« AnteriorContinuar »
sions, Abraham, of the family of Heber, was able to converse with the Chaldeans, to understand Mesopotamians, Canaanites, Philistines, and Egyptians : whose several dialects he could reduce unto the original and primitive tongue, and so be able to understand them.
3. Though useless unto us, and rather of molestation, we commonly refrain from killing swallows, and esteem it unlucky 8 to destroy them: whether herein there be not a Pagan relick, we have some reason to doubt. For we read in Ælian, that these birds were sacred unto the Penates or household gods of the ancients, and therefore were preserved.* The same they also honoured as the nuncios of the spring; and we find in Athenæus that the Rhodians had a solemn song to welcome in the swallow.
4. That candles and lights burn dim and blue at the apparition of spirits, may be true, if the ambient air be full of sulphureous spirits, as it happeneth ofttimes in mines, where damps and acid exhalations are able to extinguish them. And may be also verified, when spirits do make themselves visible by bodies of such effluviums. But of lower consideration is the common foretelling of strangers, from the fungous parcels about the wicks of candles; which only signifieth a moist and pluvious air about them, hindering the avolation of the light and favillous particles; whereupon they are forced to settle upon the snast. .
5. Though coral doth properly preserve and fasten the teeth in men, yet is it used in children to make an easier passage for them: and for that intent is worn about their
* The same is extant in the 8th of Athenæus. ? useless, &c.] This is a most undeserved censure. The swallows are very useful in destroying myriads of insects, which would be injurious.
8 and esteem it unlucky, &c.] A similar superstition attaches to the robin and the wren ;--the tradition is, that if their nests are robbed, the cows will give bloody milk ;-schoolboys rarely are found hardy enough to commit such a depredation on these birds, of which the common people in some parts of England have this legend
Robinets and Jenny Wrens,
Are God Almighty's cocks and hens. snast.] The Norfolk (and perhaps other folk’s) vulgar term, signifying the burnt portion of the wick of the candle; which, when sufficiently lengthened by want of snuffing, becomes crowned with a cap of the purest lamp-black, called here, “ the fungous parcels,” &c.
necks. But whether this custom were not superstitiously founded, as presumed an amulet or defensative against fascination, is not beyond all doubt. For the same is delivered by Pliny;* Aruspices religiosum coralli gestamen amoliendis periculis arbitrantur ; et surculi infantia alligati, tutelam habere creduntur. 1
6. A strange kind of exploration and peculiar way of rhabdomancy is that which is used in mineral discoveries ; that is, with a forked hazel, commonly called Moses' rod, which freely held forth, will stir and play if any mine be under it. And though many there are who have attempted to make it good, yet until better information, we are of opinion with Agricolať, that in itself it is a fruitless exploration,2 strongly scenting of Pagan derivation, and the virgula divina, proverbially magnified of old. The ground whereof were the magical rods in poets, that of Pallas in Homer, that of Mercury that charmed Argus, and that of Circe which transformed the followers of Ulysses. Too boldly usurping the name of Moses' rod, from which notwithstanding, and that of Aaron, were probably occasioned the fables of all the rest. For that of Moses must needs be famous unto the Egyptians; and that of Aaron unto many other nations, as being preserved in the ark, until the destruction of the temple built by Solomon. * Lib. xxxii.
+ De Re Metallica, lib. ii. That temperamental, &c.] The first five sections of this chapter were first added in the 2nd edition.
2 exploration.] This is worthy of note bycause itt is averred by manye authors of whom the world hath a great opinion.— Wr.
From a paper by Mr. Wm. Philips, in Tilloch's Philosophical Magazine, vol. xiii. p. 309, on the divinjng rod, it appears that it was ably advocated by De Thouvenel, in France, in the 18th century, and soon after-in our own country-by a philosopher of unimpeachable veracity, and a chemist, Mr. William Cookworthy, of Plymouth. Pryce also informs us, p. 123, of his Mineralogia Cornubiensis, that many mines have been discovered by means of the rod, and quotes several ; but, after a long account of the mode of cutting, tying, and using it, interspersed with observations on the discriminating faculties of constitutions and persons in its use, altogether rejects it, because “Cornwall is so plentifully stored with tin and copper lodes, that some accident every week discovers to us a fresh vein,” and because “ a grain of metal attracts the rod as strongly as a pound,” for which reason “it has been found to dip equally to a poor as to a rich lode.”-See Trans. Geol. Soc. ii. 123.
7. A practice there is among us to determine doubtful matters, by the opening of a book, and letting fall a staff, which notwithstanding are ancient fragments of Pagan divinations. The first an imitation of sortes Homericæ, or Virgilianæ,4 drawing determinations from verses casually occurring. The same was practised by Severus, who enter
3 opening.] For the casual opening of a Bible, see Cardan. de Va. rietate, p. 1040.-Wr.
- Virgiliance.] King Charles I. tried the sortes Virgiliance, as is related by Welwood in the following passage :
“The king being at Oxford during the civil wars, went one day to see the public library, where he was showed among other books, a Virgil nobly printed, and exquisitely bound. The Lord Falkland, to divert the king, would have his majesty make a trial of his fortune by the sortes Virgilianæ, which every body knows was an usual kind of augury some ages past. Whereupon the king opening the book, the period which happened to come up, was that part of Dido's imprecation against Æneas; which Mr. Dryden translates thus :
Yet let a race untamed, and haughty foes,
And lie unburied in the common sand. It is said King Charles seemed concerned at this accident; and that the Lord Falkland observing it, would likewise try his own fortune in the same manner; hoping he might fall upon some passage that could have no relation to his case, and thereby divert the king's thoughts from any impression the other might have upon him. But the place that Falkland stumbled upon was yet more suited to his destiny than the other had been to the king's ; being the following expressions of Evander, upon the untimely death of his son Pallas, as they are translated by the same hand :
O Pallas ! thou hast fail'd thy plighted word,
Prelude of bloody fields and fights to come.
tained ominous hopes of the empire, from that verse in Virgil, Tu regere imperio populos, Romanė, memento; and Gordianus, who reigned but few days, was discouraged by another; that is, Ostendunt terris hunc tantùm fata, nec ultra esse sinunt.5 Nor was this only performed in heathen authors, but upon the sacred text of Scripture, as Gregorius Turonensis hath left some account; and as the practice of the Emperor Heraclius, before his expedition into Asia Minor, is delivered by Cedrenus.
As for the divination or decision from the staff, it is an augurial relick, and the practice thereof is accused by God himself; “My people ask counsel of their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them.”* Of this kind of rhabdomancy was that practised by Nebuchadnezzar in that Chaldean miscellany, delivered by Ezekiel ; “The King of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of two ways to use divination, he made his arrows bright, he consulted with images, he looked in the liver: at the right hand were the divinations of Jerusalem.”of That is, as Estius expounded it, the left way leading unto Rabbah, the chief city of the Ammonites, and the right unto Jerusalem, he consulted idols and entrails, he threw up a bundle of arrows to see which way they would light, and falling on the right hand he marched towards Jerusalem. A like way of belomancy or divination by arrows hath been in request with Scythians, Alanes, Germans, with the Africans and Turks of Algier. But of another nature was that which was practised by Elisha, I when, by an arrow shot from an eastern window, he presignified the destruction of Syria ; or when, according unto the three strokes of Joash, with an arrow upon the ground, he foretold the number of his victories. For thereby the Spirit of God particulared the same, and determined the strokes of the king, unto three, which the hopes of the prophet expected in twice that number.6
* Hosea iv. + Ezek. xxiv. I 2 Kings xii. 15. 5 sinunt.] Of all other, I cannot but admire that ominous dreame of Constans, the emperor, the sonne of Heracleonas, and father of Pogonatus, anno imperii 13, who beinge to fight with barbarians the next morne, near Thessalonica, thought hee heard one cryinge dès ålla Nexriv, which the next day proved too true.- Wr.
6 As for the divination, &c.] This paragraph, and the three following, were first added in the second edition.
8. We cannot omit to observe the tenacity of ancient customs, in the nominal observation of the several days of the week, according to Gentile and Pagan appellations ;* for the original is very high, and as old as the ancient Egyptians, who named the same according to the seven planets, the admired stars of heaven, and reputed deities among them. Unto every one assigning a several day ; not according to their celestial order, or as they are disposed in heaven, but after a diatesseron or musical fourth. For beginning Saturday with Saturn, the supremest planet, they accounted by Jupiter and Mars unto Sol, making Sunday. From Sol in like manner by Venus and Mercury unto Luna, making Monday: and so through all the rest. And the same order they confirmed by numbering the hours of the day unto twenty-four, according to the natural order of the planets. For beginning to account from Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, and so about unto twenty-four, the next day will fall unto Sol; whence accounting twenty-four, the next will happen unto Luna, making Monday; and so with the rest, according to the account and order observed still among us.
The Jews themselves, in their astrological considerations, concerning nativities and planetary hours, observe the same order upon as witty foundations. Because, by an equal interval, they make seven triangles, the bases whereof are the seven sides of a septilateral figure, described within a circle. That is, if a figure of seven sides be described in a circle, and at the angles thereof the names of the planets be placed in their natural order on it; if we begin with Saturn, and successively draw lines from angle to angle, until seven equicrural triangles be described, whose bases are the seven sides of the septilateral figure; the triangles will be made by this order.f The first being made by Saturn, Sol, and Luna, that is, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, and so the rest in the order still retained.
But thus much is observable, that however in celestial considerations they embraced the received order of the planets, yet did they not retain either characters or names in common use amongst us; but declining human denomi
* Dion. Cassii lib. xxxvii. + Cujus icon apud Doct. Gaffarel, cap. ii, et Fabrit. Pad.