymph Coronis. Some say that Apollo, on
account of her infidelity, shot his mother when big with child with him;
but repenting the fact, saved the infant, and gave him to Chiron to be
instructed in physic.[32] Others report, that as King Phlegyas, her
father was carrying her with him into Peloponnesus, her pains surprised
her on the confines of Epidauria where, to conceal her shame, she
exposed the infant on a mountain. The _truth_, however is, that this
Aesculapius was a poor infant cast away, a dropt child, laid in a wood
near Epidaurus, by his unnatural parents, who were afterwards ashamed to
own him; he was shortly afterwards found by some huntsmen, who, seeing a
lighted flame or glory surrounding his head, looked upon it as a
prognostic of the child's future glory. The infant was delivered by them
to a nurse named Trigo, but the poets say he was suckled by a goat. He
studied physic under Chiron the centaur, by whose care he made such
progress in the medical art, as gained him so high a reputation that he
was even reported to have raised the dead. His first cures were wrought
upon Ascles, King of Epidaurus, and Aunes, King of Daunia, which last
was troubled with sore eyes. In short, his success was so great, that
Pluto, seeing the number of his ghosts daily decrease, complained to
Jupiter, who killed him with his thunderbolts. Such was his proficiency
in medical skill, that he was generally esteemed the god of physic.

In the city of Tetrapolis, which belonged to the Ionians, Aesculapius
had a temple full of rare cures, dedicated to him by those who ascribed
their recovery to him; and its walls were covered and hung with
memorials of the miracles he had performed.

Cicero reckons up three of the names of Aesculapius. The first the son
of Apollo, worshipped in Arcadia, who invented the probe and bandages
for wounds; the second the brother of Mercury, killed by lightning; and
the third the son of Arsippus Arsione, who first taught the art of
tooth-drawing and purging. Others make Aesculapius an Egyptian, King of
Memphis, antecedent by a thousand years to the Aesculapius of the
Greeks. The Romans numbered him among the Dii Adcititii, of such as were
raised to heaven by their merit, as Hercules, Castor and Pollux. The
Greeks received their knowledge of Aesculapius from the Phoenicians and
Egyptians. His chief temples were at Pergamus, Smyrna, and Trica, a city
of Ionia, and the isle of Coos, or Cos; in which all votive tablets were
hung up,[33] shewing the diseases cured by his assistance: but his most
famous shrine was at Epidaurus, where every five years in the spring,
solemn games were instituted to him nine days after the Isthmian games
at Corinth.

It was by accident that the Romans became acquainted with Aesculapius. A
plague happened in Italy, the oracle was consulted, and the reply was
that they should fetch the god Esculapius from Epidaurus. An embassy was
appointed of ten senators, at the head of whom was Q. Ogulnius. These
deputies, on their arrival, visiting the temple of the god, a huge
serpent came from under the altar, and crossing the city, went directly
to their ship, and lay down in the cabin of Ogulnius;[34] upon which they
set sail immediately, and arriving in the Tiber, the serpent quitted the
ship, and retired to a little island opposite to the city, where a
temple was erected to the god, and the pestilence ceased.

The animals sacrificed to Aesculapius were the goat; some say on
account of his having been nursed by this animal; others because this
creature is unhealthy, as labouring under a perpetual fever. The dog and
the cock were sacrificed to him, on account of their fidelity and
vigilance; the raven was also devoted to him for its forecast, and being
skilled in divination. Authors are not agreed as to his being the
inventor of physic, some affirming he perfected that part only which
relates to the regimen of the sick.

The origin of this fable is as follows:--the public sign or symbol
exposed by the Egyptians in their assemblies, to warn the people to mark
the depth of the inundation of the Nile, in order to regulate their
ploughing accordingly, was the figure of a man with a dog's head,
carrying a pole with serpents twisted round it, to which they gave the
name of Anubis,[35] Thaaut,[36] and Aesculapius.[37] In process of time,
they made use of this representation for a real king, who by the study
of physic, sought the preservation of his subjects. Thus the dog and the
serpents became the characteristics of Aesculapius amongst the Romans
and Greeks, who were entirely strangers to the original meaning of these

Aesculapius was represented as an old man, with a long beard, crowned
with a branch of bay tree; in his hands was a staff full of knots, about
which a serpent had twisted itself: at his feet stood an owl or a
dog--characteristics of the qualities of a good physician, who must be
as cunning as a serpent, as vigilant as a dog, as cunning and
experienced as an old bashaw, to handle a thing so difficult as physic.
At Epidaurus his statue was of gold and ivory,[38] seated on a throne of
the same materials, with a long beard, having a knotty stick in one
hand, the other entwined with a serpent, and a dog lying at his feet.
The Phliasians depicted him as beardless, and the Romans crowned him
with a laurel, to denote his descent from Apollo. The knots in his staff
signify the difficulties that occur in the study of medicine. He had by
his wife Epione two sons, Machaon and Podalirius, both skilled in
surgery, and who are mentioned by Homer as having been present at the
siege of Troy, and who were very serviceable to the Greeks. He had also
two daughters, called Hygiaea and Jaso.


[32] Ovid, who relates the story of Coronis in his fanciful way, tells
us that Corvus, or the raven, who discovered her armour, had by Apollo,
his feathers changed from _black_ to _white_.

[33] From these tablets, or votive inscriptions, Hippocrates is said to
have collected his aphorisms.

[34] The Romans who sent for Aesculapius from Epidaurus, when their city
was troubled with the plague, say, that the serpent that was worshipped
there for him followed the ambassadors of its own accord to the ship
that transported it to Rome, where it was placed in a temple built in
the isle called Tiberina. In this temple the sick people were wont to
lie, and when they found themselves no better, they reviled Aesculapius:
so impatiently ungrateful and peevish were often the afflicted, that
they made no scruple to reproach the very god who administered to their

[35] From Hannobeach, which, in the Phoenician language, signifies the
_barker_, or _warner_, Anubis.

[36] This word signifies the dog.

[37] From _Aeish_, man, and _caleph_, dog, comes _Aescaleph_, the
man-dog, or Aesculapius.

[38] This image was the work of Thrasymedes, the son of Arignotus, a
native of Paros.



It would be almost an endless task to enter into a detail of all the
inferior deities of the Greeks and Romans; our object being to refer to
such only as preside over the health of the human race, every part and
parcel of whom had their presiding genius.--During pregnancy, the
tutelar powers were the god Pelumnus,[39] and the goddesses
Intercedonia,[40] and Deverra.[41] The import of these words seems to
point out the necessity of warmth and cleanliness to ladies in this

Besides the superior goddesses Jemo-Lucien, Diana Hythia, and Latona,
who all presided at the birth, there were the goddesses Egeria,[42]
Prosa,[43] and Manageneta,[44] who with the Dii Nixii,[45] had all the care
of women in labour.

To children, Janus performed the office of door-keeper or midwife; and
in this quality was assisted by the goddess Opis or Ops;[46] Cuma rocked
the cradle, while Carmenta sung their destiny; Levana lifted them up
from the ground;[47] and Vegetanus took care of them when they cried;
Rumina[48] watched them while they suckled; Polina furnished them with
drink; and Edura with food or nourishment; Osslago knit their bones; and
Carna[49] strengthened their constitutions. Nudina[50] was the goddess of
children's purification; Stilinus or Statanus instructed them to walk,
and kept them from falling; Fabulina learnt them to prattle; the goddess
Paventia preserved them from frights;[51] and Camaena taught them to

Nor was the infant, when grown to riper years, left without his
protectors; Juventas was the god of youth; Agenoria excited men to
action; and the goddesses Stimula and Strenua inspired courage and
vivacity; Horta[52] inspired the fame or love of glory; and Sentra gave
them the sentiments of probity and justice; Quies was the goddesses of
repose or ease,[53] and Indolena, or laziness, was deified by the name of
Murcia;[54] Vacua protected the idle; Adeona and Abeona, secured people
in going abroad and returning;[55] and Vibilia, if they wandered, was so
kind as to put them in the right way; Fessonia refreshed the weary and
fatigued; and Meditrina healed the sickly;[56] Vitula was the goddess of
mirth and frolic;[57] Volupia the goddess who bestowed pleasure;[58]
Orbona was addressed, that parents might not love their offspring;
Pellonia averted mischief and danger; and Numeria taught people to cast
and keep accounts; Angerona cured the anguish or sorrow of the mind;[59]
Haeres Martia secured heirs the estates they expected; and Stata or
Statua Mater, secured the forum or market place from fire; even the
thieves had a protectress in Laverna;[60] Averruncus prevented sudden
misfortunes; and Conius was always disposed to give good advice to such
as wanted it; Volumnus inspired men with a disposition to do well; and
Honorus raised them to preferment and honours.

Nor was the marriage state without its peculiar defenders. Five deities
were esteemed so necessary, that no marriages were solemnized without
asking their favours; these were Jupiter-Perfectus, or the Adult, Juno,
Venus, Suadela,[61] and Diana. Jugatinus tied the nuptial knot; Domiducus
ushered the bride home; Domitius took care to keep her there, and
prevent her gadding abroad; Maturna preserved the conjugal union entire;
Virginensis[62] loosed the bridle zone or girdle; Viriplaca was a
propitious goddess, ready to reconcile the married couple in case of any
accidental difference. Matuta was the patroness of matrons, no maid
being suffered to enter her temple. The married was always held to be
the only honourable state for woman, during the times of pagan
antiquity. The goddess Vacuna,[63] is mentioned by Horace (Lib. 1. Epist.
X. 49.) as having her temple at Rome; the rustics celebrated her
festival in December, after the harvest was got in (Ovid. Fast. Lib.

The ancients assigned the particular parts of the body to particular
deities; the head was sacred to Jupiter; the breast to Neptune; the
waist to Mars; the forehead to Genius; the eye-brows to Juno, the eyes
to Cupid; the ears to Memory; the right hand to Fides or Veritas; the
back to Pluto; the knees to Misericordia or mercy; the legs to Mercury;
the feet to Thetis; and the fingers to Minerva.[64]

The goddess who presided over funerals was Libitina,[65] whose temple at
Rome, the undertakers furnished with all the necessaries for the
interment of the poor or rich; all dead bodies were carried through the
Porto Libitina; and the Rationes Libitinae mentioned by Suetonius, very
nearly answer to our bills of mortality.


[39] Either from _pilum_, a pestle; or from _pello_, to drive away;
because he procured a safe delivery.

[40] She taught the art of cutting wood with a hatchet to make fires.

[41] The inventress of brooms.

[42] From casting out the birth.

[43] Aulus Gellius.

[44] Aelian.

[45] From _erritor_, to struggle. See Ausonius, Idyll 12.

[46] Some make her the same with Rhea or Vesta.

[47] Among the Romans the midwife always laid the child on the ground,
and the father or somebody appointed, lifted it up; hence the expression
of _tollere liberos_, to educate children.

[48] This goddess had a temple at Rome, and her offerings were milk.

[49] On the Kalends of June, sacrifices were offered to Carna, of bacon
and bean flour cakes; whence they were called Fabariae.

[50] Boys were named always on the ninth day after the birth, and girls
on the eighth.

[51] From Pavorema vertendo.

[52] She had a temple at Home which always stood open.

[53] She had a temple without the walls.

[54] Murcia had her temple on Mount Aventine.

[55] From _abeo_, to go away; and _adeo_, to come.

[56] The festival of this goddess was in September, when the Romans
drank new wine mixed with old, by way of physic.

[57] From _vitulo_, to leap or advance.

[58] From _voluptas_, pleasure.

[59] In a great murrain which destroyed their cattle, the Romans invoked
this goddess, and she removed the plague.

[60] The image was a head without a body. Horace mentions her (Lib. 1.
Epist. XVI. 60). She had a temple without the walls, which gave the name
to the Porta Lavernalis.

[61] The goddess of eloquence, or persuasion, who had always a great
hand in the success of courtship.

[62] She was also called Cinxia Juno.

[63] She was an old Sabine deity. Some make her the same with Ceres; but
Varro imagines her to be the goddess of victory.

[64] From this distribution arose, perhaps, the scheme of our modern
astrologers, who assign the different parts of the body to the different
constellations, or signs of Zodiac: as the head to Aries, the neck to
Taurus, the shoulders to Gemini, the heart to Cancer, the breast to Leo,
and so on. The pretended issues of astrology have been always
inseparable from stellar influence, and the zodiac has ever been the
fruitful source of its solemn delusions.

[65] Some confound this goddess with Proserpine, others with Venus.



The study of astrology, so flattering to human curiosity got into favour
with mankind at a very early period,--especially with the weak and
ignorant. The first account, of it we meet with is in Chaldea; and at
Rome it was known by the name of the "Babylonish calculation," against
which Horace very wisely cautioned his readers.[66] It was doubtless the
first method of divination, and probably prepared the mind of man for
all the various methods since employed of searching into futurity; a
brief view therefore of the rise of this pretended science cannot he
improper in this place, especially as the history of these absurdities
is the best method of confuting them. Others have ascribed the invention
of this deception to the Arabs;--be this as it may, Judicial
Astrology[67] has been too much used by the priests and physicians of all
nations to encrease their own power and emolument. They maintain that
the heavens are one great book, in which God has written the history of
the world; and in which every man may read his own fortune and the
transactions of his time. In this department of astrology (judicial) we
meet with all the idle conceits about the horary reign of planets, the
_doctrine of horoscopes, the distribution of the houses, the calculation
of nativities, fortunes, lucky and unlucky_ hours, and other ominous
fatalities. They assert that it had its rise from the same hands as
astronomy itself;--that while the ancient Assyrians, whose serene
unclouded sky favoured their celestial, observations, were intent on
tracing the paths and periods of the heavenly bodies, they discovered a
constant settled relation or analogy between them and things below;
hence they were led to conclude these to be the fates or destinies
(Parcae) so much talked of, which preside at our birth, and dispose of
our future state.

The Egyptians, who derived their astrological superstitions from the
Chaldeans, becoming ignorant of the astronomical hieroglyphics, by
degrees looked upon the names of the signs as expressing certain powers
with which they were invested, and as indications of their several
offices. The sun, on account of its splendour and enlivening influence,
was imagined to be the great mover of nature; the moon held the second
rank of powers, and each sign and constellation a certain share in the
government of the world. The ram, (Aries [symbol: Aries]) had a strong
influence over the young of the flocks and herds; the balance, (Libra
[symbol: Libra]) could inspire nothing but inclinations to good order
and justice; and the scorpion, (Scorpio [symbol: Scorpio]) to excite
only evil dispositions. In short, each sign produced the good or evil
intimated by its name.

Thus, if a child happened to be born at the instant when the first star
of the ram rose above the horizon, (when, in order to give this nonsense
the air of a science, the star was supposed to have its greatest
influence,) he would be rich in cattle; and he who should enter the
world under the crab, would meet with nothing but disappointments, and
all his affairs go backwards and downwards. The people were to be happy
whose king entered the world under the sign Libra; but completely
wretched if he should light under the horrid sign scorpion. Persons born
under capricorn ([symbol: Capricorn]) especially if the sun at the same
time ascended the horizon, were sure to meet with success, and rise
upwards like the wild goat and the sun which then ascends for six months
together. The lion, (Leo [symbol: Leo]) was to produce heroes; and the
virgin (Virgo [symbol: Virgo]) with her ear of corn to inspire chastity,
and to unite virtue with abundance. Could anything he more extravagant
and ridiculous!

The case was exactly the same with respect to the planets, whose
influence is only founded on the wild supposition of their being the
habitations of the pretended deities, whose names they bear, and the
fabulous characters the poets have given them. Thus, to Saturn, [symbol:
Saturn], they gave languid and even destructive influences, for no other
reason but because they had been pleased to make this planet the
residence of Saturn, who was painted with grey hairs and a scythe. To
Jupiter [symbol: Jupiter] they gave the power of bestowing crowns and
distributing long life, wealth, and grandeur, merely because it bears
the name of the father of life. Mars [symbol: Mars] was supposed to
inspire a strong inclination for war, because it was believed to be the
residence of the god of war. Venus [symbol: Venus] had the power of
rendering men voluptuous and fond of pleasure, because they had been
pleased to give it the name of one who by some was thought to be the
mother of pleasure. Mercury [symbol: Mercury], though almost always
invisible, would never have been thought to superintend the property of
states, and the affairs of wit and commerce, had not men, without the
least reason, given it the name of one who was supposed to be the
inventor of civil polity.

According to Astrologers, the power of the ascending planet is greatly
increased by that of an ascending sign; then the benign influences are
all united, and fall together on the head of all the happy infants who
at that moment enter the world; yet can anything be more contrary to
experience, which shews us, that the characters and events produced by
persons born under the same aspect of the stars, are so far from being
alike, that they are directly opposite.

"What completes the ridicule," says the Abbé La Pluche, to whom we are
obliged for these judicious observations, "is, that what astronomers
call the first degree of the ram, the balance, or of sagitarius, is no
longer the first sign, which gives fruitfulness to the flocks, inspires
men with a love of justice, or forms the hero. It has been found that
all the celestial signs have, by degrees, receded from the vernal
equinox, and drawn back to the East: notwithstanding this, the point of
the zodiac that cuts the equator is still called the first degree of the
ram, though the first star of the ram be thirty degrees beyond it, and
all the other signs in the same proportion. When, therefore, any one is
said to be born under the first degree of the ram, it was in reality one
of the degrees of pisces that then came above the horizon: and when
another is said to be born with a royal soul and heroic disposition,
because at his birth the planet Jupiter ascended the horizon, in
conjunction with the first star of sagitary, Jupiter was indeed at that
time in conjunction with a star thirty degrees eastward of sagitary, and
in good truth it was the pernicious scorpion that presided at the birth
of this happy, this incomparable child." And so it would, as Shakspeare
says, "if my mother's cat had kittened. This," says our sagacious bard,
"is the excellent foppery of the world, that when we are sick in
fortune, (after the surfeit of our own behaviour) we make guilt of our
disasters, the sun, the moon, and the stars; as if we were villains by
necessity; fools, by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and
treachers, (traitors) by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars, and
adulterers, by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all
that we are evil in by a divine thrusting on; an admirable evasion of a
whoremaster to lay his goatish tricks to the charge of a star! My father
compounded with my mother under the dragon's tail; and my nativity was
under _Ursa major_; so that it follows I am rough and treacherous.--Tut!
I should have been that I am, had the maidenliest star in the firmament
twinkled at my bastardizing." Thus it is evident, that astrology is
built upon no principles, that it is founded on fables, and on
influences void of reality. Yet absurd as it is, and even was, it
obtained credit; and the more it spread, the greater injury was done to
the cause of virtue. Instead of the exercise of prudence and wise
precautions, it substituted superstitious forms and childish practices;
it enervated the courage of the brave by apprehensions grounded on puns,
and encouraged the wicked, by making them lay to the charge of a planet
those evils which only proceeded from their own depravity.

But not content with such absurdities, which destroyed the very idea of
liberty, they asserted that these stars, which had not the least
connection with mankind, governed all the parts of the human body, and
ridiculously affirmed that the ram presided over the head, the bull over
the gullet, the twins over the breast, the scorpion over the entrails,
the fishes over the feet, etc. The juggles of astrology have been
admirably ridiculed by Butler in the following lines:

  Some by the nose with fumes trepan 'em,
  As Dunstan did the devil's grannam;
  Others, with characters and words,
  Catch 'em, as men in nets do birds;
  And some with symbols, signs, and tricks,
  Engrav'd in planetary nicks,
  With their own influence will fetch 'em
  Down from their orbs, arrest and catch 'em;
  Make 'em depose and answer to
  All questions, ere they let them go.
  Bombastus kept a devil's bird
  Shut in the pummel of his sword,
  And taught him all the cunning pranks
  Of past and future mountebanks.
    _Hudibras_, part ii. canto 3.

By means of the zodiac, astrologers pretended to account for the various
disorders of the body, which were supposed to be in a good or had
disposition, according to the different aspects[68] of these signs. To
mention only one instance, they pretended that great caution ought to be
used in taking medicine under Taurus, or the bull; because, as this
animal chews his cud, the person would not be able to keep it in his

Each hour of the day had also its presiding star. The number seven, as
being that of the planets, became of mighty consequence. The seven days
in the week,--a period of time handed down by tradition, happened to
correspond with the number of the planets: and therefore they gave the
name of a planet to each day; and from thence some days in the week were
considered more fortunate or unlucky than the rest; and hence seven
times seven, called the climacterical period of hours, days, or years,
were thought extremely dangerous, and to have a surprising effect on
private persons, the fortunes of princes, and the government of states.
Thus the mind of man became distressed by imaginary evils, and the
approach of these moments, in themselves as harmless as the rest of
their lives, has by the strength of the imagination, brought on the most
fatal effects.

Nay, the influence of the planets were extended to the bowels of the
earth, where they were supposed to produce metals. From hence it appears
that when superstition and folly are once on foot, there is no setting
hounds to their progress. Gold, as a matter of course, must be the
production of the sun, and the conformity in point of colour,
brightness, and value, was a sensible proof of it. By the same mode of
reasoning, the moon produced all the silver, to which it was related by
colour; Mars, all the iron, which ought to be the favourite metal of the
god of war. Venus presided over copper, which she might be well supposed
to produce, since it was found in abundance in the isle of Cyprus, the
supposed favourite residence of this goddess. In the same strain, the
other planets presided over the other metals. The languid Saturn
domineered over the lead mines, and Mercury, on account of his activity,
had the superintendency of quicksilver; while it was the province of
Jupiter to preside over tin, as this was the only metal left him, it
would appear, a kind of "Hobson's choice."

This will explain the manner in which the metals obtained the names of
the planets; and from this opinion, that each planet engendered its own
peculiar metal, they at length formed an idea that, as one planet was
more powerful than another, the metal produced by the weakest was
converted into another by the predominating influence of a stronger orb.

Lead, though really a metal, and as perfect in its kind as any of the
rest, was considered only half a metal, which, in consequence of the
languid influences of old Saturn, was left imperfect; and, therefore,
under the auspices of Jupiter, it was converted into tin; under that of
Venus, into copper: and at last into gold, under some particular aspects
of the sun. From hence, at length, arose the extravagant opinion of the
alchymists, who, with amazing sagacity, endeavoured to find out means
for hastening these changes or transmutations, which, as they conceived,
the planets performed too slowly. The world, however, became at length
convinced that the art of the alchymist was as ineffectual as the
influences of the planets, which, in a long succession of ages, had
never been known to change a mine of lead to that of tin or any other

The first author we are acquainted with who talks of making gold by the
transmutation of one metal, by means of an alcahest[70] into another, is
Zozimus the Pomopolite, who lived about the commencement of the fifth
century, and who has a treatise express upon it, called, "The divine art
of making gold and silver," in manuscript, and is, as formerly, in the
library of the King of France.

As regards the universal medicine, said to depend on alchemical
research, we discover no earlier or plainer traces than in this author,
and in Aeneas Gazeus, another Greek writer, towards the close of the
same century;[71] nor among the physicians and materialists, from Moses
to Geber the Arab,[72] who is supposed to have lived in the seventh
century. In that author's work, entitled the "Philosopher's stone,"
mention is made of medicine that cures all leprous diseases. This
passage, some authors suppose, to have given the first hint of the
matter, though Geber himself, perhaps, meant no such thing; for, by
attending to the Arabic style and diction of this author, which abounds
in allegory, it is highly probable that by man he means gold, and by
leprous, or other diseases, the other metals, which, with relation to
gold, are all impure.

The origin and antiquity of alchymy have been much controverted. If any
credit may be placed on legend and tradition, it must be as old as the
flood--nay, Adam himself is represented to have been an alchymist. A
great part, not only of the heathen mythology, but of the Jewish
Scriptures, are supposed to refer to it. Thus, Suidas[73] will have the
fable of the philosopher's stone to be alluded to in the fable of the
Argonauts; and others find it in the book of Moses, as well as in other
remote places. But, if the era of the art be examined by the test of
history, it will lose much of its fancied antiquity. The manner in which
Suidas accounts for the total silence of alchymy among the old writers
is, that Dioclesian procured all the books of the ancient Egyptians to
be burnt; and that it was in these the great mysteries of chemistry were
contained.[74] Kercher asserts, that the theory of the philosopher's
stone is delivered at large in the table of Hermes, and the ancient
Egyptians were not ignorant of the art, but declined to prosecute it.



------ nec Babylonios Tentaris numeros.--Lib, 1. ad XI.

That is, consult not the tables of planetary calculations used by
astrologers of Babylonish origin.

[67] This conjectural science is divided into natural and judicial. The
first is confined to the study of exploring natural effects, as change
of weather, winds and storms--hurricanes, thunder, floods, earthquakes,
and the like. In this sense it is admitted to be a part of natural
philosophy. It was under this view that Mr. Good, Mr. Boyle, and Dr.
Mead pleaded for its use. The first endeavours to account for the
diversity of seasons from the situations, habitudes, and motions of the
planets; and to explain an infinity of phenomena by the contemplation of
the stars. The honourable Mr. Boyle admitted, that all physical bodies
are influenced by the heavenly bodies; and the doctor's opinion, in his
treatise concerning the power of the sun and moon, etc. is in favour of
the doctrine. But these predictions and influence are ridiculed, and
entirely exploded by the most esteemed modern philosophers, of which the
reader may have a learned specimen in Rohault's Tract. Physic. pt. II. c

[68] By aspect is to be understood an angle formed by the rays of two
planets meeting on the earth, able to execute some natural power or

[69] Those who wish to read a curious monument of the follies of the
alchymists, may consult the diary of Elias Ashmole, who is rather the
historian of this vain science, than an adept. It may amuse literary
leisure to turn over his quarto volume, in which he has collected the
works of several English alchymists, to which he has subjoined his
commentary. It affords curious specimens of Rosicrucian mysteries; and
he relates stories, which vie for the miraculous, with the wildest
fancies of Arabian invention.

[70] Alcahest, in chemistry, (an obsolete term,) means a most pure and
universal menstruum or dissolvent, with which some chemists have
pretended to resolve all bodies into their first elements, and perform
other extraordinary and unaccountable operations.

[71] In this writer we find the following passage: "Such as are skilled
in the ways of nature, can take; silver and tin, and changing their
nature, can turn them into gold." He also tells us that he was "wont to
call himself a _gold-melter_ and a _chemist_."

[72] The principal Authors on alchymy are Geber, the Arab, Friar Bacon,
Sully, John and Isaac Hallendus, Basil Valentine, Paracelsus, Van
Zuchter, and Sendirogius.

[73] Corringius calls this statement in question, and asks how Suidas,
who lived but five hundred yours between them, should know what happened
eight hundred years before him? To which Borrichius the Dane, answers,
that he had learnt it of Eudemus, Helladius, Zozimus, Pamphilius, and
others, as Suidas himself relates.

[74] It does not appear that the Egyptians transmuted gold; they had
ways of separating it from all kinds of bodies, from the very mud of the
Nile, and stones of all kinds: but, adds Kercher, these secrets were
never written down, or made public, but confined to the royal family,
and handed down traditionally from father to son.



Having so far explained the fragile basis on which human knowledge may
be said to have depended, during the obscurity and barbarity of the
middle ages, when the progress of true knowledge was obstructed by the
most absurd fancies, and puerile conceits: when conjectures, caprices,
and dreams supplied the place of the most useful sciences, and of the
most important truths, the subsequent illustrative reflections may serve
as a guide to direct the attention of the reader to other delusions,
which arose out of the general chaos.

Chemistry, a science so essentially requisite to explain the phenomena
of known and unknown substances, was studied chiefly by jugglers and
fanatics;--their systems, replete with metaphysical nonsense, and
composed of the most crude and heterogeneous materials, served rather to
nourish superstition than to establish facts, and illustrate useful
truths. Universal remedies, in various forms, met with strenuous
advocates and deluded consumers. The path of accurate observation and
experiment was forsaken: instead of penetrating into the mysterious
recesses of nature, they bewildered themselves in the labyrinth of
fanciful speculation; they overstepped the bounds of good sense,
modesty, and truth; and the blind led the blind. The prolongation of
life too was no longer sought for in a manner agreeable to the dictates
of nature; even this interesting branch of human pursuits was rendered
subservient to chemistry, or rather to the confused system of alchymy.
Original matter was considered as the elementary cause of all beings, by
which they expected literally to work miracles, to transmute the base
into noble metals, to metamorphose man in his animal state by chemical
processes, to render him more durable, and to secure him against early
decline and dissolution. Millions of vessels, retorts, and phials, were
either exposed to the action of the most violent artificial heat, or to
the natural warmth of the sun; or else they were buried in some dunghill
or other fetid mass, for the purpose of attracting this _original
matter_, or obtaining it from putrescible substances.

As the metal called gold always bore the highest value, these crude
philosophers concluded, from a ridiculous analogy, that its value with
respect to the preservation of health and the cure of diseases, must
likewise surpass that of all other remedies. The nugatory art of
dissolving it, so as to render it potable, and to prevent it from again
being converted into metal, employed a multitude of busy idiots, not
only in concealed corners, but in the splendid laboratories of the
great. Sovereigns, magistrates, counsellors, and impostors, struck with
the common frenzy, entered into friendship and alliance, formed private
fraternities, and sometimes proceeded to such a pitch of extravagance,
as to involve themselves and their posterity in ruinous debts. The real
object of many was, doubtless, to gratify their avarice and desire of
aggrandisement: although this sinister motive was concealed under the
specious pretext of searching for a remedy that should serve as a
tincture of life, both for the healthy and diseased, yet some among
these whimsical mortals were actuated by more honourable motives,
zealous only for the interest of truth, and the well-being of their
fellow creatures.

The common people, in some countries, particularly Italy, Germany, and
France often denied themselves the common necessaries of life, to save
as much as would purchase a few drops of the tincture of gold, which was
offered for sale by some superstitious or fraudulent chemist: and so
thoroughly persuaded were they of the efficacy of this remedy, that it
afforded them in every instance the most confident and only hope of
recovery. These beneficial effects were positively promised, but were
looked for in vain. All subduing death would not submit to be bribed
with gold, and disease refused to hold any intercourse with that
powerful deity, who presides over the industry and commerce of all

As, however, these diversified and almost numberless experiments were
frequently productive of useful inventions in arts and manufactures;
and, as many chemical remedies of real value were thereby accidentally
discovered, great and almost general attention to those bold projectors
was constantly kept alive and excited. Indeed, we are indebted to their
curious observations, or rather perhaps to chance, for several valuable
medicines, the excellence of which cannot be disputed, but which,
nevertheless, require more precaution in their use and application, and
more perspicuity and diligence in investigating their nature and
properties than the original preparers of such articles were able or
willing to afford. All their endeavours to prolong life, by artificial
means, could not be attended with beneficial effects; and the
application of the remedies thus contrived, must necessarily, in many
cases, have proved detrimental to the health of the patient.

In proof of this assertion, it will be sufficient to give a slight
sketch of the different views and opinions of the gold-makers,
Rosicrucians, manufacturers of astralian salts, drops of life, and
tinctures of gold, hunters after the philosopher's stone, and other
equally absurd chimera.

Some of these extravagant enthusiasts fancied that life resembled a
flame, from which the body derived warmth, spirit, and animation. They
endeavoured to cherish and increase the flame, and supplied the body
with materials to feed it, as we pour oil into a burning lamp. Others
imagined they had discovered something invisible and incorporeal in the
air, that important medium which supports the life of man. They
pretended to catch, refine, reduce, and materialize this indefinable
something, so that it might be swallowed in the form of powders, and
drops; that, by its penetrating powers, it might insinuate itself into
the whole animal frame, invigorate, and consequently qualify it for a
longer duration.

Others again were foolish enough to indulge a notion that they could
divest themselves of the properties of matter during this life; that in
this manner they might be defended against the gradual approaches of
dissolution, to which every animal body is subject: and that thus
fortified, without quitting their terrestrial tabernacle, they could
associate at pleasure with the inhabitants of the spiritual world. The
sacred volume itself was interpreted and commented upon by alchymists,
with a view to render it subservient to their intended designs.
Indisputable historical facts, recorded in this invaluable book, were
treated by them as hieroglyphical symbols of chemical processes: and the
fundamental truths of the christian religion were applied, in a wanton
and blasphemous manner, to the purposes of making gold, and distilling
the elixir of life.

The world of spirits was also invaded, and summoned, as it were, to
contribute to the prolongation of human life. Spirits were supposed to
have the dominion of air, fire, earth, and water; they were divided into
distinct classes, and particular services ascribed to each. The
malevolent spirits were opposed and counteracted by various means of
prevention: the good and tutelary were obliged to submit to n sort of
gentle, involuntary servitude. From invisible beings were expected and
demanded visible means of assistance--riches, health, friends, and long
life. Thus the poor spirits were profanely maltreated, nay, sometimes
severely punished, and even miserably flogged in effigy, when they
betrayed symptoms of disaffection, or want of implicit fealty.

As men had thus, in their weakness and folly, forsaken the bounds of
this terrestrial sphere, it will easily be believed, that, with the help
of an exuberant imagination, they would make a transition to the higher
regions--to the celestial bodies and the stars to which, indeed, they
ascribed no less a power than that of deciding the destinies of men, and
which, consequently, must have had a considerable share in shortening or
prolonging the duration of human life--every nation or kingdom was
subjected to the dominion of its particular planet the time of whose
government was determined; and a number of ascendant powers were
fictitiously contrived, with a view to reduce, under its influence,
every thing which was produced and born under its administration. The
professors of astrology appeared as the confidents of these invisible
rulers, and the interpreters of their will; they were well versed in the
art of giving a respectable appearance to this usurped dignity. Provided
they could but ascertain the hour and minute of a person's birth, they
confidently took upon themselves to predict his mental capacities,
future vicissitudes of life, and the diseases he would be visited with,
together with the circumstances, the day and hour of his death.[75]

Not only the common people, but persons of the highest rank and
stations, nay, even men the most distinguished for their rank and
abilities, did homage to those "gods of their idolatry," and lived in
continual dread of their occult powers. With anxious countenance and
attentive ears, they listened to the cantrip effusions of these
pretended oracles, which prognosticated the bright or gloomy days of
futurity. Even physicians were solicitous to qualify themselves for
appointments no less lucrative than respectable:--they forgot, over the
dazzling hoards of Mammon, that they are peculiarly and professedly the
pupils of nature.--The curious student in the universities found
everywhere public lecturers, who undertook to instruct him in the
profound arts of divination, chiromancy, and the _cabala_.

Among other instances, the following anecdote is related of the noted
Thurneisen, who, in the seventeenth century, was invested, at Berlin,
with the respectable offices of printer to the court, bookseller,
almanack-maker, astrologer, chemist, and first physician. Messengers
daily arrived from the most respectable houses in Germany, Poland,
Hungary, Denmark, and even from England, for the purpose of consulting
him respecting the future fortunes[76] of their new-born infants,
acquainting him with the hour of the nativity, and soliciting his advice
and directions as to their management. Many volumes of this singular
correspondence are still preserved in the royal library at Berlin. The
business of this fortunate adept increased so rapidly, that he found it
necessary to employ a number of subaltern assistants, who, together with
their master, realized considerable fortunes. He died in high reputation
and favour with his superstitious contemporaries.

The famous Melancthon was a believer in judicial astrology, and an
interpreter of dreams. Richelieu and Mazarin were so superstitious as to
employ and pension Morin, another pretender to astrology, who cast the
nativities of these two able politicians. Nor was Tacitus himself, who
generally appears superior to superstition, untainted with this folly,
as may be seen from his twenty-second chapter of the sixth book of his

In the time of the civil wars, astrology was in high repute. The
royalists and the rebels had their astrologers as well as their
soldiers; and the predictions of the former had a great influence over
the latter. When Charles the first was imprisoned, Lilly, the famous
astrologer, was consulted for the hour that should favour his escape;
and in Burnet's History of his own Times, there is a story which
strongly proves how much Charles II was bigotted to judicial astrology,
a man, though a king, whose mind was by no means unenlightened. The most
respectable characters of the age, Sir William Dugdale, Elias
Ashmole,[77] Dr. Grew, and others, were members of the astrological club.
Congreve's character of Foresight, in Love for Love, was then no
uncommon person, though the humour, now, is scarcely intelligible.
Dryden cast the nativities of his sons; and what is remarkable, his
prediction relating to his son Charles, was accomplished. The incident
being of so late a date, one might hope that it would have been cleared
up; but, if it be a fact, it must be allowed that it forms a rational
exultation for its irrational adepts. Astrologers were frequently, as
may easily be understood, put to their wit's end when their predictions
did not come to pass. Great winds were foretold, by one of the craft,
about the year 1586. No unusual storms, however, happened. Bodin, to
save the reputation of the art, applied it as a figure to some
revolutions in the state, of which there were instances enough at that

At the commencement of the 18th century, the _Illuminati_, a sect of
astrologers, had excited considerable sensation on the continent.
Blending philosophy with enthusiasm, and uniting to a knowledge of every
chemical process a profound acquaintance with astronomy, their influence
over the superstitious feelings of the people was prodigious; and in
many instances the infatuation was attended with fatal consequences. We
shall relate the following, as nearer home than many now before us.


On the summit of St. Vincent's rocks, in the neighbourhood of Clifton,
looking on the Avon, as it rolls its lazy courses towards the Bristol
Channel, stands an edifice, known by the name of "Cooke's Folly." It
consists of a single round tower, and appears at a distance rather as
the remnant of some extensive building, than a complete and perfect
edifice, as it now exists. It was built more than two centuries ago, by
a man named Maurice Cooke; not, indeed, as a strong hold from the arms
of a mortal enemy, but as a refuge from the evils of destiny. He was the
proprietor of extensive estates in the neighbourhood; and while his lady
was pregnant with her first child, as she was one evening walking in
their domains, she encountered a strange looking gipsey, who, pestering
her for alms, received but a small sum. The man turned over the coin in
his hand, and implored a larger gift. "That," said the lady, "will buy
you food for the present."

"Lady," said the gipsey, "it is not food for the wretched body that I
require; the herbs of the field, and the waters of the ditch, are good
enough for that. I asked your alms for higher purposes. Do not distrust
me, if my bearing be prouder than my garments; do not doubt the strength
of my sunken eye, when I tell you that I can read the skies as they
relate to the fate of men. Not more familiar is his hornbook to the
scholar, than are the heavens to my knowledge."

"What, thou art an astrologer?"--"Aye, lady! my fathers were so before
me, even in the times when our people had a home amidst the pyramids of
the mighty--in the times when you are told the mightier prophets of the
Israelites put the soothsayers of Egypt to confusion; idle tales! but if
true, all reckless now. Judah's scattered sons are now desolate as
ourselves; but they bend and bow to the laws and ways of other land--we
remain in the stern stedfastness of our own."

"If then," returned the lady, "I give thee more money, how will it be

"That is not a courteous question, but I will answer it. The most
cunning craftsman cannot work without his tools, and some of mine are
broken, which I seek to repair: another crown will be enough."

The lady put the required sum into his hand, and at the same time
intimated a desire to have a specimen of his art.

"Oh! to what purpose should that be? why, why seek to know the course
of futurity? destiny runs on in a sweeping and resistless tide. Enquire
not what rocks await your bark: the knowledge cannot avail you, for
caution is useless against stern necessity."--"Truly, you are not likely
to get rich by your trade, if you thus deter customers."--"It is not for
wealth I labour: I am alone on the earth, and have none to love. I will
not mix with the world lest I should learn to hate. This present is
nothing to me. It is in communion with the spirits who have lived in the
times that are past, and with the stars--those historians of the times
to come--that I feel aught of joy. Fools sometimes demand the exertions
of my powers, and sometimes I gratify their childish curiosity."
--"Notwithstanding I lie under the imputation of folly, I
will beg that you predict unto me the fate of the child which I shall
bear."--"Well, you have obliged me, and I will comply. Note the precious
moment at which it enters the world, and soon after you shall see me

Within a week the birth of an heir awoke the clamorous joy of the
vassals, and summoned the strange gipsey to ascertain the necessary
points. These learned, he returned home; and the next day presented Sir
Maurice with a scroll, containing the following lines:

 "Twenty times shall Avon's tide
  In chains of glistening ice be tied--
  Twenty times the woods of Leigh
  Shall wave their brunches merril
  In spring burst forth in mantle gay,
  And dance in summer's scorching ray:
  Twenty times shall autumn's frown,
  Wither all their green to brown--
  And still the child of yesterday
  Shall laugh the happy hour away.
  That period past, another sun
  Shall not his annual journey run,
  Before a secret silent foe,
  Shall strike that boy a deadly blow.
  Such, and sure his fate shall be:
  Seek not to change his destiny."

The knight read it; and in that age, when astrology was considered a
science as unerring as holy prophecies, it would have been little less
than infidelity to have doubted the truth of the prediction. Sir
Maurice, however, was wise enough to withhold the paper from his lady;
and in answer to her inquiries, continually asserted that the gipsey was
an impostor, and that the object of his assuming the character was
merely to increase her alms.

The fated child grew in health and beauty; and as we are the most
usually the more strongly attached to pleasures in proportion to the
brevity of continuance, so did the melancholy fate of his son more
firmly fix him in the heart of Sir Maurice. Often did the wondering lady
observe the countenance of her husband with surprise, as watching the
endearing sportiveness of the boy, his countenance, at first brightened
by the smile of paternal love, gradually darkened to deepest grief, till
unable to suppress his tears, he would cover the child with caresses,
and rush from the room. To all inquiries, Sir Maurice was silent, or
returned evasive answers.

We shall pass over the infancy of young Walter, and resume the narrative
at the period in which he entered into his twentieth year. His mother
was now dead, and had left two other children, both girls, who, however,
shared little of their father's love, which was almost exclusively fixed
on Walter, and appeared to encrease in strength as the fatal time grew

It is not to be supposed that he took no precaution against the
predicted event. Sometimes hope suggested that a mistake might have been
made in the horoscope, or that the astrologer might have overlooked some
sign which made the circumstance conditional; and in unison with the
latter idea he determined to erect a strong building, where, during the
year in which his doom was to be consumated, Walter might remain in
solitude. He accordingly gave directions for raising a single tower,
peculiarly formed to prevent ingress, except by permission of its
inhabitants. The purpose of this strange building, however, he kept
secret; and his neighbours, after numerous vain conjectures, gave it the
name of "Cooke's Folly."

Walter, himself, was kept entirely ignorant of the subject, and all his
inquiries were answered with tears. At length the tower was completed,
and furnished with all things necessary for comfort and convenience; and
on the eve of Walter's completing his twentieth year, Sir Maurice shewed
him the gipsey's scroll, and begged him to make use of the retreat
prepared for him till the year expired. Walter at first treated the
matter lightly, laughed at the prophecy, and declared he would not lose
a year's liberty if all the astrologers in the world were to croak their
ridiculous prophecies against him. Seeing, however, his father so
earnestly bent on the matter, his resolution began to give way, and at
length he consented to the arrangement. At six the following morning,
therefore, Walter entered the tower, which he fastened within as
strongly as iron burs would admit, and which was secured outside in a
manner equally firm. He took possession of his voluntary prison with
melancholy feelings, rather occasioned by the loss of present pleasure,
than the fear of future pain. He sighed as he looked upon the wide
domain before him, and thought how sad would it be to hear the joyous
horn summoning his companions to the chase, and find himself prevented
from attending it--to hear the winter wind howling round his tower, and
rushing between the rocks beneath him, and miss the cheerful song and
merry jest, which were wont to make even the blast a pleasant sound.
Certainly his time passed as pleasantly as circumstances permitted. He
drew up in a basket, at his meal hours, every luxury which the season
produced. His father and sisters daily conversed with him from below,
for a considerable time; and the morris-dancers often raised his
laughter by their grotesque movements.

Weeks and months thus passed, and Walter still was well and cheerful.
His own and his sisters' hopes grew more lively, but the anxiety of Sir
Maurice increased. The day drew near which was to restore his son to his
arms in confident security, or to fulfil the prediction which left him
without an heir to his name and honours.

On the preceding afternoon Walter continually endeavoured to cheer his
parent, by speaking of what he would do on the morrow; desired his
sisters to send round to all their friends, that he might stretch his
limbs once more in the merry dance; and continued to talk of the future
with much confidence, that even Sir Maurice caught a spark of hope from
the fiery spirits of the youth.

As the night drew on, and his sisters were about to leave him, promising
to wake him at six by a song, in answer to their usual inquiry if he
wanted anything more that night, "Nothing," said he, "and yet the night
feels chilly, and I have little fuel left--send me one more faggot."
This was sent him, and as he drew it up, "This," said he, "is the last
time I shall have to dip for my wants, like an old woman for water:
thank God! for it is wearisome work to the arm."

Sir Maurice still lingered under the window in conversation with his
son, who at length complained of being cold and drowsy. "Mark," said he,
as he closed the window, "mark father, Mars, the star of my fate, looks
smilingly to-night, all will be well." Sir Maurice looked up--a dark
cloud spot suddenly crossed the planet, and he shuddered at the omen.
The anxious father could not leave the spot. Sleep he knew it was vain
to court, and he therefore determined to remain where he was. The
reflexions that occupied his mind continually varied: at one time he
painted to himself the proud career of his high spirited boy, known and
admired among the mighty of his time; a moment after he saw the
prediction verified, and the child of his love lying in the tomb. Who
can conceive his feelings as hour dragged after hour, while he walked to
and fro, watching the blaze of the fire in the tower, as it brightened
and sunk again--now pacing the court with hasty steps, and now praying
fervently for the preservation of his son? The hour came. The cathedral
bell struck heavy on the father's heart, which was not to be lightened
by the cheerful voices of his daughters, who came running full of hope
to the foot of the tower. They looked up, but Walter was not
there;--they called his name, he answered not. "Nay," said the youngest,
"this is only a jest; he thinks to frighten us, but I know he is safe."
A servant had brought a ladder, which he ascended, and he looked in at
the window. Sir Maurice stood immoveable and silent.--He looked up, and
the man answered the anxious expression of his eyes. "He is asleep,"
said he. "He is dead!" murmured the father.

The servant broke a pane of glass in the window, and opening the
casement, entered the room. The father, changing his gloomy stedfastness
for frenzied anxiety, rushed up the ladder. The servant had thrown aside
the curtains and the clothes, and displayed to the eyes of Sir Maurice,
his son lying dead, a serpent twined round his arm, and his throat
covered with blood. The reptile had crept up the faggot last sent him,
and fulfilled the _prophecy_.

To this happy effort of the imagination in favour of prying into
futurity, may be added, with the same intention.


Ibrahim was universally celebrated for his riches and magnificence. His
armies were formidable, his victories splendid, and his treasury
inexhaustible. He enjoyed, moreover, what was ten thousand times more
solid and more valuable than riches--the love and veneration of his
subjects; and he had a beautiful young wife, in whose endearing
tenderness alone he could find happiness--if happiness could be found on
earth. All these advantages entitled Ibrahim to the appellation of the
Solomon of his age; and yet Ibrahim was not happy. A son was wanting to
crown his felicity. In vain did a heart formed for all the charities of
the wedded state, endeavour to supply the refusal of nature, by the
adoption of a son; in vain did gratitude endeavour to deceive his heart,
by caresses which any other would have thought to be the natural
effusions of filial sensibility, of filial piety and affection; that
heart incessantly perceived a solitude within itself. Even the
consolatory visions of hope began to grow less frequent, when heaven at
last heard his prayers, Alas! in the very instant that Fortune gratifies
our fondest wishes, she often betrays us; and her smiles are a thousand
times more fatal than her frowns. The birth of the prince was
celebrated throughout the empire by the customary public demonstrations
of joy. The felicity of Ibrahim was complete. He was perpetually
revolving in his mind the sentiments and hopes which the nation would
form of the royal infant. Scarce was he born, when paternal solicitude
embraced, as it were, his whole life. Impatient to know his destiny,
that solicitude plunged into futurity, determined, if possible, to wrest
from time, the secrets of which he was the hoary-headed guardian.

In Ibrahim's dominions were some sages particularly honoured with the
confidence of heaven. He commanded them to consult the stars, and to
report their answer. "Tremble," said the sages; "thou unfortunate
father, tremble! Never before have the skies presented such inauspicious
omens. Let him fly; let this son, too dear to you, fly; let him avoid,
if possible, the meeting with any savage beasts. His seventh year is the
fatal one; and if he should happen then, to escape the misfortune that
hangs over him, ah! do not wish him to live. His father, his very
father, will not be able to escape from the hand of a parricide."

This answer threw the sultan into the deepest consternation. He did not
sink, however, into absolute despondency; his courage soon revived. He
determined to take all the precautions which paternal tenderness could
suggest, to defeat the prediction of the astrologers. He, therefore,
caused a kind of subterranean palace to be made on the summit of a lofty
mountain. The labour and expense of the excavation was prodigious.
Extensive walks were formed, with a variety of apartments, in which
every thing was provided that could contribute to the conveniences, and
even the luxuries of life. In this magnificent cavern, Ibrahim, as it
were, inhumed his son, together with his governess, of whose care, and
fidelity he had no doubt. Provisions were constantly carried thither at
stated periods. The king forgot not a single day to visit the mountain
that contained his beloved treasure, and to be satisfied of his safety
with his own eyes. With what delight did he behold the growing beauties
of his son! With what pleasure and rapture did he listen to his
sprightly saillies of wit, his smart repartees, and those pretty
_nothings_ which a father, in particular, is fond to recollect and to
repeat; at which the most rigid gravity may smile, and which are worth
all the understanding of riper years. He was perpetually counting the
hours and minutes that he had to spend with his son; and he incessantly
reproached himself, for not seeing him more frequently.

Shah Abbas, for such was his name, at length reached his seventh year,
that fatal year, which Ibrahim would fain have delayed, even at the
expense of his crown. He would never leave his son a minute. But, alas!
is it possible to escape our destiny? Summoned one day to his palace by
affairs of the most pressing exigency, he left the mountain with extreme
reluctance. Never had Shah Abbas appeared wore amiable in his father's
eyes, never had Ibrahim appeared more affectionate to his son! Each was
tormented by an uneasy sensation, an unaccountable presentiment that
they were to meet there no more!

Some robbers were hunting wild beasts: the ardour of the pursuit brought
them to this mountain. A lion that fled from them, perceived the
subterraneous passage, and took refuge in it. The robbers, who durst not
follow him, waited, however, for the sequel of this adventure. On a
sudden, they heard a violent scream, and presently all was silent. This
silence suggested to them, that the cavern now contained, not a living
creature, but the lion. They threw down a quantity of stones, which soon
put an end to the existence of the formidable animal. They then
descended into the cavern, securing themselves from all further danger
from the lion by cutting off his head. Wandering through every part of
this subterraneous palace, they were astonished at the prodigious riches
which they beheld. They perceived a slaughtered woman: this was the
prince's governess. By her side lay a child covered with blood, who
shewed, however, some signs of life. They examined his wounds: they
found not one of them dangerous. The captain of these banditti, after
stripping the cavern of its valuable contents, dressed the young
prince's wounds himself, and effected a cure. The growing qualities of
Shah Abbas endeared him to the chief, who adopted him as his son, and
distinguished him as such by all the tenderness of a paternal heart.

Some years had elapsed since Ibrahim had first deplored the loss of a
son, who, having been constantly ignorant of the name and titles of his
father, had been unable to explain his origin to the robbers, was soon
to become their chief. Such were the unaccountable caprices of fortune,
which led to the completion of the prophecy, that had destined him to
become one day a parricide. Ibrahim was wont to divert his grief by the
pleasures of the chase; and this exercise soon became almost his only
occupation. One evening that he had strayed, with a very slender escort,
into the defiles of a very solitary mountain, a troop of robbers rushed
upon him. The combat for sometime was furious. An arrow pierced the
king; it excited the spirit of vengeance in his attendants, and they
fought, determined to conquer or die. They were soon victorious. The
murderer was taken, and conducted to the metropolis, that he might
undergo the punishment due to his crime.

Ibrahim, on the bed of death, summoned the astrologers to attend him,
and thus addressed them: "I was to have perished, you told me, by the
hand of a son; but it is the hand of a robber that has inflicted the
blow."--"Sire," answered the sages, "forbear to seek an explanation. The
robber"... They proceed no further. The young robber appears, and
relates his history. Ibrahim, while he bowed in submission to God, and
adored His inscrutable decrees, blessed Him also for having restored his
son; and the tears which he saw flow from the eyes of Shah Abbas, were a
consolation in his dying moments.


Astrology was also made subservient to the means of prolonging human
life; but how an art which determines the fate of mortals, and
ascertains the impassable limits of the grave, could consistently be
made subservient to such a purpose, we are rather at a loss to conceive,
unless accounted for as follows. The teachers of divination maintained,
that not only men, but all natural bodies, plants, animals, nay even
whole countries, including every place and family, were under the
government of some particular planet. As soon as the masters of the
occult science had discovered by their tables, under what constellation
the misfortune or distemper of any person originated, nothing farther
was required, than that he should remove to a dwelling ruled by an
opposite planet, and confine himself exclusively to such articles of
food and drink as were under the influence of a different star. In this
artificial manner they contrived to form a system, or peculiar
classification of planets, namely, Lunar, Solar, Mercurial and the
like--and hence arose a confused map of dictated rules, which, when
considered with reference to the purposes of health, cleanliness,
exercise etc. form remarkable contrasts to those of the Greeks. But this
preventive and repulsive method was not merely confined to persons who
suffered under some bodily disorder: even individuals, who enjoyed a
good state of health, if an unlucky constellation happened to forebode
a severe disease, or any other misfortune, were directed to choose a
place of residence influenced by a more friendly star--or to adopt such
aliment only, as being under the auspices of a propitious star, might
counteract the malignant influence of its antagonist.

It was also pretty generally believed and maintained, that a sort of
intimate relation or sympathy subsisted between metals and plants: hence
the names of the latter were given to the former, in order to denote
this supposed connexion and affinity. The corresponding metals were
melted into a common mass, under a certain planet, and were formed into
small medals, or coins, with the firm persuasion, that he who carried
such a piece about his person, might confidently expect the whole favour
and protection of the planet, thus represented.[78] Thus we perceive how
easy the transition is from one degree of folly to another; and this may
help to account for the shocking delusions practised in the
manufacturing and wearing of metallic amulets of a peculiar mould, to
which were attributed, by a sort of magic influence, the power and
protection of the respective planet: these charms were thought to
possess virtue sufficient to overrule the bad effects presaged by an
unlucky hour of birth, to promote to places of honour and profit, and to
be of potent efficacy in matters of commerce and matrimony. The German
soldiers, in the dark and superstitious ages, believed that if the
figure of Mars, cast and engraved under the sign of the Scorpion, were
worn about the neck, it would render them invulnerable, and insure
success to their military enterprises--hence the reason why amulets were
then found upon every soldier, either killed in battle or taken

We shall so far conclude these observations on the chimera of astrology
and medicine with the following remarks in the words of Chamber against
Knight's work,[79] which defends this fanciful science, if science it may
be called. "It demonstrates nothing while it defends every thing. It
confutes, according to Knight's own ideas: it alleges a few scattered
facts in favour of astrological productions, which may be picked up in
that immensity of fabling which disgraces history. He strenuously
denies, or ridicules, what the greatest writers have said of this
fanciful art, while he lays great stress on some passages from obscure
authors, or what is worse, from authors of no authority."--The most
pleasant part, however, is at the close where he defends the art from
the objections of Mr. Chamber by recrimination. Chamber had enriched
himself by medical practice, and when he charges the astrologers by
merely aiming to gain a few beggarly pence, Sir Christopher catches
fire, and shews by his quotations, that if we are to despise an art by
its professors attempting to subsist, or for the objections which may be
raised against its vital principles, we ought by this argument most
heartily to despise the medical science, and medical men; he gives all
here he can collect against physic and physicians, and from the
confessions of Galen and Hippocrates, Avicenna and Agrippa, medicine is
made to appear a vainer science than even astrology itself.

Lilly's opinions, and his pretended science, were such favourites of
the age, that the learned Gataker[80] wrote professedly against this
popular delusion. At the head of his star-expounding friends, Lilly not
only formally replied to, but persecuted Gataker annually in his
predictions, and even struck at his ghost, when beyond the grave.
Gataker died in July 1654, and Lilly, having written in his almanack for
that year, for the month of August, the following barbarous latin line--

    Hoc in tumbo, jacet presbyter et nebulo!
  Here in this tomb lies a presbyter and a knave,

had the impudence to assert, that he had predicted Gataker's death! But
the truth is, it was an empty epitaph to the "Lodgings to let:" it stood
empty, reader, for the first passenger that the immortal ferryman should
carry over the Styx.

But hear that arch imposter Old Patridge of more modern date whose
_gulleries_ appear to have no end. "The practice of astrology is divided
into speculative and theoretical." (Astronomy and judicial astrology).
The first teaches us how to know the stars and planets, and to find
their places and motions. The second directs us to the knowledge of the
influence and operations of the stars and planets upon sublunary bodies,
and without this last the former is of little use. Astronomy cannot
direct and inform us of the secret influences and operations of the
stars and planets, without the assistance of' the _most sublime_ art of
astrology. For astronomy is conversant about the subject of this art,
and doth furnish the astrologer with matter whereon to exercise his
judgment, but astrology disposes this matter into predictions, or
rational conjectures, as time and occasion require.

"The practice again is subdivided into two parts, or quadripartite, as
Ptolomy (lib. 2) declares: the first considers the general state of the
world, and from eclipses and comets, great conjunctions, annual
revolutions, quarterly ingressions and lunations, also the rising,
culminating, and setting of the fixed stars, together with the
configurations of the planets both to the sun and among themselves,
judgment is deduced, and the astrologer doth frame his annual
predictions of all sensitive and vegetative things lying in the air,
earth, or water; of plague, plenty, dearth, mutations of the air, wars,
peace, and other general accidents of countries, provinces, cities, etc.

"The second of these subdivided parts, in particular, respects only the
private state of every single man and woman, which must be performed
from the scheme of the nativity, the knowledge of which is of most
excellent use to all persons. Therefore let the nativities of children
be diligently observed for the future, that is to say, the day, hour,
and minute of birth as near as can be, which will be of use to the
astrological physician, for the most principal conjecture of the
malignity of the disease, whether it be curable, or shall end with
death, depends upon the knowledge of the nativity; and very rarely any
disease invades a person, but some unfortunate direction of the
luminaries or ascendant to the body, or beams of malignant planets
preceded the same, or did then operate, or at least some evil
revolution, profection or transit, which cannot be discovered by any
other way but by astrology. Moreover, it would be convenient that the
true time of the first falling sick be observed precisely, and by that,
together with the nativity, be judiciously compared, the physician shall
gain more credit than by all his other skill; and herein, the
astrologer's foresight shall often contradict the judgment of the
physician; for when the astrologer foretells a phlegmatic man, that at
such a time he shall be afflicted with a choleric disease, the doctor
will perceive by his physical symptoms, the astrologer, from his
knowledge in more secret causes of nature, hath excelled him in his art.

"Now if God Almighty do not countermand or check the ordinary course of
nature, or the matter of elementary bodies here below be not
unproportionable, and thereby unapt to receive their impressions, there
is no reason why, in a natural and physical necessity, astrological
predictions should not succeed and take effect, and by how much the
knowledge which we have by the known causes is more demonstrative and
infallible than that which we have either by signs or effects, so much
by this companion doth Astrology appear worthy to be preferred before
Physic." Cardan, who was an excellent physician saith: "If by the art of
Astrology he had not better attained to the knowledge of his diseases,
than the physician that would have administered to him by his skill, he
had been assuredly cured by death, rather than preserved alive by
physic. (Vide his Comment. upon Ptol. Quidrepart.) From hence it appears
it is necessary that the physician should be skilful in astrology, but
on the contrary, _ex quovis legno non fit Mercurius_, every astrologer
cannot be a physician; if the nativity be but precisely known, or if,
but _tempus ablatum_ or _suppositum_, and withal some notable accidents
of sickness, danger of drowning, peril by fire, marriage, or other, the
like accidents may be foreseen."

The astrologers were a set of cunning, equivocal rogues; the more
cautious of whom only uttered their prognostications in obscure and
ambiguous language, which might be applied to all things, times,
princes, and nations whatever. An almanack maker, a Spanish friar,
predicted, in clear and precise words, the death of Henry the Fourth of
France; and Pierese, though he had no faith in star-gazing, yet, alarmed
at whatever menaced the life of a beloved sovereign, consulted with some
of the king's friends, and had the Spanish almanack laid before his
Majesty, who courteously thanked them for their solicitude, but utterly
slighted the prediction: the event occurred, and in the following year,
the Spanish _Lilly_ spread his own fame in an new almanack. This
prediction of the friar, was the result either of his being acquainted
with the plot, or from his being made an instrument for the purposes of
those who were.

Cornelius Agrippa rightly designates astrologers "a perverse and
preposterous generation of men, who profess to know future things, but
in the meantime are altogether ignorant of past and present; and
undertaking to tell all people most obscure and hidden secrets abroad,
at the same time, know not what happens in their own houses."

  But this Agrippa, for profound
  And solid lying, was renown'd:
  The Anthroposophus, and Floud,
  And Jacob Behmen, understood;
  Knew many an amulet and charm
  That would do neither good nor harm.
  He understood the speech of birds
  As well as they themselves do words;
  Could tell what subtlest parrots mean
  That speak and think contrary, clean;
  What member 'tis of whom they talk,
  Why they cry, rope and--walk, knave, walk.
  He could foretell whatever was
  By consequence to come to pass;
  As death of great men, alterations,
  Diseases, battles, inundations:
  All this without th' eclipse o' th' sun,
  Or dreadful comet, he hath done
  By inward light, a way as good,
  And easy to be understood:
  But with more lucky hit than those
  That use to make the stars depose
  As if they were consenting to
  All mischief in the world men do:
  Or like the devil, did tempt and sway 'em
  To rogueries, and then betray 'em.

We shall conclude our astrological strictures with the following
advertisement, which affords as fine a satirical specimen of quackery as
is to be met with. It is extracted from "poor Robin's" almanack for
1773; and may not be without its use, to many at the present day. We
will vouch for it being harmless, but as we are not in the secret of all
that it contains, our readers must endeavour to get the information that
may be wanted, on certain important points, from other quarters. It will
shew, however, that the almanack astrologers did not live upon the best
terms, but like their predecessors, were constantly abusing and
attacking each other.


"The best time to cut hair. How moles and dreams are to be interpreted.
When most proper season to bleed. Under what aspect of the moon best to
draw teeth, and cut corns. Pairing of nails, on what day unlucky. What
the kindest sign to graft or inoculate in; to open bee-hives, and kill
swine. How many hours boiling my Lady Kent's pudding requires. With
other notable questions, fully and faithfully resolved, by me Sylvester
Patridge, student in physic and astrology, near the Gun in Moorfields."

"Of whom likewise may be had, at reasonable rates, trusses, antidotes,
elixirs, love-powders. Washes for freckles, plumpers, glass-eyes, false
calves and noses, ivory-jaws, and a new receipt to turn red hair into

Old Robin's almanack was evidently the best of the time, and free from
all the astrological cant with which Patridge's Merlinus Liberatus was
filled; against which Poor Robin did not a little declaim. The motto to
his title runs thus:--

 "We use no weather-wise predictions
  Nor any such-like airy fictions;
  But (which we think is much the best)
  Write the plain truth, or crack a jest:
  And (without any further pretence)
  Confess we write, and think of the pence:
  For that's the aim of all who write,
  Profit to gain, mixed with delight."

Poor old Robin attacked the astrologers of his day with no little
vehemence: "How different a task is it," says he, "for man to behave so
in this world as to please all the people that inhabit it! A man who
makes use of his best endeavours to please every body is sure to please
but very few, and by that means displease a great many; which may very
possibly be the case with poor Robin this year. But (be that as it will)
_old Bob_ is sometimes well pleased, when rogues, prick-eared coxcombs,
fools, and such like, are the most displeased at him: be it therefore
known, that it is only men of sense and integrity, (whether they have
much money or no money) that he has any, (the least) regard for: I see
very plainly, that an humble man is (generally) accounted _base_; if
otherwise, he is esteemed _proud_; a bold look is looked upon as
_impudence_; if modest, (then to be sure) he must be _hypocritical_; if
his behaviour is grave, it is owing to a _sullenness_ of temper; if
affable, he is but _little_ regarded; if strictly just, then _cruel_
must be his character; but, if merciful and forbearing, then (of
consequence) a silly, sheepish-headed fool! Now, I challenge all the
ASS-TROLOGERS and CONJURERS, throughout the whole kingdom, to
demonstrate that all the whimsey-headed opinions which different men
retain of different actions, together with their being so vastly
different at different times, one from another; I say, I call upon them
ALL to prove, that they are (wholly) owing to the STARRY influences!
There being, (I believe) in general as many different ideas and
conceptions in the mind of mankind, as there are variety of complexions
and countenances."

His observations on the four _unequal_ quarters of the year, as he terms
them, are no less satirical, humorous, and full of truth, and so much in
"opposition" with others of the trade, that poor old Robin, in good
sense and trite remarks, carries away the palm from all his predecessors
and contemporaries; indeed, he is so little of an astrologer, that,
instead of consulting the angles, aspects, conjunctions and trines, of
the planets, he is vulgar enough to attach more importance to the
substantials and doings of this nether world. We present our readers
with the following as a specimen, which, though in his usual way, a
little rough-mouthed, occasionally is free from that almanack-cant which
characterises the vocations of his fellow-labourers in the same field.


which, being the most delightful season in the whole year, as it comes
the next after a long and cold winter makes it as welcome as it is
delightful; for now the lengthening days afford full time for every body
but drunkards and watchmen to finish their respective day's works by
day-light, besides some time to spare to walk abroad, to see the fine
new livery with which Dame Flora has now decked out Mother Earth. In the
opening of the Spring, when all nature begins to recover herself, the
same animal pleasure which makes the bird sing, and the whole brute
creation rejoice, rises very sensibly in the hearts of mankind. This
quarter will bring whole shoals of mackerel, and plenty of green pease;
likewise gooseberries, cherries, cheese-cakes, and custards.

But, let us now moralize,--and improve these vernal delights into real
virtue; and, when we find within ourselves a secret satisfaction arising
from the beauties of the creation, may we consider to whom we stand
indebted for all these various gratifications and entertainments of
sense; who it is that opens thus his hand, and fills the world with
good! But so soon as this quarter is ended; i.e. there, or then, or
thereabout, for in this case a day or two can break no great squares--I
say this quarter (as usual) will be followed by the


when, and at which time the days will have attained their greatest, and
consequently the nights the shortest lengths. June, in which month this
quarter is said to begin, will retain some likeness, if not exhibit the
perfections of the Spring; but the two next succeeding months will
perhaps have less vigour, but a greater degree of heat; for, as they
pass on, they will be ripening the fruits of the earth; whilst the Dog
star is shooting his rays amongst, the industrious farmer will have
business enough upon his hands: for now he expects to be reaping and
gathering together the returns of his labour; but then he must expect,
nevertheless, to bear the heat and burthen of the day.

This quarter very justly represents a man in the full vigour of health
and strength; the beauty of the Spring is gone! The strength of Summer
is of short continuance! It will very soon be succeeded by Autumn: thus,
and thus (O reader) do then consider, hast thou seen the seasons, two,
three, or four times return in regular succession: remember that the
time is coming, when all opportunities of this sort will be for ever hid
from thine eyes: remember if forty years have passed thee, I say, I
would have thee remember, that thy spring is gone, thy summer almost
spent! Have then, therefore, a very serious retrospective view of thy
past, and, (if it please God) a fixed resolution to amend thy prolonged
life: then being now arrived almost on the eve of


which begins this year (as usual) when, or then, or thereabouts, the
time the Summer quarter ends--namely, when the nights begin to grow
longer and the days shorter: this is the time when the barns are filled
with wheat, which soon must be thrashed out, in order to be sowed again.
This also is the time when the orchards abound with fruits of the kind,
and consequently the properest time to make cider.

Lamentable now must be the case of those poor women who, in this
quarter, happen to long for green pease or strawberries; for I dare
assure them, upon the _honest word_ of an astrologer, that they can get
none on this side of next Easter. Some now-abouts under the notion of
soldiers, shall sally out at night upon _Pullen_, or perhaps lie in
embuscade for a rope of onions, as if they were Welsh freebooters. Loss
of time and money may be recovered by industry: but to be a fool-born,
or a rogue in nature, are diseases incurable.

Remember that in any quarter of the year, this is almost always a
certain presage of a wedding, when all parties are agreed, and the
parson in readiness; and then you must be sure to have money in
readiness too, or your intended marriage may happen to prove a
miscarriage. But those who are able to pay for tying the knot, when it
is fairly tied, may go home to dinner and be merry; go to the tavern and
be merry; go to supper and be merry; rise next morning and be merry: and
let the world know, that a married life is a plentiful life, when people
have good estates; a fruitful life when they have many children; and an
happy life, when man and wife love each other as they ought to do, and
never quarrel nor disagree.


But now comes on the cold, dirty, dithering, pouting, rainy, shivering,
freezing, blowing, stormy, blustering, cruel quarter called winter; the
very thoughts of it are enough to fright one; but that it very luckily
happens to be introduced (this year) by a good, fat merry Christmas: yet
it is the last and worse, and very much resembles extreme old age
accompanied by poverty; this quarter is also pretty much like Pharoah's
lean kine; for it generally (we find) eats up and devours most of the
produce of the preceding seasons: now the sun entering the southern
tropic, affords us the least share of his light, and consequently the
longest long nights: yet, nevertheless, in this uncomfortable quarter,
you may possibly pick up some crumbs of comfort, provided you have good
health, good store of the ready Rhino, a good wife, and other good
things about you: and especially a good conscience: for then the starry
influences must necessarily appear very benign, notwithstanding the
inclemency of the weather; for in such cases there will be frequent
_conjunctions_ of sirloins and ribs of beef; _aspects_ of legs and
shoulders of mutton, with _refrenations_ of loins of veal, shining near
the watery triplicity of plumb-porridge--together with trine and sextile
of minced pies; collared brawn from the Ursus major, and sturgeon from
Pisces--all for the honour of Christmas: and I think it is a much
pleasanter sight than a Covent-Garden comedy, to see a dozen or two of
husbandmen, farmers, and honest tenants, at a nobleman's table (who
never raised their rents) worry a sirloin, and hew down, (I mean cut up)
a goose like a log: while a good Cheshire cheese, and plenty of nappy
ale, and strong March beer, washes down the merry goblets, sets all
their wit afloat, and sends them to their respective homes, as happy as

  And now, kind loving readers, every one,
  God send y'a good new-year, when the old one 's gone.


[75] The following prediction, and the verification of it are of so
recent a date, that we cannot resist giving it a place in our pages. In
the account of the late Captain Flinder's voyage of discovery, is the
melancholy relation of the loss of the master, Mr. Thistle, with seven
others, in a boat, on the inhospitable shores of Terra Australia. To
this narrative, the following note is subjoined, which we shall here
quote in Captain Flinder's own words: "This evening, Mr. Fowler, the
lieutenant, told me a circumstance which I thought very extraordinary,
and it afterwards proved to be more so. While we were lying at Spithead,
Mr. Thistle was one day waiting on shore, and having nothing else to do,
went to a certain old man, named Pine, to have his fortune told. The
cunning man informed him that he was going on a long voyage, and that
the ship, on arriving at her destination, would be joined by another
vessel. That such was intended, he might have learnt privately; but he
added that Mr. Thistle would be lost before the other vessel joined. As
to the manner of his loss the magician refused to give any information.
My boat's crew, hearing what Mr. Thistle said, went to consult the wise
man, and after the prefatory information of a long voyage, they were
told that they would be shipwrecked, but not in the ship they were going
out in; whether they would escape and return to England, he was not
permitted to reveal. This tale Mr. Thistle often told at the mess-table;
and I remarked, with some pain, in a future part of the voyage, that
every time my boat's crew went to embark in the Lady Nelson, there was
some degree of apprehension amongst them, that the time of the predicted
shipwreck was arrived. I make no comment, (says Capt. Flinders,) upon
this story, but to recommend a commander, if possible, to prevent any of
his crew from consulting fortune-tellers."--It should be observed that,
strange as it may appear, every particular of these predictions came
exactly to pass, for the master and his boat's crew were lost before the
Investigator was joined by the Lady Nelson, from Port-Jackson; and when
the former ship was condemned, the people embarked with their commander
on board the Porpoise, which was wrecked on a coral reef, and nine of
the crew were lost.

[76] In 1670, the passion for horoscopes and expounding the stars,
prevailed in France among the first rank. The new-born child was usually
presented naked to the astrologer, who read the first lineaments in its
forehead, and the transverse lines in its hands, and thence wrote down
its future destiny. Catherine de Médicis carried Henry IV, when a child,
to old Nostradamus, who antiquaries esteem more for his Chronicle of
Provence than for his vaticinating powers. The sight of the revered
seer, with a heard which "streamed like a meteor in the air," terrified
the future hero, who dreaded a whipping from so grave a personage.

[77] The Chaldean Sages were nearly put to the route by a quarto pack of
artillery, fired on them by Mr. John Chamber, in 1691. Apollo did not
use Marsyas more inhumanly than his scourging pen this mystical race;
and his personalities made them sorely feel it. However, a Norwich
knight, the very Quixote of Astrology, arrayed in the enchanted armour
of his occult authors, encountered this pagan in a most stately
carousal. He came forth with "A Defence of Judicial Astrologye, in
answer to a treatise lately published by Mr. John Chamber. By
Christopher Knight. Printed at Cambridge, 1693."

[78] Vide Amulets passim.

[79] Lilly's work, a voluminous quarto monument of the folly of the age,
was sold originally for four guineas; it is entitled "Christian
Astrology," modestly treated, in three books, by William Lilly, student
in Astrology, 2nd. edition 1659. Every page is embellished with a
horoscope which, sitting on the pretending tripod, he explains with the
utmost facility. There is also a portrait of this arch rogue and
star-gazer, an admirable illustration for Lavater. As to Lilly's great
skill in prophecy, there goes a pleasant story related by a kinsman of
Dr. Case, his successor--namely--that a person wanting to consult him on
a certain point coming to his house one morning, Lilly himself going to
the door, saw a piece of filthy carrion which some one, who had more wit
than manners, had left there: and being much offended at its unsightly
appearance wished heartily he did but know who had treated him in that
manner by leaving such an unwelcome legacy, as it were, in his very
teeth, that he might punish them accordingly; which his customer
observing when the conjurer demanded his business, "Nothing at all,"
said he, "for I'm sure if you can't find out who has defiled your own
door, it is impossible you should discover anything relating to me," and
with this caustic remark he left him.

[80] The Reverend and learned Thomas Gataker, with whom Lilly was
engaged in a dispute, in his Annotations on the tenth chapter of
Jeremiah and 10th verse, called him a "blind buzzard," and Lilly
reflected again on his antagonist in his _Annus Tenebrosus_. Mr.
Gataker's reply was entitled Thomas Gataker, B.D. his Vindication of the
annotation by him published upon these words, "thus saith the Lord,"
(Jer. x. 2) against the scurrilous aspersions of that grand impostor
William Lilly; as also against the various expositions of two of his
advocates Mr. John Swan, and another by him cited but not named. Together
with the Annotations themselves, wherein the pretended grounds of
judiciary astrology, and the scripture proofs produced to it, are
discussed and refuted. London, 1653, in 4th part 192. Our author making
animadversions on this piece in his English Merlin, 1654 produced a
third piece from Mr. Gataker, called a Discourse apologetical, wherein
Lilly's lewd, and loud lies in his Merlin or Pasquil for 1654, are
clearly laid open; his shameless desertion of his own cause further
discovered, his abominable slanders fully refuted, and his malicious and
_murtherous_ mind, inciting to a general massacre of God's ministers,
from his own pen, evidently known, etc. London 1654.



As we shall have to speak of the art practised through the medium,
termed incubation, of curing diseases, it may be proper to say something
previously on the interpretation of dreams through whose agency these
events were said to be realized.

Oneirocritics, or interpreters of dreams, were called conjecturers, a
very fit and proper name for these worldly wise men, according to the
following lines, translated from Euripides--

  He that conjectures least amiss
    Of all, the best of prophets is.

To the delusion of dreams not a few of the ancient philosophers lent
themselves. Among these were Democritus, Aristotle, and his follower
Themistius, Siresius the Platonic; who so far relied on dreams which
some accident or other brought about, that they thence endeavoured to
persuade men there are no dreams but what are founded on realities. For,
say they, as the celestial influences produce various forms and changes
in corporeal matter, so out of certain influences, predominating over
the power of the fancy, the impression of visions is made, being
consentaneous, through the disposition of the heavens, to the effect
produced; more especially in dreams, because the mind, being then at
liberty from all corporeal cares and exercises, more freely receives the
divine influences: it happens, therefore that many things are revealed
to them that are asleep, which are concealed from them that are awake.
With these and such reasons it is pretended that much is communicated
through the medium of dreams:

  When soft sleep the body lays at ease,
    And from the heavy mass the fancy frees,
  Whate'er it is in which we take delight,
    And think of most by day we dream at night.

The transition from sleep is very natural to that of dreams, the
wonderful and mysterious phenomena of that state, the ideal transactions
and vain illusions of the mind. According to Wolfius, an eminent
philosopher of Silesia, every dream originates in some sensation, and is
continued by the succession of phantoms; but no phantasm can arise in
the mind without some previous sensation. And yet it is not easy to
confirm this by experience, it being often difficult to distinguish
those slight sensations, which give rise to dreams, from phantasms, or
objects of imagination.[81] The series of phantasms which thus constitute
a dream, seems to be accounted for by the law of the imagination, or
association of ideas; though it may be very difficult to assign the
cause of every minute difference, not only in different subjects, but in
the same, at different times, and in different circumstances. And hence
M. Formey, who adopts the opinion of Wolfius, concludes, that those
dreams are supernatural, which either do not begin by sensation, or are
not continued by the law of imagination.[82]

The opinion is as old as Aristotle, who asserted, that a dream is only
the [Greek: Phantasma] or _appearance_ of things, excited in the mind,
and remaining after the objects are removed.[83] The opinion of
Lucretius, translated in our motto, was likewise that of Tully.[84] Locke
also traces the origin of dreams to previous sensations. "The dreams of
sleeping men," says this profound philosopher, "are all made up of the
waking man's ideas, though for the most part oddly put together."[85] And
Dr. Hartley, who explains all the phenomena of the imagination by his
theory of vibrations and associations, says, that dreams are nothing but
the imaginations or reveries of sleeping men, and that they are
deducible from three causes--viz, the impressions and ideas lately
received, and particularly those of the preceding day, the state of the
body, more especially of the stomach and brain, and association.[86]

Macrobius mentions five sorts of dreams. 1st. vision--2nd. a discovery
of something between sleeping and waking--3rd. a suggestion cast into
our fancy, called by Cicero, _visum_,--4th. an ordinary dream--and
fifth, a divine apparition or revelation in our sleep; such as were the
dreams of the prophets, and of Joseph, as also of the Eastern Magi.


Avicen makes the cause of dreams to be an ultimate intelligence moving
the moon in the midst of that light with which the fancies of men are
illuminated while they sleep. Aristotle refers the cause of them to
common sense, but placed in the fancy. Averroes, an Arabian physician,
places it in the imagination; Democritus ascribes it to little images,
or representations, separated from the things themselves; Plato among
the specific and concrete notions of the soul; Albertus to the superior
influences, which continually flow from the sky, through many specific

Some physicians attribute the cause of dreams to vapours and humours,
and the affections and cares of persons predominant when awake; for, say
they, by reason of the abundance of vapours, which are exhaled in
consequence of immoderate feeding, the brain is so stuffed by it, that
monsters and strange chimera are formed, of which the most inordinate
eaters and drinkers furnish us with sufficient instances. Some dreams,
they assert, are governed partly by the temperature of the body, and
partly by the humour which mostly abounds in it; to which may be added
the apprehensions which have preceded the day before; and which are
often remarked in dogs, and other animals, which bark and make a noise
in their sleep. Dreams, they observe, proceed from the humours and
temperature of the body; we see the choleric dreams of fire, combats,
yellow colours, etc. the phlegmatic of water baths, of sailing on the
sea; the melancholies of thick fumes, deserts, fantasies, hideous faces,
etc. they that have the hinder part of their brain clogged, with viscous
humours, called by physicians Ephialtes incubus, dream that they are
suffocated. And those who have the orifice of their stomach loaded with
malignant humours, are affrighted with strange visions, by reason of
those venemous vapours that mount to the brain and distemper it.


Were we to enter more profoundly into the mysterious phenomena of
dreams, our present lucubrations might become too abstruse; and, after
all, no philosophical nor satisfactory account can be given of them.
Such of our readers therefore, as may wish for a more minute inquiry
into the opinions above stated, we beg leave to refer to the respective
authors whom we have already quoted. The reader, who is fond to find
amusement even in a serious subject, from the scenes of nocturnal
imagination, will be glad, perhaps for a moment, to be transported into
the regions of poetic fancy. And here we find that the fancy is not more
sportive in dreams, than are the poets in their descriptions of her
nocturnal vagaries. On the effects of the imagination in dreams, the
following effusion, put into the mouth of the volatile Mercurio, is an
admirable illustration:--

  O, then I see, Queen Mab has been with you.
  She is the fancy's midwife, and she comes
  In shape no bigger than an agate stone
  On the fore-finger of an Alderman,
  Drawn with a team of little atomies,
  Athwart men's noses as they lie asleep:
  Her waggon spokes made of long spinners' legs;
  The cover of the wings of grasshoppers;
  The traces of the smallest spider's web;
  The collars of the moonshine's watery beams;
  Her whip of cricket's bone; the lash of film;
  Her waggoner, a small grey coated gnat,
  Not half so big as a round little worm,
  Prickt from the lazy finger of a maid.
  Her chariot is an empty hazel nut,
  Made by the joiner squirril, old grub,
  Time out of mind the fairies' coachmakers:
  And in this state she gallops night by night,
  Thro' lovers' brains, and then they dream of love;
  On courtiers' knees, that dream on curtsies strait;
  O'er lawyers' fingers, who strait dream on fees;
  O'er ladies lips, who strait on kisses dream,
  Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plague,
  Because their breath with sweetmeats tainted are.
  Sometimes she gallops o'er a lawyer's nose,
  And then dreams he of smelling out a suit,
  And sometimes comes she with a tithe-pig tail,
  Tickling the parson as he lies asleep;
  Then dreams he of another benefice;
  Sometimes she driveth o'er a soldier's neck
  And then he dreams of cutting foreign throats,
  Of breaches, ambuscades, Spanish blades,
  Of healths fire fathom deep; and then anon
  Drums in his ears, at which he starts and wakes,
  And being thus frighted, swears a pray'r or two,
  And sleeps again.

Lucretius, and Petronius in his poem on the vanity of dreams, had
preceded our immortal bard in a description of the effects of dreams on
different kinds of persons. Both the passages here alluded to, only
serve to shew the vast superiority of Shakspeare's boundless genius:
their sense is thus admirably expressed by Stepney:

  At dead of night imperial reason sleeps,
  And fancy with her train, her revels keeps;
  Then airy phantoms a mix'd scene display,
  Of what we heard, or saw, or wish'd by day;
  For memory those images retains
  Which passion form'd, and still the strongest reigns.
  Huntsmen renew the chase they lately run,
  And generals fight again their battles won.
  Spectres and fairies haunt the murderer's dreams;
  Grants and disgraces are the courtier's themes.
  The miser spies a thief, or a new hoard;
  The cit's a knight; the sycophant a lord,
  Thus fancy's in the wild distraction lost,
  With what we most abhor, or covet most.
  Honours and state before this phantom fall;
  For sleep, like death, its image, equals all.

Chaucer in his tale of the Cock and Fox, has a fine description, thus
versified by Dryden:--

  Dreams are but interludes which fancy makes:
  When monarch reason sleeps, this mimic wakes;
  Compounds a medley of disjointed things,
  A court of coblers and a mob of kings:
  Light fumes are merry, grosser fumes are sad:
  Both are the reasonable soul run mad;
  And many monstrous forms in sleep we see,
  That neither were, or are, or e'er can be.
  Sometimes forgotten things, long cast behind,
  Rush forward in the brain, and come to mind.
  The nurse's legends are for truth received,
  And the man dreams but what the boy believed,
  Sometimes we but rehearse a former play,
  The night restores our actions done by day;
  As hounds in sleep will open for their prey.
  In short, the farce of dreams is of a piece
  In chimeras all; and more absurd or less.

Shakspeare again:--

                         I talk of dreams,
  Which are the children of an idle brain,
  Begot of nothing but vain phantasy,
  Which is as thin of substance as the air,
  And more inconsistant than the wind.

Nor must Milton be omitted--

                            In the soul
  Are many lesser faculties, that serve
  Reason as chief; among these Fancy next
  Her office holds; of all external things,
  Which the five watchful senses represent,
  She forms imaginations, airy shapes,
  Which reason joining, or disjoining, frames,
  And all that we affirm, or what deny, or call
  Our knowledge or opinion; then retires
  Into her private cell, when nature rests.
  Oft in her absence mimic fancy wakes,
  To imitate her; but misjoining shapes,
  Wild works produces oft, but most in dreams
  Ill matching words or deeds, long past or tale.


From these practical descriptions let us proceed to take a view of the
principal phenomena in dreaming. And first, Mr. Locke's beautiful _modes
of_ which will greatly illustrate the preceding observations.

"When the mind," says Locke, "turns its view inward upon itself, and
contemplates its own actions, _thinking_ is the first that occurs. In it
the mind observes a great variety of modifications, and from thence
receives distinct _ideas_. Thus the perception, which actually
accompanies, and is annexed to any impression on the body, made by an
external object, being distinct from all other modifications of
thinking, furnishes the mind with a distinct idea which we call
_sensation_; which is, as it were, the actual entrance of an idea into
the understanding by the senses.

"The same idea, when it occurs again without the operation of the like
object on the external sensory, is _remembrance_: if it be sought after
by the mind, and with pain and endeavour found, and brought again in
view, it is _recollection_: if it be held there long under
consideration, it is _contemplation_; when ideas float in our mind
without any reflexion or regard of the understanding, it is that which
the French call _réverie_;[87] our language has scarce a name for it.
When the ideas that offer themselves (for as I have observed in another
place, while we are awake, there will always be a train of ideas
succeeding one another in our minds) are taken notice of, and, as it
were, registered in the memory, it is _attention_; when the mind, with
great earnestness, and of choice, fixes its view on any idea, considers
it on all sides, and will not be called off by the ordinary
solicitations of other ideas, it is what we call _intention_ or _study_.
Sleep without dreaming is rest from all these: and _dreaming_ itself, is
the having of ideas (while the outward senses are stopped, so that they
receive not outward objects with their usual quickness) in the mind, not
suggested by any external objects, or known occasion, nor under any
choice or conduct of the understanding at all, and whether that which we
call _ecstasy_, be not dreaming with the eyes open, I leave to be

Dr. Beattie, in his "Dissertations moral and critical," has an
ingenious essay on this subject, in which he attempts to ascertain, not
so much the _efficient_ as the _final_ causes of the phenomenon, and to
obviate those superstitions in regard to it, which have sometimes
troubled weak minds. He labours, with great earnestness, to shew, that
dreams may be of use in the way of physical admonition: that persons,
who attend to them with this view, may make important discoveries with
regard to their health; that they may be serviceable as the means of
moral improvement; that, by attending to them, we may discern our
predominant passions, and receive good hints for the regulation of them;
that they may have been intended by Providence to serve as an amusement
to the mental powers; and that dreaming is not universal, because,
probably, all constitutions do not require such intellectual amusement.
In observations of this kind, we may discover the ingenuity of fancy and
the sagacity of conjecture. We may find amusement in the arguments, but
we look in vain for satisfaction. Nature, certainly, does nothing in
vain, yet we are far from thinking, that man is able, in every case, to
discover her intentions. Final causes, perhaps, ought never to be the
subject of human speculation, but when they are plain and obvious. To
substitute vain conjectures, instead of the designs of Providence, on
subjects where those designs are beyond our reach, serves only to
furnish matter for the cavils of the sceptical, and the sneers of the

Among the many striking phenomena in our dreams, it may be observed,
that, while they last, the memory seems to lie wholly torpid, and the
understanding to be employed only about such objects as are then
presented, without comparing the present with the past. When we sleep,
we often converse with a friend who is either absent or dead, without
remembering that the grave or the ocean is between us. We float, like a
feather, upon the wind; for we find ourselves this moment in England,
and the next in India, without reflecting that the laws of nature are
suspended, or inquiring how the scene could have been so suddenly
shifted before us. We are familiar with prodigies; we accommodate
ourselves to every event, however romantic; and we not only reason, but
act upon principles, which are in the highest degree absurd and
extravagant. Our dreams, moreover, are so far from being the effect of a
voluntary effort, that we neither know of what we shall dream, or
whether we shall dream at all.

But sleep is not the only time in which strange and unconnected objects
involve our ideas in confusion. Besides the _réveries_ of the day,
already spoken of, we have, in a moral view, our _waking-dreams_, which
are not less chimerical, and impossible to be realized, than the
imaginations of the night.

  Night visions may befriend----
  Our waking dreams are fatal. How I dreamt
  Of things impossible (could sleep do more?)
  Of joys perpetual in perpetual change!
  Of stable pleasures on the tossing wave!
  Eternal sunshine in the storms of life!
  How richly were my noon-tide trances hung,
  With gorgeous tapestries of pictur'd joys!
  Till at deaths' toll,----
  Starting I woke, and found myself undone.

Many of the fabulous stories of ghosts or apparitions have originated
unquestionably in dreams. There are times of slumber when we are
sensible of being asleep. "When the thoughts are much troubled," says
Hobbes, "and when a person sleeps without the circumstance of going to
bed, or pulling off his clothes, as when he nods in his chair, it is
very difficult to distinguish a dream from a reality. On the contrary,
he that composes himself to sleep, in case of any uncouth or absurd
fancy, easily suspects it to have been a dream."[88] On this principle,
Hobbes has ingeniously accounted for the spectre which is said to have
appeared to Brutus; and the well-known story told by Clarendon, of the
apparition of the duke of Buckingham's father will admit of a similar
solution. There was no man at that time in the kingdom so much the topic
of conversation as the duke; and, from the corruptness of his character,
he was very likely to fall a sacrifice to the corruptness of the times.
Sir George Villiers is said to have appeared to the man at
midnight--there is therefore the greatest probability that the man was
asleep; and the dream affrighting him, made a strong impression, and was
likely to be repeated.

History furnishes us with numerous instances of a forecast having been
communicated through the medium of dreams, some of which are so
extraordinary as almost to shake our belief that the hand of Providence
is not sometimes evident through their instrumentality. Cicero, in his
first book on Divination, tells us, that Heraclides, a clever man, and
who had been a disciple of Plato, writes that the mother of Phalaris saw
in a dream the statues of the gods which she had consecrated in the
house of her son; and among other things, it appeared to her, that from
a cup which Mercury held in his hand, he had spilled some blood from it,
and that the blood had scarcely touched the ground, than rising up in
large bubbles it filled the whole house. This dream of the mother was
afterwards but too truly verified in the cruelty of the son. Cyrus
dreamt that seeing the sun at his feet, he made three different
unsuccessful attempts to lay his hand upon it, at each of which it
evaded him. The Persian Magi who interpreted this dream told him that
these three attempts to seize the sun signified that he would reign
thirty years. This prediction was verified: he died at the age of
seventy, having begun to reign when he was forty years old.

"There is doubtless," says Cicero, "something even among barbarians
which marks that they possess the gift of presentiment and divination."
The Indian Calanus mounting the flaming faggot on which he was about to
be burnt, exclaimed "O what a fine exit from life, when my body, like
that of Hercules, shall be consumed by the fire, my spirit will freely
enjoy the light." And Alexander having asked if he had anything to say,
he replied, "Yes, I shall soon see you," which happened as he foretold,
Alexander having died a few days afterwards at Babylon. Xenophon, an
ardent disciple of Socrates, relates that in the war which he made in
favour of young Cyrus, he had some dreams which were followed by the
most miraculous events. Shall we say that Xenophon does not speak truth,
or is too extravagant? What! so great a personage, and so divine a
spirit as Aristotle, can he be deceived? Or does he wish to deceive
others, when he tells us of Eudemus of Cyprus, one of his friends,
wishing to go into Macedonia, passed by Pheres, a celebrated town in
Thessaly, which at that time was under the dominion of the tyrant
Alexander; and that having fallen very sick, he saw in a dream a very
handsome young man, who told him that he would cure him, and that the
tyrant Alexander would shortly die, but as to himself, he would return
home at the end of five years. Aristotle remarks that the two first
predictions were, indeed, soon accomplished; that Eudemus recovered, and
that the tyrant was killed by his wife's brothers; but that at the
expiration of five years, the time at which it was hoped Eudemus,
according to the dream, was to return to Sicily, his native country,
news were received that he had been killed in a combat near Syracuse;
which gave rise to another interpretation of the dream, namely, that,
when the spirit or soul of Eudemus left his body, it went thence
straight to his own house.--A cup of massy gold having been stolen from
the temple of Hercules, this god appeared in a dream to Sophocles three
consecutive times, and pointed out the thief to him; who was put to the
torture, confessed the delinquency, and gave up the cup. The temple
afterwards received the name of Hercules Indicator.

An endless variety of similar instances, both from ancient and modern
history, might be adduced of the singularity of dreams, as well as their
instrumentality in revealing secrets which, without such agency, had
lain for ever in oblivion; these, however, are sufficient for our
purpose here; and the occurrence of one of a very recent date, connected
with the discovery of the body of the murdered Maria Martin, in the red
barn, is still fresh in the recollection of our readers. That there is a
ridiculous infatuation attached by some people to dreams, which have no
meaning, and which are the offsprings of the day's thoughts, even among
persons whose education should inform them better, particularly among
the fair sex, cannot be denied; indeed, a conversation seldom passes
among them, but some inconsistent dream or other, form a leading feature
of their gossip; and doubtless is with them an hysterical symptom.

Sometimes in our sleeping dreams, we imagine ourselves involved in
inextricable woe, and enjoy at waking, the ecstasy of a deliverance from
it. "And such a deliverance," says Dr. Beattie, "will every good man
meet with at last, when he is taken away from the evils of life, and
awakes in the regions of everlasting light and peace; looking back upon
the world and its troubles, with a surprise and satisfaction similar in
kind (though far higher in degree) to that which we now feel, when we
escape from a terrifying dream, and open our eyes to the sweet serenity
of a summer morning." Sometimes, in our dreams, we imagine scenes of
pure and unutterable joy; and how much do we regret at waking, that the
heavenly vision is no more! But what must the raptures of the good man
be, when he enters the regions of immortality, and beholds the radiant
fields of permanent delight! The idea of such a happy death, such a
sweet transition, from the dreams of earth to the realities of heaven,
is thus beautifully described by Dryden, in his poem entitled Eleonora:

 "She passed serenely, with a single breath;
  This moment perfect health, the next was death;
  One sigh did her eternal bliss assure;
  So little penance needs when souls are pure.
  As gentle dreams our waking thoughts pursue;
  Or, one dream past, we slide into a new;
  So close they follow and such wild order keep,
  We think ourselves awake and are asleep;
  So softly death succeeded life in her:
  She did but dream of heaven and she was there."


Dreams are vagaries of the imagination, and in most instances proceed
from external sensations. They take place only when our sleep is
unsound, in which case the brain and nervous system are capable of
performing certain motions. We seldom dream during the first hours of
sleep; perhaps because the nervous fluid is then too much exhausted; but
dreams mostly occur towards the morning, when this fluid has been, in
some measure, restored.

Every thing capable of interrupting the tranquillity of mind and body,
may produce dreams; such are the various kinds of grief and sorrow,
exertions of the mind, affections and passions, crude and undigested
food, a hard and inconvenient posture of the body. Those ideas which
have lately occupied our minds or made a lively impression upon us,
generally constitute the principal subject of a dream, and more or less
employ our imagination, when we are asleep.

Animals are likewise apt to dream, though seldom; and even men living
temperately, and enjoying a perfect state of health, are seldom
disturbed with this play of the fancy. And, indeed, there are examples
of lively and spirited persons who never dream at all. The great
physiologist Haller considers dreaming as a symptom of disease, or as a
stimulating cause, by which the perfect tranquillity of the sensorium is
interrupted. Hence, that sleep is the most refreshing, which is
undisturbed by dreams, or, at least, when we have the distinct
recollection of them. Most of our dreams are then nothing more than
sports of the fancy, and derive their origin chiefly from external
impressions; almost every thing we see and hear, when awake, leads our
imagination to collateral notions or representations, which, in a
manner, spontaneously, and without the least effort, associate with
external sensations. The place where a person whom we love formerly
resided, a dress similar to that which we have seen her wear, or the
objects that employed her attention, no sooner catch our eye, than she
immediately occupies our mind. And, though these images associating with
external sensations, do not arrive at complete consciousness within the
power of imagination, yet even in their latent state they may become
very strong and permanent.

Cicero furnishes us with a story of two Arcadians, who, travelling
together, arrived at Megara, a city of Greece, between Athens and
Corinth, where one of them lodged in a friend's house, and the other at
an inn. After supper, the person who lodged at the private house went to
bed, and falling asleep, dreamed that his friend at the inn appeared to
him and begged his assistance, because the innkeeper was going to kill
him. The man immediately got out of bed much frightened at the dream;
but recovering himself, and falling asleep again, his friend appeared to
him a second time, and desired that, as he would not assist him in time,
he would take care at least not to let his death go unpunished; that the
innkeeper having murdered him had thrown his body into a cart and
covered it with dung; he therefore begged that he would be at the city
gate in the morning, before the cart was out; struck with this new
dream, he went early to the gate, saw the cart, and asked the driver
what was in it; the driver immediately fled, the dead body was taken
out of the cart, and the innkeeper apprehended and executed.

It is very frequently observed, that in a dream a series of
representations is suddenly interrupted, and another series of a very
different kind occupies its place. This happens as soon as an idea
associates itself; which, from whatever cause, is more interesting than
that immediately preceding. The last then becomes the prevailing one,
and determines the association. Yet, by this too, the imagination is
frequently reconducted to the former series. The interruption in the
course of the preceding occurrences is remarked, and the power of
abstracting similarities is in search of the cause of this irregularity.
Hence, in such cases, there usually happens some unfortunate event or
other, which occasions the interruption of the story. The representing
power may again suddenly conduct us to another series of ideas, and thus
the imagination may be led by the subreasoning power before defined,
from one scene to another. Of this kind, for instance, is the following
remarkable dream, as related and explained in the works of professor
Maas of Halle: "I dreamed once," says he "that the Pope visited me. He
commanded me to open my desk, and carefully examined all the papers it
contained. While he was thus employed, a very sparkling diamond fell out
of his triple crown into my desk, of which, however, neither of us took
any notice. As soon as the Pope had withdrawn, I retired to bed, but was
soon obliged to rise, on account of a thick smoke, the cause of which I
had yet to learn. Upon examination I discovered, that the diamond had
set fire to the papers in my desk, and burnt them to ashes."

On account of the peculiar circumstances by which this dream was
occasioned, it deserves the following short analysis. "On the preceding
evening," says professor Maas, "I was visited by a friend with whom I
had a lively conversation, upon Joseph IInd's suppression of monasteries
and convents. With this idea, though I did not become conscious of it in
my dream, was associated the visit which the Pope publicly paid the
Emperor Joseph at Vienna, in consequence of the measures taken against
the clergy; and with this again was combined, however faintly, the
representation of the visit, which had been paid me by my friend. These
two events were, by the subreasoning faculty, compounded into one,
according to the established rule--that things which agree in their
parts, also correspond as to the whole;--hence the Pope's visit, was
changed into a visit made to me. The subreasoning faculty then, in order
to account for this extraordinary visit, fixed upon that which was the
most important object in my room, namely, the desk, or rather the papers
contained in it. That a diamond fell out of the triple crown was a
collateral association, which was owing merely to the representation of
the desk. Some days before when opening the desk, I had broken the glass
of my watch, which I held in my hand, and the fragments fell among the
papers. Hence no farther attention was paid to the diamond, being a
representation of a collateral series of things. But afterwards the
representation of the sparkling stones was again excited, and became the
prevailing idea; hence it determined the succeeding association. On
account of its similarity, it excited, the representation of fire, with
which it was confounded; hence arose fire and smoke.--But, in the event,
the writings only were burnt, not the desk itself; to which, being of
comparatively less value, the attention was not at all directed." It is
farther observable, that there are in the human mind certain obscure
representations, and that it is necessary to be convinced of the reality
of these images, if we are desirous of perceiving the connexion, which
subsists among the operations of the imagination. Of the numerous
phenomena, founded on obscure ideas, and which consequently prove their
existence, we shall only remark the following. It is a well known fact,
that many dreams originate in the impressions made in the body during
sleep; and they consist of analogous images or such as are associated
with sensations that would arise from these impressions, during a waking
state. Hence, for instance, if our legs are placed in a perpendicular
posture, we are often terrified by a dream that implies the imminent
danger of falling from a steep rock or precipice. The mind must
represent to itself these external impressions in a lively manner,
otherwise no ideal picture could be thus excited; but, as we do not
become at all conscious of them, they are but faintly and obscurely

If we make a resolution to rise earlier in the morning than usual; and
if we impress the determination on our mind, immediately before going to
rest, we are almost certain to succeed. Now it is self-evident that this
success cannot be ascribed to the efforts of the body, but altogether to
the mind, which probably, during sleep perceives and computes the
duration of time, so that it makes an impression on the body, which
enables us to awake at an appointed hour. Yet all this takes place,
without our consciousness, and the representations remain obscure. Many
productions of art are so complicated, that a variety of simple
conceptions are requisite to lay the foundation of them; yet the artist
is almost entirely unconscious of these individual notions. Thus a
person performs a piece of music, without being obliged to reflect, in a
conscious manner, on the signification of the notes, their value, and
the order of the fingers he must observe; nay even without clearly
distinguishing the strings of the harp, or the keys of the harpsichord.
We cannot attribute this to the mechanism of the body, which might
gradually accustom itself to the accurate placing of the fingers. This
could be applied only where we place a piece of music, frequently
practised; but it is totally inapplicable to a new piece, which is
played by the professor with equal facility, though he has never seen it
before. In the latter case there must arise, necessarily, an ideal
representation, or an act of judgment, previous to every motion of the

These arguments, we trust, are sufficient, to evince the occurrence of
these obscure notions and representations, from which all our dreams
originate. Before, however, we close this subject, we shall relate the
following extraordinary dream of the celebrated Galileo, who at a very
advanced age had lost his sight. In one of his walks over a beautiful
plain, conducted by his pupil Troicelli, the venerable sage related the
following dream to him. "Once," said he, "my eyes permitted me to enjoy
the charms of these fields. But now, since their light is extinguished,
these pleasures are lost to me for ever. Heaven justly inflicts the
punishment which was predicted to me many years ago. When in prison, and
impatiently languishing for liberty, I began to be discontented with the
ways of Providence; Copernicus appeared to me in a dream; his celestial
spirit conducted me over luminous stars, and, in a threatening voice,
reprehended me for having murmured against him, at whose _fiat_ all
these worlds had proceeded from nothing. 'A time shall come (said he)
when thine eyes shall refuse to assist thee in contemplating these

We shall now proceed to notice the subject of dreams in another point of
view--that is, as being employed as a medium of divination in the cure
of diseases, in which the fancies of the brain appear, in reality, to as
little advantage as they do with reference to any other considerations
in which such pretended omens exist.


[81] Wolfius, Psychol. Empir. Sect. 123.

[82] Mém. de l'acad. de Berlin, tom. ii. p. 316.

[83] Arist. de insomn. cap 3.

[84] Quae in vita usurpant homines, cogitant, curant, vident quaeque
agunt vigilantes, agitantque, ea cuique in somno accidunt. _De Div._

[85] Essay on Human Understanding, book, chap. i. sect 17.

[86] Obs, on Man, vol. 1, sect. 5.

[87] There is a phenomenon in the mind, which, though it happen to us
while we are perfectly awake, yet approaches the nearest to sleep of any
I know. It is called the _Reverie_, or, as some term it, the _brown
study_, a sort of middle state between waking and sleeping; in which,
though our eyes are open, our senses seem to be entirely shut up, and we
are quite insensible of every thing about us, yet we are all the while
engaged in a musing indolence of thought, or a supine and lolling kind
of roving from one fairy scene to another, without any self-command;
from which, if any noise or accident rouse us, we wake as from a real
dream, and are often as much at a loss to tell how our thoughts were
employed, as if we had waked from the soundest sleep. This is frequently
called _dreaming_, sometimes _absence_, a thing often observed in lovers
and people of a melancholy or indeed speculative turn.--_Fordyce's
Dialogues concerning education, vol. II. p. 255._

[88] Leviathan, part. 1. c. 1.



Medicine unquestionably ranks among the most ancient of all human
sciences. In the infant state of society, when simplicity of manners
characterised the pursuits of mankind, medical assistance was little
wanted; but when the nature of man degenerated, and vice and luxury
corrupted his habits of innocence and temperance, diseases sprung up
which those aids alone could check or eradicate. The knowledge of them
at first could not fail to be empirical and precarious. The sick were
placed in the high ways, that travellers and passers by might assist
them with their counsel; and at length the priesthood appropriated this
privilege exclusively to themselves.

It was not merely the sacerdotal dignity which rendered them objects of
awe and reverence to the illiterate multitude; the priests were regarded
as the depositaries of science and learning; and proved themselves as
skilful as they were successful, in cementing their influence by those
arts which were best calculated to inflame the prejudices of the vulgar
in their favour.

It is the work of ages to wean men and nations from popular illusions,
and the deep-rooted opinions transmitted from sire to son: it cannot
therefore surprise us, that even when the intellectual energy of Greece
was signalizing itself by efforts which have commanded the admiration of
after ages, it should still remain a popular dogma in medicine "that
persons labouring under bodily infirmity, might be thrown into a state
of charmed torpor, in which, though destitute of any previous medical
knowledge, they would be enabled to ascertain the nature of their
malady, as well as of the diseases of others, and devise the means of
their cure." Upon this dogma was founded the mystery of incubations, or
the art of healing by visionary divination.

It is not our object here to discuss whether a man can be capable of
divination: such a power, however, was assigned to him, not only by the
vulgar, but by the greater number of the philosophical sects of
antiquity; and it does appear to savour a little of temerity, that
Epicurus and the cynics should have ventured to reject a belief so
universally and strenuously maintained, and resting on an infinity of
traditions and accounts of prophets, in whom Greece had abounded from
her earliest times, and of whose divine gift of prophecy the firmest
conviction was currently entertained. Aeschylus, Plutarch, Apuleius, and
other Greek authors, bear ample testimony of this persuasion, and tell
us that by uncommon and irregular motions of the body intoxicating
vapours, or certain holy ejaculations, men might be thrown into an
enchanted trance; in which, being in a state between sleeping and
waking, they were unsusceptible of external impressions and obtaining a
glimpse of futurity, were gifted with the power of prophecy. Here their
allusion, however, only concerns the celebrated divinations of the
Pythia.[89] We must therefore, probe somewhat deeper, in order to
illustrate that species of divination which was the result of dreams,
and a source of divination on the nature of diseases and their remedies.

This kind of superstition was in no less acceptation than the former
among the ancients, whose temples were constantly crowded with the sick,
and reverberated with their supplications for divinatory dreams, which
were regarded as an immediate gift from the gods. Indeed, the celestial
origin of dreams was universally admitted by the nations of antiquity,
and thence also their efficacy as oracles. Nothing could be more natural
than such an idea. From the crude and imperfect notions which long
prevailed with respect to the soul, it was scarcely possible for them to
ascribe the impressions, which their memory retained of the creation of
their fancy during their slumbers, to the instrumentality of their own
conceits; they could not fail therefore to impute them to the
interposition of some foreign agent, and to whom more naturally could
they refer them than to a divinity? When awake, they imagined themselves
always attended by the gods in person, and ascribed every thought, and
resolved every appearance or accident, which deviated from the common
course of nature, to the immediate influence of a superintending deity.
It was under such impressions that so many nations originally rested
their belief in divinatory dreams. The records of antiquity therefore
abound in instances (for the greater part of an early date) where the
actions of men have been the result of a dream, whose conceit was
entirely at variance with the real state of their affairs. It was not
long before the diversity of dreams awakened their attention: some were
connected and simple, others were obscure, and made up of curious
fancies, though not incapable of being resolved by the windings and
turnings of allegory.

It was no unnatural transition from the received belief in dreams, to
the idea that they might become the medium of seeking instruction from
the gods: hence the institution of oracles, whose responses were given
in dreams; and the addition of sleeping chambers to many temples, such
as those in Epidaurus and at Oropos. Here it was, that after pious
ceremonies and prayers, men laid themselves down in expectation of
dreams; when the expectation was realized, though the dream proved ever
so confused or intricate, the dreamer always succeeded in reconciling
it to his circumstances: his own belief and priestly wiles, readily
effected the solution. The conceit of dreams, according to the votary's
wishes, was so powerfully promoted by the preparatory initiation he had
undergone, that it would have been somewhat extraordinary had he been
altogether disappointed. He was generally anxious to increase the fame
of his divinity by his dream, and possessed a high veneration and deep
impression of the miracles which that divinity had wrought. With these
predispositions he resorted to the temple, where he had a whole day
before him to ponder on his malady, and on every sort of remedy that
might have been suggested to him; how natural was it, therefore, for his
busy imagination to fix, in his sleep, upon one particular remedy more
forcibly than upon another? Add to this, the solemn lonely hour of night
was the appointed hour for his sleep, which was preceded by prayer and
other inspiring ceremonies, that would naturally elevate his devotion to
the highest pitch. He had also previously perambulated the temple, and
with a full heart surveyed the offerings of those whose sickness had
departed from them.

If all these preparations were unavailing, the officiants of the temple
had still means in reserve, by which the credulous should be thrown into
that bodily state which was indispensable to the divinatory sleep: of
these, succeeding instances will be hereafter produced. In those days,
there were however, some men from whom the somniferous faculty was
withheld: they were, therefore, admonished to repeat their prayers and
oblations, in order to win the divinity's favour: and the ultimate and
customary resort was, if success did not crown his perseverance, to
pronounce it a token, that such patients were an eyesore to the

From this divinatory sleep, arose the vulgar expressions in Greece
[Greek: enkoimasdai], and [Greek: enkoimaesis][90] The latin terms are
_incubare_ and _incubatio_ an exact translation of the Greek words. It
appears, therefore, that the Romans and Greeks were equally acquainted
with the institution; though we find but very little mention made of it
by the Latin writers, yet this is no argument against its prevalence
among the Romans, as we are left with as scanty accounts of many other
superstitions which were in vogue amongst them. It is highly probable
that it was not by any means so popular in Rome as in Greece; and the
cause of this may, perhaps, be found in the reflecting disposition and
sober character of the haughty Roman, to which the light and volatile
temperament of the Grecian, formed so striking a contrast.

That incubation was a ready means of diving into the future, needs no
demonstration. Although its practice was chiefly resorted to in cases
where medical aid was desired, it was still made use of in every other
case, in which the ancient oracles were consulted. Whether it arose in
Greece, or migrated thither from the East, is a point with which the
ancients have left us unacquainted, though they advert to its prevalence
amongst those who were called barbarians. Strabo has several instances
of it, and particularly mentions a place in the Caspian sea, where such
an oracle existed;[91] he also relates, in his celebrated account of
Moses, that this law-giver laid it down, in common with the priests of
Esculapius, that to those who led a chaste and virtuous life the deity
would vouchsafe prophetical visions in his sanctuary; but to those who
were of idle and impure habits, they would be denied.[92]

Pomponius Mela even mentions a savage nation, in the interior of
Africa, who laid themselves down to sleep on the grave-stones of their
ancestors, and looked upon the dreams they had on those spots as oracles
from the dead.[93] We shall see, hereafter, that this superstition was
equally indigenous among the Egyptians. Although it be doubtful whether
the Greeks owed this species of divination to their own invention or
not, its existence may at least be traced as far as the earliest ages of
their history; notwithstanding no positive mention of it has been made
either by Homer or the authors following him.

The oracular power of dreams, and the sanctuaries where they are
supposed to be dispersed, have been diffusely treated of in the
compilations of Van Dale and other learned writers. These species of
oracles were in high estimation, even in the most enlightened and
flourishing periods of Greece; it is somewhat singular, however, that no
people cherished them more devoutly than the Spartans, who depended
altogether upon oracles in their weightiest affairs of state. Of all the
civilized nations of Greece, Sparta always approved herself the most
superstitious; her advancement was rather the effect of her policy, than
of any stimulus given to her civilization by science. This consideration
will enable us to account for the powerful influence which, even in the
latest stages of Lacedemonian story, attached to the responses of
Passiphae, a local goddess of Thalame, but little known beyond the
confines of Laconia. The extent of their influence is particularly
evident in the history of Agis and Cleomenes.[94]

The greater part of these somnambulistic oracles were ascribed to
persons who had distinguished themselves as great dreamers when on
earth. In old times there was a description of prophets who pretended to
prepare themselves for the foreboding of future events through the
medium of sacred dreams. They were classed under the appellation of
[Greek: Oneiroploi], to which rank the most celebrated Vates of the
heroic age belonged. In this way it was that a sacred spot was dedicated
to Calchus, whence he gave his responses in dreams after his decease:
this spot lay in Daunia, on the coast of the Adriatic. The supplicant's
offices began with the offering up of a ram, on whose skin he laid
himself down, and in this situation, received the instruction he sought
for.[95] Amphilocus, a contemporary soothsayer, who accompanied the
Epigoni in the first Theban war, had a similar oracle at Mallos, in
Cilicia, which Pausanias asserts, even at the close of the second
century, to have been the most credible of his age; it is also mentioned
by Dion Cassius, in his history of Commodus.[96]

The most famous, however, of this class of oracles, was that of
Amphiaraus, the father of Amphilocus, which was one of the five
principal oracles of Greece; he had signalized himself as a sapient
soothsayer in the first Theban war; and his oracle was situated at
Oropos, on the borders of Boetia and Attica. Of all others this deserves
our most particular attention, as it was resorted to more frequently in
cases of infirmity and disease, than in any other circumstances. His
responses were always delivered in dreams, in whose interpretation, as
he was the first to possess that faculty. Pausanias says he received
divine honours. Those who repaired to Amphiaraus's oracle to supplicate
his aid, laid themselves down in the manner we have just related, after
several preparatory lustrations and sacrifices, on the skin of a ram
slain in honour of the god, and awaited the dreams, which were to
unfold the means of their different cures.

Lustrations and sacrifices were not, however, the only preparatives for
inducing the visionary disposition. The priests subjected the patients
to various others, which Philostratus affirms[97] to have been very
instrumental towards rendering the sleeper's mind clear and unclouded.
Part of these preparatives consisted in one day's abstinence from
eating, and three, nay, even in some cases, fifteen days' abstinence
from wine, the common beverage of the Greeks. This was the practice also
with other oracles; nor were the priests in the meantime insensible to
their own interests on these occasions; for those who were cured by
Amphiaraus's revelations were permitted to bathe in the sacred waters of
a fountain, into which they were enjoined to cast pieces of gold and
silver, which were destined, most probably, to sweeten the labours of
his officiants.

The oracles, whose intervention was principally or altogether sought for
the healing of the sick by means of divination founded on dreams, were
scattered over Greece, Italy, Egypt, and other countries. As regards
those of Egypt, it may be remarked, that although many of the Egyptians
believed there were thirty-six demons, or aerial deities, each of whom
had the care of a certain portion of the human frame, and when that
portion was diseased, would heal it on the patient's earnest prayer, yet
a variety of their oracles, such as those of Serapis, Isis, and Phthas,
the Hephaestos of the Greeks, appertained to the class, which is the
present object of our inquiry.

The oracle Serapis was situated near Canopus; it was visited with the
highest veneration by the wealthiest and most illustrious Egyptians, and
contained ample records of miraculous cures which that god had performed
on sleepers.[98] Isis, it is said, effected similar cures in her
lifetime, whence it became her office, in her after state of
deification, to reveal in dreams the most efficacious remedies to the
sick. Indeed the healing powers of this goddess were such, that, as we
are told by Diodorus,[99] the remedies she prescribed never failed of
their effect, and that convalescents were daily seen returning from her
temple, many of whom had been abandoned as incurable by the physicians.

The third oracle of the sick was consecrated to Phthas, and lay near
Memphis, but it is seldom mentioned by the ancients.[100]

In Italy there existed two oracles, whose responses were imparted in
dreams, before the worship of Esculapius was introduced from Greece. One
of them only belongs to this place, that of the physician Podalirus, in
Daunia,[101] which is mentioned by Lycophron.[102] Subsequently it is well
known incubation was practised after the Grecian form in the Roman
temple of Aesculapius on the Insula Tiberina.[103]

This description of oracles abounded throughout Greece; the most
memorable of which was that on the Asiatic coast, between Trattis and
Nyssa, which is more particularly described by Strabo than any other.
Not far from the town of Nyssa, says he, there is a place called
Charaka, where we find a grove and temple sacred to Pluto and
Proserpine, and close to the grove a subterraneous cave, of a most
extraordinary nature. It is related of it, that diseased persons, who
have faith in the remedies predicted by those deities, are accustomed to
resort to it and pass some time with experienced priests, who reside
near the cave. These priests lay themselves down to sleep in the cave,
and afterwards order such medicine as have been revealed to them there,
to be furnished to their patients in the temple. They frequently conduct
the sick themselves into the cave, where they remain for several days
together, without touching a morsel of food; nor are the profane
withheld from a participation in the _divinatory_ sleep, though this is
not permitted otherwise than under the controul, and with the sacred
sanction, of the priests. There is, however, nothing more surprising
about this place than that it is esteemed _noxious and fatal to the
healthy_.[104] This last remark of our geographer, proves how jealous the
priestly physicians were of their medical monopoly, and how fearful lest
the _saner_ part of mankind should detect and expose the pretended
virtues of their medical sanctuary.

We have hitherto mentioned the name of Aesculapius but casually, though
there was no god of antiquity more celebrated for curing every species
of malady by the incubatory process. He was particularly designated by
the Greeks as "the sender of dreams," [Greek: Oneiropompon]; nor could
any other deity boast of so great a number of those oracles. The most
distinguished of these was the oracle of Epidaurus, in the Argivian
territory; from which spot his worship extended over a great proportion
of the old world;--hither, as being the place of his birth and the site
of his richest temple, crowds of sick persons constantly repaired in
quest of dreams. The success attending them was diligently set forth on
every wall of the temple; where the _tabulae votivae_ recorded the names
of those who had been healed, the nature of their maladies, and the cure
which the god prescribed. Similar circumstances are related of his
Temple at Triccae, in Thessaly, where Esculapius was held in great
veneration at a very early period; there appears also to have been
another such temple either at or near Athens,[105] where we must look for
the scene of the ridiculous cure which Aristophanes makes Aesculapius to
perform on the blind god of riches. Though there is undoubtedly a rich
vein of the burlesque in the Plutus of the Grecian dramatist, yet we may
gather much concerning our present subject from the scene in which the
slave, who had attended Plutus in the Temple, relates the whole process
of his master's wife. Here also the night was the chosen period of
incubation. Before the signal for sleep was given, the officiants of the
temple extinguished all the lights in the sick men's chamber; thus
involving them in a solemn stillness and obscurity highly favourable to
the work in hand, but in a particular manner to the subterfuge of the
priests, who enacted the nocturnal apparition of Aesculapius to his sick

This passage in Plutus is certainly the earliest circumstantial
relation we possess of the practice of this species of incubation.[106]
The license permitted to Grecian comedy was such as to authorise the
ridicule and contempt of the most popular deities; we are not, therefore
to conclude from the scenes that there were many unbelievers, or that
this ancient system of cure had sunk into disrepute: for the history of
our comedian's great contemporary, Hippocrates, informs us, that at this
very time the temple of Aesculapius at Cos abounded in tablets, on which
the sick attested the remedies that had been revealed to them during
incubation, and that he himself was highly indebted to them for much of
his medical knowledge.

Were it not authenticated by the most undeniable testimonies, it would
appear incredible that the impostures of the disciples of Aesculapius,
and the common faith in his regenerative powers, should have survived
with equal potency and acceptation during the ages immediately
succeeding the Christian era. It must not however, be forgotten, that
these were the times also, when an infinity of superstitious of every
description disgraced the Roman world; although it would have appeared a
necessary consequence, that their prevalency should have been checked by
the increasing determination of learning and science.

If at this period the number of dreaming patients had fallen off at Cos
and Epidaurus, the deficiency was amply compensated by the growing
popularity of Aesculapius's shrines at Rome, Pergamus, Alaea, Mallos,
and other places, where the ancient rituals were faithfully preserved.
The highest magistrates in the Roman states not only countenanced, but
patronised the superstition; Marcus Aurelius, by the friendship with
which he honoured the Paphlagonian imposter Alexander, and Caracalla, by
the journey he undertook to Pergamus, to obtain the cure of a disease
which inflicted him. This Alexander, the Cagliostro of his age, whose
memoirs have been handed down to us by Lucian, made shift to father a
new species of juggling upon the ancient process of incubation: for he
pretends that it was necessary for him to sleep for a night in the
sealed scrips which contain the queries he was to have resolved for
those who visited his oracle.[107] During this interval he dexterously
opened the scrips, and sealed them up again; pretending that the
responses which he delivered to the querists in the morning, had been
revealed to him by the deity in a dream.

The priests of Aesculapius possessed a never failing source of
information on the recipes or votive tablets with which these temples
abounded. These were sometimes engraven on pillars, as at Epidaurus; of
which Pausanias says there were six remaining in his time, and besides
these, one in particular removed from the rest, on which it was recorded
that Hippolytus had sacrificed twenty horses, in return for his having
been restored to life by him. Five memorials only of this kind have
reached the present age. One of them is to be found in the beginning of
Galen's fifth book de Compos, medic.: it is taken from the temple of
Phthas, near Memphis, and is the least interesting of the whole. Its
subject is the use of the Diktamnus, borrowed from Heras of Cappadocia,
a medical writer, frequently quoted by Galen. The remaining four are
much more important: they were engraven on a marble slab,[108] of later
date at Rome, and are thought, with much probability, to have belonged
to the Aesculapian temple in the Insula Tiberina. The present
translation, in which some errors either of the artist or copyist are
rectified, is extracted from the first volume of Gruter's Corp.
Inscriptionum. The narrations are perspicuous and laconic.

1. "In these latter days, a certain blind man, by name Caius, had this
oracle vouchsafed to him--'that he should draw near to the altar after
the manner of one who could see; then walk from right to left, lay the
five fingers of his right hand on the altar, then raise up his hand and
place it on his eyes.' And behold! the multitude saw the blind man open
his eyes, and they rejoiced, such splendid miracles should signalize the
reign of our Emperor Antoninus."

2. "To Lucius, who was so wasted away by pains in his side, that all
doubted of his recovery, the god gave this response: 'Approach thou the
altar; take ashes from it, mix them up with wine and then lay thyself on
thy sore side.' And the man recovered, and openly returned thanks to the
god amidst the congratulations of the people."

3. "To Julian who spitted blood, and was given over by every one, the
god granted this response: 'Draw near, take pine apples from off the
altar, and eat them with wine for three days. And the man got well, and
came and gave thanks in the presence of the people."

4. "A blind soldier, Valerius Asper by name, received this answer from
the god: that he should mix the blood of a white cock with milk, make an
eye ointment therewith, and rub his eyes with it for three days. And lo!
the blind recovered his sight, and came, and publicly gave thanks to the

The success with which the Priests of Aesculapius carried on their
impostures, and the popularity which their dexterous management, no less
than the vulgar credulity obtained for them, will cease to surprise us
on maturer consideration. It could not be a difficult task for them to
give the minds of their patients whatever bias was best adapted to their
purposes. These credulous beings passed several days and nights in the
temple, and their imagination could not fail to be powerfully impressed
with what was diligently told them of the prescriptions and cures of
Aesculapius; nor to retain during their slumbers many lively impressions
of their meditations by day; their priestly nurses too were neither so
blind to their own interests, nor so careless of their reputations as to
omit the prescribing of such modes of diet and medical remedies as were
calculated to appease their patients' sufferings. Besides which, however
delusive and empirical their outward ceremonials and bold pretensions
might have been, we should remember, that priests, having some
acquaintance with the science of medicine, were generally selected to
officiate on those spots where the incubitary process[109] was the order
of the day. To this acquaintance were added the results of daily
experience, and the frequent opportunities which the incessant demands
of the infirm upon their skill afforded them of correcting previous
errors and improving their practical knowledge: of gradually
ascertaining the various kinds and appearances of human disorders; and
of digesting such data as would enable them, with the least possible
chance of failure, to prescribe the modes of cure and treatment suitable
to the various stages and species of the applicant's maladies. With such
means, it would have been not a little singular if the priests of
Aesculapius had failed in converting the popular veneration to his
credit and their own emolument.


[89] The Priestess of Apollo, by whom he delivered oracles. She was
called Pythia from the god himself, who was styled Apollo Pythius, from
his slaying the serpent Python. The Priestess was to be a pure virgin.
She sat on the covercle or lid of a brazen vessel, mounted on a tripod,
and thence, after a violent enthusiasm, she delivered his oracles; i.e.
she rehearsed a few ambiguous and obscure verses, which were taken for

[90] These words are but ill explained by the best Greek Lexicographers.
Servius ad Virg., Aen. vii. 88, says: _Incubare dicuntur proprie hic,
qui dormiunt accipienda responsa_. Tertullian de Anima, C. 49, thence
calls them _Incubatores fanorum_.

[91] Lib. XI. p. 108. Paris, fol. 1620.

[92] Ibid. lib. XVI. p. 761.

[93] De situ orbis, lib. I. cap. 1.

[94] Plutarch apud Agis et Cleomen. Cicero (de Div. 1. c. 48) probably
alludes to this oracle, when he says, that the Ephori of Sparta were
accustomed to sleep in the temple of Pasiphae on state emergencies.
There was a similar oracle in the neighbourhood of Thalame, not fur from
Aetylum, sacred to Ino.

[95] Strabo, lib. VI. p, 284.

[96] Pausanias, 1, 35.

[97] De vita Apoll. Thyan, 11. 37.

[98] Strabo, lib. xvii. p. 801. Anian. Exped. Alex, vii. 6.

[99] In Egypt lib. I, 25.

[100] Galen de comp. Med. p. Gen v. 2.

[101] Podalirius and Machaon, the two sons of Esculapius. The state of
medicine at the time of the Trojan war was very imperfect, as we find
exemplified by these two acting as surgeons general to the Grecian army.
Their simple practice consisted chiefly in extracting darts or arrows,
in staunching blood by some infusion of bitter herbs, and sometimes they
added charms or incantations; which seemed to be a poetical way of
hinting, that frequently wounds were healed or diseases cured in a
manner unaccountable by any known properties they could discover either
in the effects of their rude remedies, or in the then known powers of
the human body to relieve itself. In Homer's description of the wound
which Ulysses, when young, received in his thigh from the tusk of an
enraged wild boar, the infusion of blood was stopped by divine
incantations and divine songs, and some sort of bandage which must have
acted by pressure. If any virtue could have acted as a charm, the very
verse that describes the wound might have as good a right to such a
claim as any other; but, in what manner the surgeons of ancient Greece,
before the discovery of the circulation of the blood, might apply
bandages for the purposes here mentioned, is not easily explained;
though doubtless these bandages must have acted like a tourniquet, which
is now the most effectual remedy for compressing a wounded artery, and
thereby stopping an hemorrhage.

[102] Alexand. 1050.

[103] Suet. Claid. c. 28.

[104] Strabo. lib. xiii. Pausan. lib. ii.

[105] Scholia ad Plut. v. 621

[106] Aristoph, Plut act. ii, sc. 6, and iii. sc 2.

[107] Luciani, oper. t. ii. ed Reitzii.

[108] It is often called by antiquaries _Tabella Marmorea apud
Maffaeos_, as it was first preserved in the collection.

[109] It is somewhat singular, that Cicero's treatise on divination, as
well as the works of Hippocrates and Galen, should be so destitute of
information on the subject of a mode of cure which was of such long
standing, and so universally esteemed. From the two last, one should at
least have expected something more satisfactory: Cos being the
birthplace of the one, and Pergamus of the other.



Amulets are certain substances worn about the neck or other parts of the
body, under the superstitious impression of preventing diseases, of
curing, or removing them.

The origin of amulets may be traced to the most remote ages of mankind.
In our researches to discover and fix the period when remedies were
first employed for the alleviation of bodily suffering, we are soon lost
in conjecture or involved in fable. We are unable, indeed, to reach the
period in any country, when the inhabitants were destitute of medical
resources, and even among the most uncultivated tribes we find medicine
cherished as a blessing and practised as an art. The feelings of the
sufferer, and the anxiety of those about him, must, in the rudest state
of society, have incited a spirit of industry and research to procure
ease, the modification of heat and cold, of moisture and dryness; and
the regulation and change of diet and habit, must intuitively have
suggested themselves for the relief of pain; and when these resources
failed, charms, amulets, and incantations, were the natural expedients
of the barbarians, ever more inclined to indulge the delusive hope of
superstition than to listen to the voice of sober reason.

Traces of amulets may be discovered in very early history, though Dr.
Warburton is evidently in error when he fixes the origin of these
magical instruments to the age of the Ptolomies, which was not more than
three hundred years before Christ. This assertion is refuted by Galen,
who informs us the Egyptian King Nechepsus, who lived 630 years before
Christ, had written, that a green jasper cut into the form of a dragon
surrounded with rays, if applied externally, would strengthen the
stomach and organs of digestion. This opinion, moreover, is supported by
scripture: for what were the earrings which Jacob buried under the oak
of Sechem, as related in Genesis, but amulets. And Josephus in his
antiquities of the Jews,[110] informs us that Solomon discovered a plant
efficacious in the cure of epilepsy, and that he employed the aid of a
charm, for the purposes of assisting its virtues. The root of the herb
was concealed in a ring, which was applied to the nostrils of the
demoniac; and Josephus remarks that he saw himself a Jewish priest
practise the art of Solomon with complete success in the presence of the
Emperor Vespasian, his sons and the tribunes of the Roman army. From
this art of Solomon, exhibited through the medium of a ring or seal, we
have the Eastern stories which celebrate the seal of Solomon, and record
the potency of his sway over the various orders of demons or of genii,
who were supposed to be the invincible tormentors or benefactors of the
human race.

Nor were such means confined to dark and barbarous ages. Theophrastus
pronounced Pericles to be insane in consequence of seeing him with an
amulet suspended from his neck. And in the declining era of the Roman
Empire, we find this superstitious custom so general that the Emperor
Caracalla was induced to make a public edict, ordering, that no man
should wear any superstitious amulets about his person.

All remedies working as it were sympathetically, and plainly unequal to
the effect, may be termed amulets; whether used at a distance by another
person, or carried immediately about the patient. By the Jews, amulets
were called _kamea_, and by the Greeks _phylacteries_. The latins called
them _amuleta_ or _ligatura_; the catholics _agnus dei_, or consecrated
relics; and the natives of Guinea _fetishes_. Various kinds of
substances are employed by different people, and which they venerate and
suppose capable of preserving them from danger and infection, as well as
to remove disease when present. Plutarch says of Pericles, an Athenian
general, that when a friend come to see him, and inquired after his
health he reached out his hand and shewed him his amulet; by which he
meant to intimate the truth of his illness, and, at the same time, the
confidence he placed in these popular remedies.

Amulets are still prevalent in catholic countries at the present day;
the Spaniards and Portuguese maintain their popularity. Among the Jews
they are equally venerated. Indeed, there are few instances of ancient
superstition some portion of which has not been preserved, and not
unfrequently have they been adopted by men of otherwise good
understanding, who plead in excuse, that they are innoxious, cost
little, and if they can do no good, they can do no harm.

Lord Bacon, whom no one can suspect of ignorance, says, that if a man
wear a bone ring or a planet seal, strongly believing, by that means,
that he might obtain his mistress, and that it would preserve him unhurt
at sea, or in a battle, it would probably make him more active and less
timid; as the audacity they might inspire would conquer and bind weaker
minds in the execution of a peculiar duty.


A variety of things are worn about the person by the common people for
the cure of ague; and, upon whatever principle it may be accounted for,
whether by the imagination or a natural termination of the disease, many
have apparently been cured by them, where the Peruvian bark, the boasted
specific, had previously failed. Dr. Willis says that charms resisting
agues have often been applied to the wrist with success. ABRACADABRA,
written in a peculiar manner, that is, in the form of a cone, it is
said, has cured the ague; the herb lunaria, gathered by moon-light, has,
on some high authorities, performed surprising cures. Perhaps it was
gathered during the invocating influence of the following charm, which
may be found in the 12th book, chap. XIV. p. 177 of "Scot's discovery of
witchcraft," which is headed thus:--

 "_Another charme that witches use at the gathering of
  their medicinal herbs._"

  Haile be thou holy herbe,
  Growing in the ground.
  And in the mount Calvaire
  First wert thou found.
  Thou art good for many a sore,
  And healest many a wound,
  In the name of sweet Jesus
  I take thee from the ground.

We are told that Naaman was cured by dipping seven times in the river
Jordan. Certain formalities were also performed at the pool of Bethesda.
Dr. Chamberlayne's anodyne necklaces, were, for a length of time,
objects of the most anxious maternal solicitude, until their occult
virtues became lost by the reverence for them being destroyed; and those
which succeeded them have long since run their race or nearly so.

The grey limewort was at one time supposed to have been a specific in
hydrophobia--that it not only cured those labouring under this disorder,
but by carrying it about the person, it was reputed to possess the
extraordinary power of preventing mad dogs from biting them. Calvert
paid devotions to St. Hubert for the recovery of his son, who was cured
by this means. The son also performed the necessary rites at the shrine,
and was cured not only of the hydrophobia "but of the worser phrensy
with which his father had instilled him." Cramp-rings were also used;
and eelskins to this day are tied round the legs as a preventive of this
spasmodic affection; and by laying sticks across the floor, on going to
bed, cramp has also been prevented.

Numerous are the charms and incantations used at the present day for the
removal of warts, many cases of which are not a little surprising. And
we are told by Lord Verulam, who is allowed to have been as great a
genius as this country ever produced, that, when he was at Paris, he had
above a hundred warts on his hands; and that the English ambassador's
lady, then at court, and a woman far above superstition, removed them
all by only rubbing them with the fat side of the rind of a piece of
bacon, which they afterwards nailed to a post, with the fat side towards
the south. In five weeks, says my Lord, they were all removed. The
following are his Lordship's observations, in his own words, relative to
the power of amulets. After deep metaphysical observations on nature,
and arguing in mitigation of sorcery, witchcraft, and divination,
effects that far outstrip the belief in amulets, he observes "We should
not reject all of this kind, because it is not known how far those
contributing to superstition, depend on natural causes. Charms have not
the power from contract with evil spirits, but proceed wholly from
strengthening the imagination: in the same manner that images and their
influence, have prevailed on religion, being called from a different way
of use and application, sigils, incantations, and spells."


A certain writer, apologizing for the irregularities of great genii,
delivers himself as follows: "The gifts of imagination bring the
heaviest task upon, the vigilance of reason; and to bear those faculties
with unerring rectitude or invariable propriety, requires a degree of
firmness and of cool attention, which does not always attend the higher
gifts of the mind. Yet, difficult as nature herself seems to have
reduced the task of regularity to genius, it is the supreme consolation
of dullness, to seize upon those excesses, which are the overflowings of
faculties they never enjoyed."[111] Are not the _gifts of imagination_
mistaken here for the strength of passions? Doubtless, where strong
passions accompany great parts, as perhaps they often do, the
imagination may encrease their force and activity: but, where passions
are calm and gentle, imagination of itself should seem to have no
conflict but speculatively with reason. There, indeed, it wages an
eternal war; and, if not contracted and strictly regulated, it will
carry the patient into endless extravagancies. The term patient is here
properly used, because men, under the influence of imagination, are most
truly distempered. The degree of this distemper will be in proportion to
the prevalence of imagination over reason, and, according to this
proportion, amount to more or less of the whimsical; but when reason
shall become, as it were, extinct, and imagination govern alone, then
the distemper will be madness under the wildest and most fantastic
modes. Thus, one of those invalids, perhaps, shall be all sorrow for
having been most unjustly deprived of the crown; though his vocation,
poor man! be that of a school-master. Another, like Horace's madman, is
all joy; and it may seem even cruelty to cure him.

The operations and caprices of the imagination are various and endless;
and, as they cannot be reduced to regularity or system, so it is highly
improbable that any certain method of cure should ever be found out for
them. It has generally been thought, that matter of fact might most
successfully be opposed to the delusions of imagination, as being proof
to the senses, and carrying conviction unavoidably to the understanding;
but we rather suspect, that the understanding or reasoning faculty, has
little to do in all these cases: at least so it should seem from the two
following facts, which are by no means badly attested.

Fienus, in his curious little book, _de Viribus Imaginationis_, records
from Donatus the case of a man, who fancied his body encreased to such a
size, that he durst not attempt to pass through the door of his chamber.
The physician believing that nothing could more effectually cure this
error of imagination, than to shew that the thing could actually be
done, caused the patient to be thrust forcibly through it: who, struck
with horror, and falling suddenly into agonies, complained of being
crushed to pieces, and expired soon after.[112]

The other case, as related by Van Swieten, in his commentaries upon
Boerhaave, is that of a learned man, who had studied, till be fancied
his legs to be of glass: in consequence of which he durst not attempt to
stir, but was constantly under anxiety about them. His maid bringing one
day some wood to the fire, threw it carelessly down; and was severely
reprimanded by her master, who was terrified not a little for his legs
of glass. The surly wench, out of all patience with his megrims, as she
called them, gave him a blow with a log upon the parts affected; which
so enraged him, that he instantly rose up, and from that moment
recovered the use of his legs.--Was reason concerned any more here; or
was it not rather one blind impulse acting against another?

Imagination has, unquestionably, a most powerful effect upon the mind,
and in all these miraculous cures, is by far the strongest ingredient.
Dr. Strother says, "The influence of the mind and passions works upon
the mind and body in sensible operations like a medicine, and is of far
the greater force than exercise. The countenance betrays a good or
wicked intention; and that good or wicked intention will produce in
different persons a strength to encounter, or a weakness to yield to the
preponderating side." Dr. Brown says, "Our looks discover our passions,
there being mystically in our faces certain characters, which carry in
them the motto of our souls, and, therefore, probably work secret
effects in other parts." This idea is beautifully illustrated by Garth
in his Dispensatory, in the following lines:--

 "Thus paler looks impetuous rage proclaim,
  And chilly virgins redden into flame.
  See envy oft transformed in wan disguise,
  And mirth sits gay and smiling in the eyes,
  Oft our complexions do the soul declare,
  And tell what passions in the features are.
  Hence 'tis we look the wond'rous cause to find,
  How body acts upon impassive mind."

On the power and pleasure of the imagination, from the pleasures and
pains it administers here below, Addison concludes that God, who knows
all the ways of afflicting us, may so transport us hereafter with such
beautiful and glorious visions, or torment us with such hideous and
ghastly spectres, as might even of themselves suffice to make up the
entire heaven or hell of any future being.


Dr. Willis, in his Treatise on nervous disorders, does not hesitate to
recommend amulets in epileptic disorders. "Take," says he, "some fresh
peony roots, cut them into square bits, and hang them round the neck,
changing them as often as they dry." It is not improbable that the hint
was taken from this circumstance for the anodyne necklaces, which, some
time ago, were in such repute, as the Doctor, some little way further
on, prescribes the same root for the looseness, fevers, and convulsions
of children, during the time of teething, mixed, to make it appear more
miraculous, with some elk's hoof.

St. Vitus's dance is said to have been cured by the afflicted person
paying a visit to the tomb of the saint, near Ulm, every May. Indeed,
there is no little reason in this assertion; for exercise and change of
air will change many obstinate diseases. The bite of the tarantula is
cured by music; and this only by certain tunes. Turner, whose ideas are
so extravagantly absurd, where he asserts, that the symptoms of
hydrophobia may not appear for forty years after the bite of the dog,
and who maintains that "the slaver or breath of such a dog is
infectious;" and that men bitten by mad dogs, will bite like dogs again,
and die mad; although he laughs at the anodyne necklaces, argues much in
the same manner. It is not, indeed, so very strange that the effluvia
from external medicines entering our bodies, should effect such
considerable changes, when we see the efficient cause of apoplexy,
epilepsy, hysterics, plague, and a number of other disorders, consists,
as it were, in imperceptible vapours.--Blood-stone (Lapis Aetites)
fastened to the arm by some secret means, is said to prevent abortion.
Sydenham, in the iliac passion, orders a live kitten to be constantly
applied to the abdomen; others have used pigeons split alive, applied to
the soles of the feet, with success, in pestilential fevers and
convulsions. It was doubtless the impression that relief might be
obtained by external agents, that the court of king David advised him to
seek a young virgin, in order that a portion of the natural heat might
be communicated to his body, and give strength to the decay of nature.
"Take the heart and liver of the fish and make a smoke, and the devil
shall smell it and flee away." During the plague at Marseilles, which
Belort attributed to the larvae of worms infecting the saliva, food, and
chyle; and which, he says, "were hatched by the stomach, took their
passage into the blood, at a certain size, hindering the circulation,
affecting the juices and solid parts." He advised amulets of mercury to
be worn in bags suspended at the chest and nostrils, either as a
safeguard, or as means of cure; by which method, through the
_admissiveness_ of the pores, effluvia specially destructive of all
venomous insects, were received into the blood. "An illustrious prince,"
Belort says, "by wearing such an amulet, escaped the small-pox."

Clognini, an Italian physician, ordered two or three drachms of crude
mercury to be worn as a defensive against the jaundice; and also as a
preservative against the noxious vapours of inclement seasons: "It
breaks," he observes, "and conquers the different figured seeds of
pestilential distempers floating in the air; or else, mixing with the
air, kills them where hatched." By others, the power of mercury, in
these cases, has been ascribed to an elective faculty given out by the
warmth of the body, which draws out the contagious particles. For,
according to this entertained notion, all bodies are continually
emitting effluvia, more or less, around them, and some whether they are
internal or external. The Bath waters, for instance, change the colour
of silver in the pocket of those who use them. Mercury produces the same
effect; Tartar emetic, rubbed on the pit of the stomach, produces
vomiting. Yawning and laughing are infectious; so are fear and shame.
The sight of sour things, or even the idea of them, will set the teeth
on edge. Small-pox, itch, and other diseases, are contagious; if so, say
they, mercurial amulets bid fair to destroy the germ of some complaints
when used only as an external application, either by manual attrition,
or worn as an amulet. But medicated or not, all amulets are precarious
and uncertain, and in the cure of diseases are, by no means, to be
trusted to.

The Barbary Moors, and generally throughout the Mahommedan dominions,
the people are strikingly attached to charms, to which, and nature, they
leave the cure of almost every disorder; and this is the most strongly
impressed upon them from their belief in predestination, which,
according to their creed, stipulates the evil a man is to suffer, as
well as the length of time it is ordained he should live upon the land
of his forefathers; consequently they imagine that any interference from
secondary means would avail them nothing, an opinion said to have been
entertained by William III, but one by no means calculated for nations,
liberty, and commerce; upon the principle that when the one was
entrenched upon, men would probably be more sudden in their revenge, and
dislike physic and occupation; and when actuated with religious
enthusiasm, nothing could stand them in any service.

The opinion of an old navy surgeon,[113] on the subject, is worth
recording here. "A long and intense passion on one object, whether of
pride, love, fear, anger, or envy, we see have brought on some universal
tremors; on others, convulsions, madness, melancholy, consumption,
hectics, or such a chronical disorder as has wasted their flesh, or
their strength, as certainly as the taking in of any poisonous drugs
would have done. Anything frightful, sudden, or surprising, upon soft,
timorous natures, not only shews itself in the continuance, but produces
sometimes very troublesome consequences--for instance, a parliamentary
fright will make even grown men _bewray_ themselves, scare them out of
their wits, turn the hair grey. Surprise removes the hooping cough;
looking from precipices or seeing wheels turn swiftly will give
giddiness. Shall then these little accidents, or the passions, (from
caprice or humour, perhaps,) produce those effects, and not be able to
do anything by amulets? No; as the spirits, in many cases, resort in
plenty, we find where the fancy determines, giving joy and gladness to
the heart, strength and fleetness to the limbs, and violent
palpitations. To amulets, under strong imagination, is carried with more
force to a distempered part, and, under these circumstances, its natural
powers exert better to a discussion.

"The cures compassed in this manner," says our author, "are not more
admirable than many of the distempers themselves. Who can apprehend by
what impenetrable method the bite of a mad dog, or tarantula, can
produce these symptoms? The touch of a torpedo numbness? If they are
allowed to do these, doubtless they may the other; and not by miracles,
which Spinoza denies the possibility of, but by natural and regular
causes, though inscrutable to us. The best way, therefore, in using
amulets, must be in squaring them to the imagination of patients: let
the newness and surprise exceed the invention, and keep up the humour by
a long scroll of cures and vouchers; by these and such means, many
distempers have been cured. Quacks again, according to their boldness
and way of addressing (velvet and infallibility particularly) command
success by striking the fancies of an audience. If a few, more sensible
than the rest, see the doctor's miscarriages, and are not easily gulled
at first sight, yet, when they see a man is never ashamed, in time, jump
in to his assistance."

There is much truth and pertinence in some of the above remarks, and
they apply nearly to the general practice of the present day. The farces
and whims of people require often as much discrimination on the part of
the physician as the disease itself. Those who know best how to flatter
such caprices, are frequently the best paid for their trouble. Nervous
diseases are always in season, and it is here that some professional
dexterity is pardonable. Nature, when uninterrupted, will often do more
than art; but our inability upon all occasions to appreciate the efforts
of nature in the cure of diseases, must always render our notion, with
respect to the powers faith, liable to numerous errors and deceptions.
There is, in fact, nothing more natural, and at the same time more
erroneous, than to lay the cure of a disease to the door of the last
medicine that had been prescribed. By these means the advocates of
amulets and charms, have ever been enabled to appeal to the testimony of
what they are pleased to call experience in justification of their
pretensions, and egregious superstitions; and cases which, in truth,
ought to have been classed, or rather designated, as lucky escapes, have
been triumphantly pulled off as skilful cures; and thus, medicines and
medical practitioners, have alike received the meed of unmerited praise,
or the stigma of unjust censure. Of all branches of human science,
medicine is one of the most interesting to mankind: and, accordingly as
it is erroneously or judiciously cultivated, is evidently conducive to
the prejudice or welfare of the public. Of how great consequence is it,
then, that our endeavours should be exerted in stemming the propagation
of errors, whether arising from ignorance, or prompted by motives of
base cupidity, in giving assistance to the disseminations of useful
truths, and to the perfection of ingenious discoveries.


[110] Lib. viii. chap. 2. 5.

[111] Langhorne's Life of Mr. Collins

[112] Reverii Praxis Medica, p. 188.

[113] John Ailkin, author of the Navy Surgeon, 1742. Sec Demonologia, p.
64 et seg.



The Egyptian amulets are not so ancient as the Babylonian talismans, but
in their uses they were exactly similar. Some little figures, supposed
to have been intended as charms, have been found on several mummies,
which, at various times, have been brought to Europe. Plutarch informs
us that the soldiers wore rings, on which the representation of an
insect resembling our beetle, was inscribed; and we learn from Aelian,
that the judges had always suspended round their necks a small figure of
Truth formed of emeralds. The superstitious belief in the virtues of
talismans is yet far from being extinct, the Copths, the Arabians, the
Syrians, and, indeed, almost all the inhabitants of Asia, west of the
Ganges, whether Christians or mahometans, still use them against
possible evils.

There is little distinction between talismans, amulets and the
gree-grees of the Africans as regards their pretended efficacy; though
there is some in their external configuration. Magical figures, engraven
or cut under superstitious observances of the characterisms and
configurations of the heavens, are called talismans; to which
astrologers, hermetical philosophers, and other adepts, attribute
wonderful virtues, particularly that of calling down celestial

The talismans of the Samothracians, so famous of old, were pieces of
iron formed into certain images, and set in rings. They were reputed as
preservatives against all kinds of evils. There were other talismans
taken from vegetables, and others from minerals. Three kinds of
talismans were usually distinguished 1st. the _astronomical_ known by
the signs or constellations of the heavens engraven upon them, with
other figures, and some unintelligible characters; 2nd. the _magical_,
bearing very extraordinary figures, with superstitious words and names
of angels unheard of; 3rd. the _mixt_ talismans, which consist of signs
and barbarous words; but without any superstitious ones, or names of

It has been asserted and maintained by some Rabins, that the brazen
serpent raised by Moses in the wilderness, for the destruction of the
serpents that annoyed the Israelites, was properly a talisman. All the
miraculous things wrought by Apollonius Tyanaeus are attributed to the
virtue and influence of _talismans_; and that wizard, as he is called,
is even said to be the inventor of them. Some authors take several
Runic medals,--medals, at least, whose inscriptions are in the Runic
characters,--for talismans, it being notorious that the northern
nations, in their heathen state, were much devoted to them, M. Keder,
however has shown, that the medals here spoken of are quite other things
than talismans.

It appears from the Evangelists[115] that, when St. Paul, after he had
been shipwrecked, and escaped to the island of Malta, a viper fastened
on his hand as he was laying a bundle of sticks, he had gathered, on the
fire; and that, by a miracle, and to the great astonishment of the
spectators, inhabitants of the island, he not only suffered no harm, but
also cured, by the divine power, the chief of the island, and a great
number of others, of very dangerous maladies. There remain still in that
island, as so many trophies gained by the Apostle over that venemous
beast, a great many small stones representing the eyes and tongues of
serpents, and considered for several centuries past, as powerful amulets
against different sorts of distempers and poisons. As the virtue of
these stones is still much boasted of by the Maltese, and as some, on
the contrary, maintain that they are the petrified teeth of a fish
called lamia, it will not be irrelevant here to relate some observations
from the best authors on this interesting subject, so much to our

It is said that those eyes and tongues of serpents are only found by the
Maltese when they dig into the earth, which is whitish throughout the
island, or draw up stone, especially about the cave of St. Paul. This
stone is so soft, that, like clay, it may be cut through with any sharp
instrument, and made to receive easily different figures, for building
the walls of their houses and ramparts; but, when it has been imbibed
with a sufficient quantity of rain or well water, it changes into a
flint that resists the cutting of the sharpest instrument: whence the
houses that are built of it in the two cities, appear as hewn out of one
solid rock, and become harder, the more they are exposed to the
inclemencies of the weather. This hardness may, with good reason, be
ascribed to the salt of nitre, which contracts a certain viscidity from
the rain wherewith it is mixed, and which easily penetrates into these
stones, because their substance is spongy and cretaceous, and adheres to
the tongue as hartshorn.

It is in these stones that not only the eyes and tongues of serpents are
found, but also their viscera and other parts: as lungs, liver, heart,
spleen, ribs, and so resembling life, and with such natural colours,
that one may well doubt whether they are the work of nature or art; the
figure of the eyes and tongues is very different. Some are elliptic,
but, for the greater part round: some represent an hemisphere, others a
segment, others an hyperbola. The glossopetrae are naturally of a conic
figure, representing acute, obtuse, regular, and irregular cones. They
are also of different colours, especially the eyes; for some of them are
of an ash-colour, others liver colour, some brown, others blackish; but
these, as most rare, are most esteemed. Bracelets are frequently made
of them and set in gold: some representing an entire eye with a white
pupil, and these are the most beautiful. Several are likewise found of
an orange colour.

The virtues attributed by the Maltese to those eyes and tongues, and to
the white earth which is found in the island, particularly in St. Paul's
cave, and which is kept for use by the apothecaries, as the American
bole, are very singular; for they reckon them not only a preservative
against all sorts of poison, and an efficacious remedy for those who
have taken poison, but also good in a number of diseases. They are taken
internally, infused in water, wine, or in any other convenient liquor;
or let to lie for some hours in vessels made of the white earth; or the
white earth is taken itself dissolved in those liquors. The eyes set as
precious stones in rings, and so as to touch immediately the flesh, are
worn by the inhabitants on the fingers; but the tongues are fastened
about the arm, or suspended from the neck.

Paul Bucconi, a Sicilian nobleman, treated this notion of the eyes and
tongues of serpents as a mere vulgar error; and maintains that they
either constitute a particular species of stone produced in the earth,
or in the stones of the island of Malta, as in their matrix; or that
they are nothing more than the petrified teeth of some marine fish;
which is also the opinion of Fabius Columna, Nicholas Steno and other
physicians and anatomists.

It seems to this noble author that the glossopetrae should be classed in
the animal kingdom, because, being burnt, they are changed into cinders
as bones, before they are reduced into a calx or ashes, whilst calcined
stones are immediately reduced into a calx. He further says, that the
roots of the glossopetrae are often found broken in different ways,
which is an evident argument that they have not been produced by nature,
in the place they are digged out of, because nature forms other fossils,
figured entirely in their matrix, without any hurt or mutilation. Add to
this, that the substance is different in different parts of the
glossopetrae; solid at the point, less solid at the root, compact at the
surface, porous and fibrous in the interior: besides, the polished
surface, contrary to the custom of nature, which forms no stone, whether
common or precious, is polished; and, lastly, the figure that varies
different ways, as well as the size, being found great, broad,
triangular, narrow, small, very small, pyramidal, straight, curved
before, behind, to the right and to the left, in form of a saw with
small teeth, furnished with great jags or notches, and frequently
absolutely pyramidal without notches; all these particulars favour his
opinion. But, as he thence believes he has proved that the glossopetrae
should not be classed amongst stones, so also what he has said may prove
that they are the natural teeth of those fishes, which are called, by
lithographers, lamia, aquila, requiem, (shark) etc. and therefore there
scarce remains any reason for a further doubt on this head.

There are representations of curiosities, which we shall give an account
of from the Ephemerides of the Curious. It is customary to see at
Batavia, in the island of Java, the figure of serpents impressed on the
shells of eggs, Andrew Cleyerus, a naturalist of considerable note,
says, that when he was at Batavia in 1679, he had seen himself, on the
14th of September, an egg newly laid by a hen, of the ordinary size, but
representing very exactly, towards the summit of the other part of the
shell, the figure of a serpent and all its parts, not only the
lineaments of the serpent were marked on the surface, but the three
dimensions of the body were as sensible as if they had been engraved by
an able sculptor, or impressed on wax, plaister or some other like
matter. One could see very plainly the head, ears, and a cloven tongue
starting out of the throat; the eyes were sparkling and resplendent, and
represented so perfectly the interior and exterior of the parts of the
eye, with their natural colours, that they seemed to behold with
astonishment the eyes even of the spectators. To account for this
phenomenon, it may be supposed that, the hen being near laying, a
serpent presented itself to her sight, and that her imagination, struck
thereby, impressed the figure of the serpent on the egg that was ready
to press out of the ovarium.

An egg equally wonderful, was laid by a hen at Rome on the 14th. of
December, 1680. The famous comet that appeared then on the head of
Andromeda, with other stars, were seen represented on its shell.
Sebastian Scheffer says, that he had seen an egg with the representation
of an eclipse on it. Signor Magliabecchi, in his letter to the academy
of the Curious, on the 20th. of October 1682, has these words; "Last
month I had sent me from Rome, a drawing of an egg found at Tivoli, with
the impression of the sun and the transparent comet with a twisted

There are also representations of Indian nuts, or small cocos, with the
head of an ape. The nut has been exactly engraved in the Ephemerides of
the Curious, both as to size and form, and covered with its shell, as
expressed there by cyphers and other figures which represent the same
nut stripped of its covering, and exhibiting the head of an ape. This
nut seems pretty much like the foreign fruit described by Clusius,
Exoticorum lib. a, which John Bauhin (Hist. Plant. Universal Lib. 3)
retaining the description of Clusius, calls, "a nut resembling the
areca," and which C. Bauhin (Pinac. lib. II, sect. 6) calls, the fruit
of the fourteenth of Palm-tree, that bears nuts, or a foreign fruit of
the same sort as the areca.

This fruit with its shell, is, as Clusius says, an inch and a half in
length, but is somewhat more than an inch thick. Its shell or
membraneous covering, is about the thickness of the blade of a knife,
and outwardly of an ash colour mixed with brown. Clusius was in the
right to say, that the shell of this nut was formed of several fibrous
parts, but those fibres resemble rather those of the shell of a coco,
than the fibrous parts of the back of the areca nut. He, moreover, has
very properly observed, that this shell is armed, at its lower part,
with a double calyx and that the opposite part terminates in a point;
but it is necessary to observe, that this point is not formed by the
prolongation of the shell, as the figure he has given of it seems to
specify; but that from the middle of the upper part of the fruit, there
juts out a sort of small needle.

The shell being taken off, the nut is found to be hard, ligneous,
oblong, of unequal surface, furrowed, and of a chesnut yellow. One of
its extremities is roundish, and the other, by the reunion and
prolongation of three sorts of tubercles, terminates in a point; those
protuberances being so formed, that the middlemost placed between the
two others, has the appearance of a nose, and the two lateral
protuberances resemble flat lips. On each side of that which forms what
we call the nose, a small hole or nook is perceived, capable of
containing a pea; but does not penetrate deep, and is surrounded with
black filaments, sometimes like eye-brows and eyelashes, so that the nut
on that side resembles an ape or a hare.

This _lusus naturae_, or sport of nature, has a very pretty effect, but
is oftener found in stones than other substances. A great variety of
such rare and singular productions of nature may be seen at the British
Museum: but nothing can be more extraordinary in this respect than what
is related concerning the agate of Pyrrhus, which represented,
naturally, Apollo holding a lyre, with the nine muses distinguished each
by their attributes. In all probability, there is great exaggeration in
this fact, for we see nothing of the kind that comes near this
perfection. However, it is said, that, at Pisa, in the church of St.
John, there is seen, on a stone, an old hermit perfectly painted by
nature, sitting near a rivulet, and holding a bell in his hand; and
that, in the temple of St. Sophia, at Constantinople, there is to be
seen, on a white sacred marble, an image of St. John the Baptist,
cloaked with a camel's skin, but so far defective that nature has given
him but one foot.

There is an instance in the Mercury of France, for July 1730, of some
curious sports of nature on insects. The rector of St. James at Land,
within a league of Rennes, found in the month of March, 1730, in the
church-yard, a species of butterfly, about two inches long, and
half-an-inch broad, having on its head the figure of a death's-head, of
the length of one nail, and perfectly imitating those that are
represented on the church ornaments which are used for the office of the
dead. Two large wings were spotted like a pall, and the whole body
covered with a down, or black hair, diversified with black and yellow,
bearing some resemblance to yellow.

These freaks of nature are equally extended to animate as to inanimate
bodies; and the human species, as well as the brute creation, affords
numerous specimens, not only of redundance and deficiency in her work,
but a variety of other phenomena not well understood. The march of
intellect, however, it is to be hoped, will be as successful in this
instance, as in obliterating the hobgoblins of astrologers and quacks
who so long have ruled the destiny and health of their less sagacious
fellow-creatures;--and when the public shall become persuaded of the
advantages which science may derive from occurrences similar to those we
shall enumerate in the next chapter, it will be more disposed to offer
them to the consideration of scientific men.


[114] The author of a book, entitled "_Talismans justifiés_" pronounces
a talisman to be the seal, figure, character, or image of a heavenly
sign, constellation or planet, engraven on a sympathetic stone, or on a
metal corresponding to the star, etc. in order to receive its

[115] Acts of the Apostles, chap. xxviii. v. 3.



The power of music over the human mind, as well as its influence on the
animal creation, has been variously attested; and its curative virtues
have been no less extolled by the ancients.[116] Martianus Capella assures
us, that fevers were removed by songs, and that Asclepiades cured
deafness by the sound of the trumpet. Wonderful indeed! that the same
noise which would occasion deafness in some, should be a specific for it
in others! It is making the viper cure its own bite. But, perhaps
Asclepiades was the inventor of the _acousticon_, or ear-trumpet, which
has been thought a modern discovery; or of the speaking-trumpet, which
is a kind of cure for distant deafness. These would be admirable proofs
of musical power![117] We have the testimony of Plutarch, and several
other ancient writers, that Thaletas the Cretan, delivered the
Lacedemonians from the pestilence by the sweetness of his lyre.

Xenocrates, as Martianus Capella further informs us, employed the sound
of instruments in the cure of maniacs; and Apollonius Dyscolus, in his
fabulous history (Historia Commentitia) tells us, from Theophrastus's
Treatise upon Enthusiasm, that music is a sovereign remedy for a
dejection of spirits, and disordered mind; and that the sound of the
flute will cure epilepsy and the sciatic gout. Athenaeus quotes the same
passage from Theophrastus, with this additional circumstance, that, as
to the second of these disorders, to render the cure more certain, the
flute should play in the Phrygian mode. But Aulus Gellius, who mentions
this remedy, seems to administer it in a very different manner, by
prescribing to the flute-player a soft and gentle strain, _si modulis
lenibus_ says he, _tibicen incinet_: for the Phrygian mode was
remarkably vehement and furious.

This is what Coelius Aurelianus calls _loca dolentia decantare_,
enchanting the disordered places. He even tells us how the enchantment
is brought about upon these occasions, in saying that the pain is
relieved by causing a vibration of the fibres of the afflicted part.
Galen speaks seriously of playing the flute on the suffering part, upon
the principle, we suppose, of a medicated vapour bath.

The sound of the flute was likewise a specific for the bite of a viper,
according to Theophrastus and Democritus, whose authority Aulus Gellius
gives for his belief of the fact. But there is nothing more
extraordinary among the virtues attributed to music by the ancients,
than what Aristotle relates in its supposed power of softening the
rigour of punishment. The Tyrhenians, says he, never scourge their
slaves, but by the sound of flutes, looking upon it as an instance of
humanity to give some counterpoise to pain, and thinking by such a
diversion to lessen the sum total of the punishment. To this account may
be added a passage from Jul. Pallus, by which we learn, that in the
_triremes_, or vessels with three banks of oars, there was always a
_tibicen_, or flute-player, not only to mark the time, or cadence for
each stroke of the oar, but to sooth and cheer the rowers by the
sweetness of the melody. And from this custom Quintilian took occasion
to say, that music is the gift of nature, to enable us the more
patiently to support toil and labour.[118]

These are the principal passages which antiquity furnishes, relative to
the medicinal effects of music; in considering which, reliance is placed
on the judgment of M. Burette, whose opinions will come with the more
weight, as he had not only long made the music of the ancients his
particular study, but was a physician by profession. This writer, in a
dissertation on the subject, has examined and discussed many of the
stories above related, concerning the effects of music in the cure of
diseases. He allows it to be possible, and even probable, that music, by
reiterated strokes and vibrations given to the nerves, fibres, and
animal spirits, may be of use in the cure of certain diseases; yet he by
no means supposes that the music of the ancients possessed this power in
a greater degree than the modern music, but rather that a very coarse
and vulgar music is as likely to operate effectually on such occasions
as the most refined and perfect. The savages of America pretend to
perform these cures by the music and jargon of their imperfect
instruments; and in Apulia, where the bite of the tarantula is pretended
to be cured by music, which excites a desire to dance, it is by an
ordinary tune, very coarsely performed.[119]

Baglivi refines on the doctrine of effluvia, by ascribing his cures of
the bite of the tarantula to the peculiar undulation any instrument or
tune makes by its strokes in the air; which, vibrating upon the external
parts of the patient, is communicated to the whole nervous system, and
produces that happy alteration in the solids and fluids which so
effectually contributes to the cure. The contraction of the solids, he
says, impresses new mathematical motions and directions to the fluids;
in one or both of which is seated all distempers, and without any other
help than a continuance of faith, will alter their quality; a philosophy
as wonderful and intricate as the nature of the poison it is intended to
expel; but which, however, supplies this observation, that, if the
particles of sound can do so much, the effluvia of amulets may do more.

Credulity must be very strong in those who believe it possible for music
to drive away the pestilence. Antiquity, however, as mentioned above,
relates that Thaletas, a famous lyric poet, contemporary with Solon, was
gifted with this power; but it is impossible to render the fact
credible, without qualifying it by several circumstances omitted in the
relation. In the first place, it is certain, that this poet was received
among the Lacedemonians during the plague, by command of an oracle: that
by virtue of this mission, all the poetry of the hymns which he sung,
must have consisted of prayers and supplications, in order to avert the
anger of the gods against the people, whom he exhorted to sacrifices,
expiations, purifications, and many other acts of devotion, which,
however superstitious, could not fail to agitate the minds of the
multitude, and to produce nearly the same effects as public fasts, and,
in catholic countries, processions, as at present, in times of danger,
by exalting the courage, and by animating hope. The disease having,
probably, reached its highest pitch of malignity when the musician
arrived, must afterwards have become less contagious by degrees; till,
at length, ceasing of itself, by the air wafting away the seeds of
infection, and recovering its former purity, the extirpation of the
disease was attributed by the people to the music of Thaletas, who had
been thought the sole mediator, to whom they owed their happy

This is exactly what Plutarch means, who tells the story; and what Homer
meant, in attributing the curation of the plague among the Greeks, at
the siege of Troy, to music:

  With hymns divine the joyous banquet ends,
  The Poeans lengthen'd till the sun descends:
  The Greeks restor'd, the grateful notes prolong;
  Apollo listens and approves the song.[120]

For the poet in these lines seems only to say, that Apollo was rendered
favourable, and had delivered the Greeks from the scourge with which
they were attacked, in consequence of Chriseis having been restored to
her father, and of sacrifices and offerings.

M. Burette thinks it easy to conceive, that music may be really
efficacious in relieving, if not in removing, the pains of sciatica; and
that independent of the greater or less skill of the musician. He
supposes this may be effected in two different ways: first, by
flattering the ear, and diverting the attention; and, secondly, by
occasioning oscillations and vibrations of the nerves, which may,
perhaps, give motions to the humours, and remove the obstructions which
occasion this disorder. In this manner the action of musical sounds
upon the fibres of the brain and animal spirits, may sometimes soften
and alleviate the sufferings of epileptics and lunatics, and calm even
the most violent fits of these two cruel disorders. And if antiquity
affords examples of this power, we can oppose to them some of the same
kind said to have been effected by music, not of the most exquisite
sort. For not only M. Burette, but many modern philosophers, physicians,
and anatomists, as well as ancient poets and historians, have believed,
that music has the power of affecting, not only the mind, but the
nervous system, in such a manner as will give a temporary relief in
certain diseases, and, at length, even operate a radical cure.

In the Memoirs of the Academy of Sciences for 1707 and 1708, we meet
with many accounts of diseases, which, after having resisted and baffled
all the most efficacious remedies in common use, had, at length, given
way to the soft impressions of harmony. M. de Mairan, in the Memoirs of
the same Academy, 1737, reasons upon the medicinal powers of music in
the following manner:--"It is from the mechanical and involuntary
connexion between the organ of hearing, and the consonances excited in
the outward air, joined to the rapid communication of the vibrations of
this organ to the whole nervous system, that we owe the cure of
spasmodic disorders, and of fevers attended with a delirium and
convulsions, of which our Memoirs furnish many examples."

The late learned Dr. Branchini, professor of physic at Udine, collected
all the passages preserved in ancient authors, relative to the medicinal
application of music, by Asclepiades; and it appears from this work that
it was used as a remedy by the ancient Egyptians, Hebrews, Greeks, and
Romans, not only in acute, but chronical disorders. This writer gives
several cases within his own knowledge, in which music has been
efficacious; but the consideration as well as the honour of these, more
properly belong to _modern_ than to ancient music.

Music, of all arts, gives the most universal pleasure, and pleases
longest and oftenest. Infants are charmed with the melody of sounds, and
old age is animated by enlivening notes. The Arcadian shepherds drew
pleasure from their reeds; the solitude of Achilles was cheered by his
lyre; the English peasant delights in his pipe and tabor; the
mellifluous notes of the flute solace many an idle hour; and the
charming of snakes and other venomous reptiles, by the power of music,
is well attested among the Indians. "Music and the sounds of
instruments," says Vigneul de Marville, "contribute to the health of the
body and mind; they assist the circulation of the blood, they dissipate
vapours, and open the vessels, so that the action of perspiration is
freer." The same author tells a story of a person of distinction, who
assured him, that once being suddenly seized with a violent illness,
instead of a consultation of physicians, he immediately called a band of
musicians, and their violins acted so well upon his inside, that his
bowels became perfectly in tune, and in a few hours were harmoniously

Farinelli, the famous singer, was sent for to Madrid to try the effect
of his magical voice on the king of Spain. His Majesty was absorbed in
the deepest melancholy; nothing could excite an emotion in him; he lived
in a state of total oblivion of life; he sat in a darkened chamber,
entirely given up to the most distressing kind of madness. The
physicians at first ordered Farinelli to sing in an outer room; and for
the first day or two this was done, without producing any effect on the
royal patient. At length it was observed, that the king, awakening from
his stupor, seemed to listen; on the next day tears were seen starting
from his eyes: the day after he ordered the door of his chamber to be
left open, and at length the perturbed spirit entirely left our modern
Saul, and the _medicinal_ music of Farinelli effected what medicine
itself had denied.

"After food," says Sir William Jones,[121] "when the operations of
digestion and absorption gives so much employment to the vessels, that a
temporary state of mental repose, especially in hot climates, must be
found essential to health, it seems reasonable to believe that a few
agreeable airs, either heard or played without effort, must have all the
good effects of sleep, and none of its disadvantages; putting, as Milton
says, '_the soul in tune_' for any subsequent exertion; an experiment
often made by myself. I have been assured by a credible witness, that
two wild antelopes often used to come from their woods to the place
where a more savage beast, Serajuddaulah, entertained himself with
concerts, and that they listened to the strains with the appearance of
pleasure, till the monster, in whose soul there was no music, shot one
of them to display his archery." A learned native told Sir William Jones
that he had frequently seen the most venomous snakes leave their holes
upon hearing tunes on a flute, which, as he supposed, gave them peculiar

Of the surprising effects of music, the two following instances, with
which we shall close these remarks, are related in the history of the
Royal Academy of Society of Paris.

A famous musician, and great composer was taken ill of a fever, which
assumed the continued form, with a gradual increase of the symptoms. On
the second day he fell into a very violent delirium, almost constantly
accompanied by cries, tears, terrors, and a perpetual watchfulness. The
third day of his delirium one of those natural instincts, which make, as
it is said, sick animals seek out for the herbs that are proper to their
case, set him upon desiring earnestly to hear a little concert in his
chamber. His physician could hardly be prevailed upon to consent to it.
On hearing the first modulations, the air of his countenance became
serene, his eyes sparkled with a joyful alacrity, his convulsions
absolutely ceased, he shed tears of pleasure, and was then possessed for
music with a sensibility he never before had, nor after, when he was
recovered. He had no fever during the whole concert, but, when it was
over, he relapsed into his former condition.

The fever and delirium were always suspended during the concert, and
music was become so necessary to the patient, that at night he obliged a
female relation who sometimes sat up with him, to sing and even to
dance, and who, being much afflicted, was put to great difficulty to
gratify him. One night, among others, he had none but his nurse to
attend him, who could sing nothing better than some wretched country
ballads. He was satisfied to put up with that, and he even found some
benefit from it. At last ten days of music cured him entirely, without
other assistance than of being let blood in the foot, which was the
second bleeding that was prescribed for him, and was followed by a
copious evacuation.

This account was communicated to the Academy by M. Dodart, who had it
well authenticated.

The second instance of the extraordinary effect of music is related of a
dancing-master of Alais, in the province of Languedoc. Being once
over-fatigued in Carnival time by the exercise of his profession, he was
seized with a violent fever, and on the fourth or fifth day, fell into a
lethargy, which continued upon him for a considerable time. On
recovering he was attacked with a furious and mute delirium, wherein he
made continual efforts to jump out of bed, threatened, with a shaking
head and angry countenance, those who attended him, and even all that
were present; and he besides obstinately refused, though without
speaking a word, all the remedies that were presented to him. One of the
assistants bethought himself that music perhaps might compose a
disordered imagination. He accordingly proposed it to his physician, who
did not disapprove the thought, but feared with good reason the
ridicule of the execution which might still have been infinitely
greater, if the patient should happen to die under the operation of such
a remedy.

A friend of the dancing master, who seemed to disregard the caution of
the physician, and who could play on the violin, seeing that of the
patient hanging up in the chamber, laid hold of it, and played directly
for him the air most familiar to him. He was cried out against more than
the patient who lay in bed, confined in a straight jacket; and some were
ready to make him desist; when the patient, immediately sitting up as a
man agreeably surprised, attempted to caper with his arms in unison with
the music; and on his arms being held, he evinced, by the motion of his
head, the pleasure he felt. Sensible, however, of the effects of the
violin, he was suffered by degrees to yield to the movement he was
desirous to perform,--when, strange as it may appear, his furious fits
abated. In short, in the space of a quarter of an hour, the patient fell
into a profound sleep, and a salutary crisis in the interim rescued him
from all danger.


[116] Dr. Burney's History of Music.

[117] It has been asserted by several moderns, that deaf people can hear
best in a great noise; perhaps to prove that Greek noise could do
nothing which the modern cannot operate as effectually: and Dr. Willis
in particular tells us of a lady who could hear only while a drum was
beating, in so much that her husband, the account says, hired a drummer
as her servant, in order to enjoy the pleasures of her conversation.

[118] Many of the ancients speak of music as a recipe for every kind of
malady, and it is probable that the Latin was _praecinere_, to charm
away pain, _incantare_ to enchant, and our own word _incantation_, came
from the medical use of song.

[119] M. Burette, with Dr. Mead, Baglivi, and all the learned of their
time throughout Europe, seem to have entertained no doubt of this fact,
which, however, philosophical and curious enquirers have since found to
be built upon fraud and fallacy. Vide Serrao, _della Tarantula o vero
falangio di Puglia._

[120] Pope's translation of the Iliad, Book 1.

[121] See a curious Dissertation on the musical modes of the Hindoos by
Sir W. Jones.



The common opinion of comets being the presages of evil is an old pagan
superstition, introduced and entertained among Christians by their
prejudice for antiquity; and which Mr. Bayle says is a remnant of pagan
superstition, conveyed from father to son, ever since the first
conversion from paganism; as well because it has taken deep root in the
minds of men, as because Christians, generally speaking, are as far gone
in the folly of finding presages in every thing, as infidels themselves.
It may be easily conceived how the pagans might be brought stedfastly to
believe that comets, eclipses, and thunderstorms, were the forerunners
of calamities, when man's strong inclination for the marvellous is
considered, and his insatiable curiosity for prying into future events,
or what is to come to pass. This desire of peeping into futurity, as has
already been shown, has given birth to a thousand different kinds of
divination, all alike whimsical and impertinent, which in the hands of
the more expert and cunning have been made most important and
mysterious tools. When any one has been rogue enough to think of making
a penny of the simplicity of his neighbours, and has had the ingenuity
to invent something to amuse, the pretended faculty of foretelling
things to come, has always been one of the readiest projects. From hence
always the assumption of judiciary astrology. Those who first began to
consult the motions of the heavens, had no other design in view, than
the enriching their minds with so noble a knowledge; and as they had
their genius bent on the pursuit of useful knowledge, they never dreamed
of converting astrology or a knowledge of the stars to the purpose of
picking the pockets of the credulous and ignorant, of whose blind side
advantage was taken by these sideral sages to turn them to account by
making them believe that the doctrine of the stars comprehended the
knowledge of all things that were, or are, or ever shall be; so that
every one, for his money, might come to them and have their fortune

The better to gull the world, the Star-gazers assert that the heavens
are the book in which God has written the destiny of all things; and
that it is only necessary to learn to read this book, which is simply
the construction of the stars, to be able to know the whole history of
what is to come to pass. Very learned men, Origen and Plotinus among the
rest, were let into the secret, and grew so fond of it, that the
former,[122] willing to support his opinion by something very solid,
catches at the authority of an Apocryphal book, ascribed to the
patriarch Joseph, where Jacob is introduced speaking to his twelve sons:
"I have read in the register of heaven what shall happen to you and your
children."[123] But comets were the staple commodity that turned
principally to account. In compliance, however, with the impressions of
fear which the strangeness and excessive length of these stars made upon
mankind, the Astrologers did not hesitate to pronounce them of a malign
tendency; and the more so when they found they had, by this means, made
themselves in some degree necessary, in consequence of the impatient
applications that were made to them as from the mouth of an oracle, what
particular disaster such and such a comet portended.

Eclipses furnished more frequent occasions for the exercise of their
talent. From this worthy precedent of Judicial Astrology, others took
the hint and invented new modes of divination, such as Geomancy,
Chiromancy, Onomancy, and the like; till the world by degrees became so
overrun with superstition, that the least trifle was converted into a
presage or presentiment; and the more so when this kind of knowledge
became the business of religion; and when the substance of divine
worship consisted in the ordinances of Augurs who, to make themselves
necessary in the world, were obliged to keep up and quicken men's
apprehensions of the wrath of God, took special care to cultivate
comets, and bring it into a proverb, that "so many comets so many
calamities." They knew, as Livy expresses it, that it was best to fish
in troubled waters, where, speaking of a contagious distemper, which,
from the country villages, spread over the city, occasioned by an
extraordinary drought in the year of Rome 326, he observes how, at last,
it infected the mind,[124] by the management of those who lived in the
superstition of the people; so that nothing was to be seen or heard
except some new fangled ceremony or other in every corner. "The devil,"
as Bayle says, "who had a hopeful game on't, and saw superstition the
surest way to get himself worshipped under the name of the false gods,
in a hundred various ways, all criminal and abominable in the sight of
the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth, never failed, on the appearance
of any rare meteor, or uncommon star, to exert his imposing arts, and
make idolaters believe, they were the signs of divine wrath, and that
they were all undone unless they appeased their gods by sacrifices of
men and brute beasts."

Politicians have also lent a helping hand to give presages a reputation,
as an excellent scheme, either to intimidate the people, or to raise
their drooping spirits. Had the Roman soldiers been free thinkers,
Drusus, the son of Tiberius, had not been so fortunate as to quell a
desperate mutiny among the legions of Pannonia, who utterly refused to
obey his commands; but an eclipse, which critically intervened, broke
their refractory spirits to such a degree, that Drusus, who managed
their panic fear with great dexterity and address, did what he liked
with them.

An eclipse of the moon put the army of Alexander the Great into such a
consternation, some days before the battle of Arbela, that the soldiers,
under the impression that heaven was against them, were very reluctant
to advance; and their devotion turning to downright disobedience,
Alexander commanded the Egyptian astrologers, who were the deepest
versed in the mystery of the stars, to give their opinions of this
eclipse in the presence of all the officers of his army. Without giving
themselves much trouble to explain the physical cause which it was their
interest to conceal from the people, the wise men declared that the sun
was on the side of the Grecians, and the moon for the Persians; and that
this planet was never in an eclipse, but it threatened them with some
mighty disaster: of this they quoted several ancient examples among the
kings of Persia, who, after an eclipse, had always found their gods
unpropitious in the day of battle. "Nothing," says Quintus Curtius,[125]
"is so effectual as superstition for keeping the vulgar under. Be they
ever so unruly and inconstant, if once their minds are possessed with
the vain visions of religion, they are all obedience to the soothsayer,
whatever becomes of the general." The answer of the Egyptian astrologers
being circulated among the soldiers, restored their confidence and their

On another occasion Alexander, just before he passed the river
Granicus, observing the circumstance of time, which was the month
Desius, reckoned unfortunate to the Macedonians from all antiquity, it
made the soldiers melancholy; he immediately ordered this dangerous
month to be called by the name of that which preceded it, well knowing
what power and influence vain religious scruples have over little and
ignorant minds. He sent private orders to Aristander his chief
soothsayer, just offering up a sacrifice for a happy passage, to write
on the liver of the victim with a liquor prepared for that purpose, that
the gods had "granted the victory to Alexander." The notice of this
miracle filled the men with invincible ardour; and now they rent the air
with acclamations, exclaiming that the day was their own, since the gods
had vouchsafed them such plain demonstrations of their favour. The
history, indeed, of this mighty conqueror, affords more such examples of
artifice, though he always affected to conquer by mere dint of bravery.
But what is still more extraordinary, this very hero, who palmed so
often such tricks upon others, was himself caught in his turn, as being
well as exceedingly superstitious by fits. We say nothing of
Themistocles,[126] who, in the war between Xerxes and the Athenians,
despairing to prevail upon his countrymen by force of reasoning to quit
their city, and betake themselves to sea, set all the engines of
religion to work; forged oracles, and procured the priests to circulate
among the people, that Minerva had fled from Athens, and had taken the
way which led to the port. Philip of Macedon, whose talent lay in
conquering his enemies by good intelligence, purchased at any price, had
as many oracles at command as he pleased; and hence Demosthenes justly
suspecting too good an understanding between Philip and the Delphian
priestess, rallied her with so much acrimony upon her partiality to that
prince. It is equally obvious how the same reasons of state, which kept
up the popular superstition for other prodigies, should take care to
encourage it with regard to comets and other celestial appearances.

Panegyrists have also done their parts to promote the superstition of
presages, as well as the flattering of poets and orators. When a hero is
to be found and extolled, they exclaim, that _all nature adores him;
that she exerts her utmost powers to serve him; that she mourns at his
misfortunes, promises him long before hand to the world; and when the
world, by its sins, is unworthy to possess him longer, heaven, which
calls him home, hangs out new lights, etc._ With this hyperbole M.
Balzac regaled Cardinal Richelieu, adding, that _to form such a
minister, universal nature was on the stretch; God gives him first by
promise, and makes him the expectation of ages_. For this he was
attacked by the critics, but he defended himself; alleging, that other
panegyrics had gone some notes higher: he, for example, among the
ancients, who said of certain great souls that _all the orders of heaven
were called together to fancy a fine destiny for them_, and that
illustrious nation who wrote that _the eternal mind was wrapt in deep
contemplation, and big with the vast design, when it conceived such a
genius as Cardinal Hippolito d'Este_. Why could not this same writer
have thought of one example more, such as that of the priest who told
the Emperor Constantine that _divine Providence, not content with
qualifying him for the empire of the world, had formed virtues in his
soul, which should entitle him to reign in heaven with his only son_.
Thus have flatterers seized the most surprising natural effects to
enhance their hero's glory, and make their court to great men. The poets
of the time of Augustus vied with each other in persuading the world
that the murder of Julius Caesar was the cause of all the prodigies that
followed. Horace, for instance, in one of his odes, attempts to prove
that the overflowings of rivers were reckoned among bad presages; and
pretends that the Tiber had not committed all those ravages, but in
complaisance to his wife Ilia, who was bent on the death of his kinsman
Caesar; and that all the other calamities which subsequently afflicted
or threatened the Roman empire, were the consequences of his
assassination. If Virgil may be credited,[127] the sun was so troubled at
the death of Caesar that it went into deep mourning, and so obscured his
beams, that the world was alarmed lest it never should appear again. In
the mean time, no sooner was the comet observed, which followed this
murder, than another set of flatterers pretended that it was Caesar's
soul received into the order of the Gods; and they dedicated a temple[128]
to the comet, and set up the image of Caesar with a star on his

It appears from the sermons of the ancient fathers, that the Christians
of that time believed they gave great relief to the moon in an eclipse,
by raising hideous shouts to the skies, which they imagined recovered
her out of her fainting fit, and without which she must inevitably have
expired. St. Ambrose, the author of the 215th sermon _de tempore_, bound
up with those of St. Austin, and St. Eloy, Bishop of Noyon, declaim
particularly against this abuse. It appears also from the Homilies of
St. Chrysostom, St. Basil, St. Austin, and others, that the Christians
of their days drew several kinds of presages from persons sneezing at
critical times; from meeting a cat, a dog, or an ill-looking (squinting)
woman, a maiden, one blind of an eye, or a cripple; on being caught by
the cloak on stepping out of a door, or from a sudden catch in one's
joint or limb.

St. Eloy tells his people plainly, that whoever pays attention to what
he meets at his first going out or coming in, or to any particular
voice, or to the chirping of a bird, is so far a Pagan. Indeed, all
these, and innumerable others of the same description of superstitious
among Christians, are remnants of ancient paganism; as they have been
denounced by the censures of popes, provincial councils, synodical
decrees, and other grave authorities. And, though there were not such a
cloud of witnesses, there would be no difficulty in proving the disease
of pagan origin. For, independent of those who preached the gospel of
our Saviour, having never promulgated such notions, we learn from
several ancient authorities, that the Gentiles had all these
superstitions in the highest regard. It was one general opinion among
them, that the eclipses of the moon were the consequence of certain
magic words by which sorcerers could wrench her from the skies, and drag
her near enough the earth to cast a frothy spittle on their herbs--one
of the principal ingredients in their incantations. To rescue the moon
from the supposed torture she was in, and to frustrate the charm, it was
necessary to prevent her from hearing the magic words, by drowning in
noise and hideous outcries, for which purpose the people used to
assemble during an eclipse of the moon with _rough_ music, such as
frying pans, brazen vessels, old tin kettles, etc. According to Pietro
della Voile, the Persians keep up the same ridiculous ceremony to this
day. It is likewise, according to Tavernier, observed in the kingdom of
Tunquin, where they imagine the moon to be, at that time, struggling
with a dragon. It is to the same source that we owe the imaginary raging
heat of the dog-star--the pretended presages of several evils ascribed
to eclipses, and all the allusions of astrology.

In a treatise written by Abogard, Bishop of Lyons, in 833, composed to
undeceive a world of people, who were persuaded that there were
enchanters who could command thunder, and hail, and tempest, to destroy
the fruits of the earth; and that they drove a great trade by this
mystery with the people of a certain country called Magonia, who came
once a year, sailing in large fleets through the air, to freight with
the blighted corn, for which they paid down ready money to the
enchanters. So little was this matter doubted, that one day the bishop
had enough to do to save three men and a woman from being stoned to
death, the people insisting they had just fallen overboard from one of
these aërial ships.

We do not here examine whether, in those days, the people literally were
more superstitious and credulous than in the days of paganism. It is
enough to say, that they were of very easy belief; and hence men began
to write their histories in the style of romance, mixing up a thousand
fables with the deeds of great men, such as Roland, nephew to
Charlemagne; which so suited the taste of the age, that no book would
afterwards go down in any other style--witness, for instance, the Manual
of Devotions by James de Voragine, archbishop of Genoa, composed towards
the latter end of the thirteenth century; and in which Melchior Canus, a
learned Spanish bishop, is so scandalized in his eleventh book of Common
Places. Another doctor of divinity,[129] speaking of the depraved state of
the times, says, "It was the error, or rather folly, of some of the
ancients, to think, that in writing the actions of illustrious men, the
style must sink, unless they mixed up with it the ornaments, for so they
called them, of poetical fiction, or something of this sort; and,
consequently, thus blended truth with fable." This being the prevailing
fashion of the times, we are inclined to believe, that in the histories
of the crusades, many apocryphal subjects are introduced, which ought,
consequently, to be read _cum grano salis_. This is decidedly the
opinion of Pere Maimbourg,[130] who, after the relation of the battle of
Iconium, won by Frederick of Barbarossa, 1190, says, "What was chiefly
wonderful after this battle, was the conqueror's sustaining little or no
loss, which most people ascribed to the particular protection of St.
Victor and St. George, names oftenest invoked in the Christian army,
which many of them said they saw engaging at the head of the squadrons.
Whether in reality there might be something in it extraordinary, which
has often happened, as the Scriptures inform us; or whether, by often
hearing of celestial squadrons appearing at the battle of Antioch in the
first crusade, warm imaginations possessed with the belief, and
penetrated with these ideas, formed new apparitions of their own, but
sure it is, that one Louie Helfenstein, a gentleman of reputation, and
far from a visionary, affirmed to the emperor, on his oath, and on the
vow of a pilgrim devoted to the holy sepulchre and the crusade, that _he
often saw St. George charge at the head of the squadrons, and put the
enemy to flight_; which was afterwards confirmed by the Turks
themselves, owning that they saw some troops in white charge in the
first ranks in the Christian army, though there were really none of that
livery. No one, I know, is bound (continues P. Maimbourg) to believe
visions of this kind, subject for the most part to notorious illusion:
but I know too, that an historian is not of his own authority, to reject
them, especially when supported by such remarkable testimony.

"And though he be at liberty to believe or not, yet he has no regret, by
suppressing them, to deprive the reader of his liberty, when he meets
with passages of this kind, of judging as he thinks fit." This
reflection (says Bayle) from so celebrated an historian, not suspected
of favouring the Hugonot incredulity, is a strong presumption on my

The abuse of presentiments has been carried to the very Scriptures. We
are told, that the manner of Tamerlane giving his blessing to his two
sons, by bowing down the head of the elder, and chucking the youngest
under the chin, was a presage of the elevation of the latter in
prejudice to the former, was grounded on the 48th chapter of Genesis,
where Jacob is represented laying his right hand on the head of the
younger, forseeing by inspiration that he would be the greater of the
two. Meanwhile there is a difference between the two benedictions. The
Tartar, wholly destitute of the knowledge of future events, did not
diversify the motion of his hands, on purpose to establish a presage;
and God never vouchsafing this knowledge to infidels, did not guide his
hands in a particular manner to form a presage of what should befal his
children;--whereas Jacob, on the contrary, filled with the spirit of
prophecy, whereby he saw the fortunes of his children, directed his
words and actions according to this knowledge; by which means both
became presages.

Presages, presentiments, and prodigies, might be multiplied ad
infinitum. Whoever reads the Roman historians will be surprised at their
number, and which frequently filled the people with the most dreadful
apprehensions. It must be confessed, that some of these seem altogether
supernatural; while much the greater part only consist of some of the
uncommon productions of nature, which superstition always attributed to
a superior cause, and represented as the prognostications of some
impending misfortunes. Of this class may be reckoned the appearance of
two suns;[131] the nights illuminated by rays of light; the views of
fighting armies; swords and spears darting through the air; showers of
milk, of blood, of stones, of ashes, or of fire; and the birth of
monsters, of children, or of beasts who had two heads; or of infants who
had some feature resembling those of the brute creation. These were all
dreadful prodigies which filled the people with inexpressible
astonishment, and the whole Roman empire with an extreme perplexity; and
whatever unhappy event followed, repentance was sure to be either caused
or predicted by them.


[122] Euseb. Praep. Evang. l. 6. c. 9.

[123] Legi in tabulis coeli quaecunque contingent vobis et Feliis

[124] Nec corpora modo affecta tabo, sed animos quoque multiplex
religio, et pleraque externa invasit, novos ritus sacrificando
vaticinandoque, inferentibus in domos, quibus quaestui sunt capti
superstitione animi. L. 4, dec. 1.

[125] Tacit, Annal. lib. 1, et ib. 4, cap. 10.

[126] Plutarch in his life.

[127] Georg. l. 1.

[128] Suetonius in vita Caesaris.

[129] Petseus, in Galfredo Monimetensi.

[130] Hist. Crusade, l. 5.

[131] Nothing is more easy than to account for these productions, which
have no relation to any events, no more than comets, that may happen to
follow them. The appearance of two suns has frequently happened in
England, as well as in other places, and is only caused by the clouds
being placed in such a situation as to reflect the image of that
luminary; nocturnal fires, inflamed spears, fighting armies, were no
more than what we call aurora borealis, northern lights, or inflamed
vapours floating in the air; showers of stones, of ashes, or of fire,
were no other than the effects of the eruptions of some volcano at a
considerable distance. Showers of milk were only caused by some quality
in the air condensing and giving a whitish colour to the water, etc.



The meteors known to the ancients were called [Greek: Lampdes Pithoi]
Bolides, Faces, Globi, etc. from particular differences in their shape
and appearance, and sometimes under the general term of comets. In the
Philosophical Transactions, they are called, indiscriminately,
fire-balls, or fiery meteors; and names of similar import have been
applied to them in the different languages of Europe. The most material
circumstances observed of such meteors may be brought under the
following heads: 1. Their general appearance. 2. Their path. 3. Their
shape or figure. 4. Their light and colour. 5. Their height. 6. The
noise with which they are accompanied. 7. Their fire. 8. Duration, 9.
Their velocity. Under these different heads meteors have been
investigated by the scrutinizing of philosophy, and many superstitious
notions, long entertained concerning them, entirely exploded. Meteoric
phenomena, it has been demonstrated, all proceed from one common
cause--irregularity in the density of the atmosphere. When the
atmospheric fluid is homogenous and of equal density, the rays of light
pass without obstruction or alteration in their shape or direction; but
when they enter from a rarer into a denser medium, they are refracted or
bent out of their course; and this with greater or less effect according
to the different degrees of density in the media, or the deviation of
the ray from the perpendicular. If the second medium be very dense in
proportion, the ray will be both refracted and reflected; and the object
from which it proceeds, will assume a variety of grotesque and
extraordinary shapes, and it will sometimes appear as in a reflection
from a concave mirror, dilated in size, and changed in situation.

The following striking effects are known to proceed from this simple

The first is the mirage, seen in the desert of Africa. M. Monge, a
member of the National Institute, accompanied the French army into
Egypt. In the desert, between Alexandria and Cairo, the mirage of the
blue sky was inverted, and so mingled with the sand below, as to impart
to the desolate and arid wilderness an appearance of the most rich and
beautiful country. They saw, in all directions, green islands,
surrounded with extensive lakes of pure and transparent water. Nothing
could be conceived more lovely and picturesque than this landscape. On
the tranquil surface of the lakes, the trees and houses, with which the
islands were covered, were strongly reflected with vivid hues, and the
party hastened forward to enjoy the cool refreshments of shade and
stream, which these populous villages preferred to them. When they
arrived, the lake, on whose bosom they floated, the trees, among whose
foliage they were embowered, and the people who stood on the shore
inviting their approach, had all vanished, and nothing remained but an
uniform and irksome desert of sand and sky, with a few naked huts and
ragged shrubs. Had they not been undeceived by their nearer approach,
there was not a man in the French army who would not have sworn, that
the visionary trees and lakes had a real existence in the midst of the

The same appearance precisely was observed by Dr. Clarke at Raschid, or
Rosetta. The city seemed surrounded by a beautiful sheet of water, and
so certain was his Greek interpreter, who was acquainted with the
country, of this fact, that he was quite indignant at an Arab, who
attempted to explain to him, that it was a mere optical delusion. At
length, they reached Rosetta in about two hours, without meeting any
water; and, on looking back on the sand they had just crossed, it seemed
to them, as if they had just waded through a vast blue lake.

A similar deception takes place in northern climates. Cities,
battlements, houses, and all the accompaniments of populous places, are
seen in desolate regions, where life goes out, and where human foot has
never trod. When approached they vanish, and nothing remains but a
rugged rock, or a misshapen iceberg.

Captain Scoresby, in his voyage to the arctic regions, on the coast of
East Greenland, constantly saw those visionary cities, and gives some
highly curious plates of the appearances they presented. They resembled
the real cities seen on the coast of Holland, where towers, and
battlements, and spires, "bosomed high in tufted trees," rise on the
level horizon, and are seen floating on the surface of the sea. Among
the optic deceptions noticed by Captain Scoresby, was one of a very
singular nature. His ship had been separated by the ice, from that of
his father for some time; and he was looking for her every day, with
great anxiety. At length, one evening, to his utter astonishment, he saw
her suspended in the air in an inverted position, traced on the horizon
in the clearest colours, and with the most distinct and perfect
representation. He sailed in the direction in which he saw this
visionary phenomenon, and actually found his father's vessel by its
indication. He was divided from him by immense masses of icebergs, and
at such a distance that it was quite impossible to have seen the ship in
her actual situation, or seen her at all, if her spectrum, or image, had
not been thus raised several degrees above the horizon into the sky, by
this most extraordinary refraction, in the same manner as the sun is
often seen, after he is known to have set, and actually sunk far below
the line of direct vision.

The _Fata Morgana_ are further illustrations of this optic delusion.
This phenomenon is seen at the Pharo of Messina, in Sicily, under
certain circumstances. The spectator must stand with his back to the
east, on an elevated place behind the city, commanding a view of the
bay, and having the mountains, like a wall, opposite to him, to darken
the back ground of the picture; no wind must be abroad to ruffle the
surface of the sea; and the waters must be pressed up by currents, as
they sometimes are, to a considerable height in the middle of the
strait, and present a slight convex surface. When all these
circumstances occur, as soon as the sun rises over the heights of the
Calabrian shore, and makes an angle of 45º with the horizon, all the
objects on the shore at Reggio are transferred to the middle of the
strait, and seen distinctly on the surface of the water, forming an
immoveable landscape of rocks, trees, and houses, and a moveable one of
men, horses, and cattle; these are formed into a thousand separate
compartments, presenting most beautiful and ever varying pictures of
animate and inanimate nature, on the swelling surface of the water,
broken by the currents, present separate plates of convex mirrors to
reflect them; they then as suddenly disappear, as the broad aquatic
mirror of the current passes on.

Sometimes the atmosphere is so dense that the objects are seen, like
Captain Scoresby's ship, snatched up into the regions of the air, thirty
or forty feet above the level of the sea; and in cloudy weather, nearer
to the surface, bordered with vivid prismatic colours. Sometimes
colonades of temples and churches, with cross-crowned spires, are all
represented as floating on the sea, and by a sudden change of
representation, the pillars are curved into arcades, and the crosses are
bent into crescents, and all the edifices of the floating city undergo
the most extraordinary and fantastic mutations. All these images are so
distinct, and produce objects seemingly as palpable as they are visible,
as sensible to touch as to sight, that the people of the country are
firmly persuaded of their reality. They consider the edifices as the
enchanted palaces of the fairy Morgana, and the moving objects as living
things which inhabit them. Whenever the optic phenomenon occurs, they
meet together in crowds, with an intense curiosity, mixed with awe and
apprehension, which is not removed by an acquaintance with those natural
causes, by which Mr. Swinburn and other foreign travellers, who have
witnessed the scene, are able to account for it.

The lakes of Ireland are equally susceptible of producing those vivid
delusions, and the imagination of the people, as lively as that of the
Sicilians, clothes them with an equal reality. There is scarcely a loch
in that country, in which the remains of cities have not been at various
times discovered; and many men have been met with who would solemnly
swear they saw, and who no doubt did see, representations of them in
certain states of the atmosphere. The most celebrated is that which
occurs on the lake of Killarney. This romantic sheet of water is bounded
on one side by a semi-circle of rugged mountains, and on the other by a
flat morass, and the vapour generated in the mass, and broken by the
mountains, continually represent the most fantastic objects; and often
those on shore are transferred to the water, like the Fata Morgana.

Many of the rocks are distinguished for their marked and lengthened
echoes, and the structure, which in acoustics reflects sounds to the
ear, from a point from whence they did not come, reflects images on the
eye, from a place very different from where the objects stood which
produced them. Frequently men riding along shore, are seen as if they
were moving across the lake, and this has given rise to the story of
O'Donougho. This celebrated chieftain was, according to the tradition of
the country, endued with the gift of magic; and, on one occasion, his
lady requested him to change his shape, that she might see a proof of
it. He complied, on condition that she would not be terrified, as such
an effect on her must prove fatal to him. Her mind failed her, however,
in the experiment, and at the sight of some horrible figure he assumed,
she shrieked, and he disappeared through the window of his castle, which
overhung the lake. From that time he continues an enchanted being,
condemned to ride a horse, shod with silver, over the surface of the
lake, till his horse's shoes are worn out. On every May morning he is
visible, and crowds assemble on the shore to see him. Many affirm they
have seen him; and one person relates many particulars of his
apparition, that the deception must have proceeded from some real
object, a man riding along shore, and transferred to the middle of the
water, by the optic delusion of the Fata Morgana.

But perhaps the most wonderful, and apparently preternatural effect
arising from this cause, is the _spectre of the Hartz Mountains_ in
Hanover. There is one particular hill, called the Brocken, in which he
appears, terrifying the credulous, and gratifying the curious to a very
high degree. The most distinct and interesting account is given by Mr.
Hawe, who himself was a witness to it. He had climbed to the top of the
mountain thirty times, and had been disappointed, but he persevered, and
was at length highly gratified. The sun rose about four o'clock in a
serene sky, free from clouds, and its rays passed without obstruction,
over another mountain, called the Heinschoe. About a quarter past five
he looked round to see if the sky was clear, and if there was any chance
of his witnessing what he so ardently wished, when suddenly he saw the
Achtermanshoe, a human figure of monstrous size turned towards him, and
glaring at him. While gazing on this gigantic spectre with wonder mixed
with an irrepressible feeling of awe and apprehension, a sudden gust of
wind nearly carried off his own hat, and he clapped his hand to his head
to detain it, when to his great delight the colossal spectre did the
same. He then changed his body into a variety of attitudes, all which
the figure exactly imitated, but at length suddenly vanished without any
apparent cause, and again as suddenly appeared. He called the landlord
of the inn, who had accompanied him, to stand beside him, and in a
little time two correspondent figures, of dilated size, appeared on the
opposite mountain. They saluted them in various ways by different
movements of their bodies, all which the giants returned with perfect
politeness, and then vanished. A traveller now joined Mr. Hawe and the
innkeeper, and they kept steadily looking for their aerial friends, when
they suddenly appeared again three in number, who all performed exactly
the same movements as their correspondent spectators. Having continued
thus for some time, appearing and disappearing alternately, sometimes
faintly, and sometimes more distinct, they at length faded away not
again to return. They proved, however, that the preternatural spectre,
which had so long filled the country with awe and terror, was no unreal
being, still less an existence whose appearance suspended the ordinary
laws of God and Nature; that, on the contrary, it was the simple
production of a common cause, exhibited in an unusual manner, but as
regular an effect, and as easy to be accounted for, as the reflection of
a face in a looking glass.

This constitution of the atmosphere, and its capability of dilating
objects, and altering their position by reflection and refraction, will
easily account for many phenomena which have been considered miraculous
and preternatural in early ages, by the ignorant; and in our own, by the
weak and superstitious. Such was probably the origin of the crosses seen
by Constantine and Constantius in the first ages of Christianity, and
such was that of the cross which appeared in the sky in France, to which
so many bore attestation. A large cross of wood, painted red, had been
erected beside the church, as a part of the ceremony they were
performing. In the winter, when the air is most frequently condensed by
cold, and its different strata of various degrees of tenacity, on a
clear evening after rain, when particles of humidity, still floating in
the air gives it greater power of reflection and refraction, when the
sun was setting, and his horizontal beams found most favourable to
produce meteoric phenomena, the spectrum of this wooden cross was cast
on the concave surface of some atmospheric mirror, and so reflected
back to the eyes of the spectators from an opposite place, retaining
exactly the same shape and proportions, but dilated in size, and changed
in position; and it was moreover tinged with red, the very colour of the
object of which it was the reflected image. This delusive appearance
continued till the sun was so far sunk below the horizon, as to afford
no more light to illumine the object, and the image ceased when the rays
were no longer distinctly reflected.



Many of the prodigies recorded by the ancients, admit of a natural
explanation; and an attentive examination will show that a small number
of causes, which may be discerned and developed, will serve for the
explanation of nearly the whole of them. There are two reasons for our
believing accounts of prodigies:--

1. The number and agreement of these accounts, and the confidence to
which the observers and witnesses are entitled.

2. The possibility of dissipating what is wonderful, by ascertaining any
one of the principal causes which might have given to a natural fact a
tinge of the marvellous.

Now, as regards the first reason, the ancients have recorded various
occurrences: for instance, a shower of quicksilver at Rome is mentioned
by Dion Cassius, in the year 197 of our era, and a similar event is
related under the reign of Aurelian. If we attend to phenomena taking
place in our time, such as a shower of blood, tremendous hail stones
weighing a pound each, and containing a stone within them; showers of
frogs, and other almost unaccountable occurrences, we must consign them
to, "the annals in which science has inserted the facts, she has
recognized as such, without as yet pretending to explain them."

Respecting the second reason, the deceptive appearance which nature
sometimes assumes, the exaggeration, almost unavoidable, by partially
informed observers, of the details of a phenomenon, or its duration;
improper, ill-understood, or badly translated expressions, figurative
language, and a practical style; erroneous explanations of emblematical
representations; apologues and allegories adopted as real facts. Such
are the causes, which, singly or together, have frequently swollen with
prodigious fictions the page of history; and it is by carefully removing
this envelope, that elucidations must be sought of what has hitherto
been improperly and disdainfully rejected. A few examples will
illustrate these several positions.

The river Adonis being impregnated, during certain seasons, with volumes
of dust raised from the red soil of that part of Mount Libanus near
which it flows, gave rise to the fable of the periodical effusion of the
blood of Adonis. There is a rock near the Island of Corfu, which bears
the resemblance of a ship under sail: the ancients adapted the story to
the phenomenon, and recognised in it the Phenician ship, in which
Ulysses returned to his country, converted into stone by Neptune, for
having carried away the slayer of his son Polyphemus. A more extensive
acquaintance with the ocean, has shown that this appearance is not
unique; a similar one on the coast of Patagonia, has more than once
deceived both French and English navigators; and rock Dunder, in the
West Indies, bears a resemblance, at a distance equally illusive. There
is another recorded by Captain Hardy, in his recent travels in Mexico,
near the shore of California; and the "story of the flying Dutchman," is
founded on a similar appearance at the Cape of Good Hope, connected with
a tradition which has been long current there among the Dutch colonists.
Another instance is afforded by the chimaera, the solution of which
enigma, as given by Ovid, is so fully substantiated by the very
intelligent British officer who surveyed the Caramania a few years
since. Scylla the sea monster, which devoured six of the rowers of
Ulysses, M. Salverte, a recent compiler on the marvellous, is tempted to
regard as an overgrown polypus magnified by the optical power of poetry,
though we are disposed to give the credit to an alligator, or its mate,
a crocodile; and this occurrence is not so fictitiously represented, as
it is supposed to be.


In the enumeration of plants possessing magical properties, Pliny
mentions those which, according to Pythagoras, have the property of
concealing water. Elsewhere, without having resource to magic, he
assigns to hemp an analogous quality. According to him, the juice of
this plant poured into water becomes suddenly inspissated and
congealed. It is probable enough, that he indicated a species of mallow,
the hemp-leaved marsh-mallow, of which the mucilaginous juice produces
this effect to a certain point, and an effect which may also be obtained
from every vegetable as rich in mucilage.

Of vegetable productions, many produce intoxicating effects, such as
berries of the night-shade,[132] scammony, and various species of fungi.
These unquestionably have been made subservient to demonological
purposes, which, with the ignorant, have passed off for supernatural
agency. The priests, to whom the little comparative learning of the dark
ages attached, knew well how to impose upon the credulous: but
imposition was not always their object; an extent of benevolence
prevailed which contemplated the relief of their fellow creatures
afflicted with sickness.

It was maintained by the Egyptians that, besides the gods, there were
many demons which communicated with mortals, and which were often
rendered visible by certain ceremonies and songs; that genii exercised
an habitual and powerful influence over every particle of matter; that
thirty-six of these beings presided over the various members of the
human body; and thus, by magical incantations, it might be strengthened,
or debilitated, afflicted with, or delivered from disease. Thus, in
every case of sickness, the spirit presiding over the afflicted part,
was first duly invoked. But the magicians did not trust solely to their
vain invocations; they were well acquainted with the virtues of certain
herbs, which they wisely employed in their attempts at healing. These
herbs were greatly esteemed: such, for instance, as the _cynocephalia_,
or, as the Egyptians themselves termed the _asyrites_,[133] which was used
as a preventive against witchcraft; and the nepenthes which Helen
presented in a potion to Menelaus, and which was believed to be powerful
in banishing sadness, and in restoring the mind to its accustomed, or
even to greater, cheerfulness, were of Egyptian growth. But whatever may
be the virtues of such herbs, they were used rather for their magical,
than for their medicinal qualities; every cure was cunningly ascribed to
the presiding demons, with which not a few boasted that they were, by
means of their art, intimately connected.

There can be no question, as attested by the earliest records, that the
ancients were in possession of many potent remedies. Melampus of Argos,
the most ancient Greek physician with whom we are acquainted, is reputed
to have cured one of the Argonauts of barrenness, by exhibiting the rust
of iron dissolved in wine, for the space of ten days. The same physician
used hellebore as a purgative on the daughters of King Proteus, who were
labouring under hypochondriasis or melancholy. Bleeding was also a
remedy of very early origin, and said to have been first suggested by
the hypopotamus or sea horse, which at a certain time of the year was
observed to cast itself on the sea shore, and to wound itself among the
rocks or stones, to relieve its plethora. Podalerius, on his return from
the Trojan war, cured the daughter of Damaethus, who had fallen from a
height, by bleeding her in both arms. Opium, the concrete juice of the
poppy, was known in the earliest ages; and probably it was opium that
Helen mixed with wine, and gave to the guests of Menelaus, under the
expressive name of _Nepenthe_, to drown their cares, and encrease their
hilarity. This conjecture, in a considerable degree, is supported from
the fact, that Homer's Nepenthe was procured from the Egyptian Thebes,
whence the tincture of opium, according to the nomenclature of the
pharmacopeia about fifty years ago, and still known by this name in the
older writers; and, if Dr. Darwin may be credited, the Cumaean Sybil
never sat on the portending tripod without first swallowing a few drops
of juice of the cherry-laurel.

There is every reason to believe that the Pagan priesthood were under
the influence of some narcotic preparation during the display of their
oracular power, but the effects produced would seem rather to resemble
those of opium, or perhaps of stramonium, than of prussic acid, which
the cherry-laurel water is known to contain.

The priests of the American Indians, says Monardur, whenever they were
consulted by the chief gentlemen, or _caciques_, as they are called,
took certain leaves of the tobacco, and cast them into the fire, and
then received the smoke thus produced by them into their mouths, which
caused them to fall upon the ground. After having remained in this
position for some time in a state of stupor, they recovered, and
delivered the answers, which they pretended to have received during the
supposed intercourse with the world of spirits.

The narcotic, or sedative influence of the garden radish, was known in
the earliest times. In the fables of antiquity we read, that, after the
death of Adonis, Venus, to console herself, and repress her desires, lay
down upon a bed of lettuces. The sea onion, or squill, was administered
by the Egyptians, in cases of dropsy, under the mystic title of the eye
of Typhon. The practices of incision and scarification, were employed in
the Greek camp at the siege of Troy; and the application of spirits to
wounds, was likewise understood; for we find Nestor applying a poultice
compounded of cheese, onion, and meal, mixed up with the wine of
Pramnos, to the wounds of Machaon.

To bring some inactive substance into repute, as promising some
extraordinary, nay, wonderful medicinal properties, requires only the
sanction of a few great names; and when once established on such a
basis, ingenuity, argument, and even experiment, may open their
otherwise powerful batteries in vain. In this manner all the quack
medicines, ever held in any estimation, got into repute. And the same
vulgar prejudice, which induces people to retain an accustomed remedy
upon bare assertion and presumption, either of ignorance or partiality,
will, in like manner, oppose the introduction of any innovation in
practice with asperity, and not unfrequently with a quantum sufficit of
scrutiny and abuse, unless, indeed, it be supported by authorities of
still greater weight and consideration.

The history of many articles of diet, as well as medicine, amply prove
how much their reputation and fate have depended upon some authority or
other. Ipecacuanha had been imported into England for many years, before
Helvetius, under the patronage of Louis XIV, succeeded in introducing it
into practice in France; and, to the Queen of Charles II., we are
indebted for the introduction of that popular beverage, tea, into
England. Tobacco has suffered as many variable vicissitudes in its fame
and character. It has been successively opposed and commended by
physicians, condemned and praised by priests and kings, and proscribed
and protected by governments, until, at length, this once insignificant
production of a little island, has succeeded in propagating itself
through every climate and country. Nor is the history of the potatoe
less remarkable or less strikingly illustrative of the imperious
influence of authority. This valuable plant, for upwards of two
centuries, received an unprecedented opposition from vulgar prejudice,
which all the philosophy of the age was unable to dissipate, until Louis
XIV. wore a bunch of the flowers of the potatoe, in the midst of his
court, on a day of mirth and festivity. The people then, for the first
time, obsequiously acknowledged its utility, and began to express their
astonishment at the apathy which had so long prevailed with regard to
its general cultivation.

Another instance may be furnished of overbearing authority, in giving
celebrity to a medicine, or in depriving it of that reputation to which
its virtues entitle it, is seen in the history of the Peruvian bark.
This famed medicine was imported into Spain by the Jesuits, where it
remained seven years, before a trial was given to it. A Spanish priest
was the first to whom it was administered, in the year 1639, and even
then its use was extremely limited; and it would undoubtedly have sunk
into oblivion, but for the supreme power of the church of Rome, under
whose protecting auspices it gained a temporary triumph over the
passions and prejudices which opposed its introduction. Pope Innocent X.
at the intercession of the Cardinal de Lugo, who was formerly a Spanish
Jesuit, ordered the bark to be duly examined, and on the favourable
report, which was the result of this examination, it immediately rose
into high favour and celebrity.

The root of the male fern, a nostrum for the cure of the tape worm, was
secretly retailed by Madame Noufleur. This secret was purchased by Louis
XV. for a considerable sum of money. It was not until this event that
the physicans discovered, that the same remedy had been administered in
the same complaint by Galen. The history of popular remedies in the cure
of gout, is equally illustrative of this subject. The Duke of Portland's
celebrated powder was nothing less than the _deacintaureon_ of Caelius
Aurelianus, or the _antidotus et duobus centaurae generibus_ of Aetius,
the receipt for which, a friend of his grace brought with him from
Switzerland, into which country, in all likelihood, it had been
introduced by the early medical writers, who had transcribed it from the
Greek volumes, soon after their arrival into the western part of

The active ingredient of a no less celebrated preparation for the same
complaint, the _Eau médicinale_ de Husson, a medicine brought into
fashion by M. de Husson, a military officer in the service of Louis XVI
has been discovered to be the meadow saffron. Upon searching after and
trying the properties of this herb, it was observed that similar effects
in the cure of the gout were ascribed to a certain plant, called
hermodaclyllus, by Oribasius (an eminent physician of the 4th century)
and Aetius, who flourished at Alexandria towards the end of the 5th
century, but more particularly by Alexander of Tralles, a physician of
Asia Minor, whose prescription consisted of hermodaclyllus, ginger,
pepper, cummin seed, aniseed, and scammony, which he says will enable
those who take it to walk immediately. On an inquiry being immediately
set on foot for the discovery of this unknown plant, a specimen of it
was procured at Constantinople, and it actually did turn out to be a
species of meadow saffron, the colchicum autumnale of Linnaeus.

The celebrated fever powder of Dr. James was evidently not his original
composition, but an Italian nostrum, invented by a person of the name of
Lisle; a receipt for the preparation of which is to be found at length
in Colborne's complete English Dispensary for the year 1756. The various
secret preparations of opium which have been extolled as the discovery
of modern days, may be recognised in the works of ancient authors. The
use of prussic acid in the cure of consumptions, lately suggested by M.
Magendie, at Paris, is little more than the revival of the Dutch
practice in this disorder; for Linnaeus informs us, that distilled
laurel water was frequently used in the cure of pulmonary

We shall conclude these observations with a few remarks on what are
termed _patent medicines, nostrums_, or _quack medicines_, and their
boasted pretensions in general. There is, in fact, but one state of
perfect health, yet the deviations from this state, and the general
species of diseases are almost infinite. Hence it will easily be
understood, that in the classes of medical remedies, there must likewise
he a great variety, and that some of them are even of opposite
tendencies. Such are both the warm and cold bath considered as medical
remedies. Though opposite to each other in their sensible effects, each
of them manifests its medical virtues, yet only in such a state of the
body as will admit of using it with advantage. From these premises, it
is evident that an universal remedy, or one that possesses healing
powers for the _cure of all diseases_, is, in fact, a non-entity, a mere
delusion, the existence of which is physically impossible, as the mere
idea of such a thing involves a contradiction. How, for instance, can it
he conceived, that the same remedy should be capable of restoring the
tone of the muscular fibres, when they are relaxed, and also have the
power of relaxing them when they are too rigid; that it should coagulate
the fluids when in a state of resolution, and again attenuate them when
they are too viscid; that it should moderate the nerves when in a state
of preturnatural sensibility, and likewise restore them to their proper
degree of irritability when they are in a contrary state.

The belief in an universal remedy has long been abandoned, even among
the vulgar, and long exploded in those classes of society, which are not
influenced by prejudice, or tinctured with fanaticism. It is, however,
sincerely to be regretted, that the daily press continues to be
inundated with advertisements; and that the lower, and less informed
class of the community, are still imposed upon by a set of privileged
impostors, who frequently puzzle the intelligent to decide, whether the
impudence or the industry with which they endeavour to establish the
reputation of their respective poisons, be the most prominent feature in
their character. In illustration of this last observation, it may
further be observed, that most of the nostrums advertised as cough
drops, etc., are preparations of opium, similar, but inferior, to the
well-known paregoric elixir of the shops, but disguised and rendered
more deleterious by the addition of heating and aromatic gums. The
injury which may be occasioned by the indiscriminate employment of such
medicines might be very serious and irremediable, as is well known to
every person possessing the smallest portion of medical knowledge. The
boasted, though groundless pretensions of certain illiterate empirics to
cure diseases which have eluded the skill and penetration of the
faculty, is another absurdity into which people of good common sense
have been most woefully entrapped. The lessons of experience ought to
prove the most useful, as purchased at the greatest trouble and expense;
but if people choose to run over a precipice with their eyes open, they
leave themselves nothing to regret, and the public less to lament, by
their fall.

It was justly observed by the sagacious and intelligent Bacon, "that a
reflecting physician is not directed by the opinion which the multitude
entertain of a favourite remedy, but that be must be guided by a sound
judgment; and consequently, he is led to make very important
distinctions between those things which only by their name pass for
medical remedies, and others, which in reality possess healing powers."
We avail ourselves of the quotation, as it indirectly censures the
conduct of certain medical practitioners, who do not scruple to
recommend what are vulgarly called patent and other quack preparations,
the composition of which is carefully concealed from the public. Having
acquired their unmerited reputation by mere chance, and being supported
by the most refined artifices, in order to delude the unwary, we are
unable to come at the evidence of perhaps nine tenths of those who have
experienced their fatal effects, and who are now no longer in a
situation to complain.

From universal remedies or panaceas, to nostrums and specifics, such,
for instance, as pretend to cure the _same_ disease in every patient, is
easy and natural. With the latter also, impositions of a dangerous
tendency are often practised. It may be asked how far they are
practicably admissible, and in what cases they are wholly unavailing?
The answer is not difficult. In those diseases, which in every instance
depend upon the same cause, as in agues, the small-pox, measles, and
many other contagious distempers, the possibility of specifics, in a
limited sense, may be rationally, though hypothetically admitted. But in
either maladies, the causes of which depend on a variety of other
concurrent circumstances, and the cure of which in different
individuals, frequently requires very opposite remedies, as in dropsy,
various species of colds, the almost infinite variety of consumptions,
etc. a specific remedy is an imposition upon the common sense of
mankind. Those who are but imperfectly acquainted with the various
causes from which the same disorder originates in different individuals,
can never entertain such a vulgar and dangerous notion. They will easily
perceive, how much depends upon ascertaining with precision, the seat
and cause of the complaint, before any medicine can be presented with
safety or advantage:--even life and death are, we are sorry to add, too
often decided by the first steps. Different constitutions, different
symptoms, and stages of disease, all require more or less a separate
consideration. What is more natural than to place confidence in a
remedy, which has been known to afford relief to others in the same kind
of disposition? The patient anxiously enquires after a person who has
been afflicted with the same malady; he is eager to know the remedy that
has been used with success; his friend or neighbour imparts to him the
wished for intelligence; he is determined to give the medicine a fair
trial, and takes it with confidence. From what has been stated, it will
not be difficult to conceive, that if his case does not exactly
correspond with that of his friend, any _chance_ remedy may prove
extremely dangerous, if not fatal.

Hence it becomes evident, that the results are not to be depended upon,
nor the chance risked. The physician is obliged to employ all his
sagacity, supported by his own experience, as well as by that of his
predecessors; and yet he is often under the necessity of discovering,
from the progress of the disease, what he could not derive from the
minutest research. How then can it be expected, that a novice in the art
of healing should be more successful, when the whole of his method of
cure is either the impulse of the moment, or the effect of his own
credulity? It may be therefore truly said, that life and death are
frequently entrusted to chance!

The late Dr. Huxham, a physician of some eminence in his day, when
speaking of Asclepiades, the Roman empiric, says: "This man from a
_declaimer_ turned _physician_, and set himself up to oppose all the
physicians of his time; and the novelty of the thing bore him out, as it
frequently doth the quacks of the present time; and ever _will while the
majority of the world are fools_." In another place, he curiously
contrasts the too timid practice of some regular physicians, with the
hazardous treatment, which is the leading feature of quacks: "The timid,
low, insipid practice with some, is almost as dangerous as the bold,
unwarranted empiricism of others; time and opportunity, never to be
regained, are often lost by the former; while with the latter, by a
_bold push_, you are sent off the stage in a moment."

From what has been said, it may confidently be asserted, that a
universal remedy still remains as great a desideratum as the
philosopher's stone; and either can only obtain credit with the
weak-minded, the credulous, or the fanatic. One of the most unfortunate
circumstances in the history of such medicines, is the insinuating and
dangerous method, by which they are puffed into notice. And as we have
little of the beneficial effects which they daily must produce, by being
promiscuously applied, people attend only to the extraordinary
instances, perhaps not one in fifty, where they have afforded a
temporary or apparent relief. It is well known, that the more powerful
a remedy is, the more permanent and dangerous must be its effects on the
constitution; especially if it be introduced like many patent medicines,
by an almost indefinite encrease of the dose. There is another
consideration, not apt to strike those who are unacquainted with the
laws of the animal economy. When it is intended to bring about any
remarkable change in the system of an organized body, such means are
obliged to be employed as may contribute to produce that change without
affecting too violently the living powers, or without carrying their
action to an improper length. Indeed, the patient may be gradually
habituated to almost any stimulus, but at the expence of a paralytic
stroke on an impaired constitution. Such are among the melancholy
effects of imposture and credulity! "Were it possible," says a learned
authority, "to collect all the cases of sacrifices to the mysterious
infatuation, it is probable that their number would exceed the enormous
havoc made by gunpowder or the sword." Another reputable writer makes
the following terse remark on this subject: "As matters stand at
present," says he, "it is easier to cheat a man out of his life, than of
a shilling: and almost impossible either to detect or punish the
offender. Notwithstanding this, people still shut their eyes, and take
every thing upon trust, that is administered by any pretender to
medicine, without daring to ask him a reason for any part of his
conduct. Implicit faith, every where else the object of ridicule, is
still sacred here."


[132] The berries of the belladonna or deadly nightshade, produce, when
eaten, a furious madness, followed by sleep, which lasts for twenty-four
hours. Such drugs as produce mental stupefaction, without impairing the
physical powers, may have given rise to the accounts of men being
transformed into brutes, so frequent in what are denominated the
fabulous writers, while the evanescent but exquisite joys of an opposite
description, an anticipation of what implicit obedience would ensure
them for ever, produced blind, furious, devoted adherents to any
philosophical speculator, who would venture to try so desperate an

[133] The Rowan tree or Mountain ash, is used by the Scottish peasantry
with the same view; and a small twig of it is sewed up in the cow's
tail, to preserve the animal and its produce from the influence of
witches and warlocks.

[134] See Pharmacologia, by Dr. Paris.

[135] Vide "Amenetates Academicae," vol. 4.



Obeah, a pretended sort of witchcraft, arising from a superstitious
credulity, prevailing among the negroes, has ever been considered as a
most dangerous practice, to suppress which, in our West India colonies,
the severest laws have been enacted. The Obeah is considered as a potent
and most irresistible spell, withering and paralyzing, by indiscribable
terrors and unusual sensations, the devoted victim. One negro who
desires to be revenged on another, and is afraid to make an open and
manly attack on his adversary, has usually recourse to this practice.
Like the witches' cauldron in Macbeth, it is a combination of many
strange and ominous things. Earth gathered from a grave, human blood, a
piece of wood fastened in the shape of a coffin, the feathers of the
carion crow, a snake or alligator's tooth, pieces of egg-shell, and
other nameless ingredients, compose the fatal mixture. The whole of
these articles may not be considered as absolutely necessary to complete
the charm, but two or three are at least indispensable.[136]

It will of course be conceived, that the practice of OBEAH can have
little effect, unless a negro is conscious that it is practised upon
him, or thinks so;[137] for, as the whole evil consists in the terrors of
a superstitious imagination, it is of little consequence whether it be
practised or not, if he only imagines that it is. But if the charm fails
to take hold of the mind of the proscribed person, another and more
certain expedient is resorted to--the secretly administering of poison
to him. This saves the reputation of the sorcerer, and effects the
purpose he had in view.

An OBEAH man or woman (for it is practised by both sexes) is a very
dangerous person on a plantation; and the practice of it is made felony
by law, punishable with death where poison has been administered, and
with transportation where only the charm has been used. But numbers
have, and may be swept off, by its infatuation, before the crime is
detected; for, strange as it may appear, so much do the negroes stand in
awe of those _Obeah_ professors, so much do they dread their malice and
their power, that, though knowing the havoc they have made, and are
still making, they are afraid to discover them to the whites; and,
others perhaps, are in league with them for sinister purposes of
mischief and revenge.

A negro, under the infatuation of Obeah, can only be cured of his
terrors by being made a Christian: refuse him this boon, and he sinks a
martyr to imagined evils. A negro, in short, considers himself as no
longer under the influence of this sorcery when he becomes a christian.
And instances are known of negroes, who, being reduced by the fatal
influence of Obeah to the lowest state of dejection and debility, from
which there were little hopes of recovery, have been surprisingly and
rapidly restored to health and cheerfulness by being baptized
christians. The negroes believe also in apparitions, and stand in great
dread of them, conceiving that they forbode death, or some other great
evil, to those whom they visit; in short, that the spirits of the dead
come upon the earth to be revenged on those who did them evil when in
life. Thus we see, that not only from the remotest antiquity, but even
among slaves and barbarians, the belief in supernatural agencies has
been a popular creed, not, in fact, confined to any distant race or
tribe of people; and, what is still more surprising, there is a singular
and most remarkable identity in the notion or conception of their
infernal ministry.

In the British West Indies, the negroes of the windward coast are called
_Mandingoes_, a name which is here taken as descriptive of a peculiar
race or nation. There seems reason, however, to believe, that a
_Mandingo_ or _Mandinga_-man, is properly the same with an Obi-man. A
late traveller in Brazil gives us the following anecdotes of the
_Mandinga_ and _Mandingueiro_ of the negroes in that country. "One day,"
says Mr. Koster, "the old man (a negro named Apollinario) came to me
with a face of dismay, to show me a ball of leaves, tied up with a plant
called _cypo_, which he had found under a couple of boards, upon which
he slept, in an out-house. The ball was about the size of an apple. I
could not imagine what had caused his alarm, until he said that it was
_Mandinga_ which had been set for the purpose of killing him; and he
bitterly bewailed his fate, that at his age, any one should wish to
hasten his death, and to carry him from this world, before our lady
thought fit to send him. I knew that two of the black women were at
variance, and suspicion fell upon one of them, who was acquainted with
the old _Mandingueiro_ of Engenho Velho; therefore she was sent for. I
judged that the _Mandinga_ was not set for Apollonario, but for the
negress whose business it was to sweep the out-house. I threatened to
confine the suspected woman at Gara unless she discovered the whole
affair. She said the Mandinga was placed there to make one of the
negresses dislike her fellow-slaves, and prefer her to the other. The
ball of _Mandinga_ was formed of five or six kinds of leaves of trees,
among which was the pomegranate leaf; there were likewise two or three
bits of rag, each of a peculiar kind; ashes, which were the bones of
some animals; and there might be other ingredients besides, but these
were what I could recognize. This woman either could not from ignorance,
or would not give any information respecting the several things of which
the ball was composed. I made this serious matter of the _Mandinga_,
from knowing the faith which not only many of the negroes have in it,
but also some of the mulatto people. There is another name for this kind
of charm; it is called _feitiço_, and the initiated are called
_feitiçeros_; of these there was formerly one at the plantation of St.
Joam, who became so much dreaded, that his master sold him to be sent to

Speaking of the green-beads (_contas verdas_) which are another object
of superstition in South America, and of the reliance placed upon them
by the Valentoens, a lawless description of persons among the colonists
of Brazil; the same author gives us this further view of the
_Mandingueiros_ and their charms. "These men," says he, "wore on their
necks strings of green beads, which had either come from the coast of
Africa, bearing the wonderful property of conveying in safety their
possessors through all descriptions of perils, or were charmed by the
Mandingueiros, African sorcerers, who had been brought over to the
Brazils as slaves, and in secret continued the prohibited practice of
imparting this virtue to them. Vincente had been acquainted with some of
the men, and was firmly persuaded of the virtues of the green beads.
When I expressed my doubts of the efficacy of the beads, against a
musket ball well directed, his anger rose; but there was pity mingled
with it."

Labat brings these stones from the Orellana, or river of the Amazons. "I
was informed," says our author, "that _Contas verdas_ came from Africa;
but some have found their way from the Orellana, and been put into
requisition by the _Mandingueiros_." Mr. Southey has also given an
account of the "green stones of the Amazons," in his history of Brazil,
vol. 1. p. 107.

In another place, some traveller presents us with the _Mandingueiros_ in
the new character of charmer of snakes. "The Mandingueiros are famous,
among other feats, for handling poisonous snakes, and can, by particular
noises or tunes, call those reptiles from their holes, and make them
assemble around them. These sorcerers profess to render innoxious the
bites of snakes, to persons who submit to their charms and ceremonies.
One of the modes which is adopted for this purpose, is that of allowing
a tame snake to crawl over the head, face, and shoulders of the person
who is to be _curado do cobras_, cured of snakes, as they term it. The
owner of the snake repeats a certain number of words during the
operation, of which, the meaning, if they contain any, is only known to
the initiated. The rattle-snake is said to be, above all other species,
the most susceptible of attention to the tunes of the Mandingueiros."
The above accounts I should not have related upon the authority of one
or two authors, I have heard them repeated by several individuals, and
even some men of education have spoken of the reputed efficacy of the
tame snakes of the Mandingueiros, as if they were somewhat staggered in
their belief of it. "These men do certainly play strange tricks and very
dexterously." The same writer also observes, "One of the negroes whom I
had hired with the plantation of Jaguaribi, had one leg much thicker
than the other. This was occasioned, as he told me, by the bite of a
rattlesnake; he said he had been _cured_ from the bites of snakes by a
certain _curador de cobra_, or Mandingueiro, and had therefore not died;
but that as the 'moon was strong,' he had not escaped receiving some
injury from the bite."

Beaver, in his African Memoranda, says, "There is another sort of people
who travel about in the country, called Mandingo-men, (these are
Mahommedans;) they do not work; they go from place to place, and when
they find any chiefs or people, whom they think they can make anything
of, they take up their abode sometime with them, and make _gree-grees_,
and sometimes cast seed from them for which they make them pay."

On this, and other occasion, the word _gree-gree_ is applied to a house
whence oracles are delivered: but it is also used for a charm or obi.
"They themselves," (the natives of the coast) says the author, last
quoted, "always wear _gree-grees_, or charms, which they purchase of the
_Mandingoes_, to guard them against the effects of certain arms, or of
poison, and on which they place the utmost reliance. They have one
against poison; another against a musket; another against a sword; and
another against a knife; and, indeed, against almost every thing that
they think can hurt them. Mandingo priest, or _gris gris_ merchant, that
is, a seller of charms, which carried about a person, secure the wearer
from any evils,--such as poison, murder, witchcraft, etc. To this priest
I had made some handsome presents, and he, in return, gave me twelve
gris gris, and assured me that they would inevitably secure me from all
danger, at the same time he gave me directions how to dispose of them.
Some were to be carried about my person; one secretly placed over each
archway; another kept under my pillow, and another under the door of the
house I was then building." The Byugas hold these people in great
reverence, and say that they 'talk with God.'

Mr. Long, in his history of the West Indies, states that, under the
general name of Obi-men is also included the class of _Myal_ men, or
those who, by means of a narcotic poison, made with the juice of an herb
(said to be the branched Calalue, a species of solanum) which occasions
a trance of a certain duration, endeavour to convince the deluded
spectators of their power to reanimate dead bodies.

Additional particulars of this superstition preserved by Labat,
Edwards, and others, are to be joined with those now produced;[138] but
after all, the questions to be solved are, whether Obi, Mandinga, and
_gree gree_, are usually words of similar import, and whether those who
are conversant in them are all alike, priests of one system of religious
faith and worship, or whether the one does not belong to the worship of
a good power, and the other to that of an evil one.

It is remarkable, that while the Etymology of _Obi_ has been sought in
the names of ancient deities of Egypt, and in that of the serpent in the
language of the coast, the actual name of the evil deity or _Devil_, in
the same language, appears to have escaped attention. That name is
written by Mr. Edwards, _Obboney_; and the bearer of it is described as
a malicious deity, the author of all evil, the inflictor of perpetual
diseases, and whose anger is to be appeased only by human sacrifices.
This evil deity is the Satan of our own faith; and it is the worship of
Satan which, in all parts of the world constitutes the essence of

If this name of _Obboney_ has any relation to the Ob of Egypt, and if
the Ob, both anciently in Egypt, and to this day in the west of Africa,
signifies "a serpent," what does this discover to our view, but that
Satan has the name of _serpent_ among the Negro nations as well as among
those of Europe? As to how it has happened that the serpent, which, in
some systems, is the emblem of the good spirit, is in others the emblem
of the evil one, that is a topic which belongs to a more extensive
enquiry. This is enough for our present satisfaction to remember that
the profession of, and belief in sorcery or witchcraft, supposes the
existence of two deities, the one, the author of good, and the other the
author of evil; the one worshipped by good men for good things, and for
good purposes: and the other by bad men for bad things and purposes; and
that this worship is sorcery and the worshippers sorcerers.

It will be seen above, that since African charms are to prevent evil,
and others to procure it, the first belong to the worship, and are
derived from the power, of the good spirit; and the second are from the
opposite source. It is to be concluded, then, that the superstition of
_Obi_ is no other than the practice of, and belief in the worship of
_Obboney_ or _Oboni_, the evil deity of the Africans, the serpent of
Africa and of Europe, and the old serpent and Satan of the scriptures;
and that the witchcraft of the negroes is evidently the same with our
own. It might indeed be further shown, that the latter have their
temporary transformations of men into alligators, wolves, and the like,
as the French have their loups-garoux, the Germans their war-wolves,
wolf-men, and the rest.[139]

The negroes practising obeah are acquainted with some very powerful
vegetable poisons, which they use on these occasions, and by which they
acquire much extensive credit. Their fetiches are their household gods,
or domestic divinities; one of whom is supposed to preside over a whole
province, and one over every family. This idol is a tree, the head of an
ape, a bird, or any such thing, as their fancy may suggest. The negroes
have long been held famous in the act of secret or slow poisoning.

If doubts and difficulties envelope the discovery of poisons, whose
distinguishing character is the rapidity of these effects, how much
greater must be the uncertainty when we are required to ascertain the
administrations of what are called slow poisons. This subject, indeed,
is so closely entwined with popular superstitions, that it is difficult
to separate truth from falsehood. In Italy, for example, it was formerly
said, that poisons were made to destroy life at any stated period--from
a few hows to a year. This, however, turns out to be a mere fiction;
and, it is well understood, that we know of no substances that will
produce death at a determinate epoch. The following case of the late
Prince Charles of Augustenburgh, nevertheless, shows that the idea of
slow poison is still very prevalent, even among the physicians of
continental Europe.

Prince Charles of Augustenburgh, Crown Prince of Sweden, and the
predecessor of Bernadotte, in that station, fell dead from his horse on
the 22nd of May, 1810, while reviewing troops in Scania. His death,
during that stormy period of public affairs, excited great attention,
and an opinion soon spread abroad that he had been poisoned. The king
ordered a judicial investigation; and it appeared that Dr. Rossi, the
physician of the late Prince, had, without directions, proceeded to
inspect the body twenty-four hours after death; that he had performed
this operation with great negligence, omitting many things which the law
presented, which the assisting physicians proposed, and which were
essential to render it satisfactory; and finally, that the coats of the
stomach, instead of being preserved and submitted to chemical analysis
were, according to his own acknowledgment, thrown away. The royal
tribunal adjudged him to be deprived of his appointment, and to be
banished from the kingdom. This decision would not of course, diminish
the suspicion already excited; and among other physicians, who were
consulted on the case, M. Lodin, professor of Medicine at Lynkoping,
presented two memoirs, in which he stated it as his opinion, that a
_slow poison_ of a vegetable nature, and probably analogous to the _aqua
tofania_, had been administered to the Prince, and that this had caused
the apopletic fit of which he died. His reasons were:

1. That the Prince had always enjoyed good health previous to his
arrival in Sweden, and, indeed, had not been ill, until after eating a
cold pie at an inn, in Italy. He was shortly after seized with violent
vomiting, while the rest of the company experienced no ill effects.

2. The Prince was naturally very temperate.

3. Ever since he arrived in Sweden he had experienced a loss of
appetite, with cholic and diarrhoea; and

4. That on dissection, the spleen was found of a black colour and in a
state of decomposition, and the liver indurated and dark coloured.
Whilst during life he had experienced no symptoms corresponding to these
appearances. Dr. Lodin confessed, however, that he was unacquainted with
the effects that indicate the administration of a slow poison, but
thought the previous symptoms were such as might be expected from it.

For the credit of the profession, this conjectural opinion met with
decided reprobation from other medical men. It appeared that the Prince
had, for several days previously, been subject to giddiness and pain in
the head, and that all the symptoms were readily referable to a simple
case of apoplexy, while the appearances on dissection showed that rapid
tendency to putrefaction, which is frequently observed in similar cases.

The public are highly indebted to professor Beckman for a very elaborate
article, in which he has concentrated nearly all that is known
concerning _secret poisoning_. Of this we shall here present our readers
with an abstract, as peculiarly adapted to the demonology of medicine,
aided with some facts from other sources.

Professor Beckman considers it unquestionable, that the ancients were
acquainted with this kind of poison, and thinks that it may be proved
from the testimony of Plutarch, Quintilian, and other respectable
authors. The former states that a slow poison, which occasioned heat, a
cough, spitting of blood, a consumption, and weakness of intellect, was
administered to Aratus of Sicyon. Theophrastus speaks of a poison
prepared from aconite, which could be moderated in such a manner as to
have effect in two or three months, or at the end of a year or two
years; and he also relates, that Thrasyas had discovered a method of
preparing from other plants a poison which, given in small doses,
occasioned a certain but easy death, without any pain, and which could
be kept back for a long time without causing weakness or corruption. The
last poison was much used at Rome, about two hundred years before the
christian era. At a later period, a female named Locusta, was the agent
in preparing these poisons, and she destroyed, in this way, at the
instigation of Nero, Britannicus, son of Agrippina.

The Carthagenians seem also to have been acquainted with this act of
diabolical poisoning; and they are said, on the authority of Aulus
Gellius, to have administered some to Regulus, the Roman general.
Contemporary writers, however, it must be added, do not mention this.

The principal poisons known to the ancients were prepared from plants,
and particularly aconite, hemlock, and poppy, or from animal substances;
and among the latter none is more remarkable than that obtained from the
sea-hare (_Lepus marinus_ or _Apylsia depilans_ of the system of
nature). With this, Titus is said to have been dispatched by Domitian.
They do not seem to have been acquainted with the common mineral

In the year 1659, during the pontificate of Alexander VII, it was
observed at Rome, that many young women became widows, and that many
husbands died when they became disagreeable to their wives. The
government used great vigilance to detect the poisoners, and suspicion
at length fell upon a society of young wives, whose president appeared
to be an old woman, who pretended to foretel future events, and who had
often predicted very exactly the death of many persons. By means of a
crafty female their practices were detected; the whole society were
arrested and put to the torture, and the old woman, whose name was
Spara, and four others, were publicly hanged. This Spara was a Sicilian,
and is said to have acquired her knowledge from Tofania at Palermo.

Tophania, or Tofania, was an infamous woman, who resided first at
Palermo and afterwards at Naples. She sold the poison which from her
acquired the name of Aqua della Toffana (it was also called _Acquetta di
Napoli_, or _Acquetta_ alone), but she distributed her preparation by
way of charity to such wives as wished to have other husbands. From four
to six drops were sufficient to destroy a man; and it was asserted, that
the dose could be so proportioned as to operate in a certain time. Labat
says, that Tofania distributed her poison in small glass phials, with
this inscription--_Manna of St. Nicholas of Bavi_, and ornamented with
the image of the saint. She lived to a great age, but was at last
dragged from a monastery, in which she had taken refuge, and put to the
torture, when she confessed her crimes and was strangled.

In no country, however, has the art of poisoning excited more attention
than it did in France, about the year 1670. Margaret d'Aubray, wife of
the Marquis de Brinvillier, was the principal agent in this horrible
business. A needy adventurer, named Godin de St. Croix, had formed an
acquaintance with the Marquis during their campaigns in the
Netherlands--became at Paris a constant visitor at his house, where in a
short time he found means to insinuate himself into the good graces of
the Marchioness. It was not long before this Marquis died; not, however,
until their joint fortune was dissipated. Her conduct, in openly
carrying on this amour, induced her father to have St. Croix arrested
and sent to the Bastile. Here he got acquainted with an Italian, of the
name of Exili, from whom he learnt the art of preparing poisons.

After a year's imprisonment St. Croix was released, when he flew to the
Marchioness and instructed her in the art, in order that she might
employ it in bettering the circumstances of both. She assumed the
appearance of a nun, distributed food to the poor, nursed the sick in
the Hôtel Dieu, and tried the strength of her poisons, undetected, on
these hapless wretches. She bribed one Chaussée, St. Croix's servant, to
poison her own father, after introducing him into his service, and also
her brother, and endeavoured to poison her sister. A suspicion arose
that they had been poisoned, and the bodies were opened, but no
detection followed at this time. Their villainous practices were brought
to light in the following manner:--St. Croix, when preparing poison, was
accustomed to wear a glass mask; but, as this happened once to drop off
by accident, he was suffocated and found dead in his laboratory.
Government caused the effects of this man, who had no family, to be
examined, and a list of them to be made out. On searching them, there
was found a small box, to which St. Croix had affixed a written paper
containing a request, that after his death "it might be delivered to the
Marchioness de Brinvillier, who resides in the street Neuve St. Paul, as
every thing it contains concerns her, and belongs to her alone; and as,
besides, there is nothing in it that can be of use to any person except
her; and in case she shall be dead before me, to burn it, and every
thing it contains; without opening or altering any thing; and in order
that no one may plead ignorance, I swear by God, whom I adore, and all
that is most sacred, that I advance nothing but what is true. And if my
intentions, just and reasonable as they are, be thwarted in this point,
I charge their consciences with it, both in this world and the next, in
order that I may unload mine, protesting that this is my last will. Done
at Paris, this 25th May, in the afternoon, 1672. _De Sainte Croix_"

Nothing could he a greater inducement to have it opened, than this
singular petition, and that being done, there was found in it a great
abundance of poisons of every kind, with labels, on which their effects
proved, by experiments on animals, were marked. The principal poison,
however, was corrosive sublimate. When the Marchioness heard of the
death of her lover and instructor, she was desirous to have the casket,
and endeavoured to get possession of it by bribing the officers of
justice; but as she failed in this, she quitted the kingdom. La
Chaussée, however, continued at Paris, laid claim to the property of St.
Croix, was seized and imprisoned, confessed more acts of villainy than
was suspected, and was in consequence broke alive upon the wheel, in
1673,--The Marchioness fled to England, and from thence to Liege, where
she took refuge in a convent. Desgrais, an officer of justice, was
dispatched in pursuit of her, and having assumed the dress of an Abbé,
contrived to entice her from this privileged place. Among her effects at
the convent there was found a confession, and a complete catalogue of
all her crimes, in her own hand-writing. She was taken to Paris,
convicted, and on the 16th of July, 1676, publicly beheaded, and
afterwards burnt.

The practice of poisoning was not, however, suppressed by this
execution, and it was asserted, that confessions of a suspicious nature
were constantly made to the priests. A court for watching, searching
after, and punishing prisoners was at length established in 1697, under
the title of _chambre de poison_, or _chambre ardente_. This was shortly
used as a state engine, against those who were obnoxious to the court,
and the names of individuals of the first rank, both male and female,
were prejudiced. Two females, la Vigreux and la Voison were burnt alive,
by order of this court, in February, 1680. But it was abolished in the
same year.

Professor Beckman relates the following, as communicated to him by
Linnaeus: "Charles XI, King of Sweden, having ruined several noble
families by seizing on their property, and having, after that, made a
journey to Torneo, he fell into a consumptive disorder, which no
medicine could cure. One day he asked his physician in a very earnest
manner what was the cause of his illness. The physician replied, 'Your
Majesty has been loaded with too many maledictions.'--'Yes,' returned
the king, 'I wish to God that the reduction of the nobilities' estates
had not taken place, and that I had never undertaken a journey to
Torneo.' After his death his intestines were found to be full of small

There has been a great diversity of opinions as to the nature of these
poisons. That prepared by Tofania appears to have been a clear insipid
water, and the sale of aqua fortis was for a long time forbidden in
Rome, because it was considered the principal ingredient. This, however,
is not probable.

In Paris, the famous _poudre de succession_ (also a secret poison) was
at one time supposed to consist of diamond dust, powdered exceedingly
fine; and at another time, to contain sugar of lead as the principal
ingredient. Haller was of this last opinion. In the casket of St. Croix
were found sublimate, opium, regulus of antimony, vitriol, and a large
quantity of poison ready prepared, the principal ingredients of which
the physicians were not able to detect. Garelli, physician to Charles
VI, King of the Two Sicilies, at the time when Tofania was arrested,
wrote to the celebrated Hoffman, that the Aqua Tofania was nothing else
than crystallized arsenic, dissolved in a large quantity of water by
decoction, with the addition, (but for what purpose we know not) of the
herb _Cymbalaria_, (probably the _Antirrhinum Cymbalaria_). And this
information he observes, was communicated to him by his imperial majesty
himself, to whom the judicial procedure, confirmed by the confession of
the criminal, was transmitted. But it was objected to this opinion, that
it differed from the ordinary effects of arsenic, in never betraying
itself by any particular action on the human body.

The Abbé Gagliani, on the other hand, asserts that it is a mixture of
opium and cantharides, and that the liquor obtained from its
composition, is as limpid as rock water, and without taste. Its effects
are slow, and almost imperceptible. Beckman appears to favour this idea,
and suggests that a similar poison is used in the East, under the name
of _powst_, being water that had stood a night over the juice of
poppies. It is given to princes, whom it is wished to despatch
privately; and produces loss of strength and understanding, so that they
die in the end, torpid and insensible.[140]

The following extract will show that secret poisoning has penetrated
into the forests of America. "The celebrated chief, _Blackbird_ of the
Omawhaws, gained great reputation as a medicine man; his adversaries
fell rapidly before his potent spells. His medicine was arsenic,
furnished him for this purpose by the villainy of the traders."[141]


[136] Various etymologies have been suggested for the word obi. Mr.
Long, in a paper transmitted several years since, by the agents of
Jamaica to the Lords of the Committee of Privy Council, and by the
latter subjoined to the report on the slave trade, expresses himself on
this subject as follows: "From the learned Mr. Bryant's commentary on
the word OPH, we obtain a very probable etymology of the term; 'a
serpent,' in the Egyptian language, was called _Aub_ or _Ob_."
'_Obion_,' is still the Egyptian name of a serpent.' 'Moses, in the name
of God, forbids the Israelites to inquire of the demon _Ob_, which is
translated in our Bible, charmer or wizzard, _Divinator aut
sorcilegus_.' The woman of Endor is called _Oub_ or _Ob_, translated
Pythonissa; and _Oubaois_ (he cites Horus Apollo) was the name of the
Basilisk or royal serpent, emblem of the sun, and an ancient oracular
deity of Africa. Their etymology, if admitted, connects the modern
superstitions of the west of Africa, with the ancient ones of the east
of that continent, from which source they have also been spread in
Europe. They are humble parts of the great system which is adorned with
the fables of Osiris and Isis; and they comprise not only the Obi of
Africa, but the witchcraft of our own country. That superstition is
every where connected with the worship of the serpent, and with the moon
and the cat. Skulls and teeth of cats are among the principal
ingredients of the African charms or _Obies_.

[137] Mr. Long gives the following account of the furniture of the house
of an Obi-woman, or African witch in Jamaica: "The whole inside of the
roof, (which was of thatch) and every crevice of the walls were stuck
with the implements of her trade, consisting of rags, feathers, bones of
cats, and a thousand other articles. Examining further, a large earthen
pot or jar, close covered, contained a prodigious quantity of round
balls of earth or clay, of various dimensions, large and small, whitened
on the outside, and variously compounded, some with hair and rags, or
feathers of all sorts, and strongly bound with twine: others blended
with the upper section of the skulls of cats, or set round with cats'
teeth and claws, or with human or dogs' teeth, and some glass beads of
different colours. There were also a great many egg-shells filled with a
viscous or gummy substance, the qualities of which were neglected to be
examined; and many little bags filled with a variety of articles, the
particulars of which cannot, at this distance of time, be recollected."
Shakespeare and Dryden, have left us poetical accounts of the
composition of European _Obies_ or charms, with which, and with more
historical descriptions, the above may be compared. The midnight hours
of the professors of Obi, are also to be compared with the witches of
Europe. Obi, therefore, is the serpent-worship. The Pythoness, at
Delphos, was an Obi-woman. With the serpent-worship is joined that of
the sun and moon, as the governors of the visible world, and emblems of
the male and female nature of the godhead; and to the cat, on account of
her nocturnal prowlings, is ascribed a mysterious relationship to the
moon. The dog and the wolf, doubtless for the same reason, are similarly

[138] The superstition of Obi was never generally remarked upon in the
British West Indies till the year 1760, when, after an insurrection in
Jamaica, of the Coromantyn or Gold Coast negroes, it was found that it
had been made an instrument for promoting that disturbance. An old
Coromantyn negro, the chief instigator and oracle of the insurgents of
the parish of St. Mary, in which the insurrection broke out, who had
administered the _Fetiche_ or solemn oath to the conspirators, and
furnished them with a magical preparation, which was to make them
invulnerable, was at that time apprehended and punished, and a law was
enacted for the suppression of the practice, under which several
examples were made, but without effecting for many years, any diminution
of the evil sought to be remedied.

[139] In Kosters's travels in Brazil, we read of a negro who was
reported by one of his fellows to become occasionally _lobas homen_ or
wolf-man. "I asked him," said the author, "to explain; when he said,
that the man was at times transformed into an animal, of the size of a
calf with the figure of a dog;" and in the African memoranda is an
account of a negro who professed and even believed to have the power of
transforming himself into an alligator, in which state he devoured men.
Upon being questioned by Captain Beaver, he answered, "I can change
myself into an alligator, and have often done it." But though these may
be genuine African superstitions, and not such as have been introduced
by the Portuguese, yet it is certain there is no part of Europe to which
they do not equally belong.

[140] Beckman, vol 1, p. 74 to 103.

[141] See Major Long's expedition, vol. 1. p. 226.



The ancient magicians, among other pretended extraordinary powers of
accomplishing wonderful things by their superior knowledge of the secret
powers of nature, of the virtues of plants and minerals, and of the
motions and influence of the stars, attached no small degree of mystic
importance to rings, the origin of which, their matter and uses,
together with the supposed virtues of the stones set in them, afford a
subject squaring so much with our design, and so deserving of notice
from the curious, that no apology need be made for discoursing on them.

According to the accounts of the heathen mythologists, Prometheus, who,
in the first times, had discovered a great number of secrets, having
been delivered from the charms, by which he was fastened to mount
Caucasus for stealing fire from heaven, in memory or acknowledgment of
the favour he received from Jupiter, made himself of one of those
chains, a ring, in whose collet he represented the figure of part of the
rock where he had been detained--or rather, as Pliny says, set it in a
bit of the same rock, and put it on his finger. This was the first ring
and the first stone. But we otherwise learn, that the use of rings is
very ancient, and the Egyptians were the first inventors of them; which
seems confirmed by the person of Joseph, who, as we read (Genesis, chap,
xi.) for having interpreted Pharoah's dream, received not only his
liberty, but was rewarded with his prince's ring, a collar of gold, and
the superintendancy of Egypt.

Josephus, in the third book of Jewish antiquities says, the Israelites
had the use of them after passing the Red Sea, because Moses at his
return from Mount Sinai, found that they had forged the golden calf from
their wives' rings, enriched with precious stones. The same Moses,
upwards of 400 years before the wars of Troy, permitted the priests he
had established, the use of gold rings, enriched with precious stones.
The high priest wore upon his ephod, which was a kind of camail, rich
rings, that served as clasps; a large emerald was set and engraved with
mysterious names. The ring he wore on his finger was of inestimable
value and celestial virtue. Had not Aaron, the high priest of the
Hebrews, a ring on his finger, whereof the diamond, by its virtues,
operated prodigious things? For it changed its vivid lustre into a dark
colour, when the Hebrews were to be punished by death for their sins.
When they were to fall by the sword it appeared of a blood colour; if
they were innocent it sparkled as usual.

It is observable that the ancient Hebrews used rings even in the time of
the wars of Troy. Queen Jezebel, to destroy Nabath, as it is related in
the first Book of Kings, made use of the ring of Ahab, King of the
Israelites, her husband, to seal the counterfeit letters that ordered
the death of that unfortunate man. Did not Judah, as mentioned in the
38th chapter of Genesis, abuse his daughter-in-law, Thamar, who had
disguised herself, by giving her his ring and bracelets, as a pledge of
the faith he had promised her?

Though Homer is silent in regard to rings, both in his Iliad and
Odyssey, they were, notwithstanding, used in the time of the Greeks and
Trojans; and from them they were received by several other nations. The
Lacedemonians, as related by Alexander, ab. Alexandro, pursuant to the
orders of their king, Lycurgus, had only iron rings, despising those of
gold; either their king was thereby willing to retrench luxury, or to
prohibit the use of them.

The ring was reputed, by some nations, a symbol of liberality, esteem,
and friendship, particularly among the Persians, none being permitted to
wear any, except they were given by the king himself. This is what may
also be remarked in the person of Apollonius Thyaneus, as a token of
singular esteem and liberality, received one from the great Iarchas,
prince of the Gymnosophists, who were the ancient priests of India and
dwelt in forests, as our ancient bards and druids, where they applied
themselves to the study of wisdom, and to the speculation of the heaven
and stars. This philosopher, by the means of that ring, learned every
day the secrets of nature.

Though the ring found by Gyges, shepherd to the King of Lydia, has more
of fable than of truth in it, it will not, however, be amiss, to relate
what is said concerning Herodotus, Coelius, after Plato and Cicero, in
the third book of his Offices. This Gyges, after a great flood, passed
into a very deep cavity in the earth, where having found in the belly of
a brazen horse, with a large aperture in it, a human body of enormous
size, he pulled from off one of the fingers a ring of surprising virtue;
for the stone on the collet rendered him who wore it invisible, when the
collet was turned towards the palm of the hand, so that the party could
see, without being seen, all manner of persons and things. Gyges, having
made trial of its efficacy, bethought himself that it would be a means
for ascending the throne of Lydia, and for gaining the Queen by it. He
succeeded in his designs, having killed Candaules, her husband. The dead
body this ring belonged to was that of an ancient Brahman, who, in his
time, was chief of that sect.

The rings of the ancients often served for seals. Alexander the Great,
after the death and defeat of Darius, used his ring for sealing the
letters he sent into Asia, and his own for those he sent to Europe. It
is customary in Rome for the bridegroom to send the bride, before
marriage, a ring of iron, without either stone or collet, to denote how
lasting their union ought to be, and the frugality they were to observe
together; but luxury herein soon gained ground, and there was a
necessity for moderating it. Caius Marius did not wear one of gold till
his third consulship; and Tiberius, as Suetonius says, made some
regulations in the authority of wearing rings; for, besides the liberty
of birth, he required a considerable revenue, both on the father and
grandfather's side.

In a Polyglot dictionary, published in the year 1625, by John Minshew,
our attention was attracted by the following observations, under the
article "RINGFINGER.--Vetus versiculus singulis digitis Annulum trebuens
Miles. Mercator. Stultus. Maritus. Amator. Pollici adscribitur Militi,
seu Doctor. Mercatorem á pollice secundum, stultorum, tertium. Nuptorum
vel studiosorum quartum. Amatorum ultimum."

By which it appears, that the fingers on which annuli were anciently
worn were directed by the calling, or peculiarity of the party. Were it

  A soldier, or doctor, to him was assigned the thumb.
  A sailor, the finger next the thumb.
  A fool, the middle finger.
  A married or diligent person, the fourth or ring finger.
  A lover, the last or little finger.

The medicinal or curative power of rings are numerous and, as a matter
of course, founded on imaginary qualities. Thus the wedding ring rubbing
upon that little abscess called the stye, which is frequently seen on
the tarsi of the eyes, is said to remove it. Certain rings are worn as
talismans, either on the fingers or suspended from the neck; the
efficacy of which may be referred to the effects usually produced by
these charms.



Astrologers, among other artifices, have used their best endeavours, and
employed all the rules of their art, to render those years of our age,
which they call climacterics, dangerous and formidable.

The word climacteric is derived from the Greek, which means by a scale
or ladder, and implies a critical year, or a period in a man's age,
wherein, according Ficinusological juggling, there is some notable
alteration to arise in the body, and a person stands in great danger of
death. The first climacteric is the seventh year of a man's life; the
others are multiples of the first, as 21, 49, 56, 63, and 84, which two
last are called the grand climacterics and the danger more certain. The
foundation of this opinion is accounted for by Mark Ficimis as
follows:--There is a year, he tells us, assigned for each planet to rule
over the body of a man, each of his turn; now Saturn being the most
_maleficient_ (malignant) planet of all, every seventh year, which
falls to its lot, becomes very dangerous; especially those of
sixty-three and eighty-four, when the person is already advanced in
years. According to this doctrine, some hold every seventh year an
established climacteric; but others only allow the title to those
produced by multiplication of the climacterical space by an odd number,
3, 5, 7, 9, &c. Others observe every ninth year as a climacteric.

Climacteric years are pretended, by some, to be fatal to political
bodies, which, perhaps, may be granted, when they are proved to be so
more than to natural ones; for it must be obvious that the reason of
such danger can by no means be discovered, nor the relation it can have
with any other of the numbers above mentioned.

Though this opinion has a great deal of antiquity on its side; Aulus
Gellius says--it was borrowed from the Chaldeans, who possibly might
receive it from Pythagoras, whose philosophy teemed much in numbers, and
who imagined a very extraordinary virtue in the number 7. The principal
authors on climacterics are--Plato, Cicero, Macrobius, Aulus Gellius.
Among the ancients--Argal, Magirus, and Solmatheus. Among the
moderns--St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, Beda and Boethius, all countenance
the opinion.

There is a work extant, though rather scarce, by Hevelius, under the
title of _Annus Climactericus_, wherein he describes the loss he
sustained by his observatory, &c. being burnt; which it would appear
happened in his grand climacteric, of which he was extremely

Astrologers have also brought under their inspection and controul the
days of the year, which they have presumed to divide into _lucky_ and
_unlucky_ days; calling even the sacred scriptures, and the common
belief of christians, in former ages, to their assistance for this
purpose. They pretend that the fourteenth day of the first month was a
blessed day among the Israelites, authorised, as they pretend, by the
several passages out of Exodus, v. 18:--

"In the first _month_, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye
shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day at even," v.
40. Now, the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt,
was four hundred and thirty years.

41. "And it came to pass, at the end of the four hundred and thirty
years, even the self same day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the
Lord went out from the land of Egypt."

42. "It is a night to be much observed unto the Lord for bringing them
out of the land of Egypt; that is that night of the Lord to be observed
of all the children of Israel, in their generations."

51. "And it came to pass, the self same day, that the Lord did bring the
children of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their armies." Also
_Leviticus, chap. 23, v. 5._ "In the fourteenth day of the first month
at even, is the Lord's passover." _Numbers, chap. 28, v. 10._ "Four
hundred and thirty years being expired of their dwelling in Egypt, even
in the self same day they departed thence."

With regard to evil days and times, Astrologers refer to _Amos. chap. 5,
v. 13._ "Therefore, the prudent shall keep silence in that time, for it
is an evil time," and _chap. 6, v. 3_, "Ye that put far away the evil
day, and cause the seat of violence to come near;" also _Psalm 37, v.
19_, "They shall not be ashamed in the evil time; and in the days of
famine, they shall be satisfied;" and _Jeremiah, chap. 46, v. 21_, "Also
her hired men are in the midst of her, like fatted bullocks, for they
are also turned back and are fled away together; they did not stand
because the day of their calamity was come upon them, and the time of
their visitation." And to _Job_ cursing the day of his birth, from the
first to the eleventh verse. In confirmation of which may also be quoted
a calendar, extracted out of several ancient Roman Catholic prayer
books, written on vellum, before printing was invented, in which were
inserted the unfortunate days of each month, which it would be
superfluous to cite here.[142]

Roman History sufficiently proves that the nature of lucky and unlucky
days owes its origin to Paganism; where it is mentioned, that that very
day four years, the civil wars were begun by Pompey, the father; Caesar
made an end of them with his son, Cneius Pompeius being slain; and that
the Romans counted the 13th of February an unlucky day, because, on that
day they were overthrown by the Gauls at Alba; and the Fabii attacking
the city of the Recii, were all slain, with the exception of one man;
also from the calendar of Ovid's "Fastorum," _Aprilis erat mensis
Graecis auspicatissimus_; and from Horace, Book 2nd, Ode 13, cursing the
tree that had nearly fallen upon it; _ille nefasto posuit die_.

The Pagans believed there were particular months and days which carried
something fatal in them; those, for instance, upon which the state
perhaps had lost a great battle; and under this impression, they never
undertook any enterprise on these days and months. The twenty-fourth of
February in the Bisextile years was considered so unlucky, that
Valentinian (_Ammiam. Marcell. lib. 26. cap. 1._) being elected Emperor
upon it, durst not appear in public under the apprehension of suffering
the fatality of the day. Many other particular days might be quoted upon
which generals of armies have constantly been favoured with fortune.
Timoleon (_Corn. Nepos_) won all his famous battles on his birthday.
Soliman (_Duverdier. Hist. des Turcs_) won the battle of Mohac, and took
the fortress of Belgrade, and, according to some historians, the Isle of
Rhodes, and the town of Buda on the 26th of August. But we find, in like
manner, the same day lucky and unlucky to the same people. Ventidius, at
the head of the Roman army, routed the Parthians, and slew their young
king Pacorus who commanded them, on the same day that Crassus, another
Roman general, had been slain, and his whole army cut in pieces by the
same people. Lucullus having attacked Tigranes, king of Armenia,
notwithstanding the vain scruples of his officers, who desired him to
beware fighting on that day, which was noted in the Roman calendar as an
unlucky one, ever since the fatal overthrow of the Romans by the Cimbri;
but he, (Lucullus) despising the superstition, gained one of the most
memorable battles recorded in Roman history, and changed the destiny of
the day as he promised those who would have dissuaded him from the
enterprise. And Valentinian's unlucky day was that on which Charles V,
another Roman Emperor, promised himself the best good fortune. Friday is
deemed on unlucky day for engaging in any particular business, and there
are few, if any, captains of ships who would sail from any port, on this
day of the week for their destination.

The fishermen who dwell on the coasts of the Baltic never use their nets
between All-saints and St Martin's; they would then be certain of not
taking any fish through the whole year: they never fish on St Blaise's
day. On Ash Wednesday the women neither sew nor knit, for fear of
bringing misfortune upon their cattle. They contrive so as not to use
fire on St. Laurence's day; by taking this precaution they think
themselves secure against fire for the rest of the year.

This prejudice of lucky and unlucky days has existed at all times and in
all nations; but if knowledge and civilization have not removed it, they
have at least diminished its influence. In Livonia, however, the people
are more than ever addicted to the most superstitious ideas on this
subject. In a Riga journal (_Rigaische Stadblatter_, No. 3657, anno
1822, edited by M. Sontag) there are several passages relative to a
letter from heaven, and which is no other than a catalogue of lucky and
unlucky days. This letter is in general circulation; every body carries
it about him, and though strictly forbidden by the police, the copies
are multiplied so profusely as to increase the evil all attempts to
destroy which have hitherto failed. Among the country people this idea
is equivalent to the doctrine of fatality; and if they commit faults or
even crimes, on the days which are marked as unlucky, they do not
consider themselves as guilty, because they were predestined.

The flight of certain birds, or the meeting of certain animals on their
first going out in the morning, are with them good or bad omens. They do
not hunt on St. Mark's, or St. Catherine's day, on penalty of being
unsuccessful all the rest of the year. It is a good sign to sneeze on
Christmas day. Most of them are so prepossessed against Friday, that
they never settle any important business, or conclude a bargain on that
day; in some places they do not even dress their children. They do not
like visits on Thursdays, for it is a sign they shall have troublesome
guests the whole week.

In some districts of Esthonia, up the Baltic, when the shepherd brings
his flocks back from the pasture, in spring for the first time, he is
sprinkled with water from head to foot under the persuasion that this
makes the cattle thrive. The malignity of beasts of prey is believed to
be prevented by designating them not by their proper names, but by some
of their attributes. For instance, they call the fox _hallkuhl_ (grey
coat) the bear, _layjatyk_ (broad-foot), etc. etc. They also fancy that
they can oblige the wolf to take another direction by strewing salt in
his way. The howling of wolves, especially at day-break, is considered a
very bad omen, predicting famine or disease. In more ancient times, it
was imagined that these animals, thus asked their god to give them
food, which he threw them out of the clouds. When a wolf seizes any of
their cattle, they can oblige him to quit his prey, by dropping a piece
of money, their pipe, hat, or any other article they have about them at
the time. They do not permit the hare to be often mentioned, for fear of
drawing it into their corn-fields. To make hens lay eggs, they beat them
with an old broom. In families where the wife is the eldest child of her
parents, it has been observed that they always sell the first calves,
being convinced, that, if kept, they would not thrive. To speak of
insects or mischievous animals at meal-times, is a sure way to make them
more voracious.

If a fire breaks out, they think to stop its fury by throwing a black
hen into the flames. This idea, of an expiatory sacrifice, offered to a
malevolent and tutelary power, is a remnant of paganism. Various other
traces of it are found among the Esthonians; for instance, at the
beginning of their meals, they purposely let fall a piece of new bread,
or some drops of liquor from a bottle as an offering to the divinity.

It is very offensive to the peasants, for any one to look into their
wells; they think it will cause the wells to dry up.

When manna is carried into the fields, that which falls from the cart is
not gathered up, lest mischievous insects and blights come upon the

When an old house is quitted for a new one they are attentive in noting
the first animal that dies. If it be an animal with hairy feet, the sign
is good; but if with naked feet, some fowl, for instance, there will be
mourning in the house; it is a sign of misery and bad success in all
their undertakings. These, with a scrupulous adherence to lucky and
unlucky days, are the prevailing popular superstitions in the three
duchies; a great number of which, especially among the Esthonians, are
connected with their ancient mythology.

In reading that pleasant volume, by the late Sir Humphrey Davy, entitled
_Salmonia_, it is impossible not to be struck with his remark respecting
omens, which is here briefly noticed, with an account of others, which
it is imagined have not yet found their way far into print, in order to
account for such seeming absurdities.

"The search after food,[143] as we agreed on a former occasion, is the
principal cause why animals change their places. The different tribes of
wading birds always migrate when rain is about to take place; and I
remember once in Italy, having been long waiting, in the end of March,
for the arrival of double snipe, in the campagna of Rome; a great flight
appeared on the third of April, and the day after, heavy rain set in,
which greatly interfered with my sport. The vulture, upon the same
principle, follows armies; and I have no doubt that the augury of the
ancients was a good deal founded upon the observation of the instinct of
birds. There are many superstitions of the vulgar owing to the same
source. For anglers, in spring, it is always unluckly to see single
magpies; but two may always be regarded as a favourable omen; and the
reason is, that in cold and stormy weather, one magpie alone leaves the
nest in search of food, the other remaining sitting upon the eggs of the
young ones: but, when two go out together, it is only when the weather
is mild and warm, and favourable for fishing.

"This reasoning will, in general, be found correct, and may be applied
to solve many of the superstitions in the country; but the case of the
magpie is entitled to a little more consideration. The piannet, as we
call her in the North of England, is the most unlucky of all birds, to
see singly at any time; this, however, does not often happen, except a
short time during incubation; they either appear in pairs or in
families; but even this last appearance is as alarming to our
grandmothers. The following distich shows what each forbodes:--'One
sorrow, two mirth, three a wedding, four death.' This bird, indeed,
appears to have taken the same place with us, as an omen of evil, that
the owl had amongst the ancients. The nurse is often heard to declare
that she has lost all hopes of her charge when she has observed a
piannet on the house-top.

"Another prejudice, indulged even by our good wives, is that of
destroying the feathers of the pigeon instead of saving them to stuff
beds, etc. They say, that if they were to do so, it would only prolong
the sufferings of the death-bed; and when these are more than usually
severe, it is attributed to this cause, and the reason given 'because
the bird has no gall' is to them quite conclusive, but to me, perfectly
irrelevant and unsatisfactory. A belief amongst boys, that to harm or
disturb the nests of the redbreast or swallow is unlucky, appears very
general throughout the kingdom; and the keen bird-nester, who prides
himself on the quantity of eggs blown and strung bead-fashion, here
often gets mortified by finding his trophies destroyed by the housewife
who considers their presence as affecting the safety of her crokery
ware. This belief may have been encouraged, if not invented, for a
humane purpose: but how are we to account for the efficacy of the Irish
stone in curing swellings caused by venomous reptiles, by merely being
rubbed upon the part affected? The fullest faith in the practice appears
to have prevailed in the country at no distant period, and is yet far
from extinct. The swallow and the cuckoo are generally hailed as
harbingers of spring and summer, but, perhaps, many of our readers are
not aware that it is only lucky to hear the cuckoo, for the first time
in the season, upon soft ground in contradistinction to hard roads, and
with money in the pocket, which the youngster is sagely advised to be
sure then to turn over. Perhaps the season of the year may
satisfactorily explain all these observances. Several superstitious
customs are mentioned regarding bees, some of which are not practised in
the north; yet it is fully believed that the death of the stock of hives
too often foretells the flitting of the bee-master. Wet cold years,
unfavourable to the insects, are also equally so to the farmer upon thin
clays, which border the moors, where bees are mostly kept. Has the use
of the mountain ash, 'rowan tree' [Pyrus aucuparia, _Gaertner_,] as a
charm against witchcraft, ever been accounted for? The belief in its
efficacy must be very old if we are to credit some of Shakspeare's
commentators, who give this word as the true reading in Macbeth, instead
of 'Aroint thee, witch!'

"It often happens that the careless observer has, for the first time,
his attention called forcibly to some appearance of nature by accidental
circumstances: if at all superstitious, he immediately prognosticates
the most disastrous consequences from that which a little observation
would have convinced him was but a phenomenon a little more conspicuous
than usual. The northern lights are said to have caused much
consternation when first observed; and they have lately been viewed with
more than ordinary interest, as it appears from the _Newcastle
Chronicle_, the last autumn (1830), when they were more than usually
brilliant, some of the inhabitants of Weardale were convinced they saw,
on one occasion, very distinctly, the figure of a man on a white horse,
with a red sword in his hand, move across the heavens; and are, no
doubt, now certain that it foretold the present eventful times. Even
this belief may be accounted for on such accidental coincidences, or
even philosophically, by assuming as a fact that this phenomenon is the
result of an electrical change in the atmosphere, and that such a change
usually precedes rain. Now, if such happen in spring or in summer, and
before such a quantity of rain as is found to affect the harvest, it
may too often betoken scarcity, discontent, and turbulence, as such are
the times when all grievances, either real or imaginary, are brought
forward for redress. The origin of the superstition of sailors, of
nailing a horse-shoe to the mast, is to me unaccountable, unless it may
have been, like the following trial of the credulity of the
superstitious by some person for amusement:--Sailors sometimes make a
considerable pecuniary sacrifice for the acquisition of a child's caul,
the retaining of which is to infallibly preserve them from drowning.

"Some years ago, a pretty wide district was alarmed by an account of the
beans [Fàba vulgàris var. equina] being laid the wrong way in the pod
that year, which most certainly foreboded something terrible to happen
in a short time, and this produced much consternation amongst those who
allow their imaginations to run riot. The whole of the terrible omen was
this: the eye of the bean was in the pod towards the apex, instead of
being towards the footstalk, as might appear at first sight to be its
natural position; and some were scarcely convinced that this was the
natural position of the beans in the pod ever since the creation, even
on being shown the pod of the preceding year with the seed in the same

"As yet, however, I fear we must sum up in the words of Davy:--

"_Phys._ But how can you explain such absurdities as Friday being an
unlucky day, and the terror of spilling salt, or meeting an old woman?

"_Poiet_. These, as well as the omens of death-watches, dreams, etc.
are founded upon some accidental coincidences; but spilling of salt, on
an uncommon occasion, may, as I have known it, arise from a disposition
to apoplexy, shown by an incipient numbness in the hand, and may be a
fatal symptom; and persons dispirited by bad omens sometimes prepare the
way for evil fortune, for confidence of success is a great means of
insuring it. The dream of Brutus before the battle of Philippi probably
produced a species of irresolution and despondency which was the
principal cause of his losing the battle; and I have heard that the
illustrious sportsman, to whom you referred just now, was always
observed to shoot ill, because he shot carelessly, after one of his
dispiriting omens.

"_Hal._ I have in life met with a few things which I have found it
impossible to explain, either by chance coincidences, or by natural
connections, and I have known minds of a very superior class affected by
them--persons in the habit of reasoning deeply and profoundly."

The number of remarkable events that happened on some particular days,
have been the principal means of confirming both pagans and Christians
in their opinions on this subject. For instance, Alexander who was born
on the sixth of April, conquered Darius, and died on the same day. The
Emperor Basianus Caracalla was born, and died on the sixth day of April.
Augustus was adopted on the 19th of August, began his consulate,
conquered the Triumviri, and died the same day. The christians have
observed that the 24th of February was four times fortunate to Charles
the fifth. That Wednesday was a fortunate day to Pope Sixtus the fifth;
for on a Wednesday he was born, on that day made a monk, on the same day
made a general of his order, on that day created a Cardinal, on that day
elected Pope, and also on that day inaugurated. That Thursday was a
fatal day to Henry the eighth, King of England, and his posterity, for
he died on a thursday; King Edward the sixth on a Thursday; Queen Mary
on a Thursday; and Queen Elizabeth on a Thursday.

The French have observed that the feast of Pentecoste had been lucky to
Henry III, King of France for on that day he was born, on that day
elected King of Poland, and on that day he succeeded his brother Charles
IX, on the throne of France.

There are critical days observed by physicians, in continued fevers, a
doctrine which has been confirmed by the united testimony of De Haen and
Cullen; and these are the 3rd. 5th. 7th. 9th. 11th. 14th. 17th. and
20th. By critical days are meant, any of the above days, on which the
fever abates or terminates favourably, or on which it is exacerbated or
terminates fatally.

Natural astrology is confined to the study of exploring natural effects,
in which sense it is admitted to be a part of natural philosophy. It was
under this view that Mr. Goad, Mr. Boyle, and Dr. Mead, pleaded for its
use. The first endeavours to account for the diversity of seasons from
the situations, habitudes and motions of the planets: and to explain an
infinity of phenomena by the contemplation of the stars. The Honourable
Mr. Boyle admitted, that all physical bodies are influenced by the
heavenly bodies; and Doctor Mead's opinion, in his treatise concerning
the power of the sun and moon, etc. is in favour of the doctrine. But
these predictions and influences are ridiculed and entirely exploded by
the most esteemed modern philosophers, of which the reader may have a
learned specimen in Rohault's, Tractat. Physic, part II. c. 27.

The diseases of men, women, and children were supposed at times to be
more immediately caused by the influence of the seven planets. In order
to comprehend this exploded doctrine, we shall here set down the
pretended governing and days, at what time they are supposed to have the
most influence:

[Symbol: Sol]      Sol, or the sun governs on Sunday.
[Symbol: Luna]     Luna, or the moon,         Monday.
[Symbol: Mars]     Mars,                      Tuesday.
[Symbol: Mercury]  Mercury,                   Wednesday.
[Symbol: Jupiter]  Jupiter,                   Thursday,
[Symbol: Venus]    Venus.                     Friday.
[Symbol: Saturn]   Saturn,                    Saturday.

Saturn reigning, is said to cause cold diseases, as the gout, leprosy,
palsy, quartan agues, dropsies, catarrhs, colds, rheumatisms, etc.

Jupiter causes cramps, numbness, inflammations of the liver, head-aches,
pains in the shoulders, flatulency, inflammatory fevers, and all
diseases caused by putrefaction, apoplexy, and quinsies.

Mars, acute fevers and tartan agues, continual and intermitting fevers,
imposthumes, erisepelas, carbuncles, fistulas, dysentery, and similar
hot and dry diseases.

Sol causes rheums in the eyes, coldness in the stomach and liver,
syncope, catarrhs, pustular eruptions, hysterics, eruptions on the lower

Venus causes sores, lientery, hysteria, sickness at the stomach, from
cold and moist causes, disorders of the liver and lungs.

Mercury causes hoarseness and distempers in the senses, impediments in
the speech, falling sickness, coughs, jaundice, vomiting, catarrhs.

The moon causes palsy, cholic, dropsy, imposthumes, dysenteries, and all
diseases arising from obstructed circulation.

The means laid down for the prevention of these diseases are rational
enough, at least some of them, such as temperance, moderate bleeding
(whether or not indicated we are not told,) the use of laxatives at
seasonable times, when a friendly planet, opposite to the malignant
planet you were born under, has dominion, by which the effect of its
influence will be much abated, and a power given to nature to oppose its
malevolency, which, "if well heeded, may be a main prevention of
dangerous diseases." Thus every planet in the heavens carries with it a
diseased aspect, without, as it would appear, possessing any repelling
or sanative powers to correct or ward off the sickly influence it is
supposed to entertain over the life and limbs of frail mortals; that, in
the sense of this absurd doctrine, or rather jargon, when Jupiter has
dominion, it will be necessary to bleed and take calomel to guard
against (not to attack it when it has taken place) inflammation of the
liver; and when Mars presides, to send immediately for Van Butchel to
frighten away an imaginary fistula--absurd and ridiculous nonsense, too
prevalent even at the present day; for what can bleeding and physicking
at the spring and fall of the year be called but operations without
reason, under suppositious stellar influence. "Observe also to gather
all your physic herbs in the hour of the friendly planet, that
temporises with what you were born under, and in so doing they will have
more strength, power, and virtue to operate in the medicines; but
neither physic nor bleed on the third of January, the last of April, the
first of July, the first of August, and the last and second day of
October; for those astrologers, with whom physicians join, conclude it
perilous, by reason of the bad influence then reigning; and if it change
not the distemper into another worse, it will augment it, and put the
party in great danger of death, _if he or she in this case be not lucky
to escape_." It would be a waste of words to offer a single comment on
such egregious stuff--"do not bleed on the third of January," nor on
such and such a day, (as if there could be stated times for bleeding
beyond those which are indicated by the presence of disease, and
requiring such evacuation,) is a practice we believe peculiar only to
astrologers, and those who believe in such demonological cant. It is no
less, however, a singular fact that men distinguished in every other
respect for their learning, should most particularly have indulged in
the superstition of judicial astrology. At the present time a belief in
such subjects can only exist with those who may be said to have no
belief at all; for mere traditional sentiments can hardly be said to
amount to a belief.

It was astronomy that gave rise to judicial astrology, which, offering
an ample field to enthusiasm and imposture, was eagerly pursued by many
who had no scientific purpose in view. It was connected with various
juggling tricks and deceptions, affected an obscure jargon of language,
and insinuated itself into every thing in which the hopes and fears of
mankind were concerned. The professors of this pretended science were at
first generally persons of mean education, in whom low cunning supplied
the place of knowledge. Most of them engaged in the empirical practice
of physic, and some through the credulity of the times, even arrived at
a degree of eminence in it; yet although the whole foundation of their
art was folly and deceit, they nevertheless gained many proselytes and
dupes, both among the well-informed and the ignorant.

About the middle of the seventeenth century, the passion for horoscopes
and expounding the stars prevailed in France among people of the first
rank. The new-born child was usually presented naked to the
star-expounder, who read the first lineaments on its forehead, and the
transverse lines in its hands, and thence wrote down its future destiny.
It has been reported of several persons famous for their astrological
skill, that they have suffered a voluntary death merely to verify their
own predictions. It is curious to observe the shifts to which these wise
men were frequently put when their predictions were not verified. Great
winds at one time were predicted by a famous adept in the art, but no
unusual storms having happened, to save the reputation of the art, the
prediction was applied figuratively to some revolutions in the state, of
which there were instances enough at that time.

The life of the famous Lilly the astrologer, and the Sidrophel of
Butler, written by himself, is a curious work, containing much artless
narrative, but at the same time, so much palpable imposture, that it is
difficult to know when he is speaking what he really believes to be the
truth. In a sketch of the state of astrology in his day, the adepts
whose characters he has drawn were the lowest miscreants of the town.
They all, indeed, speak of each other as rogues and impostors; among
whom were Booker, George Wharton, and Gadbury, who gained a livelihood
by practising on the credulity of even men of learning so late as 1650
to the 18th century. In Ashmole's life an account of these artful
impostors may be read. Most of them had taken the air in the pillory,
and others had conjured themselves up to the gallows.

To the astrologers of the 17th century, the quacks and impostors of the
beginning of the 19th are only equal. Quackery and astrology, the latter
of which often served as a mask to the former, appear to have been at
one time a kind of Castor and Pollux; quackery, however, it would seem
has outlived astrology, for there are more who would swallow the nostrum
of the quack than the flatulent bolus of the fortune-tellers. Both still
have their votaries. One Grigg, a poulterer in Surrey, was set in the
pillory at Croyden, (Temp. Edw. IV,) and again in the Borough, for
cheating people out of their money by pretending to cure them with
charms, by simply looking at the patients, or by practices still more
absurd and questionable. Of such doctors there is no lack. This kind of
practice offers one of the finest fields for deception of any species of
empirical delusion held out to the public at the present day. Such
indeed is the infatuation and credulity of the ignorant that, we are
confidently assured, a notorious German quack had within one year so
many half-guinea applications that he netted £2000; and that the glass
bottles in which the precious nostrums were conveyed from the sanctum
sanctorum of the mendacious empiric in high Germany, who made his debut
in this country by hawking about Dutch drops, amounted to as many
two-pences. To those of either sex, who are weak-minded enough to trust
their lives to the rash artifices of an ignorant pretender who affects
to discover an occult quality in the constitution of the patient
denoting the existence of some internal complaint beyond that which less
equivocal symptoms sufficiently present to the eye and knowledge of the
regular practitioner--we can only say that we conceive them to be justly
punished in the loss of their money, and the consequent ruin of their

In Stow's Chronicle we find that one of these said gentlemen was set on
horseback, his face towards the tail, which he held in his hand in the
manner of a bridle, while with a collar significative of his offence,
dangling about his neck, he made a public entrée into the city of
London, conducted by Jack Ketch, who afterwards did himself the honour
of scourging and branding the impostor, previous to banishment, which
completed his sentence. In the reign of James I, a terrible sweep was
made among the quacks and advertising gentry. The council dispatched a
warrant to the magistrates of the city of London, to take up all reputed
quacks, and bring them before the censors of the college, to examine how
properly qualified they were to be trusted, either with the limbs or
lives of his majesty's lieges. This is all that is required at the
present day. Let the legislature controul this department instead of the
college of physicians, who, as a body, can boast of as large an
allowance of licensed ignorance as any corporate set of men in
existence. We say nothing of surgery, for this branch of knowledge
leaves the world generally something to look at, hence so few pretenders
to it; but physic buries all its blemishes with the unfortunate victim.

The country, even in this age of progressing wisdom, is deluged with
quack medicines, which credulous people say are not directed against the
constitution, but only against the pocket, and that they are too insipid
to do either good or harm; but were this the case, there would have been
no occasion for the exemplary punishments with which it is recorded
quacks of all sorts have at various times been visited. Be it known,
there can be no such thing invented by man as an universal remedy to
prevent or cure all kinds of diseases; because that which would agree
with one constitution would disagree with another differently organised;
and a quack nostrum, such as we see daily advertised, may certainly
agree at one stage of a disease, but might go far in killing the patient
at another. Besides, all these boasted specifics have been found to be
either inert, ineffectual, or dangerous, and every pretender to them, in
times less enlightened by the general march of intellect, has been
convicted either of gross ignorance or dishonesty. No one can vouch with
certainty for any particular kind of medicine,--that it will agree with
this or that individual, until acquainted with his peculiar
constitution; consequently it is the height of absurdity to prescribe
physic for a man without a knowledge of such circumstances to direct
him. Amulets, talismans, charms, and incantations, are innocent and
innoxious, and may impose only on credulity without any other untoward
consequence, leaving the patient in the same state in which he was
found; but so much cannot be said for quacks and quack-medicines which
frequently remove their deluded victims far beyond the reach of either
physic or philosophy.

Butler is said to be the author of the following character of a quack;
and who can read it without being astonished at the prophetic
intelligence with which it abounds, and which, unfortunately, admits of
a too close analogy with some very recent and untoward events, in the
annals of modern empiricism. "He is a medicine-monger, probationer of
receipts, and Doctor Epidemic; he is perpetually putting his medicines
upon their trial, and very often finds them GUILTY OF MANSLAUGHTER, but
still they have some trick or other to come off, and avoid burning by
the hand of the hangman. He prints his trials of skill, and challenges
death at so many several weapons; that, though he is sure to be foiled
by every one, he cares not: for, _if he can but get money, he is sure to
get off_; for it is but posting up diseases for poltroons in all the
public places of the town, and daring them to meet him again, and his
credit stands as fair with the rabble, as ever it did. He makes nothing
* * * * * * * * * * *;--but will undertake to cure them and tie one hand
behind him, with so much ease and freedom, that his patients may surfeit
and get drunk as often as they please, and follow their business without
any inconvenience to their health or occasions; and recover with so much
secrecy, that they shall never know how it comes about. He professes "no
cure no pay," as well he may, for if nature does the work, he is paid
for it; if not, he neither wins nor loses; and like a cunning rook lays
his bets so artfully, that, let the chance be what it will, he either
wins or saves. He cheats the rich for their money, and the poor for
charity, and, if either succeed, both are pleased, and he passes for a
very just and conscientious man: for as those that pay nothing ought at
least to speak well of their entertainments, their testimony makes way
for those who are able to pay for both. He finds he has no reputation
among those that know him, and fears he is never like to have, and,
therefore, posts up his bills, to see if he can thrive better amongst
those who know nothing of him. He keeps his post continually, and will
undertake to maintain it against all the plagues of Egypt. He sets up
his trade upon a pillar, or the corner of a street--These are his
warehouses, where all he has is to be seen, and a great deal more; for
he that looks further finds nothing at all."


Although some of the first chemists were men of sense and learning, yet
after that chemistry began to be fashionable and much in vogue, there
were some of its professors, who although men of an uncommon turn of
genius, were as great enthusiasts, both in the chemical and medical
arts, as any other men ever were in religion. They not only pretended to
transmute some of the baser metals into gold, contrary to the nature of
things--and if they could have succeeded in that impossible work, it
would have rendered gold as plentiful, cheap, and less valuable than
iron, because it is less fit for instruments and mechanical uses--but
they also pretended infallibly to cure all diseases, by some of their
new invented chemical machines;--a thing equally as impossible as the
other, and shewed their ignorance of the causes and nature of diseases.
As those who are the most ignorant are generally the greatest boasters,
we find that none of them were more so, than that vain, boasting,
paradoxical enthusiast Paracelsus, who had acquired great riches by
curing a certain disease with a mercurial ointment, the knowledge of
which secret he is said to have stolen from Jacobus Berengarius, of
Caipo, in his travels thither. He was withal so illiterate, that he said
philosophy could be taught in no language but high Dutch; but the true
reason was, that he neither understood philosophy nor any other
language. He also boasted that he was in possession of a nostrum which
would prolong man's life to the age of Methusaleh, though he died
himself at the age of forty-seven. He lived in the fifteenth century.
The cures he wrought were deemed so surprising in that age, that he was
supposed to have recourse to supernatural aid. In a picture of him at
Lumley Castle, he is represented in a close black gown, with both hands
on a great sword, on whose hilt is inscribed the word Azot. This was the
name of his _familiar_ spirit, that he kept imprisoned in the pummel, to
consult on emergent occasions. The circumstance is thus alluded to by

  Bombastes kept the Devil's Bird
  Shut in the pummel of his sword;
  And taught him all the cunning pranks,
  Of past and future mountebanks.

Paracelsus was succeeded by his scholar van Helmont, who had much more
learning, but was as great an enthusiast, both in the chemical and
medical arts as his master, and embraced most of his paradoxical
opinions; and, having more technical terms, he frequently used them
rather to dazzle and confound the understandings of his readers, than to
inform their judgments. By thus giving his writings a mystical air of
wisdom, he rendered them obscure, and sometimes unintelligible;
consequently, more easily imposed them upon the public and vulgar, as
sublime and useful truths. He also vainly boasted that he could cure any
fever in four days' time, by sweating the patient with one draught of
his famous nostrum, the _Praecipitatus Diaphoreticus Paracelsi_; and
further adds, "that no man can deserve the name of a physician, who
cannot cure any fever in four days' time." He, however, admits, that he
sometimes added a little theriaca (treacle) and wine to it; which last,
he says, "is not only a great cordial, but as a vehicle, is a proper
messenger to be sent on such an errand, as it knows the road, is well
received wherever it goes, and readily admitted into the most private
apartments of the human body." Hence we believe that wine is not only a
good natured, but an intelligent being; though it sometimes deprives men
of their senses for a time, when they take too much of it: and hence we
see also a specimen of our author's method of reasoning and writing.

Van Helmont, like his great master, also boasted, that he could cure all
inflammatory and other fevers, and even a pleurisy, without either
bleeding, vomiting, purging, clysters, or blisters; and he quarrelled
so much with the two last, that he calls clysters "a beastly remedy,"
and says that blisters were invented by a wicked spirit, whom he calls
Moloz, though Beelzebub might have been as good a name, since Dr.
Baynard wittily observed, that he believed he was only a great
cantharid. And both Helmont and the Doctor were so far right, that
blistering was then, as well as now, much abused; and in truth they are
much oftener applied than is either necessary or useful.

Thus these two eminent chemists, and too many of their followers,
frequently imposed their writings upon the unguarded reader, and
themselves upon the vulgar, for men of profound knowledge in the medical
art, and as great adepts in chemistry: and being puffed up with the high
opinion entertained of their new art, or new medicines, and their own
great wisdom, they rejected the philosophical theory of medicine by
Galen and Avicenna, then so much in vogue. They were right in doing
this, and might have done great service to mankind, if they had not set
up their own imaginary chemical theory in its place, which was neither
founded upon observations, nature, nor reason, and had no existence but
in their own vain imaginations. Thus they supposed a malignity which
caused all diseases, as well inflammatory as other fevers, and which was
to be forced out of the body by sweating, with their hot therapeutics;
they, therefore, attacked all fevers with this chemical ammunition, and
attempted to carry them with fire and storm, prescribing the
praecipitatus diaphoreticus and sweating regimen, which must have been
fatal to many, and no doubt would have been so to many more, if van
Helmont had not allowed his patients to dilute the medicine with a thin
diet, which rendered the calorific method less fatal. But, as the
learned Dr. Friend judiciously remarks, if any did escape after that hot
regimen, it was through a fiery trial.

Thus the chemists, without any rational theory, or regard to nature, and
what she indicated or did;--without duly considering how the morbid
matter, which caused the disease, was to be concocted and fitted to be
carried off by some critical evacuation; or how to assist nature to
bring that crisis on, according to the Hippocratic method;--without
considering the benefit of the rational, cooling, antiphlogistic
practice of the Arabians--they introduced their sudorific regimen
instead; and this regimen was soon after brought into use in England,
and most other countries, where it continued to be the practice for many
years afterwards, as may be seen by the authors of those times, until
the judicious and honest Dr. Sydenham wisely rejected and exploded it,
introducing the rational method of Hippocrates and the cooling regimen
of the Arabians, which he seems rather to have taken _ex ipsa re et
ratione_ from nature and reason, than from the works of the Arabian
physicians, with which he appears not to have been acquainted, as he
never mentions them.

Van Helmont had several other famous nostrums, with which he pretended
to perform wonders, as quacks have done in all ages, and as some do now:
for empiricism was never more in fashion than at the present day, and
the chemical art has supplied them with many more arcana and nostrums
than the ancients had in all their antidotes and theriacas, etc. since
chemistry was made subservient to medicine. Van Helmont, nevertheless
was a learned man, and acquired a great name and reputation, at least
for some time; but, as neither his theory nor his practice were founded
on nature and reason, nor conformable to them, the more judicious
physicians soon saw their errors, as well as the fallacy of his new
invented chemical terms and unmeaning phrases, which only contained the
shadow and not the substance of the medical science; therefore both his
chemical theory and hot regimen, together with his writings, sunk soon
after his death, into a state of merited oblivion.

Notwithstanding that the science of chemistry was greatly improved by
these extraordinary men, who invented or discovered many useful
remedies, which they introduced into the practice of medicine in a no
less extraordinary manner, and thereby pointed out the way for others to
follow them; yet we must allow that the more able and learned chemists
have greatly enriched and improved the materia medica since, by making
many curious experiments, and thereby discovering several new and very
efficacious medicines, not only from the semi-metals, mercury and
antimony, and the various chemical preparations from them, but from the
more perfect metals, and some other mineral bodies, as well as from a
great variety of remedies which are prepared both from vegetable and
animal substances, as salts, oils, essences, spirits, tinctures,
elixirs, extracts and many more needless here to be mentioned, but all
of which are known to physicians. For all these we are indebted to the
chemists who first invented and introduced them into practice; although
the use and application, as well as the methods of administering them to
the sick, to cure various other diseases than those they were first used
for, has been greatly improved by several learned and ingenious


[142] See Demonologia, by J.S.F. p. 40.

[143] See Magazine of Natural History, April, 1830.



In one respect we have but very little occasion to extol our own
enlightened age at the expence of those ages which are so frequently and
justly termed _dark_. We allude to the bold and artful designs of
imposture, and particularly _medical imposture_. Daily are seen
illiterate and audacious empirics sporting with the lives of a credulous
public, that seem obstinately resolved to shut their ears against all
the suggestions of reason and experience. The host of empirics,
mountebanks, and self-dubbed hygeists, which infest the metropolis, and
the tinctures, cordials, pills, balms, and essences, so much extolled by
their retailers, and swallowed by the public, are indeed so many proofs
of the credulity of the age, that to say the least, the march of
intellect has evidently made a _faux-pas_ in this direction.

The celestial beds, the enchanting magnetic powers introduced into this
country by Messmer, a German quack, and his numerous disciples, the
prevailing indifference to all dietetic precepts, the singular
imposition practised on many females, in persuading them to wear the
inert acromatic belts, the strange infatuation of the opulent in paying
five guineas for a pair of _metallic tractors_, not worth sixpence, the
tables for blood-letting, and other absurdities still inserted in
popular almanacs, (against all the rules of common sense)--all these
yield in nothing to the absurdities and superstitious notions conveyed
through the medium of astrology, dreams, and other ludicrous though by
far more imposing and interesting channels. The temple of the gulls is
now thronged with votaries as much as that of superstition formerly was;
human reason is still a slave to the most tyrannical prejudices; and
certainly, there is no ready way to excite general attention and
admiration, than to deal in the mysterious and the marvellous. The
visionary system of Jacob Böhman has latterly been revived in some parts
of Germany. The ghosts and apparitions which had disappeared from the
times of Thomasius and Swedenborg, have again left their graves, to the
great terror of fanaticism. New prophets announce their divine mission,
and, what is worse, find implicit believers! The _inventors_ of _secret_
medicines are rewarded by patents, and obtain no small celebrity; while
some of the more conscientious, but less fortunate adepts, endeavour to
amuse the public with popular systems of medicine.

One of the most dazzling and successful inventors in modern times, was
Messmer, who commenced his career of medical knight-errantry at Vienna.
His house was the focus of high life, the rendezvous of the gay, where
the young and opulent were enlivened and entertained with continual
concerts, routs, and illuminations. At a great expence, he imported into
Germany the first _Harmonica_ from this country: he established cabinets
of natural curiosities, and laboured constantly and secretly in his
chemical laboratory; so that he acquired the reputation of being a great
alchemist, a philosopher studiously employed in the most useful and
important researches. In 1766, he first publicly announced the object
and nature of his secret labours:--all his discoveries centered in the
_magnet_, which, according to his hypothesis, was the best and safest
remedy hitherto proposed against all diseases incident to the human

This declaration of Messmer excited very general attention; the more so
as about the same time he established a hospital in his own house, into
which he admitted a number of patients _gratis_. Such disinterestedness
procured, as might be expected, no small addition to his fame. He was,
besides, fortunate in gaining over many celebrated physicians to his
opinions, who lavished the greatest encomiums on his new art, and were
instrumental in communicating to the public a number of successful
experiments. This seems to have surpassed the expectations of Messmer,
and induced him to extend his original plan further than it is likely he
first intended. We find him soon after assuming a more dogmatical and
mysterious air, when, for the purpose of shining exclusively, he
appeared in the character of a _magician_:--his pride and egotism would
brook neither equal nor competitor.

The common loadstone, or mineral magnet, which is so well known, did
not appear to him sufficiently important and mysterious--he contrived an
unusual one, to the effect of which he gave the name of '_animal
magnetism_'. After this, he proceeded to a still holder assumption,
everywhere giving it out, that the inconceivable powers of this subtile
fluid were centered in his own person. Now, the mona-drama began; and
Messmer, at once the hero and chorus of the piece, performed his part in
a masterly manner. He placed the most nervous, hysteric, and
hypocondriac patients opposite to him; and by the sole act of stretching
forth his finger, he made them feel the most violent shocks. The effects
of this wonderful power excited universal astonishment; its activity and
penetration being confirmed by unquestionable testimonies, from which it
appeared, that blows similar to those given by a blunt iron, could be
imparted by the operator, while he himself was separated by two doors,
nay, even by thick walls. The very looks of this prince of jugglers had
the power to excite painful cramps and twitches in his credulous and
predisposed patients.

This wonderful tide of success instigated his indefatigable genius to
bolder attempts, especially as he had no severe criticism to apprehend
from the superstitious multitude. He roundly asserted things of which he
offered not the least shadow of proof; and for the truth of which he had
no other pledge to offer but his own high reputation. At one time he
could communicate his magnetic power to paper, wool, silk, bread,
leather, stones, water, etc., at another he asserted that certain
individuals possessed a greater degree of susceptibility for this power
than others. It must be owned, however, that many of his contemporaries
made it their business to encounter his extravagant pretensions, and
refute his dogmatical assertions with the most convincing arguments.
Yet, he long enjoyed the triumph of being supported by blind followers,
and their increasing number completely overpowered the suffrages of

Messmer, at length perceived that in his native country, he should never
be able to reach the point which he had fixed upon, as the termination
of his magnetical career. The Germans began to discredit his pompous
claims; but it was only after repeated failures in some promised cures,
that he found himself under the necessity of seeking protection in
Paris. There he met with a most flattering reception, being caressed,
and in a manner adored by a nation which has always been extravagantly
fond of every new thing, whimsical and mysterious. Messmer well knew how
to turn this natural propensity to the best advantage. He addressed
himself particularly to the weak; to such as wished to be considered men
of profound knowledge, but who, when they were compelled to be silent
from real ignorance, took refuge behind the impenetrable shield of
mystery. The fashionable levity, the irresistible curiosity, and the
peculiar turn of the Parisians, ever solicitous to have something
interesting for conversation, to keep their active imagination in play,
were exactly suited to the genius and talents of the inventor of animal
magnetism. We need not wonder, therefore, if he availed himself of their
moral and physical character, to ensure a ready faith in his doctrines,
and success to his pretended experiments: in fact, he found friends and
admirers wherever he made his appearance. His first advertisement was
couched in the following high-sounding terms:

"Behold a discovery which promises unspeakable advantages to the human
race, and immortal fame to its author! Behold the dawn of an universal
revolution! A new race of men shall arise, shall overspread the earth,
to embellish it by their virtues, and render it fertile by their
industry. Neither vice nor ignorance, shall stop their active career;
they will know our calamities only from the records of history. The
prolonged duration of their life will enable them to plan and accomplish
the most laudable undertakings. The tranquil, the innocent
gratifications of that primeval age will be restored, wherein man
laboured without toil, lived without sorrow, and expired without a
groan! Mothers will no longer be subject to pain and danger during their
pregnancy and child-birth: their progeny will be more robust and brave;
the now rugged and difficult path of education will be rendered smooth
and easy; and hereditary complaints and diseases will be for ever
banished from the future auspicious race. Fathers rejoicing to see their
posterity of the fourth and fifth generations, will only drop like fruit
fully ripe, at the extreme point of age! Animals and plants, no less
susceptible of the magnetic power than man, will be exempt from the
reproach of barrenness and the ravages of distemper. The flocks in the
fields, and the plants in the gardens, will be more vigorous and
nourishing, and the trees will bear more beautiful and grateful fruits.
The human race, once endowed with this elementary power, will probably
rise to still more sublime and astonishing effects of nature: who indeed
is able to pronounce, with certainty, how far this salutary influence
may extend?"

"What splendid promises! What rich prospects! Messmer, the greatest of
philosophers, the most virtuous of men, the physician of mankind,
charitably opens his arms to all his fellow-mortals, who stand in need
of comfort and assistance. No wonder that the cause of magnetism, under
such a zealous apostle, rapidly gained ground, and obtained every day
large additions to the number of its converts. To the gay, the nervous,
and the dissipated of all ranks and ages, it held out the most
flattering promises. Men of the first respectability interested
themselves in behalf of this new philosophy; they anticipated in idea,
the more happy and more vigorous race which would proceed, as it were,
by enchantment, from the wonderful impulsive powers of animal magnetism.
The French were so far seduced by these flattering appearances, as to
offer the German adventurer _thirty thousand livres_ for the
communication of his secret art. He appears, however, to have understood
his own interest better than thus to dispose of his hypothetical
property, which, upon a more accurate investigation might be objected
to, as consisting of unfair articles of purchase. He consequently
returned the following answer to the credulous French ministers:

"That Dr. M. considered his art of too great importance, and the abuses
it might lead to, too dangerous for him at present to make it public;
that he must therefore reserve to himself the time of its publication,
and mode of introducing it to general use and observation--that he would
first take proper measures to initiate or prepare the minds of men, by
exciting in them a susceptibility of this great power; and that he would
then undertake to communicate his secret gradually, which he meant to do
without hope of reward."

Messmer, too politic to part with his secret for so small a premium, had
a better prospect in view; and his apparent disinterestedness and
hesitation served only to sound an over-curious public, to allure more
victims to his delusive practices, and to retain them more firmly in
their implicit belief. Soon after this he was easily prevailed upon to
institute a private society, into which none were admitted, but such as
bound themselves by a vow to perpetual secrecy. These pupils he agreed
to instruct in his important mysteries, on condition of each paying him
_one hundred louis_. In the course of six months, having had not less
than three hundred such pupils, he realized a fortune of _thirty
thousand louis_.

It appears, however, that the disciples of Messmer did not adhere to
their engagement: we find them separating gradually from their
professor, and establishing schools for the propagation of his system,
with a view, no doubt, to reimburse themselves for the expenses of their
own initiation into the magnetising art. But few of them having
understood the terms and mysterious doctrines of their foreign master,
every new adept exerted himself to excel his fellow-labourers, in
additional explanations and inventions: others, who did not possess, or
could not spare the sum of one hundred louis, were industriously
employed in attempts to discover the secret, by their own ingenuity; and
thus arose a great variety of magnetical sects. At length, however,
Messmer's authority became suspected; his pecuniary acquisitions were
now notorious, and our _humane and disinterested philosopher_ was
assailed with critical and satirical animadversions from every quarter.
The fertility of his process for medical purposes, as well as the bad
consequences it might procure in a moral point of view, soon became
topics of common conversation, and ultimately even excited the
apprehensions of government. One dangerous effect of magnetical
associations was, that young voluptuaries began to employ this art, to
promote their libidinous and destructive designs.

Matters having assumed this serious aspect, the French government, much
to its credit, deputed four respectable and unprejudiced men, to whom
were afterwards added four others of great learning and abilities, to
inquire into, and appreciate the merits of the new discovery of animal
magnetism. These philosophers, among whom we find the illustrious names
of Franklin and Lavoisier, recognised, indeed, very surprising and
unexpected phenomena in the physical state of magnetized individuals;
but they gave it as their opinion, that the powers of imagination, and
not animal magnetism, had produced these effects. Sensible of the
superior influence, which the imagination can exert on the human body,
when it is effectually wrought upon, they perceived, after a number of
experiments and facts frequently repeated, that _contact_, or touch,
_imagination, imitation_, and _excited sensibility_, were the real and
sole causes of these phenomena, which had so much confounded the
illiterate, the credulous, and the enthusiastic; that this boasted
magnetic element had no real existence in nature, consequently that
Messmer himself was either an arrant impostor, or a deluded fanatic.

Meantime, this magnetic mystery had made no small progress in Germany. A
number of periodical and other publications vindicated its claims to
public favour and attention; and some literary men, who had rendered
themselves justly celebrated by their former writings, now stepped
forward as bold and eager champions in support of this mystical
doctrine. The ingenious Lavater undertook long journies for the
propagation of magnetism and somnambulism:[144] and what, manipulations
and other absurdities were not practised on hysterical young ladies in
the city of Bremen? It is farther worthy of notice, that an eminent
physician of that place, in a recent publication, does not scruple to
rank magnetism among medical remedies! It must, nevertheless, be
confessed, that the great body of the learned, throughout Germany, have
endeavoured, by strong and impartial criticism, to oppose and refute
animal magnetism, considered as a medical system. And how should it be
otherwise, since it is highly ridiculous to imagine that violent
agitations, spasms, convulsions, etc. which are obviously symptoms of a
diseased state of body, and which must increase rather than diminish the
disposition to nervous diseases, can be the means of improving the
constitution and ultimately of prolonging human life? Every attentive
person must have observed, that too frequent intercourse between nervous
and hypochondriac patients is infectious; and if this be the case,
public assemblies, for exhibiting magnetised individuals, can neither be
safe nor proper. It is no small proof of the good sense of the people of
this country, though they have at different times fallen into nearly
similar delusions, that the professors of animal magnetism did not long
maintain their ground; they were soon exposed to public ridicule on the
stage, and shortly became annihilated in their own absurdities.

Other plans for the prolongation of life, little less absurd than
animal magnetism, which have, like every other imposture, "fretted their
hour," deserve to be noticed. The French and Germans have long stood
pre-eminent in the empirical world, though the merit of ingenious and
more plausible emanations of genius may fairly be attributed to the
latter. Animal magnetism; physiognomy, a rational though fallacious
science; phrenology, a doctrine abounding with many singular
manifestions, and possessing claims not to be put down by mere force of
prejudice, are all of German origin.

The Count St. Germain, a Frenchman, realized large sums, by vending an
artificial tea, chiefly composed of yellow saunders, senna leaves, and
fennel seed, which was puffed off under the specious appellation of _Tea
for prolonging life_; which, at that time, was swallowed with such
voracity all over the continent, that few could subsist without it. Its
celebrity was of short duration, and none ever lived long enough to
realize its effects.

The Chevalier d'Ailhoud, another brazen-faced adventurer, presented the
world with a powder, which met with so large and rapid a sale, that he
soon accumulated money enough to purchase a whole county. This famous
powder, however, instead of adding to the means of securing a long and
healthy life, is well known to produce constant indisposition, and at
length to cause a most miserable death; being composed of certain drugs
of a poisonous nature, though slow in their operation.

Count Cagliostro, styled the luminary of modern impostors and
debauchees, prepared a very common stomach elixir, which was sold at a
most exorbitant price under the name of "_balm of life_" It was
pretended, with the most unparalleled effrontery, that, by the use of
this medicine, the count had lived above 200 years, and that he was
rendered invulnerable against every species of poison. These bold
assertions could not fail to excite very general attention. During his
residence at Strasburg, while descanting, in a large and respectable
company, on the virtues of his antidote, his pride met with a very
mortifying check. A physician who was present, and who had taken part in
the conversation, quitting the room privately, went to an apothecary's
shop, and ordering two pills of equal size to be made, agreeably to his
directions, suddenly appeared again before the count, and thus addressed
him:--"Here, my worthy count, are two pills; the one contains a mortal
poison, the other is perfectly innocent; choose one of these and swallow
it, and I engage to take that which you leave. This will be considered
as a decisive proof of your medical skill, and enable the public to
ascertain the efficacy of your extolled elixir." The count took the
alarm, made a number of apologies, but could not be prevailed upon to
touch the pills. The physician swallowed both immediately, and proved by
his apothecary, that they might be taken with perfect safety, being only
made of common bread. Notwithstanding the shame of this detection,
Cagliostro still retained numerous advocates by circulating unfounded
reports, and concealing his real character by a variety of tricks.

The inspired father Gassner, of Bavaria, ascribed all diseases,
lameness, palsy, etc, to diabolical agency, contending from the history
of Job, Saul, and others recorded in sacred writ, that Satan, as the
grand enemy of mankind, has a power to embitter and shorten our lives by
diseases. Vast numbers of credulous and weak-minded people flocked to
this fanatic, with a view of obtaining relief which he never had the
means to administer. Multitudes of patients, afflicted with nervous and
hypochondriacal complaints, besieged him daily; being all stimulated by
a wild imagination, eager to view and acknowledge the works of Satan!
Men eminent for their literary attainments, even the natural
philosophers of Bavaria, were hurried away by the stream, and completely
blinded by sanctified imposture.

It is no less astonishing than true, that so late as 1794, a Count Thun,
at Leipzig, pretended to perform miraculous cures on gouty,
hypochondriacal, and hysterical patients, merely by the imposition of
his sacred hands. He could not however raise a great number of disciples
in a place that abounds with so many sceptics and unbelievers.

The commencement of the nineteenth century has been equally pregnant
with imposture. The delusions of Joanna Southcoat are too fresh in the
recollections of our readers to require notice here; yet, strange to
say, this fanatical old woman had her adherents and disciples; many of
them, in other respects, were keen and sensible men; nor has the
delusion altogether evaporated, though the sect is by no means powerful
or strong; the first impressions are still retained by her half frantic
and ridiculous devotees, who are only to be met with among the very
lowest and illiterate orders of society.

The farce of the convert of Newhall, near Chelmsford, is of still more
recent date. Here we have a miracle performed by the holy Prince
Hohenlohe, at a distance of at least three hundred miles from the
presence of his patient. Hearing of the wonderful cures performed by
this prince, one of the nuns in the above convent, who had been
afflicted for a considerable length of time with a swelling and
inflammation extending from the ball of the thumb along the fore arm,
and up as high as the armpit, wrote to Prince Hohenlohe--having
previously been attended by the most eminent practitioners in London
without any apparent benefit--to relieve her from her sufferings. This
he willingly undertook to do, but accompanied his consent with an
injunction that she should offer up her prayers on a certain day (May 3,
1824,) held in reverence by the catholics, and at a certain hour,
promising that he would be at his devotions at the same time. All this,
the afflicted nun attended to; immediately after her prayers, she
experienced a tingling sensation along the arm, and from that instant
the cure rapidly advanced until the diseased limb became as sound as the

The days of priestcraft and superstition, it was hoped, had been fast
fleeting away before the luminous rays of science, even in those
countries where religious juggling had been most fostered and practised.
But for any man in this country to believe that such a miracle can be
wrought by human agency, is of itself an awfully convincing proof that
he is ignorant of the Scriptures, and that his own mind is likely to
become a prey to the wildest chimeras. Prince Hohenlohe's notoriety
however as a worker of miracles was not confined to Newhall. His mighty
prowess extended to the emerald isle; and several cures were performed
at as great, or even at a greater distance, than that wrought at
Newhall, and merely at the sound of his orisons. We hear of no miracles
being wrought by, or upon protestants; consequently we leave them to the
gloom of the cloister, whence they emanated, and where only they can be
of use in a cause which requires the aid of stratagem to support it.

A taste for the marvellous seems to be natural to man in every stage of
society, and at almost every period of life; it cannot, therefore, be
much a matter of astonishment, that, from the earliest ages of the
world, persons have been found, who, more idle and more ingenious than
others, have availed themselves of this propensity, to obtain an easy
livelihood by levying contributions on the curiosity of the public.
Whether this taste is to be considered as a proof of the weakness of our
judgment, or of innate inquisitiveness, which stimulates us to enlarge
the sphere of our knowledge, must be left to the decision of
metaphysicians; it is sufficient for our present purpose to know that it
gave rise to a numerous class of impostors in the shape of quacks,
mountebanks, poison-swallowers, fire-eaters, and pill-mongers.

There is another class of adepts, such as sleight of hand performers,
slack rope dancers, teachers of animals to perform extraordinary tricks;
in short, those persons who delude the senses, and practise harmless
deceptions on spectators, included under the common appellation of
jugglers. If these arts served no other purpose than that of mere
amusement, they yet merit a certain degree of encouragement, as
affording at once a cheap and innocent diversion; jugglers of this class
frequently exhibit instructive experiments in natural philosophy,
chemistry, and mechanics: thus the solar microscope was invented from an
instrument to reflect shadows, with which a savoyard amused a German
populace; and the celebrated Sir Richard Arkwright is said to have
conceived the idea of the spinning machines, which have so largely
contributed to the prosperity of the cotton manufactories in this
country, from a toy which he purchased for his child from an itinerant
showman. These deceptions have, besides, acted as an agreeable and most
powerful antidote to superstition, and to that popular belief in
miracles, conjuration, sorcery, and witchcraft, which preyed upon the
minds of our ancestors; and the effects of shadows, electricity,
mirrors, and the magnet, once formidable instruments in the hands of
interested persons, for keeping the vulgar in awe, have been stripped of
their terrors, and are no longer frightful in their most terrific forms.


At a time when the shortness of human life was imputed to a distempered
state of the blood; when all diseases were ascribed to this cause,
without attending to the whole of what relates to the moral and physical
nature of man, a conclusion was easily formed, that a radical removal of
the corrupted blood, and a complete renovation of the entire mass by
substitution was both practicable and effectual. The speculative mind
of man was not at a loss to devise expedients, to effect this desirable
purpose; and undoubtedly one of the boldest, most extraordinary, and
most ingenious attempts ever made to lengthen the period of human life
was made at this time. We allude here to the famous scheme of
_transfusion_, or of introducing the blood of one animal into that of
another. This curious discovery is attributed to Andreas Libavius,
professor of medicine and chemistry in the university of Halle, who, in
the year 1615, publicly recommended experimental essays to ascertain the

Libavius was an honest and spirited opposer of the Theosophic system,
founded by the bombastic Paracelsus, and supported by a numerous tribe
of credulous and frantic followers. Although he was not totally exempt
from the follies of that age, since he believed in the transmutation of
metals, and suggested to his pupils the wonderful power of potable gold,
yet he distinguished rational alchemy from the fanatical systems then in
repute, and zealously defended the former against the disciples of
Galen, as well as those of Paracelsus. He made a number of important
discoveries in chemistry, and was unquestionably the first professor in
Germany who gave chemical lectures, upon pure principles of affinity,
unconnected with the extravagant notions of the theosophists.

The first experiments relative to the transfusion of the blood, appear
to have been made, and that with great propriety, on the lower animals.
The blood of the young, healthy and vigorous, was transferred into the
old and infirm, by means of a delicate tube, placed in a vein opened for
that purpose. The effect of this operation was surprising and important:
aged and decrepit animals were soon observed to become more lively, and
to move with greater ease and rapidity. By the indefatigable exertions
of Lower, in England, of Dennis in France, and of Moulz, Hoffman, and
others in Germany, this artificial mode of renovating the life and
spirits was successfully continued, and even brought to some degree of

The vein usually opened in the arm of a patient was resorted to for the
purpose of transfusion; into this a small tube was placed in a
perpendicular direction; the same vein was then opened in a healthy
individual, but more frequently in an animal, into which another tube
was forced in a reclining direction; both small tubes were then slid
into one another, and in that position the delicate art of transfusion
was safely performed. When the operation was completed, the vein was
tied up in the same manner as on blood-letting. Sometimes a quantity of
blood was drawn from the patient, previously to the experiment taking
place. As few persons, however, were to be found, that would agree to
part with their blood to others, recourse was generally had to animals,
and most frequently to the calf, the lamb, and the stag. These being
laid upon a table, and tied so as to be unable to move, the operation
was performed in the manner before described. In some instances, the
good effects of these experiments were evident and promising, while they
excited the greatest hopes of the future improvement and progress of
this new art. But the unceasing abuses practised by bold and inexpert
adventurers, together with the great number of cases, which proved
unsuccessful, induced the different governments of Europe to put an
entire stop to the practice, by the strictest prohibitions. And, indeed,
while the constitutions and mode of living among men differ so
materially as they now do, this is, and ever must remain, an extremely
hazardous and equivocal, if not a desperate remedy. The blood of every
individual is of a peculiar nature, and congenial with that of the body
only to which it belongs, and in which it is generated. Hence our hope
of prolonging human life, by artificial evacuations and injections, must
necessarily be disappointed. It must not, however, be supposed, that
these, and similar pursuits during the ages of which we treat, as well
as those which succeeded, were solely or chiefly followed by mere
adventurers and fanatics. The greatest geniuses of those times employed
their wits with the most learned and eminent men, who deemed it an
object by no means below their consideration.

The method of supplying good for unsound teeth, though long laid aside,
in consequence of the danger with which the practice was attended, by
the communication of disease from an unhealthy to a healthy person, was
at one time as much the rage as the transfusion of blood. This practice,
notwithstanding the objections which stand opposed to it, might,
nevertheless, be adopted with success on many occasions, could persons
enjoying a sound and wholesome state of body be found to answer the
demand, however unnatural it may appear. A few untoward cases soon
raised the hue and cry against the continuance of the practice, as in
the transfusion of blood, though the latter has recently been attempted
in the case of an individual exhausted by excessive hermorrage with a
success which answered the expectation. There is little doubt that both
the transfusion of blood, and engrafting or transplanting of teeth, are
capable, with judgment and discrimination, of being made subservient in
a variety of cases; though the chances of general success militate
against these experiments; for it is the unalterable plan of nature to
proceed gradually in her operations; all outrage and extravagance being
at variance with her established laws.


[144] The art of exciting sleep in persons under the influence of animal
magnetism, with a view to obtain or rather extort during this artificial
sleep, their verbal declarations and directions for curing the diseases
of both body and mind. Such, indeed, was the rage for propagating this
mystical nonsense, that even the pulpit was occasionally resorted to, in
order to make, not fair penitents, but fair proselytes.



This remarkable sect was founded upon the doctrines of Paracelsus,
during the latter part of the sixteenth, and the beginning of the
seventeenth centuries. The society was known by the name of the
Rosencrucians or Rosecrucians; and as it has not been without its
followers and propagators in different shapes, even to the present time,
we shall here present the reader with a concise account of the origin
and tenets of that fanatical sect.

The first intimation of the existence of this order we find announced to
the world in a book published in the German language, in the year 1614,
with the following title, "_The universal and general Reformation of the
world, together with an account of the famous fraternity of the
Rosencrucians_." The work contains an intimation, that the members of
the society had been secretly engaged for a century preceding, and that
they had come to the knowledge of many great and important secrets,
which, if communicated to the world, would promote the happiness of man.

An adventurer of the name of Christian Rosenkreuz is said to have
founded this order, in the fourteenth century after having been
previously initiated in the sublime wisdom of the east, during his
travels in Egypt and Fez. From what we are enabled to learn from this
work, the intention of the founder and the final aim of the society,
appear to have been the accumulation of wealth and treasures, by means
of secrets known only to the members; and by a proper distribution of
these treasures among princes and potentates, to promote the grand
scheme of the society, by producing "a general revolution of all
things." In their "confession of faith," there are many bold and
singular dogmas; among others, that the end of the world is at hand;
that a general reformation of men and manners will speedily take place;
that the wicked shall be expelled or subdued, the Jews converted, and
the doctrine of Christ propagated over the whole earth. The
Rosencrucians not only believed that these events must happen, but they
also endeavoured to accelerate them by unremitted exertions. To their
faithful votaries and followers, they promised abundance of celestial
wisdom, unspeakable riches, exemption from disease, an immortal state of
man of ever blooming youth, and above all the _philosopher's stone_.

Learning and improvement of the mind were, by this order, considered as
superfluous and despised. They found all knowledge in the Bible; this,
however, has been supposed rather a pretext to obviate a charge, which
was brought against them, of not believing in the Christian religion.
The truth is, they imagined themselves superior to divine revelation,
and supposed every useful acquisition, every virtue to be derived from
the influence of the Deity on the soul of man. In this, as well as in
many other respects, they appear to be followers of Paracelsus, whom
they profess to revere as a Messenger of the divinity. Like him, they
pretend to cure all diseases; through _faith_ and the power of the
imagination, to heal the most mortal disorders by a touch, or even by
simply looking at the patient. The universal remedy was likewise a grand
secret of the order, the discovery of which was promised to all its
faithful members.

It would be unnecessary to enumerate any more of such impious fancies,
if the founder of this still lurking sect, now partly revivified, had
not asserted, with astonishing effrontery, that human life was capable
of prolongation, like a fire kept up by combustible matter, and that he
was in the possession of a secret, which could verify this assertion. It
is evident, however, from the testimony of Libavius, a man of
unquestionable veracity, that this doughty champion in medical
chemistry, or rather alchemy, Paracelsus, notwithstanding his bold
assertions, died as before observed, at Sulzburgh in Germany, in the
Hospital of St. Stephen's in 1541: and that his death was chiefly
occasioned by the singular and desolate mode of life, which he had for a
long time pursued. When a competent knowledge of the economy of the
human frame is wanting, to enable a man to discriminate between internal
and external causes and effects, it will be impossible to ascertain, or
to counteract, the different causes by which our health is deranged.
This evidently was the case with Paracelsus, and many other
life-prolongers who have succeeded him; and should a fortunate
individual ever fix upon a remedy, possessing the power of checking
disease, or lengthening out human existence (an expectation never to be
realized) he will be indebted to chance alone for the discovery. This
has been the case in all ages, and still remains so.

Remedies, from time to time, have been devised, not merely to serve as
nostrums for all diseases, but also for the pretended purpose of
prolonging life. Those of the latter kind have been applied with a view
to resist or check many operations of nature, which insensibly consume
the vital heat, and other powers of life, such as respiration, muscular
irritation, etc. Thus, from the implicit credulity of some, and the
exuberant imagination of others, observation and experiments, however
incompatible with sound reason and philosophy, have been multiplied,
with the avowed design of establishing proofs, or reputations of this or
that absurd opinion. In this manner have fanaticism and imposture
falsified the plainest truths, or forged the most unfounded and
ridiculous claims; insomuch that one glaring inconsistency has been
employed to combat another, and folly has succeeded folly, till a fund
of materials has been transmitted to posterity, sufficient to form a
concise history on this subject. Men in all ages have set a just value
on life; and in proportion to the means of enjoyment, this value has
been appreciated in a greater or less degree. If the gratification of
the sensual appetite formed the principal object of living, its
prolongation would be to the epicure, as desirable as the prospect of an
existence to be enjoyed beyond the limits of the grave, is to the
moralist and the believer.

The desire of longevity appears to be inherent in all animated nature,
and particularly in the human race; it is intimately cherished by us,
through the whole duration of our existence, and is frequently supported
and strengthened, not only by justifiable means, but also by various
kinds of collusion. Living in an age when every branch of human
knowledge is reduced to popular systems; when the vigils of reason are
hallowed at the shrine of experiment and observation;--though we behold
in the immense variety of things, the utter uselessness of attempting to
renovate a shattered constitution, or of improving a sound one to last
beyond a certain period; we nevertheless observe that in the
inconceivable waste of elementary particles there prevails the strictest
economy. Nothing is produced in vain, nothing consumed without a cause.
We clearly perceive that all nature is united by indissoluble ties, that
every individual thing exists for the sake of another, and that no one
can subsist without its concomitant. Hence we conclude, that man himself
is not an insulated being, but a necessary link in the great chain,
which connects the universe. Nature is our safest guide, and she will be
so with greater certainty, as we become better acquainted with her
operations, especially with respect to those particulars which more
nearly concern our physical existence. Thus, n source of many and very
extensive advantages will be opened; thus, we shall reach our original
destination--namely, that of living long and in the enjoyment of sound
health, to which, if purity of morals he added, the best hopes may be
entertained of a happy state, in a future world, where its inhabitants
never die.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Thaumaturgia" ***

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