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The Evil Eye, by Frederick Thomas Elworthy, [1895], at


THE Australian aborigines, who seem to have considerable notions of astronomy, have a name for the Pleiades, which signifies a flock of cockatoos--an object most familiar to them. Their tradition is 687 that once upon a time they were a certain queen called Gneeanggar, and her six attendants, and that the star crow fell in love with the queen, but was so unsuccessful in gaining her affections that he determined to get possession of her by stratagem. He knew they

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were very fond of white grubs, and finding out when they were going in search of them, he determined to change himself into a grub. In this form he bored into the stem of a tree, where he was sure to be observed by the queen and her attendants. He was soon discovered, and one of the servants thrust in her bone-hook, which the women use for extracting grubs. Of this he broke the point, and did the same to the hooks of all the other five attendants. The queen then put her beautiful hook into the hole: he knew that it was hers, and allowed himself to be drawn out, when he immediately changed himself into a giant, and ran off with her from her maids. Ever since the loss of the queen there have been only six stars in the Pleiades representing her six servants. This story is well known in Western Australia, and with some variations in South Australia also.

These people have their own names for most of the heavenly bodies.

Like the German sun, theirs also is feminine and the moon masculine. The larger stars are sisters of the sun and moon. The Milky Way is the big river. The dark space of the Milky Way is bunyip688 an animal something like a horse. When the natives first saw a horse they thought it was bunyip, and would not go near it.

Jupiter they call "Strike the Sun," a feminine name. Venus is the "Mother of the Sun."

Canopus they call crow, Sirius eagle, Antares big-stomach, and say the glow-worm took its light from this star.

The three stars in Orion's belt are the sisters of the eagle (Sirius), and always follow him.

These people believe in a good spirit as a gigantic man living above the clouds. "His voice, the thunder, 689 is listened to with pleasure," as that of a friend. The bad spirit, who is evidently much more considered--for fear is ever stronger than love in the savage breast--is called "the

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maker of bad-smelling smoke"; he is the author of every ill. "At times he assumes the form of a large, ugly man, and though not provided with wings like the white man's devil, he flits and darts from place to place with the rapidity of lightning, is very mischievous, and hungers for the flesh of children." He is believed to live deep underground, and commands a number of inferior spirits. No human being has ever returned from the place called Ummekulleen, where he, Muuruup, lives. There is nothing but fire there, and the souls of bad people get neither meat nor drink, and are terribly knocked about by the evil spirits. Every adult has a wraith, or likeness of himself, which is visible only to himself, and to him only before his own premature death. Good people go off to a beautiful country above the clouds, where life will be enjoyed for ever. Friends will meet and recognise each other, but there will be no marrying, as the bodies will be left upon earth. The shades of the wicked wander miserably about the earth for one year after death, frightening people, and then descend to Ummekulleen, never to return. 690

These really very remarkable notions are so much like our own that one would have expected to find these savages had lived long in contact with Europeans; but we know that this cannot be so, and that their beliefs in a future state must be the relics of some unknown previous condition of civilisation, or they must be the innate ideas of primitive man. The Wuulon and the shadow referred to (P. 72) would seem to point to their descent from a higher Oriental stock-a contention further borne out by Dawson (p. 54), who describes a conveyance of land regularly signed and sealed. He says "the reader will be interested in these traces of civilisation among a people who have hitherto been considered the least civilised of all nations."

Closely connected with astrology is the poetical notion

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called the "Music of the Spheres," a term very often used without the slightest knowledge of its true meaning. It was an ancient belief that each of the vowels of the alphabet represented the sound uttered in its revolution by one particular planet; these all combined form one eternal harmony to the glory of the great Creator of the Universe. This is the meaning of the lines in Addison's well-known hymn:--

For ever singing, as they shine,
"The hand that made us is divine."

India, again, seems to have been the birthplace of this beautiful idea, which even in Plato's day was quite familiar, for he makes the seven notes proceed from a siren seated upon the several spheres, set in motion by the Fates. 691

Another interpretation of the seven vowels is that they represent the ineffable name of the Creator, the mystic Jehovah, the great "I Am." This explanation is supported by the fact that "these combinations of the vowels often appear purposely to include and veil from the profane sense the sacred triliteral ΙΑΩ."

The same author tells us 692 that "talisman is but the corruption in the Arabian mouth of Ἀποτέλεσμα, the influence of a planet upon the native; hence astrology is called ἡ Ἀποτελεσματική."

From astrology we are naturally led on to other practices, by which men in all ages have sought to solve the insoluble and to know the unknowable.

Magical arts, by which we mean all the various forms of divination and enchantment practised by the ancients, were said by the Greeks to have been invented in Persia, or, as we have it, Chaldea. The Μάγοι originally were wise men, philosophers, given to the study of nature and the contemplation of the stars and heavenly bodies. From these higher pursuits they gradually declined, and following the bent of their natural humanity, which makes fear the

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strongest of motives, they began to propitiate the spirits of the evils they dreaded, rather than to render thanks to the good spirits from whom they at least admitted all good things to proceed. Hence they took to the invocation of demons, leading on to what we now call black arts.

These practices are said to have been introduced among the Greeks by a certain Œthanes, who came over with the invading army of Xerxes, and who propagated the rudiments of magic. They were afterwards extended and developed by Democritus, through contact with the Phœnicians. It is clear however that the seed fell into suitable soil, which moreover had, long before Œthanes, been well prepared by the primæval belief in the evil eye--a belief which had become so confident, that we find, as already related, the wise Pisistratus had caused a great amulet in the shape of a grillo, a locust or cricket, to be set up on a column in the Agora at Athens, as a protector against the dread influence.

The greater arts practised by the ancient Greeks were:-- 693

1. Necromancy (Νεκρομαντεία) the commonest of all the magic arts, by which answers to matters relating to this life 'were obtained from the dead. Closely allied, and belonging to this, was Psychomancy (Ψυχομαντεία), by which the dead were called up or made to appear in airy forms like shades or ghosts. This was the art, however it may have been practised, of the Witch of Endor.

Among the old Greeks there were particular places set apart as specially appropriate to this art, called Νεκρομαντεία. Of these, two were the most remarkable--first Threspotia, where Orpheus restored to life his wife Eurydice, and where Periander, tyrant of Corinth, was affrighted by the appearance of his wife Melissa, whom he had murdered; secondly, the next most noted spot

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was at the famous cave of the Sibyl, on the Lacus Avernus, between Pozzuoli and Baiæ in Campania, about ten miles from Naples. This latter is celebrated by Horner and Virgil in their stories of Æneas and Ulysses. The writer can testify that it can still be entered and explored, though somewhat flooded by water, consequent on recent volcanic disturbance.

2. Hydromancy (Ἡδρομαντεία), divination by the images or other appearances caused to appear in water, as of a fountain. Often this was performed with a basin and then called Λεκανομαντεία.

Frequently the same art with a like result was practised with a mirror or looking-glass, and hence called Κατοπτρομαντεία. Sometimes it was performed in vessels of water, the centre of which was called Γαστήρ, and hence this divination was called Γαστρομαντεία. The latter was performed thus: Round vessels were filled with clear water, about which were placed lighted torches; they then invoked the demon, in a low, murmuring voice, and proposed the question to be solved. A chaste boy or a pregnant woman was appointed to observe with the greatest care and exactness all the alterations in the glasses, at the same time desiring, beseeching, and also commanding an answer, which at length the demon used to return by images in the glasses, which by reflection from the water represented what should come to pass. 694

There can be no doubt that Joseph had learnt this art of divination from the Egyptians. It was his divining cup or bowl which was found in Benjamin's sack. "Is not this it (the bowl) in which my lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he divineth?" (Gen. xliv. 5). Again, when brought back, Joseph himself said to his brethren: "What deed is this that ye have done? wot ye not that such a man as I

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can certainly divine?" (Gen. xliv. 15). He evidently took it for granted that his brethren would believe he could ascertain by magic who had stolen the money and the cup.

3. Crystalomancy (Κρυσταλλομαντεία) was performed with polished and enchanted crystals, wherein future events were discerned by certain marks and figures which were caused to appear.

4. Dactylomancy (Δακτυλομαντεία), or divination by enchanted rings.

5. Onychomancy (Ὀνυχομαντεία) was performed by the finger-nails of an unpolluted boy. These were covered with soot and oil, and when turned to the sun they reflected the desired image.

6. Aeromancy (Ἀερομαντεία), divination by appearances in the air.

7. Lithomancy (Λιθομαντεία), divination with a precious stone called siderites. By a stone of this kind, Helenus is reported to have foretold the destruction of Troy. Precious stones were not only used for the purpose of divination, but were in themselves held in the highest esteem as amulets or charms against the evil eye chiefly, but also against diseases.

Of all relics of the occult arts perhaps the beliefs attaching to famous stones, from the Scone stone under the Coronation Chair, to the moonstones and toadstones of fable, are in these days as conspicuous as any. How many stories we find nowadays turning upon the safe keeping of some mystic stone, or precious gem, whose loss is fatal to its possessor or his family.

Another subsidiary divination was by the well-known crackling sound made by laurel leaves in burning. The word Daphne (δάφνη), the Greek for laurel, is said to be δα-φωνή (from the sound), i.e. the noise made by the leaves in burning.

8. Coscinomancy (Κοσκινομαντεία), divination by a sieve, which, according to Theocritus, was used by an old woman 695 in telling silly people their fortunes.

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9. Axinomancy (Ἀξινομαντεία) from Ἀξίνη an axe or hatchet, which was posted on a stake and was supposed to turn at the name of the guilty person. Perhaps here we have a clue to the origin of our vernacular "bury the hatchet," although Longfellow (Hiawatha xiii.) makes the custom North American.

10. Cephalonomancy (Κεφαλονομαντεία), divination by broiling an ass's head on coals. The jaws were said to move at the name of the guilty person.

11. Alectromancy (Ἀλεκτρυομαντεία), by a cock. Twenty-four letters were laid on the ground with a grain of corn on each; the cock magically prepared was then let loose, and the letters from which he picked the corns in order were joined and produced the required name.

12. Sideromancy (Σιδηρομαντεία), conjuring with a hot iron, on which they laid an odd number of straws. The result required was obtained by observing the contortions made by the straws in burning.

13. Molybdomancy (Μολυβδομαντεία), by noting motions and figures in molten lead.

14. Tephromancy (Τεφρομαντεία), divination by ashes after exposure to the wind.

15. Botanomancy (Βοτανομαντεία), conjuring with herbs, especially Ἐλελίσφακος or salvia.

Sometimes fig-leaves were used, and then it was called Sycomancy (Συκομαντεία). The diviners wrote names and questions on leaves, which were then exposed to the winds. Those remaining furnished the answers sought.

16. Ceromancy (Κηρομαντεία), divination by the forms assumed by melted wax dropped into water.

17. Pharmacy (Φαρμακεία). This was perhaps the most commonly practised as well as the most powerful of all the black arts, and has doubtless left its mark upon the poisoner's craft of later ages. It consisted in divination by means of medicated drugs, both vegetable and mineral, called Φάρμακα. Some of these were believed to be of great efficacy, and capable of imparting their venom

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to persons at a considerable distance. So widespread was the belief in the potency of these poisons, that special charms or amulets, called Φάρμακα σωτήρια, were provided to counteract them. These were: herb moly, which preserved Ulysses from the enchantments of Circe, laurel (daphne), sallow-tree, rhamn or Christ thorn, fleabane, the jasper stone, and many others mentioned by the mediæval writer Albertus Magnus and by Orpheus in his book De Lapillis.

Certain rings also were used as countercharms, which were called by Aristophanes, in his Plutus, Δακτυλίουσ Φαρμακίτας.

Both Democritus and Pythagoras were reputed to be skilful in pharmacy. The Thessalians, particularly the women, were most celebrated among the Greeks as practisers of it. Besides all these, a great many other forms and modes of enchantment were devoutly used by the ancients. The more powerful incantations were firmly believed to be capable of even drawing the moon from her path. 696

The moon, indeed, was thought to preside over the art of pharmacy, while Hecate, who, as we have seen, was but one of the persons or attributes of Artemis or Diana Triformis, was supposed to have been the inventor of it. Hence both these goddesses, really the same, were invoked by its adepts. Whenever the moon was eclipsed it was thought to be the effect of magicians; and at such times it was usual to beat drums and kettles, to sound hautboys, trumpets, or any instruments making a great noise, to drown the voices of the sorcerers or evil workers, so that their charms might be impotent.

To this great art of pharmacy, on the other hand, belong all the charms, amulets, and enchantments against poison, venom of serpents, with all diseases; and hence of course our modern use of the word.

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The faith in the power of magic arts was simply unbounded, as is testified by nearly all the classic writers. Tibullus (Eleg. II. i. 43) says that a certain famous enchantress could not only draw down the stars from the sky, but could change the course of a river. Further, she could make snow to fall in summer.

Horace, Lucan, Ovid, all bear similar witness: how that not only could they cause earthquakes and lightnings, but even could make the dead come out of their tombs. Hence we see that what was held to be a protector against the witch, or the witchcraft capable of producing such calamities, soon got to be considered a specific against the evil itself. Thus our joke about pills good against an earthquake was once a serious fact devoutly believed.

We find that certain of these incantations had to be performed during the increase of the moon; and similarly we read in the old herbals of Gerard, Turner, and Culpepper, how greatly the influence of the moon is to be considered in taking the remedies they prescribe.

Even Plato speaks of the Thessalian enchantresses as able to remove the moon from the sky, and he is followed by many other writers. This account is moreover confirmed by both Tibullus and Virgil. All stories are, however, capped by Pliny, who gravely states that an entire olive orchard, belonging to one Vectius Marcellus, was drawn by enchantment across the public road, while the land on which it was placed was made to go back and take the place previously occupied by the olive orchard. 697

Ovid, too, gives some very strange stories of how, by incantation, the stars distilled blood and the moon became of a bloody purple.

His mother was a witch, and one so strong
That could control the moon, make flows and ebbs,
And deal in her command without her power.
                                   The Tempest, Act v. Sc. i.

Magicians were also believed to be able to raise the gods of the upper and lower world, and compel them to answer

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questions. Pliny, again, even gives the names of the herbs they used for this purpose. It appears, however, that the raising of the gods was not the same as the commoner necromancy, but must have belonged to the highest powers of the adepts in pharmacy, seeing that herbs were employed for the purpose.

It is, of course, futile to speculate as to the means, the extent to which these things were done, or, indeed, as to the truth of any of these wonderful stories. All we can say is, that in the Bible are abundant references to the wizards and magicians who "did so with their enchantments." We cannot believe them implicitly in the light of our present knowledge, neither can we explain them away, least of all can we venture to scoff at so many, so various, and in other respects so truthful witnesses.

A magical operation, almost precisely similar to the ancient Greek Γαστρομαντεία, is recorded as witnessed by himself in Mr. Lane's Modern Egyptians (vol. ii. ch. xii.), except that the mirror was of ink instead of clear water. This performance is now called darb-el-mendel. The chaste boy was the medium as of old; and the magician informed him that formerly those who alone could see the images, were the boy and a pregnant woman, to whom, however, modern experience seems to have added a virgin and a black female slave. The whole business is minutely described, and the form of invocation, written, as translated by Mr. Lane, was readily given to him. The main influence is said to be achieved by the first two words. We give the invocation, and refer the inquirer for full information to Mr. Lane's book.

Magic Invocation and Charm

Tarshun! Taryoashun! come down!
Come down! be present! Whither are gone
The prince and his troops? Where are El Ahmar
The prince and his troops? Be present,
Ye servants of these names!
And this is the removal, and we have removed from thee
Thy veil; and thy sight to-day
Is piercing! Correct: correct.


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Besides this invocation there was the very common magic square with Arabic numerals making 15, as shown on p. 402. The only difference is in the position of the figures, which of course makes no change in the result so long as 5 is kept in the centre. The same applies to the squared words--tenet must be in the centre.


438:687 James Dawson, Australian Aborigines, Melbourne, 1881, p. 100.

439:688 Lumholtz, Among Cannibals, 1889, p. 202.

439:689 Dawson, op. cit. p. 49.

440:690 Dawson, op. cit. p. 51. See also on this subject Tylor, Prim. Cult. i. 274 et seq.

441:691 King, Gnostics, p. 93.

441:692 Ibid. p.115.

442:693 Fuller accounts of all these, together with the details of a large number of subsidiary enchantments, will be found in Potter's Archæologia Græca, vol. i., and in Pliny's Letters and Natural History.

443:694 Potter, Archæol. Græca, i. 408, Copied verbatim in Robinson's Grecian Antiquities, p. 271 from whom Mr. Goodwin repeats it in Fragment of a Græco-Egyptian work upon Magic Cambridge, 1852, p. 22. The modern Persians apply the word Jain, signifying a cup, mirror, or even globe, to magical vessels of this kind. See R. S. Poole in Smith's Dict. of the Bible, S, v. "Magic," p. 197.

444:695 Archbishop Potter makes Theocritus call the old woman a gypsy!

446:696 See Ovid, Metamorph. vii. 207:--

"Te quoque, Luna, traho";

Virgil, Eclog. viii. 70:--

"Carmina vel cælo possunt deducere lunam.

447:697 Pliny, Nat. Hist. xvii. 38 (vol. iii. p. 527, Bohn).

We are then told minutely what the boy said he saw; but from "holding the boy's hand all the while" he was looking intently into the ink, it appears rather like a case of hypnotism, plus a good deal of apparatus in the way of a chafing dish, frankincense, and coriander seed, so that "the fumes became painful to the eyes." The boy, however, was evidently not an educated medium, as he was taken from a crowd, and was Mr. Lane's own selection. The description of the objects seen by the boy, as elicited by leading questions, shows that these questions are evidently ancient and traditional forms, while the general resemblance of the objects said to be seen in the ink, to the appearances mentioned in the papyrus, No. XLVI., described in Mr, Goodwin's paper (see p. 395), is quite obvious. We are thus brought to perceive that this art as now practised in Egypt has changed but little in two thousand years.