Three Books of Occult Philosophy/Book 1/Chapter 55

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Three Books of Occult Philosophy by Henry Cornelius Agrippa, translated by John French
Book 1, Chapter 55

of dead Carkases. By the same instinct Partridges know their Dam, whichm they never saw and leave the Partridge which stole away her Dams Eggs, & sate upon them. By the same instinct also certain hurtful and terrible things are perceived (the soul of the men being altogether ignorant of them) whence terror, and horror ceaseth much upon men when they think nothing of these things. So a thief lying hid in any house, although no body knows, or thinks of his being there, strikes fear, and terror, and a troublesomeness of mind into the inhabitants of that house, although haply not of all, because the brightness of this instinct is not in all men; yet of some of them. So a harlot being hid in some very large house, is sometimes perceived to be there by some one that is altogether ignorant of her being there. It is mentioned in Histories that Heraiscus a certain Egyptian, a man of a divine nature, could discern unclean women, not only by his eyes, but by their voice, being heard afar off, and thereupon did fall into a most grievous headach. William of Paris also makes mention of a certain woman in his time, that by the same instinct perceived a man whom she loved, coming two miles off. Also he relates that in his time was a certain Stork convicted of unchastity by the smell of the male, who being judged guilty by a multitude of Storks whom the male gathered together, discovering to them the fault of his mate, was, her feathers being pulled off, torn in pieces by them. He also makes mention of a certain horse, who not knowing his dam, and leaping of her, when afterwards he understood what he had done, bit off his own Stones by way of revenge upon himself for his incest. The same doth Varro, Aristotle, and Pliny relate concerning horses. And Pliny makes mention of a certain Serpent, called the Asp, that did such a like thing, for she coming to a certain mans table in Egypt, was there daily fed, and she having brought forth some young, by one of which a son of her hosts was killed, after she knew of it, killed that young one, and would never return to that house any more. Now by these examples you see, how the lights of presage may descend upon some Animals, as signs, or marks of things, & are set in their gesture, motion, voice, flying, going, meat, colour, and such like. For according to the doctrine of the Platonists, there is a certain power put into inferiour things, by which for the most part they agree with the superiours; whence also the tacid consents of Animals seem to agree with divine bodies, and their bodies and affections to be affected with their powers, by the name of which they are ascribed to the Dieties. We must consider therefore what Animals are Saturnall, what are Joviall, and what Martiall, and so of the rest, and according to their properties to draw forth their presages: so those birds which resemble Saturn, and Mars, are all of them called terrible, and deadly, as the Scritch Owl, the Hawlet, and others which we have mentioned before, also the horn Owl, because she is a Saturnall Solitary bird, also nightly, and is reputed to be most unfortunately ominous, of which the Poet saith,

The ugly Owl, which no bird well resents,
Fortels misfortunes, and most sad events.

But the Swan is a delicious bird, Venereall, and Dedicated to Phoebus, and is said to be most happy in her presages, especially in the Auspicia's of Mariners, because she is never drowned in water, whence Ovid sings,

Most happy is the cheerfull, singing Swan
In her presages
----- ----- -----

There are also some birds that presage with their mouth, and singing, as the Crow, Pie, Daw, whence Virgil,

----- ----- This did fore-show
Oft from the hollow holm that ominous Crow.

Now the birds that portend future things by their flying are, viz. Buzzards, the bone-Breakers, Eagles, Vulturs, Cranes, Swans, and the like: for they are to be considered in their flying, whether they fly slowly, or swiftly, whether to the right hand, or to the left, how many fly together: upon this account if Cranes fly apace, they signifie a tempest: when slowly, fair weather. Also when two Eagles fly together, they are said to portend evill, because that is a number of confusion. In like manner thou shalt enquire into the reason of the rest, as this is shewed of number. Moreover it belongs to an artist to observe a similitude in these conjectures, as in Virgil, Venus dissembling, teacheth her son Aeneas in these verses.

---------- All this is not for naught,
Else we in vain my parents Augury taught,
Lo! twice six Swans in a glad company

Joves bird pursued through the etheriall Skie
In Heavens broad tracks: now earth in a long train
They seem to take, or taken to disdain;
As they return with sounding wings, they sport,
And Heaven surrounding in a long consort.
Just so, I say, thy friends and fleet have gain'd
The port, or with full sailes the Bay obtain'd.

Most wonderful is that kind of Auguring of theirs, who hear, & understand the speeches of Animals, in which as amongst the Ancients, Melampus, and Tiresias, and Thales, and Apollonius the Tyanean, who as we read, excelled, and whom they report had excellent skill in the language of birds: of whom Philostratus, and Porphyrius speak, saying, that of old when Apollonius sate in company amongst his friends, seeing Sparrows sitting upon a tree, and one Sparrow coming from elsewhere unto them, making a great chattering and noise, and then flying away, all the rest following him, he said to his companions, that that Sparrow told the rest that an Asse being burdened with wheat fell down in a hole neer the City, and that the wheat was scattered upon the ground: many being much moved with these words, went to see, and so it was, as Apollonius said, at which they much wondered. Also Porphyrius the Platonist in his third book of Sacrifices, saith, that there was a Swallow: for it was certain, because every voice of any Animall is significative of some passion of its soul, as joy, sadness, or anger, or the like, which voices it is not so wonderfull a thing should be understood by men conversant about them. But Democritus himself declared this art, as saith Pliny, by naming the birds, of whose blood mixed together was produced a Serpent, of which whosoever did eat, should understand the voices of birds. And Hermes saith, if any one shall go forth to catch birds on a certain day of the Kalends of November, and shall boil the first bird which he catcheth, with the heart of a Fox, that all that shall eat of this bird, shall understand the voices of birds, and all other Animals. Also the Arabians say, that they can understand the meaning of bruits, who shall eat the heart, and liver of Dragons. Proclus also the Platonist believed, and wrote, that the heart of a Mole conduceth to presages. There were also divinations, and Auspicia's which were taken from the inwards of sacrifices, the inventor whereof was Tages, of whom Lucan sang,

And if the Inwards have no credit gained,
And if this Art by
Tages was but feigned.

The Romane Religion thought that the liver was the head of the inwards. Hence the Sooth-sayers enquiring after future things in the inwards, did first look into the liver, in which were two heads, whereof the one was called the head for the City, the other for the enemy; and the heads of this, or another part being compared together, they pronounced Victory, as we read in Lucan, that the inwards did signifie the slaughter of Pompeys men, and the Victory of Caesars, according to these verses,

I' th' inwards all defects are ominous
On part, and branch of th' entrals doth increase,
Another part is weak, and flagging lies,
Beats, and moves with quick pulse the arteries.

Then the bowels being finished, they search the heart. Now if there were a sacrifice found without an heart, or a head was wanting in the Liver, these were deadly presages, and were called piacularia. Also if a sacrifice fled from the Altar, or being smitten, made a lowing, or fell upon any part of his body then he ought to do, it was the like ominous. We read that when Julius Caesar on a day went forth to procession with his purple Robe, and sitting in a golden chair, and sacrificing, there was twice a Heart wanting; And when C. Marius Utica was sacrificing, there was wanting a Liver. Also when Caius the prince, and M. Marcellus, C. Claudius, and L. Petellius Coss: were offering sacrifices, that the Liver was consumed away suddenly: and not long after, one of them dyed of a disease, another was slain by men of Lyguria, the entrals foretelling so much: which was thought to be done by the power of the Gods, or help of the divell: Hence it was accounted a thing of great concernment amongst the Ancients as oft as any thing unusuall was found in the inwards: as when Sylla was sacrificing at Laurentum, the figure of a Crown appeared in the head of the Liver: which Posthumius the Soothsayer interpreted to portend a Victory with a Kingdome, and therefore advised that Sylla should eat those entrals himself. The colour also of the inwards is to be considered. Of these Lucan made mention.

Struck at the colour Prophets were with fear,
For with foul spots pale entrals tinged were.
Both black, and blew, with specks of sprinkled blood
They were
---------------

There was in times past such a venerable esteem of these arts, that the most potent, and wise men sought after them, yea the Senate, and Kings did nothing without the Counsell of the Augures. But all these in these dayes, partly by the negligence of men, and partly by the authority of the Fathers, are abolished.

Chapter lvi. Of the Sooth sayings of Flashes, and Lightenings, and how Monstrous, and prodigious things are to be interpreted.

Now the Sooth-sayings of Flashes, and Lightenings, and of wonders, and how monstrous, and prodigious things are to be interpreted, the Prophets, and Priests of Hetruscus have taught the Art. For they have ordained sixteen Regions of the Heavens, and have ascribed Gods to every one of them; and besides eleven kinds of Lightenings, and nine Gods, which should dart them forth, by shewing rules for understanding the signification of them. But as often as Monstrous, prodigious, and wondrous things happen, they do presage, as is most certain, some great matter. Now their interpreter must be some excellent conjecturer of similitudes, as also some curious searcher, and of them who at that time are employed about the affairs of Princes, and Provinces. For the Celestials take such care only for Princes, peoples, and provinces, that before the rest they might be prefigured, and admonished, by Stars, by Constellations, by wonders, and by prodigies. Now if the same thing, or the like hath been seen in former Ages, we must consider that very thing, and what happened after that, and according to these, to fortell the same, or the like, because the same signs are for the same things, and the like for like. So prodigies have come before the birth, and death of many eminent men and Kings; as Cicero makes mention of Midas a boy, into whose mouth, whilest he was sleeping, the Pismire put corns of Wheat, which was an omen of great riches. So Bees sate upon the mouth of Plato when he was sleeping in the Cradle, by which was foretold the sweetness of his speech. Hecuba, when she was bringing forth Paris, saw a burning Torch, which should set on fire Troy, and all Asia. There appeared unto the mother of Phalaris the image of Mercury pouring forth blood upon the earth, with which the whole house was over-flowed. The mother of Dionysius dreamed she brought forth a Satyr, which prodigious dreams the event that followed made good. The wife of Tarquinius Priscus seeing a flame lick the head of Servius Tullius, foretold that he should have the Kingdom. In like manner after Troy was taken, Aeneas disputing with Anchises his father concerning a flight, there appeared a flame licking the Crown of Ascanius his head, and doing of him no hurt: which thing, seeing it did portend the Kingdom to Ascanius, perswaded him to depart, for monstrous prodigies did fore-run great and eminent destruction. So we read in Pliny, that M. Attilius, and C. Portius being Consuls, it rained Milk, and Blood, which did presage that a very great Pestilence should the next yeer over-spread Rome. Also in Lucania it rained spongious Iron, & in the yeer before Marcus Crassus was slain in Parthia; with which also all the souldiers of Lucania, being a very numerous Army, were slain. Also L. Paulus, and C. Marcellus being Consuls, it rained Wool about the Castle of Corisanum, neer which place a yeer after T. Annius was slain by Milus. And in the wars of Denmark, the noise of Arms, and sound of a Trumpet was heard in the Aire. And Livie concerning the Macedonian wars, saith, in the yeer when Annibil dyed it rained blood for two dayes. Also concerning the second punick war, he saith, that water mixed with blood came down from Heaven like rain, at that time when Annibal did spoil Italy. A little before the destruction of Leuctra the Lacedemonians heard a noise of Arms in the temple of Hercules, and at the same time in the temple of Hercules the doors that were shut with bars, opened themselves, and the arms that were hanged on the wall, were found on the ground. The like events may be prognosticated of other like things, as oftentimes in times past something hath been foretold of them. But concerning these also, the judgements of the Celestial influencies must not be neglected, of which we shall more largely treat in the following Chapters.