"O, young girl, a god possesses thee! it is either Pan, or Hekate, or, the venerable Corybantes, or Cybele that agitates thee!" the chorus says, addressing Phredra, in Euripides. This form of psychological epidemic has been too well known from the time of the middle ages to cite instances from it. The Chorda sancti Viti is an historical fact, and spread throughout Germany. Paracelsus cured quite a number of persons possessed of such a spirit of imitation. But he was a kabalist, and therefore accused, by his enemies, of having cast out the devils by the power of a stronger demon, which he was believed to carry about with him in the hilt of his sword. The Christian judges of those days of horror found a better and a surer remedy. Voltaire states that, in the district of Jura, between 1598 and 1600, over 600 Lycanthropes were put to death by a pious judge.
But, while the illiterate Shaman is a victim, and during his crisis sometimes sees the persons present, under the shape of various animals, and often makes them share his hallucination, his brother Shaman, learned in the mysteries of the priestly colleges of Thibet, expels the elementary creature, which can produce the hallucination as well as a living mesmerizer, not through the help of a stronger demon, but simply through his knowledge of the nature of the invisible enemy. Where academicians have failed, as in the cases of the Cevennois, a Shaman or a lama would have soon put an end to the epidemic.
We have mentioned a kind of carnelian stone in our possession, which had such an unexpected and favorable effect upon the Shaman's decision. Every Shaman has such a talisman, which he wears attached to a string, and carries under his left arm.
"Of what use is it to you, and what are its virtues?" was the question we often offered to our guide. To this he never answered directly, but evaded all explanation, promising that as soon as an opportunity was offered, and we were alone, he would ask the stone to answer for himself. With this very indefinite hope, we were left to the resources of our own imagination.
But the day on which the stone "spoke" came very soon. It was during the most critical hours of our life; at a time when the vagabond nature of a traveller had carried the writer to far-off lands, where neither civilization is known, nor security can be guaranteed for one hour. One afternoon, as every man and woman had left the yourta (Tartar tent), that had been our home for over two months, to witness the ceremony of the Lamai'c exorcism of a Tshoutgour,* accused of breaking and spiriting away every bit of the poor furniture and earthenware of a family living about two miles distant, the Shaman, who had become our only protector in those dreary deserts, was reminded of his promise. He sighed and hesitated; but, after a short silence, left his place on the
* An elemental demon, in which every native of Asia believes.
sheepskin, and, going outside, placed a dried-up goat's head with its prominent horns over a wooden peg, and then dropping down the felt curtain of the tent, remarked that now no living person would venture in, for the goat's head was a sign that he was "at work."
After that, placing his hand in his bosom, he drew out the little stone, about the size of a walnut, and, carefully unwrapping it, proceeded, as it appeared, to swallow it. In a few moments his limbs stiffened, his body became rigid, and he fell, cold and motionless as a corpse. But for a slight twitching of his lips at every question asked, the scene would have been embarrassing, nay — dreadful. The sun was setting, and were it not that dying embers flickered at the centre of the tent, complete darkness would have been added to the oppressive silence which reigned. We have lived in the prairies of the West, and in the boundless steppes of Southern Russia; but nothing can be compared with the silence at sunset on the sandy deserts of Mongolia; not even the barren solitudes of the deserts of Africa, though the former are partially inhabited, and the latter utterly void of life. Yet, there was the writer alone with what looked no better than a corpse lying on the ground. Fortunately, this state did not last long.
"Mahandu!" uttered a voice, which seemed to come from the bowels of the earth, on which the Shaman was prostrated. "Peace be with you . . . what would you have me do for you?"
Startling as the fact seemed, we were quite prepared for it, for we had seen other Shamans pass through similar performances. "Whoever you are," we pronounced mentally,
"go to K--, and try to bring that person's thought here. See what that other party does, and tell * * * what we are doing and how situated."
"I am there"; answered the same voice. "The old lady (kokona)* is sitting in the garden . . . she is putting on her spectacles and reading a letter."
"The contents of it, and hasten," was the hurried order while preparing note-book and pencil. The contents were given slowly, as if, while dictating, the invisible presence desired to afford us time to put down the words phonetically, for we recognized the Valachian language of which we know nothing beyond the ability to recognize it. In such a way a whole page was filled.
"Look west . . . toward the third pole of the yourta," pronounced the Tartar in his natural voice, though it sounded hollow, and as if coming from afar. "Her thought is here."
Then with a convulsive jerk, the upper portion of the Shaman's body seemed raised, and his head fell heavily on the writer's feet, which he clutched with both his hands. The position was becoming less and less attractive, but curiosity proved a good ally to courage. In the west corner was standing, life-like but flickering, unsteady and mist-like, the form of a dear old friend, a Roumanian lady of Valachia, a mystic by disposition, but a thorough disbeliever in this kind of occult phenomena.
* Lady, or Madam, in Moldavian.
"Her thought is here, but her body is lying unconscious. We could not bring her here otherwise," said the voice.
We addressed and supplicated the apparition to answer, but all in vain. The features moved, and the form gesticulated as if in fear and agony, but no sound broke forth from the shadowy lips; only we imagined — perchance it was a fancy — hearing as if from a long distance the Roumanian words, "Non se pote" (it cannot be done).
For over two hours, the most substantial, unequivocal proofs that the Shaman's astral soul was travelling at the bidding of our unspoken wish, were given us. Ten months later, we received a letter from our Valachian friend in response to ours, in which we had enclosed the page from the note-book, inquiring of her what she had been doing on that day, and describing the scene in full. She was sitting — she wrote — in the garden on that morning* prosaically occupied in boiling some conserves; the letter sent to her was word for word the copy of the one received by her from her brother; all at once — in consequence of the heat, she thought — she fainted, and remembered distinctly dreaming she saw the writer in a desert place which she accurately described, and sitting under a "gypsy's tent," as she expressed it. "Henceforth," she added, "I can doubt no longer!"
But our experiment was proved still better. We had directed the Shaman's inner ego to the same friend heretofore
* The hour in Bucharest corresponded perfectly with that of the country in which the scene had taken place.
mentioned in this chapter, the Kutchi of Lha-Ssa, who travels constantly to British India and back. We know that he was apprised of our critical situation in the desert; for a few hours later came help, and we were rescued by a party of twenty-five horsemen who had been directed by their chief to find us at the place where we were, which no living man endowed with common powers could have known. The chief of this escort was a Shaberon, an "adept" whom we had never seen before, nor did we after that, for he never left his soumay (lamasery), and we could have no access to it. But he was a personal friend of the Kutchi.
The above will of course provoke naught but incredulity in the general reader. But we write for those who will believe; who, like the writer, understand and know the illimitable powers and possibilities of the human astral soul. In this case we willingly believe, nay, we know, that the "spiritual double" of the Shaman did not act alone, for he was no adept, but simply a medium. According to a favorite expression of his, as soon as he placed the stone in his mouth, his "father appeared, dragged him out of his skin, and took him wherever he wanted," and at his bidding.
One who has only witnessed the chemical, optical, mechanical, and sleight-of-hand performances of European prestidigitateurs, is not prepared to see, without amazement, the open-air and off-hand exhibitions of Hindu jugglers, to say nothing of fakirs. Of the mere displays of deceptive dexterity we make no account, for Houdin and others far excel them in that respect; or do we dwell upon feats that permit of confederacy, whether resorted to or not. It is unquestionably true that non-expert travellers, especially if of an imaginative turn of mind, exaggerate inordinately. But our remark is based upon a class of phenomena not to be accounted for upon any of the familiar hypotheses. "I have seen," says a gentleman who resided in India, "a man throw up into the air a number of balls numbered in succession from one upwards. As each went up — and there was no deception about their going up — the ball was seen clearly in the air, getting smaller and smaller, till it disappeared altogether out of sight. When they were all up, twenty or more, the operator would politely ask which ball you wanted to see, and then would shout out, 'No. 1,' 'No. 15,' and so on, as instructed by the spectators, when the ball demanded would bound to his feet violently from some remote distance. . . . These fellows have very scanty clothing, and apparently no apparatus whatever. Then, I have seen them swallow three different colored powders, and then, throwing back the head, wash them down with water, drunk, in the native fashion, in a continuous stream from a lotah, or brass-pot, held at arm's length from the lips, and keep on drinking till the swollen body could not hold another drop, and water overflowed from the lips. Then, these fellows, after squirting out the water in their mouths, have spat out the three powders on a clean piece of paper, dry and unmixed."*
In the eastern portion of Turkey and Persia, have dwelt, from time immemorial, the warlike tribes of the Koordistan. This people of purely Indo-European origin, and without a drop of Semitic blood in them (though some ethnologists seem to think otherwise), notwithstanding their brigand-like disposition, unite in themselves the mysticism of the Hindu and the practices of the Assyrio-Chaldean magians, vast portions of whose territory they have helped themselves to, and will not give up, to please either Turkey or even all Europe. t Nominally, Mahometans of the sect of Omar, their rites and doctrines are purely magical and magian. Even those who are Christian Nestorians, are Christians but in name. The Kaldany, numbering nearly 100,000 men, and with their two Patriarchs, are undeniably rather Manicheans than Nestorians. Many of them are Yezids.
One of these tribes is noted for its fire-worshipping predilections. At sunrise and sunset, the horsemen alight and, turning towards the sun, mutter a prayer; while at every new moon they perform mysterious rites throughout the whole night. They have a tent set apart for the purpose, and its thick, black, woolen fabric is decorated with weird signs, worked in bright red and yellow. In the centre is placed a kind of altar, encircled by three brass bands, to which are suspended numerous rings by ropes of camel's hair, which every worshipper holds with his right hand during the ceremony. On the altar burns a curious, old-fashioned silver f Neither Russia nor England succeeded in 1849 in forcing them to recognize and respect the Turkish from the Persian territory.
lamp, a relic found possibly among the ruins of Persepolis.* This lamp, with three wicks, is an oblong cup with a handle to it, and is evidently of the class of Egyptian sepulchral lamps, once found in such profusion in the subterranean caves of Memphis, if we may believe Kircher.t It widened from its end toward the middle, and its upper part was of the shape of a heart; the apertures for the wicks forming a triangle, and its centre being covered by an inverted heliotrope attached to a gracefully-curved stalk proceeding from the handle of the lamp. This ornament clearly bespoke its origin. It was one of the sacred vessels used in sun-worship. The Greeks gave the heliotrope its name from its strange propensity to ever incline towards the sun. The ancient Magi used it in their worship; and who knows but Darius had performed the mysterious rites with its triple light illuminating the face of the king-hierophant!
If we mention the lamp at all, it is because there happened to be a strange story in connection with it. What the Koords do, during their nocturnal rites of lunar-worship, we know but from hearsay; for they conceal it carefully, and no stranger could be admitted to witness the ceremony. But every tribe has one old man, sometimes several, regarded as "holy beings," who know the past, and can divulge the secrets of the future. These are greatly honored, and generally
* Persepolis is the Persian Istakhaar, northeast of Shiraz; it stood on a plain now called Merdusht. At the confluence of the ancient Medus and the Araxes, now Pulwan and Bend-emir. t gyptiaci Theatrum Hierogliphicum," p. 544.
resorted to for information in cases of theft, murders, or danger.
Travelling from one tribe to the other, we passed some time in company with these Koords. As our object is not autobiographical, we omit all details that have no immediate bearing upon some occult fact, and even of these, have room but for a few. We will then simply state that a very expensive saddle, a carpet, and two Circassian daggers, richly mounted and chiselled in gold, had been stolen from the tent, and that the Koords, with the chief of the tribe at the head, had come, taking Allah for their witness that the culprit could not belong to their tribe. We believed it, for it would have been unprecedented among these nomadic tribes of Asia, as famed for the sacredness in which they hold their guests, as for the ease with which they plunder and occasionally murder them, when once they have passed the boundaries of their aoul.
A suggestion was then made by a Georgian belonging to our caravan to have resort to the light of the koodian (sorcerer) of their tribe. This was arranged in great secrecy and solemnity, and the interview appointed to take place at midnight, when the moon would be at its full. At the stated hour we were conducted to the above-described tent.
A large hole, or square aperture, was managed in the arched roof of the tent, and through it poured in vertically the radiant moonbeams, mingling with the vacillating triple flame of the little lamp. After several minutes of incantations, addressed, as it seemed to us, to the moon, the conjurer, an old man of tremendous stature, whose pyramidal turban touched the top of the tent, produced a round looking-glass, of the kind known as "Persian mirrors." Having unscrewed its cover, he then proceeded to breathe on it, for over ten minutes, and wipe off the moisture from the surface with a package of herbs, muttering incantations the while sotto voce. After every wiping the glass became more and more brilliant, till its crystal seemed to radiate refulgent phosphoric rays in every direction. At last the operation was ended; the old man, with the mirror in his hand, remained as motionless as if he had been a statue. "Look, Hanoum . . . look steadily," he whispered, hardly moving his lips. Shadows and dark spots began gathering, where one moment before nothing was reflected but the radiant face of the full moon. A few more seconds, and there appeared the well-known saddle, carpet, and daggers, which seemed to be rising as from a deep, clear water, and becoming with every instant more definitely outlined. Then a still darker shadow appeared hovering over these objects, which gradually condensed itself, and then came out, as visibly as at the small end of a telescope, the full figure of a man crouching over them.
"I know him!" exclaimed the writer. "It is the Tartar who came to us last night, offering to sell his mule!"
The image disappeared, as if by enchantment. The old man nodded assent, but remained motionless. Then he muttered again some strange words, and suddenly began a song. The tune was slow and monotonous, but after he had sung a few stanzas in the same unknown tongue, without changing either rhythm or tune, he pronounced, recitative like, the following words, in his broken Russian:
"Now, Hanoum, look well, whether we will catch him — the fate of the robber — we will learn this night," etc.
The same shadows began gathering, and then, almost without transition, we saw the man lying on his back, in a pool of blood, across the saddle, and two other men galloping off at a distance. Horror-stricken, and sick at the sight of this picture, we desired to see no more. The old man, leaving the tent, called some of the Koords standing outside, and seemed to give them instructions. Two minutes later, a dozen of horsemen were galloping off at full speed down the side of the mountain on which we were encamped.
Early in the morning they returned with the lost objects. The saddle was all covered with coagulated blood, and of course abandoned to them. The story they told was, that upon coming in sight of the fugitive, they saw disappearing over the crest of a distant hill two horsemen, and upon riding up, the Tartar thief was found dead upon the stolen property, exactly as we had seen him in the magical glass. He had been murdered by the two banditti, whose evident design to rob him was interrupted by the sudden appearance of the party sent by the old Koodian.
The most remarkable results are produced by the Eastern "wise men," by the simple act of breathing upon a person, whether with good or evil intent. This is pure mesmerism; and among the Persian dervishes who practice it the animal magnetism is often reinforced by that of the elements. If a person happens to stand facing a certain wind, there is always danger, they think; and many of the "learned ones" in occult matters can never be prevailed upon to go at sunset in a certain direction from whence blows the wind. We have known an old Persian from Baku,* on the Caspian Sea, who had the most unenviable reputation for throwing spells through the timely help of this wind, which blows but too often at that town, as its Persian name itself shows.+ If a victim, against whom the wrath of the old fiend was kindled, happened to be facing this wind, he would appear, as if by enchantment, cross the road rapidly, and breathe in his face. From that moment, the latter would find himself afflicted with every evil — he was under the spell of the "evil eye."
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