Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Demons prefer blondes. Apparently.

As anyone who reads this blog regularly will know, I have been spending quite a lot of time recently at Innerpeffray Library, the oldest lending library in Scotland, where I have been transcribing excerpts (especially the bits about lechery and bawdiness) from various arcane antiquarian books for the edification of my readers. 
I am sorry to say that 31st October, Hallowe'en, is also the last day before Innerpeffray Library closes for the winter (sob!). I have a busy schedule today because as well as working on The Demons of Ghent, the second book in my upcoming trilogy, I am also visiting Strathallan School this afternoon to tell them some seasonal spooky stories! All the same I couldn't bear to let pass this last opportunity to nip over to Innerpeffray before the books go into hibernation until March, and copy out a few more gems for the delectation of those who, like me, love anything old, sinister and frankly bizarre.

So, especially for Hallowe'en, here are some sections from my great favourite, the Treatise of Specters, and from that other rollicking tome, The Discovery of Witchcraft.

Let us start with the Treatise, which offers us some delightful tales of leprosy inflicted by witchcraft.
These two passages are from the part entitled An History of Strange Apparitions, and cunning delusions of Devils.

The first one brings whole new meaning to that thing my mother used to say to me when I was a child, about not making a nasty face in case the wind changed and it stuck that way. Here, a sudden wind brings disfiguring disease: 

324. In the Constantiensian Diocess, betwixt the Towns of Brisacum and Fitourgum (Ertourgum?),  a leprous woman told to many auditors, that she falling out with another woman, and many railing words passing betwixt them; as soon as she came home, a sudden wind blowed upon her which came from the house wherein the woman dwelled (opposite to her) with whom she had contention, with which she conceived she was so struck, that she was thereby infected with a Leprosie, whereof she could never be cured.

NB Brisacum is probably the French town of Neuf-Brisach, close to the German border. The other name was not clearly legible but is evidently another town close by. 

The second story, below, mentions the "black wood", presumably the Black Forest on the other side of the border. Here, a witch engages in the traditional occupation of cursing her tormenter: 

325. In the same Diocess and Territories of the black wood, a hang-man lifting up a Witch from the ground by a pole of wood, she turning her self toward him, saith, I will give thee thy wages; and together with these words blowing on the face of the hangman, she infected it with an ugly Leprosie, whereof he dyed within a few dayes after. 

And to conclude, here is a piece from the Discovery of Witchcraft, without which no Hallowe'en blog post would be complete. This is from Book IV (the one with all the lechery etc.). In this chapter we hear about the activities of Incubus, an evil spirit that comes to women in the night, and not just to read them a bed-time story. 


Of Bishop Sylvanus his Lechery opened and covered again. How Maids having yellow hair are most combered with Incubus. How marryed men are bewitched to use other mens wives, and to refuse their own.

[1]You shall read in the Legend, how in the night-time Incubus came to a Ladies bed-side, and made hot love unto her: whereat she being offended, cryed out so loud, that company came and found him under her bed in the likeness of the holy Bishop Sylvanus, which holy man was much defamed thereby, until at the length this infamy was purged by the confession of a Devil made at S. Jeroms tombe. [2]O excellent piece of Witchcraft wrought by Sylvanus! Item, S. Christine would needs take unto her another maids Incubus, and lie in her room: and the story saith, that she was shrewdly accloyed. But she was a shrew indeed, that would need change beds with her fellow, that was troubled every night with Incubus, and deal with him her self. But here the Inquisitors note may not be forgotten, to wit, that Maids having yellow hair[3], are most molested with this Spirit. Also, it is written in the Legend, of S. Bernard, that a pretty Wench that had had the use of Incubus his body by the space of six or seven years in Aquitania (being belike weary of him, for that he waxed old) would needs go to S. Bernard another while: but Incubus told her, that if she would so forsake him, being so long her true lover, he would be revenged upon her, & c. But, befal what would, she went to S. Bernard, who took her his staffe, and bad her lay it in the bed beside her. And indeed the Devil fearing the bed-staffe, or that S. Bernard lay there himself, durst not approach into her chamber that night: what he did afterwards, I am uncertain. Marry you may find other circumstances hereof, and many other like bawdy lies in the golden Legend. But here again, we may not forget the Inquisitors note, to wit; that many are so Bewitched, that they cannot use their own wives, but any other bodies they may well enough away withal. Which Witchcraft is practised among many bad husbands, for whom it were a good excuse to say they were Bewitched.

[1] In via Hieronym.
[2] Saints as holy and chast as horses and mares.
[3] Maids having yellow hair. Mal.malef.par.2.qu.2.cap.2

This is rather a muddled chapter, mixing up various different tales, but it amused me all the same, especially with its claim that the libidinous Incubus prefers "maids having yellow hair"! The Golden Legend referred to as a source work for this chapter was a popular mediaeval work collecting stories about saints including supernatural ones. I also like the tale of the pretty girl who tired of her demon lover because he was getting too old!

           Above: a demon, from Fairford church (photo by William Bond). I don't think this 
one is an incubus though! 

When Innerpeffray Library opens again in March I shall post some more excerpts. In the meantime I hope those who have read the ones I have already posted have enjoyed them, and I wish everyone a Happy Hallowe'en!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A ghostly procession

With Hallowe'en at hand, a person's thoughts turn to all things creepy. Well, mine do, anyway. So I'm posting a link to one of the creepiest things I know of: the Blankenheim Geisterzug ("ghost parade").

Blankenheim is a small German town about 20km from Bad Münstereifel (Bad Münstereifel was my home from 2001 to 2008 and the setting of two of my books, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden and Wish Me Dead). Like other towns and villages in the region, Blankenheim has a "normal" Karneval celebration around February every year. Unusually, it also has a ghostly Karneval procession too.
The Geisterzug consists of residents of the town dressed as ghosts - only not any old ghosts, and other eldritch creatures such as vampires, ghouls and zombies are not allowed. The ghost costume is made by wearing a sheet with ears (or perhaps they are horns) knotted into it, for a distinctive effect which you can see in the video. The "ghosts" proceed through the narrow streets of Blankenheim in a zigzagging dance to the strains of Juh jah, Kribbel en der Botz, a local Karneval song (Kribbel en der Botz means something along the lines of ants in your pants). This is the music you can hear playing in the film. 
The ghosts are accompanied by witches with fearsome papier maché masks and carrying brooms with which they menace the spectators; some people think that this is connected to an older ritual of driving out evil spirits at the end of winter. There is also a "head ghost" who unlike the others has wings, and rides on a horse, and a devil. During the procession the electrical lights in the town are extinguished and torches are carried.
I have attended the Geisterzug twice and it made a very strong impression on me. It reminds me somewhat of the sinister procession in The Wicker Man (original version)! There are other (and bigger) ghost parades in other places, but this one is peculiarly atmospheric, given the backdrop of Blankenheim itself, with its cobbled streets and half-timbered houses. Very creepy!   

Friday, October 26, 2012

In which my cousin calls me a nutter & the Bookwitch says I can be an honorary Swede...

I haven't been online very much this week, because sporty outdoor hubs, the resident techie, small son and I had our first family holiday for several years (I am not counting trips to see relatives or trips taken by only some of us). In keeping with the prevailing economic climate, it was what you might call an Austerity Holiday. We camped. In a tent. In Scotland. And it's October. I expect Bear Grylls would think nothing of this ("A tent? Luxury!" etc) but for me this represented the outer limits of intrepidity. I am about 70% of the way through my current work in progress, The Demons of Ghent, and more or less had to be dragged away from my laptop kicking and screaming. The resident techie was probably the least keen of all of us and considered our actual departure as the crowning failure of a month-long campaign to talk us out of going, which included texting despairing messages to her friends and saying "I really, really don't want to go, you know," in a low savage voice at every opportunity. Small son's feelings were more ambivalent since he was weighing up the gorgeous benefit of not having to wash for days at a time against the terrifying disadvantage of NO INTERNET.
Luckily sporty outdoor hubs had more than enough enthusiasm for the rest of us. When he was a small freckled-faced boy, virtually identical in appearance to small son (we suspect some covert cloning when I wasn't looking), he used to holiday at Arisaig on the west coast of Scotland with his parents. Overcome with a fit of nostalgia that outweighed the prospect of freezing to death inside our sleeping bags, he booked us a pitch at the optimistically-named Sunnyside Croft campsite, which overlooks the sea. When he showed me an online photo of the campsite I could quite clearly see the sea in the background. I had alarming visions of us spending every waking moment being scoured by the horizontal salt spray being swept in by the biting Atlantic winds. I told sporty outdoor hubs this. He said, "If it's horrible we can come home early." Whilst he was saying this I was watching his face like a hawk, waiting for the tell-tale shift of the gaze to the side that gives away the lying serial killer in books. He seemed perfectly sincere, but there was still the slightly worrying thought that his definition of "horrible" is not the same as mine. We work to two different scales, like fahrenheit and centigrade, and his doesn't bottom out at the zero point of horridness at the same point as mine. I mean, this is the man who voluntarily camped out somewhere so cold that the water in his Sigg bottle froze solid. This is the man who thinks gathering wet twigs to light the kelly kettle and make tea in a tin mug is a viable alternative to going into a warm tea shop and ordering a pot of English Breakfast and a plate of scones with jam. This is the man....well, you get the picture. Clearly there was no escape for the rest of us. We delivered the cats to the cattery, packed the car and set off.
It was at this point that sporty outdoor hubs got lucky with the weather. He insists that we all got lucky with the weather, but I contend that if it had been abysmal we would probably have survived it - somehow - but he would never have heard the end of it. After a miserable wet summer in which the only sunshine we saw was in Bad Münstereifel, we had five days of clear, dry, windless weather, and the sun actually shone. We spent hours on the beach, collecting shells, climbing about on the rocks and kayaking around the bay.
On the Monday it was so fine - hubs reckoned the air temperature was about 12 degrees - that I actually decided to go for a swim in the sea (in my swimming costume; no wetsuit). I love to swim outdoors and this was a personal record in terms of the date (late October) and the latitude (northern Scotland). It was indeed very cold, but I've swum in colder water, including a glacial stream in the Atlas Mountains, though that was by mistake - I waded in and then fell over! This was pretty icy but it was bearable, and worth it just to say that I had done it, though when I got out of the water my skin was bright red with cold as though I had been slapped! My cousin proclaimed me a "nutter" after hearing about this adventure and the Bookwitch told me I could be a honorary Swede if I like. I wonder if this makes me a "Scandi Crime" writer..?
Later in the week we took a ferry trip from Mallaig to the islands of Eigg and Muck, also in glorious sunshine - although the wind was rather biting up on deck and we eventually retreated to the extremely snug passengers' lounge. There we had a very interesting chat with a retired lady who had grown up on Eigg and had had to go away to boarding school on Skye at the age of 12 - at that time a long trip in several stages taken in an open boat in all weathers and sometimes at night! I looked across the lounge at small son and tried to imagine sending him away like that.
On the way back from Eigg the boat was accompanied by porpoises, who leapt playfully through the foamy wake.
Every evening we watched the sun setting behind the island of Eigg (left) - every evening was different, all were stunningly beautiful.
I still think it was a mad idea going camping in a tent in Scotland in October. There were moments when it was uncomfortable - such as the morning when we all woke up at 5am and were unable to get back to sleep because we had gone to bed at 8pm when it got too dark to do anything. Cooking for four on two Trangia stoves (when you are also sharing the gas cannister from one of them with the camping lantern) loses its appeal after a couple of days. Searching the sleeping compartments for the source of an evil aroma and finding a pair of wet socks lurking under one of the mats is pretty nasty too! Was it worth it, though? Yes, definitely.

NB I debated with myself before posting about any of this, since it does not really have anything to do with books or writing (in fact I hardly did any reading all week and did not write so much as a postcard, since neither of those occupations is comfortable outdoors in October). Sporty outdoor hubs says it is acceptable subject matter since it could all be material for a future book set in Scotland. Personally I am not convinced. I think it is reasonable to expect the heroine of a thriller to put up with vengeful serial killers, appalling relationship issues and horrible, impossible dilemmas. But the aroma of wet dirty socks? No. Some things are simply too horrific.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Something nasty for the weekend, sir?

 "...when the heir of Mauleon was in so good a humour it rarely meant anything welcome for anyone else." (Alberic de Mauleon, by Helen Grant)

Today's post brought me a treat: my eagerly-awaited author copies of The Ghosts and Scholars Book of Shadows! The book is the result of a competition run by the M.R.James Ghosts and Scholars Newsletter, to write a prequel or sequel to one of M.R.James' ghost stories. The number and quality of entries was considered to be sufficiently good that a book was proposed.
I'm very busy these days working on my novels so I rarely get time to write short fiction any more. However, I really couldn't resist this competition! I've loved the ghost stories of M.R.James since I was a child and my father used to retell them to us to amuse us on boring journeys and long walks. I've also written a number of non-fiction articles about M.R.James, some of which I have republished on this blog, and some of which are available online at the excellent Ghosts and Scholars website:
I have a particular interest in the foreign locations of M.R.James' stories and have visited and written about Steinfeld abbey, St. Bertrand de Comminges, Viborg and Marcilly-le-Hayer. Perhaps for this reason, I chose to make my entry a prequel to Canon Alberic's Scrap-book, which is set in Comminges. Location is very important to me when I'm writing and I like to use real places (sometimes disguised and renamed) as my settings. Two of my first three novels are set in Bad Münstereifel, the German town where we lived from 2001 to 2008, and my upcoming novel Silent Saturday is set in Flanders, where we lived from 2008 until 2011. I spent nothing like as long as that in Comminges - just a day and a night - but the town and particularly the environs of the cathedral are very clear and vivid in my memory.

Above: the cathedral of Notre-Dame, St. Bertrand de Comminges.

Above: interior of the cathedral showing the amazing carved wooden chancel and organ.

I've always liked Canon Alberic's Scrap-book a lot anyway - there are so many unanswered questions such as what exactly was the much-desired thing about which the Canon asked on the night of December 12th 1694? My story aims to answer some of those questions.
I haven't read the other stories yet but am very much looking forward to doing so. If I can possibly bear to, I may try to save at least one of them up for Hallowe'en! 
The book is very much for M.R.James fans; as the tales are prequels and sequels you need to have read the original stories! 
If you are interested in ordering the book, which is a limited edition hardcover, here are the details:

Monday, October 15, 2012

U is for Unshockable Hans!

I just have to share a completely brilliant piece of work I've just seen via Twitter! AlphaBooks is a project to draw fictional characters starting from A and running through to Z. I'm thrilled to say that to represent U, artist Andrew Neal has done a fabulous portrait of Unshockable Hans, the hero of my first novel, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden. You can see it here:
Funnily enough, my original working title for the book was Unshockable Hans, and as you can see from the Spanish book cover shown in the above link, the name was in fact used in Spain although not elsewhere. I have always felt that Hans is the real hero of the book. To me he embodies the town of Bad Münstereifel, my home for seven years and the setting for two of my books. Hans is bold, forthright, afraid of nothing, big-hearted and very Catholic!
Big thanks to Andrew!!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Brrrr! Creepy stuff for Hallowe'en!

I'm not blogging this morning - I'm writing! But here is a guest post I have done for the splendid blog The Mountains of Instead. If you like my Treatise of Specters stuff you'll be glad to see there's some more of it in there!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible...

I seem to have spent most of my blogging time recently talking about the ancient books at Innerpeffray Library, so I thought perhaps I should stop going on about those for a bit and post a bit of news about my own books.
Silent Saturday, the first in my Forbidden Spaces trilogy set in Flanders, is being published in spring 2013 by Bodley Head, an imprint of Random House UK. I'm pleased to say that we have got through the copyediting stage without too many traumas.
Meanwhile I am hard at work on the first draft of The Demons of Ghent, the second book in the trilogy, set (obviously) in the gorgeous old city of Ghent. I fell in love with the city when we visited it several years ago, and thought it would make a fabulous setting for a thriller. I absolutely do not want to give any spoilers but one thing I will say about the trilogy is that I am working as hard as I can to make each book a satisfying story in itself. As a reader, my pet hate is a series or trilogy that is one narrative just hacked into chunks!
I'm currently at about 72,000 words with The Demons of Ghent and hope to be finished before Christmas. After that I shall be starting on book three, Urban Legends. Normally I try to take a break of a couple of weeks between books, but every time I do that, I seem to go down with the flu or some other horrible thing! I guess I somehow save these things up for when I have the free time to be ill. So this time I am going to try to sidestep the whole break and plan something active and interesting instead. I might make it to Dunfermline at last to look at the Abbey, or play around with some ideas for whatever I am going to write when Urban Legends is finished. I also hope to have some news very soon of a short fiction project I am working on! I may have the news in time for Hallowe'en with a bit of luck.

In which the earth moves for Conradus of Meydenburg

Left: "Men and Beasts perished."

Here's an interesting excerpt from the Treatise of Specters. It's a report of an earthquake taken from Johannes Aventinus (Johann Georg Turmair), 1477-1534, a Bavarian historian. He probably means the Friuli earthquake of 1348, which was centred in North Italy but felt much further afield - though I'm personally a bit doubtful about Norway! It happened the same year that the Black Death reached Italy, so many people concluded that the two events were evidence of God's wrath. 
I'm a little mystified by the rather horrible description of people reduced to statues of salt. I suppose it could be a little embroidery of the truth based on the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible, also through the wrath of God, during which Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt. I wondered however whether there could be any scientific explanation for bodies being reduced to what appeared to be salt - if anyone has any suggestions I'd love to hear them!

294. In the year 1348, on the eighth Calends of February, In Norway a most great Earthquake did happen, as it is recorded at Pannonia, Illiricum, Dalmatia, Carnis and Histria, which lasted without any intermission for the space of fourty dayes; the Earth was variously shaken, wonderful works were shewed, Moravia and Bavaria felt the losse of twenty six Towns and Castles thereby thrown down, as it is related in the acts of that year; Men and Beasts perished, Walls, Temples, Buildings were overturned, whole Cities overthrown; moreover mountains burnt asunder, squeezed that ruinous destruction and losse of men: for two Mountains (as it were) ran to the devoured Cities, and being drawn violently to the Town of Elisa, killed all living Creatures that were therein; the gaping of the Earth, that thereupon ensued, partly remained as the Earthquake left it; but some part of it growing wider, swallowed up all before it, the soyl being so fallen into it, that there was no possible passage. Fifty men, and more rusticks, many kindreds, with Cattel, were overwhelmed, and the bodies reduced into Statues of salt. Conradus of Meydenburg, an excellent Philosopher and Mathematician, speaking of this tempestuous Earthquake, saith, That these Statues were seen by him and the Austrian Chancellor at Charmum. Aventinus in his Annal of the Bozori, book 7.

A nest of *cough* vipers. Well, more filth and bawdery, actually...

My recent post giving an excerpt from Scott's Discovery of Witchcraft (1665 edition) in which he outlined various instances of "filthy bawdery" proved to be *cough* unexpectedly popular. I am pleased therefore to offer an entire chapter from this fascinating work, on the topic of men whose virility, and indeed in some cases actual bodily members, have been stolen from them by witches. 
The James Sprenger referred to is the German theologian Jacob Sprenger, to whom the Malleus Maleficarum ("The hammer of the witches") is sometimes attributed; this is the M.Mal. referred to in the text. 
I particularly commend to you the anecdote at the end of the chapter, about the young man who climbed a tree to retrieve what he had lost. Certainly a more worthwhile occupation than stealing birds' eggs...


That the power of Generation is both outwardly and inwardly impeached by Witches, and of divers that had their genitals taken from them by Witches, and by the same means again restored.

They so affirm, That the virtue of Generation is impeached by Witches, both inwardly, and outwardly: for, intrinsically they repress the courage, and they stop the passage of the mans seed, so as it may not descend to the vessels of generation: also they hurt extrinsically, with images, hearbs, &c. And to prove this true, you shall hear certain stories out of M.Mal. worthy to be noted.
[1]A young priest at Mespurge, in the Diocess of Constance, was Bewitched, so as he had no power to occupy any other or mo women than one: and to be delivered out of that thralldom, sought to flee into another Countrey, where he might use that Priestly occupation more freely; but all in vain; for evermore he was brought as far backward by night, as he went forward in the day before; sometimes by land, sometimes in the air, as though he flew. And if this not be true, I am sure that James Sprenger doth lie.
For the further confirmation of our belief in Incubus, M.Mal. citeth a story of a notable matter executed at Ravenspurge, as true and as cleanly as the rest. A young man lying with a wench in that Town (saith he) was fain to leave his instruments of Venery behind him, by means of that prestigious art of Witchcraft, so as in that place nothing could be seen or felt but his plain body. This young man was willed by another Witch, to go to her whom he suspected, and by fair or foul means to require her help: who soon after meeting her, intreated her fair, but that was in vain; and therefore he caught her by the throat, and with a towel strangled her, saying, Restore me my tool, or thou shalt die for it: so as she being swoln and black in the face, and through his boisterous handling ready to die, said, Let me go, and I will help thee: and whilest he was losing the towel, she put her hand into his Cod-piece, and touched the place, saying, Now hast thou they desire: and even at that instant he felt himself restored.
[2]Item, a reverend Father, for his life, holiness and knowledge notorious, being a fryer of the order and company of Spire, reported, that a young man at Shrift made lamentable moan unto him for the like loss; but his gravity suffered him not to believe lightly any such reports, and therefore made the young man untruss his cod-piece-point, and saw the complaint to be true and just. Whereupon he advised, or rather enjoyned the youth to go to the Witch whom he suspected, and with flattering words to intreat her, to be so good unto him, as to restore him his instrument: which by that means he obtained, and soon after returned to shew himself thankful, and told the holy father of his good success in that behalf: but he so believed him, as he would needs be Oculatus testis, and made him pull down his Breeches, and so was satisfied of the truth and certainty thereof.
[3]Another young man being in that very taking, went to a Witch for the restitution thereof, who brought him to a tree, where she shewed him a nest, and bad him climb up and take it. And being in the top of the tree, he took out a mighty great one, and shewed the same to her, asking if he might not have the same. Nay (quoth she) that is our Parish Priests tool, but take any other which thou wilt. And it is there affirmed, That some have found 20 and some 30 of them in one nest, being there preserved with provender, as it were at the rack and manger, with this note, wherein there is no contradiction (for all must be true that is written against Witches) that if a Witch deprive one of his Privities, it is done only by prestigious means, so as the senses are but illuded. Marry, by the Devil it is really taken away, and in like sort restored. These are no jests, for they be written by them that were and are judges upon the lives and deaths of those persons.

[1] Mal.malef.cap.6.quae.par.2
[2] Ja.Sprenger in Mal.malef.par.2.quae.1.
[3] Mal.malef.cap.7.par.2.quae.1

An Aberdonian succubus...and a vanishing chamberpot

I am sure by now Innerpeffray Library needs no introduction! here are my latest excerpts from the Treatise of Specters, again from the section snappily entitled An History of Strange Apparitions, and cunning delusions of Devils.

Let us start with the improving tale of a young hunk from Aberdeen, who banished a succubus by fasting and prayer:

167. Hector Boethius in his 8th Book of the Histories of Scot. relates, that in a small Village of Scotland scarce 14 Miles distant from Aberdene, there was a very beautifull young man made open complaint before the Governour of Aberdene, that he was many Months molested and troubled with a she Devill, (as they call it) the handsomest that ever he saw, and finally when the dores were shut she came to him by night, and by her fair speeches forc’t him to embrace her: when t’was almost day, she went away making no noise, and trying many wayes, he could by no means be freed from that so great and base vexation. A prudent and devout Bishop commands the young man immediately to go to some other place, and according to the Christian Religion to conform himself to prayer, and fasting, more zealously then he used to do, hereby he thought the Devill would be put to flight from him, when he saw him so intent upon all good works. Upon this wholesome counsel followed good successe: Which when the youth had religiously performed, within few dayes after he was clearly delivered from these Hobgoblins. So the He-Devill did no longer trouble the Woman of Navete, after her confession, and holy Communion which accompany prayer and fasting. Legitur in vita Divi Bernhardi.Vierus,lib.4.cap.27.

Boethius is Hector Boece (1465-1536), a Scottish academic and philosopher. The next excerpt is a rather bizarre tale of a nunnery disturbed by the activities of a poltergeist. Aside from the nuns' spiritual tribulations, I feel rather sorry for them if they had nothing to eat except turnip porridge for more than seven weeks! 

173. The Nuns of Ventetus shut up close in the County of Horn. were cruelly handled by an evill spirit. A poor woman in Lent time borrowed three Measures of Salt of the Virgins, and restored almost twice as much about Easter. Here in the bed-chamber were found small white balls, as ‘twere seeds pargetted over with Sugar, but being tasted, they were salt. In the same place they took notice of a Ghost walking there, and groaning, they heard also that many Virgins were called to arise, and to go with her to the fire advertising them, that she was not well. If at any time they took the Chamberpot to make water, it was by force taken from them, and they watered their bed. Sometimes they were haled by the feet out of their beds, and were tickled at the Soles of their Feet, that with overmuch laughter they were ready to dye. Some had pieces of flesh pul’d off, many had their legs, arms, and Faces writhed the contrary way. Some were so tormented, though for fifty and odde dayes they eat nothing but Turnep Porrage without bread, yet they spued up such abundance of black stuffe, like Ink it felt so sharp, that it took off the skin from their Mouth. Some were lifted up above a Mans height, and instantly thrown down again. When about 13.friends came to visit and comfort them that were sick, they fell down from the Table, not speaking a word nor sensible thereof; others lay as if dead with their legs and arms Crosse; one was lift up aloft, and although some standing by, struggled to save her with their hands, yet was she snatcht away above their heads, and thrown down headlong again. Some went upon their toes, as if they had no feet, or at least no use of them. They climb’d Trees also like Cats, and came down again from them without any alteration of their body. It happened likewise, that the Governesse of the Monastery (which they call the Mother) in her perambulation, as she was discoursing with Margaret, Countess of Burens. was hurt on her thigh; The wound was black and blue, but was healed again. This cruelty continued evidently full three years, which afterwards they concealed. Vide Vierum.lib.3.cap.9.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

"in filthy Bawdery, it passeth all the tales that ever I heard"

I have spent a lot of time recently posting excerpts from the seventeenth century Treatise of Specters, in hopes of making available at least some parts of that work, which does not seem to be available online.
Whilst I was poking about at Innerpeffray Library yesterday I also browsed through an equally fascinating volume entitled The Discovery of Witchcraft by Reginald Scott, printed in 1665. I had more than enough other material for the Hallowe'en guest blog post I am writing, so I transcribed some excerpts from it for my own blog, as they amused me very much!  

First of all, here is a tale of witchcraft that supposedly took place in France (quite a few of the stories in the book are set there; evidently it was viewed as a hotbed of sin in those days):

Book III, chap. V

Of the private league, a notable tale of Bodins concerning a French Lady, with a confutation.

The manner of their private league is said to be so, when the Devil invisible, and sometimes visile, in the midst of the people talketh with them privately; promising, that if they will follow his counsel, he will supply all their necessities, and make all their endeavours prosperous; and so beginneth with small matters: whereunto they consent privily, and come not into the fairies assembly.
And in this case (me thinks) the Devil sometimes, in such external or corporal shape, should meet with some that would not consent to his motions, (except you will say he knoweth their cogitations) and so should be bewrayed. They also (except they were idiots) would spie him; and so forsake him for breach of covenants. But these bargains, and these assemblies do all the writers hereupon  maintain; and Bodin confirms them with a hundred and odd lies; among the number whereof I will (for divers causes) recite one.
There was (saith he) a noble Gentlewoman at Lions, that being in bed with a lover of hers, suddenly in the night arose up, and lighted a candle: and when she had done, she took a box of ointment, wherewith she annointed her body; and after a few words spoken, she was carried away. Her bed-fellow seeing the order hereof, leapt out of his bed, took the candle in his hand, and sought for the Lady round about the chamber, and in every corner thereof; But though he could not find her, yet did he find her box of ointment; and being desirous to know the vertue thereof, besmeered himself therewith, even as he perceived her to have done before: And although he was not so superstitious, as to use any words to help him forward in his business, yet by the vertue of that ointment (saith Bodin) he was immediately conveyed to Lorrein, into the assembly of Witches. Which when he saw, he was abashed, and said; In the name of God, what make I here? And upon those words the whole assembly vanished away, and left him alone there stark naked; and so was he fain to return to Lions: But he had so good a conscience, for you may perceive by the first half of the history, he was a very honest man, that he accused his true lover for a Witch, and caused her to be burned: And as for his adultery, neither, M.Mal. nor Bodin do once so much as speak in the dispraise thereof.

There are a great many very similar stories in the book, but I particularly like the tone of outraged morality in the last sentence! Dear me, Scott seems to be saying, trust the French to condone adultery. And speaking of outraged morality, elsewhere in the book you may find the following exhortation: 

"A request to such readers as are loath to hear or read filthy and bawdy matters, which of necessity are here to be inserted, to pass over eight Chapters."

I should say that this request pretty much guaranteed that the following eight chapters would be the most well-thumbed in the entire volume!!!

Scott continues, "But insomuch as I am driven (for the more manifest bewraying and displaying of this most filthy and horrible error) to stain my paper with writing thereon certain of their beastly and baudy assertions and examples, whereby they confirm their doctrine (being my self both ashamed, and loath once to think upon such filthiness, although it be to the condemnation thereof) I must intreat, you that are the readers thereof, whose chast ears cannot well endure to hear of such abominable Lecheries, as are gathered out of the books of those Witch-mongers, (although Doctors of Divinity, and otherwise of great authority and estimation) to turn over a few leaves, wherein (I say) I have, like a Groom, thrust their bawdy stuffe (even that which I my self loath) as into a stinking corner: howbeit, none otherwise, I hope, but that the other parts of my writing shall remain sweet, and this also covered as close as may be."

Having secured his readers' attention one hundred per cent, Scott now plunges into this pit of beastly and bawdy assertions. Sadly for the readers of this blog (or perhaps happily, for their consciences, depending on how you look at it), I did not have time to transcribe all eight chapters of filth and lechery. Here are some excerpts!

Let us start with the chapter headings of BOOK IV, which are all fairly promising:

"Ch I: Of Witchmongers opinions concerning evil Spirits, how they frame themselves in more excellent sort than God made us.

Ch II: Of bawdy Incubus and Succubus, and whether the action of Venery may be performed between Witches and Devils, and when Witches first yielded to Incubus.

Ch III: Of the Devils visible and invisible dealing with Witches in the way of Lechery.

Ch IV: That the power of Generation is both outwardly and inwardly impeached by Witches, and of divers that had their genitals taken from them by Witches, and by the same means again restored."

That last one is rather worrying! "Had their genitals taken from them by Witches"? That sounds very unpleasant, and not at all easy to remedy, witchcraft or not! A little further on we come across a chapter about what to do if you have not actually had your genitals taken from you, but merely had them bewitched:

"….Ch VIII: Certain Popish and Magical cures, for them that are bewitched in their Privities.

For direct cure to such as are Bewitched in the Privy members, the first and special, is Confession; then follow in a row, holy-water, and those ceremonial trumperies, Aves Maries, and all manner of crossings; which are all said to be wholesome, except the Witchcraft be perpetual, and in that case the wife may have a divorce of course."

That last throwaway comment surprised me a bit! "The wife may have a divorce of course." So much for, "Never mind, it happens to everyone sometimes..." Those first remedies are the orthodox ones no doubt: confess, cross yourself, etc etc. If none of those work, the following are also suggested:

"Item, The eating of a Haggister or pie helpeth one Bewitched in that member.
Item, The smoak of a tooth of a dead man.
Item, To anoint a mans body over with the gall of a Crow.
Item, To fill a quill with Quick-silver, and lay the same under the cushion, where such a one sitteth, or else put it under the threshold of the door of the house or chamber where he dwelleth.
Item, To spit into your own bosome, if you be so Bewitched, is very good."

I absolutely love the first one of those. That is the first time I have ever heard of the consumption of pies being a cure for impotence!
Scott is not finished yet. He offers some more remedies, although the details are now apparently so filthy that he cannot bring himself to explain them in English!!

"Item, To piss through a Wedding-ring. If you would know who is hurt in his privities by Witchcraft, and who otherwise is therein diseased: Hostiensis answereth, but so as I am ashamed to English it, and therefore have here set down his experiment in Latine, Quando virga nullatenus movetur, et numquam potuit cognoscere; hoc est signum frigiditatis: sed quando movetur et erigitur, perficere autem non potest, est signum maleficii.
But Sir Tho. Moore hath such a cure in this matter, as I am ashamed to write, either in Latin or English; for, in filthy Bawdery, it passeth all the tales that ever I heard: But that is rather a medicine to procure Generation, then the cure of Witchcraft, though it serves both turnes."

By this time, if the reader's mind isn't boggling they must be made of stone...! The Latin means (rendered politely) that if the member in question never moves at all, its owner is simply incapable, but if it moves but is unable to complete the act in question, that is a sign of its owner having been bewitched. I do not know what Sir Thomas Moore suggested; my mind is boggling too!

The chapter concludes:

"Item, When ones instrument of Venery is Bewitched, certain characters must be written in Virgin-parchment, celebrated and holyed by a Popish Priest; and thereon also must the 141 Psalm be written, and bound Ad viri fascinati coxam.
Item, One Katherine Loe (having a husband not so readily disposed that way as she wished him to be) made a waxen image of the likeness of her husbands Bewitched member, and offered it up at St. Anthonies altar: so as, through the holiness of the Mass, it might be sanctified, to be more courageous; and of better disposition and ability, &c."

A riveting final anecdote! I wonder what her husband thought about that, and I especially wonder what the parish priest thought about it if he found the item in question on the altar!

Seeing ghosts: never a good sign

Left: entrance to Innerpeffray Library. 

When I was at Innerpeffray yesterday, transcribing from the Treatise of Specters, I came across a number of stories about ghosts. A small selection is given below. It seems pretty clear that no good can come from encountering these phantoms! It seems to mean death for someone pretty nearly every time. 
I particularly like the ugly giant with the unkempt beard who appeared to Mark Anthony! 
Cardanus, to whom two of these excerpts are attributed, was Hieronymus Cardanus (1501-1576),  an Italian scientist.

2. When Marcus Antonius became bankrupt at Actium, Casius of Parma his Partner fled to Athens; where, in the dead of the night as he lay in his bed ingulph’t with cares and perplexities, he phancied, a man of monstrous magnitude, a black and ugly hue, his beard incompt and squalid, and his hair disorderly hanging down, came to him; And being askt who he was? Answered, κακοδαίμονα, i.e., thy evil Angel, or Genius. Being at last affrighted with so horrid a presence, and so evill a name, he called in his servants, and questioned them, whether they saw one of such a dresse and visage either come in, or go out of his Chamber? and when they had assured him they saw none such, he again composed himself to his rest: but presently the same Phantasm haunted him: Wherefore he cast off all thought of rest, and commanded a Candle up to his chamber, and enjoyned his servants not to depart from him. Between this night and his execution inflicted by Caesar, was but a very short interval, as you may read in Valerius Max.l.I.c.7.and Aug. and vita Antonii.

7. Jacobus Donatus, Patricius of Venice, and also rich, when on a night sleeping with his Wife he had a taper light, and two Nurses also were asleep in a truckle-bed with a young child, not a year old, he saw the chamber door open by little and little, and a man, I know not who, put in his head; the Nurses also saw him, but no body knew him; The young man being affrighted, as well he might be, snatcht his Sword and Buckler, each of the Nurses great Tapers, into the Hall they come, which was near adjoyning to the Chamber, where all things were close. The young man comes back with great admiration, the small Infant, which was well in health, dyed the next day. Cardanus de Rerum varietate, lib.16.cap.93.

29. A certain Mediolanensian Boor,as he returned homewards from his labour, about three hours within night, saw a Goblin or Spirit follow him, and when he endeavoured to out-run it, make he what use he could of his heels, the Spectral fetch’t him up, and at last threw him to the ground, when he endeavoured to cry out, but roll’d in mud and dirt, he was found by some who passed by that way, and carried him home half dead, and at the end of eight dayes gave up the Ghost. Cardanus de Subtilitate. 

What big teeth you have! - Wolves and Magic.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I visited Innerpeffray Library again yesterday, and spent several hours typing furiously to get as much transcribed as possible! I'm particularly interested in the Treatise of Specters, also called the History of Specters (it seems to vary between the cover and the frontispiece!) because it does not seem to be available on the net anywhere. Unless the text is stashed away in some digital archive I haven't stumbled across yet, it's not up copying excerpts out whenever I'm at Innerpeffray has rather the appeal of stuffing your pockets with as many gems as possible before leaving Aladdin's Cave! The following passages go together quite well - they are all from the section entitled An History of Strange Apparitions, and cunning delusions of Devils and are all about witches and magicians. With the exception of the first one, which I included because I liked the witch's unusual name, they are all about shape-shifting. As ever, I have transcribed them leaving the archaic grammar, spelling and punctuation just as I found them. 

394. Cazereis was a Witch at Tholossa, who having brought the blessed bread to the Altar, went away to drown her self, and when she was brought home again; she confessed that she infected the blessed bread with poyson; the bread was cast before Dogs, they dye. She being in bonds, was in a trance more than six hours, void of all feeling; afterwards rising up, cryed out she was wonderfull weary, and sent back the Messengers from many places with certain synes and marks. When she was near her sentence of condemnation, and Judgement was ready to be past upon her, she called upon the Devill, saying, That he promised that there should come such vehement storms and showers that she might not be burned. But for all that she was not defended from the violence of the fire. Bodinus Daemonoman.lib.3.cap.3

395. Nothing (saith the same Bodinus in lib.2.cap.5) is so wonderfull and admirable as the Metamorphosing of men into beasts, and to be turned out of the shape of a man into that of a beast. Yet the truth is, that this is practised among Magitians; and both divine and prophane Histories do prove it certainly. In the book of Inquisitions against Magitians, which I have often mentioned; we read of one Statius a certain Magitian that he suddenly and oftentimes flew, and escaped out of the Bernates field, out of the midst of his enemies (for he had very many) and he could never be slain; but when he was asleep, he left two of his Disciples Hippo and Stadlinus which were the chief Magitians in all Germany, who raised tempests, caused lightning and great storms.

396. There did arise a controversy in the Parliament of Dolensi, and the sentence was published the 18th day of January in the year, 1573, about Aegidius Garnerius, Lugdenensis. Which Judgement is not fit to be inserted here at the present, when Aurelius at Eligium Giberium at Paris with Peter Hayanum, commended to the French Presses; only we will set down the chief heads of those Articles that he was accused and convicted of. And first, That this Garnerius at Michaelmas time at the wood, in the Chastenoyanian Vines, which are a quarter of a mile from Dolensis Town, took a young wench of ten or twelve years old, with his hands, which seemed like to Wolves feet, and tore her to pieces with his teeth, and so devoured the flesh of her thighs and arms, and brought part of her to his Wife. And about a Moneth after, he got another girl in the same manner, and killed her; and being about to eat her, unlesse three men (as he himself confessed) had hindered him. And about fifteen dayes after he strangled a boy of ten years old, in the Vines of Gredisaniorum, and did eat the flesh of his legs, thighs and belly. And lastly, He slew a boy thirteen years of age (being then in the shape of a man, and not of a Wolf) in a grove of the Perusan; and being very hungry (as he of his own accord confessed) if he had not been hindered, would have eaten him also: Therefore for these reasons he was condemned to the flames; The Sentence was put in execution.

397. There was another Case agitated at Vesontion, made known to, or discovered by John Boinus the Inquisitor, in the year of our Lord, 1521, in the Moneth of December, the cause was sent into France, Itally, and Germany, which Vierius,lib.6.of Witchcraft, chap.13. relates at large, but I will run over a few heads of it; Peter Burgottus, and Michael Verdunus, was found guilty, and confessed that they had renounced God and their Faith, and had given themselves to the Devill; Therefore Michael brought Burgot in that street of the Carlonian Castle, where each of them had a Candle of green wax burning, with a dull obscure flame; and so they danced and sacrificed to the Devill. Afterwards they confessed, that anointing themselves, they were transformed into Wolves, running with great celerity and swiftnesse; then again being turned into men, and a while after into Wolves, and in that shape had copulation with the she-Wolves, and had the same pleasure with them as they were wont to have with Women; Furthermore it was confessed, that Burgottus with seven Wolves feet and teeth, did tear to pieces and cruelly macerate a boy, and had quite devoured him had not some Countreymen driven him away. And that Verdunus slew a young maid gathering pease in the Garden, and was driven away by the Lords of Cunea. And in the last place, that there were four young lasses devoured by them at a certain place and time, whose age they did relate, and that they could destroy men by casting a certain kind of dust or powder. 

First catch 20 green frogs...

Yesterday I visited Innerpeffray Library again. It may appear that I cannot stay away from the place. There is probably some truth in this - since we live in a town more than 20 miles away from the nearest cinema or non-religious bookshop, we have to take our pleasures where we find them. However, I was on a bit of a mission yesterday because I have agreed to do a Hallowe'en guest blog for someone, and I wanted to find some suitably nasty witchy material to use.

The trouble with Innerpeffray Library is that there are simply so many fascinating ancient books that it is almost impossible to stay single-minded about what you are going to look at. Yesterday was no exception. I had intended to stick to the Treatise of Specters and possibly one or two of the more salacious passages from Scott's The Discovery of Witchcraft, but Librarian Lara Haggerty showed me another book, The General Practise of Physicke from 1617, and of course it was impossible not to take a closer look!
The frontispiece describes it as "CONTEYNING ALL INWARD and outward parts of the body, with all the accidents and infirmities that are incident unto them, even from the crowne of the head to the sole of the foote." A quick peek amongst the yellowing pages revealed some morbidly fascinating descriptions of bladder complaints and other nasties.

As I was really at the library to work on the Hallowe'en material, I didn't have time to transcribe very much from this book. However, I did note down some short and interesting extracts from the section dealing with The Haire of the Head!

"To take away haire. 
Take a pinte of wine, drowne twenty greene frogs therein, or as many as can be drowned therein, then set the pot forty daies in the warme sunne: afterwards straine it hard throw a cloth, annoint the place therewith where you will take away the haire."

If this remedy does not appeal, or if you simply cannot find enough frogs, there are some alternative suggestions:

"Take Ants egs and rub the place therewith, wherein you would have the haire taken away, it will fall off and growe no more againe. Item annoint the hairie place with the juice of sloes, and it will make the hairie place balde and smoothe."

I feel sure that the frogs would be ultimately efficacious. Certainly, if someone offered to make me a nice poultice of frogs in wine, fermented for forty days in the warm sun, I should probably decide to pluck all the unwanted hairs out with tweezers instead, post haste. Job done!