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The following "charm, or protection," was "found in a linen purse of Jackson, the murderer and smuggler, who died (a Roman Catholic) in Chichester gaol, Feb. 1749. He was struck with such horror on being measured for his irons, that he soon afterwards expired.
'Ye three holy kings,
Gaspar, Melchior, Balthasar,
Pray for us, now, and the hour of death.'
"These papers have touched the three heads of the holy kings at Cologne. They are to preserve travellers from accidents on the road, head-achs, falling sickness, fevers, witchcraft, all kinds of mischief, and sudden death." See Gent. Mag. for Feb. 1749, xix. 88.
In a curious and very rare tract, entitled Beware of Pickpurses, or a Caveat for Sick Folkes to take heede of Unlearned Physitians and Unskilfull Chyrurgians, 1605, p. 16, is the following passage: "Others, that they may colourably and cunningly hide their grosse ignorance, when they know not the cause of the disease, referre it unto charmes, witchcraft, magnifical incantations, and sorcerie, vainly, and with a brazen forehead, affirming that there is no way to help them but by characters, circles, figure-castings, exorcismes, conjurations, and other impious and godlesse meanes. Others set to sale, at a great price, certaine amulets of gold and silver, stamped under an appropriate and selected constellation of the planets, with some magical character, shamelessly boasting that they will cure all diseases, and worke I know not what other wonders." The author, p. 42, concludes with the very sensible observation of " a great learned clarke in our land, who, in a daungerous sicknesse, being moved by some friends to use an unlettered empiricke, 'Nay,' quoth he, 'I have lived all my life by the booke, and I will now (God willing) likewise dye by the booke.""
Blagrave, in his Astrological Practice of Physick, p. 135, prescribes a cure of agues by a certain writing which the patient weareth, as follows: "When Jesus went up to the cross to be crucified, the Jews asked him saying, 'Art thou afraid? or hast thou the ague?' Jesus answered, and said, 'I am not afraid, neither have I the ague. All those which bear the name of Jesus about them shall not be afraid, nor yet have the ague.' Amen, sweet Jesus, amen! sweet Jehovah, amen." He adds:
"I have known many who have been cured of the ague by this writing only worn about them; and I had the receipt from one whose daughter was cured thereby, who had the ague upon her two years.' "To this charact, then, may be given, on the joint authority of the old woman and our doctor, probatum est.
Ramesey, in his Elminthologia, 1668, p. 259, says: "Neither doth fansie only cause, but also as easily cure diseases; as I may justly refer all magical and jugling cures thereunto, performed, as is thought by saints, images, relicts, holy waters, shrines, avemarys, crucifixes, benedictions, charms, characters, sigils of the planets and of the signs, inverted words, &c.; and therefore all such cures are rather to be ascribed to the force of the imagination, than any virtue in them, or their rings, amulets, lamens, &c."
In the Character of a Quack Astrologer, 1673, we are told: "He offers, for five pieces, to give you home with you a talisman against flies; a sigil to make you fortunate at gaming; and a spell that shall as certainly preserve you from being rob'd for the future; a sympathetical powder for the violent pains of the tooth-ach."
Cotta, in his Short Discoverie of the Unobserved Dangers of severall sorts of Ignorant and Unconsiderate Practisers of Physicke in England, 1612, p. 50, very sensibly observes: "If there be any good or use unto the health by spels, they have that prerogative by accident, and by the power and vertue of fancie. If fancie then be the foundation whereupon buildeth the good of spels, spels must needs be as faucies are, uncertaine and vaine: so must also, by consequent, be their use and helpe, and no lesse all they that trust unto them." He elsewhere says: "How can religion or reason suffer men that are not voyd of both, to give such impious credit unto an unsignificant and senselesse mumbling of idle words contrary to reason, without president of any truly wise or learned, and justly suspected of all sensible men?" citing "Fernel. de abd. rer. Causis: Scripta, verba, annuli, caracteres, signa, nihil valent ad profligandos morbos, si nulla superior potestas divina vel magica accesserit."
Waldron, in his Description of the Isle of Man (Works, folio, p. 175), mentions a charect, a copy of an inscription found under a cross (which was carefully preserved and car
ried to the vicar, who wrote copies of it and dispersed them over the island). "They tell you," says he, "that they are of such wonderful virtue to such as wear them, that on whatever business they go, they are certain of success. They also defend from witchcraft, evil tongues, and all efforts of the devil or his agents; and that a woman wearing one of them in her bosom while she is pregnant, shall by no accident whatever lose the fruit of her womb. I have frequently rode by the stone under which they say the original paper was found, but it would now be looked on as the worst sacrilege to make any attempt to move it from the place." He gives also the tenor of the inscription: "Fear God, obey the priesthood, and do by your neighbour as you would have him to do to you."
Andrews, in his Continuation of Dr. Henry's History, p. 502, tells us, from Arnot's History of Edinburgh, that "On all the old houses still existing in Edinburgh there are remains of talismanic or cabalistical characters, which the superstition of earlier ages had caused to be engraven on their fronts. These were generally composed of some text of Scripture, of the name of God, or, perhaps of an emblematic representation of the Resurrection."
"It is recorded in divers authors, that in the image of Diana, which was worshipped at Ephesus, there were certain obscure words or sentences not agreeing together, nor depending one upon another; much like unto riddles written upon the feete, girdle, and crowne of the said Diana; the which, if a man did use, having written them out, and carrying them about him, hee should have good lucke in all his businesses; and hereof sprung the proverbe Ephesa literæ, where one useth anything which bringeth good successe."—Mason's Anatomie of Sorcerie, 1612, p. 90. Ibid. p. 91, our author mentions the superstition of " curing diseases with certaine words or characters."
Cotta, in his Short Discoverie, &c. p. 49, inserts "a merrie historie of an approved famous spell for sore eyes. By many honest testimonies, it was a long time worne as a jewell about many necks, written in paper, and inclosed in silke, never failing to do soveraigne good when all other helps were helplesse. No sight might dare to reade or open. At length a curious mind, while the patient slept, by stealth ripped open
the mystical cover, and found the powerful characters Latin: 'Diabolus effodiat tibi oculos, impleat foramini stercoribus.' Nash, in his Notes on Hudibras, says: "Cato recommends the following as a charm against sprains: 'Haut, haut, hista pista, vista.'
Park, in his Travels in the Interior of Africa, speaking of "certain charms or amulets called Saphies, which the negroes constantly wear about them," says: "These saphies are prayers or sentences from the Koran, which the Mahometan priests write on scraps of paper and sell to the natives, who suppose them to possess extraordinary virtues. Some wear them to guard against the attack of snakes and alligators; on such an occasion, the saphie is inclosed in a snake or alligator's skin, and tied round the ankle. Others have recourse to them in time of war, to protect their persons from hostile attacks; but the general use of these amulets is to prevent or cure bodily diseases, to preserve from hunger and thirst, and to conciliate the favour of superior powers.' He informs us, in another place, that his landlord requested him to give him a lock of his hair to make a saphie, as he said he had been told it would give to the possessor all the knowledge of white men. Another person desired him to write a saphie; Mr. Park furnished him with one containing the Lord's Prayer. He gave away several others.
BURTON, in his Anatomy of Melancholy, 1621, p. 476, has the following passage on this subject: "Amulets, and things to be borne about, I find prescribed, taxed by some, approved by others looke for them in Mizaldus, Porta, Albertus, &c. A ring made of the hoof of an asse's right fore-foot carried about, &c. I say with Renodeus, they are not altogether to be rejected. Piony doth help epilepsies. Pretious stones most diseases. A wolf's dung carried about helps the cholick. A spider, an ague, &c. Such medicines are to be exploded that consist of words, characters, spells, and charms, which can do no good at all, but out of a strong conceit, as Pompo
natius proves, or the divel's policy, that is the first founder and teacher of them."
Dr. Herring, in his Preservatives against the Pestilence, 1625, has the following: Perceiving many in this citie to weare about their necks, upon the region of the heart, certaine placents, or amulets (as preservatives against the pestilence), confected of arsenicke, my opinion is that they are so farre from effecting any good in that kinde, as a preservative, that they are very dangerous and hurtfull, if not pernitious, to those that weare them."
Bourne, chap. xviii. cites a passage of Bingham, from St. Austin, on these superstitious observations. "To this kind," says he, "belong all ligatures and remedies, which the schools of physitians reject and condemn; whether in inchantments or in certain marks, which they call characters, or in some other things which are to be hanged and bound about the body, and kept in a dancing posture. Such are ear-rings hanged upon the tip of each ear, and rings made of an ostriche's bones for the finger; or, when you are told, in a fit of convulsions, or shortness of breath, to hold your left thumb with your right hand."
I remember it was a custom in the North of England for boys that swam, to wear an eel's skin about their naked leg to prevent the cramp. Armstrong in his History of Minorca, p. 212, says: "I have seen an old woman placed on a bier, dressed like a Franciscan monk, and so conducted by the good brothers of that order, with singing and the tinkling of the hand-bell to their church." This superstition was observed by Milton in his travels through Roman Catholic countries; for when describing the Paradise of Fools, he does not forget to mention those
"Who, to be sure of Paradise,
Par. Lost, b. iii.
That this practice was not unknown in our own country at an earlier period will be seen by the following extract from the Berkeley Manuscripts, by Smith, i. 117: "It is recorded that on the 13th of May, 1220 (4th Hen. III), died Robert the second Lord Berkeley, ætis 55, or thereabouts, and was buried in the north isle of the church of the monastery of St.