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had threatened to burn their temple and and thirteen thousand other officers of town on the very first occasion that the various grades. oracle spoke in a manner adverse to his According to Grecian mythology, the wishes.
sacred art of alchemy, known as the herThe augurs, whom the Greeks had metic art, was revealed by the god borrowed from the Chaldeans, formed in Hermes Trismegistus to the first priests Greece a special college, whose mission of the temples of Thebes and Memphis. was to interpret the will of the gods, and These priests certainly employed, in predict the future, by means of natural painting their hieroglyphics, colors which phenomena, such as thunder, lightning, attest their extensive acquaintance with etc. The augurs also predicted the fu- chemistry. From the day when metal ture from the cries and flight of birds, was first melted in a crucible, the operaand by the appetite, healthy or other- tors were necessarily struck by the phewise, of the sacred fowls. Cicero, who nomena that took place under their eyes. believed very little in the augurs, tells The mixture of various metals produced us, that when the priests wished to give masses of different colors; and
copper some great personage a favorable omen, mixed with zinc formed an alloy imitatthey kept the fowls in a fasting state, so ing gold. The melters drew from this as to make sure, when the right moment natural result the conclusion that it was arrived, that they would peck the grain possible to transmute metals; and alchevoraciously. Cato, too, used to say to my thus started into life, and was speedily his friends that he was astonished how followed by the search after the philosotwo augurs could meet without laughing pher's stone. The most ancient works at each other. The haruspices had the on alchemy are attributed to Hermes; duty of examining the liver, entrails, and but, in fact, they do not date beyond the quivering flesh of the victims burnt in Alexandrian school. When this city was honor of the gods. The sacred college captured and pillaged for the fourth time of the Haruspices, though it had fallen by the Arabs in 642, the hermetic science into discredit, continued its sacrifices at disappeared, and did not rise again until Rome till the year 419 of our era. At the kingdom of the Califs had been estabthat date St. Boniface obtained from the lished on the ruins of the old empires. Emperor Honorius a law, which pro- The hermetic art received under the nounced a sentence of transportation on Arabs the name, half-Arabic, half-Greek, the mathematici and soothsayers. At of alchemy; and since this epoch we find the same period, the bishops ordered remarkable men in all countries seeking their books to be publicly burned. Sor- the philosopher's stone, up to the time cery, however, still continued in the when chemistry, by becoming a positive Eternal City until the advent of Pope science, was stripped of all the phantasSixtus Quintus, who issued a motu pro magoria of olden times. prio, which freed his capital from sooth Alchemy flourished most in the fifteenth sayers and astrologers. It seems that and sixteenth centuries; and clever imDom Calmet's legions of fiends did not postors contrived to feather their nests come to their aid. By the way, we may very satisfactorily to themselves. The as well furnish here a list of the chiefs of adventures of one Cornaro, an Italian Hades, as given by the reverend father, alchemist, supply a case in point. This who may
be supposed to know something Cornaro, who was a bit of a scamp, it about the matter, as in a single morning would seem, was thrown into prison at he counted up no fewer than thirty Venice, not for his very good behavior. thousand one hundred and fifty demons He contrived, however, to inform his of all sorts and sizes. Here are the names patron, the Duke de San Martino, of the of the principal infernal rulers: 1. Luci- fact of his arrest; and knowing the duke's fer, the monarch; 2. Belzebuth, second foible, he promised to teach him the sechief and prime-minister; 3. Astaroth, cret of gold-making, which would enable prince of the thrones; 4. Behemoth, com- him to raise an army, with which to conmander-in-chief; 5. Belphegor, second quer a small principality to which he asgeneral ; 6. Sabathan, colonel ; 7. Axa- serted a claim. The duke assented, and phat, centurion; 8. Finetail, aid-de-camp; Cornaro was set at liberty by his inter.
mediation. The scamp, seeing a fine formed by Louis XIV., we may place in chance, reduced forty pistoles to powder, the first rank the edict issued in 1672, which he mixed with earth. This stuff which prohibited the burning of sorcerhe made into four packets, and solders and witches, unless they had been through his accomplices to the druggists proved guilty of poisoning. In truth, it under the name of Chunam earth was time for such a decree;
and the reader preparation then in great vogue among recoils in horror from the lists of victims chemists—and snapped up on this occa- burnt in the fifteenth and sixteenth cen. sion, owing to the moderate price at turies under the pretext of magic. To which it was offered. When the day for furnish an idea of the importance and the experiment arrived, Cornaro sent the number of the executions, we will first duke's people to get some Chunam pow- mention two inquisitors who acquired der at the address he gave. This pow. an awful reputation as witch-burners. der was thrown into a crucible along The first, one Cumanus, commenced his with ten pistoles; and an hour later, gold exploits by burning, in 1485, in the small to the value of seventeen was taken out county of Bulen, forty-one women as of it, to the great delight of the duke. witches. Not finding the evil, they cut Cornaro represented to him that, with a away at the roots. He pronounced so large sum, the profit would be greatly many condemnations, that the people augmented; and the poor duke, who was emigrated en masse. Alirat, bis worthy easy to convince, promised to supply the rival, performed his feats in Piedmont. rogue with twenty thousand crowns. He began with a master-stroke, and burnThe day of Venus, Friday, was selected ed one hundred and fifty sorcerers in an for the experiment; and, owing to the immense auto-da-fé. The next year two importance of the affair, the gold would hundred fresh victims were about to be remain in a state of fusion for two days. given to the flames; but the people reThe noble Venetian was punctual; and volted, expelled the burner, and delivered as the clock struck twelve, he threw the the poor wretches. In 1489, Innocent money with his own hands into the cru- VIII. issued a bull, by which he invited cible. The alchemist was left alone to the inquisitors to redouble their zeal in watch the operation; but when the duke detecting and punishing persons indulg. returned the next day, he found not a ing in witchcraft. The consequences of soul in the house he had hired for the this bull were terrible, and pyres were affair. Cornaro had bolted, and by this every where kindled. Spain, France, time was well on his way to Genoa. And Italy, Germany, were literally decimated. so the poor duke lost his hopes of the In 1524, in the little town of Como, no principality
less than twelve hundred persons were Toward the end of the eighteenth cen- burned on account of witchcraft; and tury, we find an alchemist engrossing we almost fancy we must be dreampublic attention for the last time. In the ing when we find men like Toreno, year of grace 1781—the very year in Nicholas Remi (the intimate friend of which Kant published his Critique of the Duke of Lorraine), Del Rio, Bodin, Pure Reason-all England was talking and Roguet boasting of having burnt, about the alchemical experiments of Dr. the first seventeen hundred sorcerers, the Price, who, by the aid of a powder of second and third nine hundred each, the projection, publicly transmuted mercury fourth six hundred, and the last only five into gold and silver. Dr. Price's repu- hundred. In 1570, one Florimond de tation became immense, and the vulgar Remond, councillor of the parliament of were disposed to make a god of him; but Bourdeaux, after he had tortured and unfortunately he was a member of the roasted some bundreds of wretches, deRoyal Society. It did not suit him to clared that he should give up condemnperform his jugglery in the presence of ing people, who appeared to arise from competent judges; and hence he declared their ashes. “It is very sad,” he said that he had no powder left. When called simply,“on going home, after having sent upon to make fresh, Price gave a tragical four or five sorcerers, male or female, to ending to the farce-he poisoned himself, the stake, to reflect that it will be necesand thus gave the death-blow to alchemy. sary to do it all over again the next day.'
Among the few meritorious acts per- In 1572, the year of St. Bartholomew,
one Bodin, a species of idiot, who wrote / France to ruin. The next spectre the a tissue of absurdities under the title of regent desired to see was Louis XIV., Demonology, asserted that the number who duly appeared at the spot where of sorcerers acknowledged by the wretch- Sully had disappeared. The regent aded Des Echelles, when executed, was vanced resolutely toward his great uncle. three hundred thousand; and that there Sire,” he said, as he knelt on one knee, would be no happiness for France till " if it be true that there is nothing hidthey were exterminated to the last. In den from the dead, you will be aware 1589, two months before the assassina- of the purity of my intentions in revok. tion of Henry III., the parliament of ing your will; and I trust will pardon Paris had to try forty persons of both me." The old king opened his arms, sexes, formally accused of having inti- the regent rushed eagerly toward the exmate relations with the demons. Fortu- ruler of Europe, but found no resistance. nately the parliament contained a few While Philip was trying to recover from enlightened men, who came to the con- bis violent emotions, Dubois inquired clusion that the prisoners were suffering whether the shadow of the great Cardifrom hallucinations, and required a dose nal Richelieu could be called from the of hellebore rather than the stake. Un grave. Count Felix replied in the affirmfortunately, ere twenty years had elapsed, ative; and the cardinal ere long apfresh accusations of sorcery desolated peared in his red gown. Dubois bowed France; and if the Béarnais had listened like a Spanish grandee, and then began to the advice of the witch-finders, three a pompous panegyric of his system of fourths of his subjects would speedily government. Richelieu listened attenhave been roasting. At about the same tively, and when Dubois ceased speaking, period, sixty-five hundred persons were made him a sign to advance. The reburnt for witchcraft in four years in the gent's minister believed in some impor. little electorate of Trevis; in the Net tant communication from the other world, lands, four thousand; and in Switzerland, and overcoming his terror, advanced two twenty-three hundred. _In the last cen- paces; but he suddenly received two of tury, at the era when the Encyclopédie was the most stinging buffets ever dealt a publishing, witch-fires still blazed in Ba- human face. At the same instant, the varia and Germany; while in Spain they lights were extinguished, and a stentowere not extinguished until the French rian voice announced that the evocations invasion placed King Joseph on the were at an end. The regent laughed throne of the descendants of Charles V. heartily, as did the ladies, while Dubois
The Regent d'Orléans was a fervent cursed in a way that would have scanbeliever in the marvellous, and was very dalized a pagan.
But when Dubois cleverly taken in by Count Felix de Bel- sought for Count Felix the next day, he monte, a celebrated sorcerer, who pre- was nowhere to be found. tended to raise the dead. The scene We find in a correspondence written took place on the night of April 23, 1720, in 1724, or two years after the death of in the deserted quarries of Vaugirard, Cardinal Dubois, the following explanawhither a fashionable party proceeded nation of this mysterious adventure. It with the regent. The sorcerer was at was well known at court that the rehis post, and introduced, as his indispen- gent's great desire was to exculpate sable assistant, a tall man, whose features himself from the infamous accusations were completely concealed by a huge brought against him. The Duke de Xblack beard. After a few words had formed the bold plan of freeing the rebeen exchanged between Belmont and gent from the ideas that oppressed him. the regent, the latter remained in the Having known Count Felix at Venice, foreground with Cardinal Dubois, the he renewed the acquaintance when that rest being scattered about the galleries, adventurer came to Paris, and they arwhence they could see, but not hear the ranged together the scene we have just speeches. The first person evoked was described. Two glasses, a reflector, and Sully, of whom the regent inquired wbat a few accomplices, sufficed to carry out he thought of Law's system. The finan- the farce. The man with the black beard cier of Henri IV. replied that the direc was no other than the Duke de X-, lor of the Banque Générale would lead | Unfortunately, the raiser of the dead
was ignorant of the duke's hatred of was not sufficient. The second method, that Dubois : the two boxes on the ear spoiled of the stone, was of more simple execution. the farce, and fearing the minister's ven
A sister lay down on her stomach, and a geance, he mysteriously disappeared from brother beat her hips with a large stone, as Paris. ' In 1725, Count Felix de Bel- long as he had strength. The last method
was only employed on great occasions, and monte was found frozen to death in a
on certain subjects. A bar of iron weighing sledge, while journeying from Moscow thirty pounds was used, and the wretched to Odessa.
prophetess was struck violently with it, she Among the most extraordinary instan- all the while expressing the utmost delight. ces of credulity recorded in history, that "Strike, in Heaven's name! redouble your of the convulsionists takes a prominent assistance ;' were the words which these mani
acs would utter. Other instruments of torture place. On May 8, 1727, an immense crowd, among which some great people the biscuit, the barley-sugar, the tooth-pick,
were known by strange names; these were could be seen, followed to the cemetery etc. Each woman had her specialty. One of St. Medard the body of a deacon, of the name of Marie Sounet was incombusFrançois de Paris. He had acquired tible, and hence called the Salamander. Anpublic esteem by acts of charity; but other, who could remain for hours on the cross, had nothing remarkable to justify the received the surname of Sæur de la Croix. character of saintship, which he acquired An hysteric convulsionist, who used to utter within a week of his funeral. Crowds Chalti. Another who barked, the She-dog," flocked to his grave, and miracles began etc. to be performed. Women, lying on the cold stone which covered the priest's
This dangerous delusion was finally ashes, fell into ecstatic fits and prophe- destroyed by ridicule. A celebrated sursied.' Paralytics left the grave with joy- geon, Morand Saint-Sauveur, explained ous bounds. Cripples threw away their in the name of reason, the natural causes crutches. The Archbishop of Noailles of these miracles, renewed from the days was elected chief of the appellants, and of the augurs and the haruspices. The undertook to keep a list of the daily Journal des Savants opened its columns miracles. The appearance of the ceme- to Dodard, a member of the Academy. tery became very remarkable: it was The letters which he published produced more a fair than a resting-place of the an immense effect, which greatly aided dead. On all sides were stalls at which to diminish the number of the convulpedlers sold crosses, chaplets, relics, and sionists. Dodard and D'Alembert dealt even earth taken from the tomb of the the death-blow by the bold preface to the saint. The most repulsive scenes occur first volume of their Encyclopédie, pubred with hysterical women for more than lished at the close of 1750. a year, until the police considered it nec In June, 1704, the French army took essary to interfere and close the ceme- the important town of Vercelli, the key tery; on the next day a wit placed the of the road from Turin to Milan. While following placard on the gate:
the fortifications were being razed, an
infant was baptized in the chapel of the “De par le roi, défense à Dieu De faire miracle en ce lieu.”
Virgin, and registered by the simple
name of Pietro. This child was desExpelled from the cemetery, the con- tined hereafter to occupy the public atvulsionists took refuge in private houses, tention of the capitals of Europe, and where scenes took place which we will play a strange and mysterious part. His allow our author to describe :
father was a gentleman; and hence Pie“Let us say a word about each of these tro, though a bastard, received an excelchastisements, in order to show how far reli- lent education, which enabled him eventgious excitement can carry the unfortunate ually to justify his assumption of the persons who yield to it. Girls called proph- name of Count St. Germain. The history etesses were trained to these exercises. "The of this man has been too recently told first of the three great means, called the plank, in a work called Remarkable Advenconsisted in laying upon the convulsionist, lying on the ground, a species of platform, turers, for us to dwell on it here; and the on which the visitors were invited to mount. same is the case with his clumsy succes. Some twelve or fifteen people sit upon it, and sor Cagliostro, who was the final cause the girl frequently remarked that the weight of the downfall of another impostor, Mes.