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So, in a MS. in the Cotton Library, marked Julius, F. vi., relating to superstitions in the lordship of Gisborough in Cleveland, in Yorkshire: "The seventh son of a seventh son is born a physician; having an intuitive knowledge of the art of curing all disorders, and sometimes the faculty of performing wonderful cures by touching only." A friend, writing in 1819, says: "It is a very general superstition in Yorkshire, that, if any woman has seven boys in succession, the last should be bred to the profession of medicine, in which he would be sure of being successful."
In a manuscript on Witchcraft, by John Bell, a Scottish minister, 1705, which has been already quoted more than once, I find the following passage, p. 48: Are there not
some who cure by observing number? After the example of Balaam, who used magiam geometricam, Numb. xxiii. 4: 'Build me here seven altars, and prepare me seven oxen and seven rams,' &c. There are some witches who enjoin the sick to dip their shirt seven times in south-running water. Elisha sends Naaman to wash in Jordan seven times. Elijah, on the top of Carmel, sends his servant seven times to look out for rain. When Jericho was taken they compassed the city seven times."
Smith, in his MS. Life of William Marques Berkeley, Berkeley MSS. ii. 562, tells us he was born A.D. 1426, and observes: "This Lord William closeth the second septenary number from Harding the Dane, as much differing from his last ancestors, as the Lord Thomas, the first septenary lord, did from his six former forefathers. I will not be superstitiously opinionated of the misteries of numbers, though it bee of longe standing amongst many learned men; neither will I poque je connois de ces septiemes garçons, il y en a deux qui ne guerissent de rien, et que le troisieme m'a avoué de bonne foy qu'il avoit en autrefois la reputation de guerir de quantité des maux, quoique en effet il n'ait jamais guery d'aucun. C'est pourquoy Monsieur du Laurent a grande raison de rejetter ce pretendu pouvoir, et de le mettre au rang des fables, en ce qui concerne la guerison des ecroüelles. Commentitia sunt,' dit il, quæ vulgus narrat omnes qui septimi nati sunt, nulla interveniente sorore in tota ditione Regis Franciæ curare strumas in nomine Domini et Sancti Marculfi, si ternis aut novenis diebus jejuni contigerint; quasi, ait Paschalius, sic hoc vestigium divinum legis Salicæ excludentis feminas."" The following occurs in Delrio's Disquisit. Magic. lib. i. c. 3, qu. 4, p. 26: "Tale curationis donum; sed a febribus tantùm sanandi, habere putantur in Flandria, quotquot nati sunt ipso die parasceues et quotquot, nullo fœmineo fœtu intercedente, septimi masculi legitimo thoro sunt nati."
sitively affirm that the number of six is fatall to weomen, and the numbers of seaven and nine of men; or, that those numbers have (as many have written), magnum in tota rerum natura potestatem, great power in kingdoms and comonwealths, in families, ages, of bodies, sickness, health, wealth, losse, &c.: or with Seneca and others; septimus quisque annus, &c. Each seaventh year is remarkable with men, as the sixth is with women. Ör, as divines teach; that in the numbers of seaven there is a misticall perfection which our understandinge cannot attaine unto; and that nature herself is observant of this number." His marginal references are as follow: "Philo the Jewe de Legis Alleg. lib. i.; Hipocrates; Bodin de Republica, lib. iv. cap. 2; see the Practize of Piety, fol. 418, 419; Censorinus de Die Natali, cap. 12; Seneca ; Varro in Gellius, lib. iii.; Bucholcer, Jerom in Amos, 5."
Levinus Lemnius observes, English Transl. 1658, p. 142: "Augustus Cæsar, as Gellius saith, was glad and hoped that he was to live long, because he had passed his sixty-third year. For olde men seldome passe that year but they are in danger of their lives, and I have observed in the Low Countries almost infinite examples thereof. Now there are two years, the seventh and ninth, that commonly bring great changes in a man's life and great dangers; wherefore sixty-three, that containes both these numbers multiplied together, comes not without heaps of dangers, for nine times seven, or seven times nine, are sixty-three. And thereupon that is called the climactericall year, because, beginning from seven, it doth as it were by steps finish a man's life." He adds: "From this observation of years there hath been a long custome in many countries, that the lord of the maror makes new agreements with his tenant every seventh yeare."
Werenfels, in his Dissertation upon Superstition, p. 7, speaking of a superstitious man, says: "Upon passing the climacterick year, he is as much rejoiced as if he had escaped out of the paws of death. When he is sick, he will never swallow the pills he is ordered to take in equal number."
In Richard Flecknoe's Ænigmatical Characters, being rather a new Work than a new Impression of the old, 1665, p. 109, he describes "One who troubles herself with everything," as follows: "She is perpetually haunted with a panic fear of 'Oh what will become of us!' &c.; and the stories of appa
ritions in the air, and prognostics of extraordinary to happen in the year sixty-six (when perhaps 'tis nothing but the extraordinary gingle of numbers), makes her almost out of her wits agen." Gaule, in his Mag-astromancers Posed and Puzzel'd, p. 181, classes with vain observations and superstitious ominations thereupon, "to collect or predict men's manners and fortunes by their names, or the anagram upon the name, or the allusion to the name, or the numbers in the name," &c.
There is a little history extant of the unfortunate reigns of William II., Henry II., Edward II., Richard II., Charles II., and James II., 12mo. Lond. 1689, entitled Numerus Infaustus, &c. In the preface, speaking of Heylin's Fatal Observation of the Letter H., Geography, p. 225, the author says: "A sudden conceit darted into my thoughts (from the remembrance of former reading), that such kings of England as were the second of any name proved very unfortunate princes;" and he proceeds, in confirmation of this hypothesis, to write the lives of the above kings.
Vallancey, in his Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicis, ii. 12, 13, note, tells us: "In unenlightened times we find persons of the brightest characters tainted with superstition. Irenæus says, 'there must be four gospels and no more, from the four winds and four corners of the earth;' and St. Austin, to prove that Christ was to have twelve apostles, uses a very singular argument, for, says he, the gospel was to be preached in the four corners of the world in the name of the Trinity, and three times four makes twelve.'"
In the MS. of Mr. John Bell, from which an extract is given above, communicated to me by Mr. Pinkerton, I find the following: 2. Guard against devilish charms for men or beasts. There are many sorceries practised in our day, against which I would on this occasion bear my testimony, and do therefore seriously ask you, what is it you mean by your observation of times and seasons as lucky or unlucky? What mean you by your many spells, verses, words, so often repeated, said fasting, or going backward? How mean you to have success by carrying about with you certain herbs, plants, and branches of trees? Why is it, that, fearing certain events, you do use such superstitious means to prevent them, by laying bits of timber at doors, carrying a Bible meerly for a
charm, without any farther use of it? What intend ye by opposing witchcraft to witchcraft, in such sort that, when ye suppose one to be bewitched, ye endeavour his relief by burnings, bottles, horseshoes, and such like magical ceremonies? How think ye to have secrets revealed unto you, your doubts resolved, and your minds informed, by turning a sieve or a key? or to discover by basons and glasses how you shall be related before you die? Or do you think to escape the guilt of sorcery, who let your Bible fall open on purpose to determine what the state of your souls is by the first word ye light upon?"
BISHOP Hall, in his Characters of Vertues and Vices, speaking of the superstitious man, observes, that "old wives and starres are his counsellors: his night-spell is his guard, and charms his physicians.1 He wears Paracelsian characters for the toothache; and a little hallowed wax is his antidote for all evils."
Melton, in his Astrologaster, p. 45, gives a catalogue of many superstitious ceremonies, &c., the second of which is, "That toothaches, agues, cramps, and fevers, and many other diseases, may be healed by mumbling a few strange words over the head of the diseased.
Grose says the word Abacadabara,2 written as under, and worn about the neck, will cure an ague:
1 Among the ancient Druids "the generality of diseases were attempted to be cured by charms and incantations." See Vallancey's Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicis, ii. 247.
2 It should be Abracadabra. On the subject of amulets much information may be obtained from an Academical Dissertation, published in 1710, at Halle, in Saxony, by Mart. Fr. Blumles. Abracadabra is curiously illustrated in p. 19, accompanied by two or three etymologies of the word.
He observes that "certain herbs, stones, and other substances, as also particular words written on parchment, as a charm, have the property of preserving men from wounds in the midst of a battle or engagement. This was so universally credited, that an oath was administered to persons going to fight a legal duel, that they had ne charm, ne herb of virtue.' The power of rendering themselves invulnerable is still believed by the Germans: it is performed by divers charms and ceremonies; and so firm is their belief of its efficacy, that they will rather attribute any hurt they may receive, after its performance, to some omission in the performance than defect in its virtue."
I find the following in Lord Northampton's Defensative against the Poyson of supposed Prophecies, 1583, "What godly reason can any man alyve alledge why Mother Joane of Stowe, speaking these wordes, and neyther more nor lesse, 'Our Lord was the fyrst man That ever thorne prick't upon :
It never blysted nor it never belted,
should cure either beastes, or men and women, from diseases?"
Thomas Lodge, in his Incarnate Divels, 1596, p. 12, thus glances at the superstitious creed with respect to charms: Bring him but a table of lead, with crosses (and ‘Adonai,' or Elohim,' written in it), he thinks it will heal the ague." In the same work, speaking of lying, p. 35: "He will tell you that a league from Poitiers, neere to Crontelles, there is a familie, that, by a speciall grace from the father to the sonne, can heale the byting of mad dogs: and that there is another companie and sorte of people called Sauveurs, that have Saint Catherine's wheele in the pallate of their mouthes, that can heale the stinging of serpents."
1 Numerous charms and incantations occur in the Harleian Manuscript, No. 273,"Charme pur sang estauncher," "Charme pour dolour de playe,” "Charme pur fievre," fol. 112, b. "Charme pur festre, e pur cancre, e per gute. Gallicè," fol. 213. "Carmen sive incantatio pro fœmina parturiente," ibid. "Ut oves capias. incantatio." "Ut sorides, &c., non noceant garbas," fol. 215. "Hec est conjuracio contra mures quæ nascuntur in horreo, et ne destruant bladum; et contra volucres et vermes terræ ne destruant segetes," fol. 215, b.