Leading Churchmen subjected to the Onslaught of Demons—Warfare with the Devil in corporeal shape—Triumph of Churchmen—St. Maurus rebuking a Troop of Evil Spirits—St. Romualdus' Five Years' Conflict with Satan—The Faculty of St. Frances—St. Gregory's Detection of the Devil entering a Man—A Greedy Monk denied Christian Burial—Monk in Purgatory—Institution of the Thirty Masses for the Dead—An Excommunicated Gentleman of Rome hiring Pagan Witches and Sorcerers—What befell them—St. Benedict and the Blackbird's Song—A Monk restored to Life—St. Benedict's Sister ascending to Heaven like a White Dove—St. Francis' Dominion over Living Creatures and the Elements—St. Catherine's Power over Evil Spirits—St. Stanislaus' Miracles—A Dead Man giving Evidence in a Court of Justice—The Dead refusing a Renewal of Life—St. Philip Nerius and Evil Spirits—Spirits ministering to St. Erasmus—St. Norbert closing the Mouths of Evil Spirits—Story relating to Henry I.—St. Margaret's Triumph—St. Ignatius' Command over Devils—St. Stephen curing Persons possessed of Devils—Satan's Hatred of St. Dominick—St. Donatus endowing a Corpse with Speech—St. Cyriacus, St. Largus, and St. Smaragdus, the Martyrs—St. Clare—St. Bernard's Power—St. Caesarius' Wonder-working Crook—St. Giles and the Hind—St. Euphemia's Guardian Angels—St. Francis' Spirit in Chariot of Fire—Devils blowing the Fire of Discord—St. Bridget's Intercourse with Angels—St. Denis' Spirit—St. Teresa and the Angels—St. Hilarian a Match for Satan and his Sorcerers—Her Miracles—St. Martin's Wonderful Power—St. Catherine's Body carried by Angels to Mount Sinai—St. Francis Xaverius' Belief in Virtue of Bells—St. Nicholas' Piety and Powers—St. Ambrose's Power over Necromancers and Spirits—St. Lucy raising her Mother from the Dead—St. Anastasia sustained by Bread from Heaven—St. Thomas enduring Martyrdom in Life and after Death—Penance of Henry II.—Barbarous Conduct of Henry VIII.—A Hungarian Legend.
If reliance can be placed on tradition and the writings of biographers, good men (particularly those of them who took a leading part in the ancient Church) were subjected to dreadful onslaughts by Satan. Not only had they to contend with invisible spirits of darkness, but they were compelled to carry on a continual warfare with the devil, in corporeal shape, seeking to seduce them from their faith. None were more frequently or fiercely assailed than the canonised saints of the old Catholic Church. To their praise, however, be it remembered, that almost invariably the Churchmen, sooner or later, triumphed. Having good consciences, and being protected by wonder-working relics, the saints defied the enemy of mankind. Those seeking lengthened information on the subject should consult The Lives of the Saints, and the Calendars, published by learned men, who believed what they wrote, and spoke that which they thought to be true. The subjoined sketches, read in connection with chapter XV., bear out what is affirmed.
St. Maurus had an encounter with Satan and a whole squadron of his monsters in bodily shape. At Maurus' rebuke the troop vanished, but not before they made the monastery shake, and brought the affrighted monks to their knees.
St. Romualdus may be said to have had a five years' conflict with Satan in visible forms. St. Frances had the faculty of seeing evil spirits when people beside her perceived nothing but natural forms. St. Gregory witnessed the devil entering into a man who indulged in and loved lies. A monk who determined to throw off his habit and forsake the monastery, was set upon by the devil in the form of a black dog. Other monks who broke their vows shared no better. Because a monk had been guilty of hoarding up a large sum of money, contrary to the rules of his order, he was denied Christian burial, and his body was cast upon a dunghill. After mass was said for the miser thirty days, the deceased monk appeared to a brother of his order and told him that he had been in purgatory till that day. From this blessed liberation St. Gregory instituted the custom of saying thirty masses for the dead. A gentleman in Rome, who was excommunicated by St. Gregory for unlawfully putting away his wife, hired certain pagan witches and sorcerers to torment the holy Pope. They caused the devil to enter into the Pope's horse, that it might cast the rider and crush him to death. The holy father, becoming aware of the plot, cast out the devil, and struck the witches and sorcerers with blindness. St. Gregory was entreated to restore the witches and sorcerers to sight, but he refused to do so, lest they should be tempted to return to their wicked art, and read books of magic and necromancy.
St. Benedict had his encounters with the tempter. One day the devil transformed himself into a little blackbird, which fluttered about him, and sang so sweetly that he was nearly drawn away from his devotions and led into sin. By a higher power than his own he overcame the enemy. He stripped himself of his clothes, and, casting himself on a thicket of briars and thorns, mangled his body so severely that blood ran from him in streams. The devil on one occasion endeavoured to hinder the building of a monastery, and at another time he cast a stone at a young monk and killed him. St. Benedict, in his goodness, put the devil to flight, and restored the monk to life. This saint, while watching over the spiritual welfare of the monks with whom he was associated, observed the devil riding on a mule to the monastery, and entering into an aged monk possessed of a covetous heart. Penance and a trust in holy relics drove the evil spirit away, and brought the monk to a proper frame of mind. When a pious sister of St. Benedict died, he saw her spirit in the likeness of a white dove ascending to heaven.
St. Francis, a devout servant of great sanctity, had dominion over all creatures. Fire, air, water, and earth were also subject to him. He drove away wicked spirits; he gave sight to the blind, speech to the dumb, health to those in decay, and life to the dead. The elements could not affect him. He walked upon fire, held his hands in a burning hot oven without sustaining injury; and he and a companion passed over the sea upon his cloak spread on the waves.
St. Catherine resisted the devil in various guises. On one memorable occasion she witnessed two thieves being conveyed to the place of execution, and tortured, in a cart. Instead of lamenting their sins, they behaved like demons. Though no one else beheld anything unearthly near the culprits, St. Catherine saw a multitude of devils provoking them to blaspheme and curse. Having compassion on the unhappy men, she went into the cart beside them, drove the evil spirits away, and brought the condemned men to repentance before expiating their crimes.
St. Stanislaus performed miracles, and, as for evil spirits, he made them fly as chaff before the wind. He cured sickness, and even gave life to the dead. One instance of his supernatural power is worthy of remembrance. Stanislaus bought a piece of ground from a man named Peter, but received no receipt for the price paid. Peter died, and then his heirs, to please the king, who desired to do Stanislaus an injury, sought to have the land restored to them. An order of court was about to be issued for the restoration of the land to Peter's heirs, when the saint craved three days to bring forward proof of the money having been paid. Accordingly an adjournment took place. Meantime Stanislaus fasted, prayed, and watched. At the termination of the time appointed, the saint, having offered up the holy sacrifice of mass, went to Peter's grave and caused it to be opened; then, touching the body with his crosier, the dead man came to life, followed the saint to the court, testified, to the astonishment of all, that the land had been lawfully bought, and duly paid for. After this no one could dispute the ownership of the land, which, we ought not to omit saying, had been bought for the Church. St. Stanislaus offered Peter a renewal of life for many years, but he who had been dead chose to return to the grave rather than to live longer a life of trouble. He told the saint he was in purgatory, and that he had yet something more to suffer for his sins, but still he would prefer undergoing his deserved punishment, that at last he might be free. St. Stanislaus accompanied Peter to the grave. Peter laid himself down in the dust, and the ground was closed over him, in the presence of a multitude of people.
St. Philip Nerius encountered three infernal spirits while in the proper discharge of his Christian duties; and the ghosts of deceased persons were visible to him. After the saint's death he appeared to his favourite followers, environed with a glorious light. Spirits ministered to St. Erasmus, at one time breaking the fetters wherewith he was bound, and at another speaking comforting words to him when he was sad at heart. St. Norbert had the power of controlling devils, and casting them out of possessed persons. Evil spirits went about in his time revealing all the sins of professing Christians, until St. Norbert closed their mouths in reference to such shortcomings as had been confessed to a priest. After the saint's death, he appeared to divers persons who knew him in life.
The following story is told of Henry I.:—At the time he was dying, a hermit saw the devil, in human shape, running in the direction where the emperor lay. "Whither passest thou?" demanded the hermit. "I am going," said the fiend, "to be present at his Majesty's death." "Come again," said the hermit, "and tell me how far thou hast succeeded." Within a short time Satan returned, howling and crying out, "Woe, woe to us, we are cozened, and have lost our labour; all our slight and power have come to nought; the angels have confounded us and driven us away. As the works and merits of the soul were examined and weighed in the balance, in presence of us and the angels, and our scale began to sink down with the weight of his sins, there stepped in a burned man with a golden cup and put it into the other scale, which caused it to descend with great force. Seeing this, the angels cried out 'Victory,' and conveyed away the soul with them, leaving us nothing but shame, ignominy, and confusion." The renowned martyr St. Lawrence turned out to be the burned man the devil saw with the cup.
St. Margaret at one time had a severe encounter with a serpent that appeared with death in his looks. She triumphed then as well as at other times. The enemy wounded her sorely and often, but she was cured, and ever afterwards had peace.
St. Ignatius had a strange command over the devils, who abhorred and persecuted him as their great enemy. Both at Paris and Rome the devils appeared to him in ugly shapes. Before he prevailed they nearly choked him, and scourged him so sorely that he did not recover for some time. In St. Ignatius' life-time the arch-fiend seems to have had considerable power. At one time he possessed a child, a woman, and a soldier, and raised tempests and furious storms. How far the mischief would have been continued no one can tell, had not this saint withstood him to the face. It fell upon a time that the holy fathers, in a certain Loretto college, were greatly disturbed night and day by devils making a hideous noise, and appearing like black-a-moors, cats, bears, and other beasts. Recourse was had by saying holy mass, prayers, sprinkling holy water, using exorcisms, and applying relics of saints, without effect. Father Ignatius' assistance was ultimately solicited; and he, without much difficulty, drove away the tormentors as if they had been as many mice.
St. Stephen exercised great control over Satan. The saint cured no fewer than threescore and thirteen persons possessed of devils.
Satan had a deadly hatred against St. Dominick, and often endeavoured to destroy his soul and body. St. Donatus was another mark at which the devil shot his fiercest arrows; but a man who raised the dead, as this saint did, did not stand in fear of an evil spirit. St. Donatus raised to life a woman that died suddenly without informing her husband where she had concealed a sum of money belonging to him. From the mouth of the grave the resuscitated woman told where the treasure lay. A dishonest creditor was proved to be a false swearer and cheat by a corpse endowed with speech by St. Donatus.
St. Cyriacus, St. Largus, and St. Smaragdus drove evil spirits not only out of afflicted persons, but out of the country. Cyriacus, in particular, was so famous for his power over evil spirits, that princes in distant lands solicited his assistance to banish the demons to their own peculiar place of torment.
The holy virgin, St. Clare, though a feeble woman, fought and prevailed over the devil that came to her in the form of a black man.
St. Bernard cured persons possessed of devils, and he performed miracles with a crook of St. Caesarius. The former used his staff as a miracle-working instrument.
St. Giles was miraculously preserved by a hind sustaining him with her milk in a cave; and such was the saint's care over the helpless animal, that on two occasions he drew a line on the ground over which a pack of hounds chasing the hind could not pass, although there was nothing visible to restrain them.
St. Euphemia had her guardian angels that protected her from the violence of her enemies, who sought to burn her in an oven full of pitch, brimstone, and tow. She came out of the oven unhurt, but two men who laid hands on her were consumed by the flames. Wild beasts refused to devour her in their dens, and iron lost its force on her. St. Euphemia's time came however, and she met her fate as a martyr with Christian fortitude.
St. Francis' spirit appeared in a chariot of fire, sweeping through the air. Over a city distracted by factions and civil broils, he saw the devils very jocund, blowing the fire of discord. With a loud voice he commanded the spirits to depart; they obeyed him, and the city was restored to peace and concord.
St. Bridget possessed the faculty of witnessing angels, and enjoyed the privilege of having them for her companions; nevertheless, she had to sustain many conflicts with the devil. One time she saw Satan in a dreadful shape, with a hundred hands and as many feet. Terrified, she fled from the horrid monster and took shelter near a holy relic, where she was safe. In a sad hour of affliction the spirit of St. Denis appeared to her, and told her he would be her protector ever afterwards. She certainly, if report be true, turned out to be a saint endowed with extraordinary power, which enabled her to give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, and health to the sick; and, moreover, we are informed that she raised ten dead persons to life. On account of these miracles, and for her most holy life, Pope Boniface IX. canonised her, and put her in the number of the saints.
St. Gregory of Tours recounts numerous miracles wrought by St. Denis in life, and after his death. St. Teresa had glorious visions; and after, in her walks and seclusions, had the company of angels with beautiful countenances and corporeal shapes. In particular, one angel of the order of the Seraphim attended her in times of danger with a flaming sword, to drive back her enemies. Among St. Teresa's other powers was one of no mean importance—the power of delivering souls out of purgatory. Her faith in holy water was great, for by its force she swept away devils as by a mighty river.
St. Hilarian was a match for Satan and his sorcerers. A young man, desperately in love with a lady of rare beauty and chastity, who rejected his advances, applied to certain sorcerers, ministers of the temple of Esculapius. By means of their evil devices the damsel began to love her admirer extravagantly; indeed, so much so, that her emotions savoured more of madness than of true affection. Her parents laid her at St. Hilarian's feet, and he immediately drove out a devil that had taken possession of the maiden, both bodily and mentally. At one time St. Hilarian did what at first seemed invaluable service to the neighbourhood in which he lived. The people besought him to send rain, as their crops were withering away, and their cattle dying of thirst. He sent what they desired, but the rain bred serpents and venomous creatures, which destroyed the fruits of the earth and injured the inhabitants. Like St. Patrick, he drove away the reptiles, and healed the people who had been wounded by them. St. Hilarian also consumed, as with fire, a dragon of enormous size which swallowed oxen, devoured men, and laid waste the country far and near.
St. Martin, like many other saints, possessed the wonderful power of bringing the dead to life. It was said he had dominion over devils and men, over the heavens and the elements, over diseases, and over all birds and beasts of the field.
So holy was St. Catherine, that, when she died, angels carried her body to Mount Sinai and buried it there, that her persecutors might not discover where she was laid. From her place of sepulture a sweet smell long continued to pervade the neighbourhood.
Although it would appear that all saints had many gifts and graces, certain of them possessed peculiar talents denied to others. St. Francis Xaverius, for instance, held the elements in his power. He was almost constantly at war with the devil and the flesh. To frighten away the one he kept ringing a bell by night, and to subdue the other he wore a hair shirt, lived on spare diet, and slept on hard boards or lay on the cold ground.
St. Nicholas was so uncommonly good a Catholic, that, even when an infant at the breast, he would not suck his mother's breast but once on the Wednesdays and Fridays. He, too, controlled the winds and waves, and sent the evil spirit away howling through the tempest.
St. Ambrose, of ever blessed memory, controlled sorcerers and necromancers, and made even the evil spirits obedient to him. On the day of the saint's death the devils flew away, crying that they were tormented by St. Ambrose.
St. Lucy raised her mother from the dead, and conquered demons.
St. Anastasia had power over Satan, and was for two months sustained by bread from heaven. And what shall we say of St. Thomas and many of the other saints who triumphed so gloriously in their day? St. Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury, we are told, endured martyrdom twice—once in life, and again after death. To subdue the flesh, he scourged himself until the blood ran down his body. He kept long night vigils, and wore a hair shirt. In a vision he was told that he would illustrate the Church with his blood—a prediction that was fulfilled. It being proved that Henry II. was implicated in the foul deed, he had to do penance in public and private before being absolved. Many years afterwards, Henry VIII. commanded the dead saint to be summoned before him, and having condemned him as a traitor, directed his name to be erased from the catalogue of saints; forbade, under pain of death, his day to be celebrated, or his name to be mentioned as a saint; and ordered that his name should be blotted out of every book and calendar in which it appeared. The revengeful king also commanded that the saint's relics should be burned, and the ashes thereof scattered to the winds.
With the following old tale in verse we close our collected information on Demonology—a tale founded upon one of the most extraordinary events recorded in the annals of the human mind. Not a century and a half ago all the circumstances which form the romance, with the addition of many others nearly as ridiculous, were not only firmly believed by the peasants of a few Sclavonian villages, among whom they were supposed to have happened, but were received as truths, and seriously commented upon by learned divines and physicians of the surrounding provinces. A superstition somewhat similar appears to have prevailed in Bohemia and Silesia previous to the days of Dr. Henry More, who details several of the stories to which it gave rise, in his Philosophical Works:—
"I left the chaulkie Cliftes of olde Englonde, And paced thro' many a Countrie faire to see, Thorowe the Reaulme of Greece and Holie-Londe, Untill I journeied into sadde Hongrie.
I sawe olde Cecrops' Towne, and famous Rome; But Davyd's holie place I liked beste: I sawe dire Sightes before I found my Home, But much the direst at the Towne of Peste.
It was a goodlie Citie, fayre to see; By its prowde Walles and towering Mosques it gave A delicate Aspect to the Countree, With its Bridg of Boates acrosse the Danow's Wave.
Yet manie thinges with Woe I did surveie; The Stretes were overgrowne with spiery grasse; And, though it was upon a Sabbath-daie, No Belles did ringe to calle the Folke to Masse.
The Churchyardes all with Barrs were closed fast, Like to a sinfulle and accursed place; It shewd as though the Judgment-daie were past, And the Dedde exiled from the Seate of Grace.
At last I met an old sadde Man, and asked Where a tired Traveller maye finde repose. The Old Man shook his Hed, and wold have passed; But I caught him by his Arme and held his Clothes.
'Straunger,' said he, 'in Marie's name departe!' (Soe saying, wold agen have passed me by); His hollow Voyce sank depe into my Harte: Yet I wold not let him goe, but asked Why?
'It now is Morne,' quoth he, 'the Sun shines brighte, And the Springe is blithe, save in the Walles of Peste; But, were it Winter wylde, and a stormie Nighte, Not here, O Straunger, sholdst thou seeke to reste;
'Though Rayne in Torrents powred and cold Winds blew, And thou with travelling tired and with Hunger pale.' 'Though the Sun,' sed I, 'shine brighte and the Daie be new, I will not goe, till I have herd thy Tale.'
This woefull Wight then took me by the Hande; (His, like a Skeletonne's; was bonie and cold). He seemed as though he scarse cold goe nor stande, Like one o'er whom full fourscore years had rold.
We came together to the Market-Crosse, And the Wight all woe-begon spake not a Word. No living thinge along our Waie did passe, (Though dolours Grones in evrie House I herd).
Save one poore Dogge that walked athwart a Court, Fearfullie howling with most pyteous Wayle. The sadde Man whistled in a dismall sort, And the poore thinge slunk away, and hid his Tayle.
I felt my verie Bloud creepe in my vaynes; My Bones were icie-cold; my Hayr on ende. I wishd myself agen uponn the Playnes, Yet cold not but that sadde old Man attende.
The sadde old Man sate down upon a Stone, And I sate on another by his Side; He heaved mournfullie a pyteous Grone, And then, to ease my doubts, himself applied.
'Straunger!' quoth he, 'Behold my Visage welle, And graspe this bonie Hand so thinne agenn! How manie Winters thinkest thou I telle?' I answered doubtinglie: 'Three-Score and Tenn.'
'Straunger! not fourty yeares agoe I lay A puling Infant in my Nurse's arms: Not fourty daies agoe two Daughters gay Did blesse my Vision with their dawning Charms.
'Yet now I am an olde and worn-out Man, And evrie droppe of Bloud hath left my Vaynes; Als' my fayr Daughters twaine lie cold and wan And bloudless, bound in Deathe's eternal Chaynes.
'Straunger! This Towne, so pleasant to our sightes, With goodlie Towers and running Streames so faire, Whilom for tender Maydes and doughtie Knightes From all Hungaria's Londe the Prize did beare.
'But now, the verie fewe that here remayne Are sobbing out their Breath in sorie Guise; All that might flie, have fled this mournfull playne But onlie I, who wishe to close mine eyes.
'Seaven Weekes are gon since owr Townesfolke beganne To wax both pale and sadd, yet none knewe why: The ruddiest Visage yellowe seemed and wanne, Our stoutest Youthes for very cold did cry.
'Some Doctours sed the Lakes did Agewes breede, But Springe returning wold the same disperse; Whyles others, contrarie to Nature's creede, Averred the Heate itself wold make us worse.
'And though we leugh at these, like Doaters fonde, Or Menn that love in Paradox to deale; Yett, as the Sunn grew warme, throughout the Londe, All Menn the more did wintrie shiverings feele.
'One miserable Wight did pyne and wane, And on the seaventh Daie gave upp the Ghoste; His Corse was oped by a Chirurgeon of fame Who found that evrie dropp of bloud was loste.
'Nathless, our People though they pined and pined, Yet never did our appetites decaye; Whole Oxen scarse suffised when we dined, And we cold drinke whole hogsheds of Tokaye.
'Soone Hundereds evrie daye gave up the Ghoste, (Els' we a Famine in our Lande had bredde). And, to repayr the Bloud that we had loste, Our Beastes we killd and ate, but never bledde.
'Thus, by the Eve, our Colour freshe arose, And we did look agen more briske and gay. All Nighte deepe Slumbers did our Eye lidds close, But worse and worse we wax by Breake of Daie.
'There was a taylour, Vulvius by name, Who long had dwelt at Peste in honest pryde; A Godlie Man he was esteemed by Fame, And since some twelvemonths of a Feaver dyde.
'Now when at last this straunge Disease had growne To suche a Highte as neer was heard afore, Among the reste in our unhappie Towne My youngest Daughter was afflicted sore.
'One Nighte it happed, as she was slepyng laied, Her wayting Girle at Midnight left her roome To fetch some possett, brothe, or gellie, made To quelle the plague that did her life consume.
'When, as she softly shut the Doore, she heard An heavie Thinge come lumbering upp the Stayres, Whereon the buried Tailour soone appeard And She (poor Mayd) full loud 'gan saye her Prayres.
'Shrowded he was, as when his Corse was laied Under the Earthe, and buriall Service redde; Nor yet was he a Ghoste, for his Footsteppes made A Noyse more hevie than a Tunne of Ledde.
'She sawe him ope my Daughter's chamber-Doore, And had no Spirit to persewe nor flie, And Vulvius agen, in half an houre, Lumbered downe Stayres yett much more hevilie.
'This Storie herd, I cold not chuse, but smild To think the seelie Mayd such Feares cold shake, Yet the next Nighte, to prove such Phan'sies wild, I kept myself untille Midnighte awake;
'Whenn as the Midnight-Houre was past, I heard An hevie thinge come lumbering upp the Stayre; The Tailour Vulvius to my Sights appeard— I could not follow to my Daughter fayre.
'Next Day, untoe a Convent nighe I hied, And found a reverend Father at his prayer; I told him of the Wonderres I had spied, And begged his ghostlie Counsel I may share.
'Together to Sainct Stevenn's Churche we went, And he a Prayer on evrie Gravestone made, Till at the Tailour Vulvius' Monument We stopped—we broughte a Mattocke and a Spade;
'We digged the Earthe wherein the Tailour lay; Tille at the Tailour's Coffin we arrived, Nor there, I weene, much Labour found that Day, For evrie Nayle was drawen and the Hinges rived.
'This Sighte was straunge—but straunger yet remaynd, When from the Corse the cered Clothes we tore; The Veynes seemed full of Bloud, the Lipps distained, All dripping with my Daughter's new-suck'd gore.
'When through own Towne this Sighte we had proclaimed, A dismall Horrour chilled our Townsmen's hartes; The Vampyre (So our Priest the Tailour nam'd) Their Midnight-sleeps disturbed with feaverish startes.
The Churchyardes straight were ransacked all throughout With Pick-ax, Shovell, Mattocke, and with Spade; But evrie Corse that we did digge thereout, Did shewe like living Menn in Coffins laied.
'It was the Corses that our Churchyardes filled, That did at Midnight lumberr up our Stayres; They suck'd our Bloud, the gorie Banquet swilled, And harrowed everie Soule with hydeous Feares.
'And nowe the Priestes burnd Incense in the Quire, And scattered Ave-Maries o'er the Graves, And purified the Church with lustrall Fire, And cast all thinges prophane to Danowe's Waves.
'And they barr'd with Boltes of Iron the Churchyard-pale To keepe them out; but all this wold not doe; For when a Dead-Man has learn'd to draw a naile, He can also burst an iron Bolte in two.'
The sadde old Man was silent—I arose, And felt great Grief and Horrour in my Breste. I rode nine Leagues before I sought repose, And never agen drew nigh the Walles of Peste."
MAGIC AND ASTROLOGY.
Magic a Study among the Learned—Plato and Pythagoras travelled to learn the Art, and taught it—How to subdue a Furious Bull—How to make a tough Fowl tender—Eagles' Feathers—Power of a Small Fish—Speakers made Eloquent by Magical Art—Virtue of Gems—How Jewels should be set—When they are to be Graven—Various Magical Operations—Cures effected by Hippocrates—Democritus on Magic—Many Charms—Evil Spirits—Magicians sacrificing to the Planets—Vessels and other articles used for Magical purposes—Success in Magic—Magician's Power to produce Monstrous Creatures—Egyptian Magicians—Horses' and Asses' Heads—Magical Circles—Throwing Old Shoes—Figures on Shoes—A Hangman's Soul—Directions for raising Ghosts and Spirits.
Magic was, in ancient times, a favourite study among the learned. Plato, Pythagoras, and other men of note, travelled over many countries to learn this art. After studying for a long time, they publicly communicated the knowledge of magic to students from every quarter of the globe. The knowledge acquired by magicians, if real, was wonderful. One discovered that, by tying a bull to a fig tree, the animal, though of a furious nature, instantly became subdued. The same authority states that, by hanging an old tough fowl on the same description of tree, it would become tender. Another professor of magic taught that the feathers of an eagle, mixed with those of other birds, would consume them, and that a small fish called Remora could stop the progress of a ship at sea. Magicians supplied precious stones to public speakers, the possession of which made them eloquent, and brought them into favour with princes. A certain gem carried in a husband's pocket made him love his wife, and enabled him to overcome his enemies. Coral was a preventative against witchcraft, hence the fashion of ladies and children wearing necklaces and bracelets of this material. Hyacinth brought down rain, obscured the sun, and preserved from lightning. One stone resisted drunkenness, so that the bearer could be able to drink freely without becoming intoxicated. A chalcedony made the wearer lucky at law, increased the vigour of one's body, and prevented illusions of the devil. Those acquainted with magical art concluded that all stones possessed virtues, infused into them by the influence of planets. Alexander, Hermes, Zoroaster, and several other ancients, entertained this opinion. Magicians were the first to set stones in rings—an invention which, if not beneficial to man and woman, has helped to adorn their persons.
Gems used for magical purposes required to be set in such metals as had affinity with the planets whereby they (the gems) were influenced. The image of Saturn should be made in lead; of Sol, in gold; of Luna, in silver; of Jupiter, in tin; of Mars, in iron; of Venus, in copper; of Mercury, in quicksilver. A proper time should be observed for the graving of magical figures. If love is to be procured, the graving must be done under proper and friendly aspects, as in the hour of Venus. Such signs as ascend in the day must be taken in the day. If they increase in the night, then the work must be done in the night. Wise men tell us that an olive planted by a virgin will thrive, but if by an unchaste woman it will wither. If a serpent be found in a hole, it may be safely pulled out by the left hand, but to attempt to do so with the right would be dangerous.
Learned writers on magic say that if one take a new knife, and cut a lemon with it while the operator is expressing words of hatred or dislike against a person he or she may wish evil to, the object of hatred will feel uneasy, and become unwell. If a live pigeon be cut through the heart while an evil wisher is venting curses against a friend or neighbour, the individual against whom the evil wishes are made will suffer in body and mind. A man will be put in great fear if his image, prepared according to the arts of magic, be suspended by a single hair or thread, however far distant he may be from the scene of operation. If a person suffering from toothache or asthma catch a live frog before sunrise, and spit into its mouth, immediate relief will be the result. If the plague or any epidemic disease threaten a village or town, the disorder will be stayed by a live toad being suspended for three or four days in a chimney. The dried body of a dead toad, worn in the breast, prevents the possessor of the charm from being injured by any infectious disease. Hippocrates had great honours conferred on him on account of the cures he effected by the application of certain parts of reptiles to disordered persons. The heart of a toad, suspended by a blue ribbon round the neck, will cure the king's evil. Rape seed, sown with cursing and imprecation, grows better, we are told, than when the seed is blessed. If one wear a girdle of civet-cat skin in battle, he will escape unhurt. Those skilled in such secrets say they can be easily explained. In their arguments they point to the antipathy of certain natural things, animate and inanimate, to other things in nature. The wing of a bat and the heart of a lapwing repel evil spirits and wicked passions; the bustard flies off when a horse comes in sight, and the hart bounds away at the sight of a ram or viper; a lion trembles at the crowing of a cock. If one swallow the heart of a lapwing, mole, or weasel, taken from the animal when alive, it will improve his understanding, and enable him to prophesy.
Democritus says that if one cut the tongue out of a live frog, and lay it on a woman's breast opposite her heart, she will be compelled to answer every question put to her. Dogs will never attack a person that has a weasel's tail in his pocket or breast, provided the appendage has been severed from the little animal when it was alive. If one has a chameleon's tongue, cut out before the creature's death, he may defy all the sharpers in the world. If the blood of a civet-cat be sprinkled on the doors and windows of a house, witches and sorcerers will be prevented from entering it or molesting the inmates thereof. If an enemy desire to render any one hateful to friends and neighbours, it may be done by the touch of an ointment composed of the ashes of a calcined ankle-bone of a man, oil extracted from the left foot of the same body, and the blood of a weasel. Civet-cat gut tied round a man's left arm, makes all the ladies look on him with favour; and civet-cat skin worn as a cap, protects the wearer against the art of witches. If a stone that has been in a mad dog's mouth be put into ale handed round at a feast, discord will take place. If a bone taken from a toad's left side be secretly put into any part of a woman's dress, it will kindle her love into a burning flame; but if the corresponding bone of the toad's right side be used, the most ardent love of the woman will be cooled. If the snaffle of a bridle be made of a sword that has killed a man, the rider may with ease control a horse, however wild the animal may be; and if a sword that has been used in beheading a person be dipped in wine, it will impart a medicinal virtue to the liquor.
Pliny is accountable for a few of the foregoing and many other similar stories, all of which were believed at one time.
Fires kindled with human fat or oil frightens away evil spirits. On the other hand, vapours exhaled from certain suffumigations induce spirits to appear. The lungs of an ass, when burned, drive evil spirits away. Magicians say that if gold or silver be hid when the moon is in conjunction with the sun, and the place be perfumed with saffron, henbane, and black poppy, the treasure will never be feloniously carried away, for spirits will constantly watch over it. The blood of doves, lapwings, and bats possesses peculiar virtues—attracting spirits to places where they may be required to appear, and exciting love passions.
Magicians, when sacrificing to the planets with the view of securing their diabolical ends, throw into the flames such things as raise a pleasant perfume when they wish to perform good actions; but when they desire to bring about wicked results, they raise disagreeable smells. When soliciting the aid of the sun, it was customary to take the brain of an eagle or the blood of a white cock; when appealing to the moon, the blood of a goose was supposed to be good; when sacrificing to Saturn, the brain of a cat and the blood of a bat were indispensable; when soliciting Jupiter's assistance, the blood of a swallow or stork and the brains of a hart were recommended; when sacrificing to Mars, the blood of a man or of a black cat was thought best; and when Mercury was sacrificed to, the brain of a fox or of a weasel and the blood of a magpie were burned on the altar.
All instruments, vessels, and other things used for magical purposes were recommended to be new; and when a magical missive was to be written, the parchment was prepared from the skin of a black kitten, the pen was a feather plucked from a live crow or raven, and the ink consisted of human blood, or a preparation of calcined cuttle-fish bones, nutgalls, and rain water, prepared in the day and hour of Saturn.
In order to secure success in the magical art, it was necessary for the operator to have his whole soul in his work, otherwise his labour was in vain. Ancient philosophers have informed us that when the human mind is intent upon magical work, it is joined with the mind and intelligence of the stars, and hence the wonderful result of secret art.
Magicians pretended to possess the power of producing monstrous creatures, even devils. They could, if their statements can be relied upon, create a cockatrice by artificially hatching an egg in a preparation of arsenic and the poison of serpents. The ashes of a burned duck, treated in a magical manner, produced a huge toad. Numerous writers conclude that there are two species of toads—the one produced by ordinary generation, and the other by devilish science. Plutarch and more modern writers say that frogs descend from the clouds in rain. Egyptian magicians produced proof of mice, frogs, and serpents growing out of earth and flowers. It was said that Damnatus Hispanus could make them in any number he pleased.
By certain charms, magicians could place a horse or an ass's head upon a man's shoulders, and change the head of an inferior animal into that of a human pate.
Magicians attached great importance to their circles. One of the fraternity, when about to proceed with his secret art, clothed himself with a black robe reaching to the knee, and under that a white garment of fine linen. He then took his position in the centre of the place where he intended to perform his conjurations, and, throwing his old shoes about ten yards from the circle, put on consecrated sandals with curious figures on each. (Here we may observe that not a few antiquarians are of opinion that from these practices arose the custom of persons throwing old shoes after newly-wedded pairs and others for luck, and of shoemakers making fanciful outlines on shoes by means of pegging and stitching.) With a magical wand of hazel the magician stretched forth his arm to the four winds, turning himself round to every wind, and beseeching his "master" to consecrate the circle. All these ceremonies being performed, he claimed the consecrated ground as a defence from all malignant spirits, that they might not have power over his soul or body.
The most suitable time for making circles was during bright moonlight, or when storms of wind or thunder were raging, because then the infernal spirits were nearer the earth than at other times, and could more easily hear the invocations of those who sought their assistance. Magical circles were recommended to be formed at dark lonely places—either in woods or deserts, or in places where three ways met, or among ruins of castles, abbeys, or monasteries, or on the sea-shore. But if the conjuration was to raise the ghost of one deceased, the fittest places for the purpose were spots where persons had been slain, woods in which suicides had been committed, churchyards, and burying-vaults. If any one doubts the correctness of what is here stated, perhaps he will change his mind after reading the following story:—
"A certain hangman, passing the image of our Lady, saluted her, and commended himself to her protection. Afterwards, while he prayed before her, he was called away to hang an offender, but his enemies slew him by the way. And lo! a certain priest, who walked nightly about every church in the city, rose that night to go to our Lady's church. In the churchyard he saw the ghosts of many dead men. On demanding what was the matter, he was told that the hangman was slain, and that the devil demanded his soul, but which our Lady said was hers, and that the judges were at hand to hear the cause. The priest having made up his mind to be at the trial, hid himself behind a tree. When the judges had taken their seats, the hangman was brought forward pinioned, and proof adduced that his soul belonged to the devil. On the other side it was pleaded by our Lady, that at the hour of death the hangman commended his soul to her. The judges gave sentence that the hangman's soul should return to his body until he made sufficient satisfaction. The priest was called from his hiding-place and sent to the Pope with a rose of rare beauty, and instructions to crave the prayers of his Holiness for the poor man." Although we are not made acquainted with the result of the application to the Pope, there can be little doubt but that, through our Lady and his Holiness, Satan lost his eagerly desired victim.
Directions are given by the learned how to raise ghosts and evil spirits. To raise the ghost of one who had hanged himself, the exorcist was to provide himself with a straight hazel wand, and bind the head of an owl with a bunch of St. John's-wort to the end thereof. This done, he was to repair to a place where a miserable wretch had strangled himself, and at twelve o'clock at night, while the body remained suspended, begin his conjurations. First, he was directed to stretch forth his wand towards the four corners of the world, saying, "I conjure and exorcise thee, thou distressed spirit, to present thyself here and reveal unto me the cause of thy calamity—why thou didst offer violence to thine own life, where thou art now in being, and where thou wilt hereafter be?" Then, gently striking the body nine times with the wand, he was to demand the spirit of the deceased to reveal unto him what secrets he wished made known, whether these referred to the past or future. The conjuration being thrice repeated, we are assured the spirit would rise and answer the exorcist's questions. Directions were next given for laying the spirit, and that might be done by burying the body naked with lime, salt, and sulphur. If the ghost which the exorcist consulted was of one who died a common death, and received the usual burial, it was essential to dig the body out of the grave at twelve o'clock at night; and while the exorcist held a torch in his left hand, he was to smite the corpse three times with his consecrated rod, held in the right hand, and demand answers to his questions. When the ceremonies were gone through in a regular way, the interrogatories were truly answered. A caution was offered to the practiser of this art. The magician of no great experience was told that if the constellation and position of the stars at his nativity were not favourable, it would be dangerous for him to encounter a ghost for fear of being slain, as the ghosts of men could easily destroy magicians not protected by the stars.
Magicians were instructed how to raise the spirits Paymon, Bathin, and Barma, and secure their assistance. These spirits, though of various ranks and orders, were of one power, ability, and nature, and the mode of raising them is the same. The magician who desired to consult with these spirits had to appoint a night in the waxing of the moon, when the planet Mercury reigned, at eleven o'clock at night. But for four days before the appointed night he was required to shave his beard every morning, change his linen, and put on a consecrated girdle made of a black cat's skin. When all was prepared for the summoning of the spirits, the magician was instructed to enter a dark parlour or cellar, to light seven candles, and draw a circle with his own blood. When the candles were lighted, it was essential for the magician to protect himself with two drawn swords, and consecrate the circle, so that all evil spirits might be expelled. Everything being ready, the conjuration commenced in these words: "I conjure and exorcise you, the three gentle and noble spirits of the power of the north, by the great and dreadful name of your king, and by the silence of the night, and by the holy rites of magic, and by the number of the infernal legions, I adjure and advocate you that without delay ye present yourselves here before the northern quarter of the circle, all of you, or any one of you, and answer my demands." This, we are informed, had to be repeated three times, and then the three spirits appeared, or one of them by lot, if the others were engaged elsewhere. Before their appearance, they sent in advance three swift hounds in pursuit of a hare, which ran round the circle for seven and a half minutes. After this chase more hounds came in, and after all a little ugly Ethiopian, who snatched the hare from the hounds. Next was heard a hunter's horn, and a herald on horseback came galloping swiftly with three hunters behind him upon black horses. After riding round the circle seven times, they stood at the northern quarter. The magician then demanded the demons to be faithful and obedient, which they readily agreed to be. Valuable information was obtained from the spirits, who gave the magician the powerful girdle of victory, which, on being tied about him, enabled him to conquer armies, and all men, however powerful. The spirits also were compelled to bring, at the magician's bidding, the richest treasure earth could afford, and to reveal the positions of hidden gold and silver mines.
The spirits could bestow the gift of invisibility, and the foreknowledge of the change of the weather; they could teach the exorcist how to raise storms and tempests, and how to calm them again; they could bring news in an instant of the result of any battle or other important event, wherever it took place. They could also teach the language of birds, and how to fly unseen through the air.
Josephus' Account of Astrology—Antediluvians acquainted with Astrology—Astrology after the Flood—Magicians in various Nations—The Spirit Bokim—Compact and Confederation with Spirits—Long Life and Magical Power—Feats of Magicians—A French Priest in compact with the Devil—Married to Venus—Turning Leather into Gold—A Novice in Magic destroyed by a Spirit—Principles of Magic—Implements, Materials, and Doings of Magicians—Piercing Sight—Lilly the Astrologer—Lilly consulted by Royalists—Astrological Predictions concerning Fires, Plagues, Famine, War, and the Fortunes of Great Persons.
Josephus says that the antediluvians were well acquainted with astrology, and inscribed the principles thereof on pillars to preserve them to posterity from the Flood; for it was by this art, he believes, that they were enabled to foresee the coming Deluge. Subsequent to the Flood, the Assyrians were the first people who turned their attention to astrology. The Chaldeans, Egyptians, and Arabians soon became acquainted with the art, and by perseverance brought it to perfection and high estimation. In several nations none but those skilled in astrology were admitted to the administration of sacred rites or to the management of state affairs.
In China, by the sacrifice of blood and the repetitions of several superstitious invocations to the sun and moon, devils were brought up from their place of abode, if not repose. In Tartary the magicians offered to the ocean, the mountains, and the stars, divers sorts of incense, by which means the spirits were compelled to appear. In the East and West Indies the power of magic was equally powerful. Greek and Roman magicians invocated spirits by prayers to the moon, and sacrifices of milk, honey, and blood. In our own country, incantation and conjuration, as already observed, were by no means uncommon.
When Chiancungi and his sister Napala first attempted to call up spirits, they began with the spirit Bokim, in the twentieth degree. They commenced their operations in a vault hung round with black cloth. Having drawn their circle of the order of thrones and the seven planets, and stamped their magical characters in the centre thereof, they proceeded to the ceremonies of conjuration without anything appearing. This caused them to become so desperate that they left the circle and betook themselves to the most detestable branch of magic—compact, or confederacy; through which they obtained from Bokim 155 years of life, and almost unlimited magical power, on the condition that in return their bodies and souls should at last be given to him. They performed strange miracles in every country. By the assistance of these magicians, the Tartars destroyed above one hundred ships belonging to the Chinese. Many a loss did they bring upon those against whom they had a private grudge, or against whom they were hired. Kingdoms were ruined, children slain, fruits withered, corn blasted, silk destroyed, navigation impeded, and adult lives sacrificed. Chiancungi had numerous public contests with magicians of several countries in magical science, in which art he was said to excel them all.
Lewis Gawfridi, a French priest, was another famous magician, who had compact with the devil of a closer relationship than common men of his craft could pretend to have. He served Satan for fourteen years in performing detestable works—sacrificing children, worshipping the devil in various shapes, and tempting people to become magicians, and to take part in disgraceful nocturnal conventions.
A wonderful relation is given in support of the belief of magicians having power over spirits. The story is this:—A newly-married man was amusing himself with his companions, when, in case he should lose his wedding ring, he put it on the finger of a statue of Venus. Returning to take his ring, he found the finger so bent that the ornament intended for his bride could not be removed. At night the image of Venus appeared to him and said, "Thou hast espoused me, and shalt not enjoy the society of any other woman." Again returning to the statue in the morning he found the finger straight, and discovered that the ring was gone. So greatly was he troubled, that he consulted a magician, who put him on a plan of obtaining his ring and releasing him of his engagement with Venus. The magician wrote a letter to a principal spirit in the dominion to which Venus belonged, and, giving it to the unhappy young man, instructed him to watch at a certain time and place, when he would see a troop of spirits pass by him, one of which, he said, would be seated on a chariot; and he it was for whom the letter was written. The young man, on acting as directed, espied the spirits, and gave the letter to the one for which it was intended. As soon as the fiend read its contents he burst into a rage, exclaiming, "How long shall we be subject to this accursed magician?" With hesitation, he called on a most beautiful woman near the chariot, and commanded her to return the ring to its owner, an order she reluctantly obeyed.
Henry Cornelius Agrippa, who was born at Cologne in 1486, was an astrologer and magician. When travelling, he paid his hotel bills with pieces of horn, which appeared as gold to those to whom they were presented. A foolish fellow entered Agrippa's study, and raised the devil therein during the magician's absence. The novice, being unable to subdue the fiend, lost his life. On Agrippa coming home, he found several spirits dancing on the house-top. He ordered them to enter the dead body, which they did, and then he cast it into a pit. Though Agrippa seldom left his study or conversed with any one, he was well acquainted with everything going on at home and abroad. People were of opinion that a black dog he kept was an evil spirit, which duly informed him of what was taking place far and near.
Every magical charm had its first principles according to certain laws; and the garments worn by magicians were manufactured and stitched at stated hours. The time was generally in the hour of Luna or of Saturn, in the moon's increase. Their needles were made of hedgehog's prickles, or bones of animals, as iron or steel possessed virtues not always favourable to magic. Their ointments were of man's fat, blood, hog's grease, oil, etc. Their characters were ancient Hebrew, and their speech in the learned languages; their fires were kindled with sweet wood and oil or resin; and their candles, of the fat of men and children. Their vessels were earthenware; their candlesticks had three feet, of dead men's bones. Their capes were like pyramids, with lappets or ears on each side, and lined with fur. Their gowns were, for ordinary purposes, long, reaching to the ground, and lined with fox-skin. Their girdles were three inches broad, having cabalistical names, signs, and circles inscribed thereon.
Some magicians had such piercing sight that they could discover everything, however carefully concealed, and look into futurity with a certainty of making known what was to come to pass. Lilly the astrologer was a great authority in England. He was consulted by the Royalists, (with the king's privity) as to whether the king would escape from Hampton Court, and whether he would or should sign the propositions of Parliament. For giving his opinion on these and a few other subjects, the astrologer received L20. In Lilly's Astrological Predictions in 1648 occurs the following passage:—
"In the year 1656, the aphelium of Mars, who is the general signification of England, will be in Virgo, which is assuredly the ascendant of the English monarchy, but Aries of the kingdom. When this apsis, therefore, of Mars shall appear in Virgo, who shall expect less than a strange catastrophe of human affairs in the commonwealth, monarchy, and kingdom of England? There will then, either in or about these times, or near that year, appear in this kingdom so strange a revolution of fate, so grand a catastrophe and great mutation unto this monarchy and government, as never yet appeared; of which, as the time now stands, I have no liberty or encouragement to deliver my opinion—only, it will be ominous to London, unto her merchants at sea, to her traffic on land, to her poor, to her rich, to all sorts of people inhabiting in her or her liberties, by reason of consuming fires and devastating plagues."
Accomplished events, even those which happened in his own time, and information obtained from the writings of ancient astrologers, enabled Lilly to predict important results. We find in a work On the Probable Effects of the Great Conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter, that "the mean or second greatest conjunction that happened in 1603"—Lilly was born in 1602—"was in the eighth degree of Sagittarius, the opposite sign of the ascendant of London. They were nearly conjoined the greater part of the year in which Queen Elizabeth died; and there was a severe plague in London, whereof died, in 1603 and 1604, more than 68,000 persons; and the year after, or in 1605, the Gunpowder Plot was nearly being carried into execution.
"The next conjunction happened in the seventh degree of Leo, in 1623. Within two years after, King James I. died; and there was also a severe plague in London, which carried off 35,417 persons, in 1625; and, what was observable, in 1639 there was a great eclipse of the sun, in ten degrees of Gemini, in opposition to the place of the first conjunction, in 1603; and exactly when Mars arrived to ten degrees of Pisces, or in quartile to both places, the Long Parliament began; and near the same time the Scots and English disagreed; and when Charles I. applied to the citizens of London, they refused to lend him money to be employed against them. It is also remarkable that Leo, the sign where the conjunction happened, was the ascendant in King Charles's nativity; and how unfortunate he was afterwards till his death, is pretty well known.
"The next took place in 1643, in the sign of Pisces, which found the king and his subjects in open arms, and was followed by dreadful civil wars in England, that terminated in beheading the king."
Whether Lilly did really foresee what he pretended had been revealed to him, we shall not here affirm or deny, but, there can be no doubt, many strange circumstances following his predictions went far to support his claim to the prophetic mantle. Further quotations from the same work will supply additional matter for reflection:—
"The fourth conjunction in this trigon took place in 1663, in Sagittarius, again opposite to the ascendant of London. The year after followed a war with the Dutch, and in 1665 they took our valuable Hamburgh fleet; and in that year also was the great plague in London, that carried away 68,586 people. This was followed by the dreadful fire of London, in 1666, that destroyed 13,200 houses, and consumed nearly 400 streets.
"The next happened in Leo, in 1682, and was repeated in 1683, when Lord William Russell was beheaded; and, two years after, Charles II. died.
"The next was in seven degrees of Aries, the ascendant of England, in 1702. That year King William died, and war commenced with France. In short, whoever takes his ephemeris in one hand and history in the other, will have no difficulty in convincing himself of the efficacy of such configurations; and though, by changing the signs, they may vary the effects and also the places most subject to their influence, yet it will appear that the observations of different authors (wherein they all agree that England is most passive to the fiery trigon) are founded on truth.
"The conjunction under consideration happened in the earthy triplicity, to which Ptolemy refers to Europe in general; however, the places most particularly under the sign Virgo are France, and more especially Paris; and some authors say Lyons, and the principal port of the Turkish dominions. Indeed it is curious to observe that the Turks have got possession of nearly all the places said by Ptolemy to be under this sign, wherein the conjunction happened, and I have no doubt will most sensibly feel the effects of it; neither will Russia and some parts of Germany and Switzerland escape its influence.
"As the signs of Sagittarius and Pisces are also afflicted, and Jupiter so oppressed by the conjunction, Spain and Portugal will likewise be sensible of their effects; neither do I like the mischievous position of Mars in Taurus, the ascendant of Ireland, particularly as he is upon the mid-heaven, and so near the mundane quartile of Saturn and Mars.
"Most authors agree that evil configurations in Virgo are generally attended with bloodshed, and that configurations in earthly signs have more signification of feuds, dissatisfaction, and secret contrivances among the common people, than they have of wars and differences between kings and rulers, who are more properly denoted by princely or fiery signs."
Judicial Astrology—Reading the Heavens—Lucky and Unlucky Days discovered—Kings' and Queens' Unlucky Days—Highland Superstitions—Climacterics—Priests foretelling Children's Future Destiny—Astrologer and Charles IX.—Influence of the Moon—Official Air-gazers—Sacrificing to Planets—Children born under different Phases of the Moon—Dryden's Faith in Astrology—Dryden calculating the Nativity of his Children—Predictions concerning his Son fulfilled.
Judicial astrology, it is supposed, was invented in Chaldaea, and thence transmitted to the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, but there are persons who think it commenced with the Arabs.
Astrologers, in reading the heavens, had recourse to a semicircle which they called Position, by which they represented the six great circles passing through the intersection of the meridian and horizon, and dividing the equator into twelve equal parts. The spaces included between these circles were styled the Twelve Houses, which referred to the twelve triangles marked in their theme, placing six of these houses above and six underneath the horizon. The first of the houses under the horizon towards the east they named the Horoscope, or House of Life; the second, the House of Wealth; the third, the House of Brothers; the fourth, the House of Parents; and so on to the twelfth house, each having reference to a particular subject. All matters relating to issue, diseases, wedlock, death, religion, honour, friendship, and woe could be foretold by astrologers.
In the time of the civil wars the royalists and the rebels had their astrologers as well as their soldiers; and the predictions of the former had great influence over the latter. By means of astrology, lucky and unlucky days were discovered. Thursday was the unlucky day of Henry VIII. He, his son Edward VI., Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, and many other illustrious persons, died on a Thursday, as had been foretold; and we have already pointed out that the 3d of September was a memorable day in the life of Cromwell.
The Highlanders of Scotland entertained many superstitions in regard to the moon as well as in reference to the sun. A Highlander would not willingly commence any serious undertaking in the waning of the moon—such as marrying, flitting, or going on a far journey. When the roth, rath, or circle of the moon was full, then was the lucky time for beginning serious or important matters.
Astrologers have employed all the rules of their art to show that the years of man's age, called climacterics, are dangerous, even threatening death. The first climacteric is in the seventh year of life, the rest are multiples of the first—as 21, 49, 56, 63, and 84, which two last are called the grand climacterics. Marc Ficinus accounts for the foundation of this opinion. He says there is a year assigned for each planet to rule over the body of a man, each in his turn; and that Saturn, being the most malignant planet of all, every seventh year (which falls to its lot) becomes very dangerous, especially those of 63 and 84, when the person is advanced in years.
There were those who pretended that the climacteric years were fatal to political bodies as well as to individuals. Pythagoras based his calculations very much on numbers. He thought considerable importance should be attached to the number 7.
In France the new-born child was often presented naked to the astrologer, who read the first lineaments in its forehead, and the transverse lines in its hands, and from these he wrote down its future destiny. Catherine de Medicis brought Henry IV., then a child, to old Nostradamus, to ascertain the youth's destiny. An astrologer having assured Charles IX. that he would live as many days as he would turn on his heels in one hour, his Majesty, putting faith in the prediction, performed the exercise of revolving, as directed, every morning during the prescribed period of an hour.
The Egyptian astronomers held that the moon influenced all sudden matters of importance, but others not less learned affirmed that portentous events were regulated by wandering stars. Seneca speaks of a custom which prevailed, of appointing official air-gazers to give notice of an approaching storm, similar to the practice at the present day, of having persons at meteorological stations throughout the country to forecast the state of the weather. When they observed a cloud which indicated a hail-shower, they warned the people in order that they might protect their crops. The peasants, to propitiate the planets, offered in sacrifice fat cocks and white lambs; and the poor, who had neither fowls nor four-footed beasts to offer, cut their thumbs, in the full expectation that this insignificant libation of a few drops of human blood would secure the favour of the heavenly bodies, and avert the threatened calamity.
A child born on the first day of the new moon is likely to live long and happy, if it survives infancy. The child born on the second day of the moon shall grow strong, and be noted for wisdom. This day is fortunate in many respects. If one wishes to inquire into secrets, let him begin before the clock strikes the midnight hour. The infant born on the third day will never want an influential friend to lend him a helping hand in time of need. The fourth day is not quite so lucky, and the infant who comes into the world will require to be honest and diligent, to support an honourable position in life. The child born on the fifth day of the moon will turn out to be fickle and capricious. It is a good day, however, for beginning any new undertaking—particularly for laying the foundation of a building. Promises made on the sixth day will be long of being fulfilled. On this day people ought to take good heed to their ways, for on it they are very liable to err. The parents of children born at this time had better nurse the little ones tenderly, for nothing but scrupulous attention will sustain them through the dangers of youth. Dreams of the seventh day of the moon must not be revealed. Long life is promised to the child born this day; and if a person be stricken with sickness on it, a speedy cure will be effected. Tricksters and all sorts of dishonest people will be disappointed on the eighth, ninth, and tenth days of the moon; and children born on any of these days will be blessed with long life and health, if they escape certain contingencies known to the wise. The child born on the eleventh day will go far from home, and may expect to die in a foreign country, unless he make a fortune and return home, or have an estate left him.
The child born on the twelfth day of the moon will be wise and long-lived; but the infant born on the following day will be of slow understanding—in fact, will be a stupid creature, unless the disadvantage can be overcome by hard study. Children born on the fourteenth will excel in everything they may apply their minds to, or which they may take in hand. Every girl who comes into the world on the fifteenth will be beautiful, and have many admirers. Those born on the sixteenth day may expect to have many enemies; and those who are born on the seventeenth day are not likely to become rich by their own industry, but they may look for money from rich friends. The man-child born on the eighteenth day of the moon is likely to rise to honour and distinction, after encountering much opposition in his upward career. He or she born on the nineteenth day will require to pray for grace to subdue the natural disposition. The individual born that day will be churlish, perverse, and combative; and the infant who first draws the breath of life on the following day will be covetous and parsimonious.
The infant born on the twenty-first day of the moon may possess a strong constitution, but it is not certain that the mind will be vigorous. If the child of the twenty-second day survive infancy, long life will be awarded it, though much grief will be met with in life's rough path. Fair promises, with certain drawbacks, are made to children of the twenty-third day; and infants of the twenty-fourth day will be good-tempered, perhaps sottish. One who has been born on the twenty-fifth day of the moon had better walk carefully, lest adversity and danger overtake him. The young lady who has been born on the twenty-sixth day will, in all probability, be courted and married by a rich gentleman, who will ardently love her. Those born on the twenty-seventh day must not expect to become famous; and children born on the twenty-eighth day are more likely to be pious than rich. The twenty-ninth day of the moon does not promise prosperity to the children born on it; if they rise in the world, it will be in spite of great opposition, even from those near, if not dear, to them.
Dryden put faith in judicial astrology, and used to calculate the nativity of his children. On the birth of his son Charles, he caused the exact minute of his coming into the world to be noted. He calculated the child's nativity, and observed with grief that he was born in an evil hour; for Jupiter, Venus, and the sun were all under the earth, and the lord of his ascendant afflicted with a hateful square of Mars and Saturn. Dryden told his friends that if the child lived to the eighth year, he would narrowly escape a violent death on his very birthday; but if he should then overleap danger, he would in his twenty-third year be under the same influence; and if he should escape the second time, the thirty-third or thirty-fourth year would prove fatal. The boy's eighth birthday was looked forward to with great anxiety by his parents. On the dreaded day, Dryden, with the view of keeping him indoors and away from danger, gave him a double exercise in Latin. Charles was complying with his father's command, when a stag pursued by hounds was seen making towards the house. The noise reached the servants' ears, and they rushed out to see the chase. A manservant seized Charles by the hand, and took him out with him. Just as they reached the gate, the stag, being at bay, made a bold rush and leaped over the court wall, which, being old and low, the dogs followed, threw down a part thereof, and the unfortunate boy was buried in the ruins. He was much bruised, so that he was six weeks in a dangerous state. In the twenty-third year of the son's age he was at Rome, where he fell from an old tower belonging to the Vatican, which so greatly injured his head that he never fully recovered the accident. In his thirty-fourth year he was bathing in the Thames with another gentleman, when he was seized with cramp while in the water, and drowned before assistance could reach him. Thus the father's astrological calculations proved correct.
DIVINATION AND ORACLES.
Divination—Heathen Gods giving Signs—Sortes Pr[oe]nestinae—St. Augustine's View of Divination—Sortes Sanctorum—Divination in the Greek and Latin Churches—Ceremonies at the Consecration of Bishops, etc.—Declarations of the Divine Will—How St. Consortia became a Nun—Responses—Hieroglyphic Texts—Oracles—Sorcery and Divination among the Jews—Training of Rabbins—Bath-Kool—Death of a Friend foretold—Recovery from Sickness made known—Plutarch on Oracles—Malthus's Belief in Oracles—A Missionary's Opinion—Sibylline Oracles—Various Modes of Divination—Alectoromantia—Belomancy—Divination by means of Rods—Cleromancy—Napoleon's Belief in Cleromancy—Questions and Answers.
Divination is an art of foretelling future events by supernatural means. The word is generally understood to denote fortune-telling or sorcery, performed in divers ways—such as by the inspection of planets, stars, clouds; consulting spirits, witches, magicians; watching the flight of birds, inspecting the entrails of beasts and human victims, and examining the lines of the hand. But it is not necessary to extend the list here, as the various methods of divination will be enumerated and explained as we proceed. It was a maxim with the heathen nations of antiquity, that, if there were gods, they cared for men; and if they had any regard for the human family, they would give signs of their will. The Sortes Pr[oe]nestinae were famous among the Greeks; and this superstition passed into Christian nations.
St. Augustine did not disapprove of divination being resorted to, provided it was not used for worldly purposes. Gilbert of Nogent says that in his time (about the beginning of the twelfth century) it was customary, at the consecration of bishops, to consult the Sortes Sanctorum, to ascertain the success, fate, and other particulars of their episcopate. Many divines held that the lot was conducted by Providence. Though several popes about the eighth century disapproved of divination, and classed it among Pagan superstitions, traces of this mode of searching into futurity were found in after ages in the Greek and Latin Churches.
Upon the consecration of a bishop, after laying the Bible upon his head, the book was opened, and the first verse that the eye fell on was supposed to throw light on the bishop's future career. A bishop of Rochester, at his consecration by Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, had a happy presage in these words: "Bring hither the best robe, and put it on him." But the answer of the Scriptures at the consecration of St. Lietbert, Bishop of Cambray, was still more propitious: "This is my beloved son." The death of Albert, Bishop of Liege, was reported to have been made known to him by these words, which the archbishop who consecrated him found on opening the New Testament: "And the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought; and he went and beheaded him in prison." The Primate, greatly moved, embraced the new bishop, and said: "My son, having given yourself up to the sacred office, carry yourself righteously and devoutly, and prepare yourself for the trial of martyrdom." The bishop was afterwards murdered by the treacherous connivance of Henry VI.
De Garlande, Bishop of Orleans, became so odious to his clergy that they sent a complaint against him to Pope Alexander III., concluding: "Let your apostolical hands put on strength to strip naked the iniquity of this man, that the curse prognosticated on the day of his consecration may overtake him; for, the gospel being opened according to custom, the first words that appeared were: 'And the young man, leaving his linen cloth, fled from them naked.'"
William of Malmesbury relates that Hugh de Montaigne, Bishop of Auxerre, was obliged to go to Rome to answer several charges brought against him by some of his chapter, touching his morals; but his friends urged as undoubted testimony of his chastity the prognostic on the day of his consecration: "Hail Mary, full of grace."
Piously-inclined people not unfrequently went to church with the intention of receiving a declaration of the divine will, by hearing words of Scripture read or sung at the moment of the person's entrance. St. Anthony, when irresolute about his retirement, went to a church, where on entering he heard the words: "Go, sell all thou hast, and give it to the poor, then come and follow me." These expressions terminated his wavering: he withdrew to his solitude, leaving wealth and friends behind, and took up his abode in an old ruin on the top of a hill, where he spent many years of rigorous seclusion. He became the mighty oracle of the valley of the Nile.
It is reported that Clovis, the first Christian king of France, marching against Alaric, king of the Visigoths, sent nobles with presents to be offered at the tomb of St. Martin, and with instructions to endeavour to bring him a favourable augury, while he himself prayed for supernatural help. His messengers had no sooner entered the sacred place than they heard the priest chanting: "Thou hast girded me with strength for war; thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me." Encouraged by this favourable prognostic, Clovis girded on his armour, engaged in battle, and gained a complete victory.
Peter de Blois, who lived in the twelfth century, says in a letter to Reginald, whose election to the see of Bath had long been strenuously opposed, that he believed he would soon be established in his diocese, for he (De Blois) had dreamed two nights successively of being at Reginald's consecration; and also, that being anxious to know the certain meaning of his dreams by lots and the psalter, his dreams were confirmed by the words turning up to him: "Moses and Aaron among the priests."
St. Consortia, in her youth, was passionately courted by a young man of a very powerful family, though he knew she had formed the design of taking the veil. Knowing that a refusal would expose her parents to many inconveniences, if not to positive danger, she desired a week to determine whether she would become his wife. At the expiration of that time her lover came to know her answer. "I can neither accept you nor refuse the offer," said she; "but if you agree to it, let us go to the church and lay the holy gospel on the altar, and say a joint prayer, then we will open the book, to be informed of the divine will." He did as suggested, and the first words that met the eyes of both were: "Whosoever loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me." This was enough: the lovers acquiesced in the decree, and she became a nun.
Responses were given in the heathen temples through certain objects, such as the tinkling of the caldrons at Dodona, the rustling of the sacred laurel, the murmuring of streams, or by the action of sacred animals. In the Egyptian hieroglyphic texts the gods speak in an oracular manner, and their consultation by the Pharaohs is mentioned. Oracles were used by the Hebrews. Their oracles were by word of mouth, dreams, visions, and prophetical sayings. They were also in use throughout Babylonia and Chaldaea; but the Grecian oracles possessed the highest reputation for truthfulness, the most renowned of which was the Delphic oracle. The precedence of consulting this oracle was determined by lots; and sacrifices were offered by the inquirers, who went, with laurel crowns on their heads, and delivered their questions carefully sealed. There was a secondary class of oracles or prophetic persons in Greece. One was situated at Oropus, in Attica, being the shrine of a deified magician. Those who consulted it fasted a whole day, abstained from wine, sacrificed a ram to Amphiaraus, and slept on the skin in the temple, where futurity was opened up to them through dreams. The oracle of Trophonius, which owed its origin to a deified seer, was given in a cave into which the votary entered, bathed, and anointed himself, while holding a honeyed cake. He obtained the desired knowledge by what he saw and heard. Written oracles existed of the prophecies of celebrated seers, and were preserved in the acropolis of Athens. Among the Arabs divination was, and is, greatly practised, and also among the Celtic people. Oracular answers were usually couched in dark ambiguous terms; and it was thought that at times the information was given by demons.
Lightfoot proved that the Jews, after their return from Babylon, gradually abandoned themselves to sorcery and divination. The Talmud abounds with directions for the due observance of superstitious rites. Many Jews were highly esteemed, after the destruction of their holy city, for their pretended skill in magic. Rabbins were trained in the school of Zoroaster; they interpreted dreams, cured the sick, healed wounds, and detected thefts, through their intercourse with superior beings.
Bath-Kool, daughter of the voice, was the name given by the Jews to an oracle in the second temple, which, according to report, was destined to supply the defect of the Urim and Thummim, the mysterious oracles of former and greater days. Of Bath-Kool many stories are related. When two Rabbins went to consult this oracle concerning the fate of another Rabbin, they passed before a school, in which they heard a boy reading: "And Samuel died." On inquiry they subsequently found that their friend was no longer a dweller among men. Two other Rabbins went to visit Acha in his sickness, and as they proceeded on their way they agreed to hear what Bath-Kool would pronounce on the fate of their brother. Immediately on their going to the sacred place appointed for inquirers, they heard a voice saying: "The candle is going out; let not the light be extinguished in Israel." By these words they were assured that the sickness was not unto death. Acha recovered.
Plutarch wrote a treatise on the ceasing of oracles; and Van Dale, a Dutch physician, published a volume to prove that they did not cease at the dawn of Christianity, as had been supposed by early Christians. Malthus laboured to prove that there were real oracles, such as could not be reasonably attributed to any artifices of priests or priestesses; but he thought several of the oracles became silent before the Church and the prayers of saints. A pious missionary in India gave it as his opinion that the devil gave oracles there, but that he became meek wherever the gospel was preached. This religious man was not singular in his opinion, for most of the Fathers of the Church believed it was the devil that gave oracles. Pagan priests went to sleep in their temples, that they might receive responses in their dreams, and that they might with greater certainty play the prophet. The sibylline oracles were held in so great veneration among the ancients, that nothing of importance was undertaken without consulting them.
That divination was used and believed in by the Hebrews, is proved by the Scripture injunctions against divinations. The Jews were told not to have among them any that used divination, or any observers of times, or enchanters, or witches, or charmers, or consulters with familiar spirits, or wizards, or necromancers, or star-gazers, or miracle-mongers, or seekers of oracles.
One species of divination was performed by laying an agate stone on a red-hot hatchet. This is known as Axinomancy. The agate was called sacred, as it was regarded as a preservative against the poison of reptiles. Pliny has written a whole chapter on the virtues of agates.
There was an art among the Greeks known as Alectoromantia, by which future events were made known by means of a cock's movements. A circle was made on the ground, and divided into twenty-four equal parts, in each of which spaces was written one of the letters of the alphabet, and upon each of these letters was laid a grain of wheat. This done, the fowl was turned loose, and watched to ascertain the order in which the grains were picked up. The letters corresponding to those grains were formed into words, and supplied an answer to important questions.
Belomancy was a kind of divination by arrows, practised among various nations in the East, but chiefly among the Arabians. It was performed in different ways. One was to mark a parcel of arrows, and put eleven or more of them into a case. These were drawn out, and according to their marks future events were judged. Another way was to have but three arrows, upon one of which was written an injunction to do a certain thing; upon another a warning against doing it; and upon the third there was no writing. These were put into a quiver, out of which one of the arrows was drawn at random. If it happened to be the one with the injunction, the thing regarding which there was a consultation was done; if it chanced to be the arrow with the warning, the matter was let alone; but if the arrow without an inscription, a second drawing took place. Kings going out to war frequently consulted with arrows and images, and according to the drawing or flight of an arrow was it determined which city or town should be first besieged. The king of Babylon resorted to Belomancy before assaulting Jerusalem. When he came to a place where two roads met, one led to the city of Rabbath, and the other to Jerusalem. There he wrote the names of the two cities upon several arrows which were mixed together promiscuously in a quiver, and a boy who was unacquainted with the matter drew out one, and the name Jerusalem being on it, the king determined to lead his army towards that city.