Sunday, March 17, 2013

Take care what you wish for...

Today I went to Innerpeffray Library (Scotland's oldest lending library) again. I go there as often as I can manage - I still can't quite believe my luck that when we moved to Scotland we landed so close to something so amazing! It's on a par with discovering that our home in Germany was only 10km from Steinfeld Abbey, scene of M.R.James' ghost story The Treasure of Abbot Thomas.
When I set out, it was raining heavily, so it was just as well I had the car for once. As you can see from the photo (taken from the carpark outside the library), the setting is about as rural as you can get. There are no cosy hostelries in which a soaked cyclist might shelter on the way!

I only had a single hour so I decided that I would return to my old friend The Treatise of Specters and transcribe a few more choice passages for the edification of you, dear reader. There are three today, and they are all from the section alluringly entitled An History of Dreams, Visions, and mockings of Evil Spirits. All of them are, I would say, united by the common theme of having to watch what you say. 

In the first, someone challenges St. Peter:

59. When at a certain Feast at Bononia, a Cock was dressed, served up to the table, and carved with much art, one of the guests said, It is impossible Saint Peter should restore this Cock to life; immediately upon his words, the Cock leapeth up, restored to life, and clapping his wings together, scatters the broth which was in the dish, into the faces of them who sate at the table; the blasphemer was immediately punish’d with an hereditary Leprosie. Vincentius,lib.25.cap.64.

An hereditary Leprosie, eh? Nasty. The other two passages concern pious men who prayed for particular things - the first, that he might have his sight restored so that he could admire the bones of a dead saint, and the second, that he might be cured of his terrible lust problem. Of course, it all ends in tears...

67. When the body of Vedastus the Attrebatensian Bishop was translated from the place, wherein times past it was laid, a blind man, named Audomarus, desired of Almighty God by prayer that he might see the bones of the Saint, and forthwith he received his sight, and praying shortly after, that if his sight did any way hinder the health of his Soul, that his infirmity might return, he was again struck blind. Merul.lib.5.cap.4.

68. Methodius, Patriarch of Constantinople, was pursued with much hatred by his enemies for his worshipping of Images, who corrupting a notorious common Whore with a sum of Money which they gave her, caused her to accuse him that he had ravished her, and that before the chief of the whole Senate: all which he bore with admirable patience, till they ordered that the Holy man, before Manuel and many of the chief of the Senate, should be admitted to no other purgation, but having spoke some few words removing that part of his cloathing which covered his privities, he should shew his members to them, which done, they appeared withered and mortified, whereby it was obvious to all men that he was utterly incapable of Venery; which to the Orthodox was great cause of rejoicing, and of sorrow to Sycophants and calumniators: and when the Holy man was asked whether sicknesse had been the cause that his members were so weakened, not without a modest shame he answered, that in time past when he lived at Rome he was by the Devill instigated to the lust of the flesh, by the often burning flames of love, which daily growing and increasing in him and he fearing lest he should lose his resolved continency and chaste life, he invocated the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, that they would help him in this combat, and praying incessantly to this purpose, In the night, saith he, in my sleep I saw two men standing by me, one whereof touched my privy parts with his hand, saying to me, Be of good heart, thy fire of lust shall be suddenly asswaged, who seemed so to burn my privy parts, that with the extream pain therefore I waked: Rising from sleep, I found my privities enfeebled, and almost mortified, from which time I was never troubled with fleshly lust. Cuspian.

Above: a leper squint at the church at Fowlis Wester. This would allow the gentleman afflicted with "an hereditary Leprosie" to observe the mass without mingling with the congregation. Though whether he would feel like doing so after being so afflicted by St. Peter is another matter...

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