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p. 270



No one knows better than a bird of the air
Where treasures are concealed."
                              ARISTOPHANES, The Birds

IT was an ancient belief in many countries that the birds knew all things, and, as OVID says, announce the will of the gods, because they are near them; that is, they fly to heaven, or as SENECA expresses it, "Birds are inspired by the divinities." And it was especially an old Etrusco-Latin, as well as a Greek conviction, that they knew where treasure was concealed. Thus ARISTOPHANES in The Birds says, that--"When a man asks birds where precious metals are hidden, they always indicate the richest mines."

In relation to this I have, from Rocca Casciano, the following, which appears to be very old:--


When one would find a treasure, he must take the door of the house in which he dwells, and carry it forth into the fields by night, till he come under a tree.

"Then he must wait till many birds fly over him, and when they come he must throw down the door, making a great noise. Then the birds in fear will speak with a human voice--colla una voce diranno dove e nascosta--and tell where a treasure is buried."


p. 271

So far as the birds arc concerned this treasure-hunting is Etruscan and Greek. The mysterious connection of the door with finding treasures appears in other countries. Thus in GRIMM'S Stories, Stupid Catherine carries away the door from her house, and by means of it--that is to say, by throwing it down and thereby making a terrible noise--frightens away a band of thieves, who leave behind them their treasure. The same story is common in Italy, where it is told with very coarse incidents of a stupid youth.

The reader will find by careful study and comparison of the whole which I have given in this book, that these Romagnola traditions have a very archaic stamp, and do not seem to have borrowed from other sources, but, in perhaps all cases, to. have been original. I have been very much astonished, indeed, to find how extremely ignorant my living authorities were of the traditions, popular mythology, and folk-lore of Southern Italy, as given in the collections of PITRÉ. There is no parallel case in Europe of people, speaking almost the same language and belonging to the same race, who have so little tradition in common as Tuscans and Neapolitans, or Sicilians.

There is in the folk-lore of La Romagna, as in the language of the people, something which is harsh, simple, and Northern--not exactly German or Scandinavian--but with traces, as it were, of some strange primeval race, like them and yet not the same. It may owe something to the Lombard, and possibly to the Celt, but, after all, these traditions and sorceries are neither Lombardic nor Celtic. What they seem to be by every analogy is Etruscan, allied to Sabine.

This finding a treasure by means of birds agrees wonderfully, with the very ancient Latin legend of the seer ATTA NAVIUS, who, when a child in his Sabine home, kept swine. Once, while he slept, some of his herd wandered away, and on awaking he could not find them. At first he wept bitterly, being afraid of his father's anger, but, plucking up heart, he went to the chapel of the Lares, in the next vineyard, and prayed the guardian spirits that he might find his pigs, promising them if he did so, to offer them the largest bunch of grapes in the place. He found the pigs, but how was he to find the largest bunch of grapes? He watched for a flock of birds, and they led him to it. Then his father, knowing this, took him to town, and put him to school to the masters of divination and other learning. If we substitute for the largest bunch of grapes, a treasure, we have here the spirit or essence of the Tuscan tradition. Divination not only by the flight, but by the voices of birds, formed one of the most important elements of the old Etruscan soothsaying--the augurium ex avium volatu vel garritu being the second of the five principal classes.

The bird who specially indicates treasures by night in old Latin lore is the

p. 272

Picus Martins, or great woodpecker. "He always appears," says PRELLER (Myth. p. 298), "as a wood-bird and digger in forests, where he lives alone and digs and hews and knows all hidden secrets and treasures." His Umbrian name was peiqu, at present in Romagnola it is piga. His connection with the door appears to be this: ÆLIAN (Hist. of An., i., 45) and PLINY (Hist. Nat., x., 20) mention that if the hole or door of the woodpecker's nest in a tree be closed, the bird will bring an herb, which at once removes the impediment. If this herb be secured it will open any door. But I offer this only as a mere conjecture. In any case the mere coincidence is worth noting.

As in very early times, therefore, the red-headed woodpecker was regarded as a goblin, or a god, named Picus, who knew where treasures were hidden, and sometimes revealed them. It is probable that from this myth were derived the elves with red caps, who had the same attributes.

And if Picus was the origin of the red-cap goblin who is found all over Europe, and even among the Eastern Algonkin Indians of America (as Mikumwess), I also conjecture that research will yet show either that all the Teutonic or Northern polytheism or fairy mythology is either derived from an early Latin source, or else has common origin with it. But as the Latins and Etruscans had attained great culture while the Northern races were in a very barbarous state, I prefer the former theory. It is indeed beginning to be admitted that the Scandinavian mythology, far from being autochthonic, exhibits throughout traces of Latin influence.


Such Meteors, or failing stars, which men of yore could not explain, were held to be divine omens, or intimations of the desires of the gods, and according to Homer that one signified to the other that there should be war or peace."--FRIEDRICH ("Meteore"), Symbolik der Natur, p. 100.

All over the world people say in joke or earnest that if, when we see a meteor, or "a falling star," dart across the sky, and can utter a wish before it disappears, that wish will be granted. Among the old Norsemen such a line of headlong fire in the heaven was believed to be caused by a dragon flashing along afar, hence the frequent mention of the appearance of such beings. In the Medicine of MARCELLUS the sight of such a heavenly body is applied to working a celestial cure for lippitude, or blear eyes, as follows:--


"Ut omnino non lippias, cum stellam cadere vel transcurre videris, numera, et celeriter numera, donec se condat, tot enim annis, quot numerabis, non lippies."


p. 273


("That your sight may never be dim, when you see a star fall or fly across the sky, count, and count quickly, ere it disappears, and so many numbers as you count, so many years will you be clear-sighted.")


In Tuscany, when you see a star fall--quando si vede una stella chi cadde--one should say:--


"Non casca la stella
Ma casca l'amante mio
Che venga o di giorno,
O di notte,
O al punto di mezza notte,
O battere alle porte di casa mia
Che non possa vivere,
Non possa stare,
Finche alla porta di casa mia
Non viene appichiare

("It is not the star which falls
But my lover: may he fall
'Till he come by day or night,
Or at midnight,
To beat at my door.
Nor may he live nor stand,
Till he knocks at my door")


Or else this for an enemy:--


"Non casca la stella,
Ma casca la maledizione
Che di giorno e di notte
Non faccio altro che maledire
La maledizione che casca
In nome di . . . "

'Tis not the star which falls,
But my curse,
That by night, or day,
I do naught save curse,
That the curse may fall
On . . .") (Here the enemy is named.)


The conception that as a star falls from the sky, so may your enemy go downward headlong with your curse pursuing him, is brilliant, original, vindictive, and replete with "pure cussedness." I have no doubt that to a true believer and a "good hater" it must be an immense relief. It is suggestive of Lucifer, the Star of the Morning, plunging headlong to hell from the height of heaven, while an Arab sees in it a daring djinn who has attempted to scale the walls of paradise and been repulsed by the angels.

p. 274


"'Men of yore devoured one another,' says Diodorus Siculus, 'but Jupiter forbade this, giving them instead acorns.' Hence these are called the daughters of the Oak, since they so resemble female heads with the hair bound in ancient fashion."--PRELLER

There is given by MARCELLUS (GRIMM, p. 16; H., c. 15, p. III) a curious forward and backward song and ceremony to cure soreness of the tonsils. It is as follows:--


"Glandulas mane carminabis, si dies minuetur, si nox, ad vesperam, et digito medicinali, ac pollice continens eas, dices:--

"Novem glandulæ sorores,
Octo glandulæ sorores,
Septem glandulæ sorores,
Sex glandulæ sorores,
Quinque glandulæ sorores,
Quattuor glandulæ sorores,
Tres glandulæ sorores,
Duæ glandulæ sorores,
    Una glandula soror.

Novem fiunt glandulæ,
Octo fiunt glandulæ,
Septem fiunt glandulæ,
Sex fiunt glandulæ,
Quinque fiunt glandulæ,
Quattuor fiunt glandulæ,
Tres fiunt glandulæ,
Duæ fiunt glandulæ,
Una fit glandulæ,
    Nulla fit glandula."


This is preceded by another charm, to which reference is made. The whole came to this, that the patient is to take nine acorns, either just before sunrise or sunset, and holding them (I think he here means counting them, one by one) with the middle finger and thumb, say:--


"Nine little acorn sisters (or girls),
Eight little acorn sisters,
Seven little acorn sisters,"


and so on, diminishing to


"One little acorn girl."


Then begin with "Nine little acorn sisters," and count back till you come to "Nulla fit glandula"--"And then there was no little acorn girl." I am sure that

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in its original form this was Ten little acorn girls, following the fingers. There is in America and England a child's "counting-out" song for a game which runs from ten little Indian boys to one, and then backwards.

This incantation is still used in Tuscany, though I could not learn that it is specially applied to the cure of the tonsils. But it was not limited even in the time of MARCELLUS to these. He himself gives (19, 20, GRIMM, p. 13) two other charms in which nine grains of barley are counted in nearly the same manner. And also a word (21, Ibid) to stop the flow of blood:--


"Si cycuma, cucuma, ucuma,
        Cuma, ma, a.


Which is like another English nursery song:--


"Constantinople, stantinople, tinople, nople, ople, pull!
Pull, ople, nople, tinople, stantinople, Constantinople."


In which we have the counting or addition and subtraction in a different form. The spell or child's game as used in Tuscany is, however, applied to good luck, and runs as follows: Taking ten acorns, the actor sings:--


"Tu lo sai la voglio fare,
Per l'indietro io voglio mandare,
La verita in mia mano la deve dare,
Queste diande per l'indietro io contero
Fino al uno io tornero.
E se mai non sbagliero,
La vittoria io la vincero.
Adesso io incomincio
Da uno, due, tre quattro,
Cinque, sei, sette otto, nove e dieci
Dieci, nove otto, sette,
Sei, cinque, quattro, tre
Senza mai sbagliare,
La vittoria io la devo fare,
E mai nel contare io sbagliero
La vittoria io vincero."


Or in English:--


"You know what I want to do.
I will work it back for you,
The truth shall be at my command.
I will count these acorns in my hand
There shall no error be. p. 276
Thus I'll gain a victory,
And so I now begin, you see:
From one, two, three, four,
Five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.
Ten, nine, eight, seven,
Six, five, four, three,
So without the least mistake
Now the victory I take.
I have counted well and true,
To me the victory is due!"


I was at first disposed to regard this as a mere counting forwards and backwards, or counting-out rhyme, as it is used, not having read it carefully. But on discovering that the word diande, which I did not know, was the Romagnola for ghiande, or acorns, I saw it was essentially the same with the incantation of Marcellus. I then learned that acorns were actually used in the count.

The idea which runs through the spells of Marcellus is that the success of the cure depends on the counter not making a mistake, and, in the modern Tuscan version, that if one undertakes anything, or wishes to know if he will succeed, he is to infer the result in like manner. It is very evident that, as the same principle was applied in different ways, there must have also been some Hauptpunkt, or head-central invocation by counting, to divine luck in general, and I hazard the conjecture that we have this transferred to us in the modern Italian spell. That is to say, that there was an Etruscan chief spell to divine whether good fortune would result from an undertaking--which spell was modified to apply to certain disorders, &c. And as divination as to the success of undertakings was the very beginning and formed the bulk of all Etrusco-Roman augury and rites, it would be very remarkable if this Italian spell should be the chief one, or nucleus of the rest. This is only conjecture, but I entertain no doubt that it is in any case as old as the time of Marcellus, and therefore in all probability Roman-Etruscan.

According to JOHANNES MEURSIUS (De Ludis Græcorum), there was among the Greeks a game with acorns called Tropa. The description of it is not given. But I conjecture that it was the same as that of the Italian which is at once a spell for good luck and also a child's counting-out game-the object being, as in "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers," to repeat a difficult formula rapidly without an error.

There is yet another species of divination relating to this nut. Take as many acorns as there are letters in any person's name, plant them, and if they all come up or grow well, he or she will prosper, or you will win his love.

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The reader who is interested in counting-out rhymes will find much on the subject in the work of Carrington Bolton; also in another recently published by D. Nutt, London, and in the English-Folk-Rhymes, by G. F. Northall (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, and Co.). A vast amount of ancient erudition on the subject of divining by numbers and similar matters, may be found in a very rare work, of which I possess a copy, entitled, Tractatus Philologicus de Sortitione Veterum, Hebræorum inprimis ex S. Scriptura Talmude, &c., by MARTIN MAURITIUS. Basle, 1692. It does not seem to have been observed that the Sortes Virgilianæ were in the nature of, or allied to, counting-out rhymes. Mauritius quotes from the work of Rabbi Ben Ezra a curious tale of how the lives of certain men doomed to be cast into the sea were lost, and those of certain Talmidim saved by judiciously managing a counting-out song. There is a curious and rude old German version of this. The chapter is in connection with the one De Sortibus poeticis. Only counting out by numbers is described, but the counting by poetical lines is evident from the context. And it is evident that such counting out to save lives would be regarded as cabalistic or magical.


"O rondinella bella, tu sei un' incantrice."
                             Canzoni Populari d'Agrumi

MARCELLUS of Bordeaux, in treating of disorders of the eyes, informs us that by the aid of the hirundo, or swallow, all such trouble may be effectually averted as follows:--


"Cum primum hirundinem audieris vel videris tacitus illieo ad fontem decurres vel ad puteum, et inde aqua oculos fovebis et rogabis deum, et eo anno non lippias, doloremque omnem oculorum tuorum hirundines auferant."


Or in English:--


When you hear or see the first swallow, go, without speaking, to the first well or fountain and there wash your eyes and pray God that that year they may not be dimmed, and so the swallows will carry away all trouble from them."


In Tuscany at the present day the sufferer does the same for sore eyes, and then repeats the following:--


La prima rondinella di primaver' e arrivata
La buona fortuna mi ha portata
Ad una fonte sono andata
E gli occhi mi sono lavata, p. 278
Che da tanto tempo ero amallata,
E nessun medico mi e riuscito,
Ma la prima rondinella che e arrivata
Questa grazia me l'ha fatta
Benedette siano, sempre le belle,
Le beate rondinelle!

("The first spring swallow I have seen,
A lucky thing it was, I ween.
I ran to where the fountain flies,
And in its water washed my eyes,
Which were so long my pain and grief,
Yet no physician brought relief;
Yet the first swallow which I see
Has caused a happy cure to me.
Blest may the swallows ever be!")


It may be observed that this incantation contains all that is in the Roman prescription, and, what is more, supplies the spoken spell which is wanting in it. Et rogabis Deum--"And pray God"--is certainly an early Christian interpolation. In the Italian the swallow itself is invoked and thanked, which is in perfect keeping with the very ancient hymns, Greek and Latin, in which it is mentioned.

Marcellus also teaches us again that though "the first swallow does not make a summer" it rules the spring, whether it be of weather or water, and may thereby prevent toothache. For when you see it--as before--hold your tongue and "ad aquam nitidam accedes"--go to pure shining water, and dip your middle finger of the right hand in it and say:--


"Hirundo tibi dico
Quomodo hoc in rostro iterum non erit
Sic mihi dentes non doleant toto anno."

("I say to thee, O swallow,
As this will never be in thy beak,
So may my teeth pain me no more for a year.")


"And by renewing this annually you may always have sound teeth." All of which is essentially identical with the modern Tuscan spell.

It is believed in Tuscany that if swallows make nests in a house it brings good fortune. Ma guai a distruggerle--perche portarebbe motte disgrazie--but beware of disturbing them, for it brings many troubles.

MARCELLUS gives another prescription for the eyes, as follows (p. 11, GRIMM):--

p. 279


"Si muleris saliva, quæ pueros, non puellas ediderit, et abstinuerit se pridie viro et cibis acrioribus, et imprimis si pura et nitida erit, angulos oculorum tetigeris, omnem acritudinem lippitudinis lenies, humoremque siccabis."


Which is, that if your eyes pain you, you must take the saliva of a woman who has given birth only to boys, not girls. And she must have abstained from sexual union and stimulating food for three days. Then if her saliva be bright and clear anoint your eyes with it and they will be cured.

In Italian the cure is as follows:--


"If a woman has given birth to a child of seven months, take her saliva and milk mixed and anoint the eyes with them, saying

"'Bagno gli occhi
A questa donna,
Non ne lo bagno
Col mio sputo,
Ma lo bagno
Coll' innocenza
E la purita,
Del mio bambino.'

("'I bathe my eyes
From this woman
Not with my saliva,
But I bathe them
With innocence,
And the purity
Of my child.')

"Then make a sign of the cross on the eyes, and say:--

"'Bendetta che tu sia
Per l'innocenza
Del mio bambino,
In tre giorni,
Possa guarire!'

("'Blest be thou
By the innocence
Of my child,
In three days
May I recover!')

"Then spit thrice behind you. And this must be repeated three mornings fasting."


There is indeed some confusion in this, as I have given it. But it is clearly on the whole identical with the spell of Marcellus. In another prescription, (67, Grimm) Marcellus declares that " Mulier quæ geminos peperit, renes

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dolentes super calcet, continuo sanabit," if a woman who has borne twins will step on the reins when they pain it will cure them." Also very obscurely in what seems to be a detached fragment to cure the gout"--Dices illius quem peperit illa.


"Venenum veneno vincitur
Salva jejuna vinci non potest.

"You must say of that which she has brought forth:--

"'Poison is conquered by poison,
Fasting spittle cannot be conquered.'

"Say this thrice and spit every time on your soles (footprints) or of him who is to be cured."


Taking them altogether we may say the Roman and modern spells correspond very generally if not exactly in every detail.

There is also another Tuscan spell for sore eyes, which is as follows:--


"Take elder (zanbueo, i.e., sambuco) and boil it, and with it bathe the eyes, making thrice the sign of the cross, and say:--

"'Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia,
Il mal degli occhi
Gli vada via!'

("'Santa Lucia, to you I pray,
May the pain in my eyes
Be driven away!')

"But this must be done by a man or woman who is a seven-months' child."


All of these cures for the eyes refer in some way to a woman who has given birth to only boys or to a seven-months' child. There is yet another Tuscan remedy allied to these. To cure a pain in the ear go to a woman who is nursing a seven-months' child, and while the child sucks thrice, one should put three drops of her milk into the ear of the sufferer, and say:--


Le butto questo latte
Perche il male del orecchia
La possa passare!"


To return to the swallow in Tuscany, the feathers of this bird are an amulet as follows --

Quando si vuole una grazia o una fortuna, sono portati, legati con un nastro rosso--when one desires some favouring fortune they are bound up with a red ribbon and carried. And for this purpose they are also put into beds. There is

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a Roman ballad (Agrumi, Ital. pop. songs) in which the swallow is addressed as an enchantress.


"O rondinella bella
Tu sei un' incantrice!"


The swallow is believed to be good for troubles of the eyes (as was the lizard), because it is, like it, an emblem of light, or sight. As it was the herald of spring and of sunshine it was naturally associated with clear vision. So through all nature ran the golden chain connecting all things in poetic vein.


(With their modern parallels)

MARCELLUS informs us (cap. I, p. 35, GRIMM, p. 10) as follows, regarding headache:--


"Cum intrabis urbent quam libet, ante portam capillos qui in via jacebunt quot volueris collige, dicens: tecum ipse ad capitis dolorem te remedium tollere, et ex his unum capiti alligato, ceteros post tergum jacta, nec retro respice."

("When you enter any city, collect before the gate as many hairs as you will of any which may lie in the road, saying to yourself that you do this to remove your headache, and bind one of the hairs to your head. Throw the others away behind you and do not look back.")


On inquiry I was assured that this was known to-day in Tuscany, but I did not find any special variation from it except that salt should be thrown with the hair. And I incline to think that this was included in the ancient charm, but was not known to MARCELLUS. Salt was an essential part, of all ancient offerings and sacrifices (MARK ix. 49). It was considered as binding and perfecting them.

Very much allied to this is the following, which is still in use:--


Whenever hairs are found they should be thrown into the fire, the one who does this saying:--

"'Se sei anima buona
Va in pace!
Se sei una strega,
Scoppia, che tuoi colpi
Si sentono da lontano,
E che il diavolo
Si possa sentire
Si possa scatenare
Per venir' ti te appigliare!'

("'If thou art a good soul
Go in peace!
If thou art a witch
May you burst so that the sound p. 282
May be heard afar!
May the devil note it
And burst loose,
So as to come and catch you.'")


Of the use of human hair in spells to do harm I shall speak in another chapter.

MARCELLUS gives us (cap. 8, 67) a cure for the eyes which is peculiarly nasty though none the less curious for that:--


"Mel Atticum et stercus infantis, quod primum dimittit, statim ex lacte mulieris, quæ puerum allactat, permiscebis, et sic inunges; sed prius eum qui curandus est, erectum ad scalam alligabis, quia tanta vis medicaminis est; ut eam nisi alligatus patienter ferre non possit, cujus beneficium tam præsens est, ut tertio die, abstersa omni macula, mirifice visum reddat incolumem."

("Take Attic honey and the first fæces of a babe, mix it with the mother's milk and anoint (the eyes), but first tie the patient to the stairs (or a ladder) which is of such medical power, that unless he be so bound he cannot endure it, the benefit of which will be that on the third day, all stain being wiped away, the sight will be perfect.")


The binding to the ladder or stair is found in the following Tuscan spell:--


"If any one is bewitched, bind him, or his clothes (the latter are preferred) on a scala (stairs or ladder)--but it, or they, must be of wood; then take a knife, and, while sharpening it, say:--

"'Non lego questa robba
Ma lego la strega
Che non abbia più bene!'"

("'I do not bind these things,
But I bind the witch
That she may no more have good luck!'")


We have here only the binding to the ladder, but a part of one prescription or charm is often found in another, in MARCELLUS, as well as in the modern charms. In all these cures the ceremony and the incantation form by far the most important part, or the sine qua non erit remedium.

MARCELLUS (No. 30, cap. 14, p. 103) gives the following for the throat:--


"Picem mollem cerebro ejus impone, qui uvam dolebit et præcipue ut super limen stans superiori limiti ipsam picem capite suo adfigat."

("Put a piece of soft pitch on the head of him who suffers from a sore throat, and especially see that he does this when standing on the outer edge of the threshold.")


In Tuscany much taking of magical medicine is done on the threshold; it also plays a part in other sorcery. This is because it is the line or limit between the place inhabited and the outer life where spirits freely roam, it being an understood law of demonology that they cannot enter a room until called on. There are evidently, however, numerous exceptions to the rule, else we should have no hauntings of houses.

p. 283

In chapter 19, page 130, MARCELLUS tells us that--


"Serpentis senectus, id est exuviæ licio alligatæ et vulso circumdatæ mire prosunt." That is, that "a serpent's skin bound to the girdle is of great assistance."


In the Romagna Toscana it is believed that if any one finds a serpent's skin he must say:--


"Ho trovato la pelle
Di questo serpente,
Che possa portare
La fortuna a me;
Non portero,
La pelle di serpente,
Ma portero la buona fortuna,
Che sia sempre in casa mia."

("I have found the skin
Of this serpent
May it bring
Good luck to me!
I will not carry
The skin of the snake,
But I will bear the good luck
That it may ever be in my home!")


Out of the immense amount of learning which has been collected on the subject of serpent symbolism one thing is undeniable--that this creature was, among the Etruscans, Greeks, and Romans, a type of health, longevity, and fortune. And it is in this sense that it appears, both in the work of MARCELLUS and in this Tuscan incantation, as a cure or amulet. I conjecture that there was of yore an incantation pronounced on finding the skin which was unknown to the Roman physician. For a careful examination of all these prescriptions or charms, in any form, cannot fail to convince any one that the words were always a sine qua non, and in fact the most important part of all.

As a curious instance of serpent-lore still existing in the Romagna, I may mention that the picture of a snake is painted on the wall for good luck or to avert the malocchio, but it must always be with the head down and tail up.

MARCELLUS gives the following:--


"Si arista vel quælibet sordicula oculum fuerit ingressa obcluso alio oculo ipsoque qui dolet patefacto et digitis medicinali ac pollice leviter pertracto, ter singula despuens dices: Os Gorgonis basio. Hoc item carmen si ter novies dicatur etiam de faucibus hominis vel jumenti os aut si quid aliud hæserit, potenter eximit.


That is, that if a grain or mote be in one eye, close the other one, draw the middle finger over that which pains, and say, "I kiss the Gorgon's face," Which is

p. 284

repeated thrice, and the charm is so powerful that it will draw a bone from the throat of a man or of a mare.

In Italian they say:--


If anything be in the eye or in the throat of man or beast spit thrice and say:--

"'O grande Serpente
Io ti baccio il volto!'

("'O great Serpent
I kiss thy face!'")


To which my informant added, " But you must look on the ground when you say this."

On referring to MARCELLUS afterwards I found that to remove a small irritated spot from the eye (varulus) you perform a ceremony which ends by touching the ground thrice and spitting. Of course touching the ground implies looking at it.

MARCELLUS gives as a cure for sore eyes:--


Qui crebo lippitudinis vitio laborabit, millefolium herbam radicis vellat, et ex ea circulum facit, ut per illum aspiciat, et dicat ter, 'excicum acrisos,' et totiens ad os sibi circulum illum admoveat et per medium exspuat," &c.


Which is to the effect that the patient shall pull up a plant of millefoil or yarrow, make a ring of it and spit thrice through this ring. And further that the herb shall be planted again, and should it grow, the patient will recover.

In Tuscany there is for the same complaint a remedy which is perfectly in accordance with a portion of this. It is called La Corona della Ruta, or the Crown of Rue.


"When one suffers with sore eyes take a branch--coccha--of rue and tie it round in a wreath, in forma di una corona, with red ribbon. The patient should be in bed and not see the garland made; it must be always prepared by a woman in another room, and it must not be seen by children or even by any animal, and she who binds it must say:--

"'Preparo questa corona
Per metterla sopra agli occhi
Di quella ammalata.
(O ammalato, che sia)
Che degli occhi possa guarire
E mal d'occhi non gli possa ritornare.'

("'I prepare this wreath,
To place it on the eyes
Of that sufferer,
That his sight I may restore,
And he may never suffer more!')


p. 285


And when she gives it to the invalid he must look through it three times, and say

"'Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!
Del mal d'occhio fatemi guarire!'

Then he must spit through it three times."


Which is, on the whole, very much the same as the old Roman-Etruscan formula.

Santa Lucia the modern Catholic saint of light, is probably the direct descendant of the Etruscan Losna, goddess of the moon, also of the sun. (Vide Losna.)

Our author recommends (cap, 14, p. 100; p. 14, GRIMM) that for the toothache one should carry "salis granum, panis micam, carbonen mortuum in phœnicio alligabis" ("A grain of salt, a crumb of bread, a dead coal tied in red cloth"). In Tuscany quite the same is made up, and borne as an amulet for health and good luck.


MARCELLUS also prescribes the use of earthworms--lumbrici, or the vermis terrenus--for local pains. In one of these he declares that the worms are to be put into a bucket or receptacle of wood--if possible, one hooped with iron--and water poured on them, which is to be drunk. In Tuscany this is the remedy:--


"For one suffering headache take earthworms, also a litre of spirits, and say:--

"'Lombrici che per la terra strisciate,
Tutte le stregonerie le conoscete,
Come pure conoscete
Da me il buon piède;
Vi prego il buon piède di raccatare
E dentro allo spirito lo potrete lasciare!'


p. 286


("'Earthworms who slip through earth below,
Secrets of sorcery ye know,
When the good foot doth o'er you tread,
Or when it passes overhead,
Transfer its power and its merit,
Now I pray you to this spirit,
To do such virtue as it may,
And let this headache pass away!'")


(The allusion to the good foot is to that of the sorcerers, or persons possessed of a peculiar power.)


"Then in the evening, before the patient goes to bed, he must bathe his head with the spirit, and say:--

"'Mi bagno it capo
Collo spirito di lombrici a fare
Perche it mat di capo mi possa passare!'

"And the next morning the pain will have quite disappeared."


I nearly missed this, because my informant did not know the word lombrici, or earthworms, since in Romagnola they are called ronbricati. This very curious incantation explains what MARCELLUS does not--why earthworms are used. As chthonic creatures, or of darkness, they are supposed to be familiar with the secrets of the under-world. The allusion to this, and to the foot of the sorcerer renders it certain that this is an extremely ancient spell.

MARCELLUS also gives as a cure for headache:--"Hemicranium statem curant vermes terreni pari numero sinistra manu lecti, cum terra de limine eadem manu triti" ("Earthworms--an equal number gathered with the left hand, powdered with earth from the threshold.") This also indicates that, as in the modern recipe, the same remedy was used for the same disorder.

I have already alluded to an amulet given by the same writer, consisting of salt, bread, and a coal in a red bag, or cloth. In another (cap. 8, p. 63), he speaks of the special virtue of a cure made of four ingredients, "quia ex quatuor rebus constat ut quadriga equis constat, et celeres effectus habet, barma dicitur." I suspect that his salt, &c., in a red bag is imperfect or wanting, because, when the following was given to me in Italian, something was said about the value of four articles in it.


"The four things of good fortune. Take a little red bag, and sew it with red woollen thread-not with silk or cotton; the bag, too, must be of woollen, and of coarse cloth, and while sewing it, sing:--


p. 287


"'Chuco, questo sacchetino,
Per la buona fortuna di me,
E delta mia famiglia,
E che ci tenga sempre lontano
Dalle disgrazie come pure
Dalle malattie!'"

Then take a crumb (midolla) of bread, and a little coarse salt, a sprig of rue, and some cummin, and keep repeating, while making it up, the same charm. And when made, the charm must always he borne on the same person, by night as well as by day."


The translation of the incantation is as follows:--


"This bag I sew for luck to me,
And also for my family;
That it may keep by night or day,
Troubles and illness far away!"



Once when I read a certain prescription from MARCELLUS to a strega, she admired it very much, declaring that she had never heard it before, or anything like it. It was the following:--


"Ad dolorem uvæ scribes in charta, et collo, laborantis in linteolo suspendes:--

"'Formica sanguen non habet nec fel,
Fuge uva ne cancer te comedat!'"

("For one suffering from sore throat write on paper the following, and stick it on the ceiling:--

"'The ant has neither blood nor poison:
Fly, O pain, lest the crab devour thee!'")

"But," my informant added, "I know of a cure for which ants are used." It was as follows

When one spits blood, take ants and put them in some of the blood, and let it stand all night, and say over it:--

"'Butto queste formicole
Dentro a questo sangue;
Che questo sangue
Possano ripigliare.
E a questo malatto
La possano riportare,
Che i suoi pulmoni
Non si voglione guastare,
E la ma malattia
Avanti non possa più andare.'"


p. 288


("'I put these ants into this blood
That his may be both well and good
That he his health may soon regain,
And his lungs be sound and sain!
May his trouble soon be o'er,
And illness trouble him no more!'")


MARCELLUS remarks that the ant is a bloodless animal, therefore it is used to stop bleeding according to a kind of rude and naïf homœopathy, which continually occurs in magical medicine. As regards my very indifferent translations into rhyme of these recipes, I beg leave to inform the reader that though not very good poetry, they will answer every whit as well as the originals to cure disorders if he wishes to try them; yea, and that for this purpose they are just as effective as if they had been made by Lord TENNYSON himself.


MARCELLUS recommends verbena as a magical cure for a tumour. An authority in stregoneria hearing this, said: " I do not think it is used in medicine--but," she added with animation, "it is admirable in , and for a charm." Then she gave me the following, laying stress on the fact that it must be carried on the person:--


"Verbena is an herb which brings great good luck, and it must always be borne upon you. Especially note if an old woman wishes to sell you some, when she offers it you must never refuse, else she might curse you (i.e., bewitch you). You must always buy some, and say:--

"'Non compro questa verbena perche e erba,
Ma compro la fortuna che essa portal'"

("'I buy not this verbena as the herb which here I see,
I buy it as the fortune which I trust 'twill prove to me!'")


My witch was quite in the right when she declared that, Verbena was admirable in magic and for a charm. Had she known and read Latin she might have supported her assertion with a great array of classical authorities. However, she doubtless had a great many more ancestors than I ever had who could talk Latin, and perhaps the tradition came down in the family; since she says they were all stregoni, or wizards and witches--always!

The Verbena was called par éminence the holy plant--hiera botane--by the Greeks, and it was regarded as holiest of all in sacrifices, where it was burned especially during invocations of spirits and predictions. It was the plant of Venus: it gave, as was believed, great power of procreation, and, above all others--as FRIEDRICH writes--drove away evil spirits, and destroyed witchcraft and all

p. 289

such influences. Ambassadors carried it as a symbol of peace. "Semper e legatis unus utique Verbenarius loquitur" ("One of a band of legates was called the Verbena-bearer") (PLINY, Nat. History, xxii., 3).

"For there dwelleth in the Verbene a certaine fata, or faery, who bestoweth fortune on those invoking her." Think of this when you smell Verbena! Also remember that if you take a bit of it from a church it will bring you good luck: "Ex ara hinc sume verbenas tibi atque eas substerne" (Terentius, Andr., iv., 4).

Our author gives two remedies for hordeolis oculorum--"grains in the eyes" for both of which he prescribes nine grains of barley to be treated in a magical manner--such as nipping off the points, one by one, and repeating a Greek incantation every time. In Tuscany I find the following for the same trouble, or for the eyes":--


"Take nine grains of barley, and put them in a black pot with nine flowers of elder and nine bits of rue. Boil them for a quarter of an hour, then let it cool till it is tepid. Then dip into it a piece of linen and lay it on the eyes of the patient, and then take the nine grains of barley and the elder flower and the rue, and lay them all on the cloth, and say:--

"'Tutto questo l'ho fatto bollire
Per mettere sopra agli occhi
Di questo malato che con la grazia
Di Santa Lucia prima di tre giorni
Possa guarire!'"


It is worth observing that the modern method is seriously a good remedy (all except the nine grains of barley), while that of MARCELLUS is mere rubbish. For a very immoral bewitchment--"Si quem coire noles, fieri que cupies in usu venerio tardiorem--confestim enervabitur"--MARCELLUS prescribes nine grains of wheat. I should add that the English version of what may here be called the tin-pancation--as a black tin pan may be used--is as follows:--


"All of this I have had boiled
To put upon the eyes,
Of this poor man--Saint Lucy aid
And on the third day, by thy aid,
He will in health arise!'


Santa Lucia is the saint of light, therefore of sight. The two were identified in ancient Roman mythology.

There is a very great resemblance between the cat and the hare when skinned, also between their skins. This being admitted, with the addition that MARCELLUS gives several prescriptions in which cats, or the skins of animals, are employed, we may infer that the following is not without affinity to an Italian charm.

p. 290


"Pellem leporis recentem in olla munda vel tegula ita cum lana sua combures, ut in tenuissimum pulverem redigere possis, quem cribratum in vaso nitido servabis inde cum opus fuerit tria cochlearia in potione dabis bibenda, quæ res sinè calculos sinè vessicæ dolores continuo compescit."


Which is, that for the stone or pains in the bladder you should burn the fresh skin of a hare in a small pot or on a tile, so as to reduce it to the finest powder, which, when pulverised, you must keep in a clear (glass) vase, and give the patient three spoonfuls in a drink.

The Italian spell is to bewitch any one, or to do him harm:--


"When you would do evil to any one, kill a black cat, skin it and rub the skin (by burning is, I suppose, understood) to a very, very fine powder (si trita fine fine), and when it is triturated finely to a powder, mix with it pulverised horse-scrapings and pepper and earth, over which a toad has passed. And while taking this earth from under the toad, say:--

"'O rospo, rospo, che siei composto
Tutto di veleno, del tuo veleno
Lasciane sparso un poco sopra,
A questa terra che passo portarlo
A casa mia.

("'Toad, all poison from thy birth!
Shed thy poison on this earth!
Give me of thy poison some,
That I may bear it to my home.')

Then put all together in a small bag, and at the time of mixing say:--

"'Terra e polvere insieme
Lo riunite, e polvere di gatto
E la peggio, ma e la miglio,
E per me perche mi deve vendicare,
Polvere di pelle di gatto,
Con polvere di cavallo,
E pepe unito a terra di rospo,
Terra avvelenata e tutto
Un immischia che molte persone
Voglio rovinare che non abbiano,
Più pace e ne bene, fino che
A me non si vengano
A racommandare, ed anche all'ora
Le concedero grazia se mi pare."'

("'Poisoned earth and powder fine
To the powdered cat I join,
'Tis the worst, and yet the best
For my vengeance--for the rest p. 291
Cat skin powdered; naught is worse
With the scraping of a horse,
Pepper next, to make it good,
Earth well poisoned by a toad
'Tis a mixture which, when done,
Will rack and ruin many a one,
And they shall know no good or peace,
Nor shall their sufferings ever cease,
Until they humbly come to me
And beg for mercy on their knees,
Which I may grant--if I should please.'")


Se mi pare! This was chanted crescendo, and when the witch came to the last word her face was infernal--not violent, but serpent-like; horrible, yet cold. Does this remind the reader of a scene in SHAKESPEARE'S "Macbeth"? Or is the incantation like his? Not to me, for his was poetry written for the stage, and this was reality--the witchcraft of old, old times--the spirit of the sorceress who would kill, the life of necromancy which is death.

I say truly that if I could write all that I have seen in exploring this Italian witchcraft, few indeed would believe me, and fewer still could understand it. For it all belongs to a world and a life of which no cultivated person, whom I ever met, has any comprehension, and for which he can certainly have no sympathy. When I reflect that GOETHE and HEINE and BYRON, and I know not how many more poets and great word-artists have travelled over Italy grasping eagerly at every scrap of magic and passion and human romance, I wonder what they would have thought or written had they known what was living among these people, deep in their hearts. We may read history for ever, but we can never learn from it, or from literature--till we get the key to it--what a strange race was this old Etrusco-Roman!

Under the ashes of Italy there is burning a fire of which only now and then a spark is seen, but it has never been extinguished any more than that of Vesuvius. Imagine an English or German peasant woman bursting out into such spasms of sorcery and poetry--I have known one in Italy, in reciting an incantation, to be seized with convulsions. And in all the people, low or high, there is a something which seems to be repressed--a genius as of stifled art, or magic power--a science which will yet be manifested when the time comes.

There is a very remarkable prescription in MARCELLUS his book, for a hip complaint.

It amounts to this: that the remedy must be given to the patient super scabellum vel sellam ita ut pede uno quem dolet stans ad orientem versus potionem bibat, et cum biberit saltu desiliat, et ter uno pede saliat, et hoc per triduum faciat, confestim

p. 292

remedio gratulabitur. That is--"Standing, on a little stool or chair, so that, one foot being forward, the patient facing the East drinks his medicine, and then jumps down, and hops three times on one foot, and so he will be well in three days, time." In another he prescribes a potion to be taken standing on one foot on the threshold. The chief elements of this gymnastic performance appear in the following Tuscan spell:--


When one takes medicine, one should stand on a stool (sgabello), or on the threshold of a door, and utter:--

"'Prendo questa medicina
Perche sono ammalato,
Ma non sono ammalato
Di fisico, ma da morale,
Percio prendo questa medicina
Sopra a questo sgabello
Che mi possa guarire di questa
Malattia, e mi voglia
Dare felicita e bene,
Percio scendo da questo sgabello,
E su questo piede sinistro,
Sempre dallo sinistro piede,
Per tre volte mi rigiro,
E per tre volte io chiamo,
Il gran Salvatore e se ne
Non mi corrisponde allora,
Mi rivolgero alle strege,
Alle strege o ai stregoni.'"

("'I this medicine am taking
For a sad and serious illness,
Yet the illness which I suffer
Is of mind more than of body,
And I therefore take my physic
Standing on this stool and hoping
It may soon relieve my troubles,
Therefore from this stool descending,
Now I'm on my left foot standing,
Ever standing on my left foot,
And three times I turn upon it,
Three times calling the great Saviour,
But if He should give no answer,
Then I'll turn me to the witches,
To the witches and the wizards."')


Which last lines indicate that devotion to the principle of having two strings to one's supernatural bow of faith which has enabled witchcraft to hold its own so well, that it is possible that the stregone may exist as long as the priest--which

p. 293

will not be long, to judge by the spirit which is growing up among the people. Once the least allusion reflecting on the clergy, within my own memory, was promptly punished and without mercy. Now, as I write, the last great caricature at every street-corner represents the departure of the Pope for ever with a gang of disreputable-looking attendants. It is accompanied with bitterest satire, and ends with the words, "A good riddance to bad rubbish!" Eppur si muove. I think that this incantation is essentially ancient, but very much modernised in form. The remedy is Roman, but it seems to be in a new bottle.

It is said by MARCELLUS (cap. 28, p. 201) that "Corregia canina medius cingatur, qui dolebit ventrem, statimque remediabitur" ("He who suffers from a pain in the stomach will be relieved should he girdle himself with a dog-leash") (that is, a strap of any kind). I rather wonder that GRIMM should have regarded this as superstition since it is a well-known fact that a girdle--e.g., a Russian belt--really gives great relief for such suffering. However, if it was to be done specially with a dog's-leash, and no other, it was undoubtedly superstitious and that this was the case may be inferred from the following Tuscan formula:--


Take a funicella del cane--a rope which binds a dog--and say

"'Prendo questa funicella,
Che il mio cane legava,
Attorno alla mia vita,
Me la voglio passare
Che il mio male di ventre
Al cane se ne possa andare,
Ed a me mai non possa ritomare."'

("'I take the rope which held my hound,
Now round my life the cord is bound,
May that which makes my agony
Pass to the dog away from me,
And I no more a sufferer be!'")


This is quite after the style of several of MARCELLUS'S own prescriptions, in which he shows how a disorder can be transferred from a human being to an animal. As in the following (cap. 27, p. 190):--


"Tormina patientibus multi ventrem viventis anatis adponunt ad firmantes, transire morbum ad anatem, eamque mori."

("To those suffering from a colic. Let them fasten a live duck to their stomachs, thus the disease will pass from the man to the duck, and the duck will die.")


This is found in Tuscany with the invariable musical accompaniment of an incantation:

p. 294


"When one suffers from a pain in the stomach take a duck, and the body of the bird must be placed against that of the invalid, and then say:--

"'Anatra! Anatra!
Che il male mio tu possa
Pigliare, e di questo male
Io ne possa guarire;
E tu di questa male
Tu ne possa morire,
Che a me questo male
Non mi possa mai ritornare
Fino che non torni
Tu a risucitare!'"

("'Duck, duck, so may it be,
That thou shalt take this pain from me
That the ill depart, and!
Shall get well, while thou must die
And may I never feel the pain
Till thou shalt have thy life again!'")


Which was bad for the duck. However, this went for very little with a physician, one of whose most vaunted cures was to put a patient in balneo repleta a humano sanguine--in a bath full of human blood. Such a bath of the blood of young children was once ordered for the Emperor Constantine, and because he, being moved by the cries and tears of their mothers, resolved not to take it, his extraordinary humanity was rewarded by a miraculous cure. As related by the early chroniclers, this seems to have been regarded--even by Christians--as a great act of mercy and magnanimity. It does not seem to be at all understood that for several centuries after the decay of the Roman power the world relapsed as regards barbarism and inhumanity, instead of advancing with Christianity as is popularly believed.

MARCELLUS gives the following as means by which fidelity may be secured in a woman:--


"Mulierum, quam tu habueris ut nunquam alius inire possit, facies hoc: lacertæ viridis vivæ sinistra manu caudem curtabis eamque vivum dimittes, caudem donec inmoriatur eadem palma clausam tenebis, et mulierem, verendaque ejus dum cum ea cois, tange."

The Tuscan recipe, though very different in details, is quite the same as regards the principal item, that is, the lizard caught with the left hand:--


"When a man wishes his wife to be faithful, he should take sperma illius mulieris and put it in a bottle, and then catch a lizard with the left hand, and put it in the same bottle, and cork both up very tightly, and say:--


p. 295


"'Qui racchiudo la fedelta
Di mia moglie che non possa
Mai sfugirmi!'

("'Here I put the fidelity
Of my wife, that she may be
Ever, ever true to me!')

Then be careful not to lose the bottle, and always to keep it in the house."


I do not clearly understand for what complaint MARCELLUS means the following prescription--nisi ad verrucas--but I give it, according to GRIMM:--


"De tribus tumulis terræ, quos talpæ hiciunt, ter sinistra manu quot adprehenderis tolles, hoc est novem pugnos plenos, et aceto addito, temperabis."

("Take from three mole-hills three handfuls of earth thrice, that is, nine handfuls, and mix them with vinegar.")


The following is a Romagnola charm for bewitching or injuring any one:--


La Terra dei Mucchi delle Tarpe (Talpi).

"Take earth from three mole-hills and put it in a red bag, and while removing the earth say:--

"'O terra che di terra vi racatto,
Sopra tre mucchi che dalle tarpe siete stati ammuchiati,
E come avete ammuchiato questa terra
Ammuchiate i dispiacere di quella famiglia
Che non abbiano bene e ni pace
E tutte le sfortune piombino sopra al suo capo!

("'Earth, O Earth, who long hast laid
On the hills which moles have made,
As they heaped thee, may there be
Evil heaped on this family
And disaster fall like lead
Evermore upon its head!'")


I could almost believe that MARCELLUS has misplaced this spell, in applying it to a cure. For, as my authority explained, " the mole lives in darkness, and, like the earthworm, is under the footprints of the stregone, or wizards, which give it power for good or evil according to their natures, but it is generally most powerful for bewitching." In saying which she gave in a few words a great amount of classic folk-lore unawares. FRIEDRICH (Symbolik, p. 386) writes on this as follows:--

"As the mole is subterranean he has a chthonic, demoniac reputation, as of one hostile to man, which is to be found in such old Roman beliefs as, 'If you

p. 296

throw a mole into a house the grandmother will die.' To this might be added several to the effect that by means of it disaster can be wrought to a family, especially to its head." 1 It was of yore much used in sorcery. Thus, according to PLINY (Hist. Nat., xxx., 7):--


"He who will swallow the heart of a mole, still quivering, will receive the gift of prophecy; a mole, tooth pulled from the living animal cures toothache, its blood cures weakly persons."


I was not aware of this when the Tuscan spell was given to me, but I can now understand why so much stress was laid upon its force in magic. It has its value as illustrating the recipe of MARCELLUS, but is much more interesting as setting forth the old Roman superstitions regarding the mole. The very ancient use of pitch in superstitious practices appears in the following from MARCELLUS, which I here repeat for another illustration:--


"Picem mollem cerebro ejus impone, qui uvam dolebit et præcipue ut super limen stans superiori limiti ipsam picem capite suo adfigat."

("Stick a piece of soft pitch to the head of a man suffering with sore throat, and this should by all means be done when he is standing on the threshold.")


In a Tuscan incantation to break love, pitch appears in its very ancient signification as an ingredient of witchcraft:--


"When you wish to prevent a young man from visiting a girl in any house, take shoemaker's wax (pece da calzolai) and four nails. Make of these a cross, and put such crosses under the seats whereon the lover and maid sit. And the end will be that they will quarrel, and he will no more come to the house."


The last spell, or recipe, Of MARCELLUS is to cure the gout:--


"Carmen idioticum, quod lenire podagram dicitur sic: In manus tuas exspues, antequam a lecto terram contingas, et a summis talis et plantis ad summos digitos manus duces et dices:--

"'Fuge, fuge, podagra, et omnibus nervorum dolor,
De pedibus meis et omnibus membris meis!'

"Aut si alii præcantas, dices illius quem peperit illa:--

"'Venenum veneno vincitur
Saliva jejuna vinci non potest.'

"Ter dices haec et ad singulas plantas tuas, vel illius, cui medebere, spues."


This is, in brief, spit in your hands before rising in the morning, pass your hands from your soles to the ends of your fingers, and say:--

p. 297


"'Fly, fly, O gout, and all my nervous pains
From both my feet, nor linger in my veins!'

"Or if you chant it for another, say of that which she bore:--

"'Poison by poison is conquered,
Fasting spittle cannot be conquered.'

"Say this thrice and spit an your soles, or on those of the one whom you would cure."


There is in Tuscany a very terrible illness, caused, as some say, by eating bad maize-meal, others attribute it to bad living and malaria. It is called la pellagra. As the name very much resembles podagra, or gout, I was told that the following was a cure for pellagra, to which my informant added, anche per a gotta--also for gout--which latter complaint I need not say is not so common among temperate peasants. La pellagra causes madness.


"Per guarire la gotta o la pellagra. To cure gout or pellagra. Take for three mornings a small boy (bambino) while fasting, and make him spit three times on the place where the gout shows itself, and while doing this let him say:--

"'Gotta, o gotta! (o pellagra!)
Va via dal mio piede,
Il veleno vince il veleno,
Come pure lo sputo
Vince il veleno, e
Lo sputo mio d'un bambino
Innocente sara quello
Che vincera la gotta maladetta,
Che non torni mai più
A fare capo sopra alla tua persona.'

("'Gout, O gout, to thee I say,
Go thou from my foot away!
As poison conquers poison, see
This infant's spittle conquers thee!
That thou shalt ne'er return again,
And give me any further pain!')

Then the boy must spit behind him thrice, and repeat this for three mornings."


Of the one hundred medical spells described by MARCELLUS, and commented on by J. GRIMM, I have identified about fifty, with as many still in use in Tuscany. And if we consider that in this collection of the Roman physician there are a great many which run, so to speak, into one another, and how much there is in them all which is to be found in many of the modern Tuscan spells. such as the not looking behind, and spitting thrice, and, in fact, the whole system, spirit, and method of the cures, we should not be far from the truth in saying that probably

p. 298

all are still in existence, and that, beyond all question, a very great number, which were old in his day, are still extant. But a general consideration and comparison of all the ancient and modern examples given in this book will best enable the reader to judge of its value.

As a comment on this chapter Miss Mary A. Owen adds the following notes drawn from American negro sorcery:--



"Voodoos; warn against throwing hairs about, for if a bird gets a hair and weaves it into a nest the owner of the hair will have frightful headaches--nothing can cure until the hair is found and burned. Also, if a person gets the hair of another and introduces it into a slit in the bark of a growing tree, the unfortunate will go crazy as soon as the bark grows together over the hair." [Also Hungarian gypsy. C. G. L.]

"You may call a friend to your presence from the ends of the earth by putting four of your own hairs in a bottle of water, calling the bottle by the name of the one you wish to see, and placing it in the door you wish him to enter. Within four days (for in that time the hairs will have swelled into snakes) he must start towards you.

"The skin of the serpent worn around the waist cures rheumatism. The rattles worn in the hat cure headache and prevent sunstroke. The heart swallowed whole cures consumption.

"To cure sore eyes, bathe them in water containing the gall of a duck and a spoonful of syrup made of boiled water-melon juice.

"A black hen split open and placed on the body cures fevers and relieves the pain of cancer.

"The right fore-foot of a mole is a good-luck charm. The brains of a mole put in a black silk bag and tied round the neck of a babe will make it cut its teeth without pain or fever. If the gums of a teething child are rubbed with a mole's foot the teeth will at once appear.

"The brains of a rabbit tied in a black bag and rubbed on the child's gums will bring the teeth through, so also will a necklace of elder twigs.

"If a child under a year old is allowed to see itself in a looking-glass, it will cut its teeth 'hard'; but this may be prevented by tying a mole's foot above the glass."



"Die heil'gen drei Kön'ge aus Morgenland
Sie frugen in jedem Städtchen;
'Wo geht der Weg nach Bethlehem,
Ihr lieben Buben und Mädchen?'"
                                   HEINE, Buch der Lieder

There appeared in the Gypsy-Lore journal of January, 1889, a very interesting article by DAVID MACKITCHIE, in which he discussed an old opinion that the Magi, or Three Kings of the East, were often held to be, as LONGFELLOW describes them, "the three gypsy kings, Gaspar, Melchoir, and Balthasar." This may have been a mere popular fancy; but there is abundant evidence to prove that, whether

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of Indian or other Eastern blood, there was in all probability a great deal to connect them with gypsies as regards their lore.

If the three kings were Magi, or Wise Men from the East, we may conclude that they were of the Chaldæan, or Persian, order, of which there were many at a late date roaming about the Latin empire. They were all soothsayers, or diviners, and it was in this capacity that they appear in Bethlehem. That is, they were of the old Chaldæan-Accadian school of sorcery, which I believe to have possibly had a common Turanian origin with that of the Etruscans, which still survives but little changed in the sorceries of the Tuscan Romagna; and both of these were the same with the Shaman magic of the pre-Aryan dwellers in India. Reduced to facts, it is more than merely possible that the "wisdom," or lore, of the three kings was "Gypsy" (that is, Indian or Persian), or perhaps Chaldee, in its origin, and that they were really itinerant diviners or soothsayers.

This is not much more than conjecture-albeit there are "guesses good and bad." But a very curious incident casts a strange side-light upon it. In Hungary I have known gypsies, when a child was very ill, to seek to cure it by hanging from its neck Maria Theresa dollars. In the Romagna of Tuscany there is an ancient belief that certain old Roman coins are a sure defence against witchcraft, especially for children. To combat this the priests have made certain medals, which, like the older articles, pass current under the name of witch-medals--"medaglie delle streghe."

I noted down in conversation the following remarks in relation to them:--


"'Quando si ha una medaglia delle streghe, e si mette questa medaglia al collo, con questa sara sempre libero delle streghe' ('When one has a witch-medal, and wears it on the neck, one will be always free from witches').

"These medals are put chiefly on children, but also on grown persons. And when putting one on, one should say:--

"'Metto questa medaglia per liberare liberamus delle streghe' put on this medal to free--liberamus--from witches')."


On asking if those who believed in " the old religion," or "witchcraft," put faith in the new witch-medals, I received an account which I did not note down, but which was to the effect that the Catholics believed in the old witch-coins, or in witchcraft--avendone avuto multe cose giustificate--"as many things had proved it to them." And that the believers in witchcraft accepted the new medals, exceptionally for certain reasons, as agreeing with sorcery. For "si portano queste medaglie perche le tre rege sulla faccia erano stessi grande streghone" ("They carried them because the three kings on them were themselves great wizards").

I subsequently received some of these new medals, They are sold for a soldo,

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or halfpenny. are octagonal, and made of brass, and bear on one side the three kings worshipping the infant Jesus, and on the other the following inscription:--



The reputation of sorcery hung about the Magi, and the believers in witchcraft accepted them as friends. It was a happy thought to put them on the new witch-money--it was "acceptable to all parties." I have, however, heard from a Catholic, that this compromise of saints with the devil caused a scandal among true believers. It might be here remarked that this mysterious group of the three magicians was by no means unknown long before in different forms and under other names to both Christians and heathens, and that in later lore the three fairies who appear at the birth of a child not only present him with gifts but predict his future. It is also noteworthy that frankincense, which formed one of the gifts of the Magi, enters into the composition of all the modern witch-charms or fetish-bags of the Romagna--I myself having been presented with one containing some--that myrrh is also one of these magic medicines, and that if the offering to the infant Jesus had any meaning at all, it was magical, and intended to avert sorcery and evil influences. It may be alleged that the Tuscans borrowed this use of incense from the rites of the Roman Catholic Church; but even Cardinal Newman himself would hardly have denied that incense was used in sacred rites by the old Romans. And I am confident that a fair and full examination of all that I shall give, as regards this Tuscan witch-lore, will convince any unprejudiced reader that it is of very great antiquity. For though superstitions spring up spontaneously and simultaneously, everywhere and everywhen, yet this very fact, on due reflection, does but go the further to prove, firstly, the vast probable antiquity of all widely-spread beliefs or legends, and, secondly, the likelihood that they were transmitted from man to man, since he who has the innate impulse to create will be the readiest to receive--a great truth much ignored by those who incline to one side or the other, but especially by those who believe there has been little or no "borrowing." If it be true that the use of frankincense as a "devil-driver" would occur per se and naturally to an old Italian, or to a Hindoo, so much the greater is the probability

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that if one brought it to the other, the other would accept it Therefore, while we admit that instances of spontaneous creation of myths, legends, and customs, may, and do, take place, yet, when we consider how extensively men have travelled, even in prehistoric times--as is shown by jade relics--and with what incredible rapidity even a rumour will spread over an empire, and, finally, what a remarkably story-telling and myth-mongering creature man is, it becomes evident that all conjectures as to simultaneous creation from concurrent causes must be accepted with the greatest possible caution after the severest scrutiny. At present the popular tendency is to accept as self-evident--without proof--the slightest probability that a "use" (be it in any form) sprung up of itself from "like influences," while transmission is subjected to the severest criticism. Now, as transmission may, in millions of cases, have been due to wandering apostolic pilgrims, who took the whole world for a route, sailors, strays, and cast-aways--such as the Huron woman who was said to have been found in Tartary--it is a safe thing to challenge a proof which was perhaps buried for ever in the grave of some old vagabond thousands of years ago.

Myrrh, frankincense, and gold combined are an ancient and widely-spread gift for children. They were magical and luck-bringing among the Romans; and whatever was connected with superstition, luck, and divination among them was of Etruscan origin, for their whole body of such beliefs had been derived from the fabled Tages.

There is another kind of witch-money which is very mysterious indeed, It is called La Sega delle Strege, or the Witches' Saw. I give a description of it, as taken down verbatim:--


"The Sega della Strege is a small coin which witches have. They go with this on Tuesdays or Fridays to the roads to cut or scrape the earth from footprints of people. With the coin they remove the earth, and with it they do great harm" (i.e., to those people).

The spell against the Saw of the Witches--Sega mulega--is mentioned in the song

"'Sega mulega stregone e strege di Gaeta,
Che filano la seta.'

"Mulega is a witches' word. It means the earth which they take with it from footprints. It signifies that it is not earth which they cut but a piece of flesh which will disappear from the soles of their feet.

"If any one suspects that he has been thus bewitched, let him stand quite naked and take a black or red ribbon. Then let him be measured with the ribbon, firstly, the entire extent of his outstretched arms, and then his height from head to foot.


This song of Sega mulega is a very common nursery rhyme, sung while making the "cat's cradle " with a twine, which suggests the measurement with the

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ribbon. But it is also closely allied to witchcraft even in this; for as the cord makes a coffin, or other figures, omens are drawn from it, as I had fully illustrated to me by seeing it done. It is a nursery rhyme now, but it was an incantation once; and a witch declared to me that, if properly understood, it is one now, and must be sung while divining with a cord. It is in full as follows:--


"Sega mûlega, stregoni e streghe di Gaeta!
Che filano la seta
La seta ed il bombaggio;
Mi piace quel giovane
Che sbatte le castagne
L'isbatte tanto forte alle streghe,
Fa tremare le porte;
Le porte sono d'argento,
Che pesano cinque cento
Cinque cento, cinquanta,
La mia gallina canta -----'
'Non era gallina che canta.'
'Ma e un gallo ------' 'Non e un gallo che canta,
Ma una strega senza fallo.'
'Se una strega é, una strega pur sia!
Ma che il diavolo la porti via!"

("Sega mulega!
Wizards and witches of Gaeta
Ye who spin silk and cotton--see
There is a youth who pleases me,
He who is beating the chestnut tree:
Beating the witches with terrible shocks,
The gates are trembling at his knocks!
The gates are of silver--five hundred they weigh,
Five hundred------fifty--is it so?
Five hundred and fifty------ I hear my hen crow------
'But 'tis a cock!' 'No--a hen--without doubt,
And, as surely, a witch, without.'
'If she's a witch, a witch let her be
But the devil may take her away for me!")


Whether this be a nursery song, or old incantation, there is certainly in it a wild uncanny "Northern" spirit, far surpassing that of the "Ghurughiu" witch-song which Goethe heard in Naples.


296:1 Die Zoologie der alten Römer und Griechen (Gotha, 1856), p. 85

Next: Part Two: Chapter III--THE EXORCISM OF DEATH