Page:Primitive Culture Vol 1.djvu/146

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treasure, and thieves, seems to belong partly to trickery by professional Dousterswivels, and partly to more or less conscious direction by honester operators. It is still known in England, and in Germany they are apt to hide it in a baby's clothes, and so get it baptized for greater efficiency.[1] To conclude this group of divinatory instruments, chance or the operator's direction may determine the action of one of the most familiar of classic and mediæval ordeals, the so-called coscinomancy, or, as it is described in Hudibras, 'th' oracle of sieve and shears, that turns as certain as the spheres.' The sieve was held hanging by a thread, or by the points of a pair of shears stuck into its rim, and it would turn, or swing, or fall, at the mention of a thief's name, and give similar signs for other purposes. Of this ancient rite, the Christian ordeal of the Bible and key, still in frequent use, is a variation: the proper way to detect a thief by this is to read the 50th Psalm to the apparatus, and when it hears the verse, 'When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him,' it will turn to the culprit.[2]

Count de Maistre, with his usual faculty of taking an argument up at the wrong end, tells us that judicial astrology no doubt hangs to truths of the first order, which have been taken from us as useless or dangerous, or which we cannot recognize under their new forms.[3] A sober examination of the subject may rather justify the contrary opinion, that it is on an error of the first order that astrology depends, the error of mistaking ideal analogy for real connexion. Astrology, in the immensity of its delusive influence on mankind, and by the comparatively modern period to which it remained an honoured branch of philo-

  1. Chevreul, 'De la Baguette Divinatoire, du Pendule dit Explorateur et des Tables Tournantes,' Paris, 1854; Brand, vol. iii. p. 332; Grimm, 'D. M.' p. 926; H. B. Woodward, in 'Geological Mag.,' Nov. 1872; Wuttke p. 94.
  2. Cornelius Agrippa, 'De Speciebus Magiæ,' xxi.; Brand, vol. iii. p. 351; Grimm, 'D. M.' p. 1062.
  3. De Maistre, 'Soirées de St. Petersbourg,' vol. ii. p. 212.