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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.
ON TALISMANS-SOME CURIOUS, NATURAL ONES, ETC.
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 Ælian, 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 preter.ded 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 influences. *
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 ist. 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 angels.
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 Tyanæus 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
* The author of a book, entitled “ Talismans justifiés," 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 influences.
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* 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 purpose.
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
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 glossopetræ 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,
most esteemed. Bracelets are