The Phantom World - or, The philosophy of spirits, apparitions, &c, &c.
by Augustin Calmet
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When David, in a spirit of vanity, caused his people to be numbered, God showed him an angel hovering over Jerusalem, ready to smite and destroy it. I do not say decidedly whether it was a good or a bad angel, since it is certain that sometimes the Lord employs good angels to execute his vengeance against the wicked. But it is thought that it was the devil who slew eighty-five thousand men of the army of Sennacherib. And in the Apocalypse, those are also evil angels who pour out on the earth the phials of wrath, and caused all the scourges set down in that holy book.

We shall also place amongst the appearances and works of Satan false Christs, false prophets, Pagan oracles, magicians, sorcerers, and sorceresses, those who are inspired by the spirit of Python, the obsession and possession of demons, those who pretend to predict the future, and whose predictions are sometimes fulfilled; those who make compacts with the devil to discover treasures and enrich themselves; those who make use of charms; evocations by means of magic; enchantment; the being devoted to death by a vow; the deceptions of idolatrous priests, who feigned that their gods ate and drank and had commerce with women—all these can only be the work of Satan, and must be ranked with what the Scripture calls the depths of Satan.[114] We shall say something on this subject in the course of the treatise.


[88] Gen. iii. 1, 23.

[89] Rev. xii. 9.

[90] Bel and the Dragon.

[91] Wisd. xi. 16.

[92] Elian. Hist. Animal.

[93] Numb. xxi. 2 Kings xviii. 4.

[94] On this subject, see a work of profound learning, and as interesting as profound, on "The Worship of the Serpent," by the Rev. John Bathurst Deane, M. A. F. S. A.

[95] Aug. tom. viii. pp. 28, 284.

[96] Ab-racha, pater mali, or pater malus.

[97] August. de Gen. ad Lit. 1. ii. c. 18.

[98] Matt. iv. 9, 10, &c.

[99] Gen. xxxii. 24, 25.

[100] Sever. Sulpit. Hist. Sac.

[101] A small city or town of the Electorate of Cologne, situated on a river of the same name.

[102] There were in all ten letters, the greater part of them Greek, but which formed no (apparent) sense. They were to be seen at Molsheim, in the tablet which bore a representation of this miracle.

[103] Lib. de Anima.

[104] 1 Pet. iii. 8.

[105] Eph. vi. 11. 1 Tim. iii. 7.

[106] Sulpit. Sever. Vit. St. Martin, b. xv.

[107] 2 Cor. xi. 14.

[108] Job i. 6-8.

[109] 1 Kings xxii. 21.

[110] Exod. ix. 6.

[111] Gen. xviii. 13, 14.

[112] Gen. xxxviii.

[113] Prov. xvii. 11.

[114] Rev. ii. 24.



Many persons regard magic, magicians, witchcraft, and charms as fables and illusions, the effects of imagination in weak minds, who, foolishly persuaded of the excessive power possessed by the devil, attribute to him a thousand things which are purely natural, but the physical reasons for which are unknown to them, or which are the effects of the art of certain charlatans, who make a trade of imposing on the simple and ignorant. These opinions are supported by the authority of the principal parliaments of the kingdom, who acknowledge neither magicians nor sorcerers, and who never punish those accused of magic, or sorcery, unless they are convicted also of some other crimes. As, in short, the more they punish and seek out magicians and sorcerers, the more they abound in a country; and, on the contrary, experience proves that in places where nobody believes in them, none are to be found, the most efficacious means of uprooting this fancy is to despise and neglect it.

It is said that magicians and sorcerers themselves, when they fall into the hands of judges and inquisitors, are often the first to maintain that magic and sorcery are merely imaginary, and the effect of popular prejudices and errors. Upon that footing, Satan would destroy himself, and overthrow his own empire, if he were thus to decry magic, of which he is himself the author and support. If the magicians really, and of their own good will, independently of the demon, make this declaration, they betray themselves most lightly, and do not make their cause better; since the judges, notwithstanding their disavowal, prosecute them, and always punish them without mercy, being well persuaded that it is only the fear of execution and the hope of remaining unpunished which makes them say so.

But would it not rather be a stratagem of the evil spirit,[115] who endeavors to render the reality of magic doubtful, to save from punishment those who are accused of it, and to impose on the judges, and make them believe that magicians are only madmen and hypochondriacs, worthy rather of compassion than chastisement? We must then return to the deep examination of the question, and prove that magic is not a chimera, neither has it aught to do with reason. We can neither rest on a sure foundation, nor derive any certain argument for or against the reality of magic, either from the opinion of pretended esprits forts, who deny because they think proper to do so, and because the proofs of the contrary do not appear to them sufficiently clear or demonstrative; nor from the declaration of the demon, of magicians and sorcerers, who maintain that magic and sorcery are only the effects of a disturbed imagination; nor from minds foolishly and vainly prejudiced on the subject, that these declarations are produced simply by the fear of punishment; nor by the subtilty of the malignant spirit, who wishes to mask his play, and cast dust in the eyes of the judges and witnesses, by making them believe that what they regard with so much horror, and what they so vigorously prosecute, is anything but a punishable crime, or at least a crime deserving of punishment.

We must then prove the reality of magic by the Holy Scriptures, by the authority of the Church, and by the testimony of the most grave and sensible writers; and, lastly, show that it is not true that the most famous parliaments acknowledge neither sorcerers nor magicians.

The teraphim which Rachael, the wife of Jacob, brought away secretly from the house of Laban, her father,[116] were doubtless superstitious figures, to which Laban's family paid a worship, very like that which the Romans rendered to their household gods, Penates and Lares, and whom they consulted on future events. Joshua[117] says very distinctly that Terah, the father of Abraham, adored strange gods in Mesopotamia. And in the prophets Hosea and Zechariah,[118] the Seventy translate teraphim by the word oracles. Zechariah and Ezekiel[119] show that the Chaldeans and the Hebrews consulted these teraphim to learn future events.

Others believe that they were talismans or preservatives; everybody agrees as to their being superstitious figures (or idols) which were consulted in order to find out things unknown, or that were to come to pass.

The patriarch Joseph, speaking to his own brethren according to the idea which they had of him in Egypt, says to them:[120] "Know ye not that in all the land there is not a man who equals me in the art of divining and predicting things to come?" And the officer of the same Joseph, having found in Benjamin's sack Joseph's cup which he had purposely hidden in it, says to them:[121] "It is the cup of which my master makes use to discover hidden things."

By the secret of their art, the magicians of Pharaoh imitated the true miracles of Moses; but not being able like him to produce gnats (English version lice), they were constrained to own that the finger of God was in what Moses had hitherto achieved.[122]

After the departure of the Hebrews from Egypt, God expressly forbids his people to practice any sort of magic or divination.[123] He condemns to death magicians, and those who make use of charms.

Balaam, the diviner, being invited by Balak, the king, to come and devote the Israelites to destruction, God put blessings into his mouth instead of curses;[124] and this bad prophet, amongst the blessings which he bestows on Israel, says there is among them neither augury, nor divination, nor magic.

In the time of the Judges, the Idol of Micah was consulted as a kind of oracle.[125] Gideon made, in his house and his city, an Ephod, accompanied by a superstitious image, which was for his family, and to all the people, the occasion of scandal and ruin.[126]

The Israelites went sometimes to consult Beelzebub, god of Ekron,[127] to know if they should recover from their sickness. The history of the evocation of Samuel by the witch of Endor[128] is well known. I am aware that some difficulties are raised concerning this history. I shall deduce nothing from it here, except that this woman passed for a witch, that Saul esteemed her such, and that this prince had exterminated the magicians in his own states, or, at least, that he did not permit them to exercise their art.

Manasses, king of Judah,[129] is blamed for having introduced idolatry into his kingdom, and particularly for having allowed there diviners, aruspices, and those who predicted things to come. King Josiah, on the contrary, destroyed all these superstitions.[130]

The prophet Isaiah, who lived at the same time, says that they wished to persuade the Jews then in captivity at Babylon to address themselves, as did other nations, to diviners and magicians; but they ought to reject these pernicious counsels, and leave those abominations to the Gentiles, who knew not the Lord. Daniel[131] speaks of the magicians, or workers of magic among the Chaldeans, and of those amongst them who interpreted dreams, and predicted things to come.

In the New Testament, the Jews accused Jesus Christ of casting out devils in the name of Beelzebub, the prince of the devils;[132] but he refutes them by saying, that being come to destroy the empire of Beelzebub, it was not to be believed that Beelzebub would work miracles to destroy his own power or kingdom.[133] St. Luke speaks of Simon the sorcerer, who had for a long time bewitched the inhabitants of Samaria with his sorceries; and also of a certain Bar-Jesus of Paphos, who professed sorcery, and boasted he could predict future events.[134] St. Paul, when at Ephesus, caused a number of books of magic to be burned.[135] Lastly, the Psalmist,[136] and the author of the Book of Ecclesiasticus,[137] speak of charms with which they enchanted serpents.

In the Acts of the Apostles,[138] the young girl of the town of Philippi, who was a Pythoness, for several successive days rendered testimony to Paul and Silas, saying that they were "the servants of the Most High, and that they announced to men the way of salvation." Was it the devil who inspired her with these words, to destroy the fruit of the preaching of the Apostles, by making the people believe that they acted in concert with the spirit of evil? Or was it the Spirit of God which put these words into the mouth of this young girl, as he put into the mouth of Balaam prophecies concerning the Messiah? There is reason to believe that she spoke through the inspiration of the evil spirit, since St. Paul imposed silence on her, and expelled the spirit of Python, by which she had been possessed, and which had inspired the predictions she uttered, and the knowledge of hidden things. In what way soever we may explain it, it will always follow that magic is not a chimera, that this maiden was possessed by an evil spirit, and that she predicted and revealed things hidden and to come, and brought her masters considerable gain by soothsaying; for those who consulted her would, doubtless, not have been so foolish as to pay for these predictions, had they not experienced the truth of them by their success and by the event.

From all this united testimony, it results that magic, enchantments, sorcery, divination, the interpretation of dreams, auguries, oracles, and the magical figures which announced things to come, are very real, since they are so severely condemned by God, and that He wills that those who practice them should be punished with death.


[115] Vide Bodin Preface.

[116] Gen. xxxi. 19.

[117] Josh. xxiv. 2-4.

[118] Hosea ii. 4, &c. Zech. v. 2.

[119] Zech. x. 2. Ezek. xxi. 21.

[120] Gen. xliv. 15.

[121] Gen. xliv. 5.

[122] Exod. vii. 10-12. Exod. viii. 19.

[123] Exod. xxii. 18.

[124] Numb. xxii., xxiii.

[125] Judg. xvii. 1, 2.

[126] Judg. viii. 27.

[127] 2 Kings i. 2, 2.

[128] 1 Sam. xxviii. 7, et seq.

[129] 2 Kings xxi. 16.

[130] 2 Kings xxii. 24.

[131] Dan. iv. 6, 7.

[132] Matt. x. 25; xii. 24, 25.

[133] Luke xi. 15, 18, 19.

[134] Acts viii. 11; xiii. 6.

[135] Acts xix. 19.

[136] Psalm lvii.

[137] Ecclus. xii. 13.

[138] Acts xvi. 16, 17.



I shall not fail to be told that all these testimonies from Scripture do not prove the reality of magic, sorcery, divination, and the rest; but only that the Hebrews and Egyptians—I mean the common people among them—believe that there were people who had intercourse with the Divinity, or with good and bad angels, to predict the future, explain dreams, devote their enemies to the direst misfortunes, cause maladies, raise storms, and call forth the souls of the dead; if there was any reality in all this, it was not in the things themselves, but in their imaginations and prepossessions.

Moses and Joseph were regarded by the Egyptians as great magicians. Rachel, it appears, believed that the teraphim of her father Laban were capable of giving her information concerning things hidden and to come. The Israelites might consult the idol of Micha, and Beelzebub the god of Ekron; but the sensible and enlightened people of those days, like similar persons in our own, considered all this as the sport and knavery of pretended magicians, who derived much emolument from maintaining these prejudices among the people.

Moses most wisely ordained the penalty of death against those persons who abused the simplicity of the ignorant to enrich themselves at their expense, and turned away the people from the worship of the true God, in order to keep up among them such practices as were superstitious and contrary to true religion.

Besides, it was necessary to good order, the interests of the commonwealth and of true piety, to repress those abuses which are in opposition to them, and to punish with extreme severity those who draw away the people from the true and legitimate worship due to God, lead them to worship the devil, and place their confidence in the creature, in prejudice to the right of the Creator; inspiring them with vain terrors where there is nothing to fear, and maintaining their minds in the most dangerous errors. If, amongst an infinite number of false predictions, or vain interpretations of dreams, some of them are fulfilled, either this is occasioned by chance or it is the work of the devil, who is often permitted by God to deceive those whose foolishness and impiety lead them to address themselves to him and place their confidence in him, all which the wise lawgiver, animated by the Divine Spirit, justly repressed by the most rigorous punishment.

All histories and experience on this subject demonstrate that those who make use of the art of magic, charms, and spells, only employ their art, their secret, and their power to corrupt and mislead; for crime and vice; thus they cannot be too carefully sought out, or too severely punished.

We may add that what is often taken for black or diabolical magic is nothing but natural magic, or art and cleverness on the part of those who perform things which appear above the force of nature. How many marvelous effects are related of the divining rod, sympathetic powder, phosphoric lights, and mathematical secrets! How much knavery is now well known in the priests of idols, and in those of Babylon, who made the people believe that the god Bel drank and ate; that a large living dragon was a divinity; that the god Anubis desired to have certain women, who were thus deceived by the priests; that the ox Apis gave out oracles, and that the serpent of Alexander of Abonotiche knew the sickness, and gave remedies to the patient without opening the billet which contained a description of the illness! We may possibly speak more fully on this subject hereafter.

In short, the most judicious and most celebrated Parliaments have recognized neither magicians nor sorcerers; at least, they have not condemned them to death unless they were convicted of other crimes, such as theft, bad practices, poisoning, or criminal seduction—for instance, in the affair of Gofredi, a priest of Marseilles, who was condemned by the Parliament of Aix to be torn with hot pincers, and burnt alive. The heads of that company, in the account which they render to the chancellor of this their sentence, testify that this cure was in truth accused of sorcery, but that he had been condemned to the flames as guilty, and convicted of spiritual incest with his penitent, Madelaine de la Palu. From all this it is concluded that there is no reality in what is called magic.



In answer to these, I allow that there is indeed very often a great deal of illusion, prepossession, and imagination in all that is termed magic and sorcery; and sometimes the devil by false appearances combines with them to deceive the simple; but oftener, without the evil spirit being any otherwise a party to it, wicked, corrupt, and interested men, artful and deceptive, abuse the simplicity both of men and women, so far as to persuade them that they possess supernatural secrets for interpreting dreams and foretelling things to come, for curing maladies, and discovering secrets unknown to any one. I can easily agree to all that. All kinds of histories are full of facts which demonstrate what I have just said. The devil has a thousand things imputed to him in which he has no share; they give him the honor of predictions, revelations, secrets, and discoveries, which are by no means the effect of his power, or penetration; as in the same manner he is accused of having caused all sorts of evils, tempests, and maladies, which are purely the effect of natural but unknown causes.

It is very true that there are really many persons who are persuaded of the power of the devil, of his influence over an infinite number of things, and of the effects which they attribute to him; that they have consulted him to learn future events, or to discover hidden things; that they have addressed themselves to him for success in their projects, for money, or favor, or to enjoy their criminal pleasures. All this is very real. Magic, then, is not a simple chimera, since so many persons are infatuated with the power of charms and convicted of holding commerce with the devil, to procure a number of effects which pass for supernatural. Now it is the folly, the vain credulity, the prepossession of such people that the law of God interdicts, that Moses condemns to death, and that the Christian Church punishes by its censures, and which the secular judges repress with the greatest rigor. If in all these things there was nothing but a diseased imagination, weakness of the brain, or popular prejudices, would they be treated with so much severity? Do we put to death hypochondriacs, maniacs, or those who imagine themselves ill? No; they are treated with compassion, and every effort is made to cure them. But in the other case it is impiety, or superstition, or vice in those who consult, or believe they consult, the devil, and place their confidence in him, against which the laws are put in force and ordain chastisement.

Even if we could deny and contest the reality of augurs, diviners, and magicians, and look on all these kind of persons as seducers, who abuse the simplicity of those who betake themselves to them, could we deny the reality of the magicians of Pharaoh, that of Simon, of Bar-Jesus, of the Pythoness of the Acts of the Apostles? Did not the first-mentioned perform many wonders before Pharaoh? Did not Simon the magician rise into the air by means of the devil? Did not St. Paul impose silence on the Pythoness of the city of Philippi in Macedonia?[139] Will it be said that there was any collusion between St. Paul and the Pythoness? Nothing of the kind can be maintained by any reasonable argument.

A small volume was published at Paris, in 1732, by a new author, who conceals himself under the two initials M. D.; it is entitled, Treatise on Magic, Witchcraft, Possessions, Obsessions and Charms; in which their truth and reality are demonstrated. He shows that he believes there are magicians; he shows by Scripture, both in the Old and New Testament, and by the authority of the ancient fathers, some passages from whose works are cited in that of Father Debrio, entitled Disquisitiones Magicae. He proves it by the rituals of all the dioceses, and by the examinations which are found in the printed "Hours," wherein they suppose the existence of sorcerers and magicians.

The civil laws of the emperors, whether pagan or Christian, those of the kings of France, both ancient and modern, jurisconsult, physicians, historians both sacred and profane, concur in maintaining this truth. In all kinds of writers we may remark an infinity of stories of magic, spells and sorcery. The Parliaments of France, and the tribunals of justice in other nations, have recognized magicians, the pernicious effects of their art, and condemned them personally to the most rigorous punishments.

He relates at full length[140] the remonstrances made to King Louis XIV., in 1670, by the Parliament at Rouen, to prove to that monarch that it was not only the Parliament of Rouen, but also all the other Parliaments of the kingdom, which followed the same rules of jurisprudence in what concerns magic and sorcery; that they acknowledged the existence of such things and condemn them. This author cites several facts, and several sentences given on this matter in the Parliaments of Paris, Aix, Toulouse, Rennes, Dijon, &c. &c.; and it was upon these remonstrances that the same king, in 1682, made his declaration concerning the punishment of various crimes, and in particular of sorcery, diviners or soothsayers, magicians, and similar crimes.

He also cites the treaty of M. de la Marre, commissary at the chatelet of Paris, who speaks largely of magic, and proves its reality, origin, progress, and effects. Would it be possible that the sacred authors, laws divine and human, the greatest men of antiquity, jurisconsults, the most enlightened historians, bishops in their councils, the Church in her decisions, her practices and prayers, should have conspired to deceive us, and to condemn those who practice magic, sorcery, spells, and crimes of the same nature, to death, and the most rigorous punishments, if they were merely illusive, and the effect only of a diseased and prejudiced imagination? Father le Brun, of the Oratoire, who has written so well upon the subject of superstitions, substantiates the fact that the Parliament of Paris recognizes that there are sorcerers, and that it punishes them severely when they are convicted. He proves it by a decree issued in 1601 against some inhabitants of Campagne accused of witchcraft. The decree wills that they shall be sent to the Conciergerie by the subaltern judges on pain of being deprived of their charge. It supposes that they must be rigorously punished, but it desires that the proceedings against them for their discovery and punishment may be exact and regular.

M. Servin, advocate-general and councillor of state, fully proves from the Old and New Testament, from tradition, laws and history, that there are diviners, enchanters, and sorcerers, and refutes those who would maintain the contrary. He shows that magicians and those who make use of charms, ought to be punished and held in execration; but he adds that no punishment must be inflicted till after certain and evident proofs have been obtained; and this is what must be strictly attended to by the Parliament of Paris, for fear of punishing madmen for guilty persons, and taking illusions for realities.

The Parliament leaves it to the Church to inflict excommunication, both on men and women who have recourse to charms, and who believe they go in the night to nocturnal assemblies, there to pay homage to the devil. The Capitularies of the kings[141] recommend the pastors to instruct the faithful on the subject of what is termed the Sabbath; at any rate they do not command that these persons should receive corporeal punishment, but only that they should be undeceived and prevented from misleading others in the same manner.

And there the Parliament stops, so long as the case goes no farther than simply misleading; but when it goes so far as to injure others, the kings have often commanded the judges to punish these persons with fines and banishment. The Ordonnances of Charles VIII. in 1490, and of Charles IX. in the States of Orleans in 1560, express themselves formally on this point, and they were renewed by King Louis XIV. in 1682. The third article of these Ordonnances bears, that if it should happen "there were persons to be found wicked enough to add impiety and sacrilege to superstition, those who shall be convicted of these crimes shall be punished with death."

When, therefore, it is evident that some person has inflicted injury on his neighbor by malpractices, the Parliament punishes them rigorously, even to the pain of death, conformably to the ancient Capitularies of the kingdom,[142] and the royal Ordonnances. Bodin, who wrote in 1680, has collected a great number of decrees, to which may be added those which the reverend Father le Brun reports, given since that time.

He afterwards relates a remarkable instance of a man named Hocque, who was condemned to the galleys, the 2d of September, 1687, by sentence of the High Court of Justice at Passy, for having made use of malpractices towards animals, and having thus killed a great number in Champagne. Hocque died suddenly, miserably, and in despair, after having discovered, when drunken with wine, to a person named Beatrice, the secret which he made use of to kill the cattle; he was not ignorant that the demon would cause his death to revenge the discovery which he had made of this spell.

Some of the accomplices of this wretched man were condemned to the galleys by divers decrees; others were condemned to be hanged and burnt, by order of the Baille of Passy, the 26th of October, 1691, which sentence was confirmed by decree of the Parliament of Paris, the 18th of December, 1691. From all which we deduce that the Parliament of Paris acknowledges that the spells by which people do injury to their neighbors ought to be rigorously punished; that the devil has very extensive power, which he too often exercises over men and animals, and that he would exercise it oftener, and with greater extension and fury, if he were not limited and hindered by the power of God, and that of good angels, who set bounds to his malice. St Paul warns us[143] to put on the armor of God, to be able to resist the snares of the devil: for, adds he, "we have not to war against flesh and blood: but against princes and powers, against the bad spirits who govern this dark world, against the spirits of malice who reign in the air."


[139] Acts xvi. 10.

[140] Page 31, et seq.

[141] Capitular. R. xiii de Sortilegiis et Sorciariis, 2 col. 36.

[142] Capitular. in 872, x. 2. col. 230.

[143] Eph. vi. 12.



Monsieur de St. Andre, consulting physician in ordinary to the king, in his sixth letter[144] against magic, maintains that in the affair of Hocque which has been mentioned, there was neither magic, nor sorcery, nor any operation of the demon; that the venomous drug which Hocque placed in the stables, and by means of which he caused the death of the cattle stalled therein, was nothing but a poisonous compound, which, by its smell and the diffusion of its particles, poisoned the animals and caused their death; it required only for these drugs to be taken away for the cattle to be safe, or else to keep the cattle from the stable in which the poison was placed. The difficulty laid in discovering where these poisonous drugs were hidden; the shepherds, who were the authors of the mischief, taking all sorts of precautions to conceal them, knowing that their lives were in danger if they should be discovered.

He further remarks that these gogues or poisoned drugs lose their effects after a certain time, unless they are renewed or watered with something to revive them and make them ferment again. If the devil had any share in this mischief, the drug would always possess the same virtue, and it would not be necessary to renew it and refresh it to restore it to its pristine power.

In all this, M. de St. Andre supposes that if the demon had any power to deprive animals of their lives, or to cause them fatal maladies, he could do so independently of secondary causes; which will not be easily granted him by those who hold that God alone can give life and death by an absolute power, independently of all secondary causes and of any natural agent. The demon might have revealed to Hocque the composition of this fatal and poisonous drug—he might have taught him its dangerous effects, after which the venom acts in a natural way; it recovers and resumes its pristine strength when it is watered; it acts only at a certain distance, and according to the reach of the corpuscles which exhale from it. All these effects have nothing supernatural in them, nor which ought to be attributed to the demon; but it is credible enough that he inspired Hocque with the pernicious design to make use of a dangerous drug, which the wretched man knew how to make up, or the composition of which was revealed to him by the evil spirit.

M. de St. Andre continues, and says that there is nothing in the death of Hocque which ought to be attributed to the demon; it is, says he, a purely natural effect, which can proceed from no other cause than the venomous effluvia which came from the poisonous drug when it was taken up, and which were carried towards the malefactor by those which proceeded from his own body while he was preparing it, and placing it in the ground, which remained there and were preserved in that spot, so that none of them had been dissipated.

These effluvia proceeding from the person of Hocque, then finding themselves liberated, returned to whence they originated, and drew with them the most malignant and corrosive particles of the charge or drug, which acted on the body of this shepherd as they did on those of the animals who smelled them. He confirms what he has just said, by the example of sympathetic powder which acts upon the body of a wounded person, by the immersion of small particles of the blood, or the pus of the wounded man upon whom it is applied, which particles draw with them the spirit of the drugs of which it (the powder) is composed, and carry them to the wound.

But the more I reflect on this pretended evaporation of the venomous effluvia emanating from the poisoned drug, hidden at Passy en Brie, six leagues from Paris, which are supposed to come straight to Hocque, shut up at la Tournelle, borne by the animal effluvia proceeding from this malefactor's body at the time he made up the poisonous drug and put it in the ground, so long before the dangerous composition was discovered; the more I reflect on the possibility of these evaporations the less I am persuaded of them. I could wish to have proofs of this system, and not instances of the very doubtful and very uncertain effects of sympathetic powder, which can have no place in the case in question. It is proving the obscure by the obscure, and the uncertain by the uncertain; and even were we to admit generally some effects of the sympathetic powder, they could not be applicable here; the distance between the places is too great, and the time too long; and what sympathy can be found between this shepherd's poisonous drug and his person for it to be able to return to him who is imprisoned at Paris, when the gogue is discovered at Passy?

The account composed and printed on this event bears, that the fumes of the wine which Hocque had drank having evaporated, and he reflecting on what Beatrice had made him do, began to agitate himself, howled, and complained most strangely, saying that Beatrice had taken him by surprise, that it would occasion his death, and that he must die the instant that Bras-de-fer—another shepherd, to whom Beatrice had persuaded Hocque to write word to take off the poisoned drug which he had scattered on the ground at Passy—should take away the dose. He attacked Beatrice, whom he wanted to strangle; and even excited the other felons who were with him in prison and condemned to the galleys, to maltreat her, through the pity they felt for the despair of Hocque, who, at the time the dose was taken off the land, had died in a moment, in strange convulsions, and agitating himself like one possessed.

M. de St. Andre would again explain all this by supposing Hocque's imagination being struck with the idea of his dying, which he was persuaded would happen at the time they carried away the poison, had a great deal to do with his sufferings and death. How many people have been known to die at the time they had fancied they should, when struck with the idea of their approaching death. The despair and agitation of Hocque had disturbed the mass of his blood, altered the humors, deranged the motion of the effluvia, and rendered them much susceptible of the actions of the vapors proceeding from the poisonous composition.

M. de St. Andre adds that, if the devil had any share in this kind of mischievous spell, it could only be in consequence of some compact, either expressed or tacit, that as soon as the poison should be taken up, he who had put it there should die immediately. Now, what likelihood is there that the person who should make this compact with the devil should have made use of such a stipulation, which would expose him to a cruel and inevitable death?

1. We may reply that fright can cause death; but that it is not possible for it to produce it at a given time, nor can he who falls into a paroxysm of grief say that he shall die at such a moment; the moment of death is not in the power of man in similar circumstances.

2. That so corrupt a character as Hocque, a man who, without provocation, and to gratify his ill-will, kills an infinite number of animals, and causes great damage to innocent persons, is capable of the greatest excess, may give himself up to the evil spirit, by implicated or explicit compacts, and engage, on pain of losing his life, never to take off the charge he had thrown upon a village. He believed he should risk nothing by this stipulation, since he was free to take it away or to leave it, and it was not probable that he should ever lightly thus expose himself to certain death. That the demon had some share in this virtue of the poisonous composition is very likely, when we consider the circumstances of its operations, and those of the death and despair of Hocque. This death is the just penalty of his crimes, and of his confidence in the exterminating angel to whom he had yielded himself.

It is true that impostors, weak minds, heated imaginations, ignorant and superstitious persons have been found who have taken for black magic, and operations of the demon, what was quite natural, and the effect of some subtilty of philosophy or mathematics, or even an illusion of the senses, or a secret which deceives the eye and the senses. But to conclude from thence that there is no magic at all, and that all that is said about it is pure prejudice, ignorance, and superstition, is to conclude what is general from what is particular, and to deny what is true and certain, because it is not easy to distinguish what is true from what is false, and because men will not take the trouble to examine into causes. It is far easier to deny everything than to enter upon a serious examination of facts and circumstances.


[144] M. de St. Andre, Letter VI. on the subject of Magic, &c.



All pagan antiquity speaks of magic and magicians, of magical operations, and of superstitious, curious, and diabolical books. Historians, poets, and orators are full of things which relate to this matter: some believe in it, others deny it; some laugh at it, others remain in uncertainty and doubt. Are they bad spirits, or deceitful men, impostors and charlatans, who, by the subtilties of their art, make the ignorant believe that certain natural effects are produced by supernatural causes? That is the point on which men differ. But in general the name of magic and magician is now taken in these days in an odious sense, for an art which produces marvelous effects, that appear above the common course of nature, and that by the operation of the bad spirit.

The author of the celebrated book of Enoch, which had so great a vogue, and has been cited by some ancient writers[145] as inspired Scripture, says that the eleventh of the watchers, or of those angels who were in love with women, was called Pharmacius, or Pharmachus; that he taught men, before the flood, enchantments, spells, magic arts, and remedies against enchantments. St. Clement, of Alexandria, in his recognitions, says that Ham, the son of Noah, received that art from heaven, and taught it to Misraim, his son, the father of the Egyptians.

In the Scripture, the name of Mage or Magus is never used in a good sense as signifying philosophers who studied astronomy, and were versed in divine and supernatural things, except in speaking of the Magi who came to adore Jesus Christ at Bethlehem.[146] Everywhere else the Scriptures condemn and abhor magic and magicians.[147] They severely forbid the Hebrews to consult such persons and things. They speak with abhorrence of Simon and of Elymas, well-known magicians, in the Acts of the Apostles;[148] and of the magicians of Pharaoh, who counterfeited by their illusions the true miracles of Moses. It seems likely that the Israelites had taken the habit in Egypt, where they then were, of consulting such persons, since Moses forbids them in so many different places, and so severely, either to listen to them or to place confidence in their predictions.

The Chevalier Marsham shows very clearly that the school for magic among the Egyptians is the most ancient ever known in the world; that from thence it spread amongst the Chaldeans, the Babylonians, the Greeks and Persians. St. Paul informs us that Jannes and Jambres, famous magicians of the time of Pharaoh, resisted Moses. Pliny remarks, that anciently, there was no science more renowned, or more in honor, than that of magic: Summam litterarum claritatem gloriamque ex ea scientia antiquitus et pene semper petitam.

Porphyry[149] says that King Darius, son of Hystaspes, had so high an idea of the art of magic that he caused to be engraved on the mausoleum of his father Hystaspes, "That he had been the chief and the master of the Magi of Persia."

The embassy that Balak, King of the Moabites, sent to Balaam the son of Beor, who dwelt in the mountains of the East, towards Persia and Chaldea,[150] to entreat him to come and curse and devote to death the Israelites who threatened to invade his country, shows the antiquity of magic, and of the magical superstitions of that country. For will it be said that these maledictions and inflictions were the effect of the inspiration of the good Spirit, or the work of good angels? I acknowledge that Balaam was inspired by God in the blessings which he gave to the people of the Lord, and in the prediction which he made of the coming of the Messiah; but we must acknowledge, also, the extreme corruption of his heart, his avarice, and all that he would have been capable of doing, if God had permitted him to follow his bad inclination and the inspiration of the evil spirit.

Diodorus of Sicily,[151] on the tradition of the Egyptians, says that the Chaldeans who dwelt at Babylon and in Babylonia were a kind of colony of the Egyptians, and that it was from these last that the sages, or Magi of Babylon, learned the astronomy which gave such celebrity.

We see, in Ezekiel,[152] the King of Babylon, marching against his enemies at the head of his army, stop short where two roads meet, and mingle the darts, to know by magic art, and the flight of these arrows, which road he must take. In the ancients, this manner of consulting the demon by divining wands is known—the Greeks call it Rhabdomanteia.

The prophet Daniel speaks more than once of the magicians of Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar, having been frightened in a dream, sent for the Magi, or magicians, diviners, aruspices, and Chaldeans, to interpret the dream he had had.

King Belshazzar in the same manner convoked the magicians, Chaldeans, and aruspices of the country, to explain to him the meaning of these words which he saw written on the wall: Mene, Tekel, Perez. All this indicates the habit of the Babylonians to exercise magic art, and consult magicians, and that this pernicious art was held in high repute among them. We read in the same prophet of the trickery made use of by the priests to deceive the people, and make them believe that their gods lived, ate, drank, spoke, and revealed to them hidden things.

I have already mentioned the Magi who came to adore Jesus Christ; there is no doubt that they came from Chaldea or the neighboring country, but differing from those of whom we have just spoken, by their piety, and having studied the true religion.

We read in books of travels that superstition, magic, and fascinations are still very common in the East, both among the fire-worshipers descended from the ancient Chaldeans, and among the Persians, sectaries of Mohammed. St. Chrysostom had sent into Persia a holy bishop, named Maruthas, to have the care of the Christians who were in that country; the King Isdegerde having discovered him, treated him with much consideration. The Magi, who adore and keep up the perpetual fire, which is regarded by the Persians as their principal divinity, were jealous at this, and concealed underground an apostate, who, knowing that the king was to come and pay his adoration to the (sacred) fire, was to cry out from the depth of his cavern that the king must be deprived of his throne because he esteemed the Christian priest as a friend of the gods. The king was alarmed at this, and wished to send Maruthas away; but the latter discovered to him the imposture of the priests; he caused the ground to be turned up where the man's voice had been heard, and there they found him from whom it proceeded.

This example, and those of the Babylonish priests spoken of by Daniel, and that of some others, who, to satisfy their irregular passions, pretended that their God required the company of certain women, proved that what is usually taken for the effect of the black art is only produced by the knavishness of priests, magicians, diviners, and all kinds of persons who impose on the simplicity and credulity of the people; I do not deny that the devil sometimes takes part in it, but more rarely than is imagined.


[145] Apud Syncell.

[146] Matt. iii. 1, 7, 36.

[147] Lev. xix. 31; xx.

[148] Acts viii. 9; xiii. 8.

[149] Porph. de Abstinent. lib. iv. Sec. 16. Vid. et Ammian. Marcell. lib. xxiii.

[150] Numb. xxiii. 1-3.

[151] Diodor. Sicul. lib. i. p. 5.

[152] Ezek. xxi. 21.



The Greeks have always boasted that they received the art of magic from the Persians, or the Bactrians. They affirm that Zoroaster communicated it to them; but when we wish to know the exact time at which Zoroaster lived, and when he taught them these pernicious secrets, they wander widely from the truth, and even from probability; some placing Zoroaster 600 years before the expedition of Xerxes into Greece, which happened in the year of the world 3523, and before Jesus Christ 477; others 500 years before the Trojan war; others 5000 years before that famous war; others 6000 years before that great event. Some believe that Zoroaster is the same as Ham, the son of Noah. Lastly, others maintain that there were several Zoroasters. What appears indubitably true is, that the worship of a plurality of gods, as also magic, superstition, and oracles, came from the Egyptians and Chaldeans, or Persians, to the Greeks, and from the Greeks to the Latins.

From the time of Homer,[153] magic was quite common among the Greeks. That poet speaks of the cure of wounds, and of blood staunched by the secrets of magic, and by enchantment. St. Paul, when at Ephesus, caused to be burned there books of magic and curious secrets, the value of which amounted to the sum of 50,000 pieces of silver.[154] We have before said a few words concerning Simon the magician, and the magician Elymas, known in the Acts of the Apostles.[155] Pindar says[156] that the centaur Chiron cured several enchantments. When they say that Orpheus rescued from hell his wife Eurydice, who had died from the bite of a serpent, they simply mean that he cured her by the power of charms.[157] The poets have employed magic verses to make themselves beloved, and they have taught them to others for the same purpose; they may be seen in Theocritus, Catullus, and Virgil. Theophrastus affirms that there are magical verses which cure sciatica. Cato mentions (or repeats) some against luxations.[158] Varro admits that there are some powerful against the gout.

The sacred books testify that enchanters have the secret of putting serpents to sleep, and of charming them, so that they can never either bite again or cause any more harm.[159] The crocodile, that terrible animal, fears even the smell and voice of the Tentyriens.[160] Job, speaking of the leviathan, which we believe to be the crocodile, says, "Shall the enchanter destroy it?"[161] And in Ecclesiasticus, "Who will pity the enchanter that has been bitten by the serpent?"[162]

Everybody knows what is related of the Marsi, people of Italy, and of the Psyllae, who possessed the secret of charming serpents. One would say, says St. Augustine,[163] that these animals understand the languages of the Marsi, so obedient are they to their orders; we see them come out of their caverns as soon as the Marsian has spoken. All this can only be done, says the same father, by the power of the malignant spirit, whom God permits to exercise this empire over venomous reptiles, above all, the serpent, as if to punish him for what he did to the first woman. In fact, it may be remarked that no animal is more exposed to charms, and the effects of magic art, than the serpent.

The laws of the Twelve Tables forbid the charming of a neighbor's crops, qui fruges excantasset. Valerius Flaccus quotes authors who affirm that when the Romans were about to besiege a town, they employed their priests to evoke the divinity who presided over it, promising him a temple in Rome, either like the one dedicated to him in the besieged place, or on a rather larger scale, and that the proper worship should be paid to him. Pliny says that the memory of these evocations is preserved among the priests.

If that which we have just related, and what we read in ancient and modern writers, is at all real, and produces the effects attributed to it, it cannot be doubted that there is something supernatural in it, and that the devil has a great share in the matter.

The Abbot Trithemius speaks of a sorceress who, by means of certain beverages, changed a young Burgundian into a beast.

Everybody knows the fable of Circe, who changed the soldiers or companions of Ulysses into swine. We know also the fable of the Golden Ass, by Apuleius, which contains the account of a man metamorphosed into an ass. I bring forward these things merely as what they are, that is to say, simply poetic fictions.

But it is very credible that these fictions are not destitute of some foundation, like many other fables, which contain not only a hidden and moral sense, but which have also some relation to an event really historical: for instance, what is said of the Golden Fleece carried away by Jason; of the Wooden Horse, made use of to surprise the city of Troy; the Twelve Labors of Hercules; the metamorphoses related by Ovid. All fabulous as those things appear in the poets, they have, nevertheless, their historical truth. And thus the pagan poets and historians have travestied and disguised the stories of the Old Testament, and have attributed to Bacchus, Jupiter, Saturn, Apollo, and Hercules, what is related of Noah, Moses, Aaron, Samson, and Jonah, &c.

Origen, writing against Celsus, supposes the reality of magic, and says that the Magi who came to adore Jesus Christ at Bethlehem, wishing to perform their accustomed operations, not being able to succeed, a superior power preventing the effect and imposing silence on the demon, they sought out the cause, and beheld at the same time a divine sign in the heavens, whence they concluded that it was the Being spoken of by Balaam, and that the new King whose birth he had predicted, was born in Judea, and immediately they resolved to go and seek him. Origen believes that magicians, according to the rules of their art, often foretell the future, and that their predictions are followed by the event, unless the power of God, or that of the angels, prevents the effect of their conjurations, and puts them to silence.[164]


[153] Homer, Iliad, IV.

[154] Acts xix. 19.

[155] Acts viii. 9; xiii. 8.

[156] Pind. Od. iv.

[157] Plin. I. 28.

[158] Cato de Rerustic. c. 160.

[159] Psalm lvii. Jer. vii. 17. Eccles. x. 11.

[160] Plin. lib. viii. c. 50.

[161] Job xl. 25.

[162] Ecclus. xii. 13.

"Frigidus in pratis cantando rumpitur anguis."—Virgil, Ecl. viii.

"Vipereas rumpo verbis et carmine fauces."—Ovid.

[163] Plin. lib. xxviii.

[164] The fables of Jason and many others of the same class are said by Fortuitus Comes to have a reference to alchemy.



St. Augustine[165] remarks that not only the poets, but the historians even, relate that Diomede, of whom the Greeks have made a divinity, had not the happiness to return to his country with the other princes who had been at the siege of Troy; that his companions were changed into birds, and that these birds have their dwelling in the environs of the Temple of Diomede, which is situated near Mount Garganos; that these birds caress the Greeks who come to visit this temple, but fly at and peck the strangers who arrive there.

Varro, the most learned of Romans, to render this more credible, relates what everybody knows about Circe, who changed the companions of Ulysses into beasts; and what is said of the Arcadians, who, after having drawn lots, swam over a certain lake, after which they were metamorphosed into wolves, and ran about in the forests like other wolves. If during the time of their transmutation they did not eat human flesh, at the end of nine years they repassed the same lake, and resumed their former shape.

The same Varro relates of a certain Demenotas that, having tasted the flesh of a child which the Arcadians had immolated to their god Lycaea, he had also been changed into a wolf, and ten years after he had resumed his natural form, had appeared at the Olympic games, and won the prize for pugilism.

St. Augustine testifies that in his time many believed that these transformations still took place, and some persons even affirmed that they had experienced them in their own persons. He adds that, when in Italy, he was told that certain women gave cheese to strangers who lodged at their houses, when these strangers were immediately changed into beasts of burden, without losing their reason, and carried the loads which were placed upon them; after which they returned to their former state. He says, moreover, that a certain man, named Praestantius, related that his father, having eaten of this magic cheese, remained lying in bed, without any one being able to awaken him for several days, when he awoke, and said that he had been changed into a horse, and had carried victuals to the army; and the thing was found to be true, although it appeared to him to be only a dream.

St. Augustine, reasoning on all this, says that either these things are false, or else so extraordinary that we cannot give faith to them. It is not to be doubted that God, by his almighty power, can do anything that he thinks proper, but that the devil, who is of a spiritual nature, can do nothing without the permission of God, whose decrees are always just; that the demon can neither change the nature of the spirit, or the body of a man, to transform him into a beast; but that he can only act upon the fancy or imagination of a man, and persuade him that he is what he is not, or that he appears to others different from what he is; or that he remains in a deep sleep, and believes during that slumber that he is bearing loads which the devil carries for him; or that he (the devil) fascinates the eyes of those who believe they see them borne by animals, or by men metamorphosed into animals.

If we consider it only a change arising from fancy or imagination, as it happens in the disorder called lycanthropy, in which a man believes himself changed into a wolf, or into any other animal, as Nebuchadnezzar, who believed himself changed into an ox, and acted for seven years as if he had really been metamorphosed into that animal, there would be nothing in that more marvelous than what we see in hypochondriacs, who persuade themselves that they are kings, generals, popes, and cardinals; that they are snow, glass, pottery, &c. Like him who, being alone at the theatre, believed that he beheld there actors and admirable representations; or the man who imagined that all the vessels which arrived at the port of Pireus, near Athens, belonged to him; or, in short, what we see every day in dreams, and which appear to us very real during our sleep. In all this, it is needless to have recourse to the devil, or to magic, fascination, or illusion; there is nothing above the natural order of things. But that, by means of certain beverages, certain herbs, and certain kinds of food, a person may disturb the imagination, and persuade another that he is a wolf, a horse, or an ass, appears more difficult of explanation, although we are aware that plants, herbs, and medicaments possess great power over the bodies of men, and are capable of deranging the brain, constitution, and imagination. We have but too many examples of such things.

Another circumstance which, if true, deserves much reflection, is that of Apollonius of Tyana, who, being at Ephesus during a great plague which desolated the city, promised the Ephesians to cause the pest to cease the very day on which he was speaking to them, and which was that of his second arrival in their town. He assembled them at the theatre, and ordered them to stone to death a poor old man, covered with rags, who asked alms. "Strike," cried he, "that enemy of the gods! heap stones upon him." They could not make up their minds to do so, for he excited their pity, and asked mercy in the most touching manner. But Apollonius pressed it so much, that at last they slew him, and amassed over him an immense heap of stones. A little while after he told them to take away these stones, and they would see what sort of an animal they had killed. They found only a great dog, and were convinced that this old man was only a phantom who had fascinated their eyes, and caused the pestilence in their town.

We here see five remarkable things:—1st. The demon who causes the plague in Ephesus; 2d. This same demon, who, instead of a dog, causes the appearance of a man; 3d. The fascination of the senses of the Ephesians, who believe that they behold a man instead of a dog; 4th. The proof of the magic of Apollonius, who discovers the cause of this pestilence; 5th. And who makes it cease at the given time.

AEneas Sylvius Picolomini, who was afterwards Pope by the name of Pius II., writes, in his History of Bohemia, that a woman predicted to a soldier of King Wratislaus, that the army of that prince would be cut in pieces by the Duke of Bohemia, and that, if this soldier wished to avoid death, he must kill the first person he should meet on the road, cut off their ears, and put them in his pocket; that with the sword he had used to pierce them he must trace on the ground a cross between his horse's legs; that he must kiss it, and then take flight. All this the young soldier performed. Wratislaus gave battle, lost it, and was killed. The young soldier escaped; but on entering his house, he found that it was his wife whom he had killed and run his sword through, and whose ears he had cut off.

This woman was, then, strangely disguised and metamorphosed, since her husband could not recognize her, and she did not make herself known to him in such perilous circumstances, when her life was in danger. These two were, then, apparently magicians; both she who made the prediction, and the other on whom it was exercised. God permits, on this occasion, three great evils. The first magician counsels the murder of an innocent person; the young man commits it on his own wife without knowing her; and the latter dies in a state of condemnation, since by the secrets of magic she had rendered it impossible to recognize her.

A butcher's wife of the town of Jena, in the duchy of Wiemar in Thuringia,[166] having refused to let an old woman have a calf's head for which she offered very little, the old woman went away grumbling and muttering. A little time after this the butcher's wife felt violent pains in her head. As the cause of this malady was unknown to the cleverest physicians, they could find no remedy for it; from time to time a substance like brains came from this woman's left ear, and at first it was supposed to be her own brain. But as she suspected that old woman of having cast a spell upon her on account of the calf's head, they examined the thing more minutely, and they saw that these were calf's brains; and what strengthened this opinion was that splinters of calf's-head bones came out with the brains. This disorder continued some time; at last the butcher's wife was perfectly cured. This happened in 1685. M. Hoffman, who relates this story in his dissertation on the Power of the Demon over Bodies, printed in 1736, says that the woman was perhaps still alive.

One day they brought to St. Macarius the Egyptian, a virtuous woman who had been transformed into a mare by the pernicious arts of a magician. Her husband, and all those who saw her, thought that she really was changed into a mare. This woman remained three days and three nights without tasting any food, proper either for man or horse. They showed her to the priests of the place, who could apply no remedy.

Then they led her to the cell of St. Macarius, to whom God had revealed that she was to come; his disciples wanted to send her back, thinking that it was a mare. They informed the saint of her arrival, and the subject of her journey. "He said to them, You are downright animals yourselves, thinking you see what is not; that woman is not changed, but your eyes are fascinated. At the same time he sprinkled holy water on the woman's head, and all present beheld her in her former state. He gave her something to eat, and sent her away safe and sound with her husband. As he sent her away the saint said to her, Do not keep from church, for this has happened to you for having been five weeks without taking the sacrament of our Lord, or attending divine service."

St. Hilarion, much in the same manner, cured by virtue of holy water a young girl, whom a magician had rendered most violently amorous of a young man. The demon who possessed her cried aloud to St. Hilarion, "You make me endure the most cruel torments, for I cannot come out till the young man who caused me to enter shall unloose me, for I am enchained under the threshold of the door by a band of copper covered with magical characters, and by the tow which envelops it." Then St. Hilarion said to him, "Truly your power is very great, to suffer yourself to be bound by a bit of copper and a little thread;" at the same time, without permitting these things to be taken from under the threshold of the door, he chased away the demon and cured the girl.

In the same place, St. Jerome relates that one Italicus, a citizen of Gaza and a Christian, who brought up horses for the games in the circus, had a pagan antagonist who hindered and held back the horses of Italicus in their course, and gave most extraordinary celerity to his own. Italicus came to St. Hilarion, and told him the subject he had for uneasiness. The saint laughed and said to him, "Would it not be better to give the value of your horses to the poor rather than employ them in such exercises?" "I cannot do as I please," said Italicus; "it is a public employment which I fill, because I cannot help it, and as a Christian I cannot employ malpractices against those used against me." The brothers, who were present, interceded for him; and St. Hilarion gave him the earthen vessel out of which he drank, filled it with water, and told him to sprinkle his horses with it. Italicus not only sprinkled his horses with this water, but likewise his stable and chariot all over; and the next day the horses and chariot of this rival were left far behind his own; which caused the people to shout in the theatre, "Marnas is vanished—Jesus Christ is victorious!" And this victory of Italicus produced the conversion of several persons at Gaza.

Will it be said that this is only the effect of imagination, prepossession, or the trickery of a clever charlatan? How can you persuade fifty people that a woman who is present before their eyes can be changed into a mare, supposing that she has retained her own natural shape? How was it that the soldier mentioned by AEneas Sylvius did not recognize his wife, whom he pierced with his sword, and whose ears he cut off? How did Apollonius of Tyana persuade the Ephesians to kill a man, who really was only a dog? How did he know that this dog, or this man, was the cause of the pestilence which afflicted Ephesus? It is then very credible that the evil spirit often acts on bodies, on the air, the earth, and on animals, and produces effects which appear above the power of man.

It is said that in Lapland they have a school for magic, and that fathers send their children to it, being persuaded that magic is necessary to them, that they may avoid falling into the snares of their enemies, who are themselves great magicians. They make the familiar demons, whose services they command, pass as an inheritance to their children, that they may make use of them to overcome the demons of other families who are adverse to their own. They often make use of a certain kind of drum for their magical operations; for instance, if they wish to know what is passing in a foreign country, one amongst them beats this drum, placing upon it at the part where the image of the sun is represented, a quantity of pewter rings attached together with a chain of the same metal; then they strike the drum with a forked hammer made of bone, so that these rings move; at the same time they sing distinctly a song, called by the Laplanders Jonk; and all those of their nation who are present, men and women, add their own songs, expressing from time to time the name of the place whence they desire to have news.

The Laplander having beaten the drum for some time, places it on his head in a certain manner, and falls down directly motionless on the ground, and without any sign of life. All the men and all the women continue singing, till he revives; if they cease to sing, the man dies, which happens also if any one tries to awaken him by touching his hand or his foot. They even keep the flies from him, which by their humming might awaken him and bring him back to life.

When he is recovered he replies to the questions they ask him concerning the place he has been at. Sometimes he does not awake for four-and-twenty hours, sometimes more, sometimes less, according to the distance he has gone; and in confirmation of what he says, and of the distance he has been, he brings back from the place he has been sent to the token demanded of him, a knife, a ring, shoes, or some other object.[167]

These same Laplanders make use also of this drum to learn the cause of any malady, or to deprive their enemies of their life or their strength. Moreover, amongst them are certain magicians, who keep in a kind of leathern game-bag magic flies, which they let loose from time to time against their enemies or against their cattle, or simply to raise tempests and hurricanes. They have also a sort of dart which they hurl into the air, and which causes the death of any one it falls upon. They have also a sort of little ball called tyre, almost round, which they send in the same way against their enemies to destroy them; and if by ill luck this ball should hit on its way some other person, or some animal, it will inevitably cause its death.

Who can be persuaded that the Laplanders who sell fair winds, raise storms, relate what passes in distant places, where they go, as they say, in the spirit, and bring back things which they have found there—who can persuade themselves that all this is done without the aid of magic? It has been said that in the circumstance of Apollonius of Tyana, they contrived to send away the man all squalid and deformed, and put in his place a dog which was stoned, or else they substituted a dead dog. All which would require a vast deal of preparation, and would be very difficult to execute in sight of all the people: it would, perhaps, be better to deny the fact altogether, which certainly does appear very fabulous, than to have recourse to such explanations.


[165] Aug. de Civit. Dei, lib. xviii. c. 16-18.

[166] Frederici Hoffman, de Diaboli Potentia in Corpora, p. 382.

[167] See John Schesser, Laponia, printed at Frankfort in 4to. an. 1673, chap. xi. entitled, De sacris Magicis et Magia Laponia, p. 119, and following.



Were we to believe what is said by the poets concerning the effects of magic, and what the magicians boast of being able to perform by their spells, nothing would be more marvelous than their art, and we should be obliged to acknowledge that the power of the demon was greatly shown thereby. Pliny[168] relates that Appian evoked the spirit of Homer, to learn from him which was his country, and who were his parents. Philostratus says[169] that Apollonius of Tyana went to the tomb of Achilles, evoked his manes, and implored them to cause the figure of that hero to appear to him; the tomb trembled, and afterwards he beheld a young man, who at first appeared about five cubits, or seven feet and a half high—after which, the phantom dilated to twelve cubits, and appeared of a singular beauty. Apollonius asked him some frivolous questions, and as the young man jested indecently with him, he comprehended that he was possessed by a demon; this demon he expelled, and cured the young man. But all this is fabulous.

Lactantius,[170] refuting the philosophers Democritus, Epicurus, and Dicearchus, who denied the immortality of the soul, says they would not dare to maintain their opinion before a magician, who, by the power of his art, and by his spells, possessed the secret of bringing souls from Hades, of making them appear, speak, and foretell the future, and give certain signs of their presence.

St. Augustine,[171] always circumspect in his decisions, dare not pronounce whether magicians possess the power of evoking the spirits of saints by the might of their enchantments. But Tertullian[172] is bolder, and maintains that no magical art has power to bring the souls of the saints from their rest; but that all the necromancers can do is to call forth some phantoms with a borrowed shape, which fascinate the eyes, and make those who are present believe that to be a reality which is only appearance. In the same place he quotes Heraclius, who says that the Nasamones, people of Africa, pass the night by the tombs of their near relations to receive oracles from the latter; and that the Celts, or Gauls, do the same thing in the mausoleums of great men, as related by Nicander.

Lucan says[173] that the magicians, by their spells, cause thunder in the skies unknown to Jupiter; that they tear the moon from her sphere, and precipitate her to earth; that they disturb the course of nature, prolong the nights, and shorten the days; that the universe is obedient to their voice, and that the world is chilled as it were when they speak and command.[174] They were so well persuaded that the magicians possessed power to make the moon come down from the sky, and they so truly believed that she was evoked by magic art whenever she was eclipsed, that they made a great noise by striking on copper vessels, to prevent the voice which pronounced enchantments from reaching her.[175]

These popular opinions and poetical fictions deserve no credit, but they show the force of prejudice.[176] It is affirmed that, even at this day, the Persians think they are assisting the moon when eclipsed by striking violently on brazen vessels, and making a great uproar.

Ovid[177] attributes to the enchantments of magic the evocation of the infernal powers, and their dismissal back to hell; storms, tempests, and the return of fine weather. They attributed to it the power of changing men into beasts by means of certain herbs, the virtues of which are known to them.[178]

Virgil[179] speaks of serpents put to sleep and enchanted by the magicians. And Tibullus says that he has seen the enchantress bring down the stars from heaven, and turn aside the thunderbolt ready to fall upon the earth—and that she has opened the ground and made the dead come forth from their tombs.

As this matter allows of poetical ornaments, the poets have vied with each other in endeavoring to adorn their pages with them, not that they were convinced there was any truth in what they said; they were the first to laugh at it when an opportunity presented itself, as well as the gravest and wisest men of antiquity. But neither princes nor priests took much pains to undeceive the people, or to destroy their prejudices on those subjects. The Pagan religion allowed them, nay, authorized them, and part of its practices were founded on similar superstitions.


[168] Plin. lib. iii. c. 2.

[169] Philost. Vit. Apollon.

[170] Lactant. lib. vi. Divin. Instit. c. 13.

[171] Aug. ad Simplic.

[172] Tertull. de Anima, c. 57.

[173] Lucan. Pharsal. lib. vi. 450, et seq.

[174] "Cessavere vices rerum, dilataque longa, Haesit nocte dies; legi non paruit aether; Torpuit et praeceps audito carmine mundus; Et tonat ignaro coelum Jove."

[175] "Cantat et e curro tentat deducere Lunam Et faceret, si non aera repulsa sonent." Tibull. lib. i. Eleg. ix. 21.

[176] Pietro della Valle, Voyage.

[177] ".... Obscurum verborum ambage nervorum Ter novies carmen magico demurmurat ore. Jam ciet infernas magico stridore catervas, Jam jubet aspersum lacte referre pedem. Cum libet, haec tristi depellit nubila coelo; Cum libet, aestivo provocat orbe nives." Ovid. Metamorph. 14.

[178] "Nais nam ut cantu, nimiumque potentibus herbis Verterit in tacitos juvenilia corpora pisces."

[179] "Vipereo generi et graviter spirantibus hydris Spargere qui somnos cantuque manque solebat,"



If it were well proved that the oracles of pagan antiquity were the work of the evil spirit, we could give more real and palpable proofs of the apparition of the demon among men than these boasted oracles, which were given in almost every country in the world, among the nations which passed for the wisest and most enlightened, as the Egyptians, Chaldeans, Persians, Syrians, even the Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans. Even the most barbarous people were not without their oracles.

In the pagan religion there was nothing esteemed more honorable, or more complacently boasted of.

In all their great undertakings they had recourse to the oracle; by that was decided the most important affairs between town and town, or province and province. The manner in which the oracles were rendered was not everywhere the same. It is said[180] the bull Apis, whose worship was anciently established in Egypt, gave out his oracles on his receiving food from the hand of him who consulted. If he received it, say they, it was considered a good omen; if he refused it, this was a bad augury. When this animal appeared in public, he was accompanied by a troop of children, who sang hymns in his honor; after which these boys were filled with sacred enthusiasm, and began to predict future events. If the bull went quietly into his lodge, it was a happy sign;[181] if he came out, it was the contrary. Such was the blindness of the Egyptians.

There were other oracles also in Egypt:[182] as those of Mercury, Apollo, Hercules, Diana, Minerva, Jupiter Ammon, &c., which last was consulted by Alexander the Great. But Herodotus remarks that in his time there were neither priests nor priestesses who uttered oracles. They were derived from certain presages, which they drew by chance, or from the movements of the statues of the gods, or from the first voice which they heard after having consulted. Pausanias says[183] that he who consults whispers in the ear of Mercury what he requires to know, then he stops his ears, goes out of the temple, and the first words which he hears from the first person he meets are held as the answer of the god.

The Greeks acknowledge that they received from the Egyptians both the names of their gods and their most ancient oracles; amongst others that of Dodona, which was already much resorted to in the time of Homer,[184] and which came from the oracle of Jupiter of Thebes: for the Egyptian priests related that two priestesses of that god had been carried off by Phoenician merchants, who had sold them, one into Libya and the other into Greece.[185] Those of Dodona related that two black doves had flown from Thebes of Egypt—that the one which had stopped at Dodona had perched upon a beech-tree, and had declared in an articulate voice that the gods willed that an oracle of Jupiter should be established in this place; and that the other, having flown into Lybia, had there formed or founded the oracle of Jupiter Ammon. These origins are certainly very frivolous and very fabulous. The Oracle of Delphi is more recent and more celebrated. Phemonoe was the first priestess of Delphi, and began in the time of Acrisius, twenty-seven years before Orpheus, Musaeus, and Linus. She is said to have been the inventress of hexameters.

But I think I can remark vestiges of oracles in Egypt, from the time of the patriarch Joseph, and from the time of Moses. The Hebrews had dwelt for 215 years in Egypt, and having multiplied there exceedingly, had begun to form a separate people and a sort of republic. They had imbibed a taste for the ceremonies, the superstitions, the customs, and the idolatry of the Egyptians.

Joseph was considered the cleverest diviner and the greatest expounder of dreams in Egypt. They believed that he derived his oracles from the inspection of the liquor which he poured into his cup. Moses, to cure the Hebrews of their leaning to the idolatry and superstitions of Egypt, prescribed to them laws and ceremonies which favored his design; the first, diametrically opposite to those of the Egyptians; the second, bearing some resemblance to theirs in appearance, but differing both in their aim and circumstances.

For instance, the Egyptians were accustomed to consult diviners, magicians, interpreters of dreams, and augurs; all which things are forbidden to the Hebrews by Moses, on pain of rigorous punishment; but in order that they might have no room to complain that their religion did not furnish them with the means of discovering future events and hidden things, God, with condescension worthy of reverential admiration, granted them the Urim and Thummim, or the Doctrine and the Truth, with which the high-priest was invested according to the ritual in the principal ceremonies of religion, and by means of which he rendered oracles, and discovered the will of the Most High. When the ark of the covenant and the tabernacle were constructed, the Lord, consulted by Moses,[186] gave out his replies from between the two cherubim which were placed upon the mercy-seat above the ark. All which seems to insinuate that, from the time of the patriarch Joseph, there had been oracles and diviners in Egypt, and that the Hebrews consulted them.

God promised his people to raise up a prophet[187] among them, who should declare to them his will: in fact, we see in almost all ages among them, prophets inspired by God; and the true prophets reproached them vehemently for their impiety, when instead of coming to the prophets of the Lord, they went to consult strange oracles,[188] and divinities equally powerless and unreal.

We have spoken before of the teraphim of Laban, of the idols or pretended oracles of Micah and Gideon. King Saul, who, apparently by the advice of Samuel, had exterminated diviners and magicians from the land of Israel, desired in the last war to consult the Lord, who would not reply to him. He then afterwards addressed himself to a witch, who promised him she would evoke Samuel for him. She did, or feigned to do so, for the thing offers many difficulties, into which we shall not enter here.

The same Saul having consulted the Lord on another occasion, to know whether he must pursue the Philistines whom he had just defeated, God refused also to reply to him,[189] because his son Jonathan had tasted some honey, not knowing that the king had forbidden his army to taste anything whatever before his enemies were entirely overthrown.

The silence of the Lord on certain occasions, and his refusal to answer sometimes when He was consulted, are an evident proof that He usually replied, and that they were certain of receiving instructions from Him, unless they raised an obstacle to it by some action which was displeasing to Him.


[180] Plin. lib. viii. c. 48.

[181] Herodot. lib. ix.

[182] Vide Joan. Marsham, Saec. iv. pp. 62, 63.

[183] Pausan. lib. vii. p. 141.

[184] Homer, Iliad, xii. 2, 235.

[185] Herodot. lib. ii. c. 52, 55.

[186] Exod. xxv. 22.

[187] Deut. xviii. 13.

[188] 2 Kings i. 2, 3, 16, &c.

[189] 1 Sam. xiv. 24.



Moses had foreseen that so untractable and superstitious a people as the Israelites would not rest satisfied with the reasonable, pious, and supernatural means which he had procured them for discovering future events, by giving them prophets and the oracle of the high-priest. He knew that there would arise among them false prophets and seducers, who would endeavor by their illusions and magical secrets to mislead them into error; whence it was that he said to them:[190] "If there should arise among you a prophet, or any one who boasts of having had a dream, and he foretells a wonder, or anything which surpasses the ordinary power of man, and what he predicts shall happen; and after that he shall say unto you, Come, let us go and serve the strange gods, which you have not known; you shall not hearken unto him, because the Lord your God will prove you, to see whether you love Him with all your heart and with all your soul."

Certainly, nothing is more likely to mislead us than to see what has been foretold by any one come to pass.

"Show the things that are to come," says Isaiah,[191] "that we may know that ye are gods. Let them come, let them foretell what is to happen, and what has been done of old, and we will believe in them," &c. Idoneum testimonium divinationis, says Turtullian,[192] veritas divinationis. And St. Jerome,[193] Confitentur magi, confitentur arioli, et omnis scientia saecularis litteraturae, praeescientiam futurorum non esse hominum, sed Dei.

Nevertheless, we have just seen that Moses acknowledges that false prophets can predict things which will happen. And the Saviour warns us in the Gospel that at the end of the world several false prophets will arise, who will seduce many[194]—"They shall shew great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive even the elect." It is not, then, precisely either the successful issue of the event which decides in favor of the false prophet—nor the default of the predictions made by true prophets which proves that they are not sent by God.

Jonah was sent to foretell the destruction of Nineveh,[195] which did not come to pass; and many other threats of the prophets were not put into execution, because God, moved by the repentance of the sinful, revoked or commuted his former sentence. The repentance of the Ninevites guarantied them against the last misfortune.

Isaiah had distinctly foretold to King Hezekiah[196] that he would not recover from his illness: "Set thine house in order, for thou shalt die, and not live." Nevertheless, God, moved with the prayer of this prince, revoked the sentence of death; and before the prophet had left the court of the king's house, God commanded him to return and tell the king that God would add yet fifteen years to his life.

Moses assigns the mark of a true prophet to be, when he leads us to God and his worship—and the mark of a false prophet is, when he withdraws us from the Lord, and inclines us to superstition and idolatry. Balaam was a true prophet, inspired by God, who foretold things which were followed up by the event; but his morals were very corrupt, and he was extremely self-interested. He did everything he could to deserve the recompense promised him by the king of Moab, and to curse and immolate Israel.[197] God did not permit him to do so; he put into his mouth blessings instead of curses; he did not induce the Israelites to forsake the Lord; but he advised the Moabites to seduce the people of God, and cause them to commit fornication, and to worship the idols of the country, and by that means to irritate God against them, and draw upon them the effects of his vengeance. Moses caused the chiefs among the people, who had consented to this crime, to be hung; and caused to perish the Midianites who had led the Hebrews into it. And lastly, Balaam, who was the first cause of this evil, was also punished with death.[198]

In all the predictions of diviners or oracles, when they are followed by fulfilment, we can hardly disavow that the evil spirit intervenes, and discovers the future to those who consult him. St. Augustine, in his book de Divinatione Daemonum,[199] or of predictions made by the evil spirit, when they are fulfilled, supposes that the demons are of an aerial nature, and much more subtile than bodies in general; insomuch that they surpass beyond comparison the lightness both of men and the swiftest animals, and even the flight of birds, which enables them to announce things that are passing in very distant places, and beyond the common reach of men. Moreover, as they are not subject to death as we are, they have acquired infinitely more experience than even those who possess the most among mankind, and are the most attentive to what happens in the world. By that means they can sometimes predict things to come, announce several things at a distance, and do some wonderful things; which has often led mortals to pay them divine honors, believing them to be of a nature much more excellent than their own.

But when we reflect seriously on what the demons predict, we may remark that often they announce nothing but what they are to do themselves.[200] For God permits them, sometimes, to cause maladies, corrupt the air, and produce in it qualities of an infectious nature, and to incline the wicked to persecute the worthy. They perform these operations in a hidden manner, by resources unknown to mortals, and proportionate to the subtilty of their own nature. They can announce what they have foreseen must happen by certain natural tokens unknown to men, like as a physician foresees by the secret of his art the symptoms and the consequences of a malady which no one else can. Thus, the demon, who knows our constitution and the secret tendency of our humors, can foretell the maladies which are the consequences of them. He can also discover our thoughts and our secret wishes by certain external motions, and by certain expressions we let fall by chance, whence he infers that men would do or undertake certain things consequent upon these thoughts or inclinations.

But his predictions are far from being comparable with those revealed to us by God, through his angels, or the prophets; these are always certain and infallible, because they have for their principle God, who is truth; while the predictions of the demons are often deceitful, because the arrangements on which they are founded can be changed and deranged, when they least expect it, by unforeseen and unexpected circumstances, or by the authority of superior powers overthrowing the first plans, or by a peculiar disposition of Providence, who sets bounds to the power of the prince of darkness. Sometimes, also, demons purposely deceive those who have the weakness to place confidence in them. But, usually, they throw the fault upon those who have taken on themselves to interpret their discourses and predictions.

So says St. Augustine;[201] and although we do not quite agree with him, but hold the opinion that souls, angels and demons are disengaged from all matter or substance, still we can apply his reasoning to evil spirits, even upon the supposition that they are immaterial—and own that sometimes they can predict the future, and that their predictions may be fulfilled; but that is not a proof of their being sent by God, or inspired by his Spirit. Even were they to work miracles, we must anathematize them as soon as they turn us from the worship of the true God, or incline us to irregular lives.


[190] Deut. xiii. 1, 2.

[191] Isaiah xli. 22, 23.

[192] Tertull. Apolog. c. 20.

[193] Hieronym. in Dan.

[194] Matt. xxiv. 11, 24.

[195] Jonah i. 2.

[196] Kings xx. 1. Isai. xxxviii. 1.

[197] Numb. xxii. xxiii. xxiv.

[198] Numb. xxxi. 8.

[199] Aug. de Divinat. Daemon. c. 3, pp. 507, 508, et seq.

[200] Idem. c. 5.

[201] S. August. in his Retract. lib. ii. c. 30, owns that he advanced this too lightly.



If it is true, as has been thought by many, both among the ancients and the moderns, that the oracles of pagan antiquity were only illusions and deceptions on the part of the priests and priestesses, who said that they were possessed by the spirit of Python, and filled with the inspiration of Apollo, who discovered to them internally things hidden and past, or present and future, I must not place them here in the rank of evil spirits. The devil has no other share in the matter than he has always in the crimes of men, and in that multitude of sins which cupidity, ambition, interest, and self-love produce in the world; the demon being always ready to seize an occasion to mislead us, and draw us into irregularity and error, employing all our passions to lead us into these snares. If what he has foretold is followed by fulfilment, either by chance, or because he has foreseen certain circumstances unknown to men, he takes to himself all the credit of it, and makes use of it to gain our confidence and conciliate credit for his predictions; if the thing is doubtful, and he knows not what the issue of it will be, the demon, the priest, or priestess will pronounce an equivocal oracle, in order that at all events they may appear to have spoken true.

The ancient legislators of Greece, the most skillful politicians, and generals of armies, dexterously made use of the prepossession of the people in favor of oracles, to persuade them what they had concerted was approved of by the gods, and announced by the oracle. These things and these oracles were often followed by success, not because the oracle had predicted or ordained it, but because the enterprise being well concerted and well conducted, and the soldiers also perfectly persuaded that God was on their side, fought with more than ordinary valor. Sometimes they gained over the priestess by the aid of presents, and thus disposed her to give favorable replies. Demosthenes haranguing at Athens against Philip, King of Macedon, said that the priestess of Delphi Philipized, and only pronounced oracles conformable to the inclinations, advantage, and interest of that prince.

Porphyry, the greatest enemy of the Christian name,[202] makes no difficulty of owning that these oracles were dictated by the spirit of falsehood, and that the demons are the true authors of enchantments, philtres, and spells; that they fascinate or deceive the eyes by the spectres and phantoms which they cause to appear; that they ambitiously desire to pass for gods; that their aerial and spiritual bodies are nourished by the smell and smoke of the blood and fat of the animals which are immolated to them; and that the office of uttering oracles replete with falsehood, equivocation, and deceit has devolved upon them. At the head of these demons he places Hecate and Serapis. Jamblichus, another pagan author, speaks of them in the same manner, and with as much contempt.

The ancient fathers who lived so near the times when these oracles existed, several of whom had forsaken paganism and embraced Christianity, and who consequently knew more about the oracles than we can, speak of them as things invented, governed, and maintained by the demons. The most sensible among the heathens do not speak of them otherwise, but also they confess that often the malice, imposition, servility and interest of the priests had great share in the matter, and that they abused the simplicity, credulity and prepossessions of the people.

Plutarch says,[203] that a governor of Cilicia having sent to consult the oracle of Mopsus, as he was going to Malle in the same country, the man who carried the billet fell asleep in the temple, where he saw in a dream a handsome looking man, who said to him the single word black. He carried this reply to the governor, whose mysterious question he knew nothing about. Those who heard this answer laughed at it, not knowing what was in the billet: but the governor having opened it showed them these words written in it; shall I immolate to thee a black ox or a white one? and that the oracle had thus answered his question without opening the note. But who can answer for their not having deceived the bearer of the billet in this case, as did Alexander of Abonotiche, a town of Paphlagonia, in Asia Minor. This man had the art to persuade the people of his country that he had with him the god Esculapius, in the shape of a tame serpent, who pronounced oracles, and replied to the consultations addressed to him on divers diseases without opening the billets they placed on the altar of the temple of this pretended divinity; after which, without opening them, they found the next morning the reply written below. All the trick consisted in the seal being raised artfully by a heated needle, and then replaced after having written the reply at the bottom of the note, in an obscure and enigmatical style, after the manner of other oracles. At other times he used mastic, which being yet soft, took the impression of the seal, then when that was hardened he put on another seal with the same impression. He received about ten sols (five pence) per billet, and this game lasted all his life, which was a long one; for he died at the age of seventy, being struck by lightning, near the end of the second century of the Christian era: all which may be found more at length in the book of Lucian, entitled Pseudo Manes, or the false Diviner. The priest of the oracle of Mopsus could by the same secret open the billet of the governor who consulted him, and showing himself during the night to the messenger, declared to him the above-mentioned reply.

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