Boo the Cat. 1987-2002.
Alexander Ross (1652) Arcana Microcosmi, Book II, Chapter 4, pp. 111-116
1. Strange stones bred in mens bodies. 2. Children nourished by Wolves and other Beasts. 3. Poison taken without hurt. Poison eaters may infect, how. How Grapes and other Plants may bee poisoned. 4. Of strange Mola's. Bears by licking, form their Cubs, the Plastick faculty still working.
THERE is nothing more strange in mans body, then the generation of stones, whereof there be so many and diversly shaped: in the joints stones are bred by the gout, called therefore Lapidosa Chiragra; stones are bred ordinarily in the kidneys and bladder, of flimsy matter by the heat of these parts; some are ingendred in the Liver and Spleen; some also in the heart. Hollerius speaks (Com. l in lib. 6. Sect. 2. Aphor. 4.) of a woman which died of an imposthume in the heart, wherein were found two stones; in the heart of Maximilian the second Emperour, were found three stones, which afflicted him very much, with a trembling of the heart, as Wyerus witnesses (l. 4. c. 16.) In the intestins also sometimes stones have been found. Zacutus speaks (lib. 3. de prax. ad obs. 124.) of a young man disordered in his diet, who used to void by the seed divers stones, and at last died of a stone that was found in his Colon, in form like a Chesnut, and as big; this could not bee voided whilest the party lived, neither by Glysters nor Purges, nor any other physick: some have thought that these stones in the intestins are hardned by cold, which cannot be; for though intense cold doth harden as well as heat, which we may see in frosts hardning water and dirt, & in the generation of crystal;1 and though we should yeild to Galen, that the intestins being membranous and spermatical parts are colder then the sanguineal, yet we cannot yeild that in a living body, there is actual cold; for all parts are hot, yet some more, some lesse; therefore these stones are not ingendred by cold, but by a preternatural heat in the body. The same Zacutus (Obs. 135. l. 3.) speaks of a strange stone found in a mans bladder; it was round like a Ball, but had issuing from it divers pyramids, and between each of them a sharp prickle like a needle, (l. 1. Obs. 96.) I have read of some who with coughing have voided stones out of their Lungs. One (l. 1 Obs. 95.) by coughing voided a stone out of his Lungs, hard and long like a Date stone, so heavy that it weighed almost twenty one grains: But no stone so much to be admired was ever known, as that which was found in the matrix of a dead mother, of which we spake before, to wit, a dead childe that had continued there twenty eight years, and was turned to a stone.
II. That some children have been nourished by wild beasts, many histories do assure us: Plutarch, Cicero, and others tell us of Romulus and Remus, who were nourished by a shee Wolf.2 Justin assures us, that Cyrus suckt the duggs of a Bitch. Pausanias in his Corinthiacks, writes, that Æsculapius was educated by a Hinde.3 Ælian in his various Histories, speaks of a Bear which gave suck to Atalanta, being exposed; of a Mare that nursed Pelias; of a she-goat whose dugs Ægystus sucked; and of Telephus that sucked a Hinde.4 Divers others I could alledg, but these are sufficient to let us see the cruelty of some parents, and the kindenesse of some beasts far more merciful than man. Besides, the special care and providence of God towards tender and impotent infants: Yet I know Livy contradicts the story of the Wolf, that nursed Romulus, and so doth Dr. Brown, having no other inducement but that of Livies authority,5 whereas the other Historians and Monuments of Rome affirm it. Besides, it is no more incredible for a Wolf to nurse a child, then for a Raven every day to feed Elijah.6 But besides ancient stories, there be divers late Records of some children who have been nourished by Wolvs within these few years in our neighbour Countries. In the Lantgrave of Hesse his Countrey, was found a boy who had been lost by his parents when he was a childe, who was bred among Wolves, and ran up and down with them upon all four for his prey. This boy was at last in Hunting taken and brought to the Landgrave, who much wondring at the sight, caused him to be bred among his servants, who in time left his Wolvish conditions, learned to walk upright like a man, and to speak, who confessed, that the wolved bred him and taught him to hunt for prey with them. This story is reheased by Dreserus in his Book of new and ancient Discipline, Hist. Med. part. 1. c. 75. The like story hath Camerarius of two children, which had been bred among Wolves, and taken in the year 1544. I have read of a man bred among Wolves, and presented to Charls the ninth of France. And a strange story is extant, written by Lewis Guyon, Sieur De la Nauche, (l. 2. Divers. Lection. c. 34.) of a childe that was carried away in the Forest of Ardenne by Wolves, and nourished by them. This child having conversed with them divers years, was at last apprehended, but could neither speak nor walk upright, nor eat any thing except raw flesh, till by a new education among other children, his bestial nature was quite abolished. We see then it is not incredible for children to be nursed by Wolves; of which perhaps the old Irish were not ignorant, when they prayed for Wolves, used them kindly, as if they had been their own sons, as wee may read in Cambden [Hist. Hiber.] out of Goade.
III. That some can take poison without hurt, is plain by the story of Mithridates, who could not be poisoned.7
Profecit poto Mithridates sæpe veneno,
Toxica nè possint sæva nocere sibi.
Ths story is confirmed by Pliny, Gellius, Cælius, and others. There is a story of the King of Cambaia's son, who by constant eating of poison, he had so invenomed his body, that the Flies which suckt his blood swelled and died. Solinus speak of a people called Ophyophagi, because they fed on serpents. Avicenna speaks of one in his time, whose body was so venomous, that whatsoever touched it died. I have read also in Aristotle, of a Maid who was nourished with poison. The like story is mentioned by Avicen. Alb. Magnus speaks of a Maid who delighted to eat Spiders. S. Augustine (de morib. Mon. S. 2. c. 8.) speaks of a woman who drank poison without hurt.8 Many other examples there may be alledged; but these may suffice to let us see, that either by Art or Nature mens constitutions may be fortified against the malignity of poison, as well as other animals which feed upon poison, as Vipers do upon Scorpions, Stares on Hemplock, Ducks on Toads, Quails on Hellebor, Poultry and Monkies on Spiders. Not to speak of miraculous power, by which many Martyrs have been preserved from poison, as was foretold in S. Mark ch. 16. If they drink any deadly poison, it shall not hurt them. Besides, mens complexions according to their ages doe vary, so that what hath been poisonable at one time, is not at another. Thus some that could not abide cheese in their youth, have eaten it in their age: We see also how custome becomes another nature: for hot Climats to Northern men at first, prove pernicious, but afterward by custome become familiar and natural: Therefore Dr. Brown (Book 7. c. 17.) hath no reason to reject that story of the Indian King, that sent unto Alexander a fair woman fed with poison, purposely to destroy him by breath or copulation; because saith he, that poisons after carnal conversion, are so refracted, as not to make good their first and destructive malignity. I answer, They are not so refracted, but that they leave behind them in the flesh, a venomous impression and quality: For if the ordinary food we take, is not so mastered by the stomach, but that by way of reaction (for omne agens naturale in agendo repatitur) it alters the body; much more must poisons, which are more active. Hence hot bodies are cooled by Lettice, Sorrel, and other refrigerating meats; and cool bodies are heated by the frequent use of Spices and Wines, and other heating viands: we see that neither our stomach nor liver, can so master and refract garlick, onions, radishes, and divers other things we feed on, but that the urine will retain the smell thereof. The flesh of the Thrush, that feeds on Juniper berries, retains the relish thereof: The milk of the beast that feeds on Hellebor or Scanimony, will purge the body. If an infectious breath or smell, can destroy another body; why may not the same bee effected by those who are accustomed to eat poison? Galen tells us (l. 11. Simpl.) that by long use the flesh may be infected by aliments. And Capivaccius affirms, that they are in danger to be poisoned, who touch the dead bodies of those who have been poisoned. Therefore Plato reports, l. de veneno in Phedra) that their bodies who were condemned to die by poison, were washed before they drank the poison, not after, lest the Washers might be infected.9 Cardan (Se Subtil. l. 9.) tells us, that though all vipers be poisonable, yet those are more venemous which feed on Toads: And which is more strange, Simon Gennensis assures us, that Grapes will become poisonable, if whilest the Vine is inoculating and graffing, poison be put in it; and the Wine will prove laxative, if Scammony be inserted in the Vine; which also Reynaldus de villa nova, proves may be effected in other plants. Lastly, that which is poison in one Countrey is not poison being transported into another Climat, as it is known of the Peach, which in Persia is venomous, but being transplanted, loseth the deleterious quality.10
IV. Levinus Lemnius tells us, that the Belgick women are much subject to false conceptions, (l. 1 de occultis mir. c. 8.) chiefly that which is called Mola; being as Laurentius writes (Anato. l. 8) a [fleshy infirm lump without motion, begot in the matrix of the woman, of imperfect seed.] These are most subject to those conceptions, who are most addicted to disordered copuluation, not regarding the manner, time, or measure thereof. Nature indeed aiming at the eternity and propagation of the species, begins to elaborate a child; but being hindred by the abundance, weaknesse, and other vitiosities of the seed, and menstruous blood, besides the ill disposition of the matrix, is forced to leave the work imperfect. hence this lump remains inarticulate, and sometimes is cast out the ninth moneth, sometimes sooner, and in some it remains three or four years: in some it is bred without the help of man, only by the strength of imagination, and mixture of the female seed with the blood. But this is denied by Laurentius, who also affirms the Mola to be without motion, which Zacuta contradicts (Prax. Mir. l. 2. Obs. 144. & 140. & 147.) For hee speaks of one which being put into a vessel of water, moved it self like an Hedgehog, and lived two days. It was bigger then a mans head, and so hard, that scarce could a knife cut it. In the midst of it were three eyes, beset round with long black hairs. He speaks of another which being cut, was like an Onion, full of tunicles or membrans within one another. He writes also of a woman who in the space of fifteen days was delivered of 152 small Mola's, or fleshy lumps. Now it is observable, that no creature is subject to this false conception but women, partly because of sin, partly by reason of their humid constitutions, idlenesse, and moist food: yet we read that Bears cast forth their cubs unshapen and unformed, which afterward they form by licking them. Dr. Brown (3. Book c. 5.) placeth this among his Vulgar Errors: I confesse in his Book he shews much reading and learning, yet he might have spared many of those which he calls Errors, and not fasten upon those ancient Sages from whom we have our knowledge, more Errors then they were guilty of. For this and many more which he calls Errors, being brought to the Test, will be found Truths: But he is not guilty of this fault alone; some have shewed the way before him. It is then most certain, that the Bears send forth their young ones deformed and unshaped to the sight, by reason of the thick membran in which they are wrapt, which also is covered over with so mucous and flegmatick matter, which the Dam contracts in the Winter time, lying in hollow caves without motion, that to the eye it looks like an unformed lump. This mucosity is licked away by the Dam, and the membran broken, and so that which before seemed to be informed, appears now in its right shape. This is all that the Ancients meant, as appears by Aristotle (Animal. l. 6. c. 31.) who says, that in some manner, the young Bear is for a while rude, and without shape. Now upon this to infer, that the Ancients meant the young Bears were not at all formed or articulated, till they be licked by their Dams, is ridiculous: For who will say those wise men were so ignorant, as to think the outward action of the tongue could perform that which could not be effected by the plastick and formative power in the matrix? Doubtlesse the Ancients were no lesse curious in searching into the natures of things, then we are at this day; but if I should yeild that the cub is not perfectly articulated or formed, till it be excluded, no Error will arise hence; for the plastick faculty which hath its original from the sperrm, ceaseth not to operate after the generation of the young animal, but continueth working so long as it lives: For what else is nutrition but a continual generation of the lost substance, though not in whole, yet in part, and consequently it introduceth still a new form by changing the aliment into flesh. As the same Mason can build an house, and repair it when decayed: so can the same plastick faculty produce the animal by generation, and repair it by nutrition. I confesse it is not called the Plastick, but Omoiastick, or assimilating faculty in nutrition, yet it is the same still, though under different names: nay, it doth not cease to produce those parts after generation out of the matrix, which it could not doe within it; as may be seen in the production of teeth in children, even in the seventh year of their age, which can be nothing else but the effect of the formative faculty. We see also how new flesh is generated in wounds; not to speak of the nails and hairs which are produced by the same faculty, not being properly parts. Besides, the faculty cannot perish so long as the soul is in the body, being an essential property which cannot be separated from the soul. Moreover, we see in some creatures, that this faculty doth not work at all in the matrix, but without: For the Chick is not formed of the Egg whilest it is within the Hen, but when it is excluded. Hence then it appears,that if the Ancients had held the young Bears to bee ejected without form, which afterward they received by the Plastick faculty, had been no Error: and though some young Bears have been found perfectly formed in the womb of the Dam, it is a question whether all be formed and shaped so.
1. A glancing blow at one of Browne's vulgar errors: see Pseudodoxia Epidemica, Book II, Chapter 1.
2. Plutarch Rom. 2.6, Cicero
3. Pausanias, with great dubiety, records as one of three unlikely stories that Aesculapius was nursed (briefly) by a goat; 2.26.4-5:
When [Phlegyas, "the greatest soldier of his time"] went to the Peloponnesus, he was accompanied by his daughter, who all along had kept hidden from her father that she was with child by Apollo. In the country of the Epidaurians she bore a son, and exposed him on the mountain called Nipple at the present day, but then named Myrtium. As the child lay exposed he was given milk by one of the goats that pastured about the mountain, and was guarded by the watch-dog of the herd. And when Aresthanas (for this was the herdsman's name) discovered that the tale of the goats was not full, and that the watch-dog also was absent from the herd, he left, they say, no stone unturned, and on finding the child desired to take him up. As he drew near he saw lightning that flashed from the child, and, thinking that it was something divine, as in fact it was, he turned away. Presently it was reported over every land and sea that Asclepius was discovering everything he wished to heal the sick, and that he was raising dead men to life.
4. Aelian on animals: Var. Hist. XII:xlii (Paris, not Atalanta).
5. Pseudodoxia Book III, Chapter 8. Livy reports the story without comment, merely adding the comments of "some" who believe that the Vestal Nonvirgin who was the mother was called "Wolf" because of her unchaste ways. Ab urbe condita 1.4.
6. 1 Kings 17:4-6, while he dwelt near the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. They brought him bread and flesh, both morning and evening, and he drank of the brook. It is not revealed where they got the bread.
7. Martial V.76.
8. Augustine de morib. Man. c. 12. By taking it in increasing doses at intervals, she accustomed herself to the poison prescribed for condemned criminals.
9. He does not: Phaedo 115a, where Socrates says that he will bathe himself to save the women the trouble of bathing his corpse after he is dead.
10. The story of the poisonous peaches is recounted (and flatly denied) by Pliny, XV(45) (Book XV). The origins are in Nicander and the like; see also the note in Pliny. It is always possible that it is based on some other fruit, say the cashew.
This page is by James Eason.