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The Philosophy of Natural Magic, by Henry Cornelius Agrippa, L. W. de Laurence ed. [1913], at


Of Divers Certain Animals, and Other Things, Which Have a Signification in Auguries.

All the Auspicia, or auspices, which first happen in the beginning of any enterprise are to be taken notice of. As, if in the beginning of thy work thou shalt perceive that rats have gnawn thy garments, desist from thy undertakings. If going forth thou shalt stumble at the threshhold, or if in the way thou shalt dash thy foot against any thing, forbear thy journey. If any ill omen happen in the beginning of thy business, put off thy undertakings, lest thy intentions be wholly frustrated, or accomplished to no purpose, but expect and wait for a fortunate hour for the dispatching of thy affairs with a better omen. We see that many animals are, by a natural power im-bred in them, prophetical. Doth not the cock by his crowing diligently tell you the hours of the night and morning, and, with his wings spread forth, chase away the lion? Many birds, with their singing and chattering, and flies, by their sharp pricking, foretell rain; and dolphins, by their often leaping above the water, warn of tempests. It would be too long to relate all the passages which the Phrygians, Cilicians, Arabians, Umbrians, Tuscians, and other peoples, which follow the auguries, have learned by birds. These they have proved by many experiments and examples. For in all things the Oracles of things to come are hid, but those are the chiefest which

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omenal birds shall foretell. These are those which the poets relate were turned from men into birds. Therefore, what the daw declares, hearken unto and mark, observing her setting as she sits; and her manner of flying, whether on the right hand or left; whether clamorous or silent; whether she goes before or follows after; whether she waits for the approach of him that passeth by, or flies from him, and which way she goes. All these things must be diligently observed. Arus Apollo saith in his Hieroglyphics that daws that are twins signify marriage, because this bird brings forth two eggs, out of which male and female must be brought forth; but if, which seldom happens, two males be generated, or two females, the males will not go with any other females, nor females with any other males, but will always live without a mate, and solitary. Therefore they that meet a single daw, divine thereby that they shall live a single life. The same also doth a black hen pigeon betoken, for after the death of her mate, she always lives single. Thou shall, also, as carefully observe crows, which are as significant as daws, yea, and in greater matters. It was Epictetus the Stoics’ philosopher's judgment, who was a sage author, that if a crow did croak over against any one, it did betoken some evil, either to his body, fortune, honor, wife, or children. Then thou shall take heed to swans, who foreknow the secrets of the waters, for their cheerfulness doth presage happy events not only to mariners, but all other travelers, unless they be overcome by the coming over of a stronger bird, as of an eagle, who, by the most potent majesty of her sovereignty, makes null the predictions of all other birds if she speaks to the contrary; for she flies higher than all other birds, and is of more acute sight, and is never excluded from the secrets of Jupiter; she portends advancement and victory, but by blood, because she drinks no water but blood. An

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eagle flying over the Locresians, fighting against the Crotoniensians, gave them victory; an eagle setting herself unawares upon the target of Hiero, going forth to the first war, betokened that he should be king. Two eagles sitting all day upon the house at the birth of Alexander, of Macedonia, did portend to him an omen of two kingdoms, viz., Asia and Europe. An eagle, also, taking off the hat of Lucias Tarquinius Priscus, son to Demarathus the Corinthian (and, by reason of some discord, being come into Hetraria and going to Rome) and then flying high with it, and afterwards putting it upon his head again, did portend to him the kingdom of the Romans. Vultures signify difficulty, hardness, and ravenousness, which was verified in the beginning of the building of cities. Also they fortell the places of slaughter, coming seven days beforehand; and because they have most respect to that place where the greatest slaughter shall be, as if they gaped after the greatest number of the slain, therefore the ancient kings were wont to send out spies to take notice what place the vultures had most respect to. The phœnix promiseth singular good success, which being seen anew, Rome was built very auspiciously. The pelican because she hazards herself for her young, signifies that a man should, out of the zeal of his love, undergo much hardship. The painted bird gave the name to the city of Pictavia, and foreshowed the lenity of that people by its color and voice. The heron is an augury of hard things. The stork also is a bird of concord and makes concord. Cranes gives us notice of the treachery of enemies. The bird cacupha betokens gratitude, for she alone doth express love to her dam, being spent with old age. On the contrary, the hippopotamus, that kills his dam, doth betoken ingratitude for good turns, also injustice. The bird origis is most envious, and betokens envy.

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Amongst the smaller birds, the pie is talkative and foretells guests. The bird albanellus flying by anyone, it from the left to the right, betokens cheerfulness of entertainment; if contrariwise, betokens the contrary. The screech owl is always unlucky, so also is the horn owl, who, because she goes to her young by night, unawares, as death comes unawares, is therefore said to foretell death; yet, sometimes, because she is not blind in the dark of the night, doth betoken diligence and watchfulness, which she made good when she sat upon the spear of Hiero. And Dido, when she saw the unlucky owl, pitied Æneas, whence the poet sang:

The Owl, sitting on top of the house alone,
Sends forth her sad complaints with mournful tone.

And in another place,

The slothful Owl by mortals is esteemed
A fatal omen—

The same bird sang in the capitol when the Roman affairs were low at Numantia and when Fregelia was pulled down for a conspiracy made against the Romans. Almadel says that owls and night-ravens, when they turn aside to strange countries, or houses, betoken the death of the men of that country and those houses, for those birds are delighted with dead carcasses and perceive them beforehand. For men that are dying have a near affinity with dead carcasses. The hawk is also a foreteller of contention, as Naso sings:

We hate the Hawk, because that arms amongst
She always lives—

Lelius, the embassador of Pompey, was slain in Spain, amongst the purveyors, which misfortune, a hawk flying over the head, is said to foretell. And Almadel saith that these kinds of birds fighting

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amongst themselves, signify the change of a kingdom; but if birds of another kind shall fight with them and are never seen to come together again, it portends a new condition and state of that country. Also, little birds, by their coming to or departing from, foreshew that a family shall be increased or lessened; and their flight, by how much the more serene it is, by so much the more laudable shall the change be. Whence did Melampus, the Augure, conjecture at the slaughter of the Greeks by the flight of little birds, when he saith: "Thou see now that no bird takes his flight in fair weather." Swallows, because when they are dying they provide a place of safety for their young, do portend a great patrimony or legacy after the death of friends. A bat, meeting any one running away, signifies an evasion; for, although she have no wings, yet she flies. A sparrow is a bad omen to one that runs away, for she flies from the hawk and makes haste to the owl, where she is in as great danger; yet in love she is fortunate, for being stirred up with affection she seeks her consort hourly. Bees are a good omen to kings, for they signify an obsequious people. Flies signify importunity and impudence because being oftentimes driven away they do continually return. Also domestic birds are not without some auguries, for cocks, by their crowing, promote hope, and the journey of him that is undertaking it. Moreover, Livia, the mother of Tiberius, when she was great with him, took a hen's egg and hatched it in her bosom, and at length came forth a cock chick with a great comb, which the auguries interpreted that the child that should be born of her should be a king. And Cicero writes that at Thebais, cocks, by their crowing all night, did presage that the Bæotians would obtain victory against the Lacedæmonians, and the reason is according to the augury's interpretations because that bird when he is beaten is silent, but when he himself hath

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overcome, crows. In like manner, also, omens of events are taken from beasts. For the meeting of a weasel is ominous; also, the meeting of a hare is an ill omen to a traveler, unless she be taken. A mule also is bad because barren. A hog is pernicious, for such is his nature, and therefore signifies pernicious men. A horse betokens quarrelings and fightings, whence Anchises, seeing of white horses, cries out in Virgil:

With war are Horses arm’d, yea, threaten war.

But when they are joined together in a chariot, because they draw with an equal yoke, they signify that peace is to be hoped for. An ass is an unprofitable creature, yet did Marius good, who, when he was pronounced an enemy to his country, saw an ass disdaining provender that was offered to him, and running to the water, by which augury he, supposing he saw a way of safety showed to him, entreated the aid of his friends that they would convey him to the sea, which being granted, he was set into a little ship, and so escaped the threats of Silla the conqueror. If the foal of an ass meet any one going to an augury, he signifies labor, patience and hinderances. A wolf meeting any one is a good sign, the effect whereof was seen in Hiero of Sicilia, from whom a wolf, snatching away a book whilst he was at school, confirmed to him the success of the kingdom, but yet the wolf makes him speechless whom he sees first. A wolf rent in pieces a watchman of P. Africanus and C. Fulvius at Minturn, when the Roman army was overcome by the fugitives in Sicilia. He signifies perfidious men, such as you can give no credit to, which was known in the progeny of Romans. For the faith which they long since sucked from their mother, the wolf, and kept to themselves from the beginning, as by a certain law of nature, passed over to their posterity. To meet a lion, seeing he is amongst animals the strongest and striking terror

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into all the rest, is good. But for a woman to meet a lioness is bad, because she hinders conception, for a lioness brings forth but once. To meet sheep and goats is good. It is read in the Ostentarian of the Tuscians, if this animal shall wear any unusual color, it portends to the emperor plenty of all things, together with much happiness. Whence Virgil to Pollio sings thus:

But, in the meadows, Rams shall scarlet bear,
And changing, sometimes golden fleeces wear.

It is good also to meet oxen treading out corn, but better to meet them plowing, which although breaking the way, hinder thy journey, yet by the favor of their Auspicium will recompense thee again. A dog in a journey is fortunate, because Cyrus, being cast into the woods, was nourished by a dog until he came to the kingdom; which, also, the angel, companion of Tobit, did not scorn as a companion. The castor, because he biteth himself sorely, so as to be seen by hunters, is an ill omen and portends that a man will injure himself. Also, amongst small animals, mice signify danger, for the same day that they did gnaw gold in the capitol, both the consuls were intercepted by Hannibal by way of ambush, near Tarentum. The locust making a stand in any place, or burning the place, hinders one from their wishes and is an ill omen; and on the contrary the grasshopper promotes a journey and foretells a good event of things. The spider weaving a line downwards, is said to signify hope of money to come. Also the ants, because they know how to provide for themselves, and to prepare safe nests for themselves, portend security and riches, and a great army. Hence, when the ants had devoured a tame dragon of Tiberius Cæsar, it was advised that he should take heed of the tumult of a multitude. If a snake meet thee, take heed of an ill-tongued enemy; for this creature hath no power

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but in his mouth. A snake creeping into the palace of Tiberius, portended his fall. Two snakes were found in the bed of Sempronius Gracchus, wherefore a soothsayer told him, if he would let the male or the female escape, either he or his wife would shortly die; and he, preferring the life of his wife, killed the male and let the female go, and within a few days he died. So a viper signifies lewd women and wicked children; and an eel signifies a man displeased with everybody, for she lives apart from all other fishes, nor is ever found in the company of any. But, amongst all Auguries and Omens, there is none more effectual and potent than man himself, and none that doth signify the truth more clearly. Thou shalt, therefore, diligently note and observe the condition of the man that meeteth thee, his age, profession, station, stature, gesture, motion, exercise, complexion, habit, name, words, speech, and all such like things. For seeing there are in all other animals so many discoveries of presages, without all question these are more efficacious and clear which are infused into man's soul; which Tully himself testifies, saying, that there is a certain Auspicium naturally in men's souls of their eternity, for the knowing of the courses and causes of things. In the foundation of the city of Rome the head of a man was found with his whole face, which did presage the greatness of the empire, and gave the name to the Mountain of the Capitol. The Brutian soldiers fighting against Octavius and Antonius, found an Æthiopian in the gate of their castle, and though they slew him as a presage of ill success, yet they were unfortunate in battle, and both their generals, Brutus and Cassius, were slain.

The meeting of monks is commonly accounted an ill omen, and so much the rather if it be early in the morning, because these kind of men live for the most by the sudden death of men, as vultures do by slaughters.

Next: Chapter LV. How Auspicias Are Verified by the Light of Natural Instinct, and of Some Rules of Finding It Out