Boo the Cat. 1987-2002.
Alexander Ross (1652) Arcana Microcosmi, Book II, Chapter 2, pp. 98-104.
1. The benefits of sleep, and reasons why some sleep not. 2. Why dead bodies after the ninth day swim. Why dead and sleeping men heavier then others, why a blown bladder lighter then an empty. 3. Strang Epidemical diseases and deaths. The force of smels. The Roses smell. 4. Strange shapes, and multitudes of worms in our bodies. 5. The French disease, and its malignity. The diseases of Brasil.
WHEREAS Sleep is one of Natures chiefest blessings for refreshing our wearied spirits, repairing of our decayed strength; moistning of our feebled limbs, as the Poet speaks, fessos sopor irrigat artus, (Virg. Æn 3. & 4.* for easing of our diurnal cares, Positi somno sub nocte silenti, lenibant curas & corda oblita laborum.* And therefore is, as Euripides cals it, farmakon ponwn, the remedy of our evils.1 And whereas in sleep the heart is at rest, as Aristotle rightly said, (though Galen who understood him not, checks him for it) from feeling, understanding, and inventing, though not from life and motion; I say, whereas by sleep we have so many benefits, it is a wonder that any should bee found to live a long time without sleep. Yet I read in Fernelius (Pathalog. l. 5 ca. 2) of one who lived fourteen moneths without any rest. And it is more strange what Heurinus (Praxis, l. 2. c. 7. records of Nigidius, that painful Treasurer of Cicero's words and phrases, who lived ten years without sleep.2 Mecænas was sleeplesse three years, saith Pliny.3 Laurentius in his Tract of Melancholy, knew some who could not sleep in three moneths; the reason of this might be, 1. The heat and drinese of the brain, as is usual in decrepit and melancholy men. 2. The spareness of diet, so that no vapours could be sent up to moisten the brain or nerves. 3. The want of exercise and motion; for sendentary men are least given to sleep. 4. Continual cogitation and intention of the phantasie. 5. And adust melancholy humours. 6. Accompanied with continual fears, horrid and distemperate phantasies, representing to the mind unpleasant objects.
II. Why dead bodies after the ninth day swim upon the water, may seem strange, seeing till then they lie hid under the water. Cardan (de subtil. l. 8.) gives this reason, Because Between the Peritoneum and Omentum flatulent matter is ingendred, as appears by the great swelling of the belly. Now this flatulent matter is begot of humidity dissolved by heat, which heat is procreated of putrifaction. Besides, we see that putrified bodies, as eggs, fruit, wood, grow light, because their solid parts being consumed, what remains are porous and full of air: for experience teacheth us, that the more porous and aereal the body is, the lighter it is, and lesse apt to sink; and perhaps may bee the reason why that body which wants the Spleen swimmeth, not being a porous light substance: And those men who have capacious lungs to hold much air, can dive and live longer in the water then others.4 And surely some people whose bodies are active, subtile, and quick, will not sink so soon as men of duller spirits. Such were the Thebii, a people which could not sink; so that it is a vain way to conclude those to be Witches, who do not presently sink. Hence also it is plain, that dead bodies are heavier then living, though Dr. Brown (of Errors, l. 4. c. 7.) contradict this, because he found no difference between a Mouse and a Chick, being dead and alive, in respect of gravity. A weak reason to reckon a received truth among his vulgar errors; for though there were no sensible difference in such little animals, which have but few spirits, yet in men which are of a great bulk, & in whom do abound vital and animal spirits, to say there is no difference of gravity in their life and death, is to contradict sense and reason; for every woman that attends upon sick men, knows that they are more pondrous when dead, then when alive, being used to lift and turn them. Reason also grounded on experience, teacheth us, that those bodies are lightest in which air is predominant; therefore doubtlesse where there is store of such pure and refined air as the spirits are, there must be lesse gravity, then where they are wanting: his Error is grounded on a false supposition, in thinking there is gravity in the spirits themselves, because they participate of corporeity, as if gravity were an essential property of bodies, whereas there is no gravity in the pure fire, nor in the Stars and Heavens, and yet these are bodies. Besides, if the spirits had any gravity in them, it must follow, that living bodies are heavier then dead carcasses, which is absurd to think. Again, I would know, why inebriated Apoplectical and swouning persons are heavier then others; is it not because their spirits fail, and they resemble dead men? And so in sleep the brother of death the body is heavier; every nurse that carrieth her child in her arms will tell him this. Why doth a man fall down in his sleep, who stood upright when he was awaked, If he be not heavier then he was? The Scripture acknowledgeth, that even the Apostles eyes were heavy when they were sleepy.5 And whereas he proveth the spirits to add weight to the body, because6 a man that holds his breath is weightier while his lungs are full, then upon expiration: And a bladder blown is heavier then one empty. I answer, that I could never find this experiment true, though I have made trial. 2. It seems to be false, because the blown bladder will swim when the empty one sinks. 3. If I should yeild him this, yet his sequel is nought, except he can prove the animal spirits in a mans body, to be as thick and course as the grosse vapour which is blown into the bladder, which is neither air in name nor purity, much less to bee compared to those subtil spirits, which are so pure and apt to vanish, that nature was forced to inclose them within the thick walls of the nerves. So likewise the air retained in the lungs, may perhaps add weight to the body, because the longer it stays there, the more it degenerates into a thick vapour, by reason of the bodies moisture, and so may become ponderous.
III. God is pleased many times to punish whole Nations by extraordinary epidemical diseases, for the sins of the people. So was England visited with a sweating sicknesse; so was Poland with that disease called Plica, of which we have spoken, so was Ethiopia (as is already said) visited with the Lousie disease. Forestus (Observ. medic. part. 3) records, that in Syracusa, there was an universal disease, called the hungry sicknesse, in which people did continually desire to eat, and were never satisfied. Of this multitudes died; at last it was observed, that this disease proceeded of Worms, which were expelled by Bolarmenick and Treacle. And Hollerius reports, that at Beneventum many died of intolerable pains in the head, caused by Worms ingendred there, who also mentions one Italian, who by smelling much to the hearb Basil, had a Scorpion which bred in his brain, and killed him; this is not impossible if wee consider, that according to the disposition of the petrified matter, and the preparations made for introduction of the form, divers shapes of creatures are begot; and it seems there is a great sympathy between the Basil and the Scorpion, which did facilitate the generation: neither are we ignorant what force there is in smells, both to breed and expel diseases; and even to prolong and shorten life; as appears in divers Histories, of some that have died with the smell of coals, others of new wort or ale, as those two Monks recorded by Forestus (Observ. med. part. 1.) although I suppose it was not so much the smell as the smoak of the coals and vapours of the air that suffocated the spirits; yet such is the force of smells, that som have been purged by passing or entring into Apothecaries shops, whilest they were preparing purgative medicaments; And divers with the smell of the purges which they carried in their hands, have been as much purged, as if they had taken the whole substance. But this I ascribe not, so much to the smell (which is a meer accident, and cannot passe from one substance to another, but is in some subjects wherein it is inherent) as to the subtile vapours which from the physick being smelled, convey the smell to the body. The same reason may be given why some are offended with smells which to others are pleasant; so I have read of Francis the firsts Secretary, who was forced to stop his nosthrils with bread when there were any apples at table: and so offensive was the smell thereof to him, that if one had held an apple neer his nose, he would fall a bleeding. Marcel. Danat. adm. hist. l. 6 c. 4.
And Cardinal Carasa did so abhor the smell of roses, which of all smells is most delightful to man, that during the rose time he durst not go out of his doors, for fear of encountring with that smell; nor did he suffer any to come within his palace that had a rose about him. This I adscribe to the phantasie and naturall antipathy between him and the rose: Such power there is in smells, that the ancients ascribed a Divinity to them; and because good smells do so chear the spirits, hence they were used in Temples both amongst Jews, Gentiles, and Christians. Homer describes his Juno by the sweetnesse of her smell, and so doth Virgil his Venus: Ambrosiaque comæ divinum vertice odorem spiravere;7 the like doth Plutarch his Isis, and so doth Ovid: Mansit odor, possis scire fuisse Deam.8 But for the Rose there may be some manifest causes why its smell may bee offensive: for some brains are extraordinary cold, some extraordinary dry, and whose olfactive passages are wider then usually; to such the smell of Roses may be hurtful, because the Rose hath but a weak heat, or rather is refrigerative, as Dioscorides thinks which may comfort the hot, but not the cold brain. And if the brain be dry, & the passages wide, the smel doth too suddenly affect it, which may procure an aking, but why Hysterical women, and such as are troubled with the Mother, are apt to swoun at the smell of Roses and Lillies, is, because the Matrix delighteth in these smells, and therefore riseth toward them, to the danger of suffocation; whereas it is suppressed by strong and unpleasant odours. There are indeed in the rose different parts, which have different qualities, but the predominant are moistning and coldness; whence to cold and moist brains, the smell is not proper, but to hot brains the rose is comfortable: therefore the Ancients in their drinking matches, used to wear rose garlands, and to lie upon beds of rose-leaves for refrigeration. Mitte sectari rosa quo locorum sera moretur. Horat. l.9
IV. It is almost incredible, what is written of the multitudes, divers shapes, and length of worms bred in our bodies, if we had not the testimony of so many grave Physitians to prove this. Forestus out of Hostim (Obs. Med. part. 1. Obs. 2.) shews, that at Beneventum in Italy, there was a great mortality, which much troubled the Physitians, not knowing the cause thereof, till they opened one of the dead bodies, in whose brain they found a red worm yet alive: This they tried to kill by divers medicaments, such as are prescribed against worms, but none of them could kill it. At last they boiled some slices of Radish in Malago wine, and with this it was killed. He shews also, that one being cured of the French malady, was notwithstanding still tormented with the head-ach, till his skull by advice was opened; under which, upon the Dura mater, was found a black worm, which being taken out and killed, he was cured. Brasavola records, (in 16. Aphoris. l. 3. Hippocr.) that an old man of 82 years, by a potion made of Scordium and sea-moss, voided five hundred worms, which was the more strange in so old a man, whose body must needs have been cold and dry; yet it seems he wanted not putrified matter enough to breed them. Alexander Benedict speaks of a young maid, who lay speechless eight days with her eyes open, and upon the voiding of forty two worms, recovered her health, (lib. de verit. & rerum.) Cardan records, that Erasmus saw an Italian, who spoke perfect Dutch, which he never learned, so that he was thought to be possessed; but being rid of his worms, recovered, nor knowing that he ever spake Dutch. It is not impossible in extasies, phrensies, and transes, for men to speak unknown tongues, without witchcraft or inspiration; if we consider the excellency and subtilty of the soul, being sequestred from corporeal Remora's, and so much the rather, if with Plato, we hold that all our knowledge is but reminiscency. Ambrose Parry (lib. 19. c. 3.) sheweth, that a woman voided out of an imposthume in her belly, a multitude of worms about the bigness of ones finger, with sharp heads, which had pierced her intestins. Forestus (l. 7. Obs. 35.) tells us of a woman in Delph, who in 3 several days voided 3 great worms out of her navel; and not long after was delivered of a Boy; and then seven days after that, another. Thad. Dunus(?) speaks of a Switzer woman, who voided a piece of a worm five ells long, without head or tail, having scales like a Snake. After this she voided another bred in her bowels, which was above twenty ells long. This poor woman was tortured so long as she was fasting; but when she ate, she had some ease. I could set down here many other stories of Worms, voided out of mens bodies, some having the shape of Lizards, some of Frogs, some hairy and full of feet on both sides, some voided by the eyes, some by the ears, some by vomiting, some by the stool, some by urine, some by imposthumes, but I will not be tedious; these may suffice to let us know of what materials this body of ours, which we so much pamper, is composed, and how little cause we have to be sollicitous for the back and belly; and withal let us stand in awe of God, who when he pleaseth can for our sins, plague us with vermin in our bodies whiles we are yet alive.
V. I said before, that divers Countries had their peculiar diseases; the French sickness as we now call it, was peculiar to the Americans, and not known to this part of the world; but Christopher Columbus, brought it from America to Naples. Now it is become common, and yet no disease more pernicious, and which breeds more dangerous symptoms and tortures in the body. This is that great scourge with which God whips the wantonnesse of this lascivious age: not without cause is this called the Herculean disease, so hard to be overcome, and the many-headed Hydra: the poison of it is so subtile, that not only it doth wast the noble parts, and spoils the skin, even to the losse of all the hairs both of head, beard, and eye-brows, besides the many swellings and bunches it causeth, it pierceth also into the very bones, and rots them, as Fernelius fully describes (De abdit. rer. causis, l. 2. ) I have read of some who have been suddenly struck blind with the infection thereof. Zacuta mentions one who was so blinded that he could never recover his sight again. And another who was troubled with an Ophthalmy, the poison of which was so violent and subtile, that it infected the Chyrurgion that cured him; (Prax. mira l. 2.) by which it appears this disease is infectious at a distance. There is another peculiar disease in Brasile, called the Worm, which comes with an itch and an inflammation of the fundament: if this be taken in time before the Fever comes, it is easily cured by washing the place affected, with the juice of Lemmons, whereof that Countrey abounds; but if it be neglected till it come to a Carbuncle, it is harder to be cured, and not without the juice of Lemmons and Tobacco. But if this by carelessenesse be omitted, no help will then prevail; and so the party dieth with a thirst or fever, which is strange. Not unlike to this is that disease which Zacata speaks, of one who was tortured with a terrible pain in his Hip and fundament, with a violent Fever: upon this he openeth the outward ancle vein, out of which gushed scalding blood, and with it a living Worm, the breadth of ones palm, and so the party was cured. It seems the poison of this Worm had reached into the Hemorrid veins in the fundament, which caused that pain. Linschoten (in his voiages) makes mention of another disease familiar to the Brasilians, called Pians, proceeding from their letchery; it maketh blisters bigger than the joynt of a mans thumb, which run over the whole body and face.10
1. Euripides, Bacchae 283. After praising drunkeness, which leads to sleep. ponwn, of our labours, burdens, rather than (necessarily) evils.
2. P. Nigidius Figulus.
3. Pliny, HN XXVIII.62 Three years not of sleeplessness, but of "silence", after a fit in which he had spat up blood.
5. Matt. 26:43; Mark 14:40, where "their eyes are heavy" is used in the same figurative sense we still use it. On men being heavier when asleep, compare Ross's later argument in Chapter 7 that men can do many things while asleep; one wonders if they are heavier when sleep-walking, or lighter, or intermediate?
6. 1652: "becaus" with a long ess.
7. Virgil Aen. I: 403-404.
8. Plutarch Isis and Osiris; Ovid Fasti V.100.
9. Horace, Odes I, 38. Horace does not approve.
10. A tropical American disease of the skin. Some writers identify it with yaws, and put both (or it) in the category of framboesia.
This page is by James Eason.