THE MYSTERIES OF ALL NATIONS:
RISE AND PROGRESS OF SUPERSTITION, LAWS AGAINST AND TRIALS OF WITCHES, ANCIENT AND MODERN DELUSIONS,
Strange Customs, Fables, and Tales
MYTHOLOGY—DAYS AND WEEKS—MIRACLES—POETS AND SUPERSTITION—MONARCHS, PRIESTS, AND PHILOSOPHERS—DRUIDS—DEMONOLOGY—MAGIC AND ASTROLOGY—DIVINATION—SIGNS, OMENS, AND WARNINGS—AMULETS AND CHARMS—TRIALS BY ORDEAL—CURSES AND EVIL WISHES—DREAMS AND VISIONS—SUPERSTITION IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY.
BY JAMES GRANT.
LEITH: REID & SON, 35 SHORE. EDINBURGH: W. PATERSON. LONDON: SIMPKIN, MARSHALL, AND CO.
[THE RIGHT OF TRANSLATION IS RESERVED.]
REID AND SON, PRINTERS, LEITH.
In whatever light this work may be regarded by archaeologists and general readers, the writer submits it to the public, chiefly as the result of antiquarian research, and actual observation during a period of nearly forty years. The writer does not attempt to define what superstition is, either in its broadest or most literal sense; but, as he desires the expression to be understood, it may be considered to imply a fear of the Evil One and his emissaries, a trust in benign spirits and saints, a faith in occult science, and a belief that a conjunction of certain planets or other inanimate bodies is capable of producing supernatural effects, either beneficial or prejudicial to man. Superstition, generally so called, has run through a course of ages from sire to son, leaving it still deeply rooted in the minds of many of the present generation.
Not a few seeming repetitions in this work are not such in reality, but are instances brought forward to mark the resemblance between the opinions prevalent in past and present times, and to illustrate the similarity of perverted views in various parts of the world.
The examples of superstition herein given are taken from an almost unlimited number, yet the writer confesses to have omitted many interesting particulars. In proof of this it may be stated, that while the last sheet of these pages was being revised, an esteemed friend wrote, saying: "I can quite corroborate what you say of Ireland; for lately, on my way from Macroom to Glengariff, at a weird mountain pass, the coach stopped to enable us to visit the hermitage of St. Finbar. There, beside a lonely lake, I saw a number of devotees, afflicted with various ailments, expecting to be healed through the good offices of the departed saint."
In spite of a determination to omit unimportant matter and to be concise, this volume has swelled out far beyond what was originally intended. The more the subject of superstition is studied, the more interesting it becomes. One judges of a nation's strength by its victories, of its industry by its products, of its wealth by its mines and cultivated fields, of its domestic condition by its diet and dress, of its moral condition by its laws, of its religion and intelligence by its literature; but before obtaining full knowledge of a people's convictions, it is necessary to search into their superstitions. In these are discovered the secrets of man's inner life, and by these also have been forged strong fetters, which have kept his soul in thraldom for ages.
If the author has succeeded in pointing out, that, notwithstanding the progress of science and the advancement of civilisation and Christianity, some of the darker shadows that have disfigured past ages are still floating over a portion of our social horizon, he feels his labour will not have been altogether in vain. Like many of the ghosts alluded to in the following pages, that of superstition needs only the continued light of day to shine upon it, in order to make it vanish for ever.
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THE RISE AND PROGRESS OF SUPERSTITION.
CHAPTER I. PAGE Rise and Progress of Superstition—The Serpent—Cain's Departure from the true Worship—Worship of the Sun, Moon, and Stars—Strange Story of Abraham—The Gods of Antiquity—Ether, Air, Land, and Water filled with living Souls—Guardian Angel—Cause of the Flood—Magic—How the Jews deceived the Devil—A Witch not permitted to live—Diviners, Enchanters, Consulters with familiar Spirits, and Necromancers proved a Snare to Nations—Charms worn by the Jews—Singular Customs and Belief—Prognostication—Allegorical Emblems—Marriage Customs—Ceremonies at Death and Burials—Divination among all Nations—Observers of Times—Opinion concerning the Celestial Bodies—Power of Witches—Wizards—Necromancers' Power to call up the Dead 1
Men endowed with Prophetic Spirits—The Jews forbidden to consult the Oracles of the Heathen—Schools of Prophets—Influence of Music—The Prophetic Mantle—Way Revelations were made—Bath Kol—Urim and Thummim—False Prophets Strangled or Stoned—Diabolical Art—Moloch—Seething a Kid in its Mother's Milk—The Smooth Stones mentioned by Isaiah—Sheep-head and Sheep-head Broth—Casting Sins into the Sea—Fasting among the Pharisees—Dust of Heathen Countries—The number 10—Angels that had the Care of Men—Predictions by Hebrew Women—Punishment in the Grave 10
Egypt steeped in Superstition—Power of Magicians—Obtaining Visions—Demons—Departed Heroes—Gods and Demi-gods—Altars or Living Stones—Sacred Animals—Isis searching for Osiris—Leeks and Onions—Priests, Physicians, and Interpreters of Oracles—Sacrificing Human Victims—Wax Figures—Magic—Teaching of the Egyptian Priests—Transmigration 14
Babylon—The Chaldeans—Downfall of Babylon predicted—Worship of the Medes and Persians—Sacred Fire—The Gaures—Births and Deaths in Early Times—A Narrow Bridge—An Immense Tree—Creation of Prophets—A Stone to which Abraham tied his Camel—Adam and Eve's Trysting Place—Black Art—Ways of discovering whether a supposed Criminal was Guilty or Innocent—Looking into Futurity—Canaanites, Syrians, and Arabians—Strange Fables—Abraham breaking Heathen Idols—Altars—Religion of the Carthagenians and Tyrians—Supremacy of the Gods 20
Greek Religion and Superstition—Jupiter regarded as the President of the Law and Protector of Cities—Dreams and Charms—Sacred Stones—Omens of Evil—Sacrificing the Hair—Flight of Birds—Compassing the Altar to the Right—Love secured by Magic—Marriage Ceremonies—Way of protecting a Child from Evil Spirits—Divers Magical Ceremonies—Laws as to Dead Bodies—Fingers and Toes of Dead Men worn as Charms—Preparing a Body for Burial—Swine and Swine's Flesh—Drinking Toasts—Prophets consulted before Armies marched to Battle—Certain Words avoided—Sneezing—Evil Omens—Throwing a Person overboard to save a Ship 26
Roman Delusions and Customs—Tokens of Futurity—Drawing of Lots—Events foretold by reading the first passage that turned up on opening a Book—Lucky and Unlucky Stars—Fortune-tellers—Dreams—Omens drawn from the Appearance of parts of Animals offered in Sacrifice—Sibylline Books, Charms, and Incantations—Spirits observers of Men's Actions—Unlucky Days—Dress of a Bride—Anointing Door-posts and crossing the Threshold—Fire and Water—Bridal Feast and Nuptial Songs—Funeral Rites—Souls of Unburied Persons—Customs at a Deathbed, and Funeral Observances—Hobgoblins—Purifying with Water and Fire—Appeasing the Manes—Dead Bodies used for Magical purposes 34
Ethiopian Superstition—Heathen Indian Gods—Superstitious Observances at Marriages—Disposal of Dead Bodies—Different Degrees of Glory after Death—Reverence for the Cow—Detecting Criminals—Addressing Oracles—Astronomy—Eclipse of the Moon—Magic—John Gondalez 39
Wizard and Man-tiger—Man-lion—Sacrificing Children—Offerings to the Ganges—A Rajah offering himself as a Sacrifice—Various Superstitious Ceremonies—King's Wives and Retainers going with the Dead Monarch into another World—An eternal Succession of Worlds—Apes supposed to have Human Souls—Worshipping Demons—Drinking Blood—Prognosticating from the Cries of Beasts—Witchcraft and Magic—Singular Opinions and Customs—Foretelling Future Events at the New Moon—Discovering a False Swearer—Offerings to the Sea and Winds—Superstition in China—Superstition in Japan 48
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HEATHEN GODS AND GODDESSES.
Classification of Gods and Goddesses—Primeval Parent Chaos—Creation—Influence of Ether—Celestial Fire—Birth and Banishment of Cupid—Fate—Eternal Decrees—Throne of Jove—Fortune and Happiness—Misfortune and Misery—Rewards and Punishments—First Man and Woman—Pan the Emblem of all Things—Power of Heathen Gods—Descriptions of Juno—Venus the Goddess of Love and Beauty—Rustics turned into Frogs—Vulcan—AEolus—Momus the Jester—The Carping God 59
Satyrs described—Diana's Retirement—Pallas, the Goddess of Shepherds—The vile Flora—Pomona deceived—Nymphs—River Gods and Goddesses—Sirens—Witch Circe—Infernal Deities—Passage to Tartarus—Palace of Pluto—Judges of Hell—Goddesses of Destiny—Furies—Night, Death, and Sleep—Tartarian Regions—Delights of the Elysian Fields—Festivals of Heathens—Sacrifices to Deities—Things sacred to Gods 65
Achilles—Taking of Troy—Acrisius's Daughter—Danae and her son Perseus—Ardea changed into a Bird—Pluto's Invisible Helmet—Minerva's Buckler—Mercury's Wings—Medusa deprived of Life—Sea Monster—A Gorgon's Head—Stheno and Euryale—Minerva's Revenge—Serpents and Pegasus produced by Medusa's Blood—Tales by the Daughters of Minyas—Punishment by Bacchus—The Search of Cadmus for his sister Europa—Halcyon's Sorrow—Transmigration—Exploits of Hercules—Love Potion—Hymen—Jason's Adventures—Power and Cruelty of Medea—How a Favourable Wind was procured—Manner in which Orion came into Existence—False Swearer punished—Palladium—Deeds of Paris—Golden Apple—Marriage of Peleus and Thetis—Impiety of Pentheus—Rhea and her Sons—Scylla turned into a Sea Monster 71
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MYTHOLOGY OF GERMANY, GREAT BRITAIN, SCANDINAVIA, ETC.
Mythology of Germany, Great Britain, and Scandinavia—The world Niflheim—The world Muspelheim—How Ymir was created—The cow Aedhumla—Ymir's Offspring—Odin, the chief God—Valhalla—Queen Frigga—How the Seas, Waters, Mountains, and Heavens were made—Chariots and Horses in Heaven—Night and Day—Evil-disposed Maidens—Creation of New Beings—Bridge between Midgard and Asgard—Sacred Fountain—Roots of the ash Yggdrasil—Baldur's Dreams and sad End—Loki, the Evil Spirit—Hel and her Brothers—Worship of Scandinavian Gods—Norsemen and their Ancient Gods and Goddesses—The Volsung Tale—Odin, Loki, and Haenir's Wanderings—The Sword Gram—Sigurd's Exploits—What the Worshippers of Odin believed—Frodi's Maidens and Quern—Gods of the Laplanders—Sale of Winds—Lucky and Unlucky Days—Other Superstitions 85
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NAMES OF DAYS, WHENCE DERIVED.
The Calendar—Names of Days, whence derived—The Power of Jupiter—Influence of Zeus—The God Indra—Origin of the term "Hours"—Hours under Planetary Control—Coronation of a Persian King—Evils transferred to the Turks and Kafirs—The Moon's Controlling Power—Time reckoned by Moons—A Strange Story—Heathen Gods—Thor's Palace—Thor's Power—Frigga's Abilities—Description of Seater or Crodo 99
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NAMES OF MONTHS, WHENCE DERIVED.
Names of Months, whence derived—January—First of January, how kept—New Year Gifts—February—Sacrifices for purging Souls—Second of February—Virtue of Candles—Shrove Tuesday—Eating Pancakes—Partaking of Brose—Choosing a Valentine—March—April dedicated to Venus—First of May—May Poles and May Fires—Dispute between Men and Gods—Superstitious Customs in Scotland—Superstitious Ceremonies in England—June Marriages—July—August—September—October—Hallow-e'en Ceremonies—December—Christmas Trees and Gifts—The Misletoe—Privileges in Leap Year—Yule Log—Christmas Festivities 110
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MIRACLES PERFORMED BY HOLY PERSONS, AND THE INFLUENCE OF SACRED RELICS.
St. Peter, and Simon the Magician—Clement's Miracles and Death—St. Agnes—A Miraculous Circumstance—St. Blase's Power—St. Agatha's Holy Life—St. Patrick's Missionary Labours, and Expulsion of Reptiles from Ireland—St. Germanus stilling the Raging of the Sea—St. David and the Welsh Leeks—Stirrup Cup and Origin of "Pledging"—Elfrida's Treachery and Remorse—St. Benedict's Power—St. Dunstan cured by an Angel—The AEolian Harp—St. Columba's Prophecy concerning Iona—Sacred Ducks of Ireland—St. Paul binding a Dragon—Saints and Frogs—Friars and Jesuits—Father Mark proof against Fire—Virtue of Holy Water—St. Noel's Imprecation—St. Boniface—Pope Silvester assisted by Satan—Necromancing Popes—St. Januarius's Blood—St. Anthony's Conflicts with the Devil—St. Anthony's Hog and Bees—A Tradition concerning Melrose—St. Cuthbert—A Princess swallowed up by the Earth—Monk Waldevus's inexhaustible Stores—Holy Relics—Rusticus and his Hog 130
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POETS AND SUPERSTITION.
Prophetic Verse—The Bardi—Bards maintained by Noblemen—Queen Elizabeth and the Bards—Effects of Prophetic Sayings and of Pipe Music—Messages to another World—Voices of Deceased Friends heard in the Gale—Human Forms in the Clouds—Evenings in the Highlands—Michael Scott—Constant Work for Evil Spirits—Stemming the Tweed—How the Eildon Hills were formed—Ropes of Sand—Scott and his Magic Books buried at Melrose—Ossianic Poems—Stories by Bards 150
Shakspeare—An Outline of his Composition—"The Tempest"—Miranda beseeching Prospero to allay the Wild Waters—Ariel's Readiness to serve his Master—The Witch Sycorax—Caliban's Evil Wish—Neptune chased—"Midsummer Night's Dream"—Exploits of a Fairy—Doings of Puck—Titania and her Attendants—Ghosts and Spirits—Song—"Macbeth"—Weird Sisters—Macbeth's Doom—Witches' Caldron—Macbeth admonished by Spirits—"Antony and Cleopatra"—Dreadful Apparition—King's Death avenged 161
The Poet Gay—The "Spell"—Hobnelia—Lubberkin—Spells resorted to—Valentine Day—Ladybird sent on a Message of Love—Virtue of United Garters—Gipsies' Warnings—Knives sever Love—Story of Boccaccio—Apparition of a Deceased Lover—Poems by Burns—"Address to the Deil"—"Tam o' Shanter" 173
Sir Walter Scott—His Belief in Superstition—How his Tales of Fiction are composed—A Town-Clerk frightened by an Apparition—A Ghost that did not understand Erse, but could communicate in Latin—Lovel and Edie Ochiltree—Discovery of Hidden Treasure—"Rob Roy"—Fairies' Caverns—Supposed Apparition in the Trossachs—Elfin People at the Firth of Forth—A Minister taken away by Fairies—Dame Glendinning's Tale—Lines from "Marmion"—A Fairy Knight—Mysterious Steed 187
Lord Byron taught Superstition—Byron and the Maid in Green—Bridge of Balgonie—Byron's Fear to ride over it—His Belief in Unlucky Days and Presentiments—Socrates's Demon—Monk Lewis's Monitor—Napoleon's Warnings—A Sorrowful Tale—Byron's Fortune told by a Sibyl—Hebrew Camyo—Abracadabra—Loch-na-Garr—Oscar of Alva—Byron's last Instructions 197
Tale by Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd—Aikwood Castle—The Witch Henbane—Imps demanding Work—Michael Scott—Curious Sport—Dreadful Threat—Rats transformed into the form of Men—Inventor of Gunpowder—Summoning Evil Spirits—Latin the Language best understood by Satin and his Emissaries—Holy Signs and Charms—Effects of a Friar's Blessing—Magic Lantern—Michael Scott's Subscribed Conditions—Imps' Song—Dreadful Storm—Warlocks' Hymn—Eildon Hill 210
Allan Ramsay—"The Gentle Shepherd"—Bauldy the Clown—Mause the reputed Witch—Praying Backwards—Sad Misfortunes—Supposed Power of the Devil to raise the Wind and send Rain and Thunder—Sir William disturbed—Symon's Announcement—Promise to gain a Lassie's Heart—Witches' Tricks—Longfellow's "Golden Legend"—"Song of Hiawatha" 218
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MONARCHS, PRIESTS, PHILOSOPHERS, AND SUPERSTITION.
Superstition—Commencement of Monarchy in Scotland—King Fergus I. crowned on the Fatal Stone of Destiny—Signs, Assistance of Spirits, Magicians, and Fortune-tellers—Natholocus sends a Friend to consult a Cunning Woman—Her Prediction—Constantine and Maxentius—A Heavenly Cross—A Famous Standard—Queen Guanora's Grave—Fear of St. Martin—The Church's Belief in Departed Saints—Relics venerated—King bewitched by Witches of Forres—Evil Signs—Sea Monster in the Don—Kenneth III. killed by an Infernal Machine—Virtue of Precious Stones—Weird Sisters—Consulting a Pythoness—Predictions by Druids—Domitian's Death foretold by Astrologers—Simon Magus—A Platonic Philosopher—The Emperor Julian instructed in Magic 234
Louis XI. and the Astrologer—A King's Enchanted Cap—David I. and the Mysterious Stag—Merlin the Magician—Prophecies concerning Queen Elizabeth and Mary—Dragon Caverns—Predictions of Evil—Changing a King's Love—The Holy Maid of Kent—Nobles put to Death for keeping company with Sorcerers—James I. of England and the Witches—Tranent Witches and Warlocks—Wise Wife of Keith—Two Hundred Witches sailing in Sieves—Raising Storms—Witch and Warlock Convention at Newhaven—Meeting of Witches at North Berwick—Witches tortured in Holyrood—The Devil's Mark—Bothwell's Fortune told—Witches and their Associates burned 242
Cromwell in league with the Devil—Cromwell consulting Astrologers—Memorable Days in the Life of Cromwell—Duke of Hamilton warned of his Fate—Peden's Predictions—Traditions concerning Peden—John Brown the Martyr—Linlithgow Loch Swans—Hereford Children—Great Comet—Conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter at Eventful Periods—Solomon's Power 254
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Druids laid claim to Supernatural Power—Representations of the Sun and Moon—Belief of Druids—Beltane Feasts—Arkite and Sabian Superstition—Dancing to the Song of the Cuckoo—Initiation into the Druidical Mysteries—The Goodmane's Land and the Guidman's Fauld—Offerings to Demi-gods—Propitiating Beasts of Prey—Sacred Cairns—Trees dedicated to Demons—Law forbidding Worship of the Sun, Moon, Fire, Rivers, Wells, Stones, or Forest Trees—Extracts from Kirk-Session Records—Land dedicated to Satan—Midsummer and Hallow Fires forbidden—Yule-day—Order of the General Assembly as to Druidical Customs—Old Customs ordered to be discontinued 262
Dr. Stuart on the Druids—Their Deities, etc.—Gauls descendants of Dis—Funeral Rites—Slaves and Clients burned—What Pliny says—Tallies used in making known the Will of Heaven—Walking through the Fire—Wonder-working Eggs—Easter Eggs represent Druidical Eggs—Origin of Druids—Wise Men of the East were probably Druids—Island of Iona—Druidical Cairns—Stones of Judgment—Misletoe regarded as a Charm—Rings worn as Preventatives against Witchcraft—Stonehenge—Merlin the Magician—Stones brought from Africa by Giants—Graves of British Lords 267
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First Ideas of Demonology—Rabbinical Tradition—Adam's Marriage—The Wicked Lilith—Egyptian Tradition—Arabian Worship of Genii—Christians' Opinions of Demons—Forms assumed by Evil Spirits—Demoniacal King—Duty of Inferior Demons—Task of Benign Spirits—Schools of Magic—Circassian Opinions—Belief of Indians—Situation of Hell—Men's Actions recorded—Rewards and Punishments—How to frighten Demons—Treatment of the Sick—Attendant Angels—Worship of Gods—Foretelling Future Events—Small-pox propagated by an Evil Genius—Souls of Deceased Persons—Effect of Charms 273
Heathen Devotion in Ceylon—Superstitious Customs among the Schismatic Greeks—Negro Belief in Fetishes—Charms—Magic taught by the Priests—Dead Persons metamorphosed into Serpents—How the Gaures disposed of their Dead—Souls Blessed or Damned—Orders of Genii in Madagascar—Belief of the Caribbees—Brazilian Superstition—Peruvian Tradition—American Indians—Demons in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries—Satan in France—Manes, Anima, and Umbra among the Greeks and Romans 279
Visible Ghosts—Superstition on the Baltic Shores—A German Legend—Demons in the West of Europe—Love, how plighted in Orkney—The Monster Ymir—Origin of Fairies—The Duergar or Dwarfs—Brownies in Ireland and the Highlands of Scotland—Nine Classes of Evil Spirits—Vampires—Man's Double or Fetch—Churchyard Ghosts—Souls of Suicides—Burial of Suicides and Murderers at Cross Roads—Luther on Evil Spirits and Witches 284
Belief and Teaching of the Roman Catholic Church—Swedenborg's Intercourse with Spirits—Marcus Brutus and his Evil Genius—Cassius and Julius Caesar's Ghost at Philippi—Plutarch on Spectres—Socrates on the same subject—Archbishop Bruno and the Spectre—A Haunted House—Spectre at Sea—Ghost of a Murdered Man in New South Wales 291
Spiritualism Past and Present—Magic taught in Leipsic—Spirit of Marshal Saxe—How Spirits were Invoked—Voices of Spirits—Mysterious Death of a Magician—Unearthly Huntsman—Prediction and its Fulfilment—An Estate lost at the Gaming Table—A Baron Shot—A Marriage prevented by an Apparition—Consulting a Witch—Raising the Spirit of a Murdered Man—A Murderer's Fate 297
Antonio the Rich—Dreadful Announcement from a Volcano's Mouth—Three Ghosts—Mozart apprehensive of Death—Mozart writing a Requiem for himself—Messenger from another World—Mozart's Death—Ghost of a Lady—A Haunted House—Iron Cage—Youth starved to Death—Frightful Dreams and Dreadful Sights—Dog frightened by a Spirit—Disturbed House—Duchess of Mazarin—Madame de Beauclair—Compact between the Living and the Dead—A Lady's Death foretold by a Spirit 304
Sir George Villiers' Ghost—Duke of Buckingham Murdered—Lord Lyttelton and others profaning Christmas—A Troubled Mind—Apparition of a Suicide—Neglected Warning—Ominous Hour—Lord Lyttelton found Dead at the dreaded time—Death of an old Roman King—Alarming Prodigies—Tales from the Eddas—A Scandinavian Warrior's Ghost—An Icelandic Lady's Ghost—Fear of approaching Calamities—Association of Ghosts—Apparitions of Drowned Men—Christians not disturbed by Spectres—A Band of Demons—Priest exorcising Evil Spirits 312
A Mysterious Hunter—Man and Horse supposed to be Devils—Flagellation—Tales of the Scotch Highlands—Croaking Raven—Death of a suspected Witch—Resort of Witches and Evil Spirits—Spirits hastening to a Church—Black Man with Eyes like Fire—Horse breathing Smoke and Flame 318
Churchmen subjected to the Onslaught of Demons—St. Maurus rebuking Evil Spirits—St. Romualdus' Conflict with Satan—St. Frances—St. Gregory—Monk in Purgatory—Institution of the Thirty Masses for the Dead—An Excommunicated Gentleman—St. Benedict and the Blackbird's Song—A Monk restored to Life—St. Benedict's Sister ascending to Heaven—St. Francis' Dominion over Living Creatures and the Elements—St. Catherine's Power—St. Stanislaus' Miracles—A Dead Man giving Evidence—The Dead refusing a Renewal of Life—St. Philip Nerius and Evil Spirits—Spirits ministering to St. Erasmus—St. Norbert—Story relating to Henry I.—St. Margaret's Triumph—St. Ignatius—St. Stephen—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—St. Bridget—St. Denis' Spirit—St. Teresa and the Angels—St. Hilarian—St. Martin—St. Catherine's Body carried by Angels to Mount Sinai—St. Francis Xaverius' Belief in Virtue of Bells—St. Nicholas—St. Ambrose—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 323
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MAGIC AND ASTROLOGY.
Magic a Study among the Learned—Plato and Pythagoras travelled to learn the Art, and taught it—Speakers made Eloquent by Magical Art—Virtue of Gems—How Jewels should be set—When they are to be Graven—Cures effected by Hippocrates—Democritus on Magic—Many Charms—Evil Spirits—Magicians sacrificing to the Planets—Magician's Power to produce Monstrous Creatures—Egyptian Magicians—Magical Circles—Throwing Old Shoes—Figures on Shoes—A Hangman's Soul—Directions for raising Ghosts and Spirits 339
Josephus' Account of Astrology—Antediluvians acquainted with Astrology—Astrology after the Flood—Magicians in various Nations—Compact and Confederation with Spirits—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—Lilly the Astrologer—Lilly consulted by Royalists—Astrological Predictions 349
Judicial Astrology—Reading the Heavens—Lucky and Unlucky Days—Highland Superstitions—Climacterics—Astrologer and Charles IX.—Influence of the Moon—Official Air-gazers—Sacrificing to Planets—Dryden's Faith in Astrology—Dryden calculating the Nativity of his Children 356
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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—Declarations of the Divine Will—How St. Consortia became a Nun—Hieroglyphic Texts—Divination among the Jews—Plutarch on Oracles—Malthus' Belief in Oracles—A Missionary's Opinion—Sibylline Oracles—Alectoromantia—Belomancy—Cleromancy—Napoleon's Belief in Cleromancy 362
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SIGNS, OMENS, AND WARNINGS.
Crying in Youth—Image of Opis—Man born to Trouble—Bacon's Belief in Presages—Dugdale's Foresight—Sir Thomas More's Power to judge of Passing Events—Erasmus at the Tomb of Becket—Sir Walter Raleigh's Predictions—What Tacitus foresaw—Solon's Predictions—Cicero's Predictions—Knox's Predictions—Queen Mary and Darnley—Death of Thomas Maitland and of Kirkaldy of Grange predicted—Regent Murray warned against going to Linlithgow—The Human Body a medium for discovering Future Events—Death Warnings—Appearance of Spirits 372
Ornithomancy—Mohammed's Pigeons—Cock-crowing—Sacred Geese—Phenomenon at Rome—Divination by means of a Sieve—Capnomancy—Catoptromancy— Dactyliomancy—Cledonism—Onomancy—Names—Romans toasting their Mistresses—How Success in War was ascertained—Loss of Ships' Colours—Regimental Standards—Consecrated Banners—Battle of the Standard—A Highland Superstition 380
Caution of our Ancestors—Magpies—Flight of Birds—Swarming of Bees—Howling of Dogs—Lowing of Cattle—Crowing of Cocks—Stockings wrong side out—Sign of a Letter coming—Sneezing of a Cat—Various Signs and Omens—How to prevent Ill Luck—Reputed Witches—Print of a Caldron, what it denoted—Unlucky to pass over a Balance—When not to pare your Nails—Touching a Dead Body—Funeral Processions—Storks—How to Sit—Marriages—A Prophetic Rhyme—Wedding Ring—Throwing Slippers, Besoms, Salt, and Rice after Newly-married Persons—Charms for Bridegrooms and Brides—Mothers and Children—Rules to be observed at Baptisms—How to treat Young Children 387
Sweeping Floors—New Year and Christmas—"First-Foots"—Weather Prognostications—How to secure Favourable Gales—Superstitious Customs—Corpse of one guilty of Felo-de-se—Finding of Persons who die unseen—Superstitious Belief of Russian Seamen—Ancient Customs of Scotland—Friday an Unlucky Day for commencing an Important Undertaking—Friday as a Marriage Day—Anecdote of a Ship called "Friday"—Loss of the Ship "Amazon"—Sunday a Favourable Day for commencing a Voyage—Lawyers and Clergymen, how looked upon by Sailors at Sea—Rats deserting a Ship—Whistling to raise the Wind—Legend of Vanderdecken or the Flying Dutchman—A Grandfather's Axe—Other Signs and Warnings 393
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AMULETS AND CHARMS.
Amulets and Charms among the Chaldeans, Jews, and Persians—Amulets among the Greeks and Romans—Ecclesiastics forbidden to wear Amulets and Phylacteries—Pericles' Amulet—Lord Bacon's Opinion of Charms—Effect of Music—Yawning and Laughing, Fear and Shame—Diseases cured by Charms—Philosophers' Opinions of Amulets—Mr. E. Chambers on Amulets—Poets on Enchantments—A Dairymaid's Charm—A Charm sent by a Pope to an Emperor 401
Ear-rings buried by Jacob—Solomon's Belief in Spells—Reginald Scot's Recipe for preserving Cattle—What Mr. Pennant says on Charms—Images Powerful Charms—The Egyptians' Confidence in Amulets and Charms—Evil Eye—Cold Iron—Holy Things used as Charms—Filing of St. Peter's Keys—Lustral Water—Uses of Snow—Keys of a Consecrated Building—Virtue of Consecrated Bread—Various Methods of securing Love—Indian Charms—Cure for Corns—Simple Plan for getting rid of a Troublesome Person—Curing the Hooping-cough, etc. 409
Horse Shoes used as Charms—Spitting on Money to secure Luck—Fortunate Persons to deal with—Professor Playfair on Superstition—The Lee Penny—Divers Charms—A Seer's Prescription—Grose on Sorcerers, Magicians, and Witches—Irish Shamrock—Praying to Swords—Irish Superstition—Smugglers and Brigands addicted to Superstition—Superstition in the East—Arab Charms—Ladies' Arts 415
Earl of Derby's Death—A Queen Enchanted—Image of a young King—Belgrave on Charms—Childebert's Device for detecting Witches—Witch Burned—Witch Ointment—Men-Wolves—Church Authorities' Instructions to Inquisitors—Killing by a Look or Wish—The King of Sweden and his Witches—Witches' Help in War—Witches causing a Plague—Cattle Poisoned—Various Charms—An Angel's Charm to Pope Leo—Physicians' Faith in Charms—Inescation—Insemination—Egyptian Laws—Curing the King's Evil 421
Precious Stones regarded as Objects of Virtue—Extravagance in Jewellery accounted for—Abraham's Precious Stones—Altars called Living Stones—Rod of Moses—Sacred Rings and Belts—The Month of one's Nativity has connection with one or other of the Precious Stones—Kings of England hallowing Rings—Ring preserved in Westminster Abbey—Iona Relics—The Green Stone of Arran—A Crystal kept as a Charm—A Conjuring Beryl—Prophetic Stones—The Coronation Stone or Stone of Destiny 429
* * * * *
TRIALS BY ORDEAL.
Trials by Ordeal resorted to in Ancient and Modern Times—Ordeal by means of Hot Iron—Plunging the Arm into Boiling Water or Oil—Walking Blindfold in Dangerous Places—Weighing a Witch—Extending the Arms before a Cross—Swallowing Consecrated Bread—Ordeal among the Hindoos—Touching a Dead Body—An Inquest, how conducted long ago—Dead Henry's Wounds—Sir George M'Kenzie's Opinion of Trial by Ordeal—Sir K. Digby on Trial by Ordeal 438
A Popular Story—Theatberge, wife of Lothaire—Forbes's Memoirs—Trial by Wager of Battle—When Trial by Wager of Battle ceased—Trial by Jury—Court of King's Bench deciding the Legality of Trial by Battle—Sir Walter Scott's Illustrations of Superstition and Trial by Battle in Olden Times 445
* * * * *
CURSES AND EVIL WISHES.
Curses, Excommunication, and Anathemas—Dirae, the Executioners of Vengeance—Interment of Excommunicated Persons—Excommunication among the Hebrews—Last Degree of Excommunication sometimes followed by Banishment or Death—Form of Excommunication used by Ezra and Nehemiah—The Greek Church annually excommunicates Roman Catholics—The Druids resorted to Excommunication—Bishops excommunicating Rats, Mice, Caterpillars, and other Insects and Vermin—The Pope's Claim—Napoleon I. excommunicated—Victor Emmanuel excommunicated—The Inquisition and its terrible Doings—The Pope's Fearful Curse—Mr. Donald Cargill excommunicating the King and Nobles—Indulgences, Pardons, and Penance 453
St. Adelbert's Curse—Complexion of Blackamoors attributed to a Curse of Noah—False Accusation, and its Results—Ancestors of the Whelphs and Guelphs of Germany—An Interesting Legend—A Gipsy's Curse—A Cruel Father and Husband—Morrar-na-Shean—Restoration of Three Daughters—A Grateful Father—Ancestors of the Sinclairs of Caithness, and of the noble family of Keith—The Curse of Moy—A Cruel Chieftain of Clan Chattan—Swearing by the Hand of a Bride—Grant of Glenmorriston waiting his Doom—Death of a Father and Lover—Maledictions and Prediction—Lady leaping from a Lofty Tower—The Monroes of Foulis—End of a Relentless Tyrant 462
* * * * *
DREAMS AND VISIONS OF THE NIGHT.
The Gift or Art of interpreting Dreams—Official Interpreters of Dreams—Sleep, how portrayed—Goddess of Dreams—Greeks soliciting the Inspiration of Dreams—Xenophon on Sleep—Prophetic Power of the Dying—AEsculapius's Discoveries in Dreams—Code of Menu—The Soma-drink—Josephus as a Seer—Dreadful Proposal by Josephus—His Fortunate Escape—An Eastern Conjuror—Reading a Sealed Letter—A Sultan warned of his Death in a Dream—Alexander's Death foretold in a Dream—Records of Dreams in Westminster Abbey—Lord Falkland's Dream—Rev. John Brown's Opinions—Early Christian Faith in Visions and Dreams—Death of a Friend foretold—The Devil's Sonata—Marriage of Queen Mary—Fatality of the Stuart Family—Death of Henry IV. of France 469
Dreaming Dictionaries—Dreaming of an Anchor—Sick Persons—Raiment—Fruit—Funerals—Dreams sometimes to be read contrariwise—Dreaming of Darkness—Jewellery—Losing and finding Property—Fowls and Eggs—Flying—Bagpipes, Dancing, and Banquets—Dreaming of Animals, Cakes, Corn, and Milk—Dreaming of Carrying and of being Carried—Angels, Spirits, and Children—Clergymen and Churches—A Broken Watch or Clock—Clouds—Falling—Flowers and Fruit—Sailors' Dreams—Running Streams and Still Water—Ploughed Ground and Green Fields—Presents—Glass, Hair, Fire, Cold, Tooth, Kisses, and Knives—Leaping, Climbing, and Writing—Linen—The Sun, Moon, and Stars, Rainbow, Snow, Thunder, and Lightning 475
* * * * *
LAWS AGAINST AND TRIALS OF WITCHES.
Witchcraft treated with Severity—Cutting out the Tongue—Laws of AEthelstane—Witchcraft in England—Royal Writers—Sir Edward Cole's Opinion—Statute of Elizabeth against Sorcerers—Law of Mary Queen of Scotland against Witches—Law against Witches abolished—Sir George Mackenzie on Witchcraft—Extracts from Forbes's Institute of the Law of Scotland—Sir Matthew Hale a Believer in Witchcraft—Trial of Rose Cullender and Ann Duny—Punishment of Witches, by whom first countenanced—Pope John's Bull—Bishop Jewell—Lord Bacon and the Law against Witches—Fearful Slaughter of supposed Witches—Malleus Maleficarum, or Hammer for Witches—The last Persons executed in Scotland and England for Witchcraft—First German Printers condemned to be burned as Sorcerers—Reginald Scot on the Fables of Witchcraft—Mr. E. Chambers's Views of Witchcraft 482
Witch-finders—Disasters ascribed to Witches—Witches' Familiars—John Kinnaird—Patrick Watson and his Wife pricked—The Devil's Sabbaths—Grandeur at Satan's Feasts—When Feasts ended—Transformation—A Witch-finder sent from Scotland to Newcastle—Complaints against Witches—Deception discovered—Trying Witches in Northumberland—Escape of a Witch-finder from Justice—Zeal of the Clergy in Scotland in condemning Witches—Witch burned within the Sea-mark—Extracts from Kirk-session Records of Perth relative to Witchcraft—Witches at Kirkcaldy—A Clerical Witch-finder 493
Hiring a Witch to detect a Witch—Clerical Witch-finders—Agnew, the Sturdy Beggar—A Distressed Family—Minister's Remonstrance and Advice—Fresh Afflictions—Prayer and Fasting—Spirits Speaking—Minister's Reply—Application to the Synod for Advice—Solemn Humiliation ordained by the Synod—Beggar suspected and hanged for Blasphemy—Bargarran Witches—An Esquire's Daughter bewitched—Physicians puzzled—Ministers' Visits to Bargarran—Presbytery ordering Days of Humiliation—Recourse to the Law—Catherine Campbell imprisoned—Girl's continued Affliction—Representation to His Majesty's Privy Council—Commission appointed to inquire into the case—Trial of Witches—Condemnation and Execution 500
Victims of Superstition—Lady Glammis—Her Trial for causing the Death of her Husband and attempting to poison the King—Found Guilty, and Burned—Lady Fowlis an intended Victim—Image of the young Lady of Balnagowan—Elf Arrows—Consulting Egyptians—Hector Munro's connection with Witches—Charge against Sir John Colquhoun and Thomas Carlips for consulting Necromancers—Love Philters and Enchanted Tokens—Bewitching Sir George Maxwell—Witch-marks discovered before the Sheriff of Renfrewshire—Commission appointed by the Privy Council to try Witches—Witches Burned—Intercourse with Fairies—Another Witch Story 511
Edinburgh and Leith Witches—Black Catalogue—James VI. and the Witches—Complaint to the Scottish Privy Council of Barbarous Conduct—Relics of Superstition—Witch-finders in Edinburgh and Leith—Royal Commission to Magistrates and Ministers to search for and put Witches to Death—Wife of a Judge in Edinburgh meeting a Witch's Fate—Repeal of the Laws against Witchcraft—Opposition to Acts being Repealed—Judge of the Supreme Courts against a Change of the Law—James Reid—Potter-row Witch—Alexander Hamilton, the Warlock—The Devil and Hamilton burning a Provost's Mill—Bewitched Man—A habit-and-repute Witch—Young Laird of Duddingston—Major Weir and his Magical Staff—A Magical Distaff—Agnes Williamson, a Haddingtonshire Witch—Elizabeth Bathgate of Eyemouth—Isabella Young of Eastbarns burned at the Castlehill 519
The Demon of Jedburgh—An Apparition—Witch shot in the form of a Cat—Auldearne Witch—Sabbath Meetings with Satan—Farmer Breadley—Disinterring Unbaptised Children—Singularly-constructed Plough and Team—Attempt to shoot a Minister—Borrowstounness Witches—A Pittenweem Witch—An Unearthly Horse—Merciful View of a Witch's Case—A Perthshire Witch—Water of Ruthven Well—A Changeling 524
Witchcraft in Aberdeen—Dean of Guild rewarded for his Diligence in burning Witches—Expense of burning Witches—The Marquis of Huntly's Desire to punish Witches—Action of the Presbytery anent Witches—Man under the Protection of the Fairy Queen—Strathdown Witches—Riding on Brooms—Crossing the Spey in Riddles—Disappearance of Witches—Madge M'Donald of Tomintoul—Witches' Pool—A Mountain Tale—Girl controlling the Elements—Witch Burned—Caithness Witches—One of the Evil Sisterhood—Investigation by the Sheriff—Margaret Nin-Gilbert—Helen Andrew—Shetland Witches—An Orkney Lady—Mary Lamont of Innerkip 529
Neither Police nor Medical Men much required in Olden Times—Instrument of Torture—Torture declared Illegal—Berkly Witch—Attempt on the Life of Edward II.—Master John of Nottingham—Escape of Coventry Necromancers from Justice—Rutland Family bewitched—A Pendle Witch—Strange Narrative—Essex Witches—Witches of Northamptonshire—Bullet-proof Witch—Drawing Blood above the Temples—Anne Bodenham foretelling how a Law Plea would be decided—Strange Proceedings—Discovering Concealed Poison—Performing Spirits—Ride to London through the Air—Impenitent Witch 538
Paying Blackmail to Witches—Demon of Tedworth—A Persecuted Family prayed for—Unaccountable Sounds and Sights—Drummer found guilty of Sorcery—Raising Storms—A Wizard in Cromwell's Army—Aldermen's Children bewitched—Man kissed to Death—Witch unable to say the Lord's Prayer—A Taunton Witch—Bewitched Cattle—Mode of discovering a Witch—Selling a Soul to the Devil—Witch Executed—A Song of the Seventeenth Century 547
Elizabeth Style's Confession—Signing a Covenant with Blood—Alice Duke, Anne Bishop, and Mary Penny—Somerset Witches—Running backwards round a Church—Compact with Satan—Accusation against Sarah Morduck—A Judge's Opinion of Witchcraft—Supposed Sufferer from Witchcraft prayed for in the Church, and a Subscription raised for him—Falsely accusing a Woman of Witchcraft—Witch and Stolen Plate—Charm for Sore Eyes—Flames issuing from a Bewitched Person's Mouth—Tormenting a Witch—Jane Wenham's Witchcrafts and Trial—The last Persons who suffered in England for Witchcraft—List of Persons who suffered as Witches 552
Scotchmen and Englishmen in America—Superstition in the Back Settlements—Witchcraft in New England—Rev. Cotton Mather's View of Witchcraft—Judges and Witnesses overawed by Witches—Bewitched Persons prayed for—Trial of Susan Martin—Absurd Evidence—Witchcraft in Sweden—Commission of Inquiry—Day of Humiliation appointed on account of Witchcraft—Threescore and Ten Witches in a Village—Children engaged in Witchery put to Death—The Devil bound with an Iron Chain—An Angel's Warning Voice—Witch assaulting Ministers—Witches' Imps—Butter of Witches—Witches Punished—Horse Burned 558
Superstition in France—Pope John XXII. celebrated in the History of Sorcery and Magic—A Bishop skinned alive and torn by Horses for Witchcraft—King Philippe and Superstition—Extracting Teeth without Pain—Berne Witch—Sorcerers in Navarre—Demoniacal Operations—Witches meeting their Deserts—Maria Renata's Witchcrafts—Nuns possessed of Devils—Jeanne D'Arc—Credulity of France and England—Fairies of Domremi—Charmed Tree—Sparkling Spring—Jeanne's Heavenly Mission—Maid at the head of Troops—Her Achievements—Siege of Orleans—Great Victories—Dauphin Crowned—Heroine Betrayed—Charmed Sword—Jeanne's Surrender—King's Ingratitude—Great Rejoicing at the Maid's Downfall—Attempt to Escape—Trial and Condemnation—Maid Burned—A White Dove rising from her Ashes 564
* * * * *
SUPERSTITION IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY.
Generality of Superstition—The Church and Superstition—St. Mourie—Various Modes of Superstition—Charms—Lucky and Unlucky Times—Sailors' and Fishermen's Delusions—Weddings, Funerals, and Baptisms—Spae-wives—May Dew—Holy-days—Kirk-session Records—Fort-William Fisherman—Dipping in Fountains—Lochmanur—Holy Well of Kilvullen—Well of Craiguck—Superstition in the Highlands—Warlock Willox—Superstition in Dundee 572
Ghost at Sea—Ghosts in Edinburgh—Fear of Ghosts in Glasgow—Fortune-telling—Choice of Lovers, how decided—Irish Story—How a Ghost settled a Land Question—Prophecy respecting the Argyll Family—Yetholm Gipsies—Curses—Superstition among Fishermen—Superstition among Seamen—Providing for the Dead—A Warning—Blood Stains—Hallow-e'en at Balmoral—Faith in Dreams, etc. 583
Lizzie M'Gill, the Fifeshire Spae-wife—Predicting a Storm—Servants alarmed—Prediction fulfilled—Adam Donald, an Aberdeenshire Prophet—His Predictions and Cures—His Marriage—The Wise Woman of Kincardineshire—The Recruiting Sergeant—High-spirited Lady—Charmed Ring and its Effects—Elopement and Marriage—An Enraged Father—Life in America—Strong-minded Women 597
Superstition at Chelmsford—Woman Bewitched—Old Zadkiel—Incantation in Somerset—Turning the Bible and Key—Woman assuming the form of a Hare—Ruling the Stars—Superstition in London—How to preserve Children from Disease—Dreams fulfilled—Virtue of Holly and Ivy—Legend concerning the Tichborne Family—Romantic Divorce Case 608
Spiritualism—Spiritualism not a new Delusion—Phantoms at a Seance—Juggling of a Medium—Unsuccessful Effort at a Vulgar Deception—Spiritualists Exposed—A Medium's Deception discovered—Foolish Exhibitions—Russian Peasants and their House Spirits—Spirits' Care over Persons and Property—Death, Pestilence, War, and other Evils foretold by Spirits—A Suggestion 622
Superstition in Roman Catholic Countries—Miracle-working Images, etc.—Image paying Homage to the Virgin Mary—Madonnas at Trastevere—Miraculous Cures—Superstitious Ceremony at Dieppe—Blessing the Neva—Superstitious Belief of Napoleon's Mother—Trust in Amulets—Zulu Superstition—Witchcraft forbidden by Great Britain—Eating Fetish—Superstition among the Ashantees—Endeavour to prevent the Advance of the British Army—Shah of Persia's Talismans—Indian Princes consulting Fortune-tellers—Procuring Rain in India—Mysterious Lights on the River St. Lawrence—The Queen of Hearts—Superstition in America—Superstitious Artists—Hogarth's last Picture, "The End of all Things" 629
THE RISE AND PROGRESS OF SUPERSTITION.
Rise and Progress of Superstition—The Serpent—Cain's Departure from the true Worship—Worship of the Sun, Moon, and Stars—Strange Story of Abraham—The Gods of Antiquity—Ether, Air, Land, and Water filled with living Souls—Guardian Angel—Cause of the Flood—Magic—How the Jews deceived the Devil—A Witch not permitted to live—Diviners, Enchanters, Consulters with familiar Spirits and Necromancers proved a Snare to Nations—Charms worn by the Jews—Singular Customs and Belief—Prognostication—Allegorical Emblems—Marriage Customs—Divers Ceremonies at Death and Burials—Divination among all Nations—Observers of Times—Opinion concerning the Celestial Bodies—Power of Witches—Wizards—Necromancers' Power to call up the Dead.
Superstition has prevailed in every generation and country in the world. There are people who think that even Adam and Eve were tainted with this hateful delusion, and that their offspring of the second generation entertained opinions opposed to true religion. That man, soon after the Creation, became acquainted with and yielded to the doctrine of devils, scarcely admits of doubt. Those who conversed with our first parents must have learned from them the circumstances connected with the temptation, fall, and expulsion from the Garden of Eden. It is not unreasonable, then, to suppose that the serpent was looked upon at an early period as something more than an ordinary earthly reptile. One can imagine Adam and Eve, when wandering in perplexity and fear, after their first great sin, starting at the sight of a serpent,—not being certain whether they beheld a reptile of flesh merely, or looked upon their old enemy that had betrayed them in their days of innocency. If they looked with suspicion on the serpent, it is natural to suppose that their children would learn to view this creeping animal as a creature endowed with supernatural powers, by which it could bring about evil, and perhaps good.
Cain, there is reason to conclude, departed from the true worship of the Most High before his offering was refused, and ere he dipped his hands in his brother's blood. In Genesis iv. 26 there is an implication that man had forsaken the right and holy religion prior to the days of Seth. There is an opinion that men soon began to worship the sun, moon, and stars, and that subsequently they paid homage to objects which contributed to their preservation and to things that might do them injury. The wandering Jew, Benjamin, one of the greatest travellers in the East, gives an interesting account of solar worship in early times. The posterity of Cush, he tells us, were addicted to the contemplation of the stars, and worshipped the sun as a god. Their towns were filled with altars dedicated to this orb. At early morn the people rose, and ran out of the cities to await the rising sun, to which on every altar there was a consecrated image, not in the likeness of a man, but after the fashion of the solar orb, formed by magic art. These artificial orbs, as soon as the sun rose, took fire, and resounded with a great noise, to the joy of the deluded devotees.
Many Jewish doctors have condescended upon the precise time when man began to commit idolatry, and they name Enos as the first star-worshipper. Arabian divines tell a story of Abraham being brought up in a dark cave, and at his first coming forth he was so much struck with the appearance of the sun, moon, and stars, that he worshipped them; and there are people who imagine that in the Book of Job they discover evidence of the heavenly host being adored in the time of the old patriarch of Uz.
Some suppose that all the gods of antiquity were Egyptian kings, others that they were Thessalian princes, others that they were Jewish patriarchs; while not a few are of opinion that they were kings of the several countries where they were worshipped. It has been supposed that Saturn represented Adam; Rhea, Eve; Jupiter, Cain; Prometheus, Abel; Apollo, Lamech; Mercury, Jabal; Bacchus, Noah; and Phaeton, Elias. Others imagine that Saturn came in place of Noah; Pluto, of Sem; Neptune, of Japheth; Bacchus, of Nimrod; and Apollo, of Phut. A third class of thinkers maintain that all the heathen gods centre in Moses, and the goddesses in Zipporah his wife, or in Miriam his sister. A fourth class hold that Saturn was Abraham; Rhea, Sarah; Ceres, Keturah; Pallas, Hagar; Jupiter, Isaac; Juno, Rebecca; Pluto, Ishmael; Typhon, Jacob; and Venus, Rachel. Such are examples of imaginary resemblances between real and fictitious persons or gods that never had any existence except in the minds of fanatical romancers and a deluded people, whose faith was kept alive by deception and artifice.
It was an early belief that ether, air, land, and water were full of living spirits; and people believed, soon after man was created, that the souls of just men, subsequent to death, had part of the universe committed to them. This opinion being once established, assistance was sought from the spirits of departed men and women, and efforts were made in various ways to secure their favour. In course of time altars were set up, temples consecrated, and sometimes victims offered to obtain favour from spirits and false gods. Some rabbis affirmed that the angel Raziel was Adam's master, and taught him the Cabbala; and that Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Elias, etc. had each his guardian angel, who directed his thoughts and actions. Jewish doctors assign to magic great antiquity; they assert that it was known to those who lived before the Flood. There is a tradition that one of the causes of the Flood was the intercourse men had with demons. Though it has been stated by ancient historians that Abraham was given to magic, and that he taught it to his children, Josephus (obviously overlooking what had been written prior to his time, and forgetting what Moses had seen performed by the Egyptian priests before Pharaoh) thinks Solomon was the first who practised this art. The Jewish historian gives credit to the "wisest man" for inventing and transmitting to posterity certain incantations for the cure of diseases, and for the expulsion of evil spirits from the bodies of those possessed with such demons. According to Josephus, the expulsion was brought about by the use of a certain root sealed up in a wrapper, and held under the afflicted person's nose while the name of Solomon and words prescribed by him were pronounced. The learned historian does not seem to doubt the wonderful power of Solomon, but rather advances statements corroborative of what he had heard, for he asserts that he himself was an eye-witness to a like cure effected, by equally mysterious means, on a person named Eleazar in presence of the Emperor Vespasian. Descendants of Abraham believed that their great ancestor wore round his neck a precious stone, the sight of which cured every kind of disease.
Suppose we set aside these assertions as fables, we cannot deny that the Jews were at an early period addicted to magical arts. This propensity, there can be no doubt, whenever first manifested, was increased through the Hebrews' intercourse with the inhabitants of Egypt, Syria, and Chaldea.
Jews, who professed to work wonders by enchantments, gave directions how to select and combine passages and proper names of Scripture that would render supernatural beings visible, and bring about many surprising results. The sacred word Jehovah, they said, when read with points, multiplied by or added to a given number of letters, and composed into certain words, produced miraculous effects. By that sacred name and strange arrangements, their prophets, they thought, performed miracles. The devil was supposed to have the power of accusing mortal man at the great day of propitiation, so the Jews endeavoured to appease him with presents. They believed that on that day only he had the power to bring a charge against them, and therefore, to deceive him, they had recourse to a singular stratagem. In reading the accustomed portion of the law, they left out the beginning and the end,—an omission which was expected to cause Satan to overlook the important time. Those versed in magic could tell that the five Hebrew letters of which the devil's name was composed constituted the number 364, during which number of days he could not accuse them; and in some way or other unknown to us, in addition to the plan of mutilating the law, they kept his mouth shut year after year.
We find from the Holy Scriptures, that a witch was not permitted to live,—that there should not be found among the Hebrews any that used divination, an enchanter, a charmer, a consulter with familiar spirits, nor a necromancer, because the abominations of these mischievous people proved a snare to the nations that were driven out before the Israelites. Various opinions have been expressed regarding the witch of Endor. Parties are not agreed as to whether she did or did not bring up Samuel before Saul; but into their disputes it is unnecessary for us to enter. All that we mean to draw from the narrative is, that if the King of Israel had recourse to a witch in his hour of perplexity, superstition must have been general in the nation.
Religiously disposed Jews wore upon their arms and foreheads two pieces of parchment containing the ten commandments. These charms, or emblems of sanctity, or whatever they were called, were not allowed to be worn by women or by men when they went to a funeral or approached a dead body.
The Jews confessed their sins to their rabbis, and the penance or punishment was commensurate with their guilt. It was not uncommon for Jewish devotees to lash themselves, but the number of stripes did not at any time exceed thirty-nine. During the flagellation the penitent lay on the ground with his head to the north and his feet to the south, and it would have been considered profane to look to the east or west while the chastisement was being inflicted. A Jew would as soon have eaten swine's flesh as look to the east or west while he was in a bath. Offenders were sometimes cursed in addition to their other punishments; hence, it is presumed, the more modern recourse to curses or denunciations. A doomed or cursed individual was consigned to the power of evil angels, and prayers were offered up that he might be tormented in life with every disease, and afterwards cast into eternal darkness.
At the commencement of the Jewish Sabbath, half an hour before sunset on Friday, every Jew was bound to have his lamp lighted, though he should beg the oil. The women were required to light the lamps in memory of Eve, who by her disobedience extinguished the light of the world. Every Hebrew was obliged to pare his nails on Friday, beginning with the little finger of the left hand, and then going to the middle finger, after which he returned to the fourth finger, and then to the thumb and fore finger. In cutting the nails of the fingers of the right hand, he began with the middle finger, then proceeded to the thumb, and after that took the fore finger, the middle and fourth fingers, in the order stated. The parings were either buried or burned. The Hebrews believed that the sounding of a consecrated horn drove away the devil.
A curious custom prevailed among them in early times. The father of a family took a white cock, and each of his wives selected a hen, but such of them as were expectant mothers took both a cock and a hen. With these fowls they struck their heads twice, and at every blow the head of the family said, "Let this cock stand in my room; he shall die, but I shall live." Having said this, the neck of the fowl was drawn and its throat cut; and either the dead fowl, or its value in money, was given to the poor. In the evening previous to the feast of expiation, a man wishing to pry into futurity carried a lighted candle to the synagogue, and from particular appearances of the flame he prognosticated whether good was to follow him and his, or whether he and his family were to be overtaken by evil.
At their great feasts of tents or tabernacles (observed in memory of their living in tents in the wilderness) the Israelites went from their tents to the synagogue every day during the feast, bearing in their right hands branches of palms, myrtle, and willows, and in their left hands branches of citron. When they reached the synagogue, they turned the branches first to the east, then to the south, next to the west, and lastly to the north. These ceremonies were allegorical: the palm was an emblem of hypocrisy, the myrtle pointed to good works, the willow represented the wicked, and the citron the righteous. At marriages, while the young persons present held torches in their hands and sang the marriage song, the bride walked three times round the bridegroom, and he in turn walked thrice round her. In some countries—Germany and Holland, for instance—the guests threw handfuls of corn at the young wedded pair, telling them to "increase and multiply." The newly married people drank a little wine, and then emptied the cup on the floor. At the wedding repast a roasted hen and an egg were presented to the bride, who, after partaking of them, distributed the remainder to the guests. The hen had reference to the fruitfulness of the bride, and her delivery in childbirth.
The thumbs of a dead Jew were tied down close to the palms of his hands, to preserve the deceased from the devil's clutches. While the body was being washed, an egg was put into a glass of wine, and the deceased's head anointed with the mixture. Those who were not reconciled to the departed, before his death, kissed his great toe and asked pardon, lest he should accuse them at the great tribunal before the Most High. When the body was carried away for interment, a person, who remained behind, threw a brick after it, as a sign that all sorrow was past. The nearest friends or relations walked seven times round the grave, after each of them had driven a nail into the coffin. Hence the saying in our own time, when one signifies his willingness to do a friend a favour or kindness, "I will drive a nail into your coffin." When the body was put into the grave, every person present threw a handful of earth in after it.
On important occasions the Hebrews, like Pagans, consulted diviners, who had recourse to various ways of divination. In the days of Joseph there was divination by cups, one particular manner of proceeding being to observe how their wine sparkled when poured out. Casting or drawing of lots was a favourite method of divination, not only among the Jews, but among all nations. Mention is made of divination by means of household gods or images in human shape, prepared by astrologers under particular constellations, and made capable of the heavenly influences. The rabbis, in making some of these images, killed a man who was a first-born son, wrung off his head, seasoned it with salt, spices, etc., and then put a gold plate, bearing the name of an unclean spirit, under the head, which was fixed to a wall, and had candles burning beside it. The images were consulted as oracles concerning things accomplished but unknown, and regarding events in the future.
Among the Jews there were observers of times who laid great stress on certain seasons and critical moments, which they supposed depended on particular positions of the heavenly bodies. A learned rabbi expressed the opinion that the celestial bodies rewarded persons who put confidence in them, and that consequently men acted wisely to reverence the stars and implore their assistance. Guesses at futurities were made from the falling of a crumb of bread out of one's mouth or a staff from a man's hand, from a person sneezing, or the breaking of a shoe-latchet.
The Hebrew witches were supposed to possess the power of doing mischief to man and beast by their occult science, and of changing the form of things. Witches used their wicked skill to allure maidens. Through magical operations, a Jew endeavoured long ago to procure the love of a Christian woman, but she was preserved from the power of his craft by sealing herself with the sign of the cross. It was an ancient way of enchantment, to bring, by the power of magic, various kinds of beasts together into one place, which were designated as the "great congregation" and the "little congregation." The great congregation consisted of many of the larger animals, and the lesser was made up of numerous smaller creatures, such as serpents, scorpions, and the like. Wizards were famous fortune tellers; they pretended to be the interpreters of all the most important occurrences of the world. According to the Hebrew laws, the deceivers, and those who consulted them, were liable to be stoned. Necromancers obtained a footing among the Jews. Such wicked people were accustomed to fast, go to burying-places, and there lie down, fall asleep, and pretend that the dead appeared to them in dreams or otherwise, and told them what was desired. They also pretended to call up the dead by means of certain fumes and particular words. In cases where the spirits of dead men were obstinate and refused to appear or answer when summoned in the more simple form, recourse was had to the burning of portions of black cats, or the still more cruel method of cutting up young boys and virgins.
Men endowed with Prophetic Spirits—The Jews forbidden to consult the Oracles of the Heathen—Succession and Schools of Prophets—Burial of Prophets—Influence of Music—The Prophetic Mantle—Way through which Revelations were made—Bath Kol—Urim and Thummim—False Prophets Strangled or Stoned—How False Prophets were discovered—Recourse to Diabolical Art—Moloch—Seething a Kid in its Mother's Milk—The Smooth Stones mentioned by Isaiah—Oil and Candles supposed to possess peculiar Virtues—The Saint entombed near the Barbary shore—Sheep-head and Sheep-head Broth—Casting Sins into the Sea—Custom of Fasting among the Pharisees—Dust of Heathen Countries—The number 10—Angels that had the care of Men—Souls of Dead Persons whispered with a feeble Voice—Hebrew Women who predicted when one would die—Punishment in the Grave by the Devil.
Every person who has read the Old Testament, knows that the Hebrews had among them extraordinary men really endowed with prophetic spirits. The Jews were forbidden to consult the oracles of the heathen nations round about them, but they were permitted to consult their own true prophets concerning that which was concealed from ordinary persons. There was a constant succession of prophets, and there were schools where young persons aspiring to the office of a seer were instructed. Over each of these institutions a venerable prophet presided. At first the scholars were not inspired, but received prophecies from the mouth of their master or president. At Jerusalem there was one of these schools within the second wall of the city. So great respect was paid to the prophetic character, that none were suffered to be buried in Jerusalem but kings, descendants of David, and prophets. Though old prophets could not inspire their young students, they improved their natural faculties, and taught them how to subdue irregular emotions that hindered inspiration. That the minds of the prophets might be the better disposed to receive the proper impulses, instrumental music was used in their devotions; and it is reported that at certain of their musical meetings the young men became so elated, that they manifested poetical genius as well as a prophetic spirit. When a young prophet gave unequivocal evidence of being inspired, he was installed into office by having the prophetic mantle (made of lamb's skin) thrown over his shoulders. Subsequent to inauguration, a prophet wore hair-cloth next his skin, and had a leather girdle round his loins.
The general way through which revelations were made to them was in dreams and visions, or by immediate inspiration. Their dreams were sometimes, indeed generally, sent for instruction or admonition; and in the prophetic dreams a clear and distinct impression was left through a real or imaginary communication with an apparition. At times the prophets had overpowering visions when awake, during which mighty revelations were made to them. When prophetic revelations ceased, the Jews had recourse to Bath Kol, that is, the Daughter of Voice, or the Daughter of a Voice, because it succeeded, they say, the Oracular Voice delivered from the Mercy Seat when Urim and Thummim was consulted.
The prophetic spirit being so common among the Hebrews, it became necessary to adopt a method to prevent false prophets from deceiving the people. To deter men from pretending they possessed a prophetic spirit, a severe punishment for every such pretence was appointed,—strangling or stoning to death. The manner of trying a false prophet was this: the judgments threatened by a prophet, and the good things predicted by him, were observed. If the judgments declared were not fulfilled, it was not regarded as conclusive evidence against him, because it might be that the punishments were for some wise reason averted; but if the promised good did not come to pass, the predictor was condemned as a deceiver and false prophet. If the words of a prophet were fulfilled in one or more particulars, but not in all, he was not deemed worthy of credence. When once one was condemned as a false prophet, no interest was powerful enough to save him from death.
The trial of prophets prescribed by the Mosaic law was intended to prevent impostors pretending to be prophets, and to save the people from being enticed by wicked deceivers into idolatry. In the time of Moses there were many who had recourse to diabolical arts. The oblation of children to Moloch being frequently mentioned, together with other diabolical and divinatory arts, reasons appear for supposing there was something magical in such superstitious rites, and that thereby people consulted demons about things future or secret. Moloch was the principal idol of the Ammonites, but other nations took the same idol for their chief god; for it appears from Pagan records, that the different nations were so very accommodating with their gods that they lent them to one another. Moloch seems to have been the same as Baal, both names signifying dominion, or more particularly the sun, the prince of the heavenly bodies.
There can be no doubt but the passage in the Old Testament, "Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk," was a warning to the Hebrews not to follow the example of the heathen in connection with the payment by the latter of their first fruits. Dr. Cudworth, writing on this subject, says that he learned from the comments of an ancient Karaite upon the Pentateuch, that a superstitious rite prevailed among the ancient idolators, of seething a kid in his mother's milk when they had gathered in all their first fruits, and sprinkling the trees and fields with the broth, after a magical manner, to make them more fruitful in the following year. Spencer also observes that the Zabii used this kind of magical broth to sprinkle their trees and gardens, in hope of obtaining a plentiful crop.
The smooth stones mentioned by Isaiah, to which meat offerings were offered and drink offerings poured out, were anointed stones in the streets, on which passengers poured on them oil from phials; but what advantages were to result from the custom we are not fully informed. Oil and candles were believed by the ancients to possess peculiar virtues. Oil was often burned in honour of the dead; and the Algerines, when on the water, tied bundles of wax candles together, and, with a pot of oil, threw them overboard as a present to the saint, entombed near the Barbary shore, whom they regarded as their protector. We believe few who partake of sheep-head or sheep-head broth know that it is, or was, a custom with the Jews to serve up sheep-head on New Year's Day at their chief entertainment, as a mystical representation of the ram offered in sacrifice instead of Isaac. When a family or company sat down to this repast, each person took a piece of bread, and, dipping it in honey, said, "May this year be sweet and fruitful." The Jews, to cast their sins into the depth of the sea, sometimes went after dinner to the brink of a pond, if not near the sea, and threw into the water a live fish, in the hope that it would carry away all their iniquities, never more to be found.
It was customary among the Pharisees not only to fast twice a week (on Monday and Thursday), but at periods of perplexity to fast thirteen days consecutively. Sometimes, on account of such small trifles as dreams, they would abstain from food; but severe drought, pestilence, famine, war, and inundations were sure to make them fast until nature was nearly exhausted. The Hebrews held certain views and followed particular customs with respect to the dust of heathen countries. Dust that came from Gentile lands was reckoned so defiling, that the Jewish rulers would not permit vegetables to be brought from heathen countries into the land of Israel, lest the detested particles should be brought along with them. The number 10 was much noticed and used by the Jews. The blessing of the bridegroom, which consisted of seven blessings, was of no avail unless delivered in the presence of ten persons. Angels, which were believed to have the care of men, were supposed to ride unseen, on white horses, beside the objects of their attention.
Among the Jews there was a popular notion that the spirits of dead persons whispered in a feeble and peculiar way out of the dust; and it was a common belief that the soul had no rest unless the body was interred. There were women among the Hebrews who predicted how long one would live, and pretended to know when he was to die. One of a Jew's solemn prayers on the day of expiation was that he might be delivered from the punishment of the devil in his grave,—a punishment supposed to be inflicted by causing the soul to return to the body, breaking the deceased's bones, and tormenting both soul and body for a season. A similar form of prayer was used by the Mohammedans.
Egypt steeped in Superstition—Power of Magicians—Way of obtaining Visions—Demons—Deification of Departed Heroes—Gods and Demi-gods—Altars or Living Stones—Sacred Animals—Isis searching for Osiris—Leeks and Onions—Priests were Physicians and Interpreters of Oracles—Sacrificing Human Victims—Wax Figures—Magic—Teaching of the Egyptian Priests—Transmigration—Character of Men judged of after Death.
Egypt was a country steeped in superstition. The people believed in sorcery, magic, and enchantments; and there is the fullest evidence in the sacred pages that the Egyptian magicians were able to perform dexterous feats that were truly surprising. Astronomy was studied with a view to success in astrology, as the latter was a science much esteemed, and very lucrative. Public or state astrologers were consulted in cases of emergencies. None dared to practise astrology, magic, sorcery, or any of the various modes of divination unless authorised by a master in the art, before whom he had "spread the carpet" for prayer. To procure sublime visions, seers shut themselves up for a long time, without food or water, in a dark place, and prayed aloud until they fainted. While in a swoon, strange visions appeared to them, and revelations made which sometimes filled the nation with gladness, and at other times spread mourning over the country. In advanced ages, as well as in early times, men believed there were a multitude of subordinate spirits, as ministers, to execute the behests of the supreme sovereign. To these spirits were committed the superintendence of all the different parts of nature, and their bodies were imagined to be composed of that particular element in which they resided. Altars were built in the midst of groves, where the spirits were supposed to assemble. Gratitude and admiration tended to the deification of departed heroes and other eminent persons. This probably gave rise to the belief of national and tutelar gods, as well as the practice of worshipping gods through the medium of statues cut into human form. At one time demi-gods gradually rose in the scale of divinities until they occupied the places of the heavenly bodies. Thus, following ancient hyperbole, a king, for his beneficence, was called the sun, and a queen, for her beauty, was styled the moon. As this adulation advanced into an established worship, the compliment was reversed by calling planets or luminaries after heroes. And to render the subject more reconcilable to reason, the Eastern priests taught that the early founders of states and inventors of arts were divine intelligences, clothed with human bodies. When celestial divinities disappeared or were obscured from observation, men had recourse to symbols of a temporary nature that produced fire. Altars of stone were built and consecrated in the name of the divinity whom it was intended to represent. Such altars were called animated or living stones, from a belief that a portion of divine spirit resided in them, and the prayers and praises offered up before them were thought to be as acceptable as if addressed to the gods themselves. That those altars or stones might be as near as possible to the objects of worship represented, they were generally placed on the tops of mountains, or, in flat countries like Egypt, on high structures, the works of men's hands. Many have attributed the building of the pyramids to the worship of gods; but whether that was the purpose to which those majestic structures, that have puzzled learned men, were devoted, we shall not venture to say. This, however, is certain that, throughout the East, altars, statues, and pillars were erected for superstitious purposes upon mountains and other high places.
Herodotus informs us that the ancient Egyptians were the first people who gave names to their gods. Of Osiris, Isis, and the many other gods and sacred animals that were worshipped in Egypt, we shall say little at this part of our subject. The bull, it is well known, was one of the most sacred animals. The priests affirmed that Apis was of divine origin, the cow that produced him having been impregnated with holy fire. Dogs, the Egyptians said, deserved homage because they guided Isis when she searched for the body of Osiris. She, it may be remembered, sought for the precious remains with true pertinacity till she found them. To accomplish her purpose, she found it necessary to transform herself into a swallow, to dry up the river Ph[oe]drus, and to kill with her glances the eldest son of a king. Her tears were supposed to cause the inundation of the Nile. At times she had the head of a cow, which identified her with the cow of whom the sun was born. The hawk was deified because one of these birds brought to the priests of Thebes a book, tied round with a scarlet thread, containing the rites and ceremonies to be observed in the worship of the gods. The wolf was adored because Osiris arose in the shape of that animal from the infernal regions, and assisted Isis and her son Horus to battle against Typhon. The cat was revered as an emblem of the moon, for its various spots, fruitfulness, and activity in the night. The goat (which, by the by, is said to be absent from the earth and present with Satan a part of every twenty-four hours of the day, and can never be seen from sunrise to sunrise without being lost sight of for a longer or shorter time) was honoured as the representation of manhood in full vigour, and was worshipped, from gratitude to the gods, for multiplying the people of the country. The crocodile was also advanced to the dignity of a god. If one killed any of the sacred animals designedly, he was put to death,—if involuntarily, his punishment was referred to the priests; but if a man killed a hawk, a cat, or an ibis, whether designedly or not, he died without mercy. During a severe famine, when the Egyptians became cannibals, not one of them was known to have tasted the sacred animals.
All revered animals were kept at great expense, and when they died costly funerals took place. When the Apis died at Memphis, in the reign of Ptolemy the son of Lagus, his funeral cost not less than L13,000 sterling. When a cat died, the family it belonged to expressed great grief, and prayed and fasted several days. In cases of fire, more care was taken to preserve the feline animals than the most valuable property in the house. Dead cats, which were almost invariably embalmed, were sometimes carried from remote parts to be interred in the city of Bubastis, and hawks and moles were buried with great solemnity at Butos, even though they should have died in foreign countries. Juvenal mentions that leeks and onions were objects of worship, and others say that the lotus was also sacred in various parts of the East. The priests were both physicians and interpreters of oracles; they carefully observed the phenomena of nature, and registered every uncommon occurrence. From such observations, they calculated the results of other events of similar nature. Hence arose the practice of divination, and afterwards that of dispensing oracles. Oracles were erected in every part of Egypt. Even the sacred animals had their several oracles. The Apis was consulted by observing into which of his chambers he entered. By a certain principle understood, the omen was regarded as foretelling good or evil.
The barbarous custom of sacrificing human victims was long in force in Egypt, and prevailed down to the reign of Amasis, by whom it was abolished. Not to give too severe a shock to the superstitious feelings of the people, wax figures, representing human beings, were permitted to be substituted for the living mortals. These customs were, no doubt, what sorcerers and witches imitated at their midnight feasts in after ages, and which led old women to imagine that, by making wax images of those whom they intended to injure, and sticking sharp instruments into them at one time, and at another time exposing them to a scorching heat before a fire, they would wreak their vengeance upon the individuals whom the figures represented. We have it from more than one learned writer, that the cruel and gloomy worship of Egypt arose from a belief that Typhon was labouring incessantly to counteract the happiness of mankind. He was considered to be greedy and voracious, and that it was necessary to glut his altars with blood in order to appease his anger.
Magic was a science in which the Egyptians excelled. Its attainment was esteemed the highest exertion of human intellect. Some imagined that the invention of magic exceeded human invention, and they pretended that the angel who fell in love with the antediluvian women taught it, and that the principles thereof were preserved by Ham after the Deluge, and that he communicated them to his son Mizraim; but others ascribed the invention to Hermes. Without either admitting or denying these assertions, we can have no hesitation in stating that much of our superstition may be traced back to Egyptian religion and customs, and that the singular belief of the Egyptians was general, and long anterior to the time Jacob and his sons went down to that country.
The Egyptian priests, taking advantage of the people's credulity, taught that the sun, moon, and whole host of heaven were endowed with intelligence, and exerted an influence over the destinies of men; and they (the priests) pretended to work miracles, and obtain oracles and omens. They also laid claim to the power of interpreting dreams.
The Egyptians believed that the souls of men went into other bodies at death,—such as had been virtuous going into exalted bodies, but the vicious passing into mean reptiles and other contemptible creatures. After remaining in a state of punishment for a certain number of years, they were supposed to pass into more exalted beings. Praise was not bestowed indiscriminately upon every person who died, however exalted his position. Characters were given by judges, after inquiry into the life and conduct of the deceased. The judges sat on the opposite side of a lake; and while they crossed the lake, he who sat at the helm was called Charon, which gave rise to the fable among the Greeks, that Charon conducted the souls of deceased persons into the infernal regions.
Babylon—The Chaldeans were Priests, Philosophers, Astronomers, Astrologers, and Soothsayers—Downfall of Babylon predicted—Worship of the Medes and Persians—Devils confined in an Egg—Sacred Fire—The Gaures—Births and Deaths in Early Times—A narrow Bridge—An immense Tree—Creation of Prophets—A Stone to which Abraham tied his Camel—Adam and Eve's Trysting Place—Black Art—Ways of discovering whether a supposed Criminal was Guilty or Innocent—Looking into Futurity—Canaanites, Syrians, and Arabians—Strange Fables—Abraham breaking Heathen Idols—Worship of the Egyptian Thorn—Altars—Religion of the Carthagenians and Tyrians—Supremacy of the Gods.
The great city of Babylon owed its origin to the ambition of the proud people who built the tower of Babel. In course of time Babylon rose to great grandeur, but superstition became so prevalent that it proved a snare to the inhabitants. Like the heathen around, they worshipped fire and images. The Babylonians pretended to great skill in astrology, soothsaying, and magic. The Chaldeans, so called in a strict sense, were a society of pretenders to learning, priests, philosophers, astrologers, and soothsayers, who, it is said, dwelt in a region by themselves, and the rest of the people were called Babylonians. While Babylon was in its glory, prophets predicted that dreadful judgments would befall it. And so it happened. On the very night the destruction came, the king, alarmed by the mysterious handwriting on the wall, consulted his magicians; and Daniel, who had been made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers, made known the sad end of Belshazzar and his kingdom.
The Medes and Persians worshipped the sun, fire, water, the earth, the winds, and deities without number. Human sacrifices, as in other idolatrous countries, were offered by them, and they burned their children in fiery furnaces appropriated to their idols. At first the gods they worshipped were Arimanius, the god of evil, and Oromasdes, the giver of all good. Plutarch says that Oromasdes created several inferior gods or genii, and that Arimanius created many devils. The former also created twenty-four devils, and enclosed them in an egg; but the latter broke the egg, and by that means let out the demons, and created a mixture of good and evil. The religion of the Persians underwent a variety of revolutions. Temples were built for the worship of fire, prior to which Magian priests kept the sacred fire burning on mountain tops under considerable difficulties. They fed it with wood stripped of the bark; they were prohibited from blowing the fire with their breath or with bellows, lest it should be polluted. Had one done either, he would have been punished with death. The Jews had the real fire from heaven, and the Magi pretended to have received theirs from the upper regions likewise.
The Gaures held that the earth was inhabited at first by two persons. They had a tradition that Eve brought twins into the world every day, and that for one thousand years death had no power over her seed. They believed that a select company of angels were appointed guardians of mankind, but that, notwithstanding this, evil increased: men grew wicked and perverse in their ways, and therefore the deluge was sent to sweep them away. The Gaures had their guardian angels for every month and day throughout the year, and to them they devoted their prayers. New Year's Day was a high day with them, and they had a great many lucky and unlucky days.
The Persians hold that at the last judgment every man must pass along a bridge no wider than a razor's edge; that the unbelievers and the wicked will certainly in their passage fall into hell, there to be for ever and ever tormented; but that the faithful shall be so guided and supported that they shall pass the bridge swifter than a bird can fly through the air, and enter into paradise, and seat themselves on the banks of the river of delight, which, they say, is shaded by a tree of such immense size, that if a man were to ride forty thousand years, he would not pass the extent of one of its leaves. In Persia it was a common belief that there were many prophets living between the days of Adam and Mohammed, who were created before the world was made. Their prophets, according to history, were possessed of the power of working miracles; and charms and amulets were common in the country.
Pilgrims who went to Mecca invariably kissed a black stone, regarding which there is a curious legend: Abraham, we are informed, tied his camel to this stone when he went to sacrifice Ishmael, for the Mohammedans represent Hagar as Abraham's lawful wife, and Ishmael his heir. There is another tradition, that when Abraham was about to build the Kaaba, held in great veneration, the stones marched thither of themselves ready hewn and polished, and that the black stone, being left out when the building was completed, demanded of Abraham why it had not been used in the sacred structure. The prophet told the stone not to be disappointed, for he would cause it to be more honoured than any stone in the building, by commanding all the faithful to kiss it as they went in procession. The faithful people were wont to meet at the place which they supposed was Adam and Eve's trysting place after the expulsion, for it is related in one of their legends that the first man and woman wandered about the world, separately, hundreds of years after the Fall.
The Persians were extremely addicted to the study and practice of the black art and all magical incantations, supposing that by such mysterious operations they could influence the elements and all the products of nature. When any one was suspected to have died an unnatural death, the surviving relatives consulted spirits, with the view of discovering the cause of it. Sometimes the relatives alleged that a spell had been cast on the spirits consulted, which prevented their giving answers to interrogatories. In that case, magicians were employed to remove the fascination. A suspected murderer was submitted to a severe ordeal:—A particular liquid was poured upon the arm or thigh of the unfortunate person; but before the fluid was used it was boiled, while the supposed criminal's name was repeatedly mentioned. The moment the liquid began to boil, they commenced to address their imaginary spirits in the following terms: "Is the party on whom I pour this water guilty or not? If he is, may it scald him and shrivel up his skin." If the application of the boiling liquid did not injure the suspected person he was declared innocent, but if it burned him he was pronounced guilty. People anxious to know the result of approaching warlike engagements put a vessel full of water, mixed with particular ingredients, over a fire. As soon as the water commenced to boil they performed magical incantations, which, as they imagined, irresistibly attracted the titular genius of their enemies, and obliged the spirit or god to plunge himself into it. In this painful situation they confined him for a considerable time. When he had endured sufficient penance to humble him, he was questioned relative to the success of the war. The information sought was delivered, as the people thought, through the appearance of the scum on the water. By turning a red-hot pot upside down, attended with magical incantations, they imagined the courage of their soldiers exposed to its heat could be raised.