They swordes enchaunt, and horses strong, and flesh of men they make
So harde and tough, that they ne care what blowes or cuttes they take;
And, using necromancie thus, themselves they safely keepe

From bowes or guns, and from the wolves their cattel, lambes, and sheepe:
No journey also they doe take, but charmes they with them beare;
Besides, in glistering glasses fayre, or else in christall cleare,
They sprightes enclose; and as to prophets true, so to the same
They go, if any thing be stolne, or any taken lame,

And when theyr kine doe give no milke, or hurt, or bitten sore,
Or any other harme that to these wretches happens more."

In Bale's Interlude concerning Nature, Moses, and Christ, 1562, Idolatry is described with the following qualities:

"Mennes fortunes she can tell;

She can by sayinge her Ave Marye,
And by other charmes of sorcerye,
Ease men of the toth ake by and bye;

Yea, and fatche the Devyll from Hell."

And ibid. Sig. C 2, the same personage says:

"With holy oyle and water

I can so cloyne and clatter,
That I can at the latter

Many sutelties contryve:

I can worke wyles in battell,

If I but ones do spattle

I can make corne and cattle

That they shall never thryve.

When ale is in the fat,

If the bruar please me nat,

The cast shall fall down flat,

And never have any strength:

No man shall tonne nor bake,

Nor meate in season make,

If I agaynst him take,

But lose his labour at length.

Theyr wells I can up drye,
Cause trees and herbes to dye,

And slee all pulterye,

Whereas men doth me move:

I can make stoles to daunce
And earthen pottes to praunce,
That none shall them enhaunce,
And do but cast my glove.

I have charmes for the ploughe,
And also for the cowghe;
She shall gyve mylke ynowghe
So long as I am pleased.

Apace the myll shall go,

So shall the credle do,

And the musterde querne also,

No man therwyth dyseased."

Dr. Henry, in his History of Great Britain, i. 286, says: "When the minds of men are haunted with dreams of charms and enchantments, they are apt to fancy that the most common occurrences in nature are the effects of magical arts."

Camden, in his Ancient and Modern Manners of the Irish, tells us: "They think women have charms divided and distributed among them; and to them persons apply according to their several disorders, and they constantly begin and end the charm with Pater Noster and Ave Maria." See Gough's edition of the Britannia, 1789, iii. 668.

Mason, in the Anatomie of Sorcerie, 4to. Lond. 1612, p. 62, says: "The word charm is derived of the Latin word carmen, the letter h being put in."

Avicen, to prove that there are charms, affirms that all material substances are subject to the human soul, properly disposed and exalted above matter. Dict. Cur. p. 144.

In the Statistical Account of Scotland, xvi. 122, parish of Killearn, co. Stirling, we read: "A certain quantity of cowdung is forced into the mouth of a calf immediately after it is calved, or at least before it receives any meat; owing to this, the vulgar believe that witches and fairies can have no power ever after to injure the calf. But these and suchlike superstitious customs are every day more and more losing their influence."

Sir Thomas Browne tells us, that to sit crosslegged, or with our fingers pectinated or shut together, is accounted bad, and friends will persuade us from it. The same conceit religiously possessed the ancients, as is observable from Pliny: "Poplites alternis genibus imponere nefas olim ;" and also from Athenæus that it was an old venificious practice; and Juno is made in this posture to hinder the delivery of Alcmæna. See Bourne and Brand's Popular Antiquities, p. 95. Mr. Park, in his copy of that work, has inserted the following note: "To sit crosslegged I have always understood was in

[ocr errors]


tended to produce good or fortunate consequences. Hence it was employed as a charm at school by one boy who wished well for another, in order to deprecate some punishment which both might tremble to have incurred the infliction of. At a card-table I have also caught some superstitious players sitting crosslegged with a view of bringing good luck."


In the Athenian Oracle, ii. 424, a charm is defined to be " form of words or letters, repeated or written, whereby strange things are pretended to be done, beyond the ordinary power of Nature."

Andrews, in his continuation of Dr. Henry's History of Great Britain, p. 383, quoting Scot's Discovery of Witchcraft, says: "The stories which our facetious author relates of ridiculous charms, which by help of credulity operated wonders, are extremely laughable. In one of them a poor woman is commemorated who cured all diseases by muttering a certain form of words over the party afflicted; for which service she always received one penny and a loaf of bread. At length, terrified by menaces of flames both in this world and the next, she owned that her whole conjuration consisted in these potent lines, which she always repeated in a low voice near the head of her patient:

[blocks in formation]

In the Works of John Heiwood, newlie imprinted, 1598, I find the following charm:

"I claw'd her by the backe in way of a charme,

To do me not the more good, but the lesse harme."

[The following is extracted from Henslowe's Diary, in the library of Dulwich College, temp. Elizabeth:

"To know wher a thinge is that is stolen: - Take vergine waxe and write upon yt Jasper + Melchisor + Balthasar +,' and put yt under his head to whome the good partayneth, and he shall knowe in his sleape wher the thinge is become." See a curious collection of rural charms in Halliwell's Popular Rhymes, pp. 206-14.


SPITTLE, among the ancients, was esteemed a charm against all kinds of fascination: so Theocritus

Τοιάδε μυθιζοίσα, τρὶς εἰς ἐὸν ἔπτυσε κόλπον
"Thrice on my breast I spit to guard me safe
From fascinating charms."

"See how old beldams expiations make:

To atone the gods the bantling up they take;
His lips are wet with lustral spittle; thus
They think to make the gods propitious."


"This custom of nurses lustrating the children by spittle," says Seward, in his Conformity between Popery and Paganism, p. 54, was one of the ceremonies used on the Dies Nominalis, the day the child was named; so that there can be no doubt of the Papists deriving this custom from the heathen nurses and grandmothers. They have indeed christened it, as it were, by flinging in some scriptural expressions; but then they have carried it to a more filthy extravagance, by daubing it on the nostrils of adults as well as of children." Plutarch and Macrobius make the days of lustration of

So Potter, in his Greek Antiquities, i. 346, tells us that ainong the Greeks "it was customary to spit three times into their bosoms at the sight of a madman, or one troubled with an epilepsy." He refers to this passage of Theocritus, Idyll. xx. v. 11, for illustration. This, he adds, they did in defiance, as it were, of the omen; for spitting was sign of the greatest contempt and aversion: whence, πтνεv, i. e. to spit, is put for karaopovεiv, ¿v ovdevi Xoyíše, i. e. to contemn, as the scholiast of Sophocles observes upon these words, in Antigone, v. 666.

̓Αλλὰ πτυσας ώσει δυσμενῆ.

Spit on him as an enemy.

See also Potter, i. 358. Delrio, in his Disquisit. Magic. p. 391, mentions that some think the following passage in Albius Tibullus, lib. i. Eleg. 2, is to be referred to this :

"Hunc puer, hunc juvenis, tuba circumstetit arcta,

Despuit in molles, et sibi quisque sinus."

And thus Persius upon the custom of nurses spitting upon children :

"Ecce avia, aut metuens divům matertera, cunis,

Exemit puerum, frontemque atque uda labella

Infami digito, et lustralibus ante salivis

Expiat, urentes oculos inhibere perita."

Sat. ii. 1. 31.

infants thus: "The eighth day for girls, and the ninth for boys. Gregory Nazianzen calls this festival Ovopaorηpia, because upon one of those days the child was named. The old grandmother or aunt moved round in a circle, and rubbed the child's forehead with spittle, and that with her middle finger, to preserve it from witchcraft. It is to this foolish custom St. Athanasius alludes, when he calls the heresy of Montanus and Priscilla γραῶν πτύσματα. Sheridan's Persius, edit. p. 34, note.

[ocr errors]


It is related by the Arabians that when Hassan, the grandson of Mahomet, was born, he spit in his mouth. See Ockley's History of the Saracens, ii. 84. Park, in his Travels into the Interior of Africa, speaking of the Mandingoes, says: "A child is named when it is seven or eight days old. The ceremony commences by shaving the infant's head. The priest, after a prayer, in which he solicits the blessing of God upon the child and all the company, whispers a few sentences in the child's ear, and spits three times in his face, after which, pronouncing his name aloud, he returns the child to his mother."

Spitting, according to Pliny, was superstitiously observed in averting witchcraft and in giving a shrewder blow to an enemy. Hence seems to be derived the custom our bruisers have of spitting in their hands before they begin their barbarous diversion, unless it was originally done for luck's sake. Several other vestiges of this superstition, relative to fasting spittle,' mentioned also by Pliny, may yet be placed among our vulgar customs.

Levinus Lemnius tells us: "Divers experiments show what power and quality there is in man's fasting spittle, when he hath neither eat nor drunk before the use of it: for it cures all tetters, itch, scabs, pushes, and creeping sores; and if venemous little beasts have fastened on any part of the body, as hornets, beetles, toads, spiders, and such like, that by their venome cause tumours and great pains and inflammations, do but rub the places with fasting spittle, and all those effects will be gone and discussed. Since the qualities and effects of spittle come from the humours, (for out of them is it drawn by the faculty of nature, as fire draws distilled water from

1 "Fascinationes saliva jejuna repelli, veteri superstitione creditum est." Alex. ab Alexandro.

« VorigeDoorgaan »