Saturday, September 15, 2012

A demon lover, a mermaid bride and a monstrous baby!

Here are the latest excerpts from the Treatise of Specters, which I copied out this afternoon. These are from the section entitled An History of Strange Apparitions, and cunning delusions of Devils. I'm really excited about these stories: they're dramatic, gruesome and weird - judging by the content, sex and violence in the media is nothing new!

The first one is from De Praestigiis Daemonum et Incantationibus ac Veneficiis (On the Illusions of the Demons and on Spells and Poisons) of Johann Weyer (1515-1588) and gives new meaning to the expression "horse-faced"...

34. Hieronymus in his lives of the Fathers, tells of a certain Monk, who was enticed to most foul and lustfull embraces by a Devill in the shape of a most amiable Woman, who, when to propagate their lust, she bended forward her members towards him; seemed like a Mare or Mule, or some bruit creature. And when he endeavoured to accomplish carnall copulation, she making an ugly howling noise, like a spirit as she was, and a Phantasm, vanish’t from between his hands as he embraced her, and left him (wretched man!) miserably deluded. Vierus l. 2. C. 46. De Praestigiis Daemonum.

This next tale is attributed to Vincentius, who I think must be Vincentius of Beauvais, a thirteenth century Dominican friar who wrote the Speculum Maius, an encyclopaedia which included a history of the world up to his time. This story is about a mermaid. 

35. It is storied by Vincentius in the third Book of his Histories, that there was in Sicily under the King Rogerius, a young man of good courage, and very skilfull in swimming, who about twilight in a Moon-shine evening was washing himself in the Sea, and a woman swimming after him caught him by the hair, as if it had been some of his fellowes that intended to drown him. He spake to her, but could not get a word from her; whereupon he took her under his cloak, and brought her home, and afterward married her. On a time one of his fellows upbraiding him, told him he had hugg’d a phantasm; he being horribly affrighted, drew his sword, and threatened his Wife, that he would murder his son which he had by her, if she would not speak, and make her originall known. Alas poor wretch, saith she, thou undoest a commodious wife, in forcing me to speak; I should have continued with thee, and should have been beneficiall to thee, if thou hadst let me alone with my commanded silence. But now thou shalt never see me more. And immediately she vanished. But the Child grew up, and much frequented the Sea. In fine, on a certain day, this phantasm meeting him in those waters, carried him away in the presence of many people.

To finish, here is a gruesome story from Hector Boece's History of the Scottish People (1527)! 

36. In a Country called Marra, there was a very gallant and handsome young Lady, that had refused many in marriage, and most wickedly kept company with an evil spirit, by the Greeks termed Cacodaemon, who being with child by him, and by her Parents severity constrained to tell the father of it; answered, that she knew not where she was, that a very fair young man did oftentimes meet her by night, and sometimes by day. Her parents, though giving small credence to their daughter, yet earnestly desiring to know the truth, who it was that had perswaded and enticed their daughter to this lewdnesse, within three dayes after, the damosel having given them notice thereof, that he which ravish’d her, was with her; having therefore unlock’d the doors, and set up a great light, coming into the Chamber they saw an ugly foul Monster of such a fearfull hue, as no man can believe, in their daughters arms. Very many that were sent for, came in all haste to this unseemly object; Among whom, a Priest of an approved life, and well disciplined, all the rest being scared away, and amaz’d, when repeating the beginning of St. John’s Gospel, he came to that place, The Word was made Flesh, the evil Genius with a horrible outcry goes away, carrying the roof of the house away with him, and set all the furniture on fire. The woman being preserved from peril, was 3. dayes after brought to bed of a most deformed Monster, such as no man (as they say) ever saw; which the Midwives, to prevent the infamy and disgrace of that family, heaping up a great pile of wood, did instantly burn to ashes. Hector Boethus libr.8 hist. Scotorum.


  1. I love these stories - particularly the monk one. I expect there were quite a few monks who gave the excuse of the "Devill in the shape of a most amiable Woman" to explain away their transgressions!


  2. Ha! Yes, I am sure you are right! :-)