« Prev The Burning Æsculapius; Tricks with Fire. Next »

Chapter XXXIII.—The Burning Æsculapius; Tricks with Fire.

But after he discontinues uttering these jests, a fiery Æsculapius249249    Marsilius Ficinus (in his Commentary on Plotinus, p. 504 et seq., vol. ii. Creuzer’s edition), who here discusses the subject of demons and magical art, mentions, on the authority of Porphyry, that sorcerers had the power of evoking demons, and that a magician, in the presence of many, had shown to Plotinus his guardian demon (angel). This constitutes the Goetic department of magic. appears upon the floor. Then, placing in the midst a pot full of water, he invokes all the deities, and they are present. For any one who is by, glancing into the pot, will behold them all, and Diana leading on her baying hounds. We shall not, however, shrink from narrating the account (of the devices) of these men, how they attempt (to accomplish their jugglery). For (the magician) lays his hand upon the cauldron of pitch,250250    Or, “full of pitch.” which is in, as it were, a boiling state; and throwing in (at the same time) vinegar and nitre and moist pitch, he kindles a fire beneath the cauldron. The vinegar, however, being mixed along with the nitre, on receiving a small accession of heat, moves the pitch, so as to cause bubbles to rise to the surface, and afford the mere semblance of a seething (pot). The (sorcerer), however, previously washes his hands frequently in brine; the consequence being, that the contents of the cauldron do not in any wise, though in reality boiling, burn him very much. But if, having smeared his hands with a tincture of myrtle251251    Μυρσίνῃ. This word is evidently not the right one, for we have (σμύρνῃ) myrrh mentioned. Perhaps the word μάλθῃ, suggested in a previous passage, is the one employed here likewise. and nitre and myrrh, along with vinegar, he wash them in brine frequently, he is not scorched: and he does not burn his feet, provided he smear them with isinglass and a salamander.

As regards, however, the burning like a taper of the pyramid, though composed of stone, the cause of this is the following. Chalky earth is fashioned into the shape of a pyramid, but its colour is that of a milk-white stone, and it is prepared after this fashion. Having anointed the piece of clay with plenty of oil, and put it upon coals, and baked it, by smearing it afresh, and scorching it a second and third time, and frequently, (the sorcerer) contrives that it can be burned, even though he should plunge it in water; for it contains in itself abundance of oil. The hearth, however, is spontaneously kindled, while the magician pours out252252    Or, “makes speedy preparation;” or, “resorts to the contrivance of.” a libation, by having lime instead of ashes burning underneath, and refined frankincense and a large quantity of tow,253253    The words in italics are added by the Abbe Cruice. There is obviously some hiatus in the original. and a bundle254254    Or, “the refuse of.” of anointed tapers and of gall nuts, hollow within, and supplied with (concealed) fire. And after some delay, (the sorcerer) makes (the pyramid) emit smoke from the mouth, by both putting fire in the gall nut, and encircling it with tow, and blowing into the mouth. The linen cloth, however, that has been placed round the cauldron, (and) on which he deposits the coals, on account of the underlying brine, would not be burned; besides, that it has itself been washed in brine, and then smeared with the white of an egg, along with moist alum. And if, likewise, one mix in these the juice of house-leek along with vinegar, and for a long time previously smear it (with this preparation), after being washed in this drug, it continues altogether fire-proof.

« Prev The Burning Æsculapius; Tricks with Fire. Next »


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |