Imatges de pÓgina
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tensive acquaintance with the ocean, has shown that this appearance is not unique; a similar one on the coast of Patagonia, has more than once deceived both French and English navigators; and rock Dunder, in the West Indies, bears a resemblance, at a distance equally illusive. There is another recorded by Captain Hardy, in his recent travels in Mexico, near the shore of California; and the "story of the flying Dutchman," is founded on a similar appearance at the Cape of Good Hope, connected with a tradition which has been long current there among the Dutch colonists. Another instance is afforded by the chimæra, the solution of which enigma, as given by Ovid, is so fully substantiated by the very intelligent British officer who surveyed the Caramania a few years since. Scylla the sea monster, which devoured six of the rowers of Ulysses, M. Salverte, a recent compiler on the marvellous, is tempted to regard as an overgrown polypus magnified by the optical power of poetry, though we are disposed to give the credit to an alligator, or its mate, a crocodile; and this occurrence is not so fictitiously represented, as it is supposed to be.

MAGICAL PRETENSIONS OF CERTAIN HERBS, ETC.

In the enumeration of plants possessing magical properties, Pliny mentions those which, according to Pythagoras, have the property of concealing water. Elsewhere, without having resource to magic, he assigns to hemp an analogous quality. According to him, the juice of this plant poured into water becomes

suddenly inspissated and congealed. It is probable enough, that he indicated a species of mallow, the hemp-leaved marsh-mallow, of which the mucilaginous juice produces this effect to a certain point, and an effect which may also be obtained from every vegetable as rich in mucilage.

Of vegetable productions, many produce intoxicating effects, such as berries of the night-shade,* scammony, and various species of fungi. These unquestionably have been made subservient to demonological purposes, which, with the ignorant, have passed off for supernatural agency. The priests, to whom the little comparative learning of the dark ages attached, knew well how to impose upon the credulous but imposition was not always their object; an extent of benevolence prevailed which contemplated the relief of their fellow creatures afflicted with sickness.

It was maintained by the Egyptians that, besides the gods, there were many demons which communicated with mortals, and which were often rendered

*The berries of the belladonna or deadly nightshade, produce, when eaten, a furious madness, followed by sleep, which lasts for twenty-four hours. Such drugs as produce mental stupefaction, without impairing the physical powers, may have given rise to the accounts of men being transformed into brutes, so frequent in what are denominated the fabulous writers, while the evanescent but exquisite joys of an opposite description, an anticipation of what implicit obedience would ensure them for ever, produced blind, furious, devoted adherents to any philosophical speculator, who would venture to try so desperate an experiment.

visible by certain ceremonies and songs; that genii exercised an habitual and powerful influence over every particle of matter; that thirty-six of these beings presided over the various members of the human body; and thus, by magical incantations, it might be strengthened, or debilitated, afflicted with, or delivered from disease. Thus, in every case of sickness, the spirit presiding over the afflicted part, was first duly invoked. But the magicians did not trust solely to their vain invocations; they were well acquainted with the virtues of certain herbs, which they wisely employed in their attempts at healing. These herbs were greatly esteemed such, for instance, as the cynocephalia, or, as the Egyptians themselves termed the asyrites,* which was used as a preventive against witchcraft; and the nepenthes which Helen presented in a potion to Menelaus, and which was believed to be powerful in banishing sadness, and in restoring the mind to its accustomed, or even to greater, cheerfulness, were of Egyptian growth. But whatever may be the virtues of such herbs, they were used rather for their magical, than for their medicinal qualities; every cure was cunningly ascribed to the presiding demons, with which not a few boasted that they were, by means of their art, intimately connected.

There can be no question, as attested by the

*The Rowan tree or Mountain ash, is used by the Scottish peasantry with the same view; and a small twig of it is sewed up in the cow's tail, to preserve the animal and its produce from the influence of witches and warlocks.

earliest records, that the ancients were in possession of many potent remedies. Melampus of Argos, the most ancient Greek physician with whom we are acquainted, is reputed to have cured one of the Argonauts of barrenness, by exhibiting the rust of iron dissolved in wine, for the space of ten days. The same physician used hellebore as a purgative on the daughters of King Proteus, who were labouring under hypochondriasis or melancholy. Bleeding was also a remedy of very early origin, and said to have been first suggested by the hypopotamus or sea horse, which at a certain time of the year was observed to cast itself on the sea shore, and to wound itself among the rocks or stones, to relieve its plethora. Podalerius, on his return from the Trojan war, cured the daughter of Damæthus, who had fallen from a height, by bleeding her in both arms. Opium, the concrete juice of the poppy, was known in the earliest ages; and probably it was opium that Helen mixed with wine, and gave to the guests of Menelaus, under the expressive name of Nepenthe, to drown their cares, and encrease their hilarity This conjecture, in a considerable degree, is supported from the fact, that Homer's Nepenthe was procured from the Egyptian Thebes, whence the tincture of opium, according to the nomenclature of the pharmacopeia about fifty years ago, and still known by this name in the older writers; and, if Dr. Darwin may be credited, the Cumæan Sybil never sat on the portending tripod without first swallowing a few drops of juice of the cherry-laurel.

There is every reason to believe that the Pagan priesthood were under the influence of some narcotic preparation during the display of their oracular power, but the effects produced would seem rather to resemble those of opium, or perhaps of stramonium, than of prussic acid, which the cherry-laurel water is known to contain.

The priests of the American Indians, says Monardur, whenever they were consulted by the chief gentlemen, or caciques, as they are called, took certain leaves of the tobacco, and cast them into the fire, and then received the smoke thus produced by them into their mouths, which caused them to fall upon the ground. After having remained in this position for some time in a state of stupor, they recovered, and delivered the answers, which they pretended to have received during the supposed intercourse with the world of spirits.

The narcotic, or sedative influence of the garden radish, was known in the earliest times. In the fables of antiquity we read, that, after the death of Adonis, Venus, to console herself, and repress her desires, lay down upon a bed of lettuces. The sea onion, or squill, was administered by the Egyptians, in cases of dropsy, under the mystic title of the eye of Typhon. The practices of incision and scarification, were employed in the Greek camp at the siege of Troy; and the application of spirits to wounds, was likewise understood; for we find Nestor applying a poultice compounded of cheese, onion, and meal, mixed up with the wine of Pramnos, to the wounds of Machaon.

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