Boo the Cat Boo the Cat. 1987-2002.


Alexander Ross (1652) Arcana Microcosmi, Book II, Chapter 5, pp. 117-124


1. Divers priviledges of Eunuchs: The Fibers Testicles. 2. Diversities of Aliments and Medicaments, the vertues of Peaches, Mandrakes, the nature of our aliments. 3. A strange story of a sick Maid discussed, and of strange vomitings. 4. Men long lived; the Deers long life asserted. 5. That old men may become young again, proved.

THE Testicles were made for propagation of the Species, not for conservation of the Individuum; for Eunuchs, or such as are emasculate, have divers priviledges which others want: First, they are longer lived, because they have more radical moisture, which is not wasted by Venery: Secondly, they have taller bodies for the same reason: Thirdly, they are not troubled with so much hair, because they have not much siccity; and consequently not so much heat, which begets siccity. Fourthly, they are not subject to baldnesse, because their brain is not dried with Venery as others. Fifthly, they are not afflicted with the Gout, which is the daughter of Venus, who begets crude humours, weaknesse of joints, and of them the Gout: But Capons are more gouty then Cocks, because they have lesse heat, and are more voracious, saith Scaliger. Sixthly, they are fitter for spiritual exercises; therefore some, saith Christ, have made themselves Eunuchs for the kingdom of Heaven; which words were mis-construed by Origen, such as emasculated themselves, against whom are both the Canon and Civil Laws. Seventhly, they are fitter to be Councellors and Chamberlains to Princes; for they are wise, therefore Eunuchs is as much as ou noun ecein, as Scaliger hath it, eunen ecein; because they had care of the Princes bed-chamber. Eightly, the flesh of castrated animals is more delicate, because there is in them more benigne juice, neither is their flesh infected with the ungrateful and rankish relish of the Testicles. Ninthly, but the greatest priviledge of all is, that they are not infected with the venemous vapours of that cave near Alepo or Hierapolis, which as Dio sheweth in the place of Trajan, poisons all creatures except Eunuchs1 Scaliger gives no reason of this, nor can I, but that it is a secret in nature, or else because the Eunuchs bodies have very few bad humours, are the lesse apt to be infected with ill vapours. Tenthly, that as among men, so among beasts, there be some which castrate themselvs; such is the Fiber, called Castor à castrando, and the Pontick Dog, for there be store of them, who makes himself an Eunuch, saith Juvenal.

Dr. Brown, (sect. 12.)2 checks the Ancients for this opinion, but without cause; for all agree, that they bite off the two bags, or bladders, which hang from the groin in the same place where the Testicles of most animals are. If these bee the true Testicles or not, is doubted, because there is no passage from them to the yard, and that the true Testicles are less, and lie inwards towards the back. However, this can bee no Error, because they are a kinde of Testicles, both in form and situation, and so they are called Testicles by Dioscorides, and the best Physitians: if then this be an error, it is nominal, not real.

II. As our bodies are still decaying, and subject to many infirmities, so God hath provided for us all sorts of remedies, partly, by aliments, partly, by medicaments, some whereof are hot, some cold, some moist, some dry, some restringent, some laxative, some diuretick, some hypnotick, some spermatick, some, increasing or diminishing the foure humours of our bodies, blood, choler, flegme, and melancholy.

Now those aliments are called Spermatick, which either increase blood, for of this Sperm is begot, or which convey the Spermatick matter to the Seminal vessels; or which adde vigour to the languishing Seminall Spirits; such as sharp biting, salt, aromatick and flatulent meats: or lastly, such as cause fecundity, by bringing the matrix and Seminal parts to a temperature by their contrary quality: So cooling things correct the heat, and hot things the coldnesse of those parts: among such the Mandrakes are to be reckoned, called by Plutarch, Anthropomorphoi,3 and Semihomines by Columella,4 because the forked root represents the lower parts of man, the upper parts are commonly carved out by circumforanean Medacasters. These Mandrakes are of a narcotick quality, therefore a dull, heavy, or melancholick man of old was said proverbially to have eaten Mandrakes: These procure fecundity by correcting the hot matrix with their frigidity.

Now if we say, that Rachel finding her barrennesse to proceed from excessive heat, did covet these Mandrakes to cool her, and make her fruitful, this can neither be thought immodesty in her, nor an error in us to think so, seeing the best and most Interpreters are of this opinion, and the Text seems to intimate so much.

Dr. Browns reasons are not sufficient to prove this a vulgar error, (Book 7. c. 7.) For, 1. Though our Mandrakes have not so pleasant a smell as those of Judea, it will not follow they are not the same; for plants according to the climat alter their qualities; and yet Lemnius saith, they have a pleasant smell in Belgium. 2. Nor will it follow, that Dudaim is not Mandrakes, [because it is by the Chaldee Paraphrast interpreted in the Canticles, Balsam] for all Interpreters upon Genesis, expound the word Mandrakes. Nor 3. Is that sequel good [the Mandrakes did not make Rachel fruitful in three years after, therefore they did her no good at all in the way of fecundity] for the best Physick doth not produce the wished effect always in a short space; sometimes the contumacy of the disease, sometimes the mis application,5 sometimes the disusing of the remedy, somtimes bad diet, besides other things, may hinder the operation. Nor 4. Is this consequence valid [Many Simples in Scripture are differently interpreted, Ergo, the word Dudaim may not signifie Mandrakes.] I answer, they may signifie as wel as they may not; nay, they do signifie Mandrakes, as both the Hebrew, Greek, Latine, Italian, Spanish, French, English, and other Texts have it, besides the general consent of Expositors upon that place, except the Genevans, who would seem to be singular in this, and therefore will have the word Dudaim to signifie any lovely or delightful fruit; but then it may signifie Mandrakes, which are every way lovely both in smell and colour; and lovely they are in that they procure love; for they have been used for Philters: And what a weak reason is this, Dudaim signifieth any pleasant fruit, therefore it is a doubt, whether it signifieth Mandrakes? As if wee should say, Pomum signifies any kind of fruits, therefore it may be doubted, whether it signifieth an Apple. To be brief, I would know, whether it be a greater error in me to affirm that which is doubted by some, or in him to deny that which is affirmed by all.

But to return to our aliments, there are in them two things strange; first, that they are opposite to our natures, both privately, in that they have not our form; and positively, in that they have a contrary form; as we see in marrow, which is the aliment of the bones, the one being soft and moist, the other hard and dry; and if it were not so, there could be no action: But this is to be understood before assimilation; for afterward the same becomes both our aliment in repairing what is lost, and a part of our bodies in assuming the form of our substance, which is not lesse strange then the other.

III. Zacuta (de Prax. mir., l. 3. Obs. 139.) reports a strange story of a maid which fell into convulsion fits, upon the pricking of her Image by Witches, and their whispering of some magick words to it; the Physitians were sent for; they supposing these fits to proceed from some malignant vapour or humour in the Matrix, gave her physick, which made her worse then before; hereupon they left her, concluding that she was bewitched. Afterward she fell to vomiting of black stuffe mingled with hairs, thorns, and pins, and a lump like an egge, which being cut, was full of Emmets, which stank horribly: at last, she vomited out a black hairy creature, as big as ones fist, with a long tail, and in shape like a Rat, which ran up and down the room a while, and then died. Upon this a Wizard is called, who by whispering some words in the maids ear, and by shaving of her head, on which she put a piece of white paper, having these two letters written on it, T.M. did withal lay on her head an Asses hoof half burned, and so the Maid recovered.

I observe here, 1. That there might be much juggling in this business; for there is no relation or sympathy in nature between a man and his effigies, that upon the pricking of the one, the other should grow sick, no more then there is between the sword and the wound, that the dressing of the one should be the curing of the other. This is a fancy without ground, and yet believed by som whose faith is too prodigall. I think rather that after the Maid fell sick, these Jugglers made her Image, and then pricked it, so that the wounding of the Image did not make the maid sick, but her sicknesse made both the Image and the wounds therein.

2. This vomiting also might be an illusion; for I have seen in Holland the like forgery: It was given out that a maid in Leyden did vomit buttons, pins, hairs, peblestones, and such stuffe; and I went and saw the materials; but it was found out that the parents had first made her swallow these things in meat, and then presently forced her to vomit all up again.

3. These convulsions and vomited stuffe might be meerly natural, without any Witchcraft; for we have seen what strange sorts of vermin are bred in mans body, and voided by purging vomiting, and boils; what unshapen and monstrous creatures have been produced by some women.

Parry tells us (l. 25. de monstris) of a Monster with an horn on his head, two wings, a childes face, one foot onely like a birds leg, with one eye on the knee, born at Ravenna 1512. Lemnius speaks of a woman that was his patient, (l. 1. de mir. c. 8.) who first was delivered of an unshapen masse of flesh, having on both sides two hands like a childs arms; and shortly after there fell from her a Monster with a crooked snout, a long neck, fiery eyes, a sharp tail, and mans feet, which ran up and down the room, making an horrible schrieching till it was killed by the women.

I could speak of that German childe, in whose head grew a golden tooth, and of many other strange effects of nature; but these may suffice to let us see all is not Witchcraft which is so called.6

4. This imaginary cure of the Wizard was effectted after the humours were spent, and the malignity of this disease gone; at that time a piece of paper, or a straw, may doe more then all the sons of Æsculapius; but had the Wizard used this spell in the beginning of the disease, it had done the maid no good at all: when nature hath mastered a disease, that which is last applied, be it but a chip, carrieth away the honour of the remedy.

5. The maids imagination might be a great help towards her recovery, the force whereof is powerful both for curing and procuring of diseases. Montague in his Essays (l. 1. ca. 23.)7 tells us of one with whom the Clyster pipe applied to the fundament, would work as well as if he had taken the Clyster it self: And he speaks of a woman, who imagining she had swallowed a pin, as she was eating a piece of bread, cried out of a great pain in her throat, and a pricking, when there was no such thing but her own imagination, nor could shee have any rest, till she had vomited up all in her stomach; then searching the bason, she found a pin, which the Physitian had conveyed thither; and so the same conceit that brought the pin, removed it.

IV. In some Regions men live longer then in others, because the aire is more temperate, the influence of the stars more benigne, and the food wholsomer, by which the radical moisture and natural heat are longer preserved. In the Torrid and Frigid zones men are short lived, because the natural heat of the body is drawn out by the ambient heat of the one, and extinguished by the cold of the other: but this is where the heat and cold are in the excesse.

So likewise in the same Region we finde some men longer lived then others, because they abound more in radical moisture and natural heat then others; besides, temperance in diet, exercise and passions are great helps for prolonging of life.

In Orkney, Shetland, Norway, and other Septentrional places, men live till they be six or sevenscore years of age. And Lerius (in Navigat. Brasil) shews, that in Brasil, which is a hot countrey, some doe attain six score years without gray hairs. Pliny l. 7. c. 49 speaks of divers in Vespasians time in Italy, of 120, 130, 140, 150 years old:8 and it stands with reason, that man should not be shorter lived then other animals, being of a more excellent temper then they, having also dominion over them, and being made for a more excellent end, to wit, contemplation, wisdome, knowledge, for the finding out of Arts, and Sciences: Therefore God permitted the Patriarchs before the Flood to live so long as they did.

Now we finde, that divers beasts lived beyond an hundred years; Ælian, Pliny, and others affirm, that Elephants live two hundred years: Deer exceed an hundred years, as Pliny shews by those Staggs that were found with Brasse collars about their necks, which Alexander had put on an hundred years before.9

This story is rejected by Dr. Brown, (Book 3. ca. 9.) upon weak grounds: 1. [Because Deer attain to their full growth at six years, therefore their state and declination which ought to be proprotionable to the growth, cannot be of long continuance. 2. Their immoderate salacity in the Moneth of September. and 3. Their losse of teeth between twenty and thirty, which is an infalible mark of old age.]

Thesea are feeble reasons to deny an ancient story, or matter of fact: For, 1. Nature doth not observe that imaginary proportion between the growth and decay of things; for some tame birds which attain their full growth in three or four months, have lived twenty years after: and men, who have their full growth at 25 years, have lived two or three hundred years. 2. Salacity for one moneth in the year, cannot argue a short life, as it doth in Sparrows, who are salacious every houre; nay, almost every minute: For Scaliger observed a Cock-Sparrow tread the Hen ten times in a few minutes. 3. Nor is the losse of teeth an argument of short life; for many after this losse have lived 60 or 70 years. And it is observed by Scaliger, that the drinking of cold water, which is an enemy to the nerves, causeth the falling away of the teeth: therefore I will content my self with the report of Pliny concerning the Deers age, till I have better reasons then these.

V. It may be questioned, whether old men may becom young again; and I am of opinion they may: not that the years past can be revoked, or that which is done, undone, for Evanders prayer in the Poet was in vain:10

O mihih præteritos referat si Jupiter annos.

But that the decayed nature may be so renewed and repaired, as an old man may perform the functions of a young man, and may say with Tully,11 Nihil habeo quod accusem senectutem meam. This the Poets expresse under the fiction of Bacchus his Nurses, and old Æson made young again by Medea.12 It stands also with reason: For,

1. Serpents by casting off their old skins, renew their youth and vigour; and Stags do the like by eating Serpents, Languescunt in juventutem, Tertul. de Pallio.13 Why then may not man be renewed?

2. Every fit of sicknesse is like old age: men in a long Ague differ nothing from the most decrepid and aged persons that are: But being recovered, they obtain a youthful vigour and agility.

3. The radical moisture when it is much decayed, either by famine or sicknesse, may be again repaired, and consequently the youthful vigour of the body.

4. David saith, (Psalm 103. 5.) that his youth is renewed like the Eagles. Now the Eagles, as Saint Austin observes on that place, when with age the upper bill is so over-grown, that they cannot feed, they use by beating their Bill against a rock, to break off the excrescence, and so by feeding to recover their strength and youth again.

5. For this end God created the Tree of Life in Paradise, that when mans radical moisture fails, it might be repaired again, and his youth be renewed by eating thereof.

6. Divers examples we have of this renovation. Del Rio (de Mag. l. 2.) sheweth out of Torquenda, that in the yeare 1511, was an old man at Tarentum of an hundred years old, who having lost his strength, hairs, nails, and colour of his skin, recovered all again, and became so young and lusty, that he lived fifty years after: Another example he brings of a Castilian, who suffered the same change; and of an old Abatesse in Valentia, who being decrepid, suddenly became yong, her monethly courses returned, her rugged skin grew smooth, her gray hairs became black, and new teeth in her head.

Massæus in his Indian History, (lib. 1.) speaks of a certain Indian Prince, who lived 340 years, in which space his youth was three times renewed. Besides Cardan, Langius in his Epistles (Epist. med. 79.) speaks of a Well in an Island called Bonica, the waters of which being drunk, makes old men become young.

Ambrose Parry, (l. 24, 17.) speaks of a woman who being 80 years old, lost her hair and teeth, which grew again. I have read of divers women whose intermitted courses have flowed when they were 70, 80, 90, 100 years old.



1. Dio Cass. 68.27.2-3

2. Pseudodoxia Epidemica, Book III, Chapter IV, Of the Bever.

3. I have been unable to locate this; please help.

4. Columella, de re rustica, 10, l. 19 of the poem.

5. Thus in the text, but the final ess of "mis" is a long one, so this is probably intended to be one word.

6. Another glancing blow at Browne, who mentions this story as an imposture, Book IV, Chapter 6.

7. Sc. Montaigne, and the wrong "ca" as well; Essays I.20, "On the Force of the Imagination", or, in Froggish (the 1695 edition), Essais [Livre 1 chap.20]:

Et tout ce caprice m'est tombé presentement en main, sur le conte que me faisoit un domestique apotiquaire de feu mon pere, homme simple et Souysse, nation peu vaine et mensongiere : d'avoir cogneu long temps un marchand à Toulouse maladif et subject à la pierre, qui avoit souvent besoing de clysteres, et se les faisoit diversement ordonner aux medecins, selon l'occurrence de son mal : apportez qu'ils estoyent, il n'y avoit rien obmis des formes accoustumées : souvent il tastoit s'ils estoyent trop chauds : le voyla couché, renversé, et toutes les approches faictes, sauf qu'il ne s'y faisoit aucune injection. L'apotiquaire retiré apres cette ceremonie, le patient accommodé, comme s'il avoit veritablement pris le clystere, il en sentoit pareil effect à ceux qui les prennent. Et si le medecin n'en trouvoit l'operation suffisante, il luy en redonnoit deux ou trois autres, de mesme forme. Mon tesmoin jure, que pour espargner la despence (car il les payoit, comme s'il les eut receus) la femme de ce malade ayant quelquefois essayé d'y faire seulement mettre de l'eau tiede, l'effect en descouvrit la fourbe ; et pour avoir trouvé ceux-la inutiles, qu'il faulsit revenir à la premiere façon.

Une femme pensant avoir avalé une espingle avec son pain, crioit et se tourmentoit comme ayant une douleur insupportable au gosier, où elle pensoit la sentir arrestée : mais par ce qu'il n'y avoit ny enfleure ny alteration par le dehors, un habil'homme ayant jugé que ce n'estoit que fantasie et opinion, prise de quelque morceau de pain qui l'avoit picquée en passant, la fit vomir, et jetta à la desrobée dans ce qu'elle rendit, une espingle tortue. Cette femme cuidant l'avoir rendue, se sentit soudain deschargée de sa douleur. Je sçay qu'un gentil'homme ayant traicté chez luy une bonne compagnie, se vanta trois ou quatre jours apres par maniere de jeu (car il n'en estoit rien) de leur avoir faict manger un chat en paste : dequoy une damoyselle de la troupe print telle horreur, qu'en estant tombée en un grand dévoyement d'estomac et fievre, il fut impossible de la sauver. Les bestes mesmes se voyent comme nous, subjectes à la force de l'imagination : tesmoings les chiens, qui se laissent mourir de dueil de la perte de leurs maistres : nous les voyons aussi japper et tremousser en songe, hannir les chevaux et se debatre.

8. One hundred to one hundred forty; not one hundred fifty or above; and not all in "Vespasians time".

9. Pliny, HN VIII.119; Browne deals with this question by saying it was a mistake or an imposture. The collars were of gold, not brass.

10. Virgil: Aeneid VIII, 560.

11. Cic. de senectute V. 13.


13. de Pallio, cap. III. ("languescit")

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