« PreviousContinue »
stronger ones, round the index, either till this has moved in a direction or to a figure which he regards as the answer which he has sought, or till he himself falls into ecstasy, when he generally lays the kettle-drum on his head. Then he sings with a loud voice a song which they call Jogke; and the men and women who stand round sing songs, which they call Daura, in which the name of the place whence they desire information frequently occurs. The sorcerer lies in the ecstatic state for some time,-frequently for many hours apparently dead, with rigid features; sometimes with perspiration bursting out upon him. In the meantime the bystanders continue their incantations, which have for their object that the sleeper shall not lose any part of his vision from memory; at the same time they guard him carefully that nothing living may touch him— not even a fly. When he again awakes to consciousness, he relates his vision, answers the questions put to him, and gives unmistakeable evidence of having seen distant and unknown things. The inquiry of the oracle does not always take place so solemnly and completely. In everyday matters, as regards the chase, etc., the Lapp consults his drum without falling into the somnambulic crisis. On the other hand, a more highly developed state of the prophetic vision may take place without this instruinent, as has been already stated. Claudi relates, that at Bergen in Norway the clerk of a German merchant demanded of a Norwegian Finn-Laplander what his master was doing in Germany. The Finn promised to give him the intelligence. He began then to cry out like a drunken man, and to run round in a circle, till he fell, as one dead, to the earth. After a while he awoke again, and gave the answer, which time showed to have been perfectly correct. Finally, that many, while wholly awake, free from convulsions and a state of unconsciousness, are able to become clairvoyant, is placed beyond all doubt by the account of Tornäus.
The use which they make of their power of clairvoyance, and their magic arts, is, for the most part, good and innocent: that of curing sick men and animals; inquiring into far off and future things, which in the confined sphere of their existence is important to them. There are instances, however, in which the magic art is turned to the injury of
others; and the above-mentioned writers relate many instances of this kind, but which appear too fabulous to be noted here, Others reject these atrocities, and will not permit their divination to be affected with this misuse; an act of justice which is not reciprocated by the reporters of these facts, who ascribe all the wonders of magic, without exception, to the devil, as they do all modern instances to imagination.
This mode of consulting the oracle still prevails on the north-east coast of Russia amongst its pagan inhabitants, except that it is there a particular class of priests, called Schamans, who exercise the office of seers. These Schamans, who are consulted by the people concerning thefts, sicknesses, and the meaning of dreams, put on a particular official dress, beat the magic drum, invoke their demons, fall into the state of phrenzy, convulsion, and fainting, and then deliver the oracular message. The Schamans attain a high rank and influence throughout North-eastern Siberia; but they nowhere acquire such a power as amongst the Tschuktschen, where they enjoy a wholly unconditional and blind confidence, and employ this sometimes in a thoroughly fearful manner. There are found amongst them different forms of magic and trance, as in past time was common throughout heathendom; but that original power of prophetic vision is possessed by them only in its deepest form, resembling a madness, a wild inspiration, when called forth by intoxicating and stupifying means, and in connection with a bloody superstition, under the influence of which the excited Schamans demanded, not long ago, human sacrifices for the reconcilement of the gods.
These incantations may throw some light on those dark phenomena of witches and sorcery in the middle ages, which are to be regarded as the remains of heathen worship and heathen magic, and which have retained their hold longest in the northern nations, and of which the second-sight and the so-called Taigheirm are also fragments. We may give an idea of this from Horst's Deuteroscopy.
According to Grimm, the Edda contains a mysterious and profound myth of the three goddesses of fate. They are called Nornor collectively, but their individual names are Urdhr, Verdhandi, and Sculd; or, the Past, the Present,
and the Future.. These three maidens determine the length of every man's life. According to the Edda, there are good and bad fates; and besides those chief three there are many others. Some Nornor descend from the gods, others from the elves, and others from the dwarf "As the Nornor are related to Orlög, so is parea to futum," says Grimm; whence the Italian fata, the French fée, the German fein." These Fees were originally named from their announcement of fates, but were soon afterwards regarded as a kind of spirit-women. There are many legends of the fairies of romance which accord wholly with the popular belief of the Germans; whence the stories of the wise women.
The desire to learn the future, and to enter into communication with supernatural powers, is so deeply implanted in the human race, that Cicero might truly say:-" Ĝentem quidam nulla video, neque tam humanam atque doctam, neque tam immanem, tamque barbaram, quæ non significari futura et a quibusdam intelligi prædicique posse censeat." But the passion is equally inherent in human nature, to burst all impediments to freedom, and to soar above the constraints of the present state; and even at all hazard, when it is not to be accomplished by mild means, to take the devils by assault. This passion, when it is once awakened, in rude nations and the ignorant people, is all the more reckless and impetuous, because neither the light of religion illumes it, nor has her gentle warmth modified its tone. The idea of securing a long life, wealth and honour, inflames the imagination, and rushes like a lawless element in wild Mantic excitement over sacrifices of men and animals, and through hell itself, towards heaven. It is known how heathendom, especially in certain transition periods, and during the decline of the hereditary natural spirit, brooding over chimeras in a rabid Manticism, as it were inverts nature itself, abuses the innocent animal world with horrible activity, and treads everything human under foot. He who who would see more particular proofs of this may consult many ancient authors on matters of witchcraft, and especially in Peucer's great work, "De Divinatione," and in Albertus Magnus.
Such practices of sorcery have been inherited from the northern heathen by the Icelanders, the Laplanders, and
the highlanders of Scotland, who endeavour to obtain from hell imaginary good by force; to possess themselves, by their own power and arbitrary will, of the gift of second-sight; and to this end they used means not only absurd and ridiculous, but frequently the most terrific species of infernal magic. For where men know not God, or have turned away from him into wickedness, they address themselves devoutly to the kingdom of demons, and call forth the powers of darkness, to enable them to enjoy the pleasures of unrestrained imagination, and of reckless enthusiasm, careless of the great future, and of the final destiny of the soul. Such was the state of things from the commencement of Christianity to the end of the middle ages— from the Scottish Taigheirm to the Witch-hammer,-the former of which we shall notice first.
The Taigheirm was an infernal magical sacrifice of cats, the origin of which lies in the remotest pagan times, and in rites dedicated to the subterranean gods, from whom men solicited, by nocturnal offerings, particular gifts and benefits. Through Christianity these sacrifices were modified; and instead of being made to the subterranean powers, they were now made to the infernal ones; or, as they were called in the Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland, the Black-Cat Spirits. Whence these sacrifices came to the Western Isles is not known, but most probably it was from the farthest north, as the Western Isles were peopled from Iceland, Norway, and the Faroe Isles, and were dependent on and connected with those countries till the later Christian ages. In those remote northern lands, as in Greenland, according to the Danish and Swedish. learned men and missionaries, as well as according to the Icelanders, there still prevails a faith in sorcerers, exorcists, and communers with spirits; wherein we easily perceive the alliance to the old heathen world, and to a system of demons and magic constituted wholly in their spirit. Horst, in his " Deuteroscopy," treats of the national manners, customs, and opinions of the Highlanders and Western Islanders, with some remarks on their history and climate, from which it appears that those countries in the ancient times, before the earth was enriched by culture, and nature made fruitful and agreeable, as it were, in her own despite,
were well adapted by their melancholy aspect, covered as they were by eternal fogs, exposed to savage and incessant storms, to oppress the minds of men, and by the absence of external amenities so to operate on the imagination, that the innervisions and conceptions retained a peculiarly gloomy and yet grotesque colouring. For, according to Howell, "there is to be seen in many places neither a bird in the air nor a beast on the earth, nor even a worm crawling on the ground; scarcely a green blade of grass, but merely a black, moss-covered surface; a raw, sharp, melancholy, and catarrh-producing atmosphere, and chains of rugged and wild mountains and precipices." Thus, those countries have been, as it were, the natural home of the second-sight from the most ancient times. Cæsar and Plutarch speak of these islands as desolate, melancholy solitudes, where visions and ghostly apparitions are things familiar to the unfortunate inhabitants, who passed their sombre days in constant terror and apprehension. Plutarch mentions in particular the British, or rather the islands lying beyond Britain. There lay that unknown region of fable and myth, that mysterious Thule, sung of by Goethe, which the ancients regarded as the extremest boundary of the earth towards the north. These lands were always regarded as notorious for their spectral visions. Eusebius, too (De Preparat. Evangel. lib. v. c. 9), says, that "beyond Britannia lie many islands, of which several are filled with demons and evil spirits, who occasioned thunder, storms, torrents of rain, etc., and puzzled both the inhabitants and visitors with such delusive scenes as to bring them into confusion and anguish, and to injure them both soul and body"
Many centuries afterwards, the Venerable Bede, in his History of the English Church, corroborated these and similar statements. He relates, for instance, that down to the eighth century the island of Lewis, one of the largest Western Isles, continued almost wholly destitute of men, fruits, trees, and herbs, and that it was the favourite rendezvous and place of assembly of evil spirits and malicious apparitions, who there practised their devilish ceremonies. It was not till the pious Cudbrecht landed upon the island, in order to drive thence the devil and his agents, and to cultivate the land, that the demons, after a severe conflict,