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Title: Curious Myths of the Middle Ages
Author: Baring-Gould, S. (Sabine), 1834-1924
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

Illustration captions in {brackets} have been added by the transcriber
for the convenience of the reader.

               CURIOUS MYTHS
              THE MIDDLE AGES.

           S. BARING-GOULD, M.A.

             ROBERTS BROTHERS.

             No. 4 Spring Lane.

  University Press: Welch, Bigelow, & Co.,

  [Illustration: POPE JOAN.
    From Joh. Wolfii Lect. Memorab. (Lavingæ, 1600.)]



    The Wandering Jew                                          1

    Prester John                                              30

    The Divining Rod                                          54

    The Seven Sleepers of Ephesus                             92

    William Tell                                             110

    The Dog Gellert                                          132

    Tailed Men                                               144

    Antichrist and Pope Joan                                 160

    The Man in the Moon                                      189

    The Mountain of Venus                                    207

    Fatality of Numbers                                      221

    The Terrestrial Paradise                                 242


The Wandering Jew.

Who, that has looked on Gustave Doré's marvellous illustrations to
this wild legend, can forget the impression they made upon his

I do not refer to the first illustration as striking, where the Jewish
shoemaker is refusing to suffer the cross-laden Savior to rest a
moment on his door-step, and is receiving with scornful lip the
judgment to wander restless till the Second Coming of that same
Redeemer. But I refer rather to the second, which represents the Jew,
after the lapse of ages, bowed beneath the burden of the curse, worn
with unrelieved toil, wearied with ceaseless travelling, trudging
onward at the last lights of evening, when a rayless night of
unabating rain is creeping on, along a sloppy path between dripping
bushes; and suddenly he comes over against a wayside crucifix, on
which the white glare of departing daylight falls, to throw it into
ghastly relief against the pitch-black rain-clouds. For a moment we
see the working of the miserable shoemaker's mind. We feel that he is
recalling the tragedy of the first Good Friday, and his head hangs
heavier on his breast, as he recalls the part he had taken in that
awful catastrophe.

Or, is that other illustration more remarkable, where the wanderer is
amongst the Alps, at the brink of a hideous chasm; and seeing in the
contorted pine-branches the ever-haunting scene of the Via Dolorosa,
he is lured to cast himself into that black gulf in quest of
rest,--when an angel flashes out of the gloom with the sword of flame
turning every way, keeping him back from what would be to him a
Paradise indeed, the repose of Death?

Or, that last scene, when the trumpet sounds and earth is shivering to
its foundations, the fire is bubbling forth through the rents in its
surface, and the dead are coming together flesh to flesh, and bone to
bone, and muscle to muscle--then the weary man sits down and casts off
his shoes! Strange sights are around him, he sees them not; strange
sounds assail his ears, he hears but one--the trumpet-note which gives
the signal for him to stay his wanderings and rest his weary feet.

I can linger over those noble woodcuts, and learn from them something
new each time that I study them; they are picture-poems full of latent
depths of thought. And now let us to the history of this most
thrilling of all mediæval myths, if a myth.

If a myth, I say, for who can say for certain that it is not true?
"Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not
taste of death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom,"[1]
are our Lord's words, which I can hardly think apply to the
destruction of Jerusalem, as commentators explain it to escape the
difficulty. That some should live to see Jerusalem destroyed was not
very surprising, and hardly needed the emphatic Verily which Christ
only used when speaking something of peculiarly solemn or mysterious

Besides, St. Luke's account manifestly refers the coming in the
kingdom to the Judgment, for the saying stands as follows: "Whosoever
shall be ashamed of Me, and of My words, of him shall the Son of Man
be ashamed, when He shall come in His own glory, and in His Father's,
and of the holy angels. But I tell you of a truth, there be some
standing here, which shall not taste of death till they see the
kingdom of God."[2]

There can, I think, be no doubt in the mind of an unprejudiced person
that the words of our Lord do imply that some one or more of those
then living should not die till He came again. I do not mean to insist
on the literal signification, but I plead that there is no
improbability in our Lord's words being fulfilled to the letter. That
the circumstance is unrecorded in the Gospels is no evidence that it
did not take place, for we are expressly told, "Many other signs truly
did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in
this book;"[3] and again, "There are also many other things which
Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose
that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be

We may remember also the mysterious witnesses who are to appear in the
last eventful days of the world's history and bear testimony to the
Gospel truth before the antichristian world. One of these has been
often conjectured to be St. John the Evangelist, of whom Christ said
to Peter, "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?"

The historical evidence on which the tale rests is, however, too
slender for us to admit for it more than the barest claim to be more
than myth. The names and the circumstances connected with the Jew and
his doom vary in every account, and the only point upon which all
coincide is, that such an individual exists in an undying condition,
wandering over the face of the earth, seeking rest and finding none.

The earliest extant mention of the Wandering Jew is to be found in the
book of the chronicles of the Abbey of St. Albans, which was copied
and continued by Matthew Paris. He records that in the year 1228, "a
certain Archbishop of Armenia the Greater came on a pilgrimage to
England to see the relics of the saints, and visit the sacred places
in the kingdom, as he had done in others; he also produced letters of
recommendation from his Holiness the Pope, to the religious and the
prelates of the churches, in which they were enjoined to receive and
entertain him with due reverence and honor. On his arrival, he came to
St. Albans, where he was received with all respect by the abbot and
the monks; and at this place, being fatigued with his journey, he
remained some days to rest himself and his followers, and a
conversation took place between him and the inhabitants of the
convent, by means of their interpreters, during which he made many
inquiries relating to the religion and religious observances of this
country, and told many strange things concerning the countries of the
East. In the course of conversation he was asked whether he had ever
seen or heard any thing of Joseph, a man of whom there was much talk
in the world, who, when our Lord suffered, was present and spoke to
Him, and who is still alive, in evidence of the Christian faith; in
reply to which, a knight in his retinue, who was his interpreter,
replied, speaking in French, 'My lord well knows that man, and a
little before he took his way to the western countries, the said
Joseph ate at the table of my lord the Archbishop of Armenia, and he
has often seen and conversed with him.'

"He was then asked about what had passed between Christ and the said
Joseph; to which he replied, 'At the time of the passion of Jesus
Christ, He was seized by the Jews, and led into the hall of judgment
before Pilate, the governor, that He might be judged by him on the
accusation of the Jews; and Pilate, finding no fault for which he
might sentence Him to death, said unto them, "Take Him and judge Him
according to your law;" the shouts of the Jews, however, increasing,
he, at their request, released unto them Barabbas, and delivered Jesus
to them to be crucified. When, therefore, the Jews were dragging Jesus
forth, and had reached the door, Cartaphilus, a porter of the hall in
Pilate's service, as Jesus was going out of the door, impiously struck
Him on the back with his hand, and said in mockery, "Go quicker,
Jesus, go quicker; why do you loiter?" and Jesus, looking back on him
with a severe countenance, said to him, "I am going, and you shall
wait till I return." And according as our Lord said, this Cartaphilus
is still awaiting His return. At the time of our Lord's suffering he
was thirty years old, and when he attains the age of a hundred years,
he always returns to the same age as he was when our Lord suffered.
After Christ's death, when the Catholic faith gained ground, this
Cartaphilus was baptized by Ananias (who also baptized the Apostle
Paul), and was called Joseph. He dwells in one or other divisions of
Armenia, and in divers Eastern countries, passing his time amongst the
bishops and other prelates of the Church; he is a man of holy
conversation, and religious; a man of few words, and very circumspect
in his behavior; for he does not speak at all unless when questioned
by the bishops and religious; and then he relates the events of olden
times, and speaks of things which occurred at the suffering and
resurrection of our Lord, and of the witnesses of the resurrection,
namely, of those who rose with Christ, and went into the holy city,
and appeared unto men. He also tells of the creed of the Apostles,
and of their separation and preaching. And all this he relates without
smiling, or levity of conversation, as one who is well practised in
sorrow and the fear of God, always looking forward with dread to the
coming of Jesus Christ, lest at the Last Judgment he should find him
in anger whom, when on his way to death, he had provoked to just
vengeance. Numbers came to him from different parts of the world,
enjoying his society and conversation; and to them, if they are men of
authority, he explains all doubts on the matters on which he is
questioned. He refuses all gifts that are offered him, being content
with slight food and clothing.'"

Much about the same date, Philip Mouskes, afterwards Bishop of
Tournay, wrote his rhymed chronicle (1242), which contains a similar
account of the Jew, derived from the same Armenian prelate:--

    "Adonques vint un arceveskes
    De çà mer, plains de bonnes tèques
    Par samblant, et fut d'Armenie,"

and this man, having visited the shrine of "St. Tumas de Kantorbire,"
and then having paid his devotions at "Monsigour St. Jake," he went on
to Cologne to see the heads of the three kings. The version told in
the Netherlands much resembled that related at St. Albans, only that
the Jew, seeing the people dragging Christ to his death, exclaims,--

    "Atendés moi! g'i vois,
    S'iert mis le faus profète en crois."


    "Le vrais Dieux se regarda,
    Et li a dit qu'e n'i tarda,
    Icist ne t'atenderont pas,
    Mais saces, tu m'atenderas."

We hear no more of the wandering Jew till the sixteenth century, when
we hear first of him in a casual manner, as assisting a weaver, Kokot,
at the royal palace in Bohemia (1505), to find a treasure which had
been secreted by the great-grandfather of Kokot, sixty years before,
at which time the Jew was present. He then had the appearance of being
a man of seventy years.[5]

Curiously enough, we next hear of him in the East, where he is
confounded with the prophet Elijah. Early in the century he appeared
to Fadhilah, under peculiar circumstances.

After the Arabs had captured the city of Elvan, Fadhilah, at the head
of three hundred horsemen, pitched his tents, late in the evening,
between two mountains. Fadhilah, having begun his evening prayer with
a loud voice, heard the words "Allah akbar" (God is great) repeated
distinctly, and each word of his prayer was followed in a similar
manner. Fadhilah, not believing this to be the result of an echo, was
much astonished, and cried out, "O thou! whether thou art of the angel
ranks, or whether thou art of some other order of spirits, it is well;
the power of God be with thee; but if thou art a man, then let mine
eyes light upon thee, that I may rejoice in thy presence and society."
Scarcely had he spoken these words, before an aged man, with bald
head, stood before him, holding a staff in his hand, and much
resembling a dervish in appearance. After having courteously saluted
him, Fadhilah asked the old man who he was. Thereupon the stranger
answered, "Bassi Hadhret Issa, I am here by command of the Lord Jesus,
who has left me in this world, that I may live therein until he comes
a second time to earth. I wait for this Lord, who is the Fountain of
Happiness, and in obedience to his command I dwell behind yon
mountain." When Fadhilah heard these words, he asked when the Lord
Jesus would appear; and the old man replied that his appearing would
be at the end of the world, at the Last Judgment. But this only
increased Fadhilah's curiosity, so that he inquired the signs of the
approach of the end of all things, whereupon Zerib Bar Elia gave him
an account of general, social, and moral dissolution, which would be
the climax of this world's history.[6]

In 1547 he was seen in Europe, if we are to believe the following

"Paul von Eitzen, doctor of the Holy Scriptures, and Bishop of
Schleswig,[7] related as true for some years past, that when he was
young, having studied at Wittemberg, he returned home to his parents
in Hamburg in the winter of the year 1547, and that on the following
Sunday, in church, he observed a tall man, with his hair hanging over
his shoulders, standing barefoot, during the sermon, over against the
pulpit, listening with deepest attention to the discourse, and,
whenever the name of Jesus was mentioned, bowing himself profoundly
and humbly, with sighs and beating of the breast. He had no other
clothing, in the bitter cold of the winter, except a pair of hose
which were in tatters about his feet, and a coat with a girdle which
reached to his feet; and his general appearance was that of a man of
fifty years. And many people, some of high degree and title, have seen
this same man in England, France, Italy, Hungary, Persia, Spain,
Poland, Moscow, Lapland, Sweden, Denmark, Scotland, and other places.

"Every one wondered over the man. Now, after the sermon, the said
Doctor inquired diligently where the stranger was to be found; and when
he had sought him out, he inquired of him privately whence he came, and
how long that winter he had been in the place. Thereupon he replied,
modestly, that he was a Jew by birth, a native of Jerusalem, by name
Ahasverus, by trade a shoemaker; he had been present at the crucifixion
of Christ, and had lived ever since, travelling through various lands
and cities, the which he substantiated by accounts he gave; he related
also the circumstances of Christ's transference from Pilate to Herod,
and the final crucifixion, together with other details not recorded in
the Evangelists and historians; he gave accounts of the changes of
government in many countries, especially of the East, through several
centuries; and moreover he detailed the labors and deaths of the holy
Apostles of Christ most circumstantially.

"Now when Doctor Paul v. Eitzen heard this with profound astonishment,
on account of its incredible novelty, he inquired further, in order
that he might obtain more accurate information. Then the man answered,
that he had lived in Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion of
Christ, whom he had regarded as a deceiver of the people, and a
heretic; he had seen Him with his own eyes, and had done his best,
along with others, to bring this deceiver, as he regarded Him, to
justice, and to have Him put out of the way. When the sentence had
been pronounced by Pilate, Christ was about to be dragged past his
house; then he ran home, and called together his household to have a
look at Christ, and see what sort of a person He was.

"This having been done, he had his little child on his arm, and was
standing in his doorway, to have a sight of the Lord Jesus Christ.

"As, then, Christ was led by, bowed under the weight of the heavy
cross, He tried to rest a little, and stood still a moment; but the
shoemaker, in zeal and rage, and for the sake of obtaining credit
among the other Jews, drove the Lord Christ forward, and told Him to
hasten on His way. Jesus, obeying, looked at him, and said, 'I shall
stand and rest, but thou shalt go till the last day.' At these words
the man set down the child; and, unable to remain where he was, he
followed Christ, and saw how cruelly He was crucified, how He
suffered, how He died. As soon as this had taken place, it came upon
him suddenly that he could no more return to Jerusalem, nor see again
his wife and child, but must go forth into foreign lands, one after
another, like a mournful pilgrim. Now, when, years after, he returned
to Jerusalem, he found it ruined and utterly razed, so that not one
stone was left standing on another; and he could not recognize former

"He believes that it is God's purpose, in thus driving him about in
miserable life, and preserving him undying, to present him before the
Jews at the end, as a living token, so that the godless and
unbelieving may remember the death of Christ, and be turned to
repentance. For his part he would well rejoice were God in heaven to
release him from this vale of tears. After this conversation, Doctor
Paul v. Eitzen, along with the rector of the school of Hamburg, who
was well read in history, and a traveller, questioned him about events
which had taken place in the East since the death of Christ, and he
was able to give them much information on many ancient matters; so
that it was impossible not to be convinced of the truth of his story,
and to see that what seems impossible with men is, after all, possible
with God.

"Since the Jew has had his life extended, he has become silent and
reserved, and only answers direct questions. When invited to become
any one's guest, he eats little, and drinks in great moderation; then
hurries on, never remaining long in one place. When at Hamburg,
Dantzig, and elsewhere, money has been offered him, he never took more
than two skillings (fourpence, one farthing), and at once distributed
it to the poor, as token that he needed no money, for God would
provide for him, as he rued the sins he had committed in ignorance.

"During the period of his stay in Hamburg and Dantzig he was never
seen to laugh. In whatever land he travelled he spoke its language,
and when he spoke Saxon, it was like a native Saxon. Many people came
from different places to Hamburg and Dantzig in order to see and hear
this man, and were convinced that the providence of God was exercised
in this individual in a very remarkable manner. He gladly listened to
God's word, or heard it spoken of always with great gravity and
compunction, and he ever reverenced with sighs the pronunciation of
the name of God, or of Jesus Christ, and could not endure to hear
curses; but whenever he heard any one swear by God's death or pains,
he waxed indignant, and exclaimed, with vehemence and with sighs,
'Wretched man and miserable creature, thus to misuse the name of thy
Lord and God, and His bitter sufferings and passion. Hadst thou seen,
as I have, how heavy and bitter were the pangs and wounds of thy Lord,
endured for thee and for me, thou wouldst rather undergo great pain
thyself than thus take His sacred name in vain!'

"Such is the account given to me by Doctor Paul von Eitzen, with many
circumstantial proofs, and corroborated by certain of my own old
acquaintances who saw this same individual with their own eyes in

"In the year 1575 the Secretary Christopher Krause, and Master Jacob
von Holstein, legates to the Court of Spain, and afterwards sent into
the Netherlands to pay the soldiers serving his Majesty in that
country, related on their return home to Schleswig, and confirmed with
solemn oaths, that they had come across the same mysterious individual
at Madrid in Spain, in appearance, manner of life, habits, clothing,
just the same as he had appeared in Hamburg. They said that they had
spoken with him, and that many people of all classes had conversed
with him, and found him to speak good Spanish. In the year 1599, in
December, a reliable person wrote from Brunswick to Strasburg that the
same mentioned strange person had been seen alive at Vienna in
Austria, and that he had started for Poland and Dantzig; and that he
purposed going on to Moscow. This Ahasverus was at Lubeck in 1601,
also about the same date in Revel in Livonia, and in Cracow in Poland.
In Moscow he was seen of many and spoken to by many.

"What thoughtful, God-fearing persons are to think of the said
person, is at their option. God's works are wondrous and past finding
out, and are manifested day by day, only to be revealed in full at the
last great day of account.

                              "Dated, Revel, August 1st, 1613.
                                  "D. W.
                                  "Chrysostomus Dudulœus,

The statement that the Wandering Jew appeared in Lubeck in 1601, does
not tally with the more precise chronicle of Henricus Bangert, which
gives: "Die 14 Januarii Anno MDCIII., adnotatum reliquit Lubecæ fuisse
Judæum illum immortalem, qui se Christi crucifixioni interfuisse

In 1604 he seems to have appeared in Paris. Rudolph Botoreus says,
under this date, "I fear lest I be accused of giving ear to old wives'
fables, if I insert in these pages what is reported all over Europe of
the Jew, coeval with the Savior Christ; however, nothing is more
common, and our popular histories have not scrupled to assert it.
Following the lead of those who wrote our annals, I may say that he
who appeared not in one century only, in Spain, Italy, and Germany,
was also in this year seen and recognized as the same individual who
had appeared in Hamburg, anno MDLXVI. The common people, bold in
spreading reports, relate many things of him; and this I allude to,
lest anything should be left unsaid."[9]

J. C. Bulenger puts the date of the Hamburg visit earlier. "It was
reported at this time that a Jew of the time of Christ was wandering
without food and drink, having for a thousand and odd years been a
vagabond and outcast, condemned by God to rove, because he, of that
generation of vipers, was the first to cry out for the crucifixion of
Christ and the release of Barabbas; and also because soon after, when
Christ, panting under the burden of the rood, sought to rest before
his workshop (he was a cobbler), the fellow ordered Him off with
acerbity. Thereupon Christ replied, 'Because thou grudgest Me such a
moment of rest, I shall enter into My rest, but thou shalt wander
restless.' At once, frantic and agitated, he fled through the whole
earth, and on the same account to this day he journeys through the
world. It was this person who was seen in Hamburg in MDLXIV. Credat
Judæus Apella! _I_ did not see him, or hear anything authentic
concerning him, at that time when I was in Paris."[10]

A curious little book,[11] written against the quackery of Paracelsus,
by Leonard Doldius, a Nürnberg physician, and translated into Latin
and augmented, by Andreas Libavius, doctor and physician of Rotenburg,
alludes to the same story, and gives the Jew a new name nowhere else
met with. After having referred to a report that Paracelsus was not
dead, but was seated alive, asleep or napping, in his sepulchre at
Strasburg, preserved from death by some of his specifics, Libavius
declares that he would sooner believe in the old man, the Jew,
Ahasverus, wandering over the world, called by some Buttadæus, and
otherwise, again, by others.

He is said to have appeared in Naumburg, but the date is not given; he
was noticed in church, listening to the sermon. After the service he
was questioned, and he related his story. On this occasion he
received presents from the burgers.[12] In 1633 he was again in
Hamburg.[13] In the year 1640, two citizens, living in the
Gerberstrasse, in Brussels, were walking in the Sonian wood, when they
encountered an aged man, whose clothes were in tatters and of an
antiquated appearance. They invited him to go with them to a house of
refreshment, and he went with them, but would not seat himself,
remaining on foot to drink. When he came before the doors with the two
burgers, he told them a great deal; but they were mostly stories of
events which had happened many hundred years before. Hence the burgers
gathered that their companion was Isaac Laquedem, the Jew who had
refused to permit our Blessed Lord to rest for a moment at his
door-step, and they left him full of terror. In 1642 he is reported to
have visited Leipzig. On the 22d July, 1721, he appeared at the gates
of the city of Munich.[14] About the end of the seventeenth century or
the beginning of the eighteenth, an impostor, calling himself the
Wandering Jew, attracted attention in England, and was listened to by
the ignorant, and despised by the educated. He, however, managed to
thrust himself into the notice of the nobility, who, half in jest,
half in curiosity, questioned him, and paid him as they might a
juggler. He declared that he had been an officer of the Sanhedrim, and
that he had struck Christ as he left the judgment hall of Pilate. He
remembered all the Apostles, and described their personal appearance,
their clothes, and their peculiarities. He spoke many languages,
claimed the power of healing the sick, and asserted that he had
travelled nearly all over the world. Those who heard him were
perplexed by his familiarity with foreign tongues and places. Oxford
and Cambridge sent professors to question him, and to discover the
imposition, if any. An English nobleman conversed with him in Arabic.
The mysterious stranger told his questioner in that language that
historical works were not to be relied upon. And on being asked his
opinion of Mahomet, he replied that he had been acquainted with the
father of the prophet, and that he dwelt at Ormuz. As for Mahomet, he
believed him to have been a man of intelligence; once when he heard
the prophet deny that Christ was crucified, he answered abruptly by
telling him he was a witness to the truth of that event. He related
also that he was in Rome when Nero set it on fire; he had known
Saladin, Tamerlane, Bajazeth, Eterlane, and could give minute details
of the history of the Crusades.[15]

Whether this wandering Jew was found out in London or not, we cannot
tell, but he shortly after appeared in Denmark, thence travelled into
Sweden, and vanished.

Such are the principal notices of the Wandering Jew which have
appeared. It will be seen at once how wanting they are in all
substantial evidence which could make us regard the story in any other
light than myth.

But no myth is wholly without foundation, and there must be some
substantial verity upon which this vast superstructure of legend has
been raised. What that is I am unable to discover.

It has been suggested by some that the Jew Ahasverus is an
impersonation of that race which wanders, Cain-like, over the earth
with the brand of a brother's blood upon it, and one which is not to
pass away till all be fulfilled, not to be reconciled to its angered
God till the times of the Gentiles are accomplished. And yet, probable
as this supposition may seem at first sight, it is not to be
harmonized with some of the leading features of the story. The
shoemaker becomes a penitent, and earnest Christian, whilst the Jewish
nation has still the veil upon its heart; the wretched wanderer
eschews money, and the avarice of the Israelite is proverbial.

According to local legend, he is identified with the Gypsies, or
rather that strange people are supposed to be living under a curse
somewhat similar to that inflicted on Ahasverus, because they refused
shelter to the Virgin and Child on their flight into Egypt.[16]
Another tradition connects the Jew with the wild huntsman, and there
is a forest at Bretten, in Swabia, which he is said to haunt. Popular
superstition attributes to him there a purse containing a groschen,
which, as often as it is expended, returns to the spender.[17]

In the Harz one form of the Wild Huntsman myth is to this effect:
that he was a Jew who had refused to suffer our Blessed Lord to drink
out of a river, or out of a horse-trough, but had contemptuously
pointed out to Him the hoof-print of a horse, in which a little water
had collected, and had bid Him quench His thirst thence.[18]

As the Wild Huntsman is the personification of the storm, it is
curious to find in parts of France that the sudden roar of a gale at
night is attributed by the vulgar to the passing of the Everlasting

A Swiss story is, that he was seen one day standing upon the
Matterberg, which is below the Matterhorn, contemplating the scene
with mingled sorrow and wonder. Once before he stood on that spot, and
then it was the site of a flourishing city; now it is covered with
gentian and wild pinks. Once again will he revisit the hill, and that
will be on the eve of Judgment.

Perhaps, of all the myths which originated in the middle ages, none is
more striking than that we have been considering; indeed, there is
something so calculated to arrest the attention and to excite the
imagination in the outline of the story, that it is remarkable that
we should find an interval of three centuries elapse between its first
introduction into Europe by Matthew Paris and Philip Mouskes, and its
general acceptance in the sixteenth century. As a myth, its roots lie
in that great mystery of human life which is an enigma never solved,
and ever originating speculation.

What was life? Was it of necessity limited to fourscore years, or
could it be extended indefinitely? were questions curious minds never
wearied of asking. And so the mythology of the past teemed with
legends of favored or accursed mortals, who had reached beyond the
term of days set to most men. Some had discovered the water of life,
the fountain of perpetual youth, and were ever renewing their
strength. Others had dared the power of God, and were therefore
sentenced to feel the weight of His displeasure, without tasting the
repose of death.

John the Divine slept at Ephesus, untouched by corruption, with the
ground heaving over his breast as he breathed, waiting the summons to
come forth and witness against Antichrist. The seven sleepers reposed
in a cave, and centuries glided by like a watch in the night. The
monk of Hildesheim, doubting how with God a thousand years could be as
yesterday, listened to the melody of a bird in the green wood during
three minutes, and found that in three minutes three hundred years had
flown. Joseph of Arimathæa, in the blessed city of Sarras, draws
perpetual life from the Saint Graal; Merlin sleeps and sighs in an old
tree, spell-bound of Vivien. Charlemagne and Barbarossa wait, crowned
and armed, in the heart of the mountain, till the time comes for the
release of Fatherland from despotism. And, on the other hand, the
curse of a deathless life has passed on the Wild Huntsman, because he
desired to chase the red-deer for evermore; on the Captain of the
Phantom Ship, because he vowed he would double the Cape whether God
willed it or not; on the Man in the Moon, because he gathered sticks
during the Sabbath rest; on the dancers of Kolbeck, because they
desired to spend eternity in their mad gambols.

I began this article intending to conclude it with a bibliographical
account of the tracts, letters, essays, and books, written upon the
Wandering Jew; but I relinquish my intention at the sight of the
multitude of works which have issued from the press upon the subject;
and this I do with less compunction as the bibliographer may at little
trouble and expense satisfy himself, by perusing the lists given by
Grässe in his essay on the myth, and those to be found in "Notice
historique et bibliographique sur les Juifs-errants: par O. B."
(Gustave Brunet), Paris, Téchener, 1845; also in the article by M.
Mangin, in "Causeries et Méditations historiques et littéraires,"
Paris, Duprat, 1843; and, lastly, in the essay by Jacob le Bibliophile
(M. Lacroix) in his "Curiosités de l'Histoire des Croyances
populaires," Paris, Delahays, 1859.

Of the romances of Eugène Sue and Dr. Croly, founded upon the legend,
the less said the better. The original legend is so noble in its
severe simplicity, that none but a master mind could develop it with
any chance of success. Nor have the poetical attempts upon the story
fared better. It was reserved for the pencil of Gustave Doré to treat
it with the originality it merited, and in a series of woodcuts to
produce at once a poem, a romance, and a chef-d'œuvre of art.


[1] Matt. xvi. 28. Mark ix. 1.

[2] Luke ix.

[3] John xx. 30.

[4] John xxi. 25.

[5] Gubitz, Gesellsch. 1845, No. 18.

[6] Herbelot, Bibl. Orient, iii. p. 607.

[7] Paul v. Eitzen was born January 25, 1522, at Hamburg; in 1562 he
was appointed chief preacher for Schleswig, and died February 25,
1598. (Greve, Memor. P. ab. Eitzen. Hamb. 1844.)

[8] Henr. Bangert, Comment. de Ortu, Vita, et Excessu Coleri, I. Cti.

[9] R. Botoreus, Comm. Histor. lii. p. 305.

[10] J. C. Bulenger, Historia sui Temporis, p. 357.

[11] Praxis Alchymiæ. Francfurti, MDCIV. 8vo.

[12] Mitternacht, Diss. in Johann. xxi. 19.

[13] Mitternacht, ut supra.

[14] Hormayr, Taschenbuch, 1834, p. 216.

[15] Calmet, Dictionn. de la Bible, t. ii. p. 472.

[16] Aventinus, Bayr. Chronik, viii.

[17] Meier, Schwäbischen Sagen, i. 116.

[18] Kuhn u. Schwarz Nordd. Sagen, p. 499.

Prester John.

  [Illustration: Arms of the See of Chichester.]

About the middle of the twelfth century, a rumor circulated through
Europe that there reigned in Asia a powerful Christian Emperor,
Presbyter Johannes. In a bloody fight he had broken the power of the
Mussulmans, and was ready to come to the assistance of the Crusaders.
Great was the exultation in Europe, for of late the news from the East
had been gloomy and depressing, the power of the infidel had
increased, overwhelming masses of men had been brought into the field
against the chivalry of Christendom, and it was felt that the cross
must yield before the odious crescent.

The news of the success of the Priest-King opened a door of hope to
the desponding Christian world. Pope Alexander III. determined at
once to effect a union with this mysterious personage, and on the 27th
of September, 1177, wrote him a letter, which he intrusted to his
physician, Philip, to deliver in person.

Philip started on his embassy, but never returned. The conquests of
Tschengis-Khan again attracted the eyes of Christian Europe to the
East. The Mongol hordes were rushing in upon the west with devastating
ferocity; Russia, Poland, Hungary, and the eastern provinces of
Germany, had succumbed, or suffered grievously; and the fears of other
nations were roused lest they too should taste the misery of a
Mongolian invasion. It was Gog and Magog come to slaughter, and the
times of Antichrist were dawning. But the battle of Liegnitz stayed
them in their onward career, and Europe was saved.

Pope Innocent IV. determined to convert these wild hordes of
barbarians, and subject them to the cross of Christ; he therefore sent
among them a number of Dominican and Franciscan missioners, and
embassies of peace passed between the Pope, the King of France, and
the Mogul Khan.

The result of these communications with the East was, that the
travellers learned how false were the prevalent notions of a mighty
Christian empire existing in Central Asia. Vulgar superstition or
conviction is not, however, to be upset by evidence, and the locality
of the monarchy was merely transferred by the people to Africa, and
they fixed upon Abyssinia, with a show of truth, as the seat of the
famous Priest-King. However, still some doubted. John de Plano Carpini
and Marco Polo, though they acknowledged the existence of a Christian
monarch in Abyssinia, yet stoutly maintained as well that the Prester
John of popular belief reigned in splendor somewhere in the dim

But before proceeding with the history of this strange fable, it will
be well to extract the different accounts given of the Priest-King and
his realm by early writers; and we shall then be better able to judge
of the influence the myth obtained in Europe.

Otto of Freisingen is the first author to mention the monarchy of
Prester John with whom we are acquainted. Otto wrote a chronicle up to
the date 1156, and he relates that in 1145 the Catholic Bishop of
Cabala visited Europe to lay certain complaints before the Pope. He
mentioned the fall of Edessa, and also "he stated that a few years ago
a certain King and Priest called John, who lives on the farther side
of Persia and Armenia, in the remote East, and who, with all his
people, were Christians, though belonging to the Nestorian Church, had
overcome the royal brothers Samiardi, kings of the Medes and Persians,
and had captured Ecbatana, their capital and residence. The said kings
had met with their Persian, Median, and Assyrian troops, and had
fought for three consecutive days, each side having determined to die
rather than take to flight. Prester John, for so they are wont to call
him, at length routed the Persians, and after a bloody battle,
remained victorious. After which victory the said John was hastening
to the assistance of the Church at Jerusalem, but his host, on
reaching the Tigris, was hindered from passing, through a deficiency
in boats, and he directed his march North, since he had heard that the
river was there covered with ice. In that place he had waited many
years, expecting severe cold; but the winters having proved
unpropitious, and the severity of the climate having carried off many
soldiers, he had been forced to retreat to his own land. This king
belongs to the family of the Magi, mentioned in the Gospel, and he
rules over the very people formerly governed by the Magi; moreover,
his fame and his wealth are so great, that he uses an emerald sceptre

"Excited by the example of his ancestors, who came to worship Christ
in his cradle, he had proposed to go to Jerusalem, but had been
impeded by the above-mentioned causes."[19]

At the same time the story crops up in other quarters; so that we
cannot look upon Otto as the inventor of the myth. The celebrated
Maimonides alludes to it in a passage quoted by Joshua Lorki, a Jewish
physician to Benedict XIII. Maimonides lived from 1135 to 1204. The
passage is as follows: "It is evident both from the letters of Rambam
(Maimonides), whose memory be blessed, and from the narration of
merchants who have visited the ends of the earth, that at this time
the root of our faith is to be found in the lands of Babel and Teman,
where long ago Jerusalem was an exile; not reckoning those who live in
the land of Paras[20] and Madai,[21] of the exiles of Schomrom, the
number of which people is as the sand: of these some are still under
the yoke of Paras, who is called the Great-Chief Sultan by the Arabs;
others live in a place under the yoke of a strange people ... governed
by a Christian chief, Preste-Cuan by name. With him they have made a
compact, and he with them; and this is a matter concerning which there
can be no manner of doubt."

Benjamin of Tudela, another Jew, travelled in the East between the
years 1159 and 1173, the last being the date of his death. He wrote an
account of his travels, and gives in it some information with regard
to a mythical Jew king, who reigned in the utmost splendor over a
realm inhabited by Jews alone, situate somewhere in the midst of a
desert of vast extent. About this period there appeared a document
which produced intense excitement throughout Europe--a letter, yes! a
letter from the mysterious personage himself to Manuel Comnenus,
Emperor of Constantinople (1143-1180). The exact date of this
extraordinary epistle cannot be fixed with any certainty, but it
certainly appeared before 1241, the date of the conclusion of the
chronicle of Albericus Trium Fontium. This Albericus relates that in
the year 1165 "Presbyter Joannes, the Indian king, sent his wonderful
letter to various Christian princes, and especially to Manuel of
Constantinople, and Frederic the Roman Emperor." Similar letters were
sent to Alexander III., to Louis VII. of France, and to the King of
Portugal, which are alluded to in chronicles and romances, and which
were indeed turned into rhyme, and sung all over Europe by minstrels
and trouvères. The letter is as follows:--

"John, Priest by the Almighty power of God and the Might of our Lord
Jesus Christ, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, to his friend Emanuel,
Prince of Constantinople, greeting, wishing him health, prosperity,
and the continuance of Divine favor.

"Our Majesty has been informed that you hold our Excellency in love,
and that the report of our greatness has reached you. Moreover, we
have heard through our treasurer that you have been pleased to send to
us some objects of art and interest, that our Exaltedness might be
gratified thereby.

"Being human, I receive it in good part, and we have ordered our
treasurer to send you some of our articles in return.

"Now we desire to be made certain that you hold the right faith, and
in all things cleave to Jesus Christ, our Lord, for we have heard that
your court regard you as a god, though we know that you are mortal,
and subject to human infirmities.... Should you desire to learn the
greatness and excellency of our Exaltedness and of the land subject to
our sceptre, then hear and believe:--I, Presbyter Johannes, the Lord
of Lords, surpass all under heaven in virtue, in riches, and in power;
seventy-two kings pay us tribute.... In the three Indies our
Magnificence rules, and our land extends beyond India, where rests the
body of the holy Apostle Thomas; it reaches towards the sunrise over
the wastes, and it trends towards deserted Babylon near the tower of
Babel. Seventy-two provinces, of which only a few are Christian, serve
us. Each has its own king, but all are tributary to us.

"Our land is the home of elephants, dromedaries, camels, crocodiles,
meta-collinarum, cametennus, tensevetes, wild asses, white and red
lions, white bears, white merules, crickets, griffins, tigers, lamias,
hyenas, wild horses, wild oxen and wild men, men with horns, one-eyed,
men with eyes before and behind, centaurs, fauns, satyrs, pygmies,
forty-ell-high giants, Cyclopses, and similar women; it is the home,
too, of the phœnix, and of nearly all living animals. We have some
people subject to us who feed on the flesh of men and of prematurely
born animals, and who never fear death. When any of these people die,
their friends and relations eat him ravenously, for they regard it as
a main duty to munch human flesh. Their names are Gog and Magog, Anie,
Agit, Azenach, Fommeperi, Befari, Conei-Samante, Agrimandri,
Vintefolei, Casbei, Alanei. These and similar nations were shut in
behind lofty mountains by Alexander the Great, towards the North. We
lead them at our pleasure against our foes, and neither man nor beast
is left undevoured, if our Majesty gives the requisite permission. And
when all our foes are eaten, then we return with our hosts home again.
These accursed fifteen nations will burst forth from the four quarters
of the earth at the end of the world, in the times of Antichrist, and
overrun all the abodes of the Saints as well as the great city Rome,
which, by the way, we are prepared to give to our son who will be
born, along with all Italy, Germany, the two Gauls, Britain and
Scotland. We shall also give him Spain and all the land as far as the
icy sea. The nations to which I have alluded, according to the words
of the prophet, shall not stand in the judgment, on account of their
offensive practices, but will be consumed to ashes by a fire which
will fall on them from heaven.

"Our land streams with honey, and is overflowing with milk. In one
region grows no poisonous herb, nor does a querulous frog ever quack
in it; no scorpion exists, nor does the serpent glide amongst the
grass, nor can any poisonous animals exist in it, or injure any one.

"Among the heathen, flows through a certain province the River Indus;
encircling Paradise, it spreads its arms in manifold windings through
the entire province. Here are found the emeralds, sapphires,
carbuncles, topazes, chrysolites, onyxes, beryls, sardius, and other
costly stones. Here grows the plant Assidos, which, when worn by any
one, protects him from the evil spirit, forcing it to state its
business and name; consequently the foul spirits keep out of the way
there. In a certain land subject to us, all kinds of pepper is
gathered, and is exchanged for corn and bread, leather and cloth....
At the foot of Mount Olympus bubbles up a spring which changes its
flavor hour by hour, night and day, and the spring is scarcely three
days' journey from Paradise, out of which Adam was driven. If any one
has tasted thrice of the fountain, from that day he will feel no
fatigue, but will, as long as he lives, be as a man of thirty years.
Here are found the small stones called Nudiosi, which, if borne about
the body, prevent the sight from waxing feeble, and restore it where
it is lost. The more the stone is looked at, the keener becomes the
sight. In our territory is a certain waterless sea, consisting of
tumbling billows of sand never at rest. None have crossed this sea; it
lacks water altogether, yet fish are cast up upon the beach of various
kinds, very tasty, and the like are nowhere else to be seen. Three
days' journey from this sea are mountains from which rolls down a
stony, waterless river, which opens into the sandy sea. As soon as the
stream reaches the sea, its stones vanish in it, and are never seen
again. As long as the river is in motion, it cannot be crossed; only
four days a week is it possible to traverse it. Between the sandy sea
and the said mountains, in a certain plain is a fountain of singular
virtue, which purges Christians and would-be Christians from all
transgressions. The water stands four inches high in a hollow stone
shaped like a mussel-shell. Two saintly old men watch by it, and ask
the comers whether they are Christians, or are about to become
Christians, then whether they desire healing with all their hearts. If
they have answered well, they are bidden to lay aside their clothes,
and to step into the mussel. If what they said be true, then the water
begins to rise and gush over their heads; thrice does the water thus
lift itself, and every one who has entered the mussel leaves it cured
of every complaint.

"Near the wilderness trickles between barren mountains a subterranean
rill, which can only by chance be reached, for only occasionally the
earth gapes, and he who would descend must do it with precipitation,
ere the earth closes again. All that is gathered under the ground
there is gem and precious stone. The brook pours into another river,
and the inhabitants of the neighborhood obtain thence abundance of
precious stones. Yet they never venture to sell them without having
first offered them to us for our private use: should we decline them,
they are at liberty to dispose of them to strangers. Boys there are
trained to remain three or four days under water, diving after the

"Beyond the stone river are the ten tribes of the Jews, which, though
subject to their own kings, are, for all that, our slaves and
tributary to our Majesty. In one of our lands, hight Zone, are worms
called in our tongue Salamanders. These worms can only live in fire,
and they build cocoons like silk-worms, which are unwound by the
ladies of our palace, and spun into cloth and dresses, which are worn
by our Exaltedness. These dresses, in order to be cleaned and washed,
are cast into flames.... When we go to war, we have fourteen golden
and bejewelled crosses borne before us instead of banners; each of
these crosses is followed by 10,000 horsemen, and 100,000 foot
soldiers fully armed, without reckoning those in charge of the luggage
and provision.

"When we ride abroad plainly, we have a wooden, unadorned cross,
without gold or gem about it, borne before us, in order that we may
meditate on the sufferings of Our Lord Jesus Christ; also a golden
bowl filled with earth, to remind us of that whence we sprung, and
that to which we must return; but besides these there is borne a
silver bowl full of gold, as a token to all that we are the Lord of

"All riches, such as are upon the world, our Magnificence possesses in
superabundance. With us no one lies, for he who speaks a lie is
thenceforth regarded as dead; he is no more thought of, or honored by
us. No vice is tolerated by us. Every year we undertake a pilgrimage,
with retinue of war, to the body of the holy prophet Daniel, which is
near the desolated site of Babylon. In our realm fishes are caught,
the blood of which dyes purple. The Amazons and the Brahmins are
subject to us. The palace in which our Supereminency resides, is built
after the pattern of the castle built by the Apostle Thomas for the
Indian king Gundoforus. Ceilings, joists, and architrave are of Sethym
wood, the roof of ebony, which can never catch fire. Over the gable of
the palace are, at the extremities, two golden apples, in each of
which are two carbuncles, so that the gold may shine by day, and the
carbuncles by night. The greater gates of the palace are of sardius,
with the horn of the horned snake inwrought, so that no one can bring
poison within.

"The other portals are of ebony. The windows are of crystal; the
tables are partly of gold, partly of amethyst, and the columns
supporting the tables are partly of ivory, partly of amethyst. The
court in which we watch the jousting is floored with onyx in order to
increase the courage of the combatants. In the palace, at night,
nothing is burned for light but wicks supplied with balsam.... Before
our palace stands a mirror, the ascent to which consists of five and
twenty steps of porphyry and serpentine." After a description of the
gems adorning this mirror, which is guarded night and day by three
thousand armed men, he explains its use: "We look therein and behold
all that is taking place in every province and region subject to our

"Seven kings wait upon us monthly, in turn, with sixty-two dukes, two
hundred and fifty-six counts and marquises: and twelve archbishops
sit at table with us on our right, and twenty bishops on the left,
besides the patriarch of St. Thomas, the Sarmatian Protopope, and the
Archpope of Susa.... Our lord high steward is a primate and king, our
cup-bearer is an archbishop and king, our chamberlain a bishop and
king, our marshal a king and abbot."

I may be spared further extracts from this extraordinary letter, which
proceeds to describe the church in which Prester John worships, by
enumerating the precious stones of which it is constructed, and their
special virtues.

Whether this letter was in circulation before Pope Alexander wrote
his, it is not easy to decide. Alexander does not allude to it, but
speaks of the reports which have reached him of the piety and the
magnificence of the Priest-King. At the same time, there runs a tone
of bitterness through the letter, as though the Pope had been galled
at the pretensions of this mysterious personage, and perhaps winced
under the prospect of the man-eaters overrunning Italy, as suggested
by John the Priest. The papal epistle is an assertion of the claims of
the See of Rome to universal dominion, and it assures the Eastern
Prince-Pope that his Christian professions are worthless, unless he
submits to the successor of Peter. "Not every one that saith unto me,
Lord, Lord," &c., quotes the Pope, and then explains that the will of
God is that every monarch and prelate should eat humble pie to the
Sovereign Pontiff.

Sir John Maundevil gives the origin of the priestly title of the
Eastern despot, in his curious book of travels.

"So it befelle, that this emperour cam, with a Cristene knyght with
him, into a chirche in Egypt: and it was Saterday in Wyttson woke. And
the bishop made orders. And he beheld and listened the servyse fulle
tentyfly: and he asked the Cristene knyght, what men of degree thei
scholden ben, that the prelate had before him. And the knyght
answerede and seyde, that thei scholde ben prestes. And then the
emperour seyde, that he wolde no longer ben clept kyng ne emperour,
but preest: and that he wolde have the name of the first preest, that
wente out of the chirche; and his name was John. And so evere more
sittiens, he is clept Prestre John."

It is probable that the foundation of the whole Prester-John myth lay
in the report which reached Europe of the wonderful successes of
Nestorianism in the East, and there seems reason to believe that the
famous letter given above was a Nestorian fabrication. It certainly
looks un-European; the gorgeous imagery is thoroughly Eastern, and the
disparaging tone in which Rome is spoken of could hardly have been the
expression of Western feelings. The letter has the object in view of
exalting the East in religion and arts to an undue eminence at the
expense of the West, and it manifests some ignorance of European
geography, when it speaks of the land extending from Spain to the
Polar Sea. Moreover, the sites of the patriarchates, and the dignity
conferred on that of St. Thomas, are indications of a Nestorian bias.

A brief glance at the history of this heretical Church may be of value
here, as showing that there really was a foundation for the wild
legends concerning a Christian empire in the East, so prevalent in
Europe. Nestorius, a priest of Antioch and a disciple of St.
Chrysostom, was elevated by the emperor to the patriarchate of
Constantinople, and in the year 428 began to propagate his heresy,
denying the hypostatic union. The Council of Ephesus denounced him,
and, in spite of the emperor and court, Nestorius was anathematized
and driven into exile. His sect spread through the East, and became a
flourishing church. It reached to China, where the emperor was all but
converted; its missionaries traversed the frozen tundras of Siberia,
preaching their maimed Gospel to the wild hordes which haunted those
dreary wastes; it faced Buddhism, and wrestled with it for the
religious supremacy in Thibet; it established churches in Persia and
in Bokhara; it penetrated India; it formed colonies in Ceylon, in
Siam, and in Sumatra; so that the Catholicos or Pope of Bagdad
exercised sway more extensive than that ever obtained by the successor
of St. Peter. The number of Christians belonging to that communion
probably exceeded that of the members of the true Catholic Church in
East and West. But the Nestorian Church was not founded on the Rock;
it rested on Nestorius; and when the rain descended, and the winds
blew, and the floods came, and beat upon that house, it fell, leaving
scarce a fragment behind.

Rubruquis the Franciscan, who in 1253 was sent on a mission into
Tartary, was the first to let in a little light on the fable. He
writes, "The Catai dwelt beyond certain mountains across which I
wandered, and in a plain in the midst of the mountains lived once an
important Nestorian shepherd, who ruled over the Nestorian people,
called Nayman. When Coir-Khan died, the Nestorian people raised this
man to be king, and called him King Johannes, and related of him ten
times as much as the truth. The Nestorians thereabouts have this way
with them, that about nothing they make a great fuss, and thus they
have got it noised abroad that Sartach, Mangu-Khan, and Ken-Khan were
Christians, simply because they treated Christians well, and showed
them more honor than other people. Yet, in fact, they were not
Christians at all. And in like manner the story got about that there
was a great King John. However, I traversed his pastures, and no one
knew anything about him, except a few Nestorians. In his pastures
lives Ken-Khan, at whose court was Brother Andrew, whom I met on my
way back. This Johannes had a brother, a famous shepherd, named Unc,
who lived three weeks' journey beyond the mountains of Caracatais."

This Unk-Khan was a real individual; he lost his life in the year
1203. Kuschhik, prince of the Nayman, and follower of Kor-Khan, fell
in 1218.

Marco Polo, the Venetian traveller (1254-1324), identifies Unk-Khan
with Prester John; he says, "I will now tell you of the deeds of the
Tartars, how they gained the mastery, and spread over the whole earth.
The Tartars dwelt between Georgia and Bargu, where there is a vast
plain and level country, on which are neither cities nor forts, but
capital pasturage and water. They had no chief of their own, but paid
to Prester Johannes tribute. Of the greatness of this Prester
Johannes, who was properly called Un-Khan, the whole world spake; the
Tartars gave him one of every ten head of cattle. When Prester John
noticed that they were increasing, he feared them, and planned how he
could injure them. He determined therefore to scatter them, and he
sent barons to do this. But the Tartars guessed what Prester John
purposed ... and they went away into the wide wastes of the North,
where they might be beyond his reach." He then goes on to relate how
Tschengis-(Jenghiz-)Khan became the head of the Tartars, and how he
fought against Prester John, and, after a desperate fight, overcame
and slew him.

The Syriac Chronicle of the Jacobite Primate, Gregory Bar-Hebræus
(born 1226, died 1286), also identifies Unk-Khan with Prester John.
"In the year of the Greeks 1514, of the Arabs 599 (A. D. 1202), when
Unk-Khan, who is the Christian King John, ruled over a stock of the
barbarian Hunns, called Kergt, Tschingys-Khan served him with great
zeal. When John observed the superiority and serviceableness of the
other, he envied him, and plotted to seize and murder him. But two
sons of Unk-Khan, having heard this, told it to Tschingys; whereupon
he and his comrades fled by night, and secreted themselves. Next
morning Unk-Khan took possession of the Tartar tents, but found them
empty. Then the party of Tschingys fell upon him, and they met by the
spring called Balschunah, and the side of Tschingys won the day; and
the followers of Unk-Khan were compelled to yield. They met again
several times, till Unk-Khan was utterly discomfited, and was slain
himself, and his wives, sons, and daughters carried into captivity.
Yet we must consider that King John the Kergtajer was not cast down
for nought; nay, rather, because he had turned his heart from the fear
of Christ his Lord, who had exalted him, and had taken a wife of the
Zinish nation, called Quarakhata. Because he forsook the religion of
his ancestors and followed strange gods, therefore God took the
government from him, and gave it to one better than he, and whose
heart was right before God."

Some of the early travellers, such as John de Plano Carpini and Marco
Polo, in disabusing the popular mind of the belief in Prester John as
a mighty Asiatic Christian monarch, unintentionally turned the popular
faith in that individual into a new direction. They spoke of the black
people of Abascia in Ethiopia, which, by the way, they called Middle
India, as a great people subject to a Christian monarch.

Marco Polo says that the true monarch of Abyssinia is Christ; but that
it is governed by six kings, three of whom are Christians and three
Saracens, and that they are in league with the Soudan of Aden.

Bishop Jordanus, in his description of the world, accordingly sets
down Abyssinia as the kingdom of Prester John; and such was the
popular impression, which was confirmed by the appearance at intervals
of ambassadors at European courts from the King of Abyssinia. The
discovery of the Cape of Good Hope was due partly to a desire
manifested in Portugal to open communications with this monarch,[22]
and King John II. sent two men learned in Oriental languages through
Egypt to the court of Abyssinia. The might and dominion of this
prince, who had replaced the Tartar chief in the popular creed as
Prester John, was of course greatly exaggerated, and was supposed to
extend across Arabia and Asia to the wall of China. The spread of
geographical knowledge has contracted the area of his dominions, and a
critical acquaintance with history has exploded the myth which
invested Unk-Khan, the nomad chief, with all the attributes of a
demigod, uniting in one the utmost pretensions of a Pope and the
proudest claims of a monarch.


[19] Otto, Ep. Frising., lib. vii. c. 33.

[20] Persia.

[21] Media.

[22] Ludolfi Hist. Æthiopica, lib. ii. cap. 1, 2. Petrus, Petri filius
Lusitaniæ princeps, M. Pauli Veneti librum (qui de Indorum rebus
multa: speciatim vero de Presbytero Johanne aliqua magnifice scripsit)
Venetiis secum in patriam detulerat, qui (Chronologicis Lusitanorum
testantibus) præcipuam Johanni Regi ansam dedit Indicæ navigationis,
quam Henricus Johannis I. filius, patruus ejus, tentaverat,
prosequendæ, &c.

The Divining Rod.

From the remotest period a rod has been regarded as the symbol of
power and authority, and Holy Scripture employs it in the popular
sense. Thus David speaks of "Thy rod and Thy staff comforting me;" and
Moses works his miracles before Pharaoh with the rod as emblem of
Divine commission. It was his rod which became a serpent, which turned
the water of Egypt into blood, which opened the waves of the Red Sea
and restored them to their former level, which "smote the rock of
stone so that the water gushed out abundantly." The rod of Aaron acted
an oracular part in the contest with the princes; laid up before the
ark, it budded and brought forth almonds. In this instance we have it
no longer as a symbol of authority, but as a means of divining the
will of God. And as such it became liable to abuse; thus Hosea rebukes
the chosen people for practising similar divinations. "My people ask
counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them."[23]

Long before this, Jacob had made a different use of rods, employing
them as a charm to make his father-in-law's sheep bear pied and
spotted lambs.

We find rhabdomancy a popular form of divination among the Greeks, and
also among the Romans. Cicero in his "De Officiis" alludes to it. "If
all that is needful for our nourishment and support arrives to us by
means of some divine rod, as people say, then each of us, free from
all care and trouble, may give himself up to the exclusive pursuit of
study and science."

Probably it is to this rod that the allusion of Ennius, as the agent
in discovering hidden treasures, quoted in the first book of his "De
Divinatione," refers.

According to Vetranius Maurus, Varro left a satire on the "Virgula
divina," which has not been preserved. Tacitus tells us that the
Germans practised some sort of divination by means of rods. "For the
purpose their method is simple. They cut a rod off some fruit-tree
into bits, and after having distinguished them by various marks, they
cast them into a white cloth.... Then the priest thrice draws each
piece, and explains the oracle according to the marks." Ammianus
Marcellinus says that the Alains employed an osier rod.

The fourteenth law of the Frisons ordered that the discovery of
murders should be made by means of divining rods used in Church. These
rods should be laid before the altar, and on the sacred relics, after
which God was to be supplicated to indicate the culprit. This was
called the Lot of Rods, or Tan-teen, the Rod of Rods.

But the middle ages was the date of the full development of the
superstition, and the divining rod was believed to have efficacy in
discovering hidden treasures, veins of precious metal, springs of
water, thefts, and murders. The first notice of its general use among
late writers is in the "Testamentum Novum," lib. i. cap. 25, of Basil
Valentine, a Benedictine monk of the fifteenth century. Basil speaks
of the general faith in and adoption of this valuable instrument for
the discovery of metals, which is carried by workmen in mines, either
in their belts or in their caps. He says that there are seven names by
which this rod is known, and to its excellences under each title he
devotes a chapter of his book. The names are: Divine Rod, Shining Rod,
Leaping Rod, Transcendent Rod, Trembling Rod, Dipping Rod, Superior
Rod. In his admirable treatise on metals, Agricola speaks of the rod
in terms of disparagement; he considers its use as a relic of ancient
magical forms, and he says that it is only irreligious workmen who
employ it in their search after metals. Goclenius, however, in his
treatise on the virtue of plants, stoutly does battle for the
properties of the hazel rod. Whereupon Roberti, a Flemish Jesuit,
falls upon him tooth and nail, disputes his facts, overwhelms him with
abuse, and gibbets him for popular ridicule. Andreas Libavius, a
writer I have already quoted in my article on the Wandering Jew,
undertook a series of experiments upon the hazel divining rod, and
concluded that there was truth in the popular belief. The Jesuit
Kircher also "experimentalized several times on wooden rods which were
declared to be sympathetic with regard to certain metals, by placing
them on delicate pivots in equilibrium; but they never turned on the
approach of metal." (De Arte Magnetica.) However, a similar course of
experiments over water led him to attribute to the rod the power of
indicating subterranean springs and water-courses; "I would not affirm
it," he says, "unless I had established the fact by my own

Dechales, another Jesuit, author of a treatise on natural springs, and
of a huge tome entitled "Mundus Mathematicus," declared in the latter
work, that no means of discovering sources is equal to the divining
rod; and he quotes a friend of his who, with a hazel rod in his hand,
could discover springs with the utmost precision and facility, and
could trace on the surface of the ground the course of a subterranean
conduit. Another writer, Saint-Romain, in his "Science dégagée des
Chimères de l'École," exclaims, "Is it not astonishing to see a rod,
which is held firmly in the hands, bow itself and turn visibly in the
direction of water or metal, with more or less promptitude, according
as the metal or the water are near or remote from the surface!"

In 1659 the Jesuit Gaspard Schott writes that the rod is used in every
town of Germany, and that he had frequent opportunity of seeing it
used in the discovery of hidden treasures. "I searched with the
greatest care," he adds, "into the question whether the hazel rod had
any sympathy with gold and silver, and whether any natural property
set it in motion. In like manner I tried whether a ring of metal, held
suspended by a thread in the midst of a tumbler, and which strikes the
hours, is moved by any similar force. I ascertained that these effects
could only have rise from the deception of those holding the rod or
the pendulum, or, may be, from some diabolic impulsion, or, more
likely still, because imagination sets the hand in motion."

The Sieur le Royer, a lawyer of Rouen, in 1674, published his "Traité
du Bâton universel," in which he gives an account of a trial made with
the rod in the presence of Father Jean François, who had ridiculed the
operation in his treatise on the science of waters, published at
Rennes in 1655, and which succeeded in convincing the blasphemer of
the divine Rod. Le Royer denies to it the power of picking out
criminals, which had been popularly attributed to it, and as had been
unhesitatingly claimed for it by Debrio in his "Disquisitio Magica."

And now I am brought to the extraordinary story of Jacques Aymar,
which attracted the attention of Europe to the marvellous properties
of the divining rod. I shall give the history of this man in full, as
such an account is rendered necessary by the mutilated versions I have
seen current in English magazine articles, which follow the lead of
Mrs. Crowe, who narrates the earlier portion of this impostor's
career, but says nothing of his _exposé_ and downfall.

On the 5th July, 1692, at about ten o'clock in the evening, a
wine-seller of Lyons and his wife were assassinated in their cellar,
and their money carried off. On the morrow, the officers of justice
arrived, and examined the premises. Beside the corpses, lay a large
bottle wrapped in straw, and a bloody hedging bill, which undoubtedly
had been the instrument used to accomplish the murder. Not a trace of
those who had committed the horrible deed was to be found, and the
magistrates were quite at fault as to the direction in which they
should turn for a clew to the murderer or murderers.

At this juncture a neighbor reminded the magistrates of an incident
which had taken place four years previous. It was this. In 1688 a
theft of clothes had been made in Grenoble. In the parish of Crôle
lived a man named Jacques Aymar, supposed to be endowed with the
faculty of using the divining rod. This man was sent for. On reaching
the spot where the theft had been committed, his rod moved in his
hand. He followed the track indicated by the rod, and it continued to
rotate between his fingers as long as he followed a certain direction,
but ceased to turn if he diverged from it in the smallest degree.
Guided by his rod, Aymar went from street to street, till he was
brought to a standstill before the prison gates. These could not be
opened without leave of the magistrate, who hastened to witness the
experiment. The gates were unlocked, and Aymar, under the same
guidance, directed his steps towards four prisoners lately
incarcerated. He ordered the four to be stood in a line, and then he
placed his foot on that of the first. The rod remained immovable. He
passed to the second, and the rod turned at once. Before the third
prisoner there were no signs; the fourth trembled, and begged to be
heard. He owned himself the thief, along with the second, who also
acknowledged the theft, and mentioned the name of the receiver of the
stolen goods. This was a farmer in the neighborhood of Grenoble. The
magistrate and officers visited him and demanded the articles he had
obtained. The farmer denied all knowledge of the theft and all
participation in the booty. Aymar, however, by means of his rod,
discovered the secreted property, and restored it to the persons from
whom it had been stolen.

On another occasion Aymar had been in quest of a spring of water, when
he felt his rod turn sharply in his hand. On digging at the spot,
expecting to discover an abundant source, the body of a murdered woman
was found in a barrel, with a rope twisted round her neck. The poor
creature was recognized as a woman of the neighborhood who had
vanished four months before. Aymar went to the house which the victim
had inhabited, and presented his rod to each member of the household.
It turned upon the husband of the deceased, who at once took to

The magistrates of Lyons, at their wits' ends how to discover the
perpetrators of the double murder in the wine shop, urged the
Procureur du Roi to make experiment of the powers of Jacques Aymar.
The fellow was sent for, and he boldly asserted his capacity for
detecting criminals, if he were first brought to the spot of the
murder, so as to be put _en rapport_ with the murderers.

He was at once conducted to the scene of the outrage, with the rod in
his hand. This remained stationary as he traversed the cellar, till he
reached the spot where the body of the wine seller had lain; then the
stick became violently agitated, and the man's pulse rose as though he
were in an access of fever. The same motions and symptoms manifested
themselves when he reached the place where the second victim had lain.

Having thus received his _impression_, Aymar left the cellar, and,
guided by his rod, or rather by an internal instinct, he ascended into
the shop, and then stepping into the street, he followed from one to
another, like a hound upon the scent, the track of the murderers. It
conducted him into the court of the archiepiscopal palace, across it,
and down to the gate of the Rhone. It was now evening, and the city
gates being all closed, the quest of blood was relinquished for the

Next morning Aymar returned to the scent. Accompanied by three
officers, he left the gate, and descended the right bank of the Rhone.
The rod gave indications of there having been three involved in the
murder, and he pursued the traces till two of them led to a gardener's
cottage. Into this he entered, and there he asserted with warmth,
against the asseverations of the proprietor to the contrary, that the
fugitives had entered his room, had seated themselves at his table,
and had drunk wine out of one of the bottles which he indicated. Aymar
tested each of the household with his rod, to see if they had been in
contact with the murderers. The rod moved over the two children only,
aged respectively ten and nine years. These little things, on being
questioned, answered, with reluctance, that during their father's
absence on Sunday morning, against his express commands, they had left
the door open, and that two men, whom they described, had come in
suddenly upon them, and had seated themselves and made free with the
wine in the bottle pointed out by the man with the rod. This first
verification of the talents of Jacques Aymar convinced some of the
sceptical, but the Procurateur Général forbade the prosecution of the
experiment till the man had been further tested.

As already stated, a hedging bill had been discovered, on the scene of
the murder, smeared with blood, and unquestionably the weapon with
which the crime had been committed. Three bills from the same maker,
and of precisely the same description, were obtained, and the four
were taken into a garden, and secretly buried at intervals. Aymar was
then brought, staff in hand, into the garden, and conducted over the
spots where lay the bills. The rod began to vibrate as his feet stood
upon the place where was concealed the bill which had been used by the
assassins, but was motionless elsewhere. Still unsatisfied, the four
bills were exhumed and concealed anew. The comptroller of the province
himself bandaged the sorcerer's eyes, and led him by the hand from
place to place. The divining rod showed no signs of movement till it
approached the blood-stained weapon, when it began to oscillate.

The magistrates were now so far satisfied as to agree that Jacques
Aymar should be authorized to follow the trail of the murderers, and
have a company of archers to follow him.

Guided by his rod, Aymar now recommenced his pursuit. He continued
tracing down the right bank of the Rhone till he came to half a league
from the bridge of Lyons. Here the footprints of three men were
observed in the sand, as though engaged in entering a boat. A rowing
boat was obtained, and Aymar, with his escort, descended the river; he
found some difficulty in following the trail upon water; still he was
able, with a little care, to detect it. It brought him under an arch
of the bridge of Vienne, which boats rarely passed beneath. This
proved that the fugitives were without a guide. The way in which this
curious journey was made was singular. At intervals Aymar was put
ashore to test the banks with his rod, and ascertain whether the
murderers had landed. He discovered the places where they had slept,
and indicated the chairs or benches on which they had sat. In this
manner, by slow degrees, he arrived at the military camp of Sablon,
between Vienne and Saint-Valier. There Aymar felt violent agitation,
his cheeks flushed, and his pulse beat with rapidity. He penetrated
the crowds of soldiers, but did not venture to use his rod, lest the
men should take it ill, and fall upon him. He could not do more
without special authority, and was constrained to return to Lyons. The
magistrates then provided him with the requisite powers, and he went
back to the camp. Now he declared that the murderers were not there.
He recommenced his pursuit, and descended the Rhone again as far as

On entering the town he ascertained by means of his rod that those
whom he was pursuing had parted company. He traversed several streets,
then crowded on account of the annual fair, and was brought to a
standstill before the prison doors. One of the murderers was within,
he declared; he would track the others afterwards. Having obtained
permission to enter, he was brought into the presence of fourteen or
fifteen prisoners. Amongst these was a hunchback, who had only an hour
previously been incarcerated on account of a theft he had committed at
the fair. Aymar applied his rod to each of the prisoners in
succession: it turned upon the hunchback. The sorcerer ascertained
that the other two had left the town by a little path leading into the
Nismes road. Instead of following this track, he returned to Lyons
with the hunchback and the guard. At Lyons a triumph awaited him. The
hunchback had hitherto protested his innocence, and declared that he
had never set foot in Lyons. But as he was brought to that town by the
way along which Aymar had ascertained that he had left it, the fellow
was recognized at the different houses where he had lodged the night,
or stopped for food. At the little town of Bagnols, he was confronted
with the host and hostess of a tavern where he and his comrades had
slept, and they swore to his identity, and accurately described his
companions: their description tallied with that given by the children
of the gardener. The wretched man was so confounded by this
recognition, that he avowed having staid there, a few days before,
along with two Provençals. These men, he said, were the criminals; he
had been their servant, and had only kept guard in the upper room
whilst they committed the murders in the cellar.

On his arrival in Lyons he was committed to prison, and his trial was
decided on. At his first interrogation he told his tale precisely as
he had related it before, with these additions: the murderers spoke
patois, and had purchased two bills. At ten o'clock in the evening all
three had entered the wine shop. The Provençals had a large bottle
wrapped in straw, and they persuaded the publican and his wife to
descend with them into the cellar to fill it, whilst he, the
hunchback, acted as watch in the shop. The two men murdered the
wine-seller and his wife with their bills, and then mounted to the
shop, where they opened the coffer, and stole from it one hundred and
thirty crowns, eight louis-d'ors, and a silver belt. The crime
accomplished, they took refuge in the court of a large house,--this
was the archbishop's palace, indicated by Aymar,--and passed the night
in it. Next day, early, they left Lyons, and only stopped for a moment
at a gardener's cottage. Some way down the river, they found a boat
moored to the bank. This they loosed from its mooring and entered.
They came ashore at the spot pointed out by the man with the stick.
They staid some days in the camp at Sablon, and then went on to

Aymar was now sent in quest of the other murderers. He resumed their
trail at the gate of Beaucaire, and that of one of them, after
considerable _détours_, led him to the prison doors of Beaucaire, and
he asked to be allowed to search among the prisoners for his man. This
time he was mistaken. The second fugitive was not within; but the
jailer affirmed that a man whom he described--and his description
tallied with the known appearance of one of the Provençals--had called
at the gate shortly after the removal of the hunchback to inquire
after him, and on learning of his removal to Lyons, had hurried off
precipitately. Aymar now followed his track from the prison, and this
brought him to that of the third criminal. He pursued the double scent
for some days. But it became evident that the two culprits had been
alarmed at what had transpired in Beaucaire, and were flying from
France. Aymar traced them to the frontier, and then returned to Lyons.

On the 30th of August, 1692, the poor hunchback was, according to
sentence, broken on the wheel, in the Place des Terreaux. On his way
to execution he had to pass the wine shop. There the recorder publicly
read his sentence, which had been delivered by thirty judges. The
criminal knelt and asked pardon of the poor wretches in whose murder
he was involved, after which he continued his course to the place
fixed for his execution.

It may be well here to give an account of the authorities for this
extraordinary story. There are three circumstantial accounts, and
numerous letters written by the magistrate who sat during the trial,
and by an eye-witness of the whole transaction, men honorable and
disinterested, upon whose veracity not a shadow of doubt was supposed
to rest by their contemporaries.

M. Chauvin, Doctor of Medicine, published a "_Lettre à Mme. la
Marquise de Senozan, sur les moyens dont on s'est servi pour découvrir
les complices d'un assassinat commis à Lyon, le 5 Juillet, 1692_."
Lyons, 1692. The _procès-verbal_ of the Procureur du Roi, M. de
Vanini, is also extant, and published in the _Physique occulte_ of the
Abbé de Vallemont.

Pierre Gamier, Doctor of Medicine of the University of Montpellier,
wrote a _Dissertation physique en forme de lettre, à M. de Sève,
seigneur de Fléchères_, on Jacques Aymar, printed the same year at
Lyons, and republished in the _Histoire critique des pratiques
superstitieuses du Père Lebrun_.

Doctor Chauvin was witness of nearly all the circumstances related, as
was also the Abbé Lagarde, who has written a careful account of the
whole transaction as far as to the execution of the hunchback.

Another eye-witness writes to the Abbé Bignon a letter printed by
Lebrun in his _Histoire critique_ cited above. "The following
circumstance happened to me yesterday evening," he says: "M. le
Procureur du Roi here, who, by the way, is one of the wisest and
cleverest men in the country, sent for me at six o'clock, and had me
conducted to the scene of the murder. We found there M. Grimaut,
director of the customs, whom I knew to be a very upright man, and a
young attorney named Besson, with whom I am not acquainted, but who M.
le Procureur du Roi told me had the power of using the rod as well as
M. Grimaut. We descended into the cellar where the murder had been
committed, and where there were still traces of blood. Each time that
M. Grimaut and the attorney passed the spot where the murder had been
perpetrated, the rods they held in their hands began to turn, but
ceased when they stepped beyond the spot. We tried experiments for
more than an hour, as also with the bill, which M. le Procureur had
brought along with him, and they were satisfactory. I observed several
curious facts in the attorney. The rod in his hands was more violently
moved than in those of M. Grimaut, and when I placed one of my fingers
in each of his hands, whilst the rod turned, I felt the most
extraordinary throbbings of the arteries in his palms. His pulse was
at fever heat. He sweated profusely, and at intervals he was compelled
to go into the court to obtain fresh air."

The Sieur Pauthot, Dean of the College of Medicine at Lyons, gave his
observations to the public as well. Some of them are as follows: "We
began at the cellar in which the murder had been committed; into this
the man with the rod (Aymar) shrank from entering, because he felt
violent agitations which overcame him when he used the stick over the
place where the corpses of those who had been assassinated had lain.
On entering the cellar, the rod was put in my hands, and arranged by
the master as most suitable for operation; I passed and repassed over
the spot where the bodies had been found, but it remained immovable,
and I felt no agitation. A lady of rank and merit, who was with us,
took the rod after me; she felt it begin to move, and was internally
agitated. Then the owner of the rod resumed it, and, passing over the
same places, the stick rotated with such violence that it seemed
easier to break than to stop it. The peasant then quitted our company
to faint away, as was his wont after similar experiments. I followed
him. He turned very pale and broke into a profuse perspiration, whilst
for a quarter of an hour his pulse was violently troubled; indeed, the
faintness was so considerable, that they were obliged to dash water in
his face and give him water to drink in order to bring him round." He
then describes experiments made over the bloody bill and others
similar, which succeeded in the hands of Aymar and the lady, but
failed when he attempted them himself. Pierre Garnier, physician of
the medical college of Montpellier, appointed to that of Lyons, has
also written an account of what he saw, as mentioned above. He gives a
curious proof of Aymar's powers.

"M. le Lieutenant-Général having been robbed by one of his lackeys,
seven or eight months ago, and having lost by him twenty-five crowns
which had been taken out of one of the cabinets behind his library,
sent for Aymar, and asked him to discover the circumstances. Aymar
went several times round the chamber, rod in hand, placing one foot on
the chairs, on the various articles of furniture, and on two bureaux
which are in the apartment, each of which contains several drawers. He
fixed on the very bureau and the identical drawer out of which the
money had been stolen. M. le Lieutenant-Général bade him follow the
track of the robber. He did so. With his rod he went out on a new
terrace, upon which the cabinet opens, thence back into the cabinet
and up to the fire, then into the library, and from thence he went
direct up stairs to the lackeys' sleeping apartment, when the rod
guided him to one of the beds, and turned over one side of the bed,
remaining motionless over the other. The lackeys then present cried
out that the thief had slept on the side indicated by the rod, the bed
having been shared with another footman, who occupied the further
side." Garnier gives a lengthy account of various experiments he made
along with the Lieutenant-Général, the uncle of the same, the Abbé de
St. Remain, and M. de Puget, to detect whether there was imposture in
the man. But all their attempts failed to discover a trace of
deception. He gives a report of a verbal examination of Aymar which is
interesting. The man always replied with candor.

The report of the extraordinary discovery of murder made by the
divining rod at Lyons attracted the attention of Paris, and Aymar was
ordered up to the capital. There, however, his powers left him. The
Prince de Condé submitted him to various tests, and he broke down
under every one. Five holes were dug in the garden. In one was
secreted gold, in another silver, in a third silver and gold, in the
fourth copper, and in the fifth stones. The rod made no signs in
presence of the metals, and at last actually began to move over the
buried pebbles. He was sent to Chantilly to discover the perpetrators
of a theft of trout made in the ponds of the park. He went round the
water, rod in hand, and it turned at spots where he said the fish had
been drawn out. Then, following the track of the thief, it led him to
the cottage of one of the keepers, but did not move over any of the
individuals then in the house. The keeper himself was absent, but
arrived late at night, and, on hearing what was said, he roused Aymar
from his bed, insisting on having his innocence vindicated. The
divining rod, however, pronounced him guilty, and the poor fellow took
to his heels, much upon the principle recommended by Montesquieu a
while after. Said he, "If you are accused of having stolen the towers
of Notre-Dame, bolt at once."

A peasant, taken at haphazard from the street, was brought to the
sorcerer as one suspected. The rod turned slightly, and Aymar declared
that the man did not steal the fish, but ate of them. A boy was then
introduced, who was said to be the keeper's son. The rod rotated
violently at once. This was the finishing stroke, and Aymar was sent
away by the Prince in disgrace. It now transpired that the theft of
fish had taken place seven years before, and the lad was no relation
of the keeper, but a country boy who had only been in Chantilly eight
or ten months. M. Goyonnot, Recorder of the King's Council, broke a
window in his house, and sent for the diviner, to whom he related a
story of his having been robbed of valuables during the night. Aymar
indicated the broken window as the means whereby the thief had entered
the house, and pointed out the window by which he had left it with the
booty. As no such robbery had been committed, Aymar was turned out of
the house as an impostor. A few similar cases brought him into such
disrepute that he was obliged to leave Paris, and return to Grenoble.

Some years after, he was made use of by the Maréchal Montrevel, in his
cruel pursuit of the Camisards.

Was Aymar an impostor from first to last, or did his powers fail him
in Paris? and was it only then that he had recourse to fraud?

Much may be said in favor of either supposition. His _exposé_ at Paris
tells heavily against him, but need not be regarded as conclusive
evidence of imposture throughout his career. If he really did possess
the powers he claimed, it is not to be supposed that these existed in
full vigor under all conditions; and Paris is a place most unsuitable
for testing them, built on artificial soil, and full of disturbing
influences of every description. It has been remarked with others who
used the rod, that their powers languished under excitement, and that
the faculties had to be in repose, the attention to be concentrated on
the subject of inquiry, or the action--nervous, magnetic, or
electrical, or what you will--was impeded.

Now, Paris, visited for the first time by a poor peasant, its
_salons_ open to him, dazzling him with their splendor, and the
novelty of finding himself in the midst of princes, dukes, marquises,
and their families, not only may have agitated the countryman to such
an extent as to deprive him of his peculiar faculty, but may have led
him into simulating what he felt had departed from him, at the moment
when he was under the eyes of the grandees of the Court. We have
analogous cases in Bleton and Angelique Cottin. The former was a
hydroscope, who fell into convulsions whenever he passed over running
water. This peculiarity was noticed in him when a child of seven years
old. When brought to Paris, he failed signally to detect the presence
of water conveyed underground by pipes and conduits, but he pretended
to feel the influence of water where there certainly was none.
Angelique Cottin was a poor girl, highly charged with electricity. Any
one touching her received a violent shock; one medical gentleman,
having seated her on his knee, was knocked clean out of his chair by
the electric fluid, which thus exhibited its sense of propriety. But
the electric condition of Angelique became feebler as she approached
Paris, and failed her altogether in the capital.

I believe that the imagination is the principal motive force in those
who use the divining rod; but whether it is so solely, I am unable to
decide. The powers of nature are so mysterious and inscrutable that we
must be cautious in limiting them, under abnormal conditions, to the
ordinary laws of experience.

  [Illustration: {How to hold a divining rod.}]

The manner in which the rod was used by certain persons renders
self-deception possible. The rod is generally of hazel, and is forked
like a Y; the forefingers are placed against the diverging arms of the
rod, and the elbows are brought back against the side; thus the
implement is held in front of the operator, delicately balanced before
the pit of the stomach at a distance of about eight inches. Now, if
the pressure of the balls of the digits be in the least relaxed, the
stalk of the rod will naturally fall. It has been assumed by some,
that a restoration of the pressure will bring the stem up again,
pointing towards the operator, and a little further pressure will
elevate it into a perpendicular position. A relaxation of force will
again lower it, and thus the rotation observed in the rod be
maintained. I confess myself unable to accomplish this. The lowering
of the leg of the rod is easy enough, but no efforts of mine to
produce a revolution on its axis have as yet succeeded. The muscles
which would contract the fingers upon the arms of the stick, pass the
shoulder; and it is worthy of remark that one of the medical men who
witnessed the experiments made on Bleton the hydroscope, expressly
alludes to a slight rising of the shoulders during the rotation of the
divining rod.

But the manner of using the rod was by no means identical in all
cases. If, in all cases, it had simply been balanced between the
fingers, some probability might be given to the suggestion above made,
that the rotation was always effected by the involuntary action of the

The usual manner of holding the rod, however, precluded such a
possibility. The most ordinary use consisted in taking a forked stick
in such a manner that the palms were turned upwards, and the fingers
closed upon the branching arms of the rod. Some required the normal
position of the rod to be horizontal, others elevated the point,
others again depressed it.

If the implement were straight, it was held in a similar manner, but
the hands were brought somewhat together, so as to produce a slight
arc in the rod. Some who practised rhabdomancy sustained this species
of rod between their thumbs and forefingers; or else the thumb and
forefingers were closed, and the rod rested on their points; or again
it reposed on the flat of the hand, or on the back, the hand being
held vertically and the rod held in equilibrium.

A third species of divining rod consisted in a straight staff cut in
two: one extremity of the one half was hollowed out, the other half
was sharpened at the end, and this end was inserted in the hollow, and
the pointed stick rotated in the cavity.

  [Illustration: POSITIONS OF THE HANDS.
    From "Lettres qui découvrent l'Illusion des Philosophes sur la
    Baguette." Paris, 1693.]

The way in which Bleton used his rod is thus minutely described: "He
does not grasp it, nor warm it in his hands, and he does not regard
with preference a hazel branch lately cut and full of sap. He
places horizontally between his forefingers a rod of any kind given to
him, or picked up in the road, of any sort of wood except elder, fresh
or dry, not always forked, but sometimes merely bent. If it is
straight, it rises slightly at the extremities by little jerks, but
does not turn. If bent, it revolves on its axis with more or less
rapidity, in more or less time, according to the quantity and current
of the water. I counted from thirty to thirty-five revolutions in a
minute, and afterwards as many as eighty. A curious phenomenon is,
that Bleton is able to make the rod turn between another person's
fingers, even without seeing it or touching it, by approaching his
body towards it when his feet stand over a subterranean watercourse.
It is true, however, that the motion is much less strong and less
durable in other fingers than his own. If Bleton stood on his head,
and placed the rod between his feet, though he felt strongly the
peculiar sensations produced in him by flowing water, yet the rod
remained stationary. If he were insulated on glass, silk, or wax, the
sensations were less vivid, and the rotation of the stick ceased."

But this experiment failed in Paris, under circumstances which either
proved that Bleton's imagination produced the movement, or that his
integrity was questionable. It is quite possible that in many
instances the action of the muscles is purely involuntary, and is
attributable to the imagination, so that the operator deceives himself
as well as others.

This is probably the explanation of the story of Mdlle. Olivet, a
young lady of tender conscience, who was a skilful performer with the
divining rod, but shrank from putting her powers in operation, lest
she should be indulging in unlawful acts. She consulted the Père
Lebrun, author of a work already referred to in this paper, and he
advised her to ask God to withdraw the power from her, if the exercise
of it was harmful to her spiritual condition. She entered into retreat
for two days, and prayed with fervor. Then she made her communion,
asking God what had been recommended to her at the moment when she
received the Host. In the afternoon of the same day she made
experiment with her rod, and found that it would no longer operate.
The girl had strong faith in it before--a faith coupled with fear; and
as long as that faith was strong in her, the rod moved; now she
believed that the faculty was taken from her; and the power ceased
with the loss of her faith.

If the divining rod is put in motion by any other force except the
involuntary action of the muscles, we must confine its powers to the
property of indicating the presence of flowing water. There are
numerous instances of hydroscopes thus detecting the existence of a
spring, or of a subterranean watercourse; the most remarkably endowed
individuals of this description are Jean-Jacques Parangue, born near
Marseilles, in 1760, who experienced a horror when near water which no
one else perceived. He was endowed with the faculty of seeing water
through the ground, says l'Abbé Sauri, who gives his history. Jenny
Leslie, a Scotch girl, about the same date claimed similar powers. In
1790, Pennet, a native of Dauphiné, attracted attention in Italy, but
when carefully tested by scientific men in Padua, his attempts to
discover buried metals failed; at Florence he was detected in an
endeavor to find out by night what had been secreted to test his
powers on the morrow. Vincent Amoretti was an Italian, who underwent
peculiar sensations when brought in proximity to water, coal, and
salt; he was skilful in the use of the rod, but made no public
exhibition of his powers.

The rod is still employed, I have heard it asserted, by Cornish
miners; but I have never been able to ascertain that such is really
the case. The mining captains whom I have questioned invariably
repudiated all knowledge of its use.

In Wiltshire, however, it is still employed for the purpose of
detecting water; and the following extract from a letter I have just
received will show that it is still in vogue on the Continent:--

"I believe the use of the divining rod for discovering springs of
water has by no means been confined to mediæval times; for I was
personally acquainted with a lady, now deceased, who has successfully
practised with it in this way. She was a very clever and accomplished
woman; Scotch by birth and education; by no means credulous; possibly
a little imaginative, for she wrote not unsuccessfully; and of a
remarkably open and straightforward disposition. Captain C----, her
husband, had a large estate in Holstein, near Lubeck, supporting a
considerable population; and whether for the wants of the people or
for the improvement of the land, it now and then happened that an
additional well was needed.

"On one of these occasions a man was sent for who made a regular
profession of finding water by the divining rod; there happened to be
a large party staying at the house, and the whole company turned out
to see the fun. The rod gave indications in the usual way, and water
was ultimately found at the spot. Mrs. C----, utterly sceptical, took
the rod into her own hands to make experiment, believing that she
would prove the man an impostor; and she said afterwards she was never
more frightened in her life than when it began to move, on her walking
over the spring. Several other gentlemen and ladies tried it, but it
was quite inactive in their hands. 'Well,' said the host to his wife,
'we shall have no occasion to send for the man again, as you are such
an adept.'

"Some months after this, water was wanted in another part of the
estate, and it occurred to Mrs. C---- that she would use the rod
again. After some trials, it again gave decided indications, and a
well was begun and carried down a very considerable depth. At last she
began to shrink from incurring more expense, but the laborers had
implicit faith; and begged to be allowed to persevere. Very soon the
water burst up with such force that the men escaped with difficulty;
and this proved afterwards the most unfailing spring for miles round.

"You will take the above for what it is worth; the facts I have given
are undoubtedly true, whatever conclusions may be drawn from them. I
do not propose that you should print my narrative, but I think in
these cases personal testimony, even indirect, is more useful in
forming one's opinion than a hundred old volumes. I did not hear it
from Mrs. C----'s own lips, but I was sufficiently acquainted with her
to form a very tolerable estimate of her character; and my wife, who
has known her intimately from her own childhood, was in her younger
days often staying with her for months together."

I remember having been much perplexed by reading a series of
experiments made with a pendulous ring over metals, by a Mr. Mayo: he
ascertained that it oscillated in various directions under peculiar
circumstances, when suspended by a thread over the ball of the thumb.
I instituted a series of experiments, and was surprised to find the
ring vibrate in an unaccountable manner in opposite directions over
different metals. On consideration, I closed my eyes whilst the ring
was oscillating over gold, and on opening them I found that it had
become stationary. I got a friend to change the metals whilst I was
blindfolded--the ring no longer vibrated. I was thus enabled to judge
of the involuntary action of muscles, quite sufficient to have
deceived an eminent medical man like Mr. Mayo, and to have perplexed
me till I succeeded in solving the mystery.[24]


[23] Hos. iv. 12.

[24] A similar series of experiments was undertaken, as I learned
afterwards, by M. Chevreuil in Paris, with similar results.

The Seven Sleepers of Ephesus.

One of the most picturesque myths of ancient days is that which forms
the subject of this article. It is thus told by Jacques de Voragine,
in his "Legenda Aurea:"--

    "The seven sleepers were natives of Ephesus. The Emperor
    Decius, who persecuted the Christians, having come to
    Ephesus, ordered the erection of temples in the city, that
    all might come and sacrifice before him; and he commanded
    that the Christians should be sought out and given their
    choice, either to worship the idols, or to die. So great was
    the consternation in the city, that the friend denounced his
    friend, the father his son, and the son his father.

    "Now there were in Ephesus seven Christians, Maximian,
    Malchus, Marcian, Dionysius, John, Serapion, and Constantine
    by name. These refused to sacrifice to the idols, and
    remained in their houses praying and fasting. They were
    accused before Decius, and they confessed themselves to be
    Christians. However, the emperor gave them a little time to
    consider what line they would adopt. They took advantage of
    this reprieve to dispense their goods among the poor, and
    then they retired, all seven, to Mount Celion, where they
    determined to conceal themselves.

    "One of their number, Malchus, in the disguise of a
    physician, went to the town to obtain victuals. Decius, who
    had been absent from Ephesus for a little while, returned,
    and gave orders for the seven to be sought. Malchus, having
    escaped from the town, fled, full of fear, to his comrades,
    and told them of the emperor's fury. They were much alarmed;
    and Malchus handed them the loaves he had bought, bidding
    them eat, that, fortified by the food, they might have
    courage in the time of trial. They ate, and then, as they sat
    weeping and speaking to one another, by the will of God they
    fell asleep.

    "The pagans sought everywhere, but could not find them, and
    Decius was greatly irritated at their escape. He had their
    parents brought before him, and threatened them with death
    if they did not reveal the place of concealment; but they
    could only answer that the seven young men had distributed
    their goods to the poor, and that they were quite ignorant as
    to their whereabouts.

    "Decius, thinking it possible that they might be hiding in a
    cavern, blocked up the mouth with stones, that they might
    perish of hunger.

    "Three hundred and sixty years passed, and in the thirtieth
    year of the reign of Theodosius, there broke forth a heresy
    denying the resurrection of the dead....

    "Now, it happened that an Ephesian was building a stable on
    the side of Mount Celion, and finding a pile of stones handy,
    he took them for his edifice, and thus opened the mouth of
    the cave. Then the seven sleepers awoke, and it was to them
    as if they had slept but a single night. They began to ask
    Malchus what decision Decius had given concerning them.

    "'He is going to hunt us down, so as to force us to sacrifice
    to the idols,' was his reply. 'God knows,' replied Maximian,
    'we shall never do that.' Then exhorting his companions, he
    urged Malchus to go back to the town to buy some more bread,
    and at the same time to obtain fresh information. Malchus
    took five coins and left the cavern. On seeing the stones he
    was filled with astonishment; however, he went on towards the
    city; but what was his bewilderment, on approaching the gate,
    to see over it a cross! He went to another gate, and there he
    beheld the same sacred sign; and so he observed it over each
    gate of the city. He believed that he was suffering from the
    effects of a dream. Then he entered Ephesus, rubbing his
    eyes, and he walked to a baker's shop. He heard people using
    our Lord's name, and he was the more perplexed. 'Yesterday,
    no one dared pronounce the name of Jesus, and now it is on
    every one's lips. Wonderful! I can hardly believe myself to
    be in Ephesus.' He asked a passer-by the name of the city,
    and on being told it was Ephesus, he was thunderstruck. Now
    he entered a baker's shop, and laid down his money. The
    baker, examining the coin, inquired whether he had found a
    treasure, and began to whisper to some others in the shop.
    The youth, thinking that he was discovered, and that they
    were about to conduct him to the emperor, implored them to
    let him alone, offering to leave loaves and money if he might
    only be suffered to escape. But the shop-men, seizing him,
    said, 'Whoever you are, you have found a treasure; show us
    where it is, that we may share it with you, and then we will
    hide you.' Malchus was too frightened to answer. So they put
    a rope round his neck, and drew him through the streets into
    the market-place. The news soon spread that the young man had
    discovered a great treasure, and there was presently a vast
    crowd about him. He stoutly protested his innocence. No one
    recognized him, and his eyes, ranging over the faces which
    surrounded him, could not see one which he had known, or
    which was in the slightest degree familiar to him.

    "St. Martin, the bishop, and Antipater, the governor, having
    heard of the excitement, ordered the young man to be brought
    before them, along with the bakers.

    "The bishop and the governor asked him where he had found the
    treasure, and he replied that he had found none, but that the
    few coins were from his own purse. He was next asked whence
    he came. He replied that he was a native of Ephesus, 'if this
    be Ephesus.'

    "'Send for your relations--your parents, if they live here,'
    ordered the governor.

    "'They live here, certainly,' replied the youth; and he
    mentioned their names. No such names were known in the town.
    Then the governor exclaimed, 'How dare you say that this
    money belonged to your parents when it dates back three
    hundred and seventy-seven years,[25] and is as old as the
    beginning of the reign of Decius, and it is utterly unlike
    our modern coinage? Do you think to impose on the old men and
    sages of Ephesus? Believe me, I shall make you suffer the
    severities of the law till you show where you made the

    "'I implore you,' cried Malchus, 'in the name of God, answer
    me a few questions, and then I will answer yours. Where is
    the Emperor Decius gone to?'

    "The bishop answered, 'My son, there is no emperor of that
    name; he who was thus called died long ago.'

    "Malchus replied, 'All I hear perplexes me more and more.
    Follow me, and I will show you my comrades, who fled with me
    into a cave of Mount Celion, only yesterday, to escape the
    cruelty of Decius. I will lead you to them.'

    "The bishop turned to the governor. 'The hand of God is
    here,' he said. Then they followed, and a great crowd after
    them. And Malchus entered first into the cavern to his
    companions, and the bishop after him.... And there they saw
    the martyrs seated in the cave, with their faces fresh and
    blooming as roses; so all fell down and glorified God. The
    bishop and the governor sent notice to Theodosius, and he
    hurried to Ephesus. All the inhabitants met him and conducted
    him to the cavern. As soon as the saints beheld the emperor,
    their faces shone like the sun, and the emperor gave thanks
    unto God, and embraced them, and said, 'I see you, as though
    I saw the Savior restoring Lazarus.' Maximian replied,
    'Believe us! for the faith's sake, God has resuscitated us
    before the great resurrection day, in order that you may
    believe firmly in the resurrection of the dead. For as the
    child is in its mother's womb living and not suffering, so
    have we lived without suffering, fast asleep.' And having
    thus spoken, they bowed their heads, and their souls
    returned to their Maker. The emperor, rising, bent over them
    and embraced them weeping. He gave them orders for golden
    reliquaries to be made, but that night they appeared to him
    in a dream, and said that hitherto they had slept in the
    earth, and that in the earth they desired to sleep on till
    God should raise them again."

Such is the beautiful story. It seems to have travelled to us from the
East. Jacobus Sarugiensis, a Mesopotamian bishop, in the fifth or
sixth century, is said to have been the first to commit it to writing.
Gregory of Tours (De Glor. Mart. i. 9) was perhaps the first to
introduce it to Europe. Dionysius of Antioch (ninth century) told the
story in Syrian, and Photius of Constantinople reproduced it, with the
remark that Mahomet had adopted it into the Koran. Metaphrastus
alludes to it as well; in the tenth century Eutychius inserted it in
his annals of Arabia; it is found in the Coptic and the Maronite
books, and several early historians, as Paulus Diaconus, Nicephorus,
&c., have inserted it in their works.

A poem on the Seven Sleepers was composed by a trouvère named
Chardri, and is mentioned by M. Fr. Michel in his "Rapports Ministre
de l'Instruction Public;" a German poem on the same subject, of the
thirteenth century, in 935 verses, has been published by M. Karajan;
and the Spanish poet, Augustin Morreto, composed a drama on it,
entitled "Los Siete Durmientes," which is inserted in the 19th volume
of the rare work, "Comedias Nuevas Escogidas de los Mejores Ingenios."

Mahomet has somewhat improved on the story. He has made the Sleepers
prophesy his coming, and he has given them a dog named Kratim, or
Kratimir, which sleeps with them, and which is endowed with the gift
of prophecy.

As a special favor this dog is to be one of the ten animals to be
admitted into his paradise, the others being Jonah's whale, Solomon's
ant, Ishmael's ram, Abraham's calf, the Queen of Sheba's ass, the
prophet Salech's camel, Moses' ox, Belkis' cuckoo, and Mahomet's ass.

It was perhaps too much for the Seven Sleepers to ask, that their
bodies should be left to rest in earth. In ages when saintly relics
were valued above gold and precious stones, their request was sure to
be shelved; and so we find that their remains were conveyed to
Marseilles in a large stone sarcophagus, which is still exhibited in
St. Victor's Church. In the Musæum Victorium at Rome is a curious and
ancient representation of them in a cement of sulphur and plaster.
Their names are engraved beside them, together with certain
attributes. Near Constantine and John are two clubs, near Maximian a
knotty club, near Malchus and Martinian two axes, near Serapion a
burning torch, and near Danesius or Dionysius a great nail, such as
those spoken of by Horace (Lib. 1, Od. 3) and St. Paulinus (Nat. 9, or
Carm. 24) as having been used for torture.

In this group of figures, the seven are represented as young, without
beards, and indeed in ancient martyrologies they are frequently called

It has been inferred from this curious plaster representation, that
the seven may have suffered under Decius, A. D. 250, and have been
buried in the afore-mentioned cave; whilst the discovery and
translation of their relics under Theodosius, in 479, may have given
rise to the fable. And this I think probable enough. The story of
long sleepers and the number seven connected with it is ancient
enough, and dates from heathen mythology.

Like many another ancient myth, it was laid hold of by Christian hands
and baptized.

Pliny relates the story of Epimenides the epic poet, who, when tending
his sheep one hot day, wearied and oppressed with slumber, retreated
into a cave, where he fell asleep. After fifty-seven years he awoke,
and found every thing changed. His brother, whom he had left a
stripling, was now a hoary man.

Epimenides was reckoned one of the seven sages by those who exclude
Periander. He flourished in the time of Solon. After his death, at the
age of two hundred and eighty-nine, he was revered as a god, and
honored especially by the Athenians.

This story is a version of the older legend of the perpetual sleep of
the shepherd Endymion, who was thus preserved in unfading youth and
beauty by Jupiter.

According to an Arabic legend, St. George thrice rose from his grave,
and was thrice slain.

In Scandinavian mythology we have Siegfrid or Sigurd thus resting,
and awaiting his call to come forth and fight. Charlemagne sleeps in
the Odenberg in Hess, or in the Untersberg near Salzburg, seated on
his throne, with his crown on his head and his sword at his side,
waiting till the times of Antichrist are fulfilled, when he will wake
and burst forth to avenge the blood of the saints. Ogier the Dane, or
Olger Dansk, will in like manner shake off his slumber and come forth
from the dream-land of Avallon to avenge the right--O that he had
shown himself in the Schleswig-Holstein war!

Well do I remember, as a child, contemplating with wondering awe the
great Kyffhäuserberg in Thuringia, for therein, I was told, slept
Frederic Barbarossa and his six knights. A shepherd once penetrated
into the heart of the mountain by a cave, and discovered therein a
hall where sat the emperor at a stone table, and his red beard had
grown through the slab. At the tread of the shepherd Frederic awoke
from his slumber, and asked, "Do the ravens still fly over the

"Sire, they do."

"Then we must sleep another hundred years."

But when his beard has wound itself thrice round the table, then will
the emperor awake with his knights, and rush forth to release Germany
from its bondage, and exalt it to the first place among the kingdoms
of Europe.

In Switzerland slumber three Tells at Rutli, near the
Vierwaldstätter-see, waiting for the hour of their country's direst
need. A shepherd crept into the cave where they rest. The third Tell
rose and asked the time. "Noon," replied the shepherd lad. "The time
is not yet come," said Tell, and lay down again.

In Scotland, beneath the Eilden hills, sleeps Thomas of Erceldoune;
the murdered French who fell in the Sicilian Vespers at Palermo are
also slumbering till the time is come when they may wake to avenge
themselves. When Constantinople fell into the hands of the Turks, a
priest was celebrating the sacred mysteries at the great silver altar
of St. Sophia. The celebrant cried to God to protect the sacred host
from profanation. Then the wall opened, and he entered, bearing the
Blessed Sacrament. It closed on him, and there he is sleeping with
his head bowed before the Body of Our Lord, waiting till the Turk is
cast out of Constantinople, and St. Sophia is released from its
profanation. God speed the time!

In Bohemia sleep three miners deep in the heart of the Kuttenberg. In
North America Rip Van Winkle passed twenty years slumbering in the
Katskill mountains. In Portugal it is believed that Sebastian, the
chivalrous young monarch who did his best to ruin his country by his
rash invasion of Morocco, is sleeping somewhere; but he will wake
again to be his country's deliverer in the hour of need. Olaf
Tryggvason is waiting a similar occasion in Norway. Even Napoleon
Bonaparte is believed among some of the French peasantry to be
sleeping on in a like manner.

St. Hippolytus relates that St. John the Divine is slumbering at
Ephesus, and Sir John Mandeville relates the circumstances as follows:
"From Pathmos men gone unto Ephesim a fair citee and nyghe to the see.
And there dyede Seynte Johne, and was buryed behynde the highe
Awtiere, in a toumbe. And there is a faire chirche. For Christene mene
weren wont to holden that place alweyes. And in the tombe of Seynt
John is noughte but manna, that is clept Aungeles mete. For his body
was translated into Paradys. And Turkes holden now alle that place and
the citee and the Chirche. And all Asie the lesse is yclept Turkye.
And ye shalle undrestond, that Seynt Johne bid make his grave there in
his Lyf, and leyd himself there-inne all quyk. And therefore somme men
seyn, that he dyed noughte, but that he resteth there till the Day of
Doom. And forsoothe there is a gret marveule: For men may see there
the erthe of the tombe apertly many tymes steren and moven, as there
weren quykke thinges undre." The connection of this legend of St. John
with Ephesus may have had something to do with turning the seven
martyrs of that city into seven sleepers.

The annals of Iceland relate that, in 1403, a Finn of the name of
Fethmingr, living in Halogaland, in the North of Norway, happening to
enter a cave, fell asleep, and woke not for three whole years, lying
with his bow and arrows at his side, untouched by bird or beast.

There certainly are authentic accounts of persons having slept for an
extraordinary length of time, but I shall not mention any, as I
believe the legend we are considering, not to have been an
exaggeration of facts, but a Christianized myth of paganism. The fact
of the number seven being so prominent in many of the tales, seems to
lead to this conclusion. Barbarossa changes his position every seven
years. Charlemagne starts in his chair at similar intervals. Olger
Dansk stamps his iron mace on the floor once every seven years. Olaf
Redbeard in Sweden uncloses his eyes at precisely the same distances
of time.

I believe that the mythological core of this picturesque legend is the
repose of the earth through the seven winter months. In the North,
Frederic and Charlemagne certainly replace Odin.

The German and Scandinavian still heathen legends represent the heroes
as about to issue forth for the defence of Fatherland in the hour of
direst need. The converted and Christianized tale brings the martyr
youths forth in the hour when a heresy is afflicting the Church, that
they may destroy the heresy by their witness to the truth of the

If there is something majestic in the heathen myth, there are
singular grace and beauty in the Christian tale, teaching, as it does,
such a glorious doctrine; but it is surpassed in delicacy by the
modern form which the same myth has assumed--a form which is a real
transformation, leaving the doctrine taught the same. It has been made
into a romance by Hoffman, and is versified by Trinius. I may perhaps
be allowed to translate with some freedom the poem of the latter:--

    In an ancient shaft of Falun
      Year by year a body lay,
    God-preserved, as though a treasure,
      Kept unto the waking day.

    Not the turmoil, nor the passions,
      Of the busy world o'erhead,
    Sounds of war, or peace rejoicings,
      Could disturb the placid dead.

    Once a youthful miner, whistling,
      Hewed the chamber, now his tomb:
    Crash! the rocky fragments tumbled,
      Closed him in abysmal gloom.

    Sixty years passed by, ere miners
      Toiling, hundred fathoms deep,
    Broke upon the shaft where rested
      That poor miner in his sleep.

    As the gold-grains lie untarnished
      In the dingy soil and sand,
    Till they gleam and flicker, stainless,
      In the digger's sifting hand;--

    As the gem in virgin brilliance
      Rests, till ushered into day;--
    So uninjured, uncorrupted,
      Fresh and fair the body lay.

    And the miners bore it upward,
      Laid it in the yellow sun;
    Up, from out the neighboring houses,
      Fast the curious peasants run.

    "Who is he?" with eyes they question;
      "Who is he?" they ask aloud;
    Hush! a wizened hag comes hobbling,
      Panting, through the wondering crowd.

    O! the cry,--half joy, half sorrow,--
      As she flings her at his side:
    "John! the sweetheart of my girlhood,
      Here am I, am I, thy bride.

    "Time on thee has left no traces,
      Death from wear has shielded thee;
    I am agéd, worn, and wasted,
      O! what life has done to me!"

    Then his smooth, unfurrowed forehead
      Kissed that ancient withered crone;
    And the Death which had divided
      Now united them in one.


[25] This calculation is sadly inaccurate.

William Tell.

I suppose that most people regard William Tell, the hero of
Switzerland, as an historical character, and visit the scenes made
memorable by his exploits, with corresponding interest, when they
undertake the regular Swiss round.

It is one of the painful duties of the antiquarian to dispel many a
popular belief, and to probe the groundlessness of many an historical
statement. The antiquarian is sometimes disposed to ask with Pilate,
"What is truth?" when he finds historical facts crumbling beneath his
touch into mythological fables; and he soon learns to doubt and
question the most emphatic declarations of, and claims to,

Sir Walter Raleigh, in his prison, was composing the second volume of
his History of the World. Leaning on the sill of his window, he
meditated on the duties of the historian to mankind, when suddenly
his attention was attracted by a disturbance in the court-yard before
his cell. He saw one man strike another whom he supposed by his dress
to be an officer; the latter at once drew his sword, and ran the
former through the body. The wounded man felled his adversary with a
stick, and then sank upon the pavement. At this juncture the guard
came up, and carried off the officer insensible, and then the corpse
of the man who had been run through.

Next day Raleigh was visited by an intimate friend, to whom he related
the circumstances of the quarrel and its issue. To his astonishment,
his friend unhesitatingly declared that the prisoner had mistaken the
whole series of incidents which had passed before his eyes.

The supposed officer was not an officer at all, but the servant of a
foreign ambassador; it was he who had dealt the first blow; he had not
drawn his sword, but the other had snatched it from his side, and had
run _him_ through the body before any one could interfere; whereupon a
stranger from among the crowd knocked the murderer down with his
stick, and some of the foreigners belonging to the ambassador's
retinue carried off the corpse. The friend of Raleigh added that
government had ordered the arrest and immediate trial of the murderer,
as the man assassinated was one of the principal servants of the
Spanish ambassador.

"Excuse me," said Raleigh, "but I cannot have been deceived as you
suppose, for I was eye-witness to the events which took place under my
own window, and the man fell there on that spot where you see a
paving-stone standing up above the rest."

"My dear Raleigh," replied his friend, "I was sitting on that stone
when the fray took place, and I received this slight scratch on my
cheek in snatching the sword from the murderer; and upon my word of
honor, you have been deceived upon every particular."

Sir Walter, when alone, took up the second volume of his History,
which was in MS., and contemplating it, thought--"If I cannot believe
my own eyes, how can I be assured of the truth of a tithe of the
events which happened ages before I was born?" and he flung the
manuscript into the fire.[26]

Now, I think that I can show that the story of William Tell is as
fabulous as--what shall I say? any other historical event.

It is almost too well known to need repetition.

In the year 1307, Gessler, Vogt of the Emperor Albert of Hapsburg, set
a hat on a pole, as symbol of imperial power, and ordered every one
who passed by to do obeisance towards it. A mountaineer of the name of
Tell boldly traversed the space before it without saluting the
abhorred symbol. By Gessler's command he was at once seized and
brought before him. As Tell was known to be an expert archer, he was
ordered, by way of punishment, to shoot an apple off the head of his
own son. Finding remonstrance vain, he submitted. The apple was placed
on the child's head, Tell bent his bow, the arrow sped, and apple and
arrow fell together to the ground. But the Vogt noticed that Tell,
before shooting, had stuck another arrow into his belt, and he
inquired the reason.

"It was for you," replied the sturdy archer. "Had I shot my child,
know that it would not have missed your heart."

This event, observe, took place in the beginning of the fourteenth
century. But Saxo Grammaticus, a Danish writer of the twelfth century,
tells the story of a hero of his own country, who lived in the tenth
century. He relates the incident in horrible style as follows:--

"Nor ought what follows to be enveloped in silence. Toki, who had for
some time been in the king's service, had, by his deeds, surpassing
those of his comrades, made enemies of his virtues. One day, when he
had drunk too much, he boasted to those who sat at table with him,
that his skill in archery was such, that with the first shot of an
arrow he could hit the smallest apple set on the top of a stick at a
considerable distance. His detractors, hearing this, lost no time in
conveying what he had said to the king (Harald Bluetooth). But the
wickedness of this monarch soon transformed the confidence of the
father to the jeopardy of the son, for he ordered the dearest pledge
of his life to stand in place of the stick, from whom, if the utterer
of the boast did not at his first shot strike down the apple, he
should with his head pay the penalty of having made an idle boast. The
command of the king urged the soldier to do this, which was so much
more than he had undertaken, the detracting artifices of the others
having taken advantage of words spoken when he was hardly sober. As
soon as the boy was led forth, Toki carefully admonished him to
receive the whir of the arrow as calmly as possible, with attentive
ears, and without moving his head, lest by a slight motion of the body
he should frustrate the experience of his well-tried skill. He also
made him stand with his back towards him, lest he should be frightened
at the sight of the arrow. Then he drew three arrows from his quiver,
and the very first he shot struck the proposed mark. Toki being asked
by the king why he had taken so many more arrows out of his quiver,
when he was to make but one trial with his bow, 'That I might avenge
on thee,' he replied, 'the error of the first, by the points of the
others, lest my innocence might happen to be afflicted, and thy
injustice go unpunished.'"

The same incident is told of Egil, brother of the mythical Velundr,
in the Saga of Thidrik.

In Norwegian history also it appears with variations again and again.
It is told of King Olaf the Saint (d. 1030), that, desiring the
conversion of a brave heathen named Eindridi, he competed with him in
various athletic sports; he swam with him, wrestled, and then shot
with him. The king dared Eindridi to strike a writing-tablet from off
his son's head with an arrow. Eindridi prepared to attempt the
difficult shot. The king bade two men bind the eyes of the child and
hold the napkin, so that he might not move when he heard the whistle
of the arrow. The king aimed first, and the arrow grazed the lad's
head. Eindridi then prepared to shoot; but the mother of the boy
interfered, and persuaded the king to abandon this dangerous test of
skill. In this version, also, Eindridi is prepared to revenge himself
on the king, should the child be injured.

But a closer approximation still to the Tell myth is found in the life
of Hemingr, another Norse archer, who was challenged by King Harald,
Sigurd's son (d. 1066). The story is thus told:--

"The island was densely overgrown with wood, and the people went into
the forest. The king took a spear and set it with its point in the
soil, then he laid an arrow on the string and shot up into the air.
The arrow turned in the air and came down upon the spear-shaft and
stood up in it. Hemingr took another arrow and shot up; his was lost
to sight for some while, but it came back and pierced the nick of the
king's arrow.... Then the king took a knife and stuck it into an oak;
he next drew his bow and planted an arrow in the haft of the knife.
Thereupon Hemingr took his arrows. The king stood by him and said,
'They are all inlaid with gold; you are a capital workman.' Hemingr
answered, 'They are not my manufacture, but are presents.' He shot,
and his arrow cleft the haft, and the point entered the socket of the

"'We must have a keener contest,' said the king, taking an arrow and
flushing with anger; then he laid the arrow on the string and drew his
bow to the farthest, so that the horns were nearly brought to meet.
Away flashed the arrow, and pierced a tender twig. All said that this
was a most astonishing feat of dexterity. But Hemingr shot from a
greater distance, and split a hazel nut. All were astonished to see
this. Then said the king, 'Take a nut and set it on the head of your
brother Bjorn, and aim at it from precisely the same distance. If you
miss the mark, then your life goes.'

"Hemingr answered, 'Sire, my life is at your disposal, but I will not
adventure that shot.' Then out spake Bjorn--'Shoot, brother, rather
than die yourself.' Hemingr said, 'Have you the pluck to stand quite
still without shrinking?' 'I will do my best,' said Bjorn. 'Then let
the king stand by,' said Hemingr, 'and let him see whether I touch the

"The king agreed, and bade Oddr Ufeigs' son stand by Bjorn, and see
that the shot was fair. Hemingr then went to the spot fixed for him by
the king, and signed himself with the cross, saying, 'God be my
witness that I had rather die myself than injure my brother Bjorn; let
all the blame rest on King Harald.'

"Then Hemingr flung his spear. The spear went straight to the mark,
and passed between the nut and the crown of the lad, who was not in
the least injured. It flew farther, and stopped not till it fell.

"Then the king came up and asked Oddr what he thought about the

Years after, this risk was revenged upon the hard-hearted monarch. In
the battle of Stamfordbridge an arrow from a skilled archer penetrated
the windpipe of the king, and it is supposed to have sped, observes
the Saga writer, from the bow of Hemingr, then in the service of the
English monarch.

The story is related somewhat differently in the Faroe Isles, and is
told of Geyti, Aslak's son. The same Harald asks his men if they know
who is his match in strength. "Yes," they reply; "there is a peasant's
son in the uplands, Geyti, son of Aslak, who is the strongest of men."
Forth goes the king, and at last rides up to the house of Aslak. "And
where is your youngest son?"

"Alas! alas! he lies under the green sod of Kolrin kirkgarth." "Come,
then, and show me his corpse, old man, that I may judge whether he was
as stout of limb as men say."

The father puts the king off with the excuse that among so many dead
it would be hard to find his boy. So the king rides away over the
heath. He meets a stately man returning from the chase, with a bow
over his shoulder. "And who art thou, friend?" "Geyti, Aslak's son."
The dead man, in short, alive and well. The king tells him he has
heard of his prowess, and is come to match his strength with him. So
Geyti and the king try a swimming-match.

The king swims well; but Geyti swims better, and in the end gives the
monarch such a ducking, that he is borne to his house devoid of sense
and motion. Harald swallows his anger, as he had swallowed the water,
and bids Geyti shoot a hazel nut from off his brother's head. Aslak's
son consents, and invites the king into the forest to witness his

    "On the string the shaft he laid,
      And God hath heard his prayer;
    He shot the little nut away,
      Nor hurt the lad a hair."

Next day the king sends for the skilful bowman:--

    "List thee, Geyti, Aslak's son,
      And truly tell to me,
    Wherefore hadst thou arrows twain
      In the wood yestreen with thee?"

The bowman replies,--

    "Therefore had I arrows twain
      Yestreen in the wood with me,
    Had I but hurt my brother dear,
      The other had piercéd thee."

A very similar tale is told also in the celebrated Malleus Maleficarum
of a man named Puncher, with this difference, that a coin is placed on
the lad's head instead of an apple or a nut. The person who had dared
Puncher to the test of skill, inquires the use of the second arrow in
his belt, and receives the usual answer, that if the first arrow had
missed the coin, the second would have transfixed a certain heart
which was destitute of natural feeling.

We have, moreover, our English version of the same story in the
venerable ballad of William of Cloudsley.

The Finn ethnologist Castrén obtained the following tale in the
Finnish village of Uhtuwa:--

A fight took place between some freebooters and the inhabitants of the
village of Alajäwi. The robbers plundered every house, and carried off
amongst their captives an old man. As they proceeded with their spoils
along the strand of the lake, a lad of twelve years old appeared from
among the reeds on the opposite bank, armed with a bow, and amply
provided with arrows; he threatened to shoot down the captors unless
the old man, his father, were restored to him. The robbers mockingly
replied that the aged man would be given to him if he could shoot an
apple off his head. The boy accepted the challenge, and on
successfully accomplishing it, the surrender of the venerable captive
was made.

Farid-Uddin Âttar was a Persian dealer in perfumes, born in the year
1119. He one day was so impressed with the sight of a dervish, that he
sold his possessions, and followed righteousness. He composed the poem
Mantic Uttaïr, or the language of birds. Observe, the Persian Âttar
lived at the same time as the Danish Saxo, and long before the birth
of Tell. Curiously enough, we find a trace of the Tell myth in the
pages of his poem. According to him, however, the king shoots the
apple from the head of a beloved page, and the lad dies from sheer
fright, though the arrow does not even graze his skin.

The coincidence of finding so many versions of the same story
scattered through countries as remote as Persia and Iceland,
Switzerland and Denmark, proves, I think, that it can in no way be
regarded as history, but is rather one of the numerous household myths
common to the whole stock of Aryan nations. Probably, some one more
acquainted with Sanskrit literature than myself, and with better
access to its unpublished stores of fable and legend, will some day
light on an early Indian tale corresponding to that so prevalent among
other branches of the same family. The coincidence of the Tell myth
being discovered among the Finns is attributable to Russian or Swedish
influence. I do not regard it as a primeval Turanian, but as an Aryan
story, which, like an erratic block, is found deposited on foreign
soil far from the mountain whence it was torn.

German mythologists, I suppose, consider the myth to represent the
manifestation of some natural phenomena, and the individuals of the
story to be impersonifications of natural forces. Most primeval
stories were thus constructed, and their origin is traceable enough.
In Thorn-rose, for instance, who can fail to see the earth goddess
represented by the sleeping beauty in her long winter slumber, only
returning to life when kissed by the golden-haired sun-god Phœbus
or Baldur? But the Tell myth has not its signification thus painted
on the surface; and those who suppose Gessler or Harald to be the
power of evil and darkness,--the bold archer to be the storm-cloud
with his arrow of lightning and his iris bow, bent against the sun,
which is resting like a coin or a golden apple on the edge of the
horizon, are over-straining their theories, and exacting too much from
our credulity.

In these pages and elsewhere I have shown how some of the ancient
myths related by the whole Aryan family of nations are reducible to
allegorical explanations of certain well-known natural phenomena; but
I must protest against the manner in which our German friends fasten
rapaciously upon every atom of history, sacred and profane, and
demonstrate all heroes to represent the sun; all villains to be the
demons of night or winter; all sticks and spears and arrows to be the
lightning; all cows and sheep and dragons and swans to be clouds.

In a work on the superstition of Werewolves, I have entered into this
subject with some fulness, and am quite prepared to admit the premises
upon which mythologists construct their theories; at the same time I
am not disposed to run to the extravagant lengths reached by some of
the most enthusiastic German scholars. A wholesome warning to these
gentlemen was given some years ago by an ingenious French
ecclesiastic, who wrote the following argument to prove that Napoleon
Bonaparte was a mythological character. Archbishop Whately's "Historic
Doubts" was grounded on a totally different line of argument; I
subjoin the other, as a curiosity and as a caution.

Napoleon is, says the writer, an impersonification of the sun.

1. Between the name Napoleon and Apollo, or Apoleon, the god of the
sun, there is but a trifling difference; indeed, the seeming
difference is lessened, if we take the spelling of his name from the
column of the Place Vendôme, where it stands Néapoleó. But this
syllable _Ne_ prefixed to the name of the sun-god is of importance;
like the rest of the name it is of Greek origin, and is νη or ναι,
a particle of affirmation, as though indicating Napoleon as the very
true Apollo, or sun.

His other name, Bonaparte, makes this apparent connection between the
French hero and the luminary of the firmament conclusively certain.
The day has its two parts, the good and luminous portion, and that
which is bad and dark. To the sun belongs the good part, to the moon
and stars belongs the bad portion. It is therefore natural that Apollo
or Né-Apoleón should receive the surname of _Bonaparte_.

2. Apollo was born in Delos, a Mediterranean island; Napoleon in
Corsica, an island in the same sea. According to Pausanias, Apollo was
an Egyptian deity; and in the mythological history of the fabulous
Napoleon we find the hero in Egypt, regarded by the inhabitants with
veneration, and receiving their homage.

3. The mother of Napoleon was said to be Letitia, which signifies joy,
and is an impersonification of the dawn of light dispensing joy and
gladness to all creation. Letitia is no other than the break of day,
which in a manner brings the sun into the world, and "with rosy
fingers opes the gates of Day." It is significant that the Greek name
for the mother of Apollo was Leto. From this the Romans made the name
Latona, which they gave to his mother. But _Læto_ is the unused form
of the verb _lætor_, and signified to inspire joy; it is from this
unused form that the substantive _Letitia_ is derived. The identity,
then, of the mother of Napoleon with the Greek Leto and the Latin
Latona, is established conclusively.

4. According to the popular story, this son of Letitia had three
sisters; and was it not the same with the Greek deity, who had the
three Graces?

5. The modern Gallic Apollo had four brothers. It is impossible not to
discern here the anthropomorphosis of the four seasons. But, it will
be objected, the seasons should be females. Here the French language
interposes; for in French the seasons are masculine, with the
exception of autumn, upon the gender of which grammarians are
undecided, whilst Autumnus in Latin is not more feminine than the
other seasons. This difficulty is therefore trifling, and what follows
removes all shadow of doubt.

Of the four brothers of Napoleon, three are said to have been kings,
and these of course are, Spring reigning over the flowers, Summer
reigning over the harvest, Autumn holding sway over the fruits. And as
these three seasons owe all to the powerful influence of the Sun, we
are told in the popular myth that the three brothers of Napoleon drew
their authority from him, and received from him their kingdoms. But if
it be added that, of the four brothers of Napoleon, one was not a
king, that was because he is the impersonification of Winter, which
has no reign over anything. If, however, it be asserted, in
contradiction, that the winter has an empire, he will be given the
principality over snows and frosts, which, in the dreary season of the
year, whiten the face of the earth. Well, the fourth brother of
Napoleon is thus invested by popular tradition, commonly called
history, with a vain principality accorded to him _in the decline of
the power of Napoleon_. The principality was that of Canino, a name
derived from _cani_, or the whitened hairs of a frozen old age,--true
emblem of winter. To the eyes of poets, the forests covering the hills
are their hair, and when winter frosts them, they represent the snowy
locks of a decrepit nature in the old age of the year:--

    "Cum gelidus crescit _canis_ in montibus humor."

Consequently the Prince of Canino is an impersonification of
winter;--winter whose reign begins when the kingdoms of the three fine
seasons are passed from them, and when the sun is driven from his
power by the children of the North, as the poets call the boreal
winds. This is the origin of the fabulous invasion of France by the
allied armies of the North. The story relates that these invaders--the
northern gales--banished the many-colored flag, and replaced it by a
white standard. This too is a graceful, but, at the same time, purely
fabulous account of the Northern winds driving all the brilliant
colors from the face of the soil, to replace them by the snowy sheet.

6. Napoleon is said to have had two wives. It is well known that the
classic fable gave two also to Apollo. These two were the moon and the
earth. Plutarch asserts that the Greeks gave the moon to Apollo for
wife, whilst the Egyptians attributed to him the earth. By the moon he
had no posterity, but by the other he had one son only, the little
Horus. This is an Egyptian allegory, representing the fruits of
agriculture produced by the earth fertilized by the Sun. The pretended
son of the fabulous Napoleon is said to have been born on the 20th of
March, the season of the spring equinox, when agriculture is assuming
its greatest period of activity.

7. Napoleon is said to have released France from the devastating
scourge which terrorized over the country, the hydra of the
revolution, as it was popularly called. Who cannot see in this a
Gallic version of the Greek legend of Apollo releasing Hellas from the
terrible Python? The very name _revolution_, derived from the Latin
verb _revolvo_, is indicative of the coils of a serpent like the

8. The famous hero of the 19th century had, it is asserted, twelve
Marshals at the head of his armies, and four who were stationary and
inactive. The twelve first, as may be seen at once, are the signs of
the zodiac, marching under the orders of the sun Napoleon, and each
commanding a division of the innumerable host of stars, which are
parted into twelve portions, corresponding to the twelve signs. As for
the four stationary officers, immovable in the midst of general
motion, they are the cardinal points.

9. It is currently reported that the chief of these brilliant armies,
after having gloriously traversed the Southern kingdoms, penetrated
North, and was there unable to maintain his sway. This too represents
the course of the Sun, which assumes its greatest power in the South,
but after the spring equinox seeks to reach the North; and after a
_three months'_ march towards the boreal regions, is driven back upon
his traces following the sign of Cancer, a sign given to represent
the retrogression of the sun in that portion of the sphere. It is on
this that the story of the march of Napoleon towards Moscow, and his
humbling retreat, is founded.

10. Finally, the sun rises in the East and sets in the Western sea.
The poets picture him rising out of the waters in the East, and
setting in the ocean after his twelve hours' reign in the sky. Such is
the history of Napoleon, coming from his Mediterranean isle, holding
the reins of government for twelve years, and finally disappearing in
the mysterious regions of the great Atlantic.

To those who see in Samson, the image of the sun, the correlative of
the classic Hercules, this clever skit of the accomplished French Abbé
may prove of value as a caution.


[26] This anecdote is taken from the _Journal de Paris_, May, 1787;
but whence did the _Journal_ obtain it?

The Dog Gellert.

Having demolished William Tell, I proceed to the destruction of
another article of popular belief.

Who that has visited Snowdon has not seen the grave of Llewellyn's
faithful hound Gellert, and been told by the guide the touching story
of the death of the noble animal? How can we doubt the facts, seeing
that the place, Beth-Gellert, is named after the dog, and that the
grave is still visible? But unfortunately for the truth of the legend,
its pedigree can be traced with the utmost precision.

The story is as follows:--

The Welsh Prince Llewellyn had a noble deerhound, Gellert, whom he
trusted to watch the cradle of his baby son whilst he himself was

One day, on his return, to his intense horror, he beheld the cradle
empty and upset, the clothes dabbled with blood, and Gellert's mouth
dripping with gore. Concluding hastily that the hound had proved
unfaithful, had fallen on the child and devoured it,--in a paroxysm of
rage the prince drew his sword and slew the dog. Next instant the cry
of the babe from behind the cradle showed him that the child was
uninjured; and, on looking farther, Llewellyn discovered the body of a
huge wolf, which had entered the house to seize and devour the child,
but which had been kept off and killed by the brave dog Gellert.

In his self-reproach and grief, the prince erected a stately monument
to Gellert, and called the place where he was buried after the poor
hound's name.

Now, I find in Russia precisely the same story told, with just the
same appearance of truth, of a Czar Piras. In Germany it appears with
considerable variations. A man determines on slaying his old dog
Sultan, and consults with his wife how this is to be effected. Sultan
overhears the conversation, and complains bitterly to the wolf, who
suggests an ingenious plan by which the master may be induced to spare
his dog. Next day, when the man is going to his work, the wolf
undertakes to carry off the child from its cradle. Sultan is to attack
him and rescue the infant. The plan succeeds admirably, and the dog
spends his remaining years in comfort. (Grimm, K. M. 48.)

But there is a story in closer conformity to that of Gellert among the
French collections of fabliaux made by Le Grand d'Aussy and Edéléstand
du Méril. It became popular through the "Gesta Romanorum," a
collection of tales made by the monks for harmless reading, in the
fourteenth century.

In the "Gesta" the tale is told as follows:--

"Folliculus, a knight, was fond of hunting and tournaments. He had an
only son, for whom three nurses were provided. Next to this child, he
loved his falcon and his greyhound. It happened one day that he was
called to a tournament, whither his wife and domestics went also,
leaving the child in the cradle, the greyhound lying by him, and the
falcon on his perch. A serpent that inhabited a hole near the castle,
taking advantage of the profound silence that reigned, crept from his
habitation, and advanced towards the cradle to devour the child. The
falcon, perceiving the danger, fluttered with his wings till he awoke
the dog, who instantly attacked the invader, and after a fierce
conflict, in which he was sorely wounded, killed him. He then lay down
on the ground to lick and heal his wounds. When the nurses returned,
they found the cradle overturned, the child thrown out, and the ground
covered with blood, as was also the dog, who they immediately
concluded had killed the child.

"Terrified at the idea of meeting the anger of the parents, they
determined to escape; but in their flight fell in with their mistress,
to whom they were compelled to relate the supposed murder of the child
by the greyhound. The knight soon arrived to hear the sad story, and,
maddened with fury, rushed forward to the spot. The poor wounded and
faithful animal made an effort to rise and welcome his master with his
accustomed fondness; but the enraged knight received him on the point
of his sword, and he fell lifeless to the ground. On examination of
the cradle, the infant was found alive and unhurt, with the dead
serpent lying by him. The knight now perceived what had happened,
lamented bitterly over his faithful dog, and blamed himself for having
too hastily depended on the words of his wife. Abandoning the
profession of arms, he broke his lance in pieces, and vowed a
pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where he spent the rest of his days in

The monkish hit at the wife is amusing, and might have been supposed
to have originated with those determined misogynists, as the gallant
Welshmen lay all the blame on the man. But the good compilers of the
"Gesta" wrote little of their own, except moral applications of the
tales they relate, and the story of Folliculus and his dog, like many
others in their collection, is drawn from a foreign source.

It occurs in the Seven Wise Masters, and in the "Calumnia Novercalis"
as well, so that it must have been popular throughout mediæval Europe.
Now, the tales of the Seven Wise Masters are translations from a
Hebrew work, the Kalilah and Dimnah of Rabbi Joel, composed about
A. D. 1250, or from Simeon Seth's Greek Kylile and Dimne, written in
1080. These Greek and Hebrew works were derived from kindred sources.
That of Rabbi Joel was a translation from an Arabic version made by
Nasr-Allah in the twelfth century, whilst Simeon Seth's was a
translation of the Persian Kalilah and Dimnah. But the Persian
Kalilah and Dimnah was not either an original work; it was in turn a
translation from the Sanskrit Pantschatantra, made about A. D. 540.

In this ancient Indian book the story runs as follows:--

A Brahmin named Devasaman had a wife, who gave birth to a son, and
also to an ichneumon. She loved both her children dearly, giving them
alike the breast, and anointing them alike with salves. But she feared
the ichneumon might not love his brother.

One day, having laid her boy in bed, she took up the water jar, and
said to her husband, "Hear me, master! I am going to the tank to fetch
water. Whilst I am absent, watch the boy, lest he gets injured by the
ichneumon." After she had left the house, the Brahmin went forth
begging, leaving the house empty. In crept a black snake, and
attempted to bite the child; but the ichneumon rushed at it, and tore
it in pieces. Then, proud of its achievement, it sallied forth, all
bloody, to meet its mother. She, seeing the creature stained with
blood, concluded, with feminine precipitance, that it had fallen on
the baby and killed it, and she flung her water jar at it and slew it.
Only on her return home did she ascertain her mistake.

The same story is also told in the Hitopadesa (iv. 13), but the animal
is an otter, not an ichneumon. In the Arabic version a weasel takes
the place of the ichneumon.

The Buddhist missionaries carried the story into Mongolia, and in the
Mongolian Uligerun, which is a translation of the Tibetian Dsanghen,
the story reappears with the pole-cat as the brave and suffering
defender of the child.

Stanislaus Julien, the great Chinese scholar, has discovered the same
tale in the Chinese work entitled "The Forest of Pearls from the
Garden of the Law." This work dates from 668; and in it the creature
is an ichneumon.

In the Persian Sindibad-nâmeh is the same tale, but the faithful
animal is a cat. In Sandabar and Syntipas it has become a dog. Through
the influence of Sandabar on the Hebrew translation of the Kalilah and
Dimnah, the ichneumon is also replaced by a dog.

Such is the history of the Gellert legend; it is an introduction into
Europe from India, every step of its transmission being clearly
demonstrable. From the Gesta Romanorum it passed into a popular tale
throughout Europe, and in different countries it was, like the Tell
myth, localized and individualized. Many a Welsh story, such as those
contained in the Mabinogion, are as easily traced to an Eastern

But every story has its root. The root of the Gellert tale is this: A
man forms an alliance of friendship with a beast or bird. The dumb
animal renders him a signal service. He misunderstands the act, and
kills his preserver.

We have tracked this myth under the Gellert form from India to Wales;
but under another form it is the property of the whole Aryan family,
and forms a portion of the traditional lore of all nations sprung from
that stock.

Thence arose the classic fable of the peasant, who, as he slept, was
bitten by a fly. He awoke, and in a rage killed the insect. When too
late, he observed that the little creature had aroused him that he
might avoid a snake which lay coiled up near his pillow.

In the Anvar-i-Suhaili is the following kindred tale. A king had a
falcon. One day, whilst hunting, he filled a goblet with water
dropping from a rock. As he put the vessel to his lips, his falcon
dashed upon it, and upset it with its wings. The king, in a fury, slew
the bird, and then discovered that the water dripped from the jaws of
a serpent of the most poisonous description.

This story, with some variations, occurs in Æsop, Ælian, and
Apthonius. In the Greek fable, a peasant liberates an eagle from the
clutches of a dragon. The dragon spirts poison into the water which
the peasant is about to drink, without observing what the monster had
done. The grateful eagle upsets the goblet with his wings.

The story appears in Egypt under a whimsical form. A Wali once smashed
a pot full of herbs which a cook had prepared. The exasperated cook
thrashed the well-intentioned but unfortunate Wali within an inch of
his life, and when he returned, exhausted with his efforts at
belaboring the man, to examine the broken pot, he discovered amongst
the herbs a poisonous snake.

How many brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, and cousins of all degrees
a little story has! And how few of the tales we listen to can lay any
claim to originality! There is scarcely a story which I hear which I
cannot connect with some family of myths, and whose pedigree I cannot
ascertain with more or less precision. Shakespeare drew the plots of
his plays from Boccaccio or Straparola; but these Italians did not
invent the tales they lent to the English dramatist. King Lear does
not originate with Geofry of Monmouth, but comes from early Indian
stores of fable, whence also are derived the Merchant of Venice and
the pound of flesh, ay, and the very incident of the three caskets.

But who would credit it, were it not proved by conclusive facts, that
Johnny Sands is the inheritance of the whole Aryan family of nations,
and that Peeping Tom of Coventry peeped in India and on the Tartar
steppes ages before Lady Godiva was born?

If you listen to Traviata at the opera, you have set before you a tale
which has lasted for centuries, and which was perhaps born in India.

If you read in classic fable of Orpheus charming woods and meadows,
beasts and birds, with his magic lyre, you remember to have seen the
same fable related in the Kalewala of the Finnish Wainomainen, and in
the Kaleopoeg of the Esthonian Kalewa.

If you take up English history, and read of William the Conqueror
slipping as he landed on British soil, and kissing the earth, saying
he had come to greet and claim his own, you remember that the same
story is told of Napoleon in Egypt, of King Olaf Harold's son in
Norway, and in classic history of Junius Brutus on his return from the

A little while ago I cut out of a Sussex newspaper a story purporting
to be the relation of a fact which had taken place at a fixed date in
Lewes. This was the story. A tyrannical husband locked the door
against his wife, who was out having tea with a neighbor, gossiping
and scandal-mongering; when she applied for admittance, he pretended
not to know her. She threatened to jump into the well unless he opened
the door.

The man, not supposing that she would carry her threat into execution,
declined, alleging that he was in bed, and the night was chilly;
besides which he entirely disclaimed all acquaintance with the lady
who claimed admittance.

The wife then flung a log into a well, and secreted herself behind the
door. The man, hearing the splash, fancied that his good lady was
really in the deeps, and forth he darted in his nocturnal costume,
which was of the lightest, to ascertain whether his deliverance was
complete. At once the lady darted into the house, locked the door,
and, on the husband pleading for admittance, she declared most
solemnly from the window that she did not know _him_.

Now, this story, I can positively assert, unless the events of this
world move in a circle, did not happen in Lewes, or any other Sussex

It was told in the Gesta Romanorum six hundred years ago, and it was
told, may be, as many hundred years before in India, for it is still
to be found in Sanskrit collections of tales.

Tailed Men.

I well remember having it impressed upon me by a Devonshire nurse, as
a little child, that all Cornishmen were born with tails; and it was
long before I could overcome the prejudice thus early implanted in my
breast against my Cornubian neighbors. I looked upon those who dwelt
across the Tamar as "uncanny," as being scarcely to be classed with
Christian people, and certainly not to be freely associated with by
tailless Devonians. I think my eyes were first opened to the fact that
I had been deceived by a worthy bookseller of L----, with whom I had
contracted a warm friendship, he having at sundry times contributed
pictures to my scrapbook. I remember one day resolving to broach the
delicate subject with my tailed friend, whom I liked, notwithstanding
his caudal appendage.

"Mr. X----, is it true that you are a Cornishman?"

"Yes, my little man; born and bred in the West country."

"I like you very much; but--have you really got a tail?"

When the bookseller had recovered from the astonishment which I had
produced by my question, he stoutly repudiated the charge.

"But you are a Cornishman?"

"To be sure I am."

"And all Cornishmen have tails."

I believe I satisfied my own mind that the good man had sat his off,
and my nurse assured me that such was the case with those of sedentary

It is curious that Devonshire superstition should attribute the tail
to Cornishmen, for it was asserted of certain men of Kent in olden
times, and was referred to Divine vengeance upon them for having
insulted St. Thomas à Becket, if we may believe Polydore Vergil.
"There were some," he says, "to whom it seemed that the king's secret
wish was, that Thomas should be got rid of. He, indeed, as one
accounted to be an enemy of the king's person, was already regarded
with so little respect, nay, was treated with so much contempt, that
when he came to Strood, which village is situated on the Medway, the
river that washes Rochester, the inhabitants of the place, being eager
to show some mark of contumely to the prelate in his disgrace, did not
scruple to cut off the tail of the horse on which he was riding; but
by this profane and inhospitable act they covered themselves with
eternal reproach; for it so happened after this, by the will of God,
that all the offspring born from the men who had done this thing, were
born with tails, like brute animals. But this mark of infamy, which
formerly was everywhere notorious, has disappeared with the extinction
of the race whose fathers perpetrated this deed."

John Bale, the zealous reformer, and Bishop of Ossory in Edward VI.'s
time, refers to this story, and also mentions a variation of the scene
and cause of this ignoble punishment. He writes, quoting his
authorities, "John Capgrave and Alexander of Esseby sayth, that for
castynge of fyshe tayles at thys Augustyne, Dorsettshyre men had
tayles ever after. But Polydorus applieth it unto Kentish men at
Stroud, by Rochester, for cuttinge off Thomas Becket's horse's tail.
Thus hath England in all other land a perpetual infamy of tayles by
theye wrytten legendes of lyes, yet can they not well tell where to
bestowe them truely." Bale, a fierce and unsparing reformer, and one
who stinted not hard words, applying to the inventors of these legends
an epithet more strong than elegant, says, "In the legends of their
sanctified sorcerers they have diffamed the English posterity with
tails, as has been showed afore. That an Englyshman now cannot
travayle in another land by way of marchandyse or any other honest
occupyinge, but it is most contumeliously thrown in his tethe that all
Englyshmen have tails. That uncomely note and report have the nation
gotten, without recover, by these laisy and idle lubbers, the monkes
and the priestes, which could find no matters to advance their
canonized gains by, or their saintes, as they call them, but manifest
lies and knaveries."[27]

Andrew Marvel also makes mention of this strange judgment in his
_Loyal Scot_:--

    "But who considers right will find, indeed,
    'Tis Holy Island parts us, not the Tweed.
    Nothing but clergy could us two seclude,
    No Scotch was ever like a bishop's feud.
    All Litanys in this have wanted faith,
    There's no--_Deliver us from a Bishop's wrath._
    Never shall Calvin pardoned be for sales,
    Never, for Burnet's sake, the Lauderdales;
    For Becket's sake, Kent always shall have tails."

It may be remembered that Lord Monboddo, a Scotch judge of last
century, and a philosopher of some repute, though of great
eccentricity, stoutly maintained the theory that man ought to have a
tail, that the tail is a _desideratum_, and that the abrupt
termination of the spine without caudal elongation is a sad blemish in
the origination of man. The tail, the point in which man is inferior
to the brute, what a delicate index of the mind it is! how it
expresses the passions of love and hate! how nicely it gives token of
the feelings of joy or fear which animate the soul! But Lord Monboddo
did not consider that what the tail is to the brute, that the eye is
to man; the lack of one member is supplied by the other. I can tell a
proud man by his eye just as truly as if he stalked past one with
erect tail; and anger is as plainly depicted in the human eye as in
the bottle-brush tail of a cat. I know a sneak by his cowering glance,
though he has not a tail between his legs; and pleasure is evident in
the laughing eye, without there being any necessity for a wagging
brush to express it.

Dr. Johnson paid a visit to the judge, and knocked on the head his
theory that men ought to have tails, and actually were born with them
occasionally; for said he, "Of a standing fact, sir, there ought to be
no controversy; if there are men with tails, catch a _homo caudatus_."
And, "It is a pity to see Lord Monboddo publish such notions as he has
done--a man of sense, and of so much elegant learning. There would be
little in a fool doing it; we should only laugh; but, when a wise man
does it, we are sorry. Other people have strange notions, but they
conceal them. If they have tails they hide them; but Monboddo is as
jealous of his tail as a squirrel." And yet Johnson seems to have been
tickled with the idea, and to have been amused with the notion of an
appendage like a tail being regarded as the complement of human
perfection. It may be remembered how Johnson made the acquaintance of
the young Laird of Col, during his Highland tour, and how pleased he
was with him. "Col," says he, "is a noble animal. He is as complete an
islander as the mind can figure. He is a farmer, a sailor, a hunter,
a fisher: he will run you down a dog; _if any man has a tail_, it is
Col." And notwithstanding all his aversion to puns, the great Doctor
was fain to yield to human weakness on one occasion, under the
influence of the mirth which Monboddo's name seems to have excited.
Johnson writes to Mrs. Thrale of a party he had met one night, which
he thus enumerates: "There were Smelt, and the Bishop of St. Asaph,
who comes to every place; and Sir Joshua, and Lord Monboddo, and
ladies _out of tale_."

There is a Polish story of a witch who made a girdle of human skin and
laid it across the threshold of a door where a marriage-feast was
being held. On the bridal pair stepping across the girdle they were
transformed into wolves. Three years after the witch sought them out,
and cast over them dresses of fur with the hair turned outward,
whereupon they recovered their human forms, but, unfortunately, the
dress cast over the bridegroom was too scanty, and did not extend over
his tail, so that, when he was restored to his former condition, he
retained his lupine caudal appendage, and this became hereditary in
his family; so that all Poles with tails are lineal descendants of
the ancestor to whom this little misfortune happened. John Struys, a
Dutch traveller, who visited the Isle of Formosa in 1677, gives a
curious story, which is worth transcribing.

"Before I visited this island," he writes, "I had often heard tell
that there were men who had long tails, like brute beasts; but I had
never been able to believe it, and I regarded it as a thing so alien
to our nature, that I should now have difficulty in accepting it, if
my own senses had not removed from me every pretence for doubting the
fact, by the following strange adventure: The inhabitants of Formosa,
being used to see us, were in the habit of receiving us on terms which
left nothing to apprehend on either side; so that, although mere
foreigners, we always believed ourselves in safety, and had grown
familiar enough to ramble at large without an escort, when grave
experience taught us that, in so doing, we were hazarding too much. As
some of our party were one day taking a stroll, one of them had
occasion to withdraw about a stone's throw from the rest, who, being
at the moment engaged in an eager conversation, proceeded without
heeding the disappearance of their companion. After a while, however,
his absence was observed, and the party paused, thinking he would
rejoin them. They waited some time; but at last, tired of the delay,
they returned in the direction of the spot where they remembered to
have seen him last. Arriving there, they were horrified to find his
mangled body lying on the ground, though the nature of the lacerations
showed that he had not had to suffer long ere death released him.
Whilst some remained to watch the dead body, others went off in search
of the murderer; and these had not gone far, when they came upon a man
of peculiar appearance, who, finding himself enclosed by the exploring
party, so as to make escape from them impossible, began to foam with
rage, and by cries and wild gesticulations to intimate that he would
make any one repent the attempt who should venture to meddle with him.
The fierceness of his desperation for a time kept our people at bay;
but as his fury gradually subsided, they gathered more closely round
him, and at length seized him. He then soon made them understand that
it was he who had killed their comrade, but they could not learn from
him any cause for this conduct. As the crime was so atrocious, and, if
allowed to pass with impunity, might entail even more serious
consequences, it was determined to burn the man. He was tied up to a
stake, where he was kept for some hours before the time of execution
arrived. It was then that I beheld what I had never thought to see. He
had a tail more than a foot long, covered with red hair, and very like
that of a cow. When he saw the surprise that this discovery created
among the European spectators, he informed us that his tail was the
effect of climate, for that all the inhabitants of the southern side
of the island, where they then were, were provided with like

After Struys, Hornemann reported that, between the Gulf of Benin and
Abyssinia, were tailed anthropophagi, named by the natives
_Niam-niams_; and in 1849, M. Descouret, on his return from Mecca,
affirmed that such was a common report, and added that they had long
arms, low and narrow foreheads, long and erect ears, and slim legs.

Mr. Harrison, in his "Highlands of Ethiopia," alludes to the common
belief among the Abyssinians, in a pygmy race of this nature.

MM. Arnault and Vayssière, travellers in the same country, in 1850,
brought the subject before the Academy of Sciences.

In 1851, M. de Castelnau gave additional details relative to an
expedition against these tailed men. "The Niam-niams," he says, "were
sleeping in the sun: the Haoussas approached, and, falling on them,
massacred them to the last man. They had all of them tails forty
centimetres long, and from two to three in diameter. This organ is
smooth. Among the corpses were those of several women, who were
deformed in the same manner. In all other particulars, the men were
precisely like all other negroes. They are of a deep black, their
teeth are polished, their bodies not tattooed. They are armed with
clubs and javelins; in war they utter piercing cries. They cultivate
rice, maize, and other grain. They are fine looking men, and their
hair is not frizzled."

M. d'Abbadie, another Abyssinian traveller, writing in 1852, gives the
following account from the lips of an Abyssinian priest: "At the
distance of fifteen days' journey south of Herrar is a place where all
the men have tails, the length of a palm, covered with hair, and
situated at the extremity of the spine. The females of that country
are very beautiful and are tailless. I have seen some fifteen of these
people at Besberah, and I am positive that the tail is natural."

It will be observed that there is a discrepancy between the accounts
of M. de Castelnau and M. d'Abbadie. The former accords tails to the
ladies, whilst the latter denies it. According to the former, the tail
is smooth; according to the latter, it is covered with hair.

Dr. Wolf has improved on this in his "Travels and Adventures," vol.
ii. 1861. "There are men and women in Abyssinia with tails like dogs
and horses." Wolf heard also from a great many Abyssinians and
Armenians (and Wolf is convinced of the truth of it), that "there are
near Narea, in Abyssinia, people--men and women--with large tails,
with which they are able to knock down a horse; and there are also
such people near China." And in a note, "In the College of Surgeons
at Dublin may still be seen a human skeleton, with a tail seven inches
long! There are many known instances of this elongation of the caudal
vertebra, as in the Poonangs in Borneo."

But the most interesting and circumstantial account of the Niam-niams
is that given by Dr. Hubsch, physician to the hospitals of
Constantinople. "It was in 1852," says he, "that I saw for the first
time a tailed negress. I was struck with this phenomenon, and I
questioned her master, a slave dealer. I learned from him that there
exists a tribe called Niam-niam, occupying the interior of Africa. All
the members of this tribe bear the caudal appendage, and, as Oriental
imagination is given to exaggeration, I was assured that the tails
sometimes attained the length of two feet. That which I observed was
smooth and hairless. It was about two inches long, and terminated in a
point. This woman was as black as ebony, her hair was frizzled, her
teeth white, large, and planted in sockets which inclined considerably
outward; her four canine teeth were filed, her eyes bloodshot. She ate
meat raw, her clothes fidgeted her, her intellect was on a par with
that of others of her condition.

"Her master had been unable, during six months, to sell her,
notwithstanding the low figure at which he would have disposed of her;
the abhorrence with which she was regarded was not attributed to her
tail, but to the partiality, which she was unable to conceal, for
human flesh. Her tribe fed on the flesh of the prisoners taken from
the neighboring tribes, with whom they were constantly at war.

"As soon as one of the tribe dies, his relations, instead of burying
him, cut him up and regale themselves upon his remains; consequently
there are no cemeteries in this land. They do not all of them lead a
wandering life, but many of them construct hovels of the branches of
trees. They make for themselves weapons of war and of agriculture;
they cultivate maize and wheat, and keep cattle. The Niam-niams have a
language of their own, of an entirely primitive character, though
containing an infusion of Arabic words.

"They live in a state of complete nudity, and seek only to satisfy
their brute appetites. There is among them an utter disregard for
morality, incest and adultery being common. The strongest among them
becomes the chief of the tribe; and it is he who apportions the shares
of the booty obtained in war. It is hard to say whether they have any
religion; but in all probability they have none, as they readily adopt
any one which they are taught.

"It is difficult to tame them altogether; their instinct impelling
them constantly to seek for human flesh; and instances are related of
slaves who have massacred and eaten the children confided to their

"I have seen a man of the same race, who had a tail an inch and a half
long, covered with a few hairs. He appeared to be thirty-five years
old; he was robust, well built, of an ebon blackness, and had the same
peculiar formation of jaw noticed above; that is to say, the tooth
sockets were inclined outwards. Their four canine teeth are filed
down, to diminish their power of mastication.

"I know also, at Constantinople, the son of a physician, aged two
years, who was born with a tail an inch long; he belonged to the white
Caucasian race. One of his grandfathers possessed the same appendage.
This phenomenon is regarded generally in the East as a sign of great
brute force."

About ten years ago, a newspaper paragraph recorded the birth of a
boy at Newcastle-on-Tyne, provided with a tail about an inch and a
quarter long. It was asserted that the child when sucking wagged this
stump as token of pleasure.

Yet, notwithstanding all this testimony in favor of tailed men and
women, it is simply a matter of impossibility for a human being to
have a tail, for the spinal vertebræ in man do not admit of
elongation, as in many animals; for the spine terminates in the os
sacrum, a large and expanded bone of peculiar character, entirely
precluding all possibility of production to the spine as in caudate


[27] "Actes of English Votaries."

[28] "Voyages de Jean Struys," An. 1650.

Antichrist and Pope Joan.

From the earliest ages of the Church, the advent of the Man of Sin has
been looked forward to with terror, and the passages of Scripture
relating to him have been studied with solemn awe, lest that day of
wrath should come upon the Church unawares. As events in the world's
history took place which seemed to be indications of the approach of
Antichrist, a great horror fell upon men's minds, and their
imaginations conjured up myths which flew from mouth to mouth, and
which were implicitly believed.

Before speaking of these strange tales which produced such an effect
on the minds of men in the middle ages, it will be well briefly to
examine the opinions of divines of the early ages on the passages of
Scripture connected with the coming of the last great persecutor of
the Church. Antichrist was believed by most ancient writers to be
destined to arise out of the tribe of Dan, a belief founded on the
prediction of Jacob, "Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in
the path" (conf. Jeremiah viii. 16), and on the exclamation of the
dying patriarch, when looking on his son Dan, "I have waited for Thy
Salvation, O Lord," as though the long-suffering of God had borne long
with that tribe, but in vain, and it was to be extinguished without
hope. This, indeed, is implied in the sealing of the servants of God
in their foreheads (Revelation vii.), when twelve thousand out of
every tribe, except Dan, were seen by St. John to receive the seal of
adoption, whilst of the tribe of Dan _not one_ was sealed, as though
it, to a man, had apostatized.

Opinions as to the nature of Antichrist were divided. Some held that
he was to be a devil in phantom body, and of this number was
Hippolytus. Others, again, believed that he would be an incarnate
demon, true man and true devil; in fearful and diabolical parody of
the Incarnation of our Lord. A third view was, that he would be merely
a desperately wicked man, acting upon diabolical inspirations, just as
the saints act upon divine inspirations. St. John Damascene expressly
asserts that he will not be an incarnate demon, but a devilish man;
for he says, "Not as Christ assumed humanity, so will the devil become
human, but the Man will receive all the inspiration of Satan, and will
suffer the devil to take up his abode within him." In this manner
Antichrist could have many forerunners; and so St. Jerome and St.
Augustine saw an Antichrist in Nero, not _the_ Antichrist, but one of
those of whom the Apostle speaks--"Even now are there many
Antichrists." Thus also every enemy of the faith, such as Diocletian,
Julian, and Mahomet, has been regarded as a precursor of the
Arch-persecutor, who was expected to sum up in himself the cruelty of
a Nero or Diocletian, the show of virtue of a Julian, and the
spiritual pride of a Mahomet.

From infancy the evil one is to take possession of Antichrist, and to
train him for his office, instilling into him cunning, cruelty, and
pride. His doctrine will be--not downright infidelity, but a "show of
godliness," whilst "denying the power thereof;" i. e., the miraculous
origin and divine authority of Christianity. He will sow doubts of our
Lord's manifestation "in the flesh," he will allow Christ to be an
excellent Man, capable of teaching the most exalted truths, and
inculcating the purest morality, yet Himself fallible and carried away
by fanaticism.

In the end, however, Antichrist will "exalt himself to sit as God in
the temple of God," and become "the abomination of desolation standing
in the holy place." At the same time there is to be an awful alliance
struck between himself, the impersonification of the world-power and
the Church of God; some high pontiff of which, or the episcopacy in
general, will enter into league with the unbelieving state to oppress
the very elect. It is a strange instance of religionary virulence
which makes some detect the Pope of Rome in the Man of Sin, the
Harlot, the Beast, and the Priest going before it. The Man of Sin and
the Beast are unmistakably identical, and refer to an Antichristian
world-power; whilst the Harlot and the Priest are symbols of an
apostasy in the Church. There is nothing Roman in this, but something
very much the opposite.

How the Abomination of Desolation can be considered as set up in a
Church where every sanctuary is adorned with all that can draw the
heart to the Crucified, and raise the thoughts to the imposing ritual
of Heaven, is a puzzle to me. To the man uninitiated in the law that
Revelation is to be interpreted by contraries, it would seem more like
the Abomination of Desolation in the Holy Place if he entered a Scotch
Presbyterian, or a Dutch Calvinist, place of worship. Rome does not
fight against the Daily Sacrifice, and endeavor to abolish it; that
has been rather the labor of so-called Church Reformers, who with the
suppression of the doctrine of Eucharistic Sacrifice and Sacramental
Adoration have well nigh obliterated all notion of worship to be
addressed to the God-Man. Rome does not deny the power of the
godliness of which she makes show, but insists on that power with no
broken accents. It is rather in other communities, where authority is
flung aside, and any man is permitted to believe or reject what he
likes, that we must look for the leaven of the Antichristian spirit at

It is evident that this spirit will infect the Church, and especially
those in place of authority therein; so that the elect will have to
wrestle against both "principalities and powers" in the state, and
also "spiritual wickedness in the high places" of the Church. Perhaps
it will be this feeling of antagonism between the inferior orders and
the highest which will throw the Bishops into the arms of the state,
and establish that unholy alliance which will be cemented for the
purpose of oppressing all who hold the truth in sincerity, who are
definite in their dogmatic statements of Christ's having been
manifested in the flesh, who labor to establish the Daily Sacrifice,
and offer in every place the pure offering spoken of by Malachi.
Perhaps it was in anticipation of this, that ancient mystical
interpreters explained the scene at the well in Midian as having
reference to the last times.

The Church, like the daughters of Reuel, comes to the Well of living
waters to water her parched flock; whereupon the shepherds--her chief
pastors--arise and strive with her. "Fear not, O flock, fear not, O
daughter!" exclaims the commentator; "thy true Moses is seated on the
well, and He will arise out of His resting-place, and will with His
own hand smite the shepherds, and water the flock." Let the sheep be
in barren and dry pastures,--so long the shepherds strive not; let the
sheep pant and die,--so long the shepherds show no signs of
irritation; but let the Church approach the limpid well of life, and
at once her prelates will, in the latter days, combine "to strive"
with her, and keep back the flock from the reviving streams.

In the time of Antichrist the Church will be divided: one portion will
hold to the world-power, the other will seek out the old paths, and
cling to the only true Guide. The high places will be filled with
unbelievers in the Incarnation, and the Church will be in a condition
of the utmost spiritual degradation, but enjoying the highest State
patronage. The religion in favor will be one of morality, but not of
dogma; and the Man of Sin will be able to promulgate his doctrine,
according to St. Anselm, through his great eloquence and wisdom, his
vast learning and mightiness in the Holy Scriptures, which he will
wrest to the overthrowing of dogma. He will be liberal in bribes, for
he will be of unbounded wealth; he will be capable of performing great
"signs and wonders," so as "to deceive--the very elect;" and at the
last, he will tear the moral veil from his countenance, and a monster
of impiety and cruelty, he will inaugurate that awful persecution,
which is to last for three years and a half, and to excel in horror
all the persecutions that have gone before.

In that terrible season of confusion faith will be all but
extinguished. "When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the
earth?" asks our Blessed Lord, as though expecting the answer, No; and
then, says Marchantius, the vessel of the Church will disappear in the
foam of that boiling deep of infidelity, and be hidden in the
blackness of that storm of destruction which sweeps over the earth.
The sun shall "be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and
the stars shall fall from heaven;" the sun of faith shall have gone
out; the moon, the Church, shall not give her light, being turned into
blood, through stress of persecution; and the stars, the great
ecclesiastical dignitaries, shall fall into apostasy. But still the
Church will remain unwrecked, she will weather the storm; still will
she come forth "beautiful as the moon, terrible as an army with
banners;" for after the lapse of those three and a half years, Christ
will descend to avenge the blood of the saints, by destroying
Antichrist and the world-power.

Such is a brief sketch of the scriptural doctrine of Antichrist as
held by the early and mediæval Church. Let us now see to what myths it
gave rise among the vulgar and the imaginative. Rabanus Maurus, in his
work on the life of Antichrist, gives a full account of the miracles
he will perform; he tells us that the Man-fiend will heal the sick,
raise the dead, restore sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf,
speech to the dumb; he will raise storms and calm them, will remove
mountains, make trees flourish or wither at a word. He will rebuild
the temple at Jerusalem, and making the Holy City the great capital of
the world. Popular opinion added that his vast wealth would be
obtained from hidden treasures, which are now being concealed by the
demons for his use. Various possessed persons, when interrogated,
announced that such was the case, and that the amount of buried gold
was vast.

"In the year 1599," says Canon Moreau, a contemporary historian, "a
rumor circulated with prodigious rapidity through Europe, that
Antichrist had been born at Babylon, and that already the Jews of that
part were hurrying to receive and recognize him as their Messiah. The
news came from Italy and Germany, and extended to Spain, England, and
other Western kingdoms, troubling many people, even the most discreet;
however, the learned gave it no credence, saying that the signs
predicted in Scripture to precede that event were not yet
accomplished, and among other that the Roman empire was not yet
abolished.... Others said that, as for the signs, the majority had
already appeared to the best of their knowledge, and with regard to
the rest, they might have taken place in distant regions without their
having been made known to them; that the Roman empire existed but in
name, and that the interpretation of the passage on which its
destruction was predicted, might be incorrect; that for many
centuries, the most learned and pious had believed in the near
approach of Antichrist, some believing that he had already come, on
account of the persecutions which had fallen on the Christians;
others, on account of fires, or eclipses, or earthquakes.... Every
one was in excitement; some declared that the news must be correct,
others believed nothing about it, and the agitation became so
excessive, that Henry IV., who was then on the throne, was compelled
by edict to forbid any mention of the subject."

The report spoken of by Moreau gained additional confirmation from the
announcement made by an exorcised demoniac, that in 1600, the Man of
Sin had been born in the neighborhood of Paris, of a Jewess, named
Blanchefleure, who had conceived by Satan. The child had been baptized
at the Sabbath of Sorcerers; and a witch, under torture, acknowledged
that she had rocked the infant Antichrist on her knees, and she
averred that he had claws on his feet, wore no shoes, and spoke all

In 1623 appeared the following startling announcement, which obtained
an immense circulation among the lower orders: "We, brothers of the
Order of St. John of Jerusalem, in the Isle of Malta, have received
letters from our spies, who are engaged in our service in the country
of Babylon, now possessed by the Grand Turk; by the which letters we
are advertised, that, on the 1st of May, in the year of our Lord
1623, a child was born in the town of Bourydot, otherwise called
Calka, near Babylon, of the which child the mother is a very aged
woman, of race unknown, called Fort-Juda: of the father nothing is
known. The child is dusky, has pleasant mouth and eyes, teeth pointed
like those of a cat, ears large, stature by no means exceeding that of
other children; the said child, incontinent on his birth, walked and
talked perfectly well. His speech is comprehended by every one,
admonishing the people that he is the true Messiah, and the son of
God, and that in him all must believe. Our spies also swear and
protest that they have seen the said child with their own eyes; and
they add, that, on the occasion of his nativity, there appeared
marvellous signs in heaven, for at full noon the sun lost its
brightness, and was for some time obscured." This is followed by a
list of other signs appearing, the most remarkable being a swarm of
flying serpents, and a shower of precious stones.

According to Sebastian Michaeliz, in his history of the possessed of
Flanders, on the authority of the exorcised demons, we learn that
Antichrist is to be a son of Beelzebub, who will accompany his
offspring under the form of a bird, with four feet and a bull's head;
that he will torture Christians with the same tortures with which the
lost souls are racked; that he will be able to fly, speak all
languages, and will have any number of names.

We find that Antichrist is known to the Mussulmans as well as to
Christians. Lane, in his edition of the "Arabian Nights," gives some
curious details on Moslem ideas regarding him. According to these,
Antichrist will overrun the earth, mounted on an ass, and followed by
40,000 Jews; his empire will last forty days, whereof the first day
will be a year long, the duration of the second will be a month, that
of the third a week, the others being of their usual length. He will
devastate the whole world, leaving Mecca and Medina alone in security,
as these holy cities will be guarded by angelic legions. Christ at
last will descend to earth, and in a great battle will destroy the

Several writers, of different denominations, no less superstitious
than the common people, connected the apparition of Antichrist with
the fable of Pope Joan, which obtained such general credence at one
time, but which modern criticism has at length succeeded in excluding
from history.

Perhaps the earliest writer to mention Pope Joan is Marianus Scotus,
who in his chronicle inserts the following passage: "A. D. 854,
Lotharii 14, Joanna, a woman, succeeded Leo, and reigned two years,
five months, and four days." Marianus Scotus died A. D. 1086. Sigebert
de Gemblours (d. 5th Oct., 1112) inserts the same story in his
valuable chronicle, copying from an interpolated passage in the work
of Anastasius the librarian. His words are, "It is reported that this
John was a female, and that she conceived by one of her servants. The
Pope, becoming pregnant, gave birth to a child; wherefore some do not
number her among the Pontiffs." Hence the story spread among the
mediæval chroniclers, who were great plagiarists. Otto of Frisingen
and Gotfrid of Viterbo mention the Lady-Pope in their histories, and
Martin Polonus gives details as follows: "After Leo IV., John Anglus,
a native of Metz, reigned two years, five months, and four days. And
the pontificate was vacant for a month. He died in Rome. He is related
to have been a female, and, when a girl, to have accompanied her
sweetheart in male costume to Athens; there she advanced in various
sciences, and none could be found to equal her. So, after having
studied for three years in Rome, she had great masters for her pupils
and hearers. And when there arose a high opinion in the city of her
virtue and knowledge, she was unanimously elected Pope. But during her
papacy she became in the family way by a familiar. Not knowing the
time of birth, as she was on her way from St. Peter's to the Lateran
she had a painful delivery, between the Coliseum and St. Clement's
Church, in the street. Having died after, it is said that she was
buried on the spot; and therefore the Lord Pope always turns aside
from that way, and it is supposed by some out of detestation for what
happened there. Nor on that account is she placed in the catalogue of
the Holy Pontiffs, not only on account of her sex, but also because of
the horribleness of the circumstance."

Certainly a story at all scandalous _crescit eundo_.

William Ocham alludes to the story, and John Huss, only too happy to
believe it, provides the lady with a name, and asserts that she was
baptized Agnes, or, as he will have it with a strong aspirate, Hagnes.
Others, however, insist upon her name having been Gilberta; and some
stout Germans, not relishing the notion of her being a daughter of
Fatherland, palm her off on England. As soon as we arrive at
Reformation times, the German and French Protestants fasten on the
story with the utmost avidity, and add sweet little touches of their
own, and draw conclusions galling enough to the Roman See,
illustrating their accounts with wood engravings vigorous and graphic,
but hardly decent. One of these represents the event in a peculiarly
startling manner. The procession of bishops, with the Host and tapers,
is sweeping along, when suddenly the cross-bearer before the
triple-crowned and vested Pope starts aside to witness the unexpected
arrival. This engraving, which it is quite impossible for me to
reproduce, is in a curious little book, entitled "Puerperium Johannis
Papæ 8, 1530."

The following jingling record of the event is from the Rhythmical Vitæ
Pontificum of Gulielmus Jacobus of Egmonden, a work never printed.
This fragment is preserved in "Wolfii Lectionum Memorabilium
centenarii, XVI.:"--

    "Priusquàm reconditur Sergius, vocatur
    Ad summam, qui dicitur Johannes, huic addatur
    Anglicus, Moguntia iste procreatur.
    Qui, ut dat sententia, fœminis aptatur
    Sexu: quod sequentia monstrant, breviatur,
    Hæc vox: nam prolixius chronica procedunt.
    Ista, de qua brevius dicta minus lædunt.
    Huic erat amasius, ut scriptores credunt.
    Patria relinquitur Moguntia, Græcorum
    Studiosè petitur schola. Pòst doctorum
    Hæc doctrix efficitur Romæ legens: horum
    Hæc auditu fungitur loquens. Hinc prostrato
    Summo hæc eligitur: sexu exaltato
    Quandoque negligitur. Fatur quòd hæc nato
    Per servum conficitur. Tempore gignendi
    Ad processum equus scanditur, vice flendi,
    Papa cadit, panditur improbis ridendi
    Norma, puer nascitur in vico Clementis,
    Colossœum jungitur. Corpus parentis
    In eodem traditur sepulturæ gentis,
    Faturque scriptoribus, quòd Papa præfato,
    Vico senioribus transiens amato
    Congruo ductoribus sequitur negato
    Loco, quo Ecclesia partu denigratur,
    Quamvis inter spacia Pontificum ponatur,
    Propter sexum."

Stephen Blanch, in his "Urbis Romæ Mirabilia," says that an angel of
heaven appeared to Joan before the event, and asked her to choose
whether she would prefer burning eternally in hell, or having her
confinement in public; with sense which does her credit, she chose the
latter. The Protestant writers were not satisfied that the father of
the unhappy baby should have been a servant: some made him a
Cardinal, and others the devil himself. According to an eminent Dutch
minister, it is immaterial whether the child be fathered on Satan or a
monk; at all events, the former took a lively interest in the youthful
Antichrist, and, on the occasion of his birth, was seen and heard
fluttering overhead, crowing and chanting in an unmusical voice the
Sibylline verses announcing the birth of the Arch-persecutor:--

    "Papa pater patrum, Papissæ pandito partum
    Et tibi tunc eadem de corpore quando recedam!"

which lines, as being perhaps the only ones known to be of diabolic
composition, are deserving of preservation.

The Reformers, in order to reconcile dates, were put to the somewhat
perplexing necessity of moving Pope Joan to their own times, or else
of giving to the youthful Antichrist an age of seven hundred years.

It must be allowed that the _accouchement_ of a Pope in full
pontificals, during a solemn procession, was a prodigy not likely to
occur more than once in the world's history, and was certain to be of
momentous import.

It will be seen by the curious woodcut reproduced as frontispiece
from Baptista Mantuanus, that he consigned Pope Joan to the jaws of
hell, notwithstanding her choice. The verses accompanying this picture

    "Hic pendebat adhuc sexum mentita virile
    Fœmina, cui triplici Phrygiam diademate mitram
    Extollebat apex: et pontificalis adulter."

It need hardly be stated that the whole story of Pope Joan is
fabulous, and rests on not the slightest historical foundation. It was
probably a Greek invention to throw discredit on the papal hierarchy,
first circulated more than two hundred years after the date of the
supposed Pope. Even Martin Polonus (A. D. 1282), who is the first to
give the details, does so merely on popular report.

The great champions of the myth were the Protestants of the sixteenth
century, who were thoroughly unscrupulous in distorting history and
suppressing facts, so long as they could make a point. A paper war was
waged upon the subject, and finally the whole story was proved
conclusively to be utterly destitute of historical truth. A melancholy
example of the blindness of party feeling and prejudice is seen in
Mosheim, who assumes the truth of the ridiculous story, and gravely
inserts it in his "Ecclesiastical History." "Between Leo IV., who died
855, and Benedict III., a woman, who concealed her sex and assumed the
name of John, it is said, opened her way to the Pontifical throne by
her learning and genius, and governed the Church for a time. She is
commonly called the Papess Joan. During the five subsequent centuries
the witnesses to this extraordinary event are without number; nor did
any one, prior to the Reformation by Luther, regard the thing as
either incredible or disgraceful to the Church." Such are Mosheim's
words, and I give them as a specimen of the credit which is due to his
opinion. The "Ecclesiastical History" he wrote is full of perversions
of the plainest facts, and that under our notice is but one out of
many. "During the five centuries after her reign," he says, "the
witnesses to the story are innumerable." Now, for two centuries there
is not an allusion to be found to the events. The only passage which
can be found is a universally acknowledged interpolation of the "Lives
of the Popes," by Anastasius Bibliothecarius; and this interpolation
is stated in the first printed edition by Busæus, Mogunt. 1602, to be
only found in two MS. copies.

From Marianus Scotus or Sigebert de Gemblours the story passed into
other chronicles _totidem verbis_, and generally with hesitation and
an expression of doubt in its accuracy. Martin Polonus is the first to
give the particulars, some four hundred and twenty years after the
reign of the fabulous Pope.

Mosheim is false again in asserting that no one prior to the
Reformation regarded the thing as either incredible or disgraceful.
This is but of a piece with his malignity and disregard for truth,
whenever he can hit the Catholic Church hard. Bart. Platina, in his
"Lives of the Popes," written before Luther was born, after relating
the story, says, "These things which I relate are popular reports, but
derived from uncertain and obscure authors, which I have therefore
inserted briefly and baldly, lest I should seem to omit obstinately
and pertinaciously what most people assert." Thus the facts were
justly doubted by Platina on the legitimate grounds that they rested
on popular gossip, and not on reliable history. Marianus Scotus, the
first to relate the story, died in 1086. He was a monk of St. Martin
of Cologne, then of Fulda, and lastly of St. Alban's, at Metz. How
could he have obtained reliable information, or seen documents upon
which to ground the assertion? Again, his chronicle has suffered
severely from interpolations in numerous places, and there is reason
to believe that the Pope-Joan passage is itself a late interpolation.

If so, we are reduced to Sigebert de Gemblours (d. 1112), placing two
centuries and a half between him and the event he records, and his
chronicle may have been tampered with.

The historical discrepancies are sufficiently glaring to make the
story more than questionable.

Leo IV. died on the 17th July, 855; and Benedict III. was consecrated
on the 1st September in the same year; so that it is impossible to
insert between their pontificates a reign of two years, five months,
and four days. It is, however, true that there was an antipope elected
upon the death of Leo, at the instance of the Emperor Louis; but his
name was Anastasius. This man possessed himself of the palace of the
Popes, and obtained the incarceration of Benedict. However, his
supporters almost immediately deserted him, and Benedict assumed the
pontificate. The reign of Benedict was only for two years and a half,
so that Anastasius cannot be the supposed Joan; nor do we hear of any
charge brought against him to the effect of his being a woman. But the
stout partisans of the Pope-Joan tale assert, on the authority of the
"Annales Augustani,"[29] and some other, but late authorities, that
the female Pope was John VIII., who consecrated Louis II. of France,
and Ethelwolf of England. Here again is confusion. Ethelwolf sent
Alfred to Rome in 853, and the youth received regal unction from the
hands of Leo IV. In 855 Ethelwolf visited Rome, it is true, but was
not consecrated by the existing Pope, whilst Charles the Bald was
anointed by John VIII. in 875. John VIII. was a Roman, son of Gundus,
and an archdeacon of the Eternal City. He assumed the triple crown in
872, and reigned till December 18, 882. John took an active part in
the troubles of the Church under the incursions of the Sarasins, and
325 letters of his are extant, addressed to the princes and prelates
of his day.

Any one desirous of pursuing this examination into the untenable
nature of the story may find an excellent summary of the arguments
used on both sides in Gieseler, "Lehrbuch," &c., Cunningham's trans.,
vol. ii. pp. 20, 21, or in Bayle, "Dictionnaire," tom. iii. art.

The arguments in favor of the myth may be seen in Spanheim, "Exercit.
de Papa Fœmina," Opp. tom. ii. p. 577, or in Lenfant, "Histoire de
la Papesse Jeanne," La Haye, 1736, 2 vols. 12mo.

The arguments on the other side may be had in "Allatii Confutatio
Fabulæ de Johanna Papissa," Colon. 1645; in Le Quien, "Oriens
Christianus," tom. iii. p. 777; and in the pages of the Lutheran
Huemann, "Sylloge Diss. Sacras.," tom. i. par. ii. p. 352.

The final development of this extraordinary story, under the delicate
fingers of the German and French Protestant controversialists, may not
prove uninteresting.

Joan was the daughter of an English missionary, who left England to
preach the Gospel to the recently converted Saxons. She was born at
Engelheim, and according to different authors she was christened
Agnes, Gerberta, Joanna, Margaret, Isabel, Dorothy, or Jutt--the last
must have been a nickname surely! She early distinguished herself for
genius and love of letters. A young monk of Fulda having conceived for
her a violent passion, which she returned with ardor, she deserted her
parents, dressed herself in male attire, and in the sacred precincts
of Fulda divided her affections between the youthful monk and the
musty books of the monastic library. Not satisfied with the restraints
of conventual life, nor finding the library sufficiently well provided
with books of abstruse science, she eloped with her young man, and
after visiting England, France, and Italy, she brought him to Athens,
where she addicted herself with unflagging devotion to her literary
pursuits. Wearied out by his journey, the monk expired in the arms of
the blue-stocking who had influenced his life for evil, and the young
lady of so many aliases was for a while inconsolable. She left Athens
and repaired to Rome. There she opened a school and acquired such a
reputation for learning and feigned sanctity, that, on the death of
Leo IV., she was unanimously elected Pope. For two years and five
months, under the name of John VIII., she filled the papal chair with
reputation, no one suspecting her sex. But having taken a fancy to one
of the cardinals, by him she became pregnant. At length arrived the
time of Rogation processions. Whilst passing the street between the
amphitheatre and St. Clement's, she was seized with violent pains,
fell to the ground amidst the crowd, and, whilst her attendants
ministered to her, was delivered of a son. Some say the child and
mother died on the spot, some that she survived but was incarcerated,
some that the child was spirited away to be the Antichrist of the last
days. A marble monument representing the papess with her baby was
erected on the spot, which was declared to be accursed to all ages.

I have little doubt myself that Pope Joan is an impersonification of
the great whore of Revelation, seated on the seven hills, and is the
popular expression of the idea prevalent from the twelfth to the
sixteenth centuries, that the mystery of iniquity was somehow working
in the papal court. The scandal of the Antipopes, the utter
worldliness and pride of others, the spiritual fornication with the
kings of the earth, along with the words of Revelation prophesying the
advent of an adulterous woman who should rule over the imperial city,
and her connection with Antichrist, crystallized into this curious
myth, much as the floating uncertainty as to the signification of our
Lord's words, "There be some standing here which shall not taste of
death till they see the kingdom of God," condensed into the myth of
the Wandering Jew.

The literature connected with Antichrist is voluminous. I need only
specify some of the most curious works which have appeared on the
subject. St. Hippolytus and Rabanus Maurus have been already alluded
to. Commodianus wrote "Carmen Apologeticum adversus Gentes," which has
been published by Dom Pitra in his "Spicilegium Solesmense," with an
introduction containing Jewish and Christian traditions relating to
Antichrist. "De Turpissima Conceptione, Nativitate, et aliis Præsagiis
Diaboliciis illius Turpissimi Hominis Antichristi," is the title of a
strange little volume published by Lenoir in A. D. 1500, containing
rude yet characteristic woodcuts, representing the birth, life, and
death of the Man of Sin, each picture accompanied by French verses in
explanation. An equally remarkable illustrated work on Antichrist is
the famous "Liber de Antichristo," a blockbook of an early date. It is
in twenty-seven folios, and is excessively rare. Dibdin has reproduced
three of the plates in his "Bibliotheca Spenseriana," and Falckenstein
has given full details of the work in his "Geschichte der

There is an Easter miracle-play of the twelfth century, still extant,
the subject of which is the "Life and Death of Antichrist." More
curious still is the "Farce de l'Antéchrist et de Trois Femmes"--a
composition of the sixteenth century, when that mysterious personage
occupied all brains. The farce consists in a scene at a fish-stall,
with three good ladies quarrelling over some fish. Antichrist steps
in,--for no particular reason that one can see,--upsets fish and
fish-women, sets them fighting, and skips off the stage. The best book
on Antichrist, and that most full of learning and judgment, is
Malvenda's great work in two folio volumes, "De Antichristo, libri
xii." Lyons, 1647.

For the fable of the Pope Joan, see J. Lenfant, "Histoire de la
Papesse Jeanne." La Haye, 1736, 2 vols. 12mo. "Allatii Confutatio
Fabulæ de Johanna Papissa." Colon. 1645.


[29] These Annals were written in 1135.

The Man in the Moon.

  [Illustration: From L. Richter.]

Every one knows that the moon is inhabited by a man with a bundle of
sticks on his back, who has been exiled thither for many centuries,
and who is so far off that he is beyond the reach of death.

He has once visited this earth, if the nursery rhyme is to be
credited, when it asserts that--

    "The Man in the Moon
    Came down too soon,
    And asked his way to Norwich;"

but whether he ever reached that city, the same authority does not

The story as told by nurses is, that this man was found by Moses
gathering sticks on a Sabbath, and that, for this crime, he was doomed
to reside in the moon till the end of all things; and they refer to
Numbers xv. 32-36:--

"And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a
man that gathered sticks upon the Sabbath day. And they that found him
gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the
congregation. And they put him in ward, because it was not declared
what should be done to him. And the Lord said unto Moses, The man
shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him
with stones without the camp. And all the congregation brought him
without the camp, and stoned him with stones till he died."

Of course, in the sacred writings there is no allusion to the moon.

The German tale is as follows:--

Ages ago there went one Sunday morning an old man into the wood to hew
sticks. He cut a fagot and slung it on a stout staff, cast it over his
shoulder, and began to trudge home with his burden. On his way he met
a handsome man in Sunday suit, walking towards the Church; this man
stopped and asked the fagot-bearer, "Do you know that this is Sunday
on earth, when all must rest from their labors?"

"Sunday on earth, or Monday in heaven, it is all one to me!" laughed
the wood-cutter.

"Then bear your bundle forever," answered the stranger; "and as you
value not Sunday on earth, yours shall be a perpetual Moon-day in
heaven; and you shall stand for eternity in the moon, a warning to all
Sabbath-breakers." Thereupon the stranger vanished, and the man was
caught up with his stock and his fagot into the moon, where he stands

The superstition seems to be old in Germany, for the full moon is
spoken of as _wadel_, or _wedel_, a fagot. Tobler relates the story
thus: "An arma mā ket alawel am Sonnti holz ufglesa. Do hedem der
liebe Gott dwahl gloh, öb er lieber wott ider sonn verbrenna oder im
mo verfrura, do willer lieber inn mo ihi. Dromm siedma no jetz an ma
im mo inna, wenns wedel ist. Er hed a püscheli uffem rogga."[30] That
is to say, he was given the choice of burning in the sun, or of
freezing in the moon; he chose the latter; and now at full moon he is
to be seen seated with his bundle of fagots on his back.

In Schaumburg-Lippe,[31] the story goes, that a man and a woman stand
in the moon, the man because he strewed brambles and thorns on the
church path, so as to hinder people from attending Mass on Sunday
morning; the woman because she made butter on that day. The man
carries his bundle of thorns, the woman her butter-tub. A similar tale
is told in Swabia and in Marken. Fischart[32] says, that there "is to
be seen in the moon a manikin who stole wood;" and Prætorius, in his
description of the world,[33] that "superstitious people assert that
the black flecks in the moon are a man who gathered wood on a Sabbath,
and is therefore turned into stone."

The Dutch household myth is, that the unhappy man was caught stealing
vegetables. Dante calls him Cain:--

    "... Now doth Cain with fork of thorns confine,
    On either hemisphere, touching the wave
    Beneath the towers of Seville. Yesternight
    The moon was round."
                              _Hell_, cant. xx.

And again,--

    "... Tell, I pray thee, whence the gloomy spots
    Upon this body, which below on earth
    Give rise to talk of Cain in fabling quaint?"
                              _Paradise_, cant. ii.

Chaucer, in the "Testament of Cresside," adverts to the man in the
moon, and attributes to him the same idea of theft. Of Lady Cynthia,
or the moon, he says,--

    "Her gite was gray and full of spottis blake,
    And on her brest a chorle painted ful even,
    Bering a bush of thornis on his backe,
    Whiche for his theft might clime so ner the heaven."

Ritson, among his "Ancient Songs," gives one extracted from a
manuscript of the time of Edward II., on the Man in the Moon, but in
very obscure language. The first verse, altered into more modern
orthography, runs as follows:--

    "Man in the Moon stand and stit,
      On his bot-fork his burden he beareth,
    It is much wonder that he do na doun slit,
      For doubt lest he fall he shudd'reth and shivereth.


    "When the frost freezes must chill he bide,
      The thorns be keen his attire so teareth,
    Nis no wight in the world there wot when he syt,
      Ne bote it by the hedge what weeds he weareth."

Alexander Necham, or Nequam, a writer of the twelfth century, in
commenting on the dispersed shadows in the moon, thus alludes to the
vulgar belief: "Nonne novisti quid vulgus vocet rusticum in luna
portantem spinas? Unde quidam vulgariter loquens ait:--

    "Rusticus in Luna,
    Quem sarcina deprimit una
    Monstrat per opinas
    Nulli prodesse rapinas,"

which may be translated thus: "Do you know what they call the rustic
in the moon, who carries the fagot of sticks?" So that one vulgarly
speaking says,--

    "See the rustic in the Moon,
    How his bundle weighs him down;
    Thus his sticks the truth reveal,
    It never profits man to steal."

Shakspeare refers to the same individual in his "Midsummer Night's
Dream." Quince the carpenter, giving directions for the performance of
the play of "Pyramus and Thisbe," orders: "One must come in with a
bush of thorns and a lantern, and say he comes in to disfigure, or to
present, the person of Moonshine." And the enacter of this part says,
"All I have to say is, to tell you that the lantern is the moon; I the
man in the moon; this thorn-bush my thorn-bush; and this dog my dog."

Also "Tempest," Act 2, Scene 2:--

    "_Cal._ Hast thou not dropt from heaven?

    "_Steph._ Out o' th' moon, I do assure thee. I was the man in
    th' moon when time was.

    "_Cal._ I have seen thee in her; and I do adore thee. My
    mistress showed me thee, and thy dog, and thy bush."

The dog I have myself had pointed out to me by an old Devonshire
crone. If popular superstition places a dog in the moon, it puts a
lamb in the sun; for in the same county it is said that those who see
the sun rise on Easter-day, may behold in the orb the lamb and flag.

I believe this idea of locating animals in the two great luminaries of
heaven to be very ancient, and to be a relic of a primeval
superstition of the Aryan race.

There is an ancient pictorial representation of our friend the
Sabbath-breaker in Gyffyn Church, near Conway. The roof of the
chancel is divided into compartments, in four of which are the
Evangelistic symbols, rudely, yet effectively painted. Besides these
symbols is delineated in each compartment an orb of heaven. The sun,
the moon, and two stars, are placed at the feet of the Angel, the
Bull, the Lion, and the Eagle. The representation of the moon is as
below; in the disk is the conventional man with his bundle of sticks,
but without the dog. There is also a curious seal appended to a deed
preserved in the Record Office, dated the 9th year of Edward the Third
(1335), bearing the man in the moon as its device. The deed is one of
conveyance of a messuage, barn, and four acres of ground, in the
parish of Kingston-on-Thames, from Walter de Grendesse, clerk, to
Margaret his mother. On the seal we see the man carrying his sticks,
and the moon surrounds him. There are also a couple of stars added,
perhaps to show that he is in the sky. The legend on the seal reads:--

    "Te Waltere docebo
    cur spinas phebo

which may be translated, "I will teach thee, Walter, why I carry
thorns in the moon."

  [Illustration: {Representation of the moon in Gyffyn Church.}]

  [Illustration: {The seal with the legend visible.}]

The general superstition with regard to the spots in the moon may
briefly be summed up thus: A man is located in the moon; he is a thief
or Sabbath-breaker;[34] he has a pole over his shoulder, from which
is suspended a bundle of sticks or thorns. In some places a woman is
believed to accompany him, and she has a butter-tub with her; in other
localities she is replaced by a dog.

The belief in the Moon-man seems to exist among the natives of British
Columbia; for I read in one of Mr. Duncan's letters to the Church
Missionary Society, "One very dark night I was told that there was a
moon to see on the beach. On going to see, there was an illuminated
disk, with the figure of a man upon it. The water was then very low,
and one of the conjuring parties had lit up this disk at the water's
edge. They had made it of wax, with great exactness, and presently it
was at full. It was an imposing sight. Nothing could be seen around
it; but the Indians suppose that the medicine party are then holding
converse with the man in the moon.... After a short time the moon
waned away, and the conjuring party returned whooping to their house."

Now let us turn to Scandinavian mythology, and see what we learn from
that source.

Mâni, the moon, stole two children from their parents, and carried
them up to heaven. Their names were Hjuki and Bil. They had been
drawing water from the well Byrgir, in the bucket Sœgr, suspended
from the pole Simul, which they bore upon their shoulders. These
children, pole, and bucket were placed in heaven, "where they could be
seen from earth." This refers undoubtedly to the spots in the moon;
and so the Swedish peasantry explain these spots to this day, as
representing a boy and a girl bearing a pail of water between them.
Are we not reminded at once of our nursery rhyme--

    "Jack and Jill went up a hill
      To fetch a pail of water;
    Jack fell down, and broke his crown,
      And Jill came tumbling after"?

This verse, which to us seems at first sight nonsense, I have no
hesitation in saying has a high antiquity, and refers to the Eddaic
Hjuki and Bil. The names indicate as much. Hjuki, in Norse, would be
pronounced Juki, which would readily become Jack; and Bil, for the
sake of euphony, and in order to give a female name to one of the
children, would become Jill.

The fall of Jack, and the subsequent fall of Jill, simply represent
the vanishing of one moon-spot after another, as the moon wanes.

But the old Norse myth had a deeper signification than merely an
explanation of the moon-spots.

Hjuki is derived from the verb jakka, to heap or pile together, to
assemble and increase; and Bil from bila, to break up or dissolve.
Hjuki and Bil, therefore, signify nothing more than the waxing and
waning of the moon, and the water they are represented as bearing
signifies the fact that the rainfall depends on the phases of the
moon. Waxing and waning were individualized, and the meteorological
fact of the connection of the rain with the moon was represented by
the children as water-bearers.

But though Jack and Jill became by degrees dissevered in the popular
mind from the moon, the original myth went through a fresh phase, and
exists still under a new form. The Norse superstition attributed
_theft_ to the moon, and the vulgar soon began to believe that the
figure they saw in the moon was the thief. The lunar specks certainly
may be made to resemble one figure, and only a lively imagination can
discern two. The girl soon dropped out of popular mythology, the boy
oldened into a venerable man, he retained his pole, and the bucket
was transformed into the thing he had stolen--sticks or vegetables.
The theft was in some places exchanged for Sabbath-breaking,
especially among those in Protestant countries who were acquainted
with the Bible story of the stick-gatherer.

The Indian superstition is worth examining, because of the connection
existing between Indian and European mythology, on account of our
belonging to the same Aryan stock.

According to a Buddhist legend, Sâkyamunni himself, in one of his
earlier stages of existence, was a hare, and lived in friendship with
a fox and an ape. In order to test the virtue of the Bodhisattwa,
Indra came to the friends, in the form of an old man, asking for food.
Hare, ape, and fox went forth in quest of victuals for their guest.
The two latter returned from their foraging expedition successful, but
the hare had found nothing. Then, rather than that he should treat the
old man with inhospitality, the hare had a fire kindled, and cast
himself into the flames, that he might himself become food for his
guest. In reward for this act of self-sacrifice, Indra carried the
hare to heaven, and placed him in the moon.[35]

Here we have an old man and a hare in connection with the lunar
planet, just as in Shakspeare we have a fagot-bearer and a dog.

The fable rests upon the name of the moon in Sanskrit, çaçin, or "that
marked with the hare;" but whether the belief in the spots taking the
shape of a hare gave the name çaçin to the moon, or the lunar name
çaçin originated the belief, it is impossible for us to say.

Grounded upon this myth is the curious story of "The Hare and the
Elephant," in the "Pantschatantra," an ancient collection of Sanskrit
fables. It will be found as the first tale in the third book. I have
room only for an outline of the story.


In a certain forest lived a mighty elephant, king of a herd, Toothy by
name. On a certain occasion there was a long drought, so that pools,
tanks, swamps, and lakes were dried up. Then the elephants sent out
exploring parties in search of water. A young one discovered an
extensive lake surrounded with trees, and teeming with water-fowl. It
went by the name of the Moon-lake. The elephants, delighted at the
prospect of having an inexhaustible supply of water, marched off to
the spot, and found their most sanguine hopes realized. Round about
the lake, in the sandy soil, were innumerable hare warrens; and as the
herd of elephants trampled on the ground, the hares were severely
injured, their homes broken down, their heads, legs, and backs crushed
beneath the ponderous feet of the monsters of the forest. As soon as
the herd had withdrawn, the hares assembled, some halting, some
dripping with blood, some bearing the corpses of their cherished
infants, some with piteous tales of ruination in their houses, all
with tears streaming from their eyes, and wailing forth, "Alas, we are
lost! The elephant-herd will return, for there is no water elsewhere,
and that will be the death of all of us."

But the wise and prudent Longear volunteered to drive the herd away;
and he succeeded in this manner: Longear went to the elephants, and
having singled out their king, he addressed him as follows:--

"Ha, ha! bad elephant! what brings you with such thoughtless frivolity
to this strange lake? Back with you at once!"

When the king of the elephants heard this, he asked in astonishment,
"Pray, who are you?"

"I," replied Longear,--"I am Vidschajadatta by name; the hare who
resides in the Moon. Now am I sent by his Excellency the Moon as an
ambassador to you. I speak to you in the name of the Moon."

"Ahem! Hare," said the elephant, somewhat staggered; "and what message
have you brought me from his Excellency the Moon?"

"You have this day injured several hares. Are you not aware that they
are the subjects of me? If you value your life, venture not near the
lake again. Break my command, and I shall withdraw my beams from you
at night, and your bodies will be consumed with perpetual sun."

The elephant, after a short meditation, said, "Friend! it is true that
I have acted against the rights of the excellent Majesty of the Moon.
I should wish to make an apology; how can I do so?"

The hare replied, "Come along with me, and I will show you."

The elephant asked, "Where is his Excellency at present?"

The other replied, "He is now in the lake, hearing the complaints of
the maimed hares."

"If that be the case," said the elephant, humbly, "bring me to my
lord, that I may tender him my submission."

So the hare conducted the king of the elephants to the edge of the
lake, and showed him the reflection of the moon in the water, saying,
"There stands our lord in the midst of the water, plunged in
meditation; reverence him with devotion, and then depart with speed."

Thereupon the elephant poked his proboscis into the water, and
muttered a fervent prayer. By so doing he set the water in agitation,
so that the reflection of the moon was all of a quiver.

"Look!" exclaimed the hare; "his Majesty is trembling with rage at

"Why is his supreme Excellency enraged with me?" asked the elephant.

"Because you have set the water in motion. Worship him, and then be

The elephant let his ears droop, bowed his great head to the earth,
and after having expressed in suitable terms his regret for having
annoyed the Moon, and the hare dwelling in it, he vowed never to
trouble the Moon-lake again. Then he departed, and the hares have ever
since lived there unmolested.


[30] Tobler, Appenz. Sprachsbuch, 20.

[31] Wolf, Zeitschrift für Deut. Myth. i. 168.

[32] Fischart, Garg. 130.

[33] Prætorius, i. 447.

[34] Hebel, in his charming poem on the Man in the Moon, in
"Allemanische Gedichte," makes him both thief and Sabbath-breaker.

[35] "Mémoires ... par Hjouen Thsang, traduits du Chinois par
Stanislas Julien," i. 375. Upham, "Sacred Books of Ceylon," iii. 309.

The Mountain of Venus.

Ragged, bald, and desolate, as though a curse rested upon it, rises
the Hörselberg out of the rich and populous land between Eisenach and
Gotha, looking, from a distance, like a huge stone sarcophagus--a
sarcophagus in which rests in magical slumber, till the end of all
things, a mysterious world of wonders.

High up on the north-west flank of the mountain, in a precipitous wall
of rock, opens a cavern, called the Hörselloch, from the depths of
which issues a muffled roar of water, as though a subterraneous stream
were rushing over rapidly-whirling millwheels. "When I have stood
alone on the ridge of the mountain," says Bechstein, "after having
sought the chasm in vain, I have heard a mighty rush, like that of
falling water, beneath my feet, and after scrambling down the scarp,
have found myself--how, I never knew--in front of the cave."
("Sagenschatz des Thüringes-landes," 1835.)

In ancient days, according to the Thüringian Chronicles, bitter cries
and long-drawn moans were heard issuing from this cavern; and at
night, wild shrieks and the burst of diabolical laughter would ring
from it over the vale, and fill the inhabitants with terror. It was
supposed that this hole gave admittance to Purgatory; and the popular
but faulty derivation of Hörsel was _Höre, die Seele_--Hark, the

But another popular belief respecting this mountain was, that in it
Venus, the pagan Goddess of Love, held her court, in all the pomp and
revelry of heathendom; and there were not a few who declared that they
had seen fair forms of female beauty beckoning them from the mouth of
the chasm, and that they had heard dulcet strains of music well up
from the abyss above the thunder of the falling, unseen torrent.
Charmed by the music, and allured by the spectral forms, various
individuals had entered the cave, and none had returned, except the
Tanhäuser, of whom more anon. Still does the Hörselberg go by the name
of the Venusberg, a name frequently used in the middle ages, but
without its locality being defined.

"In 1398, at midday, there appeared suddenly three great fires in the
air, which presently ran together into one globe of flame, parted
again, and finally sank into the Hörselberg," says the Thüringian

And now for the story of Tanhäuser.

A French knight was riding over the beauteous meadows in the Hörsel
vale on his way to Wartburg, where the Landgrave Hermann was holding a
gathering of minstrels, who were to contend in song for a prize.

Tanhäuser was a famous minnesinger, and all his lays were of love and
of women, for his heart was full of passion, and that not of the
purest and noblest description.

It was towards dusk that he passed the cliff in which is the
Hörselloch, and as he rode by, he saw a white glimmering figure of
matchless beauty standing before him, and beckoning him to her. He
knew her at once, by her attributes and by her superhuman perfection,
to be none other than Venus. As she spake to him, the sweetest strains
of music floated in the air, a soft roseate light glowed around her,
and nymphs of exquisite loveliness scattered roses at her feet. A
thrill of passion ran through the veins of the minnesinger; and,
leaving his horse, he followed the apparition. It led him up the
mountain to the cave, and as it went flowers bloomed upon the soil,
and a radiant track was left for Tanhäuser to follow. He entered the
cavern, and descended to the palace of Venus in the heart of the

Seven years of revelry and debauch were passed, and the minstrel's
heart began to feel a strange void. The beauty, the magnificence, the
variety of the scenes in the pagan goddess's home, and all its
heathenish pleasures, palled upon him, and he yearned for the pure
fresh breezes of earth, one look up at the dark night sky spangled
with stars, one glimpse of simple mountain-flowers, one tinkle of
sheep-bells. At the same time his conscience began to reproach him,
and he longed to make his peace with God. In vain did he entreat Venus
to permit him to depart, and it was only when, in the bitterness of
his grief, he called upon the Virgin-Mother, that a rift in the
mountain-side appeared to him, and he stood again above ground.

How sweet was the morning air, balmy with the scent of hay, as it
rolled up the mountain to him, and fanned his haggard cheek! How
delightful to him was the cushion of moss and scanty grass after the
downy couches of the palace of revelry below! He plucked the little
heather-bells, and held them before him; the tears rolled from his
eyes, and moistened his thin and wasted hands. He looked up at the
soft blue sky and the newly-risen sun, and his heart overflowed. What
were the golden, jewel-incrusted, lamp-lit vaults beneath to that pure
dome of God's building!

The chime of a village church struck sweetly on his ear, satiated with
Bacchanalian songs; and he hurried down the mountain to the church
which called him. There he made his confession; but the priest,
horror-struck at his recital, dared not give him absolution, but
passed him on to another. And so he went from one to another, till at
last he was referred to the Pope himself. To the Pope he went. Urban
IV. then occupied the chair of St. Peter. To him Tanhäuser related the
sickening story of his guilt, and prayed for absolution. Urban was a
hard and stern man, and shocked at the immensity of the sin, he thrust
the penitent indignantly from him, exclaiming, "Guilt such as thine
can never, never be remitted. Sooner shall this staff in my hand grow
green and blossom, than that God should pardon thee!"

Then Tanhäuser, full of despair, and with his soul darkened, went
away, and returned to the only asylum open to him, the Venusberg. But
lo! three days after he had gone, Urban discovered that his pastoral
staff had put forth buds, and had burst into flower. Then he sent
messengers after Tanhäuser, and they reached the Hörsel vale to hear
that a wayworn man, with haggard brow and bowed head, had just entered
the Hörselloch. Since then Tanhäuser has not been seen.

Such is the sad yet beautiful story of Tanhäuser. It is a very ancient
myth Christianized, a wide-spread tradition localized. Originally
heathen, it has been transformed, and has acquired new beauty by an
infusion of Christianity. Scattered over Europe, it exists in various
forms, but in none so graceful as that attached to the Hörselberg.
There are, however, other Venusbergs in Germany; as, for instance, in
Swabia, near Waldsee; another near Ufhausen, at no great distance from
Freiburg (the same story is told of this Venusberg as of the
Hörselberg); in Saxony there is a Venusberg not far from Wolkenstein.
Paracelsus speaks of a Venusberg in Italy, referring to that in which
Æneas Sylvius (Ep. 16) says Venus or a Sibyl resides, occupying a
cavern, and assuming once a week the form of a serpent. Geiler v.
Keysersperg, a quaint old preacher of the fifteenth century, speaks of
the witches assembling on the Venusberg.

The story, either in prose or verse, has often been printed. Some of
the earliest editions are the following:--

"Das Lied von dem Danhewser." Nürnberg, without date; the same,
Nürnberg, 1515.--"Das Lyedt v. d. Thanheuser." Leyptzk, 1520.--"Das
Lied v. d. Danheüser," reprinted by Bechstein, 1835.--"Das Lied vom
edlen Tanheuser, Mons Veneris." Frankfort, 1614; Leipzig, 1668.--"Twe
lede volgen Dat erste vain Danhüsser." Without date.--"Van heer
Danielken." Tantwerpen, 1544.--A Danish version in "Nyerup, Danske
Viser," No. VIII.

Let us now see some of the forms which this remarkable myth assumed in
other countries. Every popular tale has its root, a root which may be
traced among different countries, and though the accidents of the
story may vary, yet the substance remains unaltered. It has been said
that the common people never invent new story-radicals any more than
we invent new word-roots; and this is perfectly true. The same
story-root remains, but it is varied according to the temperament of
the narrator or the exigencies of localization. The story-root of the
Venusberg is this:--

    The underground folk seek union with human beings.

        α. A man is enticed into their abode, where he unites
            with a woman of the underground race.

        β. He desires to revisit the earth, and escapes.

        γ. He returns again to the region below.

Now, there is scarcely a collection of folk-lore which does not
contain a story founded on this root. It appears in every branch of
the Aryan family, and examples might be quoted from Modern Greek,
Albanian, Neapolitan, French, German, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish,
Icelandic, Scotch, Welsh, and other collections of popular tales. I
have only space to mention some.

There is a Norse Tháttr of a certain Helgi Thorir's son, which is, in
its present form, a production of the fourteenth century. Helgi and
his brother Thorstein went on a cruise to Finnmark, or Lapland. They
reached a ness, and found the land covered with forest. Helgi explored
this forest, and lighted suddenly on a party of red-dressed women
riding upon red horses. These ladies were beautiful and of troll race.
One surpassed the others in beauty, and she was their mistress. They
erected a tent and prepared a feast. Helgi observed that all their
vessels were of silver and gold. The lady, who named herself
Ingibjorg, advanced towards the Norseman, and invited him to live with
her. He feasted and lived with the trolls for three days, and then
returned to his ship, bringing with him two chests of silver and gold,
which Ingibjorg had given him. He had been forbidden to mention where
he had been and with whom; so he told no one whence he had obtained
the chests. The ships sailed, and he returned home.

One winter's night Helgi was fetched away from home, in the midst of a
furious storm, by two mysterious horsemen, and no one was able to
ascertain for many years what had become of him, till the prayers of
the king, Olaf, obtained his release, and then he was restored to his
father and brother, but he was thenceforth blind. All the time of his
absence he had been with the red-vested lady in her mysterious abode
of Glœsisvellir.

The Scotch story of Thomas of Ercildoune is the same story. Thomas met
with a strange lady, of elfin race, beneath Eildon Tree, who led him
into the underground land, where he remained with her for seven years.
He then returned to earth, still, however, remaining bound to come to
his royal mistress whenever she should summon him. Accordingly, while
Thomas was making merry with his friends in the Tower of Ercildoune, a
person came running in, and told, with marks of fear and astonishment,
that a hart and a hind had left the neighboring forest, and were
parading the street of the village. Thomas instantly arose, left his
house, and followed the animals into the forest, from which he never
returned. According to popular belief, he still "drees his weird" in
Fairy Land, and is one day expected to revisit earth. (Scott,
"Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border.") Compare with this the ancient
ballad of Tamlane.

Debes relates that "it happened a good while since, when the burghers
of Bergen had the commerce of the Faroe Isles, that there was a man in
Serraade, called Jonas Soideman, who was kept by the spirits in a
mountain during the space of seven years, and at length came out, but
lived afterwards in great distress and fear, lest they should again
take him away; wherefore people were obliged to watch him in the
night." The same author mentions another young man who had been
carried away, and after his return was removed a second time, upon the
eve of his marriage.

Gervase of Tilbury says that "in Catalonia there is a lofty mountain,
named Cavagum, at the foot of which runs a river with golden sands, in
the vicinity of which there are likewise silver mines. This mountain
is steep, and almost inaccessible. On its top, which is always covered
with ice and snow, is a black and bottomless lake, into which if a
stone be cast, a tempest suddenly arises; and near this lake is the
portal of the palace of demons." He then tells how a young damsel was
spirited in there, and spent seven years with the mountain spirits. On
her return to earth she was thin and withered, with wandering eyes,
and almost bereft of understanding.

A Swedish story is to this effect. A young man was on his way to his
bride, when he was allured into a mountain by a beautiful elfin woman.
With her he lived forty years, which passed as an hour; on his return
to earth all his old friends and relations were dead, or had forgotten
him, and finding no rest there, he returned to his mountain elf-land.

In Pomerania, a laborer's son, Jacob Dietrich of Rambin, was enticed
away in the same manner.

There is a curious story told by Fordun in his "Scotichronicon," which
has some interest in connection with the legend of the Tanhäuser. He
relates that in the year 1050, a youth of noble birth had been married
in Rome, and during the nuptial feast, being engaged in a game of
ball, he took off his wedding-ring, and placed it on the finger of a
statue of Venus. When he wished to resume it, he found that the stony
hand had become clinched, so that it was impossible to remove the
ring. Thenceforth he was haunted by the Goddess Venus, who constantly
whispered in his ear, "Embrace me; I am Venus, whom you have wedded; I
will never restore your ring." However, by the assistance of a
priest, she was at length forced to give it up to its rightful owner.

The classic legend of Ulysses, held captive for eight years by the
nymph Calypso in the Island of Ogygia, and again for one year by the
enchantress Circe, contains the root of the same story of the

What may have been the significance of the primeval story-radical it
is impossible for us now to ascertain; but the legend, as it shaped
itself in the middle ages, is certainly indicative of the struggle
between the new and the old faith.

We see thinly veiled in Tanhäuser the story of a man, Christian in
name, but heathen at heart, allured by the attractions of paganism,
which seems to satisfy his poetic instincts, and which gives full rein
to his passions. But these excesses pall on him after a while, and the
religion of sensuality leaves a great void in his breast.

He turns to Christianity, and at first it seems to promise all that he
requires. But alas! he is repelled by its ministers. On all sides he
is met by practice widely at variance with profession. Pride,
worldliness, want of sympathy exist among those who should be the
foremost to guide, sustain, and receive him. All the warm springs
which gushed up in his broken heart are choked, his softened spirit is
hardened again, and he returns in despair to bury his sorrows and
drown his anxieties in the debauchery of his former creed.

A sad picture, but doubtless one very true.

Fatality of Numbers.

The laws governing numbers are so perplexing to the uncultivated mind,
and the results arrived at by calculation are so astonishing, that it
cannot be matter of surprise if superstition has attached itself to

But even to those who are instructed in numeration, there is much that
is mysterious and unaccountable, much that only an advanced
mathematician can explain to his own satisfaction. The neophyte sees
the numbers obedient to certain laws; but _why_ they obey these laws
he cannot understand; and the fact of his not being able so to do,
tends to give to numbers an atmosphere of mystery which impresses him
with awe.

For instance, the property of the number 9, discovered, I believe, by
W. Green, who died in 1794, is inexplicable to any one but a
mathematician. The property to which I allude is this, that when 9 is
multiplied by 2, by 3, by 4, by 5, by 6, &c., it will be found that
the digits composing the product, when added together, give 9. Thus:--

     2 × 9 = 18, and  1 + 8 = 9
     3 × 9 = 27,  "   2 + 7 = 9
     4 × 9 = 36,  "   3 + 6 = 9
     5 × 9 = 45,  "   4 + 5 = 9
     6 × 9 = 54,  "   5 + 4 = 9
     7 × 9 = 63,  "   6 + 3 = 9
     8 × 9 = 72,  "   7 + 2 = 9
     9 × 9 = 81,  "   8 + 1 = 9
    10 × 9 = 90,  "   9 + 0 = 9

It will be noticed that 9 × 11 makes 99, the sum of the digits of
which is 18 and not 9, but the sum of the digits 1 + 8 equals 9.

    9 × 12 = 108, and  1 + 0 + 8 = 9
    9 × 13 = 117,  "   1 + 1 + 7 = 9
    9 × 14 = 126,  "   1 + 2 + 6 = 9

And so on to any extent.

M. de Maivan discovered another singular property of the same number.
If the order of the digits expressing a number be changed, and this
number be subtracted from the former, the remainder will be 9 or a
multiple of 9, and, being a multiple, the sum of its digits will be 9.

For instance, take the number 21, reverse the digits, and you have
12; subtract 12 from 21, and the remainder is 9. Take 63, reverse the
digits, and subtract 36 from 63; you have 27, a multiple of 9, and 2 +
7 = 9. Once more, the number 13 is the reverse of 31; the difference
between these numbers is 18, or twice 9.

Again, the same property found in two numbers thus changed, is
discovered in the same numbers raised to any power.

Take 21 and 12 again. The square of 21 is 441, and the square of 12 is
144; subtract 144 from 441, and the remainder is 297, a multiple of 9;
besides, the digits expressing these powers added together give 9. The
cube of 21 is 9261, and that of 12 is 1728; their difference is 7533,
also a multiple of 9.

The number 37 has also somewhat remarkable properties; when multiplied
by 3 or a multiple of 3 up to 27, it gives in the product three digits
exactly similar. From the knowledge of this the multiplication of 37
is greatly facilitated, the method to be adopted being to multiply
merely the first cipher of the multiplicand by the first multiplier;
it is then unnecessary to proceed with the multiplication, it being
sufficient to write twice to the right hand the cipher obtained, so
that the same digit will stand in the unit, tens, and hundreds places.

For instance, take the results of the following table:--

    37 multiplied by 3 gives 111, and 3 times 1 =  3
    37      "        6   "   222,  "  3   "   2 =  6
    37      "        9   "   333,  "  3   "   3 =  9
    37      "       12   "   444,  "  3   "   4 = 12
    37      "       15   "   555,  "  3   "   5 = 15
    37      "       18   "   666,  "  3   "   6 = 18
    37      "       21   "   777,  "  3   "   7 = 21
    37      "       24   "   888,  "  3   "   8 = 24
    37      "       27   "   999,  "  3   "   9 = 27

The singular property of numbers the most different, when added, to
produce the same sum, originated the use of magical squares for
talismans. Although the reason may be accounted for mathematically,
yet numerous authors have written concerning them, as though there
were something "uncanny" about them. But the most remarkable and
exhaustive treatise on the subject is that by a mathematician of
Dijon, which is entitled "Traité complet des Carrés magiques, pairs et
impairs, simple et composés, à Bordures, Compartiments, Croix,
Chassis, Équerres, Bandes détachées, &c.; suivi d'un Traité des Cubes
magiques et d'un Essai sur les Cercles magiques; par M. Violle,
Géomètre, Chevalier de St. Louis, avec Atlas de 54 grandes Feuilles,
comprenant 400 figures." Paris, 1837. 2 vols. 8vo., the first of 593
pages, the second of 616. Price 36 fr.

I give three examples of magical squares:--

    2   7   6
    9   5   1
    4   3   8

These nine ciphers are disposed in three horizontal lines; add the
three ciphers of each line, and the sum is 15; add the three ciphers
in each column, the sum is 15; add the three ciphers forming
diagonals, and the sum is 15.

    1   2   3   4        1   7   13   19   25
    2   3   2   3       18  24    5    6   12
    4   1   4   1       10  11   17   23    4
    3   4   1   2       22   3    9   15   16
                        14  20   21    2    8

    The sum is 10.          The sum is 65.

But the connection of certain numbers with the dogmas of religion was
sufficient, besides their marvellous properties, to make superstition
attach itself to them. Because there were thirteen at the table when
the Last Supper was celebrated, and one of the number betrayed his
Master, and then hung himself, it is looked upon through Christendom
as unlucky to sit down thirteen at table, the consequence being that
one of the number will die before the year is out. "When I see," said
Vouvenargues, "men of genius not daring to sit down thirteen at table,
there is no error, ancient or modern, which astonishes me."

Nine, having been consecrated by Buddhism, is regarded with great
veneration by the Moguls and Chinese: the latter bow nine times on
entering the presence of their Emperor.

Three is sacred among Brahminical and Christian people, because of the
Trinity of the Godhead.

Pythagoras taught that each number had its own peculiar character,
virtue, and properties.

"The unit, or the monad," he says, "is the principle and the end of
all; it is this sublime knot which binds together the chain of causes;
it is the symbol of identity, of equality, of existence, of
conservation, and of general harmony. Having no parts, the monad
represents Divinity; it announces also order, peace, and tranquillity,
which are founded on unity of sentiments; consequently ONE is a good

"The number TWO, or the dyad, the origin of contrasts, is the symbol
of diversity, or inequality, of division and of separation. TWO is
accordingly an evil principle, a number of bad augury, characterizing
disorder, confusion, and change.

"THREE, or the triad, is the first of unequals; it is the number
containing the most sublime mysteries, for everything is composed of
three substances; it represents God, the soul of the world, the spirit
of man." This number, which plays so great a part in the traditions of
Asia, and in the Platonic philosophy, is the image of the attributes
of God.

"FOUR, or the tetrad, as the first mathematical power, is also one of
the chief elements; it represents the generating virtue, whence come
all combinations; it is the most perfect of numbers; it is the root of
all things. It is holy by nature, since it constitutes the Divine
essence, by recalling His unity, His power, His goodness, and His
wisdom, the four perfections which especially characterize God.
Consequently, Pythagoricians swear by the quaternary number, which
gives the human soul its eternal nature.

"The number FIVE, or the pentad, has a peculiar force in sacred
expiations; it is everything; it stops the power of poisons, and is
redoubted by evil spirits.

"The number SIX, or the hexad, is a fortunate number, and it derives
its merit from the first sculptors having divided the face into six
portions; but, according to the Chaldeans, the reason is, because God
created the world in six days.

"SEVEN, or the heptad, is a number very powerful for good or for evil.
It belongs especially to sacred things.

"The number EIGHT, or the octad, is the first cube, that is to say,
squared in all senses, as a die, proceeding from its base two, an even
number; so is man four-square, or perfect.

"The number NINE, or the ennead, being the multiple of three, should
be regarded as sacred.

"Finally, TEN, or the decad, is the measure of all, since it contains
all the numeric relations and harmonies. As the reunion of the four
first numbers, it plays an eminent part, since all the branches of
science, all nomenclatures, emanate from, and retire into it."

It is hardly necessary for me here to do more than mention the
peculiar character given to different numbers by Christianity. One is
the numeral indicating the Unity of the Godhead; Two points to the
hypostatic union; Three to the Blessed Trinity; Four to the
Evangelists; Five to the Sacred Wounds; Six is the number of sin;
Seven that of the gifts of the Spirit; Eight, that of the Beatitudes;
Ten is the number of the commandments; Eleven speaks of the Apostles
after the loss of Judas; Twelve, of the complete apostolic college.

I shall now point out certain numbers which have been regarded with
superstition, and certain events connected with numbers which are of
curious interest.

The number 14 has often been observed as having singularly influenced
the life of Henry IV. and other French princes. Let us take the
history of Henry.

On the 14th May, 1029, the first king of France named Henry was
consecrated, and on the 14th May, 1610, the last Henry was

Fourteen letters enter into the composition of the name of Henri de
Bourbon, who was the 14th king bearing the titles of France and

The 14th December, 1553, that is, 14 centuries, 14 decades, and 14
years after the birth of Christ, Henry IV. was born; the ciphers of
the date 1553, when added together, giving the number 14.

The 14th May, 1554, Henry II. ordered the enlargement of the Rue de la
Ferronnerie. The circumstance of this order not having been carried
out, occasioned the murder of Henry IV. in that street, four times 14
years after.

The 14th May, 1552, was the date of the birth of Marguérite de Valois,
first wife of Henry IV.

On the 14th May, 1588, the Parisians revolted against Henry III., at
the instigation of the Duke of Guise.

On the 14th March, 1590, Henry IV. gained the battle of Ivry.

On the 14th May, 1590, Henry was repulsed from the Fauxbourgs of

On the 14th November, 1590, the Sixteen took oath to die rather than
serve Henry.

On the 14th November, 1592, the Parliament registered the Papal Bull
giving power to the legate to nominate a king to the exclusion of

On the 14th December, 1599, the Duke of Savoy was reconciled to Henry

On the 14th September, 1606, the Dauphin, afterwards Louis XIII., was

On the 14th May, 1610, the king was stopped in the Rue de la
Ferronnerie, by his carriage becoming locked with a cart, on account
of the narrowness of the street. Ravaillac took advantage of the
occasion for stabbing him.

Henry IV. lived four times 14 years, 14 weeks, and four times 14 days;
that is to say, 56 years and 5 months.

On the 14th May, 1643, died Louis XIII., son of Henry IV.; not only on
the same day of the same month as his father, but the date, 1643, when
its ciphers are added together, gives the number 14, just as the
ciphers of the date of the birth of his father gave 14.

Louis XIV. mounted the throne in 1643: 1 + 6 + 4 + 3 = 14.

He died in the year 1715: 1 + 7 + 1 + 5 = 14.

He lived 77 years, and 7 + 7 = 14.

Louis XV. mounted the throne in the same year; he died in 1774, which
also bears the stamp of 14, the extremes being 14, and the sum of the
means 7 + 7 making 14.

Louis XVI. had reigned 14 years when he convoked the States General,
which was to bring about the Revolution.

The number of years between the assassination of Henry IV. and the
dethronement of Louis XVI. is divisible by 14.

Louis XVII. died in 1794; the extreme digits of the date are 14, and
the first two give his number.

The restoration of the Bourbons took place in 1814, also marked by the
extremes being 14; also by the sum of the ciphers making 14.

The following are other curious calculations made respecting certain
French kings.

Add the ciphers composing the year of the birth or of the death of
some of the kings of the third race, and the result of each sum is
the titular number of each prince. Thus:--

Louis IX. was born in 1215; add the four ciphers of this date, and you
have IX.

Charles VII. was born in 1402; the sum of 1 + 4 + 2 gives VII.

Louis XII. was born in 1461; and 1 + 4 + 6 + 1 = XII.

Henry IV. died in 1610; and 1 + 6 + 1 = twice IV.

Louis XIV. was crowned in 1643; and these four ciphers give XIV. The
same king died in 1715; and this date gives also XIV. He was aged 77
years, and again 7 + 7 = 14.

Louis XVIII. was born in 1755; add the digits, and you have XVIII.

What is remarkable is, that this number 18 is double the number of the
king to whom the law first applies, and is triple the number of the
kings to whom it has applied.

Here is another curious calculation:--

Robespierre fell in 1794;

Napoleon in 1815, and Charles X. in 1830.

Now, the remarkable fact in connection with these dates is, that the
sum of the digits composing them, added to the dates, gives the date
of the fall of the successor. Robespierre fell in 1794; 1 + 7 + 9 + 4
= 21, 1794 + 21 = 1815, the date of the fall of Napoleon; 1 + 8 + 1 +
5 = 15, and 1815 + 15 = 1830, the date of the fall of Charles X.

There is a singular rule which has been supposed to determine the
length of the reigning Pope's life, in the earlier half of a century.
Add his number to that of his predecessor, to that add ten, and the
result gives the year of his death.

Pius VII. succeeded Pius VI.; 6 + 7 = 13; add 10, and the sum is 23.
Pius VII. died in 1823.

Leo XII. succeeded Pius VII.; 12 + 7 + 10 = 29; and Leo XII. died in

Pius VIII. succeeded Leo XII.; 8 + 12 + 10 = 30; and Pius VIII. died
in 1830.

However, this calculation does not always apply.

Gregory XVI. ought to have died in 1834, but he did not actually
vacate his see till 1846.

It is also well known that an ancient tradition forbids the hope of
any of St. Peter's successors, _pervenire ad annos Petri_; i. e., to
reign 25 years.

Those who sat longest are

                           Years.    Months.    Days.
    Pius VI., who reigned    24         6        14
    Hadrian I.       "       23        10        17
    Pius VII.        "       23         5         6
    Alexander III.   "       21        11        23
    St. Silvester I. "       21         0         4

There is one numerical curiosity of a very remarkable character, which
I must not omit.

The ancient Chamber of Deputies, such as it existed in 1830, was
composed of 402 members, and was divided into two parties. The one,
numbering 221 members, declared itself strongly for the revolution of
July; the other party, numbering 181, did not favor a change. The
result was the constitutional monarchy, which re-established order
after the three memorable days of July. The parties were known by the
following nicknames. The larger was commonly called _La queue de
Robespierre_, and the smaller, _Les honnêtes gens_. Now, the
remarkable fact is, that if we give to the letters of the alphabet
their numerical values as they stand in their order, as 1 for A, 2 for
B, 3 for C, and so on to Z, which is valued at 25, and then write
vertically on the left hand the words, _La queue de Robespierre_,
with the number equivalent to each letter opposite to it, and on the
right hand, in like manner, _Les honnêtes gens_, if each column of
numbers be summed up, the result is the number of members who formed
each party.

    1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9  10  11  12  13
    A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M

    14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21  22  23  24  25
     N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   X   Y   Z

    L--12      L--12
    A-- 1      E-- 5
    U--21      H-- 8
    E-- 5      O--15
    U-- 5      N--14
    E-- 5      N--14
               E-- 5
    D-- 4      T--20
    E-- 5      E-- 5
    O--15      G-- 7
    B-- 2      E-- 5
    E-- 5      N--14
    S--19      S--19
    P--16      -----
    I-- 9        181
    E-- 5
    E-- 5

    Majority     221
    Minority     181
    Total        402

Some coincidences of dates are very remarkable.

On the 25th August, 1569, the Calvinists massacred the Catholic nobles
and priests at Béarn and Navarre.

On the same day of the same month, in 1572, the Calvinists were
massacred in Paris and elsewhere.

On the 25th October, 1615, Louis XIII. married Anne of Austria,
infanta of Spain, whereupon we may remark the following

The name Loys[36] de Bourbon contains 13 letters; so does the name
Anne d'Austriche.

Louis was 13 years old when this marriage was decided on; Anne was the
same age.

He was the thirteenth king of France bearing the name of Louis, and
she was the thirteenth infanta of the name of Anne of Austria.

On the 23d April, 1616, died Shakspeare: on the same day of the same
month, in the same year, died the great poet Cervantes.

On the 29th May, 1630, King Charles II. was born.

On the 29th May, 1660, he was restored.

On the 29th May, 1672, the fleet was beaten by the Dutch.

On the 29th May, 1679, the rebellion of the Covenanters broke out in

The Emperor Charles V. was born on February 24, 1500; on that day he
won the battle of Pavia, in 1525, and on the same day was crowned in

On the 29th January, 1697, M. de Broquemar, president of the
Parliament of Paris, died suddenly in that city; next day his brother,
an officer, died suddenly at Bergue, where he was governor. The lives
of these brothers present remarkable coincidences. One day the
officer, being engaged in battle, was wounded in his leg by a
sword-blow. On the same day, at the same moment, the president was
afflicted with acute pain, which attacked him suddenly in the same leg
as that of his brother which had been injured.

John Aubrey mentions the case of a friend of his who was born on the
15th November; his eldest son was born on the 15th November; and his
second son's first son on the same day of the same month.

At the hour of prime, April 6, 1327, Petrarch first saw his mistress
Laura, in the Church of St. Clara in Avignon. In the same city, same
month, same hour, 1348, she died.

The deputation charged with offering the crown of Greece to Prince
Otho, arrived in Munich on the 13th October, 1832; and it was on the
13th October, 1862, that King Otho left Athens, to return to it no

On the 21st April, 1770, Louis XVI. was married at Vienna, by the
sending of the ring.

On the 21st June, in the same year, took place the fatal festivities
of his marriage.

On the 21st January, 1781, was the _fête_ at the Hôtel de Ville, for
the birth of the Dauphin.

On the 21st June, 1791, took place the flight to Varennes.

On the 21st January, 1793, he died on the scaffold.

There is said to be a tradition of Norman-monkish origin, that the
number 3 is stamped on the Royal line of England, so that there shall
not be more than three princes in succession without a revolution.

William I., William II., Henry I.; then followed the revolution of

Henry II., Richard I., John; invasion of Louis, Dauphin of France, who
claimed the throne.

Henry III., Edward I., Edward II., who was dethroned and put to death.

Edward III., Richard II., who was dethroned.

Henry IV., Henry V., Henry VI.; the crown passed to the house of York.

Edward IV., Edward V., Richard III.; the crown claimed and won by
Henry Tudor.

Henry VII., Henry VIII., Edward VI.; usurpation of Lady Jane Grey.

Mary I., Elizabeth; the crown passed to the house of Stuart.

James I., Charles I.; Revolution.

Charles II., James II.; invasion of William of Orange.

William of Orange and Mary II., Anne; arrival of the house of

George I., George II., George III., George IV., William IV., Victoria.
The law has proved faulty in the last case; but certainly there was a
crisis in the reign of George IV.

As I am on the subject of the English princes, I will add another
singular coincidence, though it has nothing to do with the fatality of

It is that Saturday has been a day of ill omen to the later kings.

William of Orange died Saturday, 18th March, 1702.

Anne died Saturday, 1st August, 1704.

George I. died Saturday, 10th June, 1727.

George II. died Saturday, 25th October, 1760.

George III. died Saturday, 30th January, 1820.

George IV. died Saturday, 26th June, 1830.


[36] Up to Louis XIII. all the kings of this name spelled Louis as

The Terrestrial Paradise.

The exact position of Eden, and its present condition, do not seem to
have occupied the minds of our Anglo-Saxon ancestors, nor to have
given rise among them to wild speculations.

The map of the tenth century in the British Museum, accompanying the
Periegesis of Priscian, is far more correct than the generality of
maps which we find in MSS. at a later period; and Paradise does not
occupy the place of Cochin China, or the isles of Japan, as it did
later, after that the fabulous voyage of St. Brandan had become
popular in the eleventh century.[37] The site, however, had been
already indicated by Cosmas, who wrote in the seventh century, and had
been specified by him as occupying a continent east of China, beyond
the ocean, and still watered by the four great rivers Pison, Gihon,
Hiddekel, and Euphrates, which sprang from subterranean canals. In a
map of the ninth century, preserved in the Strasbourg library, the
terrestrial Paradise is, however, on the Continent, placed at the
extreme east of Asia; in fact, is situated in the Celestial Empire. It
occupies the same position in a Turin MS., and also in a map
accompanying a commentary on the Apocalypse in the British Museum.

According to the fictitious letter of Prester John to the Emperor
Emanuel Comnenus, Paradise was situated close to--within three days'
journey of--his own territories, but where those territories were, is
not distinctly specified.

"The River Indus, which issues out of Paradise," writes the mythical
king, "flows among the plains, through a certain province, and it
expands, embracing the whole province with its various windings: there
are found emeralds, sapphires, carbuncles, topazes, chrysolites, onyx,
beryl, sardius, and many other precious stones. There too grows the
plant called Asbetos." A wonderful fountain, moreover, breaks out at
the roots of Olympus, a mountain in Prester John's domain, and "from
hour to hour, and day by day, the taste of this fountain varies; and
its source is hardly three days' journey from Paradise, from which
Adam was expelled. If any man drinks thrice of this spring, he will
from that day feel no infirmity, and he will, as long as he lives,
appear of the age of thirty." This Olympus is a corruption of Alumbo,
which is no other than Columbo in Ceylon, as is abundantly evident
from Sir John Mandeville's Travels; though this important fountain has
escaped the observation of Sir Emmerson Tennant.

"Toward the heed of that forest (he writes) is the cytee of Polombe,
and above the cytee is a great mountayne, also clept Polombe. And of
that mount, the Cytee hathe his name. And at the foot of that Mount is
a fayr welle and a gret, that hathe odour and savour of all spices;
and at every hour of the day, he chaungethe his odour and his savour
dyversely. And whoso drynkethe 3 times fasting of that watre of that
welle, he is hool of alle maner sykenesse, that he hathe. And thei
that duellen there and drynken often of that welle, thei nevere han
sykenesse, and thei semen alle weys yonge. I have dronken there of 3
of 4 sithes; and zit, methinkethe, I fare the better. Some men clepen
it the Welle of Youthe: for thei that often drynken thereat, semen
alle weys yongly, and lyven withouten sykenesse. And men seyn, that
that welle comethe out of Paradys: and therefore it is so vertuous."

Gautier de Metz, in his poem on the "Image du Monde," written in the
thirteenth century, places the terrestrial Paradise in an
unapproachable region of Asia, surrounded by flames, and having an
armed angel to guard the only gate.

Lambertus Floridus, in a MS. of the twelfth century, preserved in the
Imperial Library in Paris, describes it as "Paradisus insula in oceano
in oriente:" and in the map accompanying it, Paradise is represented
as an island, a little south-east of Asia, surrounded by rays, and at
some distance from the main land; and in another MS. of the same
library,--a mediæval encyclopædia,--under the word Paradisus is a
passage which states that in the centre of Paradise is a fountain
which waters the garden--that in fact described by Prester John, and
that of which story-telling Sir John Mandeville declared he had
"dronken 3 or 4 sithes." Close to this fountain is the Tree of Life.
The temperature of the country is equable; neither frosts nor burning
heats destroy the vegetation. The four rivers already mentioned rise
in it. Paradise is, however, inaccessible to the traveller on account
of the wall of fire which surrounds it.

Paludanus relates in his "Thesaurus Novus," of course on
incontrovertible authority, that Alexander the Great was full of
desire to see the terrestrial Paradise, and that he undertook his wars
in the East for the express purpose of reaching it, and obtaining
admission into it. He states that on his nearing Eden an old man was
captured in a ravine by some of Alexander's soldiers, and they were
about to conduct him to their monarch, when the venerable man said,
"Go and announce to Alexander that it is in vain he seeks Paradise;
his efforts will be perfectly fruitless; for the way of Paradise is
the way of humility, a way of which he knows nothing. Take this stone
and give it to Alexander, and say to him, 'From this stone learn what
you must think of yourself.'" Now, this stone was of great value and
excessively heavy, outweighing and excelling in value all other gems;
but when reduced to powder, it was as light as a tuft of hay, and as
worthless. By which token the mysterious old man meant, that Alexander
alive was the greatest of monarchs, but Alexander dead would be a
thing of nought.

That strangest of mediæval preachers, Meffreth, who got into trouble
by denying the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, in his
second sermon for the Third Sunday in Advent, discusses the locality
of the terrestrial Paradise, and claims St. Basil and St. Ambrose as
his authorities for stating that it is situated on the top of a very
lofty mountain in Eastern Asia; so lofty indeed is the mountain, that
the waters of the four rivers fall in cascade down to a lake at its
foot, with such a roar that the natives who live on the shores of the
lake are stone-deaf. Meffreth also explains the escape of Paradise
from submergence at the Deluge, on the same grounds as does the Master
of Sentences (lib. 2, dist. 17, c. 5), by the mountain being so very
high that the waters which rose over Ararat were only able to wash the
base of the mountain of Paradise.

The Hereford map of the thirteenth century represents the terrestrial
Paradise as a circular island near India, cut off from the continent
not only by the sea, but also by a battlemented wall, with a gateway
to the west.

Rupert of Duytz regards it as having been situated in Armenia.
Radulphus Highden, in the thirteenth century, relying on the authority
of St. Basil and St. Isidore of Seville, places Eden in an
inaccessible region of Oriental Asia; and this was also the opinion of
Philostorgus. Hugo de St. Victor, in his book "De Situ Terrarum,"
expresses himself thus: "Paradise is a spot in the Orient productive
of all kind of woods and pomiferous trees. It contains the Tree of
Life: there is neither cold nor heat there, but perpetual equable
temperature. It contains a fountain which flows forth in four rivers."

Rabanus Maurus, with more discretion, says, "Many folk want to make
out that the site of Paradise is in the east of the earth, though cut
off by the longest intervening space of ocean or earth from all
regions which man now inhabits. Consequently, the waters of the
Deluge, which covered the highest points of the surface of our orb,
were unable to reach it. However, whether it be there, or whether it
be anywhere else, God knows; but that there _was_ such a spot once,
and that it was on earth, that is certain."

Jacques de Vitry ("Historia Orientalis"), Gervais of Tilbury, in his
"Otia Imperalia," and many others, hold the same views, as to the site
of Paradise, that were entertained by Hugo de St. Victor.

Jourdain de Sèverac, monk and traveller in the beginning of the
fourteenth century, places the terrestrial Paradise in the "Third
India;" that is to say, in trans-Gangic India.

Leonardo Dati, a Florentine poet of the fifteenth century, composed a
geographical treatise in verse, entitled "Della Sfera;" and it is in
Asia that he locates the garden:--

    "Asia e le prima parte dove l'huomo
    Sendo innocente stava in Paradiso."

But perhaps the most remarkable account of the terrestrial Paradise
ever furnished, is that of the "Eireks Saga Vídförla," an Icelandic
narrative of the fourteenth century, giving the adventures of a
certain Norwegian, named Eirek, who had vowed, whilst a heathen, that
he would explore the fabulous Deathless Land of pagan Scandinavian
mythology. The romance is possibly a Christian recension of an ancient
heathen myth; and Paradise has taken the place in it of

According to the majority of the MSS. the story purports to be nothing
more than a religious novel; but one audacious copyist has ventured to
assert that it is all fact, and that the details are taken down from
the lips of those who heard them from Eirek himself. The account is
briefly this:--

Eirek was a son of Thrand, king of Drontheim, and having taken upon
him a vow to explore the Deathless Land, he went to Denmark, where he
picked up a friend of the same name as himself. They then went to
Constantinople, and called upon the Emperor, who held a long
conversation with them, which is duly reported, relative to the truths
of Christianity and the site of the Deathless Land, which, he assures
them, is nothing more nor less than Paradise.

"The world," said the monarch, who had not forgotten his geography
since he left school, "is precisely 180,000 stages round (about
1,000,000 English miles), and it is not propped up on posts--not a
bit!--it is supported by the power of God; and the distance between
earth and heaven is 100,045 miles (another MS. reads 9382 miles--the
difference is immaterial); and round about the earth is a big sea
called Ocean." "And what's to the south of the earth?" asked Eirek.
"O! there is the end of the world, and that is India." "And pray where
am I to find the Deathless Land?" "That lies--Paradise, I suppose, you
mean--well, it lies slightly east of India."

Having obtained this information, the two Eireks started, furnished
with letters from the Greek Emperor.

They traversed Syria, and took ship--probably at Balsora; then,
reaching India, they proceeded on their journey on horseback, till
they came to a dense forest, the gloom of which was so great, through
the interlacing of the boughs, that even by day the stars could be
observed twinkling, as though they were seen from the bottom of a

On emerging from the forest, the two Eireks came upon a strait,
separating them from a beautiful land, which was unmistakably
Paradise; and the Danish Eirek, intent on displaying his scriptural
knowledge, pronounced the strait to be the River Pison. This was
crossed by a stone bridge, guarded by a dragon.

The Danish Eirek, deterred by the prospect of an encounter with this
monster, refused to advance, and even endeavored to persuade his
friend to give up the attempt to enter Paradise as hopeless, after
that they had come within sight of the favored land. But the Norseman
deliberately walked, sword in hand, into the maw of the dragon, and
next moment, to his infinite surprise and delight, found himself
liberated from the gloom of the monster's interior, and safely placed
in Paradise.

"The land was most beautiful, and the grass as gorgeous as purple; it
was studded with flowers, and was traversed by honey rills. The land
was extensive and level, so that there was not to be seen mountain or
hill, and the sun shone cloudless, without night and darkness; the
calm of the air was great, and there was but a feeble murmur of wind,
and that which there was, breathed redolent with the odor of
blossoms." After a short walk, Eirek observed what certainly must have
been a remarkable object, namely, a tower or steeple self-suspended in
the air, without any support whatever, though access might be had to
it by means of a slender ladder. By this Eirek ascended into a loft of
the tower, and found there an excellent cold collation prepared for
him. After having partaken of this he went to sleep, and in vision
beheld and conversed with his guardian angel, who promised to conduct
him back to his fatherland, but to come for him again and fetch him
away from it forever at the expiration of the tenth year after his
return to Dronheim.

Eirek then retraced his steps to India, unmolested by the dragon,
which did not affect any surprise at having to disgorge him, and,
indeed, which seems to have been, notwithstanding his looks, but a
harmless and passive dragon.

After a tedious journey of seven years, Eirek reached his native land,
where he related his adventures, to the confusion of the heathen, and
to the delight and edification of the faithful. "And in the tenth
year, and at break of day, as Eirek went to prayer, God's Spirit
caught him away, and he was never seen again in this world: so here
ends all we have to say of him."[38]

The saga, of which I have given the merest outline, is certainly
striking, and contains some beautiful passages. It follows the
commonly-received opinion which identified Paradise with Ceylon; and,
indeed, an earlier Icelandic work, the "Rymbegla," indicates the
locality of the terrestrial Paradise as being near India, for it
speaks of the Ganges as taking its rise in the mountains of Eden. It
is not unlikely that the curious history of Eirek, if not a
Christianized version of a heathen myth, may contain the tradition of
a real expedition to India, by one of the hardy adventurers who
overran Europe, explored the north of Russia, harrowed the shores of
Africa, and discovered America.

Later than the fifteenth century, we find no theories propounded
concerning the terrestrial Paradise, though there are many treatises
on the presumed situation of the ancient Eden. At Madrid was published
a poem on the subject, entitled "Patriana decas," in 1629. In 1662
G. C. Kirchmayer, a Wittemberg professor, composed a thoughtful
dissertation, "De Paradiso," which he inserted in his "Deliciæ
Æstivæ." Fr. Arnoulx wrote a work on Paradise in 1665, full of the
grossest absurdities. In 1666 appeared Carver's "Discourse on the
Terrestrian Paradise." Bochart composed a tract on the subject; Huet
wrote on it also, and his work passed through seven editions, the last
dated from Amsterdam, 1701. The Père Hardouin composed a "Nouveau
Traité de la Situation du Paradis Terrestre," La Haye, 1730. An
Armenian work on the rivers of Paradise was translated by M. Saint
Marten in 1819; and in 1842 Sir W. Ouseley read a paper on the
situation of Eden, before the Literary Society in London.


[37] St. Brandan was an Irish monk, living at the close of the sixth
century; he founded the Monastery of Clonfert, and is commemorated on
May 16. His voyage seems to be founded on that of Sinbad, and is full
of absurdities. It has been republished by M. Jubinal from MSS. in the
Bibliothèque du Roi, Paris, 8vo. 1836; the earliest printed English
edition is that of Wynkyn de Worde, London, 1516.

[38] Compare with this the death of Sir Galahad in the "Morte
d'Arthur" of Sir Thomas Malory.


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Transcriber's Note

Archaic spelling is preserved as printed. Variable spelling is also
preserved as printed, where both forms are recognised; for example,
Gervase/Gervais of Tilbury, Sir John Mandeville/Maundevil.

Unk-Khan is given as another name for Prester John. There is one
instance of Un-Khan; however, this is in quoted material, and so is
preserved as printed.

Page 46 includes the phrase, "it was Saterday in Wyttson woke"; the
word 'woke' may be a typographic error for 'weke', but as it cannot
be ascertained for certain, it is preserved as printed.

At page 118, Hemingr is described as throwing a spear rather than
shooting an arrow as challenged. This is presumably an error in the
story, but is preserved as printed.

Page 168 includes "He will rebuild the temple at Jerusalem, and making
the Holy City the great capital of the world." The 'and making' may be
an error for 'and make' or simply 'making'; as it is impossible to be
sure, it is preserved as printed.

Minor punctuation errors have been repaired. Hyphenation and accent
usage have been made consistent.

The following amendments have been made:

    Page 21--Labavius amended to Libavius--"... Libavius declares
    that he would sooner believe ..."

    Page 88--repeated 'a' deleted--"... possibly a little
    imaginative, for she wrote not unsuccessfully; ..."

    Page 118--it at amended to at it--"... and aim at it from
    precisely the same distance."

    Page 175--Wolffii amended to Wolfii--"This fragment is
    preserved in "Wolfii Lectionum Memorabilium centenarii, XVI.:"

    Page 215--omitted word 'on' added--"Helgi and his brother
    Thorstein went on a cruise ..."

    Page 222--multiplication sign changed to plus--"... but the
    sum of the digits 1 + 8 = 9."

The frontispiece illustration has been moved to follow the front
matter. Other illustrations have been moved where necessary so that
they are not in the middle of a paragraph.

Advertising material has been moved from the beginning of the book to
the end.

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