Boo the Cat. 1987-2002.
Alexander Ross (1652) Arcana Microcosmi, Book II, Chapter 9, pp. 144-150.
1. Lions afraid of Cocks: Antipathies cause fear and horror in divers animals. 2. Spiders kill toads; the diversities of Spiders. 3. The Cocks Egge and Basilisk: Divers sorts of Basilisks. 4. Amphisbæna proved, and the contrary objections answered. 5. The Vipers generation by the death of the mother proved, and objections to the contrary refuted.
THat the Lion is afraid of the Cock, is doubted by the Doctor, (book 3. c. 24.1) because Camerarius speaks of one lion that leapt down into a yard where were Cocks and Hens, which he ate up. But the same Camerarius (Medit. part. 1 c. 12.) in the same alledged place, sheweth, that this fear of the Lion is justified both by experience, and many eye-witnesses. And surely this is no more improbable then for a Lion to be afraid at the sight of a fire, or an Elephant to be afraid at the sight of a Hog; which the Romans knew, when they drove an Herd of Swine among the Enemies elephants, by which means they got the Victory of Pyrrhus. 2 So much afraid is the Elephant of an Hog, that if he hear him gruntle, he will run away. And who would think that a Monky should be afraid and shake at the sight of a Snail, that Erasmus (in amicitia) tels us, he saw one which at the sight of a Snail was so affrighted, that he fell to vomiting so, as the owner could scarce keep him alive. Who can give a reason, why the scratching upon brasse, or other hard metals, should distemper the teeth; and in some men force urine? Why are some men whom I know, affrighted at the sight of a Toad; nay, of a Frog? There is among Horses in the same stable, among oxen in the same stall, among children in the same school, an antipathy: It is no wonder then, that so magnanimous a creature as the Lion should be afraid at the sight of a Cock, when the couragious horse startles at the sight of a block; and the Elephant will not touch the straw which the mouse hath touched. Now for that Lion which killed the Cock and his Hens, I deny not but it may be true; yet hence we cannot conclude that the Lion is not afraid of the Cock: For a speciall antipathy may by accident faile in some individuals. A particular exception must not overthrow an universall Rule or Maxime. Sheep are generally afraid of Dogs, yet I have seen a Sheep beat a Dog. Men generally hate Serpents, yet some will keep them in their bosomes; yea, eat them: And it may be that this Lion was mad, and so the phantasie distempered: for they are subject to be mad because of their heat; or else he was a hungred, and hunger we know makes even men transgresse the common lawes of Nature, and eat those things which otherwise they hate.
II. That Spiders will kill toads, is recorded in Story; yet the Doctor (3. Book c. 26.3) in his Glasse found that the Toad swallowed down the Spiders, which he included. This may be true, and the other untrue: For all Spiders are not venemous; and those that are, have their degrees of venome, and so wee may say of Toads. That Spiders have a more active poyson then the Toad, is confessed by those who write of these insects: For I read both in Ancient and Modern Writers, that Spiders have poysoned Toads with their touch; but never that any Toad poysoned a Spider: for the Doctors Toad did not poyson but swallow the Spiders, being impatient of hunger, which it cannot endure so long as the Spider; some whereof I have kept nine moneths without food in a glasse, and then they were as nimble at the end of this time, as when I put them first in. Now that some of our Spiders are venemous, I have observed; for by chance one of my acquaintance bruised a Spider which had lighted on his face when he was in bed, and presentl found the place blistred and grew scabbed. I have likewise found, that the small bodied Spiders with long legs (which as I think some call Spinners) are more venemous then the big ones: for I inclosed in a glasse some great black bodied Spiders with short legs, with some of the small bodied long shanks, which fell upon the big bodied Spiders and killed them. Such is the venome of some spiders that they will crack a Venice glass, as I have seen; and Scaliger doth witness the same, however the Doctor denies.4
III. That the Basilisk, should proceed from a cock's egg, is a conceit as monstrous as the brood it self, saith the Doctor; and yet presently after he grants, there may ensue some imperfect or monstrous production.5 That cocks growing old and decrepid, lay eggs, or something like eggs, on which they sit, as hens do , is not to be denied: for many will witness this, among the rest, Lev. Lemnius tels us (de mirac. l. 5. c. 12.) of two old cocks, which in the City of Ciricæa, could be scarce driven away from incubation on their eggs, till they were beaten off by staves: And because the Townesmen had conceived a perswasion that of this egg the Basilisk might proceed, they caused the cocks to be strangled, and the eggs to be bruised. It is granted then that cocks lay eggs, or some seminall matter which they exclude and sit upon. 2. that of these eggs ensue strange productions. 3. This may be without a commixture of the seed of both sexes, (though the Doctor denieth it) for we see what strange shapes of Insects are produced of putrifaction even in mans body without any seed. 4. It is granted also that there have been and are Basilisks, though the descriptions of them do in some circumstances differ: For there may be divers sorts of them; those which Lemnius describes, seen sometimes in Germany, have acuminated heads, and somewhat yellow, three palmes long, having a belly with white spots, a blew back, a crooked tail, and a wide gaping mouth. This description differs but little from that of Albertus Magnus (de anim. 25.) Scaliger speaks of one that was seen in Rome; and Lemnius tels us that Germany is not free from them; but that they are not so venemous as those of Africa. Now whether this Serpent is begot of the cocks age, is the question; we have tradition and witnesses for it, besides probability: for why may not this serpent be ingendred of a cocks putrified seminal materials, being animated by this heat and incubation, as well as other kinds of Serpents are bred of putrified matter.
IV. The Doctors reasons against the two-headed Amphisbæna, are not satisfactory.6 1. (saith he) The principal parts, the Liver, Heart, and especially the brain, regularly they are but one in any kinde whatsoever. Answ. This is not so: For God to shew his wisdome and greatness, hath made variety of shapes among the creatures; some fishes and Insects have no heads at all, some but one, the Amphisbæna two, as Nicander, Galen, Ælian, Pliny, and others witness. I have read of birds in Paphlagonia with two hearts, of the Serpent Chersydros that hath two tongues, of a worm in Taprobona with four heads. I say nothing of the Hydra, because doubtfull: why then may not the Amphisbæna have two heads? 2. He saith, That it was ill contrived to place one head at both extreams; for it will follow that there is no posterior or lower part in this animal. Answ. This will not follow; for though the head be at both extreams, yet they do not both at the same time perform the office of the head; but when the one moveth, the other suffers it self to be moved, and is in stead of the tail; so that head which moveth Eastward, draweth the other after it; the former then is anterior, the other posterior; and this when it moves Westward, draws the other: and so what before was posterior, becomes now anterior. This was so ordained by nature for the more conveniency of this creature, which cannot turn it self about so nimbly as other serpents. And of this minde is Ælian (de anim.) 3. He saith, That if this animal have two heads, it is not be to be called one, but two, because Aristotle saith, that animal is not one but two, which hath two hearts: and therefore geminous births are christnd with two names, as having distinct souls. Answ. There may be some reason why two hearts should give demonstration to two animals: because the heart is the originall of life, and all vital actions, which need but one fountain and original: but the reason is not alike in the Amphisbæna's two heads: for though it hath but one life, and consequently but one heart, yet it hath two several motions backward and forward: and therefore needed two principles or prime movers by reason it cannot turn so readily it self about as other animals, which though they have but one head, yet have divers instruments of motion subservient to that thead, which are defective in the Amphisbæna: and yet the head is not the originall of all motions in our own bodies: for the hearts motion of Systole and Diastole depends not upon it. Besides, the Doctor denies not but there are bicipitous serpents, and yet are not called two from their two heads: Why then should the Amphisbæna be denied this priviledge? but he saith, those other are monstrous productions, and besides the intention of Nature. He saith, but he proves it not: I acknowledge no monsters in Insects, especially in such as are begot of the Suns heat and putrifaction: nor is there any shape in them besides the intention. For if by nature he means the matter, it is not besides intention to receive any form: if he understand the suns influence, or formative power, or God himselfe, it is not against their intention to produce all kind of shapes for the ornament of the world. But if these bicipitous productions were against their intentions, yet this will not serve his turn, because such a production is but one, although it hath two heads. Lastly, geminous births receive two names in Baptisme, not because they have two heads, but because they have two distinct souls, and individuall properties flowing thence; so that they are indeed two individuals, though their body be but one from the Navell downward, as that Monster was of which Buchanan speaks. Now the Amphisbæna having but one sensitive soule, cannot be called two notwithstanding its two heads. 4. Many animals (saith he) with one head perform contrary motions. Answ. It will not follow that therefore the Amphisbæna hath but one head, or that these one-headed animals can as easily perform contrary motions with one head, as that which hath two. Neither are these contrary motions performed immediatly by one head, but by inferior organs which are not in this animall. Besides, I observe that in many worms there is as much life and activity in the taile as in the head; and therefore may be said to have two heads effectively, if not formally. For in Damask-Rose leaves which I kept by me, not being throughly dried, worms were procreated, whose heads when I cut off, their bodies were moved by their tails, as if those had been other heads.
V. Concerning the Viper, which all Antiquity affirms, produceth her young ones to her own destruction; we finde some Neotericks doubt, nay deny this truth. Doctor Brown reasoneth against this production.,7 1. It's injurious to Natures providence to ordain a way of production which should destroy the producer. Ans. Natures providence is no more injured in the corruption then in the generation of the Creatures: seeing the corruption of one is the generation of another; and not onely in Vipers, but in Silk-worms also, and divers other creatures, in production the producer is destroyed. And this also we may observe in men and women oftentimes: Nature is wiser in her productions then we are in our conceits and imaginations. 2. It overthrowes (saith he) Gods benediction, Be fruitfull and multiply. Answ. Gods benediction of multiplication was not pronounced to the beasts and creeping things, but the birds and fishes.8 2. It's a question whether Vipers and some other poysonous creatures were created before the fall. 3. The viper multiplieth fast enough when at one birth she bringeth forth twenty young ones, as Aristotle and others affirm; there is then no cause to complain, when twenty are produced by the losse of one; neither is it a greater curse in the Viper to die, then in all other living creatures; for all are mortall in their individuals, though immortal in their species. 4. If the viper had been created before the Fall, yet this punishment was not inflicted on her till after: for all creatures doe fare the worse by reason of Adams sin, who hath made them all subject to vanity, Rom. 8.9 3. To bring forth in sorrow, (saith he) is proper to the woman, therefore not to be translated on the Viper. Answ. I deny that painfull births are proper to the woman: for all animals have some pain more or lesse in their productions. I have seen a Hen, when with the pain of excluding her Egge, fell down gasping for breath, as if the pangs of death had bin on her, and so she continued till the Egge was excluded. Many Bitches and other females have died with pain at the time of their littering. Painfull productions then is a punishment of the woman, and yet no translation to the Viper; for her pain is not thereby eased, because the Viper in such a case is killed: nor are all women alike tortured, some are lesse pained then many other creatures. 4. This overthrowes (saith he) Natures parentall provision: for the Dam being destroyed, the younglings are left to their own protection. Answ. No, they are left to the protection of him who is by David called the Saviour both of man and beast:10 and by the same is said to feed the young Ravens when they call upon him.11 And God in Job, long before David, sheweth, That he fills the appetite of the young Lions, and provideth food for the young Ravens when they cry unto God. 12 For the Naturalists tell us, the old Ravens quite forsake their young ones; but God feeds them with Flies and Wormes he sends into their nests. The like improvidence and cruelty we find in Ostridges, who exclude their Eggs in the sand, and so leave them without further care, to his providence, in whom all things live, and move, and have their being: Therefore God complains in Job, (Chap. 39. 14, 15, 16.) of the Ostridges astorgie and cruelty, in leaving her Eggs in the earth, forgetting that the foot may crush them, or that the wild beast may break them: shee is hardned (saith he) against her young ones, as though they were none of hers.13 The Cuckow also wanteth parentall provision: for she layeth her Egge in another birds nest, and so leaves it to the mercy of a stranger. And no less cruelty is there in this young nursling, then in the viper: for he both destroyeth his Foster-brothers, and the mother that brought forth and fed him. I read also in Ælian of Scorpions begot sometimes in Crocodiles Egges, which sting to death the Dam that gave them life. The young Scorpions doe use to devour the old. I have also read of women who have brought forth monsters to the destruction both of the mother and of the child in her womb: therefore what the Ancients have written of the vipers cruelty, is not a matter so incredible as the Doctor makes it As for the experiments of some Neotericks who have observed the young vipers excluded without hurt to the parent; I answer, 1. There is great odds between the Vipers of Africk or other hot Countries, and those in cold Climats; and so there is in poysonable herbs and Serpents, which lose their venome upon transplantation: in cold Countries the most fierce, cruell, and poysonable animals lose these hurtfull qualities. 2. The works of Nature in sublunary things, are not universaly the same; but, as the [Philosopher saith], wV opi to polu, for the most part there is no Rule so generall, but hath some exceptions; ordinarily the child comes out with the head forward, yet sometimes otherwise; ordinarily the child is born at the end of the ninth moneth, yet sometimes sooner, sometimes later: Therefore though ordinarily the young Vipers burst the belly of the Dam, yet sometimes they may be excluded without that rupture. 3. Education and food doe much alter the nature of creatures; these vipers mentioned by Scaliger and others, which excluded their young ones, or viperels by the passage of generation, were kept in bran within boxes, or glasses, and fed with milk, bran, and cheese, which is not the food of those wild vipers in hot Countries. It is no wonder then if the younglings staied out their time in the womb, being well fed, and tame by the coldnesse of the climat. 4. All the Ancients doe not write that the vipers burst the belly, but only the membrans and matrix of the Dam, which oftentimes causes the losse of her life; and they wanted not reason, besides experience, for this assertion, to wit, the fiercenesse of their nature, the heat of the countrey, and the numerousnesse of their young ones, being twenty at a time; besides the goodnesse of God, who by this means doth not suffer so dangerous a creature to multiply too fast; for which cause also he pinches them so in the Winter, that they lie hid and benumbed within the earth; besides, he will let us see his justice, in suffering the murther of the Sire to be revenged by his young ones upon the Dam. As for the Doctors exception against Nicanders word apokoptein, it is not material; for it is a Poeticall expression, and what is it to the purpose, whether the head be bit, or cut off, if so be the bite be mortall?14
1. In the 1672 edition, III.27.7 . It is a measure of Ross's perversity that he should choose to defend this particular error.
2. I have not found this in any reputable source. It is certainly possible to spook elephants (or men, for that matter) by unleashing a herd of animals, swine or geese or cats, among them. The story is silly on its face, however, and it is difficult to imagine how the Romans got the pigs to fan out among the elephants. (When Pyrrhus brought his elephants, the Romans were unfamiliar with the beast, although they had heard of it. It was this unfamiliarity that was the chief advantage of the elephants; both the men and their horses were terrified of the huge beasts. So that it is also unclear how they would have stumbled upon the idea of releasing swine among the elephants, even if Ross's theory were true.)
3. 1672, III.27.6.
4. As he does, of poison generally, in VII.27.
5. Pseudodoxia Epidemica III.7. The possible "monstrous productions" are of an order quite different from basilisks: rather, tumors, growths, stones, and the like. (Ross is reaching new heights of silliness and misreading in this chapter, God bless his recalcitrant soul.)
6. Pseudodoxia III.15.
7. Pseudodoxia III.16.
8. In Genesis 1:22; the other creatures had not yet been created. In 1:28 he likewise advises man. However, in Gen. 8:17, after the flood, God speaks to Noah, specifically including the creeping things among those that should be fruitful and multiply (this also negates Ross's point 2, as the injunction is post-fall):
Bring forth with thee every living thing that is with thee, of all flesh, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth.
9. Romans 8:20. This is a very strange interpretation of this passage. The numbering of the points in this paragraph follows the 1652 edition; that is, there are two each of points 3. and 4.
10. Ps. 36:6, "thou preservest man and beast".
11. Ps. 147:9, and also giveth the beast his food.
12. Job 38:39, 41. God doesn't exactly say that he does these things (after all, look what happened to Job); he merely points out, in grand rhetorical fashion, that Job most assuredly does not do these things.
13. "Because God hath deprived her of wisdom, neither hath he imparted to her understanding", as Ross is careful not to say.
14. Browne doubts that the dam bites off the head of the sire, saying that there are but two considerable teeth. Ross seems to suggest that she uses a scissors, or perhaps a knife, but (wisely) he rushes through this potentially interesting and entertaining argument.
This page is by James Eason