Boo the Cat Boo the Cat. 1987-2002.


Alexander Ross (1652) Arcana Microcosmi, Book II, Chapter 3, pp. 105-111.


1. Centaurs, proved what they were. 2. Why the sight of a Wolfe causeth obmutescency. 3. Pigmies proved. Gammadim, what. 4. Giants proved: they are not monsters. 5. The strange force of Fascination. The sympathies and antipathies of things. The Loadstones attraction, how hindred. Fascination, how cured. Fascination by words.

THAT there have been Centaurs, that is, Monsters, half Horses, and half Men in the world, I make no question, though Dr. Brown, (BookI. c.4.) reckons this among his Vulgar Errors, who should have made a distinction between Poetical fictions, and real truths: For Centaurs are Monsters, and aberrations from nature; not the common nature of all things, which intends and effects Monsters, to shew Gods wrath against sin: but from the particular nature of those creatures of which they are ingendred. Therefore S. Jerome in the life of Paul the Eremite, speaks of a Centaur seen by Paul.1 Pliny Nat. Hist. l. 7, c. 3. was an eye-witnesse to this truth: For he saw in Thessaly a Centaur, which was brought out of Egypt to Claudius Cæsar.2 Ambrose Parry (l. 15. de Monstris) speaks of a Centaur which in the year 1254, was brought forth at Verona:3 there is no doubt then but Centaurs as well as other Monsters, are produced, partly by the influence of the stars, and partly by other causes, as the ill disposition of the matrix, the bad temperature of the seed, the perverse inclination of the woman, the commixtion of seeds of divers kinds, sudden fear, bad diet, unwholsome air, and untimely Venus. But we must not think that these Centaurs were men, or parts of men; for they had not a reasonable soul, and therefore not capable of the resurrection. Neither must we think that these had two natures and essential forms in one body, to wit, of a Man and a Horse: for as every entity4 hath but one specificall essence, so it hath but one form which giveth that essence; so that one and the same thing cannot be under divers species in the predicament of substance. And as there cannot be two distinct forms, so neither can there be a mixtion of them in the Centaur: for the form or essence admits neither intention nor admission: Ex duobus entibus per se, non fit unum ens per se; yet I deny that there were ever a generation of people called Centaurs, as they are described by the Poets; for by this fiction they understood voluptuous and lascivious men, who by Hercules, that is, men of courage, wisdom, and strength, were subdued and brought to civility, as we have shewed elsewhere (in Myst. Poetico) which fiction was occasioned by the first sight of men on Horseback in Thessaly.

II. That some men have become speechlesse at the sight of a Wolf, is no fable, if either we consider the antipathy that is between a Man and a Wolf, or the malignity of that vapour which proceeds from the Wolf, or the violence of a sudden fear which presently bringeth obmutescency, as the Prince of Poets sheweth, (Aen. 2.) Obstupui steteruntq; comæ & vox: faucibus hæsit.5 Camerarius the Father (Prob. l. Dec. 7. medit. Histor. part 3. Cent. 40.) sheweth in his Problems, (which is confirmed by Philip his son) that one who had caught a Wolf in a gin, by comming too neer him, was so poisoned by his breath, that his hands and face which were naked, did swell to a monstrous bigness: so that in a long time he could scarce be cured. And what wonder is it, that the sight of a wolf should make a man speechlesse, when the shadow of the Hyena, will make a dog dumb; when a Horse, if he smell but the foot-step or the guts of a wolf, will kick and fling as if he were mad, and a Mare will cast her Colt, as they witness who write the Natures and Histories of beasts; therefore the Proverb, Lupus in fabula, was not grounded upon a fable.6 Dr. Brown then did unadvisedly reckon this among his vulgar errors, (3 Book c. 8.) for I believe he would find this no error, if he were suddenly surprised by a Wolf, having no means to escape or save himself; and yet I do not hold that every one who is seen by a Wolf, is dumb, because some are of undaunted spirits, and some have the advantage of the Wolf, and some are not apt to be infected by his breath; yet it will not follow, that it is a vulgar error; if I hold a man grows silent at the sight of a Wolf, or that he hath an infectious breath: For it is no vulgar error, to hold the plague an infectious disease, and yet all are not infected by it.7

III. That there have been Pigmies in the world, that is, people of a cubit or two high, so called from πόγων a cubit, and Troglodits from τρώγα an hole, for they dwelt in holes, as Aristotle sheweth;8 and Spithamei from their small stature, scarce exceeding 2 foot and a quarter: I say, that there have been such, I make no question, when I consider the multitude of eminent Authours who have writ of them, and that no reason was ever yet alledged to deny them. Nay, it stands with reason there should be such, that Gods wisdome might be seen in all sorts of magnitudes: For if there have been giants, why not also Pigmies, Nature being as propense to the least as to the greatest magnitude: Besides, the reasonable soul is not extended in the body of a Giant, nor contracted in the body of a Pigmie; but can inform the one and the other without augmentation and diminution. Niceophorus (lib. hist. Eccles. c. 37.) affirms, that in the time of Theodosius, was seen in Egypt a Pigmie so small of body, that he resembled a Partridg, he exercised all the functions of a man, and could sing tunably. Pliny (lib. 7. c. 16.) speaks of Conopas, whom Julia the Neece of Augustus kept still by her; he was not much above two foot long.9 He also affirms; that under Augustus there lived Pusio and Secandilla, whose bodies were preserved as miraculous in a monument within the Salustian Garden; they were not much above half a foot.10 Cardan related (de subtil.) that there was in Italy a Pigmie of a cubit long, kept in a Parrets Cage. Many more of these Pigmies I could alledg, but these shall suffice to shew there have been such. And that there have been a Nation of Pigmies, Aristotle, Pliny, Pomponius, Mela, Aulus Gellius, Solinus, Albertus magnus, and many others will witness. It is true that Strabo, Scaliger, and some others have denied them; and therefore Dr. Brown reckons the opinion concerning Pigmies, among his Vulgar Errors. But if the incredulity of two or three Writers be enough to make a Vulgar Error, what a multitude of Errors will there be? For what truth is there in the world which by some or other hath not been doubted or denied? But they say, that the Assertors of this opinion, do not agree about the place of the Pigmies abodes; some placing them in India, some in Ethiopia, some in Scythia, some in Greenland. I answer, Circmstantial differences cannot overthrow the substance of a truth. Much difference there is about Ophir, where it stood, some placing it in Sumatra, or Aurea Chersinesus, some in Africa, some in Peru.11 So men cannot agree about Tharsis, some making it a Town in Cilicia, others Carthage in Africa, some Tartasius in Spain; shall we hence infer that there were never any such places? I am of opinion, that because they differ in the place of the Pigmies, and not in the thing it self, that there were Pigmies in all the forementioned places. Buchanan speaking of the Isles of Scotland, amongst the rest,12 sets down the Isle of Pigmies, in which there is a Church where are yet digged up divers small skuls and bones, answering to the report of the Pigmies little bodies; so that the inhabitants and neighbours make no question, but that Pigmies of old dwelt there. Rer. Scot. l. 1. Now Aristotle is so confident of his Pigmies, that he plainly tels us it is no fiction, but a manifest truth, Hist. animal. l. 8. c. 12. οὐ [γάρ] ἐστι τοῦτο μῦθος, ἀλλ’ ἔστι κατὰ τὴν ἀλήθειαν. And it is like that these Pigmies were all one with the Nabæ or Nubæ, a people that dwelt above the Springs of Nilus, and so they are called Νύβαι Πυγναῖοι, both these people are said to dwell about the Springs of Nilus, both were Troglodits, or dwelt in holes. And Nonnesus in Photius is said to have lighted upon these Pigmies in his Navigation about those places where the Nubæ dwelt. Neither is it a sufficient reason to denie Pigmies, because some ridiculous things are written of them, as that they fight with Cranes upon the backs of Rams, or Goats, though this be ridiculous, yet it may be true; for there are some ridiculous truths, and some serious lies. But if this were a fable, yet that there were Pigmies, may be a truth: there be many fictions made of Saturn, Jupiter, Janus, and other Heathens, Likewise of S. Christopher, S. George, S. Francis, and many other Christians; shall we therefore conclude there were never any such men? Neither was Homer the first that makes mention of Pigmies: for Ezechiel long before spake of them (Ezek. 27.11.) for the word Gammadim is translated Pigmies by Aquila, Vatablus, Lyra, Arias Montanus, the vulgar Latin, and Munster, who affirms that all the Hebrews expound the word thus.13 Besides, the Italian and Spanish Translations use the word Pigmie, and do not retain the textuary word, as the Doctor thinks, though the French and English Translations do. Now why the Septuagints translated the word Gammadim into Watchmen, I know not, except they meant those three thousand Pigmies which a certain King of India did entertain for his Guard; for though they were small of stature, yet they were good Archers.

IV. That there have been giants, that is, men of extraordinary strength and stature, is not to be questioned, since they are mentioned in so many Stories often in the Scripture: for what were Og, Sampson, Goliah, and the Anakims, but Giants? It is written that Pallas, the Son of Evander, whom Turnus killed, was higher by the head then the Walls of Rome: For eight hundred years after Christ, his body was found near the Walls, which being set upon its feet, the shoulders thereof touched the Pinacles of the Wall. S. Augustine (de Civit. Dei l. 15. c. 9.) saw a mans tooth bigger than his fist. Jos. Acosta (Hist. Ind. l. 7.) shewed there were Giants in new Spain: For he saw, at Mexico, a tooth as big as a mans fist. About the Straights of Magellan there are Giants ten or eleven foot high. (Acost. l. 1. c. 9.) The bones of Giants found in Peru, are thrice as big as the Indians. Cambden tells us of two teeth found in Essex, which would make two hundred of ours. And if you will believe Nunesius the Jesuit, (de rebus Japan) the King of China was guarded with Giants, which are also the Porters of his chief City. I will say nothing of the Giants mentioned by Pliny, Plutarch, Herodotus, and others. Before the Flood there were greater store of them then since, because the vigour of the Sun, the fertility of the earth, the goodnesse of food, and the seed of generation did decay. But we must not think that Giants and Pigmies are Monsters, seeing they are not the errors of nature, which aimeth at their generation, according to the proportion of seed, which admits of extension and remission: But if the quantity be such, that the functions of man are hindred, such may be called Monsters, as that young giant at Millan, which Scaliger saw, (Exerc. 263.) which was so tall, that he could not stand, but lie along, extending his body the length of two beds joyned together. What the Greeks have feigned of the Giants, I have spoken elsewhere, Mystag. Poet.

V. That divers diseases are procured by fascination, that is, by a malignant look, or aspect, is manifest by innumerable testimonies of good Authours. Now fascination is twofold, Diabolical and Physical, or Natural: Of the former I doe not speak, but of the latter, which causeth diseases, not by the look, or sight it self, which consisteth rather in reception with Aristotle, then in emission with Plato, (although I deny not some kind of emission there is) but I say, fascination causeth diseases three ways: First, when the horrid and truculent look of a malicious deformed Hag affrights children and tender natures; upon which proceeds an agitation and sudden commotion of the spirits and humours, whence ensueth diseases. Secondly, by some malignant vapour, breath, or spirit from the eye or mouth. Thirdly, by a secret antipathy: so there are who will swoun and sweat at the sight of certain meats which they abhor: And indeed sympathies and antipathies there are almost in every Simple which we receive for physick, as Fernelius (de abdit. rer. caus. l. 2. shews:) hence it is, that some things purge onely the Spleen, some the Liver, some the Breast only. Hence also the Cantharides are offensive to the Bladder, Lepus marinus to the Lungs: But the History is strange which is recorded by Francis Mendosa (lib. 4. de Flor. Philos. Problem. 11.) of the Duke of Brigantia's one-eyed servant, who with his eye could make any Falcon or Sparrow-Hawk in their flight fall down to the ground as if they were dead: this could not bee by any malignant vapour that did reach so high: it must bee therefore a strange antipathy, of which we can give no more reason, then why the Load-stone draws Iron, or draws it not when touched with Garlick. Why the stone Selenites, as Fernelius shewes, touching the skin, should stay bleeding in any part of the body: or why the Ring in which it is set, being put on the third finger, stays the Dysentery within an howre: Why Rhubarb and Scamony purgeth choler; Epithemium, Polypodium and Sena, melancholy; Agarick phlegme: and why Quick-silver delights so much in gold: Why the shadow of the Fraxinus or wilde-Ash is so pernicious to Serpents. Why there is such antipathies and sympathies among Hearbs & Trees. I know what I said but now (Book 2. c. 3.) of the Garlick in hindring the Load-stones attraction, is contradicted by Doctor Brown,14 and before him by Baptista Porta; yet I cannot believe that so many famous Writers who have affirmed this property of the garlick, could be deceived; therefore I think that they had some other kinde of Load-stone, then that which we have now. For Pliny and others make divers sorts of them, the best whereof is the Ethiopian. Though then in some Load-stones the attraction is not hindred by garlick, it follows not that it is hindred in none; and perhaps our garlick is not so vigorous, as that of the Ancients in hotter Countries; yet I finde, that not onely by garlick is this attraction hindred, but also by fire, rust, oyl, and other fat things, also by the presence of another Load-stone; and that as it draws the Steel with one end, so it repels it with the other. But to return to our Fascination, that it is caused by an occult quality, is plain, because it is cured by another quality: For Mendosa (Prob. 11.) sheweth, that it is known by experience how Fascination is cured by the foot of a Mole or Wont15 laid to the childes forehead, which can be nothing else but a natural antipathy: and that Fascination is caused by a contagious breath infecting the aire, is plain, by the story of the Basilisk killing with his look or breath rather, at a distance.16 There is also a Fascination by words, which the Poet mentions, Ecl. ii.17

Qui ne ultra placitum laudavit Bacchare frontem
Cingite, ne vati noceat mala lingua futuro.

We know there is great efficacy in words to move affections, upon which the spirits and humours of the body are disturbed, which causeth oftentimes diseases.



1. Perhaps, and perhaps not. On a journey to see Antony. 'The blessed Paul had already lived on earth the life of heaven for a hundred and thirteen years, and Antony at the age of ninety was dwelling in another place of solitude (as he himself was wont to declare), when the thought occurred to the latter, that no monk more perfect than himself had settled in the desert. However, in the stillness of the night it was revealed to him that there was farther in the desert a much better man than he, and that he ought to go and visit him. So then at break of day the venerable old man, supporting and guiding his weak limbs with a staff, started to go: but what direction to choose he knew not. Scorching noontide came, with a broiling sun overhead, but still he did not suffer himself to be turned from the journey he had begun. Said he, "I believe in my God: some time or other He will shew me the fellow-servant whom He promised me." He said no more. All at once he beholds a creature of mingled shape, half horse half man, called by the poets Hippocentaur. At the sight of this he arms himself by making on his forehead the sign of salvation, and then exclaims, "Holloa! Where in these parts is a servant of God living?" The monster after gnashing out some kind of outlandish utterance, in words broken rather than spoken through his bristling lips, at length finds a friendly mode of communication, and extending his right hand points out the way desired. Then with swift flight he crosses the spreading plain and vanishes from the sight of his wondering companion. But whether the devil took this shape to terrify him, or whether it be that the desert which is known to abound in monstrous animals engenders that kind of creature also, we cannot decide.' The Life of Paulus the First Hermit, 7.

2. This is not an accurate rendering of the text; see Pliny HN VII.35, or Holland in English.

3. Paré on centaurs.

4. Or, improbably, "entiry"; the letter is broken.

5. Virg. Aen. II.774; needless to say, given our author, there's no wolf involved. Later, Ross defends the idea that wolves can raise human babies, who are apparently indifferent to wolf vapours: see Chapter 4.

6. I.e., "struck dumb".

7. As breathtakingly illogical as this argument is, I have had e-mailed to me one very similar and apparently arrived at independently.

8. Browne's chapter is Pseudodoxia IV chapter xi. He rather carefully defines what he means by "pygmy", a definition Ross utterly ignores. And so on to Ross: (a) Ross's Greek is shaky here; pygmy from πύγμη, a cubit (=18 inches or so) or a fist; troglodyte from τρώγλη (= τρώγλα), "a hole formed by gnawing". (b) On (human) troglodytes, see Herodotus 4.183.4. Herodotus says they live on bats and creeping things and are persecuted by the Garamantes; see the note in this text at Perseus on modern-day represenatives of the troglodytic clan. Aristotle talks a good deal about animal troglodytes (e.g., Hist. Anim. 552b28, 488a23), and throws out in the eighth book a story to be taken cum grano salis, considering that he does not even know where the source of the Nile is. Browne points out that here "Aristotle plays the Aristotle", with a "sicut aiunt" (which shows up weakly in the English translation):

And it is [at the source of the Nile], by the way, that [cranes] are said to fight with the pygmies; and the story is not fabulous, but there is in reality a race of dwarfish men, and the horses are little in proportion, and the men live in caves underground.

9. Pliny NH VII.75; about 30 or 32 inches. Not, however, a race of men, but a single specimen, or freak, if we may use that word.

10. Not half a foot high, but half a foot taller than the creatures in the previous passage, who were 9-1/2 feet high; thus, these particular "pigmies" of Ross are 10 feet tall. Pliny NH VII.75, or englished.

11. For Strabo on pigmies, see the sources in Browne's chapter (Strabo, VII.3.6; XVII.2.1; I.2.30; I.9.4. On Ophir, see 1 Kings 9:28, 10:11, 22:48. In addition to India, Africa, Arabia, and "Peru", we might add China and, according to the Mormons, North America. See, for instance, 101 Bible Prophecies of Mormon Church - Ophir and Tarshish. It's always been that 22:48 passage that's caused problems.

12. George Buchanan (1506-1582), tutor in turn to Mary of Scotland and to her son James VI and I; Rerum scoticarum historia, 1582. Numerous editions in translation followed, and the history was continued and edited in the 18th and in the 19th centuries. The passage in question, here quoted from the English translation of 1690, page 30, Book I:

Furthermore, almost in the same Tract, nearer to the North, lie Garvellan, i. e. the Craggy Islans, Lamba, Flada, and Kellasa, the two Berneraes, the great and the small, Kirta, Buiia the little, Buiia the great, Vexa, Pabaia, and Sigrama the great, or Cunicularia so called from its plenty of Conies, Sigrama the less, and the Island of Pygmies; in this last there is a Chapel, where the bordering People do believe, that Pygmies were heretofore buried; for many Strangers, digging deep into the Earth, have found, and yet do find, little and round Heads, and the small Bones of other parts of human Bodies, nothing derogating from the ancient Reports concerning Pygmies.

13. Gammadim from gamed, "a cubit", apparently from a root meaning either "grasp" or "arm" (or both); cf. Greek πύγμη, a cubit or fist, English "arm". "Armed men", "valorous men", "men of arms", probably.

14. In Book II, Chapter 3.

15. Sc. "want", a mole.

16. Another error denied by Browne; see Book III, Chapter 7.

17. Sic. Virgil: Eclogue VII, 27-28, which reads:

aut, si ultra placitum laudarit, baccare frontem
cingite, ne uati noceat mala lingua futuro.

This page is by James Eason