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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,* 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
* Lib. viii. chap. 2. 5.
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 came 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.
AMULETS USED BY THE COMMON PEOPLE.
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 succcess. 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
Another charme that witches use at the gathering of
their medicinal herbs.”
Haile be thou holy herbe,
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
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