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Thaumaturgia by An Oxonian

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But now comes on the cold, dirty, dithering, pouting, rainy, shivering,
freezing, blowing, stormy, blustering, cruel quarter called winter; the
very thoughts of it are enough to fright one; but that it very luckily
happens to be introduced (this year) by a good, fat merry Christmas: yet
it is the last and worse, and very much resembles extreme old age
accompanied by poverty; this quarter is also pretty much like Pharoah's
lean kine; for it generally (we find) eats up and devours most of the
produce of the preceding seasons: now the sun entering the southern
tropic, affords us the least share of his light, and consequently the
longest long nights: yet, nevertheless, in this uncomfortable quarter,
you may possibly pick up some crumbs of comfort, provided you have good
health, good store of the ready Rhino, a good wife, and other good
things about you: and especially a good conscience: for then the starry
influences must necessarily appear very benign, notwithstanding the
inclemency of the weather; for in such cases there will be frequent
_conjunctions_ of sirloins and ribs of beef; _aspects_ of legs and
shoulders of mutton, with _refrenations_ of loins of veal, shining near
the watery triplicity of plumb-porridge--together with trine and sextile
of minced pies; collared brawn from the Ursus major, and sturgeon from
Pisces--all for the honour of Christmas: and I think it is a much
pleasanter sight than a Covent-Garden comedy, to see a dozen or two of
husbandmen, farmers, and honest tenants, at a nobleman's table (who
never raised their rents) worry a sirloin, and hew down, (I mean cut up)
a goose like a log: while a good Cheshire cheese, and plenty of nappy
ale, and strong March beer, washes down the merry goblets, sets all
their wit afloat, and sends them to their respective homes, as happy as

And now, kind loving readers, every one,
God send y'a good new-year, when the old one 's gone.


[75] The following prediction, and the verification of it are of so
recent a date, that we cannot resist giving it a place in our pages. In
the account of the late Captain Flinder's voyage of discovery, is the
melancholy relation of the loss of the master, Mr. Thistle, with seven
others, in a boat, on the inhospitable shores of Terra Australia. To
this narrative, the following note is subjoined, which we shall here
quote in Captain Flinder's own words: "This evening, Mr. Fowler, the
lieutenant, told me a circumstance which I thought very extraordinary,
and it afterwards proved to be more so. While we were lying at Spithead,
Mr. Thistle was one day waiting on shore, and having nothing else to do,
went to a certain old man, named Pine, to have his fortune told. The
cunning man informed him that he was going on a long voyage, and that
the ship, on arriving at her destination, would be joined by another
vessel. That such was intended, he might have learnt privately; but he
added that Mr. Thistle would be lost before the other vessel joined. As
to the manner of his loss the magician refused to give any information.
My boat's crew, hearing what Mr. Thistle said, went to consult the wise
man, and after the prefatory information of a long voyage, they were
told that they would be shipwrecked, but not in the ship they were going
out in; whether they would escape and return to England, he was not
permitted to reveal. This tale Mr. Thistle often told at the mess-table;
and I remarked, with some pain, in a future part of the voyage, that
every time my boat's crew went to embark in the Lady Nelson, there was
some degree of apprehension amongst them, that the time of the predicted
shipwreck was arrived. I make no comment, (says Capt. Flinders,) upon
this story, but to recommend a commander, if possible, to prevent any of
his crew from consulting fortune-tellers."--It should be observed that,
strange as it may appear, every particular of these predictions came
exactly to pass, for the master and his boat's crew were lost before the
Investigator was joined by the Lady Nelson, from Port-Jackson; and when
the former ship was condemned, the people embarked with their commander
on board the Porpoise, which was wrecked on a coral reef, and nine of
the crew were lost.

[76] In 1670, the passion for horoscopes and expounding the stars,
prevailed in France among the first rank. The new-born child was usually
presented naked to the astrologer, who read the first lineaments in its
forehead, and the transverse lines in its hands, and thence wrote down
its future destiny. Catherine de Medicis carried Henry IV, when a child,
to old Nostradamus, who antiquaries esteem more for his Chronicle of
Provence than for his vaticinating powers. The sight of the revered
seer, with a heard which "streamed like a meteor in the air," terrified
the future hero, who dreaded a whipping from so grave a personage.

[77] The Chaldean Sages were nearly put to the route by a quarto pack of
artillery, fired on them by Mr. John Chamber, in 1691. Apollo did not
use Marsyas more inhumanly than his scourging pen this mystical race;
and his personalities made them sorely feel it. However, a Norwich
knight, the very Quixote of Astrology, arrayed in the enchanted armour
of his occult authors, encountered this pagan in a most stately
carousal. He came forth with "A Defence of Judicial Astrologye, in
answer to a treatise lately published by Mr. John Chamber. By
Christopher Knight. Printed at Cambridge, 1693."

[78] Vide Amulets passim.

[79] Lilly's work, a voluminous quarto monument of the folly of the age,
was sold originally for four guineas; it is entitled "Christian
Astrology," modestly treated, in three books, by William Lilly, student
in Astrology, 2nd. edition 1659. Every page is embellished with a
horoscope which, sitting on the pretending tripod, he explains with the
utmost facility. There is also a portrait of this arch rogue and
star-gazer, an admirable illustration for Lavater. As to Lilly's great
skill in prophecy, there goes a pleasant story related by a kinsman of
Dr. Case, his successor--namely--that a person wanting to consult him on
a certain point coming to his house one morning, Lilly himself going to
the door, saw a piece of filthy carrion which some one, who had more wit
than manners, had left there: and being much offended at its unsightly
appearance wished heartily he did but know who had treated him in that
manner by leaving such an unwelcome legacy, as it were, in his very
teeth, that he might punish them accordingly; which his customer
observing when the conjurer demanded his business, "Nothing at all,"
said he, "for I'm sure if you can't find out who has defiled your own
door, it is impossible you should discover anything relating to me," and
with this caustic remark he left him.

[80] The Reverend and learned Thomas Gataker, with whom Lilly was
engaged in a dispute, in his Annotations on the tenth chapter of
Jeremiah and 10th verse, called him a "blind buzzard," and Lilly
reflected again on his antagonist in his _Annus Tenebrosus_. Mr.
Gataker's reply was entitled Thomas Gataker, B.D. his Vindication of the
annotation by him published upon these words, "thus saith the Lord,"
(Jer. x. 2) against the scurrilous aspersions of that grand impostor
William Lilly; as also against the various expositions of two of his
advocates Mr. John Swan, and another by him cited but not named. Together
with the Annotations themselves, wherein the pretended grounds of
judiciary astrology, and the scripture proofs produced to it, are
discussed and refuted. London, 1653, in 4th part 192. Our author making
animadversions on this piece in his English Merlin, 1654 produced a
third piece from Mr. Gataker, called a Discourse apologetical, wherein
Lilly's lewd, and loud lies in his Merlin or Pasquil for 1654, are
clearly laid open; his shameless desertion of his own cause further
discovered, his abominable slanders fully refuted, and his malicious and
_murtherous_ mind, inciting to a general massacre of God's ministers,
from his own pen, evidently known, etc. London 1654.



As we shall have to speak of the art practised through the medium,
termed incubation, of curing diseases, it may be proper to say something
previously on the interpretation of dreams through whose agency these
events were said to be realized.

Oneirocritics, or interpreters of dreams, were called conjecturers, a
very fit and proper name for these worldly wise men, according to the
following lines, translated from Euripides--

He that conjectures least amiss
Of all, the best of prophets is.

To the delusion of dreams not a few of the ancient philosophers lent
themselves. Among these were Democritus, Aristotle, and his follower
Themistius, Siresius the Platonic; who so far relied on dreams which
some accident or other brought about, that they thence endeavoured to
persuade men there are no dreams but what are founded on realities. For,
say they, as the celestial influences produce various forms and changes
in corporeal matter, so out of certain influences, predominating over
the power of the fancy, the impression of visions is made, being
consentaneous, through the disposition of the heavens, to the effect
produced; more especially in dreams, because the mind, being then at
liberty from all corporeal cares and exercises, more freely receives the
divine influences: it happens, therefore that many things are revealed
to them that are asleep, which are concealed from them that are awake.
With these and such reasons it is pretended that much is communicated
through the medium of dreams:

When soft sleep the body lays at ease,
And from the heavy mass the fancy frees,
Whate'er it is in which we take delight,
And think of most by day we dream at night.

The transition from sleep is very natural to that of dreams, the
wonderful and mysterious phenomena of that state, the ideal transactions
and vain illusions of the mind. According to Wolfius, an eminent
philosopher of Silesia, every dream originates in some sensation, and is
continued by the succession of phantoms; but no phantasm can arise in
the mind without some previous sensation. And yet it is not easy to
confirm this by experience, it being often difficult to distinguish
those slight sensations, which give rise to dreams, from phantasms, or
objects of imagination.[81] The series of phantasms which thus constitute
a dream, seems to be accounted for by the law of the imagination, or
association of ideas; though it may be very difficult to assign the
cause of every minute difference, not only in different subjects, but in
the same, at different times, and in different circumstances. And hence
M. Formey, who adopts the opinion of Wolfius, concludes, that those
dreams are supernatural, which either do not begin by sensation, or are
not continued by the law of imagination.[82]

The opinion is as old as Aristotle, who asserted, that a dream is only
the [Greek: Phantasma] or _appearance_ of things, excited in the mind,
and remaining after the objects are removed.[83] The opinion of
Lucretius, translated in our motto, was likewise that of Tully.[84] Locke
also traces the origin of dreams to previous sensations. "The dreams of
sleeping men," says this profound philosopher, "are all made up of the
waking man's ideas, though for the most part oddly put together."[85] And
Dr. Hartley, who explains all the phenomena of the imagination by his
theory of vibrations and associations, says, that dreams are nothing but
the imaginations or reveries of sleeping men, and that they are
deducible from three causes--viz, the impressions and ideas lately
received, and particularly those of the preceding day, the state of the
body, more especially of the stomach and brain, and association.[86]

Macrobius mentions five sorts of dreams. 1st. vision--2nd. a discovery
of something between sleeping and waking--3rd. a suggestion cast into
our fancy, called by Cicero, _visum_,--4th. an ordinary dream--and
fifth, a divine apparition or revelation in our sleep; such as were the
dreams of the prophets, and of Joseph, as also of the Eastern Magi.


Avicen makes the cause of dreams to be an ultimate intelligence moving
the moon in the midst of that light with which the fancies of men are
illuminated while they sleep. Aristotle refers the cause of them to
common sense, but placed in the fancy. Averroes, an Arabian physician,
places it in the imagination; Democritus ascribes it to little images,
or representations, separated from the things themselves; Plato among
the specific and concrete notions of the soul; Albertus to the superior
influences, which continually flow from the sky, through many specific

Some physicians attribute the cause of dreams to vapours and humours,
and the affections and cares of persons predominant when awake; for, say
they, by reason of the abundance of vapours, which are exhaled in
consequence of immoderate feeding, the brain is so stuffed by it, that
monsters and strange chimera are formed, of which the most inordinate
eaters and drinkers furnish us with sufficient instances. Some dreams,
they assert, are governed partly by the temperature of the body, and
partly by the humour which mostly abounds in it; to which may be added
the apprehensions which have preceded the day before; and which are
often remarked in dogs, and other animals, which bark and make a noise
in their sleep. Dreams, they observe, proceed from the humours and
temperature of the body; we see the choleric dreams of fire, combats,
yellow colours, etc. the phlegmatic of water baths, of sailing on the
sea; the melancholies of thick fumes, deserts, fantasies, hideous faces,
etc. they that have the hinder part of their brain clogged, with viscous
humours, called by physicians Ephialtes incubus, dream that they are
suffocated. And those who have the orifice of their stomach loaded with
malignant humours, are affrighted with strange visions, by reason of
those venemous vapours that mount to the brain and distemper it.


Were we to enter more profoundly into the mysterious phenomena of
dreams, our present lucubrations might become too abstruse; and, after
all, no philosophical nor satisfactory account can be given of them.
Such of our readers therefore, as may wish for a more minute inquiry
into the opinions above stated, we beg leave to refer to the respective
authors whom we have already quoted. The reader, who is fond to find
amusement even in a serious subject, from the scenes of nocturnal
imagination, will be glad, perhaps for a moment, to be transported into
the regions of poetic fancy. And here we find that the fancy is not more
sportive in dreams, than are the poets in their descriptions of her
nocturnal vagaries. On the effects of the imagination in dreams, the
following effusion, put into the mouth of the volatile Mercurio, is an
admirable illustration:--

O, then I see, Queen Mab has been with you.
She is the fancy's midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate stone
On the fore-finger of an Alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies,
Athwart men's noses as they lie asleep:
Her waggon spokes made of long spinners' legs;
The cover of the wings of grasshoppers;
The traces of the smallest spider's web;
The collars of the moonshine's watery beams;
Her whip of cricket's bone; the lash of film;
Her waggoner, a small grey coated gnat,
Not half so big as a round little worm,
Prickt from the lazy finger of a maid.
Her chariot is an empty hazel nut,
Made by the joiner squirril, old grub,
Time out of mind the fairies' coachmakers:
And in this state she gallops night by night,
Thro' lovers' brains, and then they dream of love;
On courtiers' knees, that dream on curtsies strait;
O'er lawyers' fingers, who strait dream on fees;
O'er ladies lips, who strait on kisses dream,
Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plague,
Because their breath with sweetmeats tainted are.
Sometimes she gallops o'er a lawyer's nose,
And then dreams he of smelling out a suit,
And sometimes comes she with a tithe-pig tail,
Tickling the parson as he lies asleep;
Then dreams he of another benefice;
Sometimes she driveth o'er a soldier's neck
And then he dreams of cutting foreign throats,
Of breaches, ambuscades, Spanish blades,
Of healths fire fathom deep; and then anon
Drums in his ears, at which he starts and wakes,
And being thus frighted, swears a pray'r or two,
And sleeps again.

Lucretius, and Petronius in his poem on the vanity of dreams, had
preceded our immortal bard in a description of the effects of dreams on
different kinds of persons. Both the passages here alluded to, only
serve to shew the vast superiority of Shakspeare's boundless genius:
their sense is thus admirably expressed by Stepney:

At dead of night imperial reason sleeps,
And fancy with her train, her revels keeps;
Then airy phantoms a mix'd scene display,
Of what we heard, or saw, or wish'd by day;
For memory those images retains
Which passion form'd, and still the strongest reigns.
Huntsmen renew the chase they lately run,
And generals fight again their battles won.
Spectres and fairies haunt the murderer's dreams;
Grants and disgraces are the courtier's themes.
The miser spies a thief, or a new hoard;
The cit's a knight; the sycophant a lord,
Thus fancy's in the wild distraction lost,
With what we most abhor, or covet most.
Honours and state before this phantom fall;
For sleep, like death, its image, equals all.

Chaucer in his tale of the Cock and Fox, has a fine description, thus
versified by Dryden:--

Dreams are but interludes which fancy makes:
When monarch reason sleeps, this mimic wakes;
Compounds a medley of disjointed things,
A court of coblers and a mob of kings:
Light fumes are merry, grosser fumes are sad:
Both are the reasonable soul run mad;
And many monstrous forms in sleep we see,
That neither were, or are, or e'er can be.
Sometimes forgotten things, long cast behind,
Rush forward in the brain, and come to mind.
The nurse's legends are for truth received,
And the man dreams but what the boy believed,
Sometimes we but rehearse a former play,
The night restores our actions done by day;
As hounds in sleep will open for their prey.
In short, the farce of dreams is of a piece
In chimeras all; and more absurd or less.

Shakspeare again:--

I talk of dreams,
Which are the children of an idle brain,
Begot of nothing but vain phantasy,
Which is as thin of substance as the air,
And more inconsistant than the wind.

Nor must Milton be omitted--

In the soul
Are many lesser faculties, that serve
Reason as chief; among these Fancy next
Her office holds; of all external things,
Which the five watchful senses represent,
She forms imaginations, airy shapes,
Which reason joining, or disjoining, frames,
And all that we affirm, or what deny, or call
Our knowledge or opinion; then retires
Into her private cell, when nature rests.
Oft in her absence mimic fancy wakes,
To imitate her; but misjoining shapes,
Wild works produces oft, but most in dreams
Ill matching words or deeds, long past or tale.


From these practical descriptions let us proceed to take a view of the
principal phenomena in dreaming. And first, Mr. Locke's beautiful _modes
of_ which will greatly illustrate the preceding observations.

"When the mind," says Locke, "turns its view inward upon itself, and
contemplates its own actions, _thinking_ is the first that occurs. In it
the mind observes a great variety of modifications, and from thence
receives distinct _ideas_. Thus the perception, which actually
accompanies, and is annexed to any impression on the body, made by an
external object, being distinct from all other modifications of
thinking, furnishes the mind with a distinct idea which we call
_sensation_; which is, as it were, the actual entrance of an idea into
the understanding by the senses.

"The same idea, when it occurs again without the operation of the like
object on the external sensory, is _remembrance_: if it be sought after
by the mind, and with pain and endeavour found, and brought again in
view, it is _recollection_: if it be held there long under
consideration, it is _contemplation_; when ideas float in our mind
without any reflexion or regard of the understanding, it is that which
the French call _reverie_;[87] our language has scarce a name for it.
When the ideas that offer themselves (for as I have observed in another
place, while we are awake, there will always be a train of ideas
succeeding one another in our minds) are taken notice of, and, as it
were, registered in the memory, it is _attention_; when the mind, with
great earnestness, and of choice, fixes its view on any idea, considers
it on all sides, and will not be called off by the ordinary
solicitations of other ideas, it is what we call _intention_ or _study_.
Sleep without dreaming is rest from all these: and _dreaming_ itself, is
the having of ideas (while the outward senses are stopped, so that they
receive not outward objects with their usual quickness) in the mind, not
suggested by any external objects, or known occasion, nor under any
choice or conduct of the understanding at all, and whether that which we
call _ecstasy_, be not dreaming with the eyes open, I leave to be

Dr. Beattie, in his "Dissertations moral and critical," has an
ingenious essay on this subject, in which he attempts to ascertain, not
so much the _efficient_ as the _final_ causes of the phenomenon, and to
obviate those superstitions in regard to it, which have sometimes
troubled weak minds. He labours, with great earnestness, to shew, that
dreams may be of use in the way of physical admonition: that persons,
who attend to them with this view, may make important discoveries with
regard to their health; that they may be serviceable as the means of
moral improvement; that, by attending to them, we may discern our
predominant passions, and receive good hints for the regulation of them;
that they may have been intended by Providence to serve as an amusement
to the mental powers; and that dreaming is not universal, because,
probably, all constitutions do not require such intellectual amusement.
In observations of this kind, we may discover the ingenuity of fancy and
the sagacity of conjecture. We may find amusement in the arguments, but
we look in vain for satisfaction. Nature, certainly, does nothing in
vain, yet we are far from thinking, that man is able, in every case, to
discover her intentions. Final causes, perhaps, ought never to be the
subject of human speculation, but when they are plain and obvious. To
substitute vain conjectures, instead of the designs of Providence, on
subjects where those designs are beyond our reach, serves only to
furnish matter for the cavils of the sceptical, and the sneers of the

Among the many striking phenomena in our dreams, it may be observed,
that, while they last, the memory seems to lie wholly torpid, and the
understanding to be employed only about such objects as are then
presented, without comparing the present with the past. When we sleep,
we often converse with a friend who is either absent or dead, without
remembering that the grave or the ocean is between us. We float, like a
feather, upon the wind; for we find ourselves this moment in England,
and the next in India, without reflecting that the laws of nature are
suspended, or inquiring how the scene could have been so suddenly
shifted before us. We are familiar with prodigies; we accommodate
ourselves to every event, however romantic; and we not only reason, but
act upon principles, which are in the highest degree absurd and
extravagant. Our dreams, moreover, are so far from being the effect of a
voluntary effort, that we neither know of what we shall dream, or
whether we shall dream at all.

But sleep is not the only time in which strange and unconnected objects
involve our ideas in confusion. Besides the _reveries_ of the day,
already spoken of, we have, in a moral view, our _waking-dreams_, which
are not less chimerical, and impossible to be realized, than the
imaginations of the night.

Night visions may befriend----
Our waking dreams are fatal. How I dreamt
Of things impossible (could sleep do more?)
Of joys perpetual in perpetual change!
Of stable pleasures on the tossing wave!
Eternal sunshine in the storms of life!
How richly were my noon-tide trances hung,
With gorgeous tapestries of pictur'd joys!
Till at deaths' toll,----
Starting I woke, and found myself undone.

Many of the fabulous stories of ghosts or apparitions have originated
unquestionably in dreams. There are times of slumber when we are
sensible of being asleep. "When the thoughts are much troubled," says
Hobbes, "and when a person sleeps without the circumstance of going to
bed, or pulling off his clothes, as when he nods in his chair, it is
very difficult to distinguish a dream from a reality. On the contrary,
he that composes himself to sleep, in case of any uncouth or absurd
fancy, easily suspects it to have been a dream."[88] On this principle,
Hobbes has ingeniously accounted for the spectre which is said to have
appeared to Brutus; and the well-known story told by Clarendon, of the
apparition of the duke of Buckingham's father will admit of a similar
solution. There was no man at that time in the kingdom so much the topic
of conversation as the duke; and, from the corruptness of his character,
he was very likely to fall a sacrifice to the corruptness of the times.
Sir George Villiers is said to have appeared to the man at
midnight--there is therefore the greatest probability that the man was
asleep; and the dream affrighting him, made a strong impression, and was
likely to be repeated.

History furnishes us with numerous instances of a forecast having been
communicated through the medium of dreams, some of which are so
extraordinary as almost to shake our belief that the hand of Providence
is not sometimes evident through their instrumentality. Cicero, in his
first book on Divination, tells us, that Heraclides, a clever man, and
who had been a disciple of Plato, writes that the mother of Phalaris saw
in a dream the statues of the gods which she had consecrated in the
house of her son; and among other things, it appeared to her, that from
a cup which Mercury held in his hand, he had spilled some blood from it,
and that the blood had scarcely touched the ground, than rising up in
large bubbles it filled the whole house. This dream of the mother was
afterwards but too truly verified in the cruelty of the son. Cyrus
dreamt that seeing the sun at his feet, he made three different
unsuccessful attempts to lay his hand upon it, at each of which it
evaded him. The Persian Magi who interpreted this dream told him that
these three attempts to seize the sun signified that he would reign
thirty years. This prediction was verified: he died at the age of
seventy, having begun to reign when he was forty years old.

"There is doubtless," says Cicero, "something even among barbarians
which marks that they possess the gift of presentiment and divination."
The Indian Calanus mounting the flaming faggot on which he was about to
be burnt, exclaimed "O what a fine exit from life, when my body, like
that of Hercules, shall be consumed by the fire, my spirit will freely
enjoy the light." And Alexander having asked if he had anything to say,
he replied, "Yes, I shall soon see you," which happened as he foretold,
Alexander having died a few days afterwards at Babylon. Xenophon, an
ardent disciple of Socrates, relates that in the war which he made in
favour of young Cyrus, he had some dreams which were followed by the
most miraculous events. Shall we say that Xenophon does not speak truth,
or is too extravagant? What! so great a personage, and so divine a
spirit as Aristotle, can he be deceived? Or does he wish to deceive
others, when he tells us of Eudemus of Cyprus, one of his friends,
wishing to go into Macedonia, passed by Pheres, a celebrated town in
Thessaly, which at that time was under the dominion of the tyrant
Alexander; and that having fallen very sick, he saw in a dream a very
handsome young man, who told him that he would cure him, and that the
tyrant Alexander would shortly die, but as to himself, he would return
home at the end of five years. Aristotle remarks that the two first
predictions were, indeed, soon accomplished; that Eudemus recovered, and
that the tyrant was killed by his wife's brothers; but that at the
expiration of five years, the time at which it was hoped Eudemus,
according to the dream, was to return to Sicily, his native country,
news were received that he had been killed in a combat near Syracuse;
which gave rise to another interpretation of the dream, namely, that,
when the spirit or soul of Eudemus left his body, it went thence
straight to his own house.--A cup of massy gold having been stolen from
the temple of Hercules, this god appeared in a dream to Sophocles three
consecutive times, and pointed out the thief to him; who was put to the
torture, confessed the delinquency, and gave up the cup. The temple
afterwards received the name of Hercules Indicator.

An endless variety of similar instances, both from ancient and modern
history, might be adduced of the singularity of dreams, as well as their
instrumentality in revealing secrets which, without such agency, had
lain for ever in oblivion; these, however, are sufficient for our
purpose here; and the occurrence of one of a very recent date, connected
with the discovery of the body of the murdered Maria Martin, in the red
barn, is still fresh in the recollection of our readers. That there is a
ridiculous infatuation attached by some people to dreams, which have no
meaning, and which are the offsprings of the day's thoughts, even among
persons whose education should inform them better, particularly among
the fair sex, cannot be denied; indeed, a conversation seldom passes
among them, but some inconsistent dream or other, form a leading feature
of their gossip; and doubtless is with them an hysterical symptom.

Sometimes in our sleeping dreams, we imagine ourselves involved in
inextricable woe, and enjoy at waking, the ecstasy of a deliverance from
it. "And such a deliverance," says Dr. Beattie, "will every good man
meet with at last, when he is taken away from the evils of life, and
awakes in the regions of everlasting light and peace; looking back upon
the world and its troubles, with a surprise and satisfaction similar in
kind (though far higher in degree) to that which we now feel, when we
escape from a terrifying dream, and open our eyes to the sweet serenity
of a summer morning." Sometimes, in our dreams, we imagine scenes of
pure and unutterable joy; and how much do we regret at waking, that the
heavenly vision is no more! But what must the raptures of the good man
be, when he enters the regions of immortality, and beholds the radiant
fields of permanent delight! The idea of such a happy death, such a
sweet transition, from the dreams of earth to the realities of heaven,
is thus beautifully described by Dryden, in his poem entitled Eleonora:

"She passed serenely, with a single breath;
This moment perfect health, the next was death;
One sigh did her eternal bliss assure;
So little penance needs when souls are pure.
As gentle dreams our waking thoughts pursue;
Or, one dream past, we slide into a new;
So close they follow and such wild order keep,
We think ourselves awake and are asleep;
So softly death succeeded life in her:
She did but dream of heaven and she was there."


Dreams are vagaries of the imagination, and in most instances proceed
from external sensations. They take place only when our sleep is
unsound, in which case the brain and nervous system are capable of
performing certain motions. We seldom dream during the first hours of
sleep; perhaps because the nervous fluid is then too much exhausted; but
dreams mostly occur towards the morning, when this fluid has been, in
some measure, restored.

Every thing capable of interrupting the tranquillity of mind and body,
may produce dreams; such are the various kinds of grief and sorrow,
exertions of the mind, affections and passions, crude and undigested
food, a hard and inconvenient posture of the body. Those ideas which
have lately occupied our minds or made a lively impression upon us,
generally constitute the principal subject of a dream, and more or less
employ our imagination, when we are asleep.

Animals are likewise apt to dream, though seldom; and even men living
temperately, and enjoying a perfect state of health, are seldom
disturbed with this play of the fancy. And, indeed, there are examples
of lively and spirited persons who never dream at all. The great
physiologist Haller considers dreaming as a symptom of disease, or as a
stimulating cause, by which the perfect tranquillity of the sensorium is
interrupted. Hence, that sleep is the most refreshing, which is
undisturbed by dreams, or, at least, when we have the distinct
recollection of them. Most of our dreams are then nothing more than
sports of the fancy, and derive their origin chiefly from external
impressions; almost every thing we see and hear, when awake, leads our
imagination to collateral notions or representations, which, in a
manner, spontaneously, and without the least effort, associate with
external sensations. The place where a person whom we love formerly
resided, a dress similar to that which we have seen her wear, or the
objects that employed her attention, no sooner catch our eye, than she
immediately occupies our mind. And, though these images associating with
external sensations, do not arrive at complete consciousness within the
power of imagination, yet even in their latent state they may become
very strong and permanent.

Cicero furnishes us with a story of two Arcadians, who, travelling
together, arrived at Megara, a city of Greece, between Athens and
Corinth, where one of them lodged in a friend's house, and the other at
an inn. After supper, the person who lodged at the private house went to
bed, and falling asleep, dreamed that his friend at the inn appeared to
him and begged his assistance, because the innkeeper was going to kill
him. The man immediately got out of bed much frightened at the dream;
but recovering himself, and falling asleep again, his friend appeared to
him a second time, and desired that, as he would not assist him in time,
he would take care at least not to let his death go unpunished; that the
innkeeper having murdered him had thrown his body into a cart and
covered it with dung; he therefore begged that he would be at the city
gate in the morning, before the cart was out; struck with this new
dream, he went early to the gate, saw the cart, and asked the driver
what was in it; the driver immediately fled, the dead body was taken
out of the cart, and the innkeeper apprehended and executed.

It is very frequently observed, that in a dream a series of
representations is suddenly interrupted, and another series of a very
different kind occupies its place. This happens as soon as an idea
associates itself; which, from whatever cause, is more interesting than
that immediately preceding. The last then becomes the prevailing one,
and determines the association. Yet, by this too, the imagination is
frequently reconducted to the former series. The interruption in the
course of the preceding occurrences is remarked, and the power of
abstracting similarities is in search of the cause of this irregularity.
Hence, in such cases, there usually happens some unfortunate event or
other, which occasions the interruption of the story. The representing
power may again suddenly conduct us to another series of ideas, and thus
the imagination may be led by the subreasoning power before defined,
from one scene to another. Of this kind, for instance, is the following
remarkable dream, as related and explained in the works of professor
Maas of Halle: "I dreamed once," says he "that the Pope visited me. He
commanded me to open my desk, and carefully examined all the papers it
contained. While he was thus employed, a very sparkling diamond fell out
of his triple crown into my desk, of which, however, neither of us took
any notice. As soon as the Pope had withdrawn, I retired to bed, but was
soon obliged to rise, on account of a thick smoke, the cause of which I
had yet to learn. Upon examination I discovered, that the diamond had
set fire to the papers in my desk, and burnt them to ashes."

On account of the peculiar circumstances by which this dream was
occasioned, it deserves the following short analysis. "On the preceding
evening," says professor Maas, "I was visited by a friend with whom I
had a lively conversation, upon Joseph IInd's suppression of monasteries
and convents. With this idea, though I did not become conscious of it in
my dream, was associated the visit which the Pope publicly paid the
Emperor Joseph at Vienna, in consequence of the measures taken against
the clergy; and with this again was combined, however faintly, the
representation of the visit, which had been paid me by my friend. These
two events were, by the subreasoning faculty, compounded into one,
according to the established rule--that things which agree in their
parts, also correspond as to the whole;--hence the Pope's visit, was
changed into a visit made to me. The subreasoning faculty then, in order
to account for this extraordinary visit, fixed upon that which was the
most important object in my room, namely, the desk, or rather the papers
contained in it. That a diamond fell out of the triple crown was a
collateral association, which was owing merely to the representation of
the desk. Some days before when opening the desk, I had broken the glass
of my watch, which I held in my hand, and the fragments fell among the
papers. Hence no farther attention was paid to the diamond, being a
representation of a collateral series of things. But afterwards the
representation of the sparkling stones was again excited, and became the
prevailing idea; hence it determined the succeeding association. On
account of its similarity, it excited, the representation of fire, with
which it was confounded; hence arose fire and smoke.--But, in the event,
the writings only were burnt, not the desk itself; to which, being of
comparatively less value, the attention was not at all directed." It is
farther observable, that there are in the human mind certain obscure
representations, and that it is necessary to be convinced of the reality
of these images, if we are desirous of perceiving the connexion, which
subsists among the operations of the imagination. Of the numerous
phenomena, founded on obscure ideas, and which consequently prove their
existence, we shall only remark the following. It is a well known fact,
that many dreams originate in the impressions made in the body during
sleep; and they consist of analogous images or such as are associated
with sensations that would arise from these impressions, during a waking
state. Hence, for instance, if our legs are placed in a perpendicular
posture, we are often terrified by a dream that implies the imminent
danger of falling from a steep rock or precipice. The mind must
represent to itself these external impressions in a lively manner,
otherwise no ideal picture could be thus excited; but, as we do not
become at all conscious of them, they are but faintly and obscurely

If we make a resolution to rise earlier in the morning than usual; and
if we impress the determination on our mind, immediately before going to
rest, we are almost certain to succeed. Now it is self-evident that this
success cannot be ascribed to the efforts of the body, but altogether to
the mind, which probably, during sleep perceives and computes the
duration of time, so that it makes an impression on the body, which
enables us to awake at an appointed hour. Yet all this takes place,
without our consciousness, and the representations remain obscure. Many
productions of art are so complicated, that a variety of simple
conceptions are requisite to lay the foundation of them; yet the artist
is almost entirely unconscious of these individual notions. Thus a
person performs a piece of music, without being obliged to reflect, in a
conscious manner, on the signification of the notes, their value, and
the order of the fingers he must observe; nay even without clearly
distinguishing the strings of the harp, or the keys of the harpsichord.
We cannot attribute this to the mechanism of the body, which might
gradually accustom itself to the accurate placing of the fingers. This
could be applied only where we place a piece of music, frequently
practised; but it is totally inapplicable to a new piece, which is
played by the professor with equal facility, though he has never seen it
before. In the latter case there must arise, necessarily, an ideal
representation, or an act of judgment, previous to every motion of the

These arguments, we trust, are sufficient, to evince the occurrence of
these obscure notions and representations, from which all our dreams
originate. Before, however, we close this subject, we shall relate the
following extraordinary dream of the celebrated Galileo, who at a very
advanced age had lost his sight. In one of his walks over a beautiful
plain, conducted by his pupil Troicelli, the venerable sage related the
following dream to him. "Once," said he, "my eyes permitted me to enjoy
the charms of these fields. But now, since their light is extinguished,
these pleasures are lost to me for ever. Heaven justly inflicts the
punishment which was predicted to me many years ago. When in prison, and
impatiently languishing for liberty, I began to be discontented with the
ways of Providence; Copernicus appeared to me in a dream; his celestial
spirit conducted me over luminous stars, and, in a threatening voice,
reprehended me for having murmured against him, at whose _fiat_ all
these worlds had proceeded from nothing. 'A time shall come (said he)
when thine eyes shall refuse to assist thee in contemplating these

We shall now proceed to notice the subject of dreams in another point of
view--that is, as being employed as a medium of divination in the cure
of diseases, in which the fancies of the brain appear, in reality, to as
little advantage as they do with reference to any other considerations
in which such pretended omens exist.


[81] Wolfius, Psychol. Empir. Sect. 123.

[82] Mem. de l'acad. de Berlin, tom. ii. p. 316.

[83] Arist. de insomn. cap 3.

[84] Quae in vita usurpant homines, cogitant, curant, vident quaeque
agunt vigilantes, agitantque, ea cuique in somno accidunt. _De Div._

[85] Essay on Human Understanding, book, chap. i. sect 17.

[86] Obs, on Man, vol. 1, sect. 5.

[87] There is a phenomenon in the mind, which, though it happen to us
while we are perfectly awake, yet approaches the nearest to sleep of any
I know. It is called the _Reverie_, or, as some term it, the _brown
study_, a sort of middle state between waking and sleeping; in which,
though our eyes are open, our senses seem to be entirely shut up, and we
are quite insensible of every thing about us, yet we are all the while
engaged in a musing indolence of thought, or a supine and lolling kind
of roving from one fairy scene to another, without any self-command;
from which, if any noise or accident rouse us, we wake as from a real
dream, and are often as much at a loss to tell how our thoughts were
employed, as if we had waked from the soundest sleep. This is frequently
called _dreaming_, sometimes _absence_, a thing often observed in lovers
and people of a melancholy or indeed speculative turn.--_Fordyce's
Dialogues concerning education, vol. II. p. 255._

[88] Leviathan, part. 1. c. 1.



Medicine unquestionably ranks among the most ancient of all human
sciences. In the infant state of society, when simplicity of manners
characterised the pursuits of mankind, medical assistance was little
wanted; but when the nature of man degenerated, and vice and luxury
corrupted his habits of innocence and temperance, diseases sprung up
which those aids alone could check or eradicate. The knowledge of them
at first could not fail to be empirical and precarious. The sick were
placed in the high ways, that travellers and passers by might assist
them with their counsel; and at length the priesthood appropriated this
privilege exclusively to themselves.

It was not merely the sacerdotal dignity which rendered them objects of
awe and reverence to the illiterate multitude; the priests were regarded
as the depositaries of science and learning; and proved themselves as
skilful as they were successful, in cementing their influence by those
arts which were best calculated to inflame the prejudices of the vulgar
in their favour.

It is the work of ages to wean men and nations from popular illusions,
and the deep-rooted opinions transmitted from sire to son: it cannot
therefore surprise us, that even when the intellectual energy of Greece
was signalizing itself by efforts which have commanded the admiration of
after ages, it should still remain a popular dogma in medicine "that
persons labouring under bodily infirmity, might be thrown into a state
of charmed torpor, in which, though destitute of any previous medical
knowledge, they would be enabled to ascertain the nature of their
malady, as well as of the diseases of others, and devise the means of
their cure." Upon this dogma was founded the mystery of incubations, or
the art of healing by visionary divination.

It is not our object here to discuss whether a man can be capable of
divination: such a power, however, was assigned to him, not only by the
vulgar, but by the greater number of the philosophical sects of
antiquity; and it does appear to savour a little of temerity, that
Epicurus and the cynics should have ventured to reject a belief so
universally and strenuously maintained, and resting on an infinity of
traditions and accounts of prophets, in whom Greece had abounded from
her earliest times, and of whose divine gift of prophecy the firmest
conviction was currently entertained. Aeschylus, Plutarch, Apuleius, and
other Greek authors, bear ample testimony of this persuasion, and tell
us that by uncommon and irregular motions of the body intoxicating
vapours, or certain holy ejaculations, men might be thrown into an
enchanted trance; in which, being in a state between sleeping and
waking, they were unsusceptible of external impressions and obtaining a
glimpse of futurity, were gifted with the power of prophecy. Here their
allusion, however, only concerns the celebrated divinations of the
Pythia.[89] We must therefore, probe somewhat deeper, in order to
illustrate that species of divination which was the result of dreams,
and a source of divination on the nature of diseases and their remedies.

This kind of superstition was in no less acceptation than the former
among the ancients, whose temples were constantly crowded with the sick,
and reverberated with their supplications for divinatory dreams, which
were regarded as an immediate gift from the gods. Indeed, the celestial
origin of dreams was universally admitted by the nations of antiquity,
and thence also their efficacy as oracles. Nothing could be more natural
than such an idea. From the crude and imperfect notions which long
prevailed with respect to the soul, it was scarcely possible for them to
ascribe the impressions, which their memory retained of the creation of
their fancy during their slumbers, to the instrumentality of their own
conceits; they could not fail therefore to impute them to the
interposition of some foreign agent, and to whom more naturally could
they refer them than to a divinity? When awake, they imagined themselves
always attended by the gods in person, and ascribed every thought, and
resolved every appearance or accident, which deviated from the common
course of nature, to the immediate influence of a superintending deity.
It was under such impressions that so many nations originally rested
their belief in divinatory dreams. The records of antiquity therefore
abound in instances (for the greater part of an early date) where the
actions of men have been the result of a dream, whose conceit was
entirely at variance with the real state of their affairs. It was not
long before the diversity of dreams awakened their attention: some were
connected and simple, others were obscure, and made up of curious
fancies, though not incapable of being resolved by the windings and
turnings of allegory.

It was no unnatural transition from the received belief in dreams, to
the idea that they might become the medium of seeking instruction from
the gods: hence the institution of oracles, whose responses were given
in dreams; and the addition of sleeping chambers to many temples, such
as those in Epidaurus and at Oropos. Here it was, that after pious
ceremonies and prayers, men laid themselves down in expectation of
dreams; when the expectation was realized, though the dream proved ever
so confused or intricate, the dreamer always succeeded in reconciling
it to his circumstances: his own belief and priestly wiles, readily
effected the solution. The conceit of dreams, according to the votary's
wishes, was so powerfully promoted by the preparatory initiation he had
undergone, that it would have been somewhat extraordinary had he been
altogether disappointed. He was generally anxious to increase the fame
of his divinity by his dream, and possessed a high veneration and deep
impression of the miracles which that divinity had wrought. With these
predispositions he resorted to the temple, where he had a whole day
before him to ponder on his malady, and on every sort of remedy that
might have been suggested to him; how natural was it, therefore, for his
busy imagination to fix, in his sleep, upon one particular remedy more
forcibly than upon another? Add to this, the solemn lonely hour of night
was the appointed hour for his sleep, which was preceded by prayer and
other inspiring ceremonies, that would naturally elevate his devotion to
the highest pitch. He had also previously perambulated the temple, and
with a full heart surveyed the offerings of those whose sickness had
departed from them.

If all these preparations were unavailing, the officiants of the temple
had still means in reserve, by which the credulous should be thrown into
that bodily state which was indispensable to the divinatory sleep: of
these, succeeding instances will be hereafter produced. In those days,
there were however, some men from whom the somniferous faculty was
withheld: they were, therefore, admonished to repeat their prayers and
oblations, in order to win the divinity's favour: and the ultimate and
customary resort was, if success did not crown his perseverance, to
pronounce it a token, that such patients were an eyesore to the

From this divinatory sleep, arose the vulgar expressions in Greece
[Greek: enkoimasdai], and [Greek: enkoimaesis][90] The latin terms are
_incubare_ and _incubatio_ an exact translation of the Greek words. It
appears, therefore, that the Romans and Greeks were equally acquainted
with the institution; though we find but very little mention made of it
by the Latin writers, yet this is no argument against its prevalence
among the Romans, as we are left with as scanty accounts of many other
superstitions which were in vogue amongst them. It is highly probable
that it was not by any means so popular in Rome as in Greece; and the
cause of this may, perhaps, be found in the reflecting disposition and
sober character of the haughty Roman, to which the light and volatile
temperament of the Grecian, formed so striking a contrast.

That incubation was a ready means of diving into the future, needs no
demonstration. Although its practice was chiefly resorted to in cases
where medical aid was desired, it was still made use of in every other
case, in which the ancient oracles were consulted. Whether it arose in
Greece, or migrated thither from the East, is a point with which the
ancients have left us unacquainted, though they advert to its prevalence
amongst those who were called barbarians. Strabo has several instances
of it, and particularly mentions a place in the Caspian sea, where such
an oracle existed;[91] he also relates, in his celebrated account of
Moses, that this law-giver laid it down, in common with the priests of
Esculapius, that to those who led a chaste and virtuous life the deity
would vouchsafe prophetical visions in his sanctuary; but to those who
were of idle and impure habits, they would be denied.[92]

Pomponius Mela even mentions a savage nation, in the interior of
Africa, who laid themselves down to sleep on the grave-stones of their
ancestors, and looked upon the dreams they had on those spots as oracles
from the dead.[93] We shall see, hereafter, that this superstition was
equally indigenous among the Egyptians. Although it be doubtful whether
the Greeks owed this species of divination to their own invention or
not, its existence may at least be traced as far as the earliest ages of
their history; notwithstanding no positive mention of it has been made
either by Homer or the authors following him.

The oracular power of dreams, and the sanctuaries where they are
supposed to be dispersed, have been diffusely treated of in the
compilations of Van Dale and other learned writers. These species of
oracles were in high estimation, even in the most enlightened and
flourishing periods of Greece; it is somewhat singular, however, that no
people cherished them more devoutly than the Spartans, who depended
altogether upon oracles in their weightiest affairs of state. Of all the
civilized nations of Greece, Sparta always approved herself the most
superstitious; her advancement was rather the effect of her policy, than
of any stimulus given to her civilization by science. This consideration
will enable us to account for the powerful influence which, even in the
latest stages of Lacedemonian story, attached to the responses of
Passiphae, a local goddess of Thalame, but little known beyond the
confines of Laconia. The extent of their influence is particularly
evident in the history of Agis and Cleomenes.[94]

The greater part of these somnambulistic oracles were ascribed to
persons who had distinguished themselves as great dreamers when on
earth. In old times there was a description of prophets who pretended to
prepare themselves for the foreboding of future events through the
medium of sacred dreams. They were classed under the appellation of
[Greek: Oneiroploi], to which rank the most celebrated Vates of the
heroic age belonged. In this way it was that a sacred spot was dedicated
to Calchus, whence he gave his responses in dreams after his decease:
this spot lay in Daunia, on the coast of the Adriatic. The supplicant's
offices began with the offering up of a ram, on whose skin he laid
himself down, and in this situation, received the instruction he sought
for.[95] Amphilocus, a contemporary soothsayer, who accompanied the
Epigoni in the first Theban war, had a similar oracle at Mallos, in
Cilicia, which Pausanias asserts, even at the close of the second
century, to have been the most credible of his age; it is also mentioned
by Dion Cassius, in his history of Commodus.[96]

The most famous, however, of this class of oracles, was that of
Amphiaraus, the father of Amphilocus, which was one of the five
principal oracles of Greece; he had signalized himself as a sapient
soothsayer in the first Theban war; and his oracle was situated at
Oropos, on the borders of Boetia and Attica. Of all others this deserves
our most particular attention, as it was resorted to more frequently in
cases of infirmity and disease, than in any other circumstances. His
responses were always delivered in dreams, in whose interpretation, as
he was the first to possess that faculty. Pausanias says he received
divine honours. Those who repaired to Amphiaraus's oracle to supplicate
his aid, laid themselves down in the manner we have just related, after
several preparatory lustrations and sacrifices, on the skin of a ram
slain in honour of the god, and awaited the dreams, which were to
unfold the means of their different cures.

Lustrations and sacrifices were not, however, the only preparatives for
inducing the visionary disposition. The priests subjected the patients
to various others, which Philostratus affirms[97] to have been very
instrumental towards rendering the sleeper's mind clear and unclouded.
Part of these preparatives consisted in one day's abstinence from
eating, and three, nay, even in some cases, fifteen days' abstinence
from wine, the common beverage of the Greeks. This was the practice also
with other oracles; nor were the priests in the meantime insensible to
their own interests on these occasions; for those who were cured by
Amphiaraus's revelations were permitted to bathe in the sacred waters of
a fountain, into which they were enjoined to cast pieces of gold and
silver, which were destined, most probably, to sweeten the labours of
his officiants.

The oracles, whose intervention was principally or altogether sought for
the healing of the sick by means of divination founded on dreams, were
scattered over Greece, Italy, Egypt, and other countries. As regards
those of Egypt, it may be remarked, that although many of the Egyptians
believed there were thirty-six demons, or aerial deities, each of whom
had the care of a certain portion of the human frame, and when that
portion was diseased, would heal it on the patient's earnest prayer, yet
a variety of their oracles, such as those of Serapis, Isis, and Phthas,
the Hephaestos of the Greeks, appertained to the class, which is the
present object of our inquiry.

The oracle Serapis was situated near Canopus; it was visited with the
highest veneration by the wealthiest and most illustrious Egyptians, and
contained ample records of miraculous cures which that god had performed
on sleepers.[98] Isis, it is said, effected similar cures in her
lifetime, whence it became her office, in her after state of
deification, to reveal in dreams the most efficacious remedies to the
sick. Indeed the healing powers of this goddess were such, that, as we
are told by Diodorus,[99] the remedies she prescribed never failed of
their effect, and that convalescents were daily seen returning from her
temple, many of whom had been abandoned as incurable by the physicians.

The third oracle of the sick was consecrated to Phthas, and lay near
Memphis, but it is seldom mentioned by the ancients.[100]

In Italy there existed two oracles, whose responses were imparted in
dreams, before the worship of Esculapius was introduced from Greece. One
of them only belongs to this place, that of the physician Podalirus, in
Daunia,[101] which is mentioned by Lycophron.[102] Subsequently it is well
known incubation was practised after the Grecian form in the Roman
temple of Aesculapius on the Insula Tiberina.[103]

This description of oracles abounded throughout Greece; the most
memorable of which was that on the Asiatic coast, between Trattis and
Nyssa, which is more particularly described by Strabo than any other.
Not far from the town of Nyssa, says he, there is a place called
Charaka, where we find a grove and temple sacred to Pluto and
Proserpine, and close to the grove a subterraneous cave, of a most
extraordinary nature. It is related of it, that diseased persons, who
have faith in the remedies predicted by those deities, are accustomed to
resort to it and pass some time with experienced priests, who reside
near the cave. These priests lay themselves down to sleep in the cave,
and afterwards order such medicine as have been revealed to them there,
to be furnished to their patients in the temple. They frequently conduct
the sick themselves into the cave, where they remain for several days
together, without touching a morsel of food; nor are the profane
withheld from a participation in the _divinatory_ sleep, though this is
not permitted otherwise than under the controul, and with the sacred
sanction, of the priests. There is, however, nothing more surprising
about this place than that it is esteemed _noxious and fatal to the
healthy_.[104] This last remark of our geographer, proves how jealous the
priestly physicians were of their medical monopoly, and how fearful lest
the _saner_ part of mankind should detect and expose the pretended
virtues of their medical sanctuary.

We have hitherto mentioned the name of Aesculapius but casually, though
there was no god of antiquity more celebrated for curing every species
of malady by the incubatory process. He was particularly designated by
the Greeks as "the sender of dreams," [Greek: Oneiropompon]; nor could
any other deity boast of so great a number of those oracles. The most
distinguished of these was the oracle of Epidaurus, in the Argivian
territory; from which spot his worship extended over a great proportion
of the old world;--hither, as being the place of his birth and the site
of his richest temple, crowds of sick persons constantly repaired in
quest of dreams. The success attending them was diligently set forth on
every wall of the temple; where the _tabulae votivae_ recorded the names
of those who had been healed, the nature of their maladies, and the cure
which the god prescribed. Similar circumstances are related of his
Temple at Triccae, in Thessaly, where Esculapius was held in great
veneration at a very early period; there appears also to have been
another such temple either at or near Athens,[105] where we must look for
the scene of the ridiculous cure which Aristophanes makes Aesculapius to
perform on the blind god of riches. Though there is undoubtedly a rich
vein of the burlesque in the Plutus of the Grecian dramatist, yet we may
gather much concerning our present subject from the scene in which the
slave, who had attended Plutus in the Temple, relates the whole process
of his master's wife. Here also the night was the chosen period of
incubation. Before the signal for sleep was given, the officiants of the
temple extinguished all the lights in the sick men's chamber; thus
involving them in a solemn stillness and obscurity highly favourable to
the work in hand, but in a particular manner to the subterfuge of the
priests, who enacted the nocturnal apparition of Aesculapius to his sick

This passage in Plutus is certainly the earliest circumstantial
relation we possess of the practice of this species of incubation.[106]
The license permitted to Grecian comedy was such as to authorise the
ridicule and contempt of the most popular deities; we are not, therefore
to conclude from the scenes that there were many unbelievers, or that
this ancient system of cure had sunk into disrepute: for the history of
our comedian's great contemporary, Hippocrates, informs us, that at this
very time the temple of Aesculapius at Cos abounded in tablets, on which
the sick attested the remedies that had been revealed to them during
incubation, and that he himself was highly indebted to them for much of
his medical knowledge.

Were it not authenticated by the most undeniable testimonies, it would
appear incredible that the impostures of the disciples of Aesculapius,
and the common faith in his regenerative powers, should have survived
with equal potency and acceptation during the ages immediately
succeeding the Christian era. It must not however, be forgotten, that
these were the times also, when an infinity of superstitious of every
description disgraced the Roman world; although it would have appeared a
necessary consequence, that their prevalency should have been checked by
the increasing determination of learning and science.

If at this period the number of dreaming patients had fallen off at Cos
and Epidaurus, the deficiency was amply compensated by the growing
popularity of Aesculapius's shrines at Rome, Pergamus, Alaea, Mallos,
and other places, where the ancient rituals were faithfully preserved.
The highest magistrates in the Roman states not only countenanced, but
patronised the superstition; Marcus Aurelius, by the friendship with
which he honoured the Paphlagonian imposter Alexander, and Caracalla, by
the journey he undertook to Pergamus, to obtain the cure of a disease
which inflicted him. This Alexander, the Cagliostro of his age, whose
memoirs have been handed down to us by Lucian, made shift to father a
new species of juggling upon the ancient process of incubation: for he
pretends that it was necessary for him to sleep for a night in the
sealed scrips which contain the queries he was to have resolved for
those who visited his oracle.[107] During this interval he dexterously
opened the scrips, and sealed them up again; pretending that the
responses which he delivered to the querists in the morning, had been
revealed to him by the deity in a dream.

The priests of Aesculapius possessed a never failing source of
information on the recipes or votive tablets with which these temples
abounded. These were sometimes engraven on pillars, as at Epidaurus; of
which Pausanias says there were six remaining in his time, and besides
these, one in particular removed from the rest, on which it was recorded
that Hippolytus had sacrificed twenty horses, in return for his having
been restored to life by him. Five memorials only of this kind have
reached the present age. One of them is to be found in the beginning of
Galen's fifth book de Compos, medic.: it is taken from the temple of
Phthas, near Memphis, and is the least interesting of the whole. Its
subject is the use of the Diktamnus, borrowed from Heras of Cappadocia,
a medical writer, frequently quoted by Galen. The remaining four are
much more important: they were engraven on a marble slab,[108] of later
date at Rome, and are thought, with much probability, to have belonged
to the Aesculapian temple in the Insula Tiberina. The present
translation, in which some errors either of the artist or copyist are
rectified, is extracted from the first volume of Gruter's Corp.
Inscriptionum. The narrations are perspicuous and laconic.

1. "In these latter days, a certain blind man, by name Caius, had this
oracle vouchsafed to him--'that he should draw near to the altar after
the manner of one who could see; then walk from right to left, lay the
five fingers of his right hand on the altar, then raise up his hand and
place it on his eyes.' And behold! the multitude saw the blind man open
his eyes, and they rejoiced, such splendid miracles should signalize the
reign of our Emperor Antoninus."

2. "To Lucius, who was so wasted away by pains in his side, that all
doubted of his recovery, the god gave this response: 'Approach thou the
altar; take ashes from it, mix them up with wine and then lay thyself on
thy sore side.' And the man recovered, and openly returned thanks to the
god amidst the congratulations of the people."

3. "To Julian who spitted blood, and was given over by every one, the
god granted this response: 'Draw near, take pine apples from off the
altar, and eat them with wine for three days. And the man got well, and
came and gave thanks in the presence of the people."

4. "A blind soldier, Valerius Asper by name, received this answer from
the god: that he should mix the blood of a white cock with milk, make an
eye ointment therewith, and rub his eyes with it for three days. And lo!
the blind recovered his sight, and came, and publicly gave thanks to the

The success with which the Priests of Aesculapius carried on their
impostures, and the popularity which their dexterous management, no less
than the vulgar credulity obtained for them, will cease to surprise us
on maturer consideration. It could not be a difficult task for them to
give the minds of their patients whatever bias was best adapted to their
purposes. These credulous beings passed several days and nights in the
temple, and their imagination could not fail to be powerfully impressed
with what was diligently told them of the prescriptions and cures of
Aesculapius; nor to retain during their slumbers many lively impressions
of their meditations by day; their priestly nurses too were neither so
blind to their own interests, nor so careless of their reputations as to
omit the prescribing of such modes of diet and medical remedies as were
calculated to appease their patients' sufferings. Besides which, however
delusive and empirical their outward ceremonials and bold pretensions
might have been, we should remember, that priests, having some
acquaintance with the science of medicine, were generally selected to
officiate on those spots where the incubitary process[109] was the order
of the day. To this acquaintance were added the results of daily
experience, and the frequent opportunities which the incessant demands
of the infirm upon their skill afforded them of correcting previous
errors and improving their practical knowledge: of gradually
ascertaining the various kinds and appearances of human disorders; and
of digesting such data as would enable them, with the least possible
chance of failure, to prescribe the modes of cure and treatment suitable
to the various stages and species of the applicant's maladies. With such
means, it would have been not a little singular if the priests of
Aesculapius had failed in converting the popular veneration to his
credit and their own emolument.


[89] The Priestess of Apollo, by whom he delivered oracles. She was
called Pythia from the god himself, who was styled Apollo Pythius, from
his slaying the serpent Python. The Priestess was to be a pure virgin.
She sat on the covercle or lid of a brazen vessel, mounted on a tripod,
and thence, after a violent enthusiasm, she delivered his oracles; i.e.
she rehearsed a few ambiguous and obscure verses, which were taken for

[90] These words are but ill explained by the best Greek Lexicographers.
Servius ad Virg., Aen. vii. 88, says: _Incubare dicuntur proprie hic,
qui dormiunt accipienda responsa_. Tertullian de Anima, C. 49, thence
calls them _Incubatores fanorum_.

[91] Lib. XI. p. 108. Paris, fol. 1620.

[92] Ibid. lib. XVI. p. 761.

[93] De situ orbis, lib. I. cap. 1.

[94] Plutarch apud Agis et Cleomen. Cicero (de Div. 1. c. 48) probably
alludes to this oracle, when he says, that the Ephori of Sparta were
accustomed to sleep in the temple of Pasiphae on state emergencies.
There was a similar oracle in the neighbourhood of Thalame, not fur from
Aetylum, sacred to Ino.

[95] Strabo, lib. VI. p, 284.

[96] Pausanias, 1, 35.

[97] De vita Apoll. Thyan, 11. 37.

[98] Strabo, lib. xvii. p. 801. Anian. Exped. Alex, vii. 6.

[99] In Egypt lib. I, 25.

[100] Galen de comp. Med. p. Gen v. 2.

[101] Podalirius and Machaon, the two sons of Esculapius. The state of
medicine at the time of the Trojan war was very imperfect, as we find
exemplified by these two acting as surgeons general to the Grecian army.
Their simple practice consisted chiefly in extracting darts or arrows,
in staunching blood by some infusion of bitter herbs, and sometimes they
added charms or incantations; which seemed to be a poetical way of
hinting, that frequently wounds were healed or diseases cured in a
manner unaccountable by any known properties they could discover either
in the effects of their rude remedies, or in the then known powers of
the human body to relieve itself. In Homer's description of the wound
which Ulysses, when young, received in his thigh from the tusk of an
enraged wild boar, the infusion of blood was stopped by divine
incantations and divine songs, and some sort of bandage which must have
acted by pressure. If any virtue could have acted as a charm, the very
verse that describes the wound might have as good a right to such a
claim as any other; but, in what manner the surgeons of ancient Greece,
before the discovery of the circulation of the blood, might apply
bandages for the purposes here mentioned, is not easily explained;
though doubtless these bandages must have acted like a tourniquet, which
is now the most effectual remedy for compressing a wounded artery, and
thereby stopping an hemorrhage.

[102] Alexand. 1050.

[103] Suet. Claid. c. 28.

[104] Strabo. lib. xiii. Pausan. lib. ii.

[105] Scholia ad Plut. v. 621

[106] Aristoph, Plut act. ii, sc. 6, and iii. sc 2.

[107] Luciani, oper. t. ii. ed Reitzii.

[108] It is often called by antiquaries _Tabella Marmorea apud
Maffaeos_, as it was first preserved in the collection.

[109] It is somewhat singular, that Cicero's treatise on divination, as
well as the works of Hippocrates and Galen, should be so destitute of
information on the subject of a mode of cure which was of such long
standing, and so universally esteemed. From the two last, one should at
least have expected something more satisfactory: Cos being the
birthplace of the one, and Pergamus of the other.



Amulets are certain substances worn about the neck or other parts of the
body, under the superstitious impression of preventing diseases, of
curing, or removing them.

The origin of amulets may be traced to the most remote ages of mankind.
In our researches to discover and fix the period when remedies were
first employed for the alleviation of bodily suffering, we are soon lost
in conjecture or involved in fable. We are unable, indeed, to reach the
period in any country, when the inhabitants were destitute of medical
resources, and even among the most uncultivated tribes we find medicine
cherished as a blessing and practised as an art. The feelings of the
sufferer, and the anxiety of those about him, must, in the rudest state
of society, have incited a spirit of industry and research to procure
ease, the modification of heat and cold, of moisture and dryness; and
the regulation and change of diet and habit, must intuitively have
suggested themselves for the relief of pain; and when these resources
failed, charms, amulets, and incantations, were the natural expedients
of the barbarians, ever more inclined to indulge the delusive hope of
superstition than to listen to the voice of sober reason.

Traces of amulets may be discovered in very early history, though Dr.
Warburton is evidently in error when he fixes the origin of these
magical instruments to the age of the Ptolomies, which was not more than
three hundred years before Christ. This assertion is refuted by Galen,
who informs us the Egyptian King Nechepsus, who lived 630 years before
Christ, had written, that a green jasper cut into the form of a dragon
surrounded with rays, if applied externally, would strengthen the
stomach and organs of digestion. This opinion, moreover, is supported by
scripture: for what were the earrings which Jacob buried under the oak
of Sechem, as related in Genesis, but amulets. And Josephus in his
antiquities of the Jews,[110] informs us that Solomon discovered a plant
efficacious in the cure of epilepsy, and that he employed the aid of a
charm, for the purposes of assisting its virtues. The root of the herb
was concealed in a ring, which was applied to the nostrils of the
demoniac; and Josephus remarks that he saw himself a Jewish priest
practise the art of Solomon with complete success in the presence of the
Emperor Vespasian, his sons and the tribunes of the Roman army. From
this art of Solomon, exhibited through the medium of a ring or seal, we
have the Eastern stories which celebrate the seal of Solomon, and record
the potency of his sway over the various orders of demons or of genii,
who were supposed to be the invincible tormentors or benefactors of the
human race.

Nor were such means confined to dark and barbarous ages. Theophrastus
pronounced Pericles to be insane in consequence of seeing him with an
amulet suspended from his neck. And in the declining era of the Roman
Empire, we find this superstitious custom so general that the Emperor
Caracalla was induced to make a public edict, ordering, that no man
should wear any superstitious amulets about his person.

All remedies working as it were sympathetically, and plainly unequal to
the effect, may be termed amulets; whether used at a distance by another
person, or carried immediately about the patient. By the Jews, amulets
were called _kamea_, and by the Greeks _phylacteries_. The latins called
them _amuleta_ or _ligatura_; the catholics _agnus dei_, or consecrated
relics; and the natives of Guinea _fetishes_. Various kinds of
substances are employed by different people, and which they venerate and
suppose capable of preserving them from danger and infection, as well as
to remove disease when present. Plutarch says of Pericles, an Athenian
general, that when a friend come to see him, and inquired after his
health he reached out his hand and shewed him his amulet; by which he
meant to intimate the truth of his illness, and, at the same time, the
confidence he placed in these popular remedies.

Amulets are still prevalent in catholic countries at the present day;
the Spaniards and Portuguese maintain their popularity. Among the Jews
they are equally venerated. Indeed, there are few instances of ancient
superstition some portion of which has not been preserved, and not
unfrequently have they been adopted by men of otherwise good
understanding, who plead in excuse, that they are innoxious, cost
little, and if they can do no good, they can do no harm.

Lord Bacon, whom no one can suspect of ignorance, says, that if a man
wear a bone ring or a planet seal, strongly believing, by that means,
that he might obtain his mistress, and that it would preserve him unhurt
at sea, or in a battle, it would probably make him more active and less
timid; as the audacity they might inspire would conquer and bind weaker
minds in the execution of a peculiar duty.


A variety of things are worn about the person by the common people for
the cure of ague; and, upon whatever principle it may be accounted for,
whether by the imagination or a natural termination of the disease, many
have apparently been cured by them, where the Peruvian bark, the boasted
specific, had previously failed. Dr. Willis says that charms resisting
agues have often been applied to the wrist with success. ABRACADABRA,
written in a peculiar manner, that is, in the form of a cone, it is
said, has cured the ague; the herb lunaria, gathered by moon-light, has,
on some high authorities, performed surprising cures. Perhaps it was
gathered during the invocating influence of the following charm, which
may be found in the 12th book, chap. XIV. p. 177 of "Scot's discovery of
witchcraft," which is headed thus:--

"_Another charme that witches use at the gathering of
their medicinal herbs._"

Haile be thou holy herbe,
Growing in the ground.
And in the mount Calvaire
First wert thou found.
Thou art good for many a sore,
And healest many a wound,
In the name of sweet Jesus
I take thee from the ground.

We are told that Naaman was cured by dipping seven times in the river
Jordan. Certain formalities were also performed at the pool of Bethesda.
Dr. Chamberlayne's anodyne necklaces, were, for a length of time,
objects of the most anxious maternal solicitude, until their occult
virtues became lost by the reverence for them being destroyed; and those
which succeeded them have long since run their race or nearly so.

The grey limewort was at one time supposed to have been a specific in
hydrophobia--that it not only cured those labouring under this disorder,
but by carrying it about the person, it was reputed to possess the
extraordinary power of preventing mad dogs from biting them. Calvert
paid devotions to St. Hubert for the recovery of his son, who was cured
by this means. The son also performed the necessary rites at the shrine,
and was cured not only of the hydrophobia "but of the worser phrensy
with which his father had instilled him." Cramp-rings were also used;
and eelskins to this day are tied round the legs as a preventive of this
spasmodic affection; and by laying sticks across the floor, on going to
bed, cramp has also been prevented.

Numerous are the charms and incantations used at the present day for the
removal of warts, many cases of which are not a little surprising. And
we are told by Lord Verulam, who is allowed to have been as great a
genius as this country ever produced, that, when he was at Paris, he had
above a hundred warts on his hands; and that the English ambassador's
lady, then at court, and a woman far above superstition, removed them
all by only rubbing them with the fat side of the rind of a piece of
bacon, which they afterwards nailed to a post, with the fat side towards
the south. In five weeks, says my Lord, they were all removed. The
following are his Lordship's observations, in his own words, relative to
the power of amulets. After deep metaphysical observations on nature,
and arguing in mitigation of sorcery, witchcraft, and divination,
effects that far outstrip the belief in amulets, he observes "We should
not reject all of this kind, because it is not known how far those
contributing to superstition, depend on natural causes. Charms have not
the power from contract with evil spirits, but proceed wholly from
strengthening the imagination: in the same manner that images and their
influence, have prevailed on religion, being called from a different way
of use and application, sigils, incantations, and spells."


A certain writer, apologizing for the irregularities of great genii,
delivers himself as follows: "The gifts of imagination bring the
heaviest task upon, the vigilance of reason; and to bear those faculties
with unerring rectitude or invariable propriety, requires a degree of
firmness and of cool attention, which does not always attend the higher
gifts of the mind. Yet, difficult as nature herself seems to have
reduced the task of regularity to genius, it is the supreme consolation
of dullness, to seize upon those excesses, which are the overflowings of
faculties they never enjoyed."[111] Are not the _gifts of imagination_
mistaken here for the strength of passions? Doubtless, where strong
passions accompany great parts, as perhaps they often do, the
imagination may encrease their force and activity: but, where passions
are calm and gentle, imagination of itself should seem to have no
conflict but speculatively with reason. There, indeed, it wages an
eternal war; and, if not contracted and strictly regulated, it will
carry the patient into endless extravagancies. The term patient is here
properly used, because men, under the influence of imagination, are most
truly distempered. The degree of this distemper will be in proportion to
the prevalence of imagination over reason, and, according to this
proportion, amount to more or less of the whimsical; but when reason
shall become, as it were, extinct, and imagination govern alone, then
the distemper will be madness under the wildest and most fantastic
modes. Thus, one of those invalids, perhaps, shall be all sorrow for
having been most unjustly deprived of the crown; though his vocation,
poor man! be that of a school-master. Another, like Horace's madman, is
all joy; and it may seem even cruelty to cure him.

The operations and caprices of the imagination are various and endless;
and, as they cannot be reduced to regularity or system, so it is highly
improbable that any certain method of cure should ever be found out for
them. It has generally been thought, that matter of fact might most
successfully be opposed to the delusions of imagination, as being proof
to the senses, and carrying conviction unavoidably to the understanding;
but we rather suspect, that the understanding or reasoning faculty, has
little to do in all these cases: at least so it should seem from the two
following facts, which are by no means badly attested.

Fienus, in his curious little book, _de Viribus Imaginationis_, records
from Donatus the case of a man, who fancied his body encreased to such a
size, that he durst not attempt to pass through the door of his chamber.
The physician believing that nothing could more effectually cure this
error of imagination, than to shew that the thing could actually be
done, caused the patient to be thrust forcibly through it: who, struck
with horror, and falling suddenly into agonies, complained of being
crushed to pieces, and expired soon after.[112]

The other case, as related by Van Swieten, in his commentaries upon
Boerhaave, is that of a learned man, who had studied, till be fancied
his legs to be of glass: in consequence of which he durst not attempt to
stir, but was constantly under anxiety about them. His maid bringing one
day some wood to the fire, threw it carelessly down; and was severely
reprimanded by her master, who was terrified not a little for his legs
of glass. The surly wench, out of all patience with his megrims, as she
called them, gave him a blow with a log upon the parts affected; which
so enraged him, that he instantly rose up, and from that moment
recovered the use of his legs.--Was reason concerned any more here; or
was it not rather one blind impulse acting against another?

Imagination has, unquestionably, a most powerful effect upon the mind,
and in all these miraculous cures, is by far the strongest ingredient.
Dr. Strother says, "The influence of the mind and passions works upon
the mind and body in sensible operations like a medicine, and is of far
the greater force than exercise. The countenance betrays a good or
wicked intention; and that good or wicked intention will produce in
different persons a strength to encounter, or a weakness to yield to the
preponderating side." Dr. Brown says, "Our looks discover our passions,
there being mystically in our faces certain characters, which carry in
them the motto of our souls, and, therefore, probably work secret
effects in other parts." This idea is beautifully illustrated by Garth
in his Dispensatory, in the following lines:--

"Thus paler looks impetuous rage proclaim,
And chilly virgins redden into flame.
See envy oft transformed in wan disguise,
And mirth sits gay and smiling in the eyes,
Oft our complexions do the soul declare,
And tell what passions in the features are.
Hence 'tis we look the wond'rous cause to find,
How body acts upon impassive mind."

On the power and pleasure of the imagination, from the pleasures and
pains it administers here below, Addison concludes that God, who knows
all the ways of afflicting us, may so transport us hereafter with such
beautiful and glorious visions, or torment us with such hideous and
ghastly spectres, as might even of themselves suffice to make up the
entire heaven or hell of any future being.


Dr. Willis, in his Treatise on nervous disorders, does not hesitate to
recommend amulets in epileptic disorders. "Take," says he, "some fresh
peony roots, cut them into square bits, and hang them round the neck,
changing them as often as they dry." It is not improbable that the hint
was taken from this circumstance for the anodyne necklaces, which, some
time ago, were in such repute, as the Doctor, some little way further
on, prescribes the same root for the looseness, fevers, and convulsions
of children, during the time of teething, mixed, to make it appear more
miraculous, with some elk's hoof.

St. Vitus's dance is said to have been cured by the afflicted person
paying a visit to the tomb of the saint, near Ulm, every May. Indeed,
there is no little reason in this assertion; for exercise and change of
air will change many obstinate diseases. The bite of the tarantula is
cured by music; and this only by certain tunes. Turner, whose ideas are
so extravagantly absurd, where he asserts, that the symptoms of
hydrophobia may not appear for forty years after the bite of the dog,
and who maintains that "the slaver or breath of such a dog is
infectious;" and that men bitten by mad dogs, will bite like dogs again,
and die mad; although he laughs at the anodyne necklaces, argues much in
the same manner. It is not, indeed, so very strange that the effluvia
from external medicines entering our bodies, should effect such
considerable changes, when we see the efficient cause of apoplexy,
epilepsy, hysterics, plague, and a number of other disorders, consists,
as it were, in imperceptible vapours.--Blood-stone (Lapis Aetites)
fastened to the arm by some secret means, is said to prevent abortion.
Sydenham, in the iliac passion, orders a live kitten to be constantly
applied to the abdomen; others have used pigeons split alive, applied to
the soles of the feet, with success, in pestilential fevers and
convulsions. It was doubtless the impression that relief might be
obtained by external agents, that the court of king David advised him to
seek a young virgin, in order that a portion of the natural heat might
be communicated to his body, and give strength to the decay of nature.
"Take the heart and liver of the fish and make a smoke, and the devil
shall smell it and flee away." During the plague at Marseilles, which
Belort attributed to the larvae of worms infecting the saliva, food, and
chyle; and which, he says, "were hatched by the stomach, took their
passage into the blood, at a certain size, hindering the circulation,
affecting the juices and solid parts." He advised amulets of mercury to
be worn in bags suspended at the chest and nostrils, either as a
safeguard, or as means of cure; by which method, through the
_admissiveness_ of the pores, effluvia specially destructive of all
venomous insects, were received into the blood. "An illustrious prince,"
Belort says, "by wearing such an amulet, escaped the small-pox."

Clognini, an Italian physician, ordered two or three drachms of crude
mercury to be worn as a defensive against the jaundice; and also as a
preservative against the noxious vapours of inclement seasons: "It
breaks," he observes, "and conquers the different figured seeds of
pestilential distempers floating in the air; or else, mixing with the
air, kills them where hatched." By others, the power of mercury, in
these cases, has been ascribed to an elective faculty given out by the
warmth of the body, which draws out the contagious particles. For,
according to this entertained notion, all bodies are continually
emitting effluvia, more or less, around them, and some whether they are
internal or external. The Bath waters, for instance, change the colour
of silver in the pocket of those who use them. Mercury produces the same
effect; Tartar emetic, rubbed on the pit of the stomach, produces
vomiting. Yawning and laughing are infectious; so are fear and shame.
The sight of sour things, or even the idea of them, will set the teeth
on edge. Small-pox, itch, and other diseases, are contagious; if so, say
they, mercurial amulets bid fair to destroy the germ of some complaints
when used only as an external application, either by manual attrition,
or worn as an amulet. But medicated or not, all amulets are precarious
and uncertain, and in the cure of diseases are, by no means, to be
trusted to.

The Barbary Moors, and generally throughout the Mahommedan dominions,
the people are strikingly attached to charms, to which, and nature, they
leave the cure of almost every disorder; and this is the most strongly
impressed upon them from their belief in predestination, which,
according to their creed, stipulates the evil a man is to suffer, as
well as the length of time it is ordained he should live upon the land
of his forefathers; consequently they imagine that any interference from
secondary means would avail them nothing, an opinion said to have been
entertained by William III, but one by no means calculated for nations,
liberty, and commerce; upon the principle that when the one was
entrenched upon, men would probably be more sudden in their revenge, and
dislike physic and occupation; and when actuated with religious
enthusiasm, nothing could stand them in any service.

The opinion of an old navy surgeon,[113] on the subject, is worth
recording here. "A long and intense passion on one object, whether of
pride, love, fear, anger, or envy, we see have brought on some universal
tremors; on others, convulsions, madness, melancholy, consumption,
hectics, or such a chronical disorder as has wasted their flesh, or
their strength, as certainly as the taking in of any poisonous drugs
would have done. Anything frightful, sudden, or surprising, upon soft,
timorous natures, not only shews itself in the continuance, but produces
sometimes very troublesome consequences--for instance, a parliamentary
fright will make even grown men _bewray_ themselves, scare them out of
their wits, turn the hair grey. Surprise removes the hooping cough;
looking from precipices or seeing wheels turn swiftly will give
giddiness. Shall then these little accidents, or the passions, (from
caprice or humour, perhaps,) produce those effects, and not be able to
do anything by amulets? No; as the spirits, in many cases, resort in
plenty, we find where the fancy determines, giving joy and gladness to
the heart, strength and fleetness to the limbs, and violent
palpitations. To amulets, under strong imagination, is carried with more
force to a distempered part, and, under these circumstances, its natural
powers exert better to a discussion.

"The cures compassed in this manner," says our author, "are not more
admirable than many of the distempers themselves. Who can apprehend by
what impenetrable method the bite of a mad dog, or tarantula, can
produce these symptoms? The touch of a torpedo numbness? If they are
allowed to do these, doubtless they may the other; and not by miracles,
which Spinoza denies the possibility of, but by natural and regular
causes, though inscrutable to us. The best way, therefore, in using
amulets, must be in squaring them to the imagination of patients: let
the newness and surprise exceed the invention, and keep up the humour by
a long scroll of cures and vouchers; by these and such means, many
distempers have been cured. Quacks again, according to their boldness
and way of addressing (velvet and infallibility particularly) command
success by striking the fancies of an audience. If a few, more sensible
than the rest, see the doctor's miscarriages, and are not easily gulled
at first sight, yet, when they see a man is never ashamed, in time, jump
in to his assistance."

There is much truth and pertinence in some of the above remarks, and
they apply nearly to the general practice of the present day. The farces
and whims of people require often as much discrimination on the part of
the physician as the disease itself. Those who know best how to flatter
such caprices, are frequently the best paid for their trouble. Nervous
diseases are always in season, and it is here that some professional
dexterity is pardonable. Nature, when uninterrupted, will often do more
than art; but our inability upon all occasions to appreciate the efforts
of nature in the cure of diseases, must always render our notion, with
respect to the powers faith, liable to numerous errors and deceptions.
There is, in fact, nothing more natural, and at the same time more
erroneous, than to lay the cure of a disease to the door of the last
medicine that had been prescribed. By these means the advocates of
amulets and charms, have ever been enabled to appeal to the testimony of
what they are pleased to call experience in justification of their
pretensions, and egregious superstitions; and cases which, in truth,
ought to have been classed, or rather designated, as lucky escapes, have
been triumphantly pulled off as skilful cures; and thus, medicines and
medical practitioners, have alike received the meed of unmerited praise,
or the stigma of unjust censure. Of all branches of human science,
medicine is one of the most interesting to mankind: and, accordingly as
it is erroneously or judiciously cultivated, is evidently conducive to
the prejudice or welfare of the public. Of how great consequence is it,
then, that our endeavours should be exerted in stemming the propagation
of errors, whether arising from ignorance, or prompted by motives of
base cupidity, in giving assistance to the disseminations of useful
truths, and to the perfection of ingenious discoveries.


[110] Lib. viii. chap. 2. 5.

[111] Langhorne's Life of Mr. Collins

[112] Reverii Praxis Medica, p. 188.

[113] John Ailkin, author of the Navy Surgeon, 1742. Sec Demonologia, p.
64 et seg.



The Egyptian amulets are not so ancient as the Babylonian talismans, but
in their uses they were exactly similar. Some little figures, supposed
to have been intended as charms, have been found on several mummies,
which, at various times, have been brought to Europe. Plutarch informs
us that the soldiers wore rings, on which the representation of an
insect resembling our beetle, was inscribed; and we learn from Aelian,
that the judges had always suspended round their necks a small figure of
Truth formed of emeralds. The superstitious belief in the virtues of
talismans is yet far from being extinct, the Copths, the Arabians, the
Syrians, and, indeed, almost all the inhabitants of Asia, west of the
Ganges, whether Christians or mahometans, still use them against
possible evils.

There is little distinction between talismans, amulets and the
gree-grees of the Africans as regards their pretended efficacy; though
there is some in their external configuration. Magical figures, engraven
or cut under superstitious observances of the characterisms and
configurations of the heavens, are called talismans; to which
astrologers, hermetical philosophers, and other adepts, attribute
wonderful virtues, particularly that of calling down celestial

The talismans of the Samothracians, so famous of old, were pieces of
iron formed into certain images, and set in rings. They were reputed as
preservatives against all kinds of evils. There were other talismans
taken from vegetables, and others from minerals. Three kinds of
talismans were usually distinguished 1st. the _astronomical_ known by
the signs or constellations of the heavens engraven upon them, with
other figures, and some unintelligible characters; 2nd. the _magical_,
bearing very extraordinary figures, with superstitious words and names
of angels unheard of; 3rd. the _mixt_ talismans, which consist of signs
and barbarous words; but without any superstitious ones, or names of

It has been asserted and maintained by some Rabins, that the brazen
serpent raised by Moses in the wilderness, for the destruction of the
serpents that annoyed the Israelites, was properly a talisman. All the
miraculous things wrought by Apollonius Tyanaeus are attributed to the
virtue and influence of _talismans_; and that wizard, as he is called,
is even said to be the inventor of them. Some authors take several
Runic medals,--medals, at least, whose inscriptions are in the Runic
characters,--for talismans, it being notorious that the northern
nations, in their heathen state, were much devoted to them, M. Keder,
however has shown, that the medals here spoken of are quite other things
than talismans.

It appears from the Evangelists[115] that, when St. Paul, after he had
been shipwrecked, and escaped to the island of Malta, a viper fastened
on his hand as he was laying a bundle of sticks, he had gathered, on the
fire; and that, by a miracle, and to the great astonishment of the
spectators, inhabitants of the island, he not only suffered no harm, but
also cured, by the divine power, the chief of the island, and a great
number of others, of very dangerous maladies. There remain still in that
island, as so many trophies gained by the Apostle over that venemous
beast, a great many small stones representing the eyes and tongues of
serpents, and considered for several centuries past, as powerful amulets
against different sorts of distempers and poisons. As the virtue of
these stones is still much boasted of by the Maltese, and as some, on
the contrary, maintain that they are the petrified teeth of a fish
called lamia, it will not be irrelevant here to relate some observations
from the best authors on this interesting subject, so much to our

It is said that those eyes and tongues of serpents are only found by the
Maltese when they dig into the earth, which is whitish throughout the
island, or draw up stone, especially about the cave of St. Paul. This
stone is so soft, that, like clay, it may be cut through with any sharp
instrument, and made to receive easily different figures, for building
the walls of their houses and ramparts; but, when it has been imbibed
with a sufficient quantity of rain or well water, it changes into a
flint that resists the cutting of the sharpest instrument: whence the
houses that are built of it in the two cities, appear as hewn out of one
solid rock, and become harder, the more they are exposed to the
inclemencies of the weather. This hardness may, with good reason, be
ascribed to the salt of nitre, which contracts a certain viscidity from
the rain wherewith it is mixed, and which easily penetrates into these
stones, because their substance is spongy and cretaceous, and adheres to
the tongue as hartshorn.

It is in these stones that not only the eyes and tongues of serpents are
found, but also their viscera and other parts: as lungs, liver, heart,
spleen, ribs, and so resembling life, and with such natural colours,
that one may well doubt whether they are the work of nature or art; the
figure of the eyes and tongues is very different. Some are elliptic,
but, for the greater part round: some represent an hemisphere, others a
segment, others an hyperbola. The glossopetrae are naturally of a conic
figure, representing acute, obtuse, regular, and irregular cones. They
are also of different colours, especially the eyes; for some of them are
of an ash-colour, others liver colour, some brown, others blackish; but
these, as most rare, are most esteemed. Bracelets are frequently made
of them and set in gold: some representing an entire eye with a white
pupil, and these are the most beautiful. Several are likewise found of
an orange colour.

The virtues attributed by the Maltese to those eyes and tongues, and to
the white earth which is found in the island, particularly in St. Paul's
cave, and which is kept for use by the apothecaries, as the American
bole, are very singular; for they reckon them not only a preservative
against all sorts of poison, and an efficacious remedy for those who
have taken poison, but also good in a number of diseases. They are taken
internally, infused in water, wine, or in any other convenient liquor;
or let to lie for some hours in vessels made of the white earth; or the
white earth is taken itself dissolved in those liquors. The eyes set as
precious stones in rings, and so as to touch immediately the flesh, are
worn by the inhabitants on the fingers; but the tongues are fastened
about the arm, or suspended from the neck.

Paul Bucconi, a Sicilian nobleman, treated this notion of the eyes and
tongues of serpents as a mere vulgar error; and maintains that they
either constitute a particular species of stone produced in the earth,
or in the stones of the island of Malta, as in their matrix; or that
they are nothing more than the petrified teeth of some marine fish;
which is also the opinion of Fabius Columna, Nicholas Steno and other
physicians and anatomists.

It seems to this noble author that the glossopetrae should be classed in
the animal kingdom, because, being burnt, they are changed into cinders
as bones, before they are reduced into a calx or ashes, whilst calcined
stones are immediately reduced into a calx. He further says, that the
roots of the glossopetrae are often found broken in different ways,
which is an evident argument that they have not been produced by nature,
in the place they are digged out of, because nature forms other fossils,
figured entirely in their matrix, without any hurt or mutilation. Add to
this, that the substance is different in different parts of the
glossopetrae; solid at the point, less solid at the root, compact at the
surface, porous and fibrous in the interior: besides, the polished
surface, contrary to the custom of nature, which forms no stone, whether
common or precious, is polished; and, lastly, the figure that varies
different ways, as well as the size, being found great, broad,
triangular, narrow, small, very small, pyramidal, straight, curved
before, behind, to the right and to the left, in form of a saw with
small teeth, furnished with great jags or notches, and frequently
absolutely pyramidal without notches; all these particulars favour his
opinion. But, as he thence believes he has proved that the glossopetrae
should not be classed amongst stones, so also what he has said may prove
that they are the natural teeth of those fishes, which are called, by
lithographers, lamia, aquila, requiem, (shark) etc. and therefore there
scarce remains any reason for a further doubt on this head.

There are representations of curiosities, which we shall give an account
of from the Ephemerides of the Curious. It is customary to see at
Batavia, in the island of Java, the figure of serpents impressed on the
shells of eggs, Andrew Cleyerus, a naturalist of considerable note,
says, that when he was at Batavia in 1679, he had seen himself, on the
14th of September, an egg newly laid by a hen, of the ordinary size, but
representing very exactly, towards the summit of the other part of the
shell, the figure of a serpent and all its parts, not only the
lineaments of the serpent were marked on the surface, but the three
dimensions of the body were as sensible as if they had been engraved by
an able sculptor, or impressed on wax, plaister or some other like
matter. One could see very plainly the head, ears, and a cloven tongue
starting out of the throat; the eyes were sparkling and resplendent, and
represented so perfectly the interior and exterior of the parts of the
eye, with their natural colours, that they seemed to behold with
astonishment the eyes even of the spectators. To account for this
phenomenon, it may be supposed that, the hen being near laying, a
serpent presented itself to her sight, and that her imagination, struck
thereby, impressed the figure of the serpent on the egg that was ready
to press out of the ovarium.

An egg equally wonderful, was laid by a hen at Rome on the 14th. of
December, 1680. The famous comet that appeared then on the head of
Andromeda, with other stars, were seen represented on its shell.
Sebastian Scheffer says, that he had seen an egg with the representation
of an eclipse on it. Signor Magliabecchi, in his letter to the academy
of the Curious, on the 20th. of October 1682, has these words; "Last
month I had sent me from Rome, a drawing of an egg found at Tivoli, with
the impression of the sun and the transparent comet with a twisted

There are also representations of Indian nuts, or small cocos, with the
head of an ape. The nut has been exactly engraved in the Ephemerides of
the Curious, both as to size and form, and covered with its shell, as
expressed there by cyphers and other figures which represent the same
nut stripped of its covering, and exhibiting the head of an ape. This
nut seems pretty much like the foreign fruit described by Clusius,
Exoticorum lib. a, which John Bauhin (Hist. Plant. Universal Lib. 3)
retaining the description of Clusius, calls, "a nut resembling the
areca," and which C. Bauhin (Pinac. lib. II, sect. 6) calls, the fruit
of the fourteenth of Palm-tree, that bears nuts, or a foreign fruit of
the same sort as the areca.

This fruit with its shell, is, as Clusius says, an inch and a half in
length, but is somewhat more than an inch thick. Its shell or
membraneous covering, is about the thickness of the blade of a knife,
and outwardly of an ash colour mixed with brown. Clusius was in the
right to say, that the shell of this nut was formed of several fibrous
parts, but those fibres resemble rather those of the shell of a coco,
than the fibrous parts of the back of the areca nut. He, moreover, has
very properly observed, that this shell is armed, at its lower part,
with a double calyx and that the opposite part terminates in a point;
but it is necessary to observe, that this point is not formed by the
prolongation of the shell, as the figure he has given of it seems to
specify; but that from the middle of the upper part of the fruit, there
juts out a sort of small needle.

The shell being taken off, the nut is found to be hard, ligneous,
oblong, of unequal surface, furrowed, and of a chesnut yellow. One of
its extremities is roundish, and the other, by the reunion and
prolongation of three sorts of tubercles, terminates in a point; those
protuberances being so formed, that the middlemost placed between the
two others, has the appearance of a nose, and the two lateral
protuberances resemble flat lips. On each side of that which forms what
we call the nose, a small hole or nook is perceived, capable of
containing a pea; but does not penetrate deep, and is surrounded with
black filaments, sometimes like eye-brows and eyelashes, so that the nut
on that side resembles an ape or a hare.

This _lusus naturae_, or sport of nature, has a very pretty effect, but
is oftener found in stones than other substances. A great variety of
such rare and singular productions of nature may be seen at the British
Museum: but nothing can be more extraordinary in this respect than what
is related concerning the agate of Pyrrhus, which represented,
naturally, Apollo holding a lyre, with the nine muses distinguished each
by their attributes. In all probability, there is great exaggeration in
this fact, for we see nothing of the kind that comes near this
perfection. However, it is said, that, at Pisa, in the church of St.
John, there is seen, on a stone, an old hermit perfectly painted by
nature, sitting near a rivulet, and holding a bell in his hand; and
that, in the temple of St. Sophia, at Constantinople, there is to be
seen, on a white sacred marble, an image of St. John the Baptist,
cloaked with a camel's skin, but so far defective that nature has given
him but one foot.

There is an instance in the Mercury of France, for July 1730, of some
curious sports of nature on insects. The rector of St. James at Land,
within a league of Rennes, found in the month of March, 1730, in the
church-yard, a species of butterfly, about two inches long, and
half-an-inch broad, having on its head the figure of a death's-head, of
the length of one nail, and perfectly imitating those that are
represented on the church ornaments which are used for the office of the
dead. Two large wings were spotted like a pall, and the whole body
covered with a down, or black hair, diversified with black and yellow,
bearing some resemblance to yellow.

These freaks of nature are equally extended to animate as to inanimate
bodies; and the human species, as well as the brute creation, affords
numerous specimens, not only of redundance and deficiency in her work,
but a variety of other phenomena not well understood. The march of
intellect, however, it is to be hoped, will be as successful in this
instance, as in obliterating the hobgoblins of astrologers and quacks
who so long have ruled the destiny and health of their less sagacious
fellow-creatures;--and when the public shall become persuaded of the
advantages which science may derive from occurrences similar to those we
shall enumerate in the next chapter, it will be more disposed to offer
them to the consideration of scientific men.


[114] The author of a book, entitled "_Talismans justifies_" pronounces
a talisman to be the seal, figure, character, or image of a heavenly
sign, constellation or planet, engraven on a sympathetic stone, or on a
metal corresponding to the star, etc. in order to receive its

[115] Acts of the Apostles, chap. xxviii. v. 3.



The power of music over the human mind, as well as its influence on the
animal creation, has been variously attested; and its curative virtues
have been no less extolled by the ancients.[116] Martianus Capella assures
us, that fevers were removed by songs, and that Asclepiades cured
deafness by the sound of the trumpet. Wonderful indeed! that the same
noise which would occasion deafness in some, should be a specific for it
in others! It is making the viper cure its own bite. But, perhaps
Asclepiades was the inventor of the _acousticon_, or ear-trumpet, which
has been thought a modern discovery; or of the speaking-trumpet, which
is a kind of cure for distant deafness. These would be admirable proofs
of musical power![117] We have the testimony of Plutarch, and several
other ancient writers, that Thaletas the Cretan, delivered the
Lacedemonians from the pestilence by the sweetness of his lyre.

Xenocrates, as Martianus Capella further informs us, employed the sound
of instruments in the cure of maniacs; and Apollonius Dyscolus, in his
fabulous history (Historia Commentitia) tells us, from Theophrastus's
Treatise upon Enthusiasm, that music is a sovereign remedy for a
dejection of spirits, and disordered mind; and that the sound of the
flute will cure epilepsy and the sciatic gout. Athenaeus quotes the same
passage from Theophrastus, with this additional circumstance, that, as
to the second of these disorders, to render the cure more certain, the
flute should play in the Phrygian mode. But Aulus Gellius, who mentions
this remedy, seems to administer it in a very different manner, by
prescribing to the flute-player a soft and gentle strain, _si modulis
lenibus_ says he, _tibicen incinet_: for the Phrygian mode was
remarkably vehement and furious.

This is what Coelius Aurelianus calls _loca dolentia decantare_,
enchanting the disordered places. He even tells us how the enchantment
is brought about upon these occasions, in saying that the pain is
relieved by causing a vibration of the fibres of the afflicted part.
Galen speaks seriously of playing the flute on the suffering part, upon
the principle, we suppose, of a medicated vapour bath.

The sound of the flute was likewise a specific for the bite of a viper,
according to Theophrastus and Democritus, whose authority Aulus Gellius
gives for his belief of the fact. But there is nothing more

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