Saturday, November 19, 2016
Alchemy & Black Magic in History by C. J. S. Thompson 1897
See also Forbidden Knowledge and the Occult - 300 Books on DVDrom and Alchemy, the Philosopher's Stone and the Esoteric - 100 Books on DVDrom
Geber, an alchemist of great repute in Arabia, was believed to possess the power of creating gold by magic. He was a man of undoubted learning and a skilful practitioner of his time, yet he was dubbed a sorcerer. He was said to possess all kinds of extraordinary implements; among others, a book of black magic which gave him full power over demons, and a brass idol which spoke oracles. On the day of his death, in 1003, the Evil One is supposed to have carried him off. James Iodoc, an Englishman, achieved considerable notoriety by claiming that he had succeeded in setting the demon in a magic ring. These men should not be confounded with the host of impostors and charlatans who simply preyed on the credulity of the people, but in those days all were judged alike. Most of the great mediæval alchemists dabbled in magic, and all agreed that to obtain the intervention of Satan in human affairs it was necessary to enter into a pact with him. Those who went to this length and became exponents of demonology, or the black art, were initiated with much solemnity.
The oath to the demon had to be pronounced in the centre of a circle traced upon the ground, accompanied by the offer of some pledge, such as a garment of the noviciate. The edge of the circle was supposed to establish a mark which the demon could not cross. Heavy perfumes such as vervain, with burning incense and lighted tapers, always formed part of the ceremonial. The smoking brazier, which entered largely into the ritual, was believed to act upon the demons, and was constantly fed with all kinds of mysterious vegetable and animal substances, those that would produce most smoke being preferred. It is said that belladonna and opium were always used as ingredients in the incense, in order to produce a state of semi-stupor and influence the imagination.
The perfumes employed by the professors of the art had each a special significance, and were offered to some planet to form a link with the earth. A mixture of saffron, amber, musk, cloves and incense, together with the brain of an eagle and the blood of a cock, was offered to the Sun.
The white poppy and camphor burnt in the head of a frog, with the eyes of a bull and the blood of a goose, were dedicated to the Moon; while to Mars, sulphur was mixed with hellebore and euphorbium, together with the blood of a black cat and the brain of a crow, and then burnt.
One can imagine the horrible odour that would be caused by burning such articles as these; and, as the columns of smoke ascended, the half-stupefied and scared spectator fancied he saw the forms of writhing demons in the air.
Very curious properties were attributed to certain articles when thrown on live coals. Thus, if thunder and rain were required, the liver of a chameleon was said to produce it; while the gall of a cuttle-fish burnt with roses and aloes-wood was all that was necessary to induce an earthquake.
By burning coriander, parsley, hemlock, liquor of black poppy, giant fennel, red sandal-wood and henbane, almost any number of demons could be raised. Sorcerers of this class were called tempest-raisers.
With the witchcraft practised largely by women in mediæval times, we have not much to do; although belief in its influence was widespread during the middle ages. To bewitch an individual was to cause him gradually to die a mysterious death.
The process commenced at first with great secrecy, by modelling a figure of the intended victim in wax or clay. This having been done, a swallow was killed, and the heart placed under the right arm of the figure and the liver under the left. The effigy was next pricked all over with new needles, each prick being accompanied by the most terrible imprecations against the victim.
Another method was to make the figure of earth taken from a graveyard and mixed with dead bones. Certain mystic signs were then inscribed on it, which were said eventually to cause the death of the victim. So general did the practice of witchcraft become that no class of society was safe from accusation and suspicion, thousands perishing by the faggot and torture.
From the fourteenth to the sixteenth century, supernatural beliefs exerted a great influence on the people. One of the most celebrated trials of the time was that of the Duchess of Gloucester, who was accused of bewitching Henry VI. It transpired at the trial that she had instructed a priest, named Bolingbroke who practised necromancy, to bewitch the king; a sorceress named Marie Gardimain being also implicated. An effigy of the king in wax was discovered half-melted in front of a fire of dry plants, which had been gathered by moonlight in a graveyard. Bolingbroke the necromancer was hanged, Gardimain burnt, and the Duchess of Gloucester condemned to imprisonment for life.
The “evil eye” was another form of witchcraft, mostly practised by women. Visions or apparitions in the sky, foretelling some war or disaster, were firmly believed in by the Church, and caused great consternation. Fiery dragons appearing in the heavens were said to predict civil war; and we also read of pigs bearing royal crowns, and gory stars, all of which were doubtless caused by ordinary phenomena not understood at that time.
The appearance of the devil presiding at a sabbath or meeting of sorcerers is thus described by De Lancre: “He is seated in a black chair with a crown of black horns, two horns in his neck, and one on the forehead, which sheds light on the assembly; the hair bristling, the face pale and exhibiting signs of uneasiness, the eyes round, large, and fully opened, inflamed and hideous, with a goat’s beard. The neck and the rest of the body deformed, and in the shape of a man and a goat; the hands and the feet of a human being.”
The word witch is thought by some authorities to be derived from chausaph, which means a user of pharmaceutic enchantments, or an applier of drugs to magical purposes.
Witches sent storms and barrenness, drowned children, brought on ague, could kill with evil eye, slay with lightning, pass through key-holes, ride through the air on broom-sticks, and perform many other weird and wondrous things.
“They were generally old, blear-eyed, wrinkled dames,” says Scott, “ugly and crippled, frequently papists, and sometimes atheists; of cross-grained tempers and cynical dispositions.” They were often poisoners, and generally monomaniacs. Epilepsy and all diseases not understood by the physicians were set down to the influence of witches. They were said to make two covenants with the devil, one public and one private. Then the novices were presented to the devil in person, and instructed to renounce the Christian faith, tread on the Cross, break the fasts, joining hands with Satan, paying him homage, and yielding him body and soul. Some witches sold themselves for a term of years, and some for ever; then they kissed the devil, and signed their bond with blood, and a banquet ended the meeting; their dances being accompanied with shouts of “Ha, ha! devil, devil! Dance here, dance here! Play here, play here! Sabbath, sabbath!” Before they departed the devil was said to give them philtres and amulets. These women were usually hypochondriacs, often driven by despair and misfortune to confess any charge made against them.
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