Page images
PDF
EPUB

ten my authority, that the custom of kissing the Hand by way of salutation is derived from the manner in which the ancient Persianis worshipped the sun; which was by first laying their Hands upon their mouths, and then listing them up by way of adoration, a practice which receives illustration from a passage in the Book of Job, a work replete with allusions to ancient manners: “If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness; and

my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand." -Chap. xxxi. v. 26, 27.

On the passage in “ Macbeth,”
“ By the pricking of my thumbs, (*)

Something wicked this way comes," Steevens observes, “ It is a very ancient superstition that all sudden pains of the body, and other sensations which could not naturally be accounted for, were presages of somewhat that was shortly to happen.” Hence Mr. Upton has explained a passage in the “ Miles Gloriosus” of Plautus: “ Timeo quod rerum gesserim hic, ita dorsus totus prurit.” See Reed's edit. of Shaksp. 1803, vol. x. p. 209.

only apt for mechanical artifice, but liberally ingenious; but those short, on the contrary, note a foole, and fit for nothing; an hard brawny Hand signes dull and rude ; a soft Hand, witty but effeminate; an hairy Hand, luxurious ; longe joynts signe generous, yet, if they be thick withall, not so ingenious ; the often clapping and folding of the Hands note covetous, and their much moving in speech, loquacious; an ambidexter is noted for ireful, crafty, injurious; short and fat Fingers mark a man out for intemperate and silly; but long and leane, for witty; if his Fingers crook upward, that shewes him liberal, if downward, niggardly; long Nailes and crooked, signe one brutish, ravenous, unichaste; very short Nailes, pale, and sharp, show him false, subtile, beguiling; and so round Nails, libidinous; but Nails broad, plain, thin, white, and reddish, are the tokens of a very good wit.”

A moist Hand is vulgarly accounted a sign of an amorous constitution. The Chief Justice, in the “Second Part of King Henry the Fourth," enumerates a dry Hand among the characteristics of age and debility.

I have somewhere read, but I have forgot

NOTES TO HAND AND FINGER NAILS.

(') In the “ Secret Memoirs of Mr. Duncan Campbell,” 8vo. Lond. 1732, p. 60, we read in the chapter of Omens,“ Others have thought themselves secure of receiving money if their Hands itched."

(*) “ That a yellow death.mould may never appeare upon your Hand, or any part of your body,“ occurs among the omens introduced in Barton Holiday's " TEXNORAMIA,” signat. E b. I suppose by death-mould our author means death-mole.

To a person asking in the “ British Apollo," fol. Lond. 1708, vol. i. No. 17, the cause of little white spots which sometimes grow under the Nails of the Fingers, and why they say they are gifts,-it is answered : “ Those little spots are from white glittering particles which are mixed with red in the blood, and happen to remain there some time. The reason of their being called gifts is as wise an one

as those of letters, winding-sheets, &c., in a candle."

(3) Barton Holiday deprecates the omeni, “ that you may never pare your Nailes upon a Friday.” In Themas Lodge's “ Wit's Miserie and the World's Madnesse; discovering the Devils Incarnat of this Age," 4to. Lond. 1596, he says, speaking of Curiositie, p. 12, Nor will " he paire his Nailes White Munday to be fortunate in his love."

In the “Schola Curiositatis,” we read : “Vetant ungues præscindere aut Indusium mutare die Veneris, ne fortunam aut valetudinem in discrimen ponant.” Tom. ii. p. 336.

Albumazar,“' a comedy, 4to. Lond. 1634, signat. B 3 b, we read : “He puls you not a haire, nor paires a Nuile,

Nor stirs a foote, without due figuring
The horoscope.

In

The Jews, however, (superstitiously, says scorn and disdain, and, drawing your Nail Mr. Addison, in his “ Present State of that from betwixt your teeth, to tell them you people, p. 129,) pare their Nails on a Friday. value not this what they can do; and the

☺ In Dekker's “ Dead Terme," 1607, same rudeness may be committed with a signat. D b, is found the following: “ What fillip.” byting of the Thumbs (at each other while the Doubling the Thumb. Hutchinson, in his company are walking in St. Paul's) to beget “ History of Northumberland," vol. ii. ad quarrels.” This singular mode of picking a finem, p. 4, tells us, “ Children, to avoid apquarrel occurs in “ Romeo and Juliet,” act i. proaching danger, are taught to double the sc. i.; in Randolph's “ Muses' Looking- Thumb within the Hand. This was much Glass," &c. See Reed's edit. of Shaksp. practised whilst the terrors of witchcraft re1 803, vol. xx. p. 10.

mained; and even in the beginning of the In Thomas Lodge's “ Incarnate Devils,” present century much of those unhappy pre4to. Lond. 1596, p. 23, is the following: “I judices possessed the minds of the vulgar. It see Contempt marching forth, giving mee the was a custom to fold the Thumbs of dead fico with his thombe in his mouth, for conceal- persons within the Hand, to prevent the power ing him so long from your eie-sight."

of evil spirits over the deceased; the Thumb In the “ Rules of Civility,” 12mo. Lond. in that position forming the similitude of the 1685, p. 44, we read, “ 'Tis no less disrespect- character in the Hebrew alphabet which is ful to bite the Nail of your thumb by way of nmonly used to denote the name of God.”

comm

CANDLE OMENS.

The fungous parcels, as Sir Thomas Browne calls them, about the wicks of Candles are commonly thought to foretell strangers. (1) In the north, as well as in other parts of England, they are called Letters at the Candle, as if the forerunners of some strange news. These, says Browne, with his usual pedantry of style, which is well atoned for by his good sense and learning, only indicate a moist and pluvious air, which hinders the avolation of the light and favillous particles, whereupon they settle upon the snast. That candles and lights, he observes also, burn blue and dim at the apparition of spirits, may be true, if the ambient air be full of sulphureous spirits, as it happens often in mines.

Melton, in his “ Astrologaster,” p. 45,

says, 28, that "if a Candle burne blew, it is
a signe that there is a spirit in the house, or not
farre from it."

A collection of tallow, says Grose, rising
up against the wick of a Candle, is styled a
winding-sheet, and deemed an omen of death
in the family.(3)

A spark at the Candle, says the same author, denotes that the party opposite to it will shortly receive a letter. A kind of fungus in the Candle, observes the same writer, predicts the visit of a stranger from that part of the coun. try nearest the object.(3)

Dr. Goldsmith, in his « Vicar of Wake. field,” speaking of the waking dreams of his hero's daughters, says, “ The girls had their Omens too, they saw rings in the Candle."

[ocr errors]

NOTES TO CANDLE OMENS.

( ) The following is from Roberti Keuchenii “ Crepundia," p. 211 :

Fungi Lucernarum. “Aeris humenti crepitans uligine fungus

Si quid habet flammis ominis, Auster erit."

Jodrell, in his “Illustrations of Euripides," vol. i. p. 127, tells us, from Brodæus, that among the Greeks the votary was sensible of the acceptation of his prayer by the manner in which the flame darted its ejaculation. If the

1

OMENS AT THE BARS OF GRATES, PURSES, AND COFFINS.

95

flame was bright, this was an auspicious Omen, 1 parcels” lucky, when they burn long and but it was esteemed the contrary, if it corre brilliant, in which case they suppose them to sponded with the description of the sacrifice bring customers. But when they soon go out, in the “ Antigone” of Sophocles :

they imagine the customers already under their

roofs will presently depart. “When, from the victim, lo! the sullen flame

See “Putanisme

d'Amsterdam,” 12mo. 1681, p. 92. They Aspir'd not; smother'd in the ashes still

call these puffs of the Candle “good men. Lay the moist flesh, and, roll'd in smoke, repella

The Hon. Mr. Boyle, in his “ Occasional

Reflections The rising fire."

supon

Several Subjects,” 8vo. Lond. Franklin, vol. i.

1665, p. 218, makes his “Meditation 10th 57. p.

upon a thief in a Candle"—“which, by its (*) Sir Thomas Browne, in his “Hydriota- irregular way of making the flame blaze, phia," p. 59, speaking of the ancients, observes, melts down a good part of the tallow, and

that they poured oyle upon the pyre was a to. will soon spoil the rest, if the remains are not lerable practise, while the intention rested in sa rescued by the removal of the thief (as they cilitating the ascension; but to place good call it) in the Candle." omens in the quick and speedly burniny, to sacri. In “Secret Memoirs of the late Mr. Dunfice unto the windes for a dispatch in this can Campbell," 8vo. Lond. 1732, p. 62. the auoffice, was a low form of superstition.”

thor says:“I have seen people who, after writWillsford, in his “Nature's Secrets," p. ing a letter, have prognosticated to themselves 120, tells us : “If the frame of a Candle, the ill success of it, if by any accident it haplamp, or any other fire, does wave or wind it pened to fall on the ground; others have seemed self where there is no sensible or visible cause, as impatient, and exclaiming against their expect some windy weather.

want of thought, if through haste or forget* When Candles or lamps will not so readily fulness they have chanced to hold it before kindle as at other times, it is a sign of wet the fire to dry; but the mistake of a word in weather neer at hand.

it is a sure omen that whatever requests it “When Candles or lamps do sparkle and carries shall be refused." rise up with little fumes, or their wicks swell, “ The Irish, when they put out a Candle, with things on them like mushrums, are all say, 'May the Lord renew, or send us the light signs of ensuing wet weather.”

of Heaven!'”—Gent. Mag. 1795, p. 202. The innkeepers and owners of brothels at (3) Others say it implies the arrival of a Amsterdam are said to account these “fungous parcel.

OMENS AT THE BARS OF GRATES, PURSES, AND

COFFINS.

A Flake of Soot hanging at the Bars of the Grate, says Grose, denotes the visit of a stranger, (1) like the fungus of the candle, from that part of the country nearest the object.

Dr. Goldsmith, in his“ Vicar of Wakefield," among the omens of his hero's daughters, tells us “Purses bounded from the fire.” In the north of England, the cinders that bound from

the fire are carefully examined by old women and children, and according to their respective forms are called either Coffins or Purses ; and consequently thought to be the presages of death or wealth: aut Cæsar aut nullus.

A coal, says Grose, in the shape of a Coffin, flying out of the fire to any particular person, betokens their death not far off.

96

NOTES TO OMENS AT THE BARS OF GRATES, PURSES, AND COFFINS.

(1) “Me oft has fancy, ludicrous and wild,

Sooth'd with a waking dream of houses,

tow'rs,
Trees, churches, and strange visages ex-

press'd
In the red cinders, while with poring eye
I gaz'd, myself creating what I saw.
Nor less amus'd have I quiescent watch'd
The sooty films that play upon the bars
Pendulous, and foreboding in the view
Of superstition, prophesying still,
Though still deceiv'd, some stranger's

near approach.

Cowper's Poems : “Winter Evening.” In the “ Secret Memoirs of Mr. Duncan Campbell," p. 61, is the following observation: “ The fire also affords a kind of divination to these omen-mongers; they see swords, guns, castles, churches, prisons, coffins, weddingrings, bags of money, men and women, or whatever they either wish or fear, plainly deciphered in the glowing coals."

Willsford, in his “ Nature's Secrets,” p. 120, tells us: “When our common fires do burn with a pale flame, they presage foul weather.

“If the fire do make a huzzing noise, it is a sign of tempests near at hand.

“When the fire sparkleth very much, it is a sign of rain.

“ If the ashes on the hearth do clodder together of themselves, it is a sign of rain.

“When pots are newly taken off the fire, if they sparkle, (the soot upon them being incensed,) it presages rain.

“ When the fire scorcheth and burneth more vehemently than it useth to do, it is a sign of frosty weather; but if the living coals do shine

brighter than commonly at other times, expect then rain.

“ If wood, or any other fuel, do crackle and break forth wind more than ordinary, it is an evident sign of some tempestuous weather neer at hand; the much and suddain falling of soot presages rain.”(@)

Ramesey, in his“ Elminthologia," 8vo. Lond. 1668, p. 271, making observations on superstitious persons, says: “If the salt fall but towards them, or the fire, then they expect anger: and an hundred such-like foolish and groundless conceits.":

In Petri Molinæi “ Vates," p. 219, we read : “Si flamma ex cineribus subito erupit, felicitatis omen est.”

The subsequent childish sport, so elegantly described by Cowper, may not improperly be referred to the ancient fire divinations : “So when a child, as playful children use,

Has burnt to tinder a stale last year's news,
The flame extinct, he views the roving fire-
There goes my lady, and there goes the

squire,
There

goes

the parson, oh! illustrious spark, Aud there, scarce less illustrious, goes the clerk!" Cowper's Poems, edit. 1798,

vol.

p. 272.

(1) In the “ Statistical Account of Scotland,” vol. xiii. p. 557, parish of Lochcarron, in the county of Ross, we read : “ Everything almost is reckoned a sign of rain. If there be a warm or hot day, we shall soon have rain; if a crow begin to chatter, she is calling for rain ; if the clouds be heavy, or if there be a mist upon the top of the hills, we shall see rain. In a word, a Highlander may make anything a sign of rain, there is no danger he shall fail in his prognostication.”

THE HOWLING OF DOG S.

A superstitious opinion vulgarly prevails that the Howling of a Dog by night in a neighbourhood is the presage of death to any that are sick in it.()) I know not what has given rise to this : Dogs have been known to stand and howl over the bodies of their masters, when they have been murdered, or died an accidental or sudden death : taking such note of what is past, is an instance of great sensibility in this faithful animal, without supposing that it has in the smallest degree any prescience of the future.

Shakspeare ranks this among Omens: “ The owl shriek'd at thy birth ; an evil sign! The night-crow cry’daboding luckless time; Dogs howl'd, and hideous tempests shook down trees."

Henry VI.

The Howling of Dɔg3, says Grose, is a certain sign that some one of the family will very shortly die.()

The following passage is in the “ Merry Devil of Edmonton,” 4to. 1631 :

6 I hear the watchful Dogs With hollow howling tell of thy approach :" and the subsequent is cited in Poole's “ Enz. lish Parnassus,' voce “Omens :" “ The air that night was fill'd with dismal

groans,
And people oft awaked with the howls
Of wolves and fatal Dogs.”

NOTES TO THE HOWLING OF DOGS.

() The following occurs in Roberti Keuchenii “ Crepundia," p. 113:

Canum Ululatus. “Præfica Nox, aliquam portendunt Nubila

mortem : A Cane, præviso funere disce mori." The subsequent, which is found Ibid. p. 211, informs us that when Dogs rolled themselves in the dust it was a sign of wind :

Canis in pulvere volutans “Præscia Ventorum, se volvit odora Canum

vis: Numine difflatur pulveris iustar homo." So Willsford, in his “ Nature's Secrets,' p. 131: “Dogs tumbling and wallowing them. selves much and often upon the earth, if their guts rumble and stinke very much, are signs of rain or wind for certain.'

Gaule, in his “ Mag-astromancers posed

and puzzeld,” p. 181, inserts in his long list. of vain observations and superstitious ominations thereupon," the Dogs Howling."

(%) Dr. Nathaniel Home, in his “ Dæmonologie, p. 60, says: “If Doggs houle in the night neer an house where somebody is sick, 'tis a signe of death."

Alexander Ross, in his Appendix to “ Arcana Microcosmi,” 8vo. Lond. 1652, p. 218, says, “That Dogs by their howling portend death and calamities is plaine by historie and experience.”

“ Julius Obsequens (c. 122) showeth that there was an extraordinary Howling of Dogs before the sedition in Rome about the Dictatorship of Pompey: he showeth also (c. 127) that before the civil wars between Augustus and Antonius, among many other prodigies, there was great Howling of Dogs near the house of Lepidus the Pontifice.

6 Camerarius tells us (c. 73, cent. i.) that some German Princes have certain tokens and

VOL. III.

« PreviousContinue »