« السابقةمتابعة »
And the yellow-skirted fayes
Fly after the night steeds, leaving their moon-loved maze.
But see, the Virgin-bless'd Hath laid her babe to rest;' Time is our tedious song should here have ending: Heaven's youngest-teemed star Hath fix'd her polish'd car, Her sleeping Lord with handmaid lamp attending; And all about the courtly stable Bright-harnessed angels sit in order serviceable.
All superstitions are to be traced to the diseases of the body or the mind. The filtres and charms are made for a diseased body or mind. Sometimes they may be efficacious, by chance; sometimes nature, the best of nurses, overcomes all obstacles and heals the malady in spite of the nostrums prescribed. Among the ignorant, in all nations and ages, these panaceas are found. The greater the ignorance the more efficacious the charm. The charm called the Obi, or Obiah, which is now practiced in Jamaica, and other slaveholding places, was brought from Africa, and is now known throughout the country bordering on the Senegal and on the Gambia, and probably is a very ancient superstition. Something resembling this charm has been practiced by the Indians all over this continent. I attended the process of a charm as practiced by the Winnebagoes for the cure of one of their delegation, 'when they were in Washington in 1829. The Indian was very sick and quite insensible. They began by taking out of a bag a great variety of articles, such as beads, glass mirrors, pieces of human skin, with many other matters,—a medley shocking to the sight, and offensive to the smell. A portion of the ingredients was bunit, a sort of chant was held over the fire by some members of the delegation which seemed to be confined to those who could keep time in singing. Then deep breathings and low moans were heard. At times the voices were raised to higher notes. Some threw themselves on the floor, as if in agony. This was continued for two hours, during which time the sick man was stretched by a fire in another room, and entirely deserted by those making up the charm. In their absence a physician of the city came in, at the request of the host, and succeeded in relieving the patient. When the charm was wound up, an Indian woman, the only one accompanying the delegation, crept slowly towards the sick man. His eyes were opened; he spoke; the spell had succeeded,—in an instant the roof resounded with the yells of savage joy. Who could dispute the power of the charm with those sons of the forest?
This same charm, or one near allied to it, is now practiced in the Sandwich Islands. We need not dwell on this part of the subject, for one half of our quack medicines are legitimate descendants of these superstitions. Diseases of the mind are prolific of superstitious deeds. Saul did not consult the witch of Endor until he was in despair; nor did Brutus see the ghost of Caesar, or any other spectre, until his hands had been stained with blood, and his nerves had been agitated in contemplating the fate of himself, and his army. The thoughts of bloody deeds are often accompanied with superstitious omens. When the deed of death first darted into the mind of Lady Macbeth, she said, in soliloquy,
"The raven himself is hoarse, That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan Under my battlements."
When Macbeth had been braced up to Duncan's death, the dagger appeared before him, palpable as that he wore.
"It is the bloody business, which informs
Thus to mine eyes. Now o'er the one half world
Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse
The curtain'd sleep; now witchcraft celebrates
Pale Hecate's ©fferings; and wither'd murder,
Alarum'd by his sentinel, the wolf,
Whose howl's his watch, thus with stealthy pace,
With Tarquin's ravishing strides, towards his design,
Moves like a ghost. Thou sure and firm set earth,
Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear
Thy very stones prate of my where-about."
For a while he could hear Lady Macbeth's advice—
"Things without remedy, Should be without regard"—
for Duncan was dead; but Banquo and Fleance were still living; but when one had twenty mortal murders on his head, and the others had fled from his murderers, he could not any longer forbear consulting the
'l Secret, black and midnight hags, That keep the word of promise to our ear And break it to our hope."
Feeble minds under the influence of supposed guilt, are more likely to be effected by superstitious feelings than strong ones, full of deeds of blood. Sickness, fatigue, and hunger would have made Hercules a whining child, as chills and fever did the mighty Caesar; but a sound mind in a sound body, with a good education and a clear conscience, will never fear the charms of superstition, the spells of witchcraft, nor the power of magic. The seeds of superstition are too often sown in the nursery, and cherished in our youthful days. Bugbears are too often mingled with lullabys, and raw-head and bloody bones with the first tales given to amuse infancy. The household divinities should all be pure, kind, lovely characters, having countenances of beauty and tongues of truth. The stories of the fireside should be free from all hobgoblins and monsters. If it was thought proper to surround the altar of Hymen with forms of taste for effect, surely it is of as much importance to keep the infant mind clear of all monsters.
Seen by the light of philosophy and sound sense, all the marvellous deeds of the magician, the astrologer, and the whole tribe of those who attempt to deceive the people, sink into those of common men, and we only admire their wisdom and skill while we are relieved by the investigation from all dread of enchantments, talismans, and spells, which thicken in almost every page of the early history of mankind. It is astonishing that tho press, at the present day, should teem with quartos and royal octavos, upon the occult science of astrology: A splendid volume, called " The Astrology of the Nineteenth Century," has just been laid upon our tables. 'The compiler, or author, is vexed to find that the very ireful subjects of which he treats do not attract more attention from the learned! But the subject ensures the sale of the work, and probably his ends are answered by this alone. The curious inaylook into this work to smile; to see how learning can put on a fool's cap, and talk of conjurations and apparitions, and all the unmeaning words, letters, and ceremonies of an Abracadabra.
Modern witchcraft is now only an amusing tale, and may be read for the purposes of a gentle sensation after dinner, when other things are dull. Our countrymen never made a charge against any one for being a wizard. This term is from (he same root as the word wise, or wisdom; while the word witch, is from a Saxon word, meaning wicked, and is useli as a noun of common gender.
Do not understand me, that while I would, as with a spunge, wipe out all traces of superstition from the human mind, all records of our early days, when we trembled and half believed the well authenticated tales of some honest neighbor, who heard his grandfather say, that he had heard the famous Cotton Mather say, in public and in private, that witches were an abomination, and that they ought to have been cut off when the foolish people saved them; that I would prefer a cold, selfish unbelief for my guide. No: I should prefer the highest extent of credulity to such a state of mind. That apathy which looks on all worlds, visible or invisible, as a subject of doubt, or unbelief, may be free