FASCINATION, saith Henry Cornelius Agrippa, in the fiftieth chapter of his first book on Occult Philosophy, “is a binding which comes of the spirit of the witch through the eyes of him that is bewitched, entering to his heart; for the eye being opened and intent upon any one, with a strong imagination doth dart its beams, which are the vehiculum of the spirit, into the eyes of him that is opposite to her; which tender spirit strikes his eyes, stirs up and wounds his heart, and infects his spirit. Whence Apuleius saith, ‘Thy eyes, sliding down through my eyes into my inmost heart, stirreth up a most vehement burning.’ And when eyes are reciprocally intent upon each other, and when rays are joined to rays, and lights to lights, then the spirit of the one is joined to that of the other; so are strong ligations made and vehement loves inflamed.” Taking this definition of witchcraft, we sadly fear it is still practised to a very great extent among us. The best we can say of it is, that the business seems latterly to have fallen into younger hands; its victims do not appear to regard themselves as especial objects of compassion; and neither church nor state seems inclined to interfere with it.
As might be expected in a shrewd community like ours, attempts are not unfrequently made to speculate in the supernatural,–to “make gain of sooth-saying.” In the autumn of last year a “wise woman” dreamed, or somnambulized, that a large sum of money, in gold and silver coin, lay buried in the centre of the great swamp in Poplin, New Hampshire; whereupon an immediate search was made for the precious metal. Under the bleak sky of November, in biting frost and sleet rain, some twenty or more grown men, graduates of our common schools, and liable, every mother’s son of them, to be made deacons, squires, and general court members, and such other drill officers as may be requisite in the march of mind, might be seen delving in grim earnest, breaking the frozen earth, uprooting swamp-maples and hemlocks, and waking, with sledge and crowbar, unwonted echoes in a solitude which had heretofore only answered to the woodman’s axe or the scream of the wild fowl. The snows of December put an end to their labors; but the yawning excavation still remains, a silent but somewhat expressive commentary upon the age of progress.
Still later, in one of our Atlantic cities, an attempt was made, partially at least, successful, to form a company for the purpose of digging for money in one of the desolate sand-keys of the West Indies. It appears that some mesmerized “subject,” in the course of one of those somnambulic voyages of discovery in which the traveller, like Satan in chaos,–
“O’er bog, o’er steep, through straight, rough, dense, or rare,
With head, hands, wings, or feet, pursues his way,
And swims, or sinks, or wades, or creeps, or flies,”–
while peering curiously into the earth’s mysteries, chanced to have his eyes gladdened by the sight of a huge chest packed with Spanish coins, the spoil, doubtless, of some rich-freighted argosy, or Carthagena galleon, in the rare days of Queen Elizabeth’s Christian buccaneers.
During the last quarter of a century, a colored woman in one of the villages on the southern border of New Hampshire has been consulted by hundreds of anxious inquirers into the future. Long experience in her profession has given her something of that ready estimate of character, that quick and keen appreciation of the capacity, habits, and wishes of her visitors, which so remarkably distinguished the late famous Madame Le Normand, of Paris; and if that old squalid sorceress, in her cramped Parisian attic, redolent of garlic and bestrewn with the greasy implements of sorry housewifery, was, as has been affirmed, consulted by such personages as the fair Josephine Beauharnois, and the “man of destiny,” Napoleon himself, is it strange that the desire to lift the veil of the great mystery before us should overcome in some degree our peculiar and most republican prejudice against color, and reconcile us to the disagreeable necessity of looking at futurity through a black medium?