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LETTERS

ON

DEMONOLOGY AND WITCHCRAFT.

To J. G. LOCKHART, Esq.

LETTER I.

A few general remarks on the nature of Demon

ology, and the original cause of the almost universal Origin of the general Opinions respecting Demonology among belief in communication between mortals and be Mankind-The Belief in the Immortality of the Soul is the main ings of a power superior to themselves, and of a sophical Objections to the Apparition of an abstract Spirit little nature not to be comprehended by human organs, understood by the Vulgar and Ignorant--The Situations of ex are a necessary introduction to the subject. cited Passion incident to Humanity, which teach Men to wish The general, or, it may be termed, the universal or apprehend supernatural Apparitions -- They are often pre belief of the inhabitants of the earth, in the exist. sented by the sleeping Sense--Story of Somnambulism-The Influence of Credulity contagious, so that Individuals will trust ence of spirits separated from the encumbrance and the Evidence of others in despite of their own Benses--Exam incapacities of the body, is grounded on the conand from the Works of Patrick Walker - The apparent Evidence and demonstrates to all men, except the few who ples from the Historia Verdadera of Bernal Dias del Castillo, sciousness of the divinity that speaks in our bosoms, to a depraved State of the bodlily Organs-Difference between this are hardened to the celestial voice, that there is Disorder and Insanity, in which the Organs retain their Tone within us a portion of the divine substance, which though that of the Mind is lost-Rebellion of the Senses of a Lunatic against the Current of his Reveries--Narratives of a

is not subject to the law of death and dissolution, contrary Nature, in which the Evidence of the Eyes overbore but which, when the body is no longer fit for its the Conviction of the Understanding-Example of a London abode, shall seek its own place, as a sentinel disMan of Pleasure-of Nicolai, the German Bookseller and Phi missed from his post. Unaided by revelation, it losopher-of a Patient of Dr. Gregory-of an eminent Scottish cannot be hoped that mere earthly reason should be Instances, which have but sulden and momentary Endurance- able to form any rational or precise conjecture conApparition of Maupertius- of a late illustrious modern Poet-cerning the destination of the soul when parted from The Cases quoud chiefly relating to false Impressions on the the body; but the conviction that such an indethe Touch chietly experienced in Sleep-Delusions of the Taste, structible essence exists, the belief expressed by the and of the Smelling-Sum of the Argument.

poet in a different sense, Non omnis moriar, must

infer the existence of many millions of spirits, who You have asked of me, my dear friend, that I have not been annihilated, though they have become should assist the Family Library, with the history invisible to mortals who still see, hear, and perceive of a dark chapter in human nature, which the in- only by means of the imperfect organs of humanity. creasing civilization of all well-instructed countries Probability may lead some of the most reflecting to has now almost blotted out, though the subject at- anticipate a state of future rewards and punishtracted no ordinary degree of consideration in the ments; as those experienced in the education of the older times of their history.

deaf and dumb find that their pupils, even while cut Among much reading of my early days, it is no off from all instruction by ordinary means, have doubt true that I travelled a good deal in the twilight been able to form out of their own unassisted conregions of superstitious disquisitions. Many hours jectures, some ideas of the existence of a Deity, and have I lost, -"I would their debt were less!"-in of the distinction between the soul and body-a cirexamining old, as well as more recent narratives of cumstance which proves how naturally these truths this character, and even in looking into some of the arise in the human mind. The principle that they criminal trials so frequent in early days, upon a sub- do so arise, being taught or communicated, leads to ject which our fathers considered as matter of the further conclusions, last importance. And, of late years, the very curi These spirits, in a state of separate existence, ous extracts published by Mr. Pitcairn, from the being admitted to exist, are not, it may be supposed, criminal records of Scotland, are, besides their his. indifferent to the affairs of mortality, perhaps not torical value, of a nature so much calculated to incapable of influencing them. It is true, that, in a illustrate the credulity of our ancestors on such more advanced state of society, the philosopher may subjects, that, by perusing them, I have been induced challenge the possibility of a separate appearance of more recently to recall what I had read and thought a disembodied spirit, unless in the case of a direct upon the subject at a former period.

miracle, to which, being a suspension of the laws of As, however, my information is only miscellane- nature, directly wrought by the Maker of these laws, ous, and I make no pretensions, either to combat the for some express purpose, no bound or restraint can systems of those by whom I am anticipated in con- possibly be assigned. But, under this necessary limisideration of the subject, or to erect any new one of tation and exception, philosophers might plausibly my own, my purpose is, after a general account of argue, that, when the soul is divorced from the Demonology and Witchcraft

, to confine myself to body, it loses all those qualities which made it, when narratives of remarkable cases, and to the observa clothed with a mortal shape, obvious to the organs tions which naturally and easily arise out of them ;- of its fellow-men. The abstract idea of a spirit cerin the confidence that such a plan is, at the present tainly implies, that it has neither substance, form, țime of day, more likely to suit the pages of a popu- shape, voice, or any thing which can render its prelar miscellany, than an attempt to reduce the con sence visible or sensible to human faculties. But tents of many hundred tomes, from the largest to these skeptic doubts of philosophers on the possithe smallest size, into an abridgment, which, how-bility of the appearance of such separated spirits, do ever compressed, must remain greatly too large for not arise till a certain degree of information has the reader's powers of patience.

dawned upon a country, and even then only reach a

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very small proportion of reflecting and better in Somnambulism and other nocturnal deceptions formed members of society. To the multitude, the frequently lend their aid to the formation of such indubitable fact that so many millions of spirits phantasmata as are formed in this middle state exist around and even among us, seems sufficient to between sleeping and waking: A most respectable support the belief that they are, in certain instances person, whose active life had been spent as masier at least, by some means or other, able to communi- and part owner of a large merchant vessel in the cate with ihe world of humanity. The more numer- Lisbon trade, gave the writer an account of such ao ous part of mankind cannot form in their mind the instance which came under his observation. He idea of the spirit of the deceased existing, without was lying in the Tagus, when he was put to great possessing or having the power to assume the ap- anxiety and alarm, by the following incident and its pearance which their acquaintance bore during his consequences. One of his crew was murdered by a life, and do not push their researches beyond this Portuguese assassin, and a report arose that the point.

ghost of the slain man haunted the vessel. Salors Enthusiastic feelings of an impressive and solemn are generally superstitious, and those of my friend's nature occur both in private and public life, which vessel became unwilling to remain on board the seem to add ocular testimony to an intercourse be- ship; and it was probable they might desert rather tween earth and the world beyond it. For example, than return to England with the ghost for a pasthe son who has been lately deprived of his father senger. To prevent so great a calamity, the Captain feels a sudden crisis approach, in which he is anx. determined to examine the story to the bottom. He ious to have recourse to his sagacious advice-or a soon found, that though all pretended to have seen bereaved husband earnestly desires again to behold | lights, and heard noises, and so forth, the weight of the form of which the grave has deprived him for the evidence lay upon the statement of one of his ever-or, to use a darker yet very common instance, own inates, an Irishman and a Catholic, which the wretched man who has dipped his hand in his might increase his tendency to superstition, but in fellow-creature's blood, is haunted by the apprehen. other respects a veracious, honest, and sensible persion that the phantom of the slain stands by the bed- son, whom Captain had no reason to suspect side of his murderer. In all or any of these cases, would wilfully deceive him. He affirmed to Capwho shall doubt that imagination, favoured by cir- tain S --, with the deepest obtestations, that the cumstances, has power to summon up to the organ of spectre of the murdered man appeared to him almost sight spectres which only exist in the mind of those nightly, took him from his place in the vessel, and by whom their apparition seems to be witnessed. according to his own espression, worried his life

If we add, that such a vision may take place in out. He made these communications with a degree the course of one of those lively dreams, in which of horror, which intimated the reality of his distress the patient, except in respect to the single subject and apprehensions. The Captain, without any arof one strong impression, is, or seems, sensible of gument at the time, privately resolved to watch the the real particulars of the scene around him, a state motions of the ghost-seer in the night; whether of slumber which often occurs-if he is so far con-alone, or with a witness, I have forgotten. As the scious, for example, as to know that he is lying on ship bell struck twelve, the sleeper started up, with his own bed, and surrounded by his own familiar a ghastly and disturbed countenance, and lighting a furniture, at the time when the supposed apparition candle, proceeded to the galley or cook-room of the is manifested--it becomes almost in vain to argue vessel. He sat down with his eyes open, staring with the visionary against the reality of his dream, before him as on some terrible object which he since the spectre, though itself purely fanciful, is in beheld with horror, yet from which he could not serted amid so many circumstances which he feels withhold his eyes. After a short space he aros, must be true beyond the reach of doubt or question. took up a tin can or decanter, filled it with water, That which is undeniably certain becomes in a muttering to himself all the while-mixed salt in the manner a warrant for the reality of the appearance water, and sprinkled it about the galley: Finalls, to which doubt would have been otherwise attach- he sighed deeply, like one relieved from a heavy bured. And if any event, such as the death of the den, and, returning to his hammock, slept soundly. person dreamed of, chances to take place, so as to In the next morning, the haunted man told the correspond with the nature and the time of the usual precise story of his apparition, with the addiapparition, the coincidence, though one which must tional circumstances, that the ghost had led him to be frequent, since our dreams usually refer to the the galley, but that he had fortunately, he knew not accomplishment of that which haunts our minds how, obtained possession of some holy water, and when awake, and often presage the most probable succeeded in getting rid of his unwelcome visiter. events, seems perfect, and the chain of circumstan- The visionary was then informed of the real transces touching the evidence may not unreasonably be actions of the night, with so many particulars as to considered as complete. Such a concatenation, we satisfy him he had been the dupe of his imaginarepeat, must frequently take place, when it is con- tion; he acquiesced in his commander's reasoning. sidered of what stuff dreams are made-how natu- and the dream, as often happens in these cases, rerally they turn upon those who occupy our mind turned no more aiter its imposture had been deleciwhile awake, and, when a soldier is exposed to ed. In this case, we find ihe excited imagination death in battle, when a sailor is incurring the dan- acting upon the half-waking senses, which were gers of the sea, when a beloved wife or relative is intelligent enough for the purpose of making him attacked by disease, how readily our sleeping ima- sensible where he was, but not sufficiently so as gination rushes to the very point of alarm, which to judge truly of the objects before him. when waking it had shuddered to anticipate. The But it is not private life alone, or that tenor of number of instances in which such lively dreams thought which has been depressed into melancholy have been quoted, and both asserted and received as by gloomy anticipations respecting the future, which spiritual communications, is very great at all peri- disposes the mind to midday fantasies, or to nightly ods; in ignorant times, where the natural cause of apparitions-a state of eager anxiety, or excited exdreaming is misapprehended, and confused with an ertion, is equally favourable to the indulgence of idea of mysticism, it is much greater. Yet perhaps, such supernatural communications. The anticipa: considering the many thousands of dreams which tion of a dubious battle, with all the doubt and must, night after night, pass through the imagina- uncertainty of its event, and the conviction that it tion of individuals, the number of coincidences be- must involve his own fate, and that of his country, tween the vision and real event, is fewer and less was powerful enough to conjure up to the anxious remarkable than a fair calculation of chances would eye of Brutus the spectre of his murdered friend warrant us to expect. But in countries where such æsar, respecting whose death he perhaps thought presaying dreams are subjects of attention, the num- himself less justified than at the Ides of March, ber of those which seem to be coupled with the since instead of having achieved the freedom of corresponding issue is large enough to spread a very Rome, the event had only been the renewal of civil general belief of a positive communication between wars, and the issue might appear most likely to the living and the dead.

conclude in the total subjection of liberty. It is not

miraculous, that the masculine spirit of Marcus | ternal conviction, that the rumour arose out of a Brutus, surrounded by darkness and solitude, dis- mistake, the cause of which he explains from his tracted probably by recollection of the kindness and own observation; while at the same time he does favour of the great individual whom he had put to not venture to disown the miracle. The honest death to avenge the wrongs of his country, though Conquestador owns, that he himself did not see this by the slaughter of his own friend, should at length animating vision; nay, that he beheld an individual place before his eyes in person the appearance which cavalier, named Francisco de Morla, mounted on a termed itself his evil Genius, and promised again to chesnut horse, and fighting strenuously, in the very meet him at Philippi. Brutus's own intentions, and place where Saint James is said to have appeared. his knowledge of ihe military art, had probably long But instead of proceeding to draw the necessary insince assured him that the decision of the civil war ference, the devout Conquestador exclaims-"Sinmust take place at or near that place; and, allow. ner that I am, what am I that I should have beheld ing that his own imagination supplied that part of the blessed apostle!" his dialogue with the spectre, there is nothing else The other instance of the infectious character of which might not be fashioned in a vivid dream or superstition occurs in a Scottish book, and there a waking revery, approaching, in absorbing and can be little doubt that it refers, in its first origin, to engrossing character, the usual matter or which some uncommon appearance of the aurora borealis, dreams consist. That Brutus, well acquainted with or the northern lighis, which do not appear to have the opinions of the Platonists, should be disposed to been seen in Scotland so frequently as to be acreceive without doubt the idea that he had seen a counted a common and familiar atmospherical phereal apparition, and was not likely to scrutinize very nomenon, until the beginning of the eighteenth minutely the supposed vision, may be naturally con- century. The passage is striking and curious, for ceived ; and it is also natural to think, that although the narrator, Patrick Walker, though an enthusiast, no one saw the figure but himself, his contempora- was a man of credit, and does not even affect to ries were little disposed to examine the testimony have seen the wonders, the reality of which he unof a man so eminent, by the strict rules of cross- scrupulously adopts on the teşumony of others, to examination and contlicting evidence, which they whose eyes he trusted rather than to his own. The might have thought applicable to another person, conversion of the skeptical gentleman of whom he and a less dignified occasion.

speaks, is highly illustrative of popular credulity, Even in the field of death, and amid the mortal carried away into enthusiasm, or into imposture, by tug of combat itself, strong belief has wrought the the evidence of those around, and at once shows same wonder, which we have hitherto mentioned as the imperfection of such a general testimony, and occurring in solitude and amid darkness; and those the ease with which it is procured, since the general who were themselves on the verge of the world of excitement of the moment impels even the more spirits, or employed in despatching others to these cold blooded and judicious persons present to catch gloomy regions, conceived they beheld the appari- up the ideas, and echo the exclamations, of the tions of those beings whom their national mytholo- majority, who, from the first, had considered the gy associated with such scenes. In such momentş heavenly phenomenon as a supernatural weaponof undecided battle, amid the violence, hurry, and schaw, held for the purpose of a sign and warning confusion of ideas incident to the situation, the of civil wars to come. ancients supposed that they saw their deities Castor "In the year 1686, in the months of June and and Pollux fighting in the van for their encou- July," says the honest chronicler, "many yet alive ragement; the heaihen Scandinavian beheld the can witness that about the Crossford Boat, two Choosers of the slain; and the Catholics were no miles beneath Lanark, especially at the Mains, on less easily led to recognise the warlike Saint George the water of Clyde, many people gathered together or Saint James in the very front of the strife, show- for several afternoons, where there were showers ing them the way to conqaest. Such apparitions of bonnets, hats, guns, and swords, which covered being generally visible to a inultitude, have in all the trees and the ground; companies of men in times been supported by the greatest strength of arms inarching in order upon the water-side; comtestimony. When the common feeling of danger, panies meeting companies, going all through other, and the animating burst of enthusiasm, act on the and then all falling to the ground and disappearing; feelings of many men at once, their minds hold a other companies immediately anpeared marching natural correspondence with each other, as it is said the same way. I went there ibree afternoons 10is the case with stringed instruments tuned to the gether, and as I observed there were two thirds of same pitch, of which, when one is played, the the people that were together saw, and a third that chords of the others are supposed to vibrate in uni- saw not, and though I could see nothing, there was son with the tones produced. If an artful or enthu- such a fright and irembling on those that did see, siastic individual exclaims, in the heat of action, that was discernible to all from those that saw not. that he perceives an apparition of the romantic kind There was a gentleman standing next to me, who which has been intimated, his companions catch at spoke as too many gentlemen and others speak, who the idea with emulation, and most are willing to sa- said, 'A pack of damned witches and warlocks that crifice the conviction of their own senses, rather have the secord sight! the devil ha't do I see;' and than allow that they did not witness the same fa- immediately there was a discernible change in his vourable emblem, from which all draw confidence countenance. With as much fear and trembling as and hope. One warrior catches the idea from an any woman I saw there, he called out, 'All you that other; all are alike eager to acknowledge the present do not see, say nothing; for I persuade you it is miracle, and the battle is won before the mistake is matter of fact, and discernable to all that are not discovered. In such cases, the number of persons stone-blind.' And those who did see told what works present, which would otherwise lead to detection of (i. e. locks) the guns had, and their length and the fallacy, becomes the means of strengthening it. wideness, and what handles the swords had, whe

of this disposition to see as much of the superna- ther small or three-barred, or Highland guards, and tural as is seen by others around, or, in other words, the closing knots of the bonnets, black or blue; to trust to the eyes of others rather than to our own, and those who did see them there, whenever they we may take the liberty 10 quote two remarkable went abroad, saw a bonnet and a gword drop in the instances.

The first is from the Historia Verdadera of Don This singular phenomenon, in which a multitude Bernal Dias del Castillo, one of the companions of the believed, although only two thirds of them saw celebrated Cortez, in his Mexican conquest. After what must, if real, have been equally obvious to having given an account of a great victory over ex- all, may be compared with the exploit of a humorist, treme odds, he mentions the report inseried in the contemporary Chronicle of Gomara, that Saint Iago * Walker's Lives, Edinburgh, 1927. vol. I. p. xxxvi. It is crident had appeared on a white horse in van of the combat, hat honest Patrick believed in the apparition of this martial gear, and led on his beloved Spaniards to victory. It is

on the principle of Partridge's terror for the ghost of Hamlet

not that he was afraid himself, but because Garrick showed such very curious to observe the Castilian cavalier's in- l evident marks of terror.

way."

who planted himself in an attitude of astonishment and pervert the external form of objects. In theu with his eyes riveted on the well-known bronze lion case, therefore, contrary to that of the maniac, it is that graces the front of Northumberland-house in not the mind, or rather the imagination, which imthe Strand, and having attracted the attention of poses upon and overpowers the evidence of the senthose who looked at him by muttering, "By Heaven, ses, but the sense of seeing (or hearing) which it wags !-it wags again!" contrived in a few min-betrays its duty, and conveys false ideas to a sane utes to blockade the whole street with an immense intellect. crowd, some conceiving that they had absolutely More than one learned physician, who have given seen the lion of Percy wag his tail, others expecting their attestations to the existence of this most disto witness the same phenomenon.

tressing complaint, have agreed that it actually ocOn such occasions as we have hitherto mentioned, curs, and is occasioned by different causes. The we have supposed that the ghost-seer has been in most frequent source of the malady is in the dissifull possession of his ordinary powers of perception, pated and intemperate habits of those who, by a unless in the case of dreamers, in whom they may continued series of intoxication, become subject to have been obscured by temporary slumber, and the what is popularly called the Blue Devils, instances possibility of correcting vagaries of the imagination of which mental disorder may be known to most who rendered more difficult by want of the ordinary have lived for any period of their lives in society appeal to the evidence of the bodily senses. In where hard-drinking was a common vice. The other respects, their blood beat temperately, they joyous visions suggested by intoxication when the possessed the

ordinary capacity of ascertaining the habit is first acquired, in time disappear, and are suptruth, or discerning the falsehood, of external ap- plied by frightful impressions and scenes, which pearances, by an appeal to the organ of sight. Un- destroy the tranquillity of the unhappy debauchee. fortunately, however, as is now universally known Apparitions of the most unpleasant appearance are and admitted, there certainly exists more than one his companions in solitude, and intrude even upon disorder known to professional men, of which one his hours of society; and when by an alteration of important symptom is a disposition to see appari- habits,

the mind is cleared of these frightful ideas, it tions.

requires but the slightest renewal of the association Th frightful disorder is not properly insanity, to bring back the full tide of misery upon the repentalthough it is somewhat allied to that most horri- ant libertine. ble of maladies, and may, in many constitutions, of this the following instance was told to the anbe the means of bringing it on, and although such thor by a gentleman connected with the sufferer

. A hallucinations are proper to both. The difference young man of fortune, who had led what is called I conceive to be, that, in cases of insanity, the gay a life as considerably to injure both his health mind of the patient is principally affected, while and fortune, was at length obliged to consult the the senses, or organic system, offer in vain to the physician upon the means of restoring at least the lunatic their decided testimony against the fantasy former. One of his principal complaints was the of a deranged imagination. Perhaps the nature frequent presence of a set of apparitions, resembling of this collision-between a disturbed imagination a band of figures dressed in green, who performed and organs of sense possessed of their usual accu- in his drawing-room a singular dance, to which he racy-cannot be better described than in the em- was compelled to bear witness, though he knew, to barrassment expressed by an insane patient con- his great annoyance, that the whole corps de ballet fined in the Infirmary of Edinburgh. The poor existed only in his own imagination. His

physician man's malady had taken a gay turn. The house, immediately informed him that he had lived upon in his idea, was his own, and he contrived to ac town too long and too fast not to require an exchange count for all that seemed inconsistent with his to a more healthy and natural course of life. He imaginary right of property ;-there were many therefore prescribed a gentle course of medicine, but patients in it, but that was owing to the benevolence earnestly recommended to his patient to retire to this of his nature, which made him love to see the relief own house in the country, observe a temperate diet of distress. He went little, or rather never abroad and early hours, practising regular exercise, on the --but then his habits were of a domestic and rather same principle avoiding fatigue, and assured him that sedentary character. He did not see much company by doing so he might bid adieu to black spirits and --but he daily received visits from the first characters white, blue, green, and gray, with all their trumpesy. in the renowned medical school of this city, and he The patient observed the advice, and prospered. His could not therefore be much in want of society. physician, after the interval of a month, received a With so many supposed comforts around him-with grateful letter from him, acknowledging the success so many visions of wealth and splendour, one thing of his regimen. The green goblins had disappeared alone disturbed the peace of the poor optimist, and and with them the unpleasant train of emotions to would indeed have confounded most bons vivans, -- which their visits had given rise, and the patient had “He was curious," he said, in his table, choice in ordered his town-house to be disfurnished and sold, his selection of cooks, had every day a dinner of three while the furniture was to be sent down to his ressregular courses and a dessert; and yet, somehow or dence in the country, where he was determined in other, every thing he eat tasted of porridge.This future to spend his life, without exposing himself to dilemma could be no great wonder to the friend to the temptations of town. One would have supposed whom the poor patient communicated it, who knew this a well devised scheme for health. But, alas! the lunatic eat nothing but this simple aliment at any no sooner had the furniture of the London drawingof his meals. The case was obvious; the disease room been placed in order in the gallery of the old lay in the extreme vivacity of the patient's imagina- manor house, than the former delusion returned in tion, deluded in other instances, yet not absolutely full force! the green figurantes, whom the patient's powerful enough to contend with the honest evidence depraved imagination had so long associated with of his stomach and palate, which, like Lord Peter's these moveables, came capering and frisking to acbrethren in the Tale of a Tub, were indignant at the company them, exclaiming with great glee, as if the attempt to impose boiled oatmeal upon them, instead sufferer should have been rejoiced to see them, " Here of such a banquet as Ude would have displayed when we all are-here we all are!" The visionary, if I re peers were to partake of it. Here, therefore, is one collect right, was so much shocked at their appearinstance of actual insanity, in which the sense of ance, that he retired abroad, in despair that any pari taste controlled and attempted to restrain the ideal of Britain could shelter him from the daily persecuhypothesis adopted by a deranged imagination. But tion of this domestic ballette. the disorder to which I previously alluded is entirely There is reason to believe that such cases are neof a bodily character, and consists principally in a merous, and that they may perhaps arise, not only disease of the visual organs, which present to the from the debility of stomach brought on by excess patient a set of spectres or appearances, which have in wine or spirits, which derangement often sensible no actual existence. It is a disease of the same na- affects the eyes and sense of sight, but also because ture, which renders many men incapable of distin- the mind becomes habitually predominated over by guishing colours; only the patients go a step farther, la train of fantastic visions, the consequence of fre

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