FORTUNE-TELLING, CHARMS, ETC.
IN relation to this subject, and confirming an opinion already expressed in the existence still of a belief in magic and charms, I print the following communication from a lady of considerable literary ability -
"Every country, it may be safely inferred, has its own individual, perhaps characteristic, Charm-record; and inquiry into it would more than probably recompense the labour, by the light it would let in on the still but little investigated philosophy of the human mind, and the growth of popular superstitions. The portion of our country best known to the writer of these remarks is Cornwall, remarkable for the picturesque wild-ness of its scenery, and not less so for its numerous superstitions. The Rev. Charles Kingsley, in his 'Yeast,' has availed himself, with his usual tact and power, of one of the most striking of these, having reference to the cruel treatment of the Jews, who were sold as slaves to work in the mines; the evil treatment they experienced being avenged on modem miners, by the terrors the souls of the departed Hebrews inflicted, in returning to the scene of their former compulsory toil, and echoing the sounds of the workmen now labouring in flesh and blood. But this is a digression from the main object of this article--viz., the belief in charms. Several years ago, while residing at Falmouth, I remember to have heard of a man in humble life, named Thomas Martin, whose abode was said to be at a village in the neighbourhood of Redruth, and who accomplished wonderful cures of children subject to fits, or personally injured by any deformity, by his power of charming. This man also practised soothsaying to a considerable extent, and revealed, with unquestionable accuracy, where articles mysteriously abstracted were concealed. If a cow suddenly lost her milk, whether witchcraft had exerted its malignant influence on the non-producing animal or no, such a personage could not but exercise an important power over the rustic population of the neighbourhood. But belief in the mysterious intelligence of Martin was by no means confined to the peasant class. .k highly-respected and even ladylike person told the writer, with all the gravity becoming such a communication, that she had once made an appointment with Thomas Martin to meet him at a certain stile, for the purpose of receiving from him the prediction of her future lot,--in other words, having her fortune told; and hastening thither at the time appointed, was horrified to find the stile occupied by a large black snake. As Martin did not make his appearance, she inferred that he had assumed the serpent form, and not being disposed to hold any intercourse with a being of such questionable exterior, she hastened away, determined never more to risk the attainment of the knowledge she coveted through a probably diabolic channel.
"This anecdote is given as veritable experience of the belief which may prevail in a mind fairly intelligent, and generally rational in conducting the ordinary business of life.
"Martin's reputation was disputed by no one, and that it continued unimpaired to the close of his life reflects no inconsiderable credit on the shrewdness and sagacity of his mind and his power of guessing.
"In the town where the writer has been residing for the last four months, there is a female, advanced in years and of good character, who, according to the report of many persons,--one a relative of her own,--is peculiarly endowed with the power of charming away the disease called the 'kennel,' an affection of the eye which causes extreme pain. A young lady's father was one evening suffering severe pain in the right eye, and after trying various remedies without effect (the agony having greatly increased), in her despair she sought an occasion to leave the house, and hastened at once to the abode of the charmer. She told her errand to the woman, who said that many had come to her for the purpose of ridiculing her, and she did not like to say anything about charming,-- she did not wish to be laughed at. On this the young lady assured her that her object in true faith was to obtain relief for her suffering father, and by no means to indulge the spirit of ridicule. On this representation she was satisfied, and desired to know the kind of kennel which affected the gentleman's eye. This information the daughter was unable to give her, being unacquainted with their peculiarities; 'because,' said the charmer, 'there are nine kinds of kennels,' intimating at the same time that a different charm might be said or applied to each,-- so that, to avoid omitting any, she must say the charms for all, in order that the one especially affecting the diseased eye should be certainly included in the charm. She went up-stairs, and remained about half an hour. On her return she addressed the young lady, and told her she might go home, where she would learn whether the eye had been relieved. She took no money for her incantation. Any little present might be offered at a subsequent visit, but no direct payment was ever requested, and indeed would have been declined. The amazement and pleasure of the anxious daughter, on her arrival at home, will be imagined, on learning from her father that the intense pain in the eye had ceased during her absence, though he had not been made acquainted with her errand. The influence of the faith of another, in this case, on the relief of the afflicted person, has no verisimilitude save with that of the father of the demoniac in the gospel, or the removal of the son's fever in consequence of the faith of the father. I have no reason whatever to question the truth of this story, which was confirmed by the wife of the gentleman thus relieved.
"A still more curious instance of the effect of charm, though quite of another character, was related to me by the same party. The gentleman referred to being much afflicted with cramp, his wife was earnestly advised, by a country woman to whom she mentioned the circumstance, to request her husband to place his slippers, with the toes turned upward, at the foot of the bed. Half smiling at the wise counsel, yet perhaps not altogether incredulous, he followed the good woman's advice, and to his great comfort found himself unaffected by his dreaded enemy throughout the night. His faith being thus established in the anti-cramp influence of upturned slippers, he took care to place them, or to have them placed, in the prescribed attitude on several successive nights. One night, however, he was again seized with some appalling twinges, and bethinking himself of the cause, suddenly recollected that in hastening into bed he had not observed the important rule; instantly he had the slippers restored to their proper position, and, to his astonishment and delight, the pain ceased, and visited him no more. After this experience of the wonderful effects that followed so simple a specific, it may be easily imagined that he did not again risk the return of the cramp from neglecting it. Such phenomena seem beyond the power of explanation on any known medical principles. If any one more than usually versed in the subtle power exercised on the body by the mind, can throw light on the slipper cure of the cramp, he will deserve much at the hands of physiological and mental science." S. E. M.