Obelisk Art History
The Magus, Book 1

Of The Wonders Of Natural Magic

Francis Barrett, 1801

The wonders of Animal Magic we mean fully to display under the title of Magnetism. But here we hasten to investigate by what means, instruments, and effects, we must apply actives to passives, to the producing of rare and uncommon effects; whether by actions, amulets, alligations and suspensions—or rings, papers, unctions, suffumigations, allurements, sorceries, enchantments, images, lights, sounds, or the like. Therefore, to begin with things more simple:—If any one shall, with an entire new knife, cut asunder a lemon, using words expressive of hatred, contumely, or dislike, against any individual, the absent party, though at an unlimited distance, feels a certain inexpressible and cutting anguish of the heart, together with a cold chilliness and failure throughout the body;—likewise of living animals, if a live pigeon be cut through the heart, it causes the heart of the party intended to affect with a sudden failure; likewise fear is induced by suspending the magical image of a man by a single thread;—also, death and destruction by means similar to these; and all these from a fatal and magical sympathy.

Likewise of the virtues of simple animals, as well as manual operations, of which we shall speak more anon:—The application of hare’s fat pulls out a thorn;—likewise any one may cure the tooth-ache with the stone that is in the head of the toad; also, if any one shall catch a living frog before sun-rise, and he or she spits in the mouth of the frog, will be cured of an asthmatic consumption;—likewise the right or left eye of the same animal cures blindness; and the fat of a viper cures a bite of the same. Black hellebore easeth the head-ache, being applied to the head, or the powder snuffed lip the nose in a moderate quantity. Coral is a well-known preservative against witchcraft and poisons, which if worn now, in this time, as much round children’s necks as usual, would enable them to combat many diseases which their tender years are subjected to, and to which, with fascinations, they often fall a victim. I know how to compose coral amulets, or talismans, which, if suspended even by a thread, shall (God assisting) prevent all harms and accidents of violence from fire, or water, or witchcraft, and help them to withstand all their diseases.

Paracelsus and Helmont both agree, that in the toad, although so irreverent to the sight of man, and so noxious to the touch, and of such strong violent antipathy to the blood of man, I say, out of this hatred Divine Providence hath prepared us a remedy against manifold diseases most inimical to man’s nature. The toad hath a natural aversion to man; and this scaled image, or idea of hatred, he carries in his head, eyes, and most powerfully throughout his whole body: now that the toad may be highly prepared for a sympathetic remedy against the plague or other disorders, such as the ague, falling sicknesses, and various others; and that the terror of us, and natural inbred hatred may the more strongly be imprinted and higher ascend in the toad, we must hang him up aloft in a chimney, by the legs, and set under him a dish of yellow wax, to receive whatsoever may come down, or fall from his mouth; let him hang in this position, in our sight, for three or four days, at least till he is dead; now we must not omit frequently to be present in sight of the animal, so that his fears and inbred terror of us, with the ideas of strong hatred, may encrease even unto death.

So you have a most powerful remedy in this one toad, for the curing of forty thousand persons infected with the pest or plague.

Van Helmont’s process for making a preservative amulet against the plague is as follows:—

“In the month of July, in the decrease of the moon, I took old toads, whose eyes abounded with white worms hanging forth into black heads, so that both his eyes were totally formed with worms, perhaps fifty in number, thickly compacted together, their heads hanging out; and as oft as any one of them attempted to get out, the toad, by applying his fore-foot, forbade its utterance. These toads being hung up, and made to vomit in the manner before mentioned, I reduced the insects and other matters ejected from the toad, with the waxen dish being added thereto; and the dried carcass of the toad being reduced into powder I formed the whole into troches, with gum-dragon; which, being borne about the left breast, drove speedily away all contagion; and being fast bound to the place affected, thoroughly drew out the poison: and these troches were more potent after they had returned into use divers times than when new. I found them to be a most powerful amulet against the plague; for if the serpent eateth dust all the days of his life, because he was the instrument of sinning; so the toad eats earth, (which he vomits up) all the days of his life; and, according to the Adeptical philosophy, the toad bears an hatred to man, so that he infects some herbs that are useful to man with his poison, in order for his death. But this difference note between the toad and the serpent: the toad, at the sight of man, from a natural quality sealed in him, called antipathy, conceives a great terror or astonishment; which terror from man imprints on this animal a natural efficacy against the images of the affrighted archeus in man For, truly the terror of the toad kills and annihilates the ideas of the affrighted archeus in man, because the terror in the toad is natural, therefore radical.”

For the poison of the plague is subdued by the poison of the toad, not by an action primarily destructive, but by a secondary action; as the pestilent idea of hatred or terror extinguishes the ferment, by whose mediation the poison of the plague subsists, and proceeds to infect: for seeing the poison of the plague is the product of the image of the terrified archeus established in a fermental, putrified odour, and mumial air, this coupling ferments the appropriate mean, and immediately the subject of the poison is taken away.

Therefore the opposition of the amulet formed from the body, &c., of the toad, takes away and prevents the baneful and most horrible effects of the pestilential poison and ferment of the plague.

Hence it is conjectured that he is an animal ordained by God, that the idea of his terror being poisonous indeed to himself, should be to us, and to our plague, a poison in terror. Since, therefore, the toad is most fearful at the beholding of man, which in himself, notwithstanding, forms the terror conceived from man, and also the hatred against man, into an image and active real being, and not consisting only in a confused apprehension; hence it happens that a poison ariseth in the toad, which kills the pestilent poison of terror in man; to wit, from whence the archeus waxeth strong, he not only perceiving the pestilent idea to be extinguished in himself; but, moreover, because he knoweth that something inferior to himself is terrified, dismayed, and doth fly. Again, so great is the fear of the toad, that if he is placed directly before thee, and thou dost behold with an intentive furious look, so that he cannot avoid thee, for a quarter of an hour, he dies, 1 being fascinated with terror and astonishment.


Hippocrates, by the use of some parts of this animal, attained to himself divine honours; for therewith he cured pestilence and contagion, consumptions, and very many other diseases; for he cleansed the flesh of a viper. The utmost part of the tail and head being cut off, he stripped off the skin, casting away the bowels and gall; he reserved of the intestines only the heart and liver; he drew out all the blood, with the vein running down the back-bone; he bruised the flesh and the aforesaid bowels with the bones, and dried them in a warm oven until they could be powdered, which powder he sprinkled on honey; being clarified and boiled, until he knew that the fleshes in boiling had cast aside their virtue, as well in the broth as in the vapours; he then added unto this electuary the spices of his country to cloak the secret. But this cure of diseases by the serpent contains a great mystery, viz. that as death crept in by the serpent of old, itself ought to be mitigated by the death of the serpent; for Adam, being skilful in the properties of all beasts, was not ignorant also that the serpent was more crafty than other living creatures, and that the aforesaid balsam, the remedy of death, lay hid in the serpent; wherefore the spirit of darkness could not more falsely deceive our first parents than tinder the guileful serpent’s form; for they foolishly imagined they should escape the death, so sorely threatened by God, by the serpent’s aid.

Amber is an amulet:—a piece of red amber worn about one, is a preservative against poisons and the pestilence.

Likewise, a sapphire stone is as effectual. Oil of amber, or amber dissolved in pure spirit of wine, comforts the womb being disordered: if a suffumigation of it be made with the warts of the shank of a horse, it will cure many disorders of that region.

The liver and gall of an eel, likewise, being gradually dried and reduced to powder, and taken in the quantity of a filbert-nut in a glass of warm wine, causes a speedy and safe delivery to women in labour. The liver of a serpent likewise effects the same.

Rhubarb, on account of its violent antipathy to choler, wonderfully purges the same. Music is a well-known specific for curing the bite of a tarantula, or any venomous spider; likewise, water cures the hydrophobia. Warts are cured by paring off the same; or by burying as many pebbles, secretly, as the party has warts. The king’s-evil may be cured by the heart of a toad worn about the neck, first being dried.—Hippomanes excites lust by the bare touch, or being suspended on the party. If any one shall spit in the hand with which he struck, or hurt, another, so shall the wound be cured;—likewise, if any one shall draw the halter wherewith a malefactor was slain across the throat of one who hath the quinsey, it certainly cures him in three days; also, the herb cinque-foil being gathered before sun-rise, one leaf thereof cures the ague of one day; three leaves, cures the tertian; and four, the quartan ague. Rape seeds, sown with cursings and imprecations, grows the fairer, and thrives; but if with praises, the reverse. The juice of deadly nightshade, distilled, and given in a proportionate quantity, makes the party imagine almost whatever you chuse. The herb nip, being heated in the hand, and afterwards you hold in your hand the hand of any other party, they shall never quit you, so long as you retain that herb. The herbs arsemart, comfrey, flaxweed, dragon-wort, adder’s-tongue, being steeped in cold water, and if for some time being applied on a wound, or ulcer, they grow warm, and are buried in a muddy place, cureth the wound, or sore, to which they were applied. Again, if any one pluck the leaves of asarabacca, drawing them upwards, they will purge another, who is ignorant of the drawing, by vomit only; but if they are wrested downward to the earth, they purge by stool. A sapphire, or a stone that is of a deep blue colour, if it be rubbed on a tumour, wherein the plague discovers itself, (before the party is too far gone) and by and by it be removed from the sick, the absent jewel attracts all the poison or contagion therefrom. And thus much is sufficient to be said concerning natural occult virtues, whereof we speak in a mixed and miscellaneous manner coming to more distinct heads anon.

Next chapter

The instrument of enchanters is a pure, living, breathing spirit of the blood, whereby we bind, or attract, those things which we desire or delight in

Of Amulets, Charms, And Enchantments

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