Sorceries of Catherine of Medicis

Catherine, the pious Christian — who has so well deserved in the eyes of the Church of Christ for the atrocious and never-to-be-forgotten massacre of St. Bartholomew — the Queen Catherine, kept in her service an apostate Jacobin priest. Well versed in the "black art," so fully patronized by the Medici family, he had won the gratitude and protection of his pious mistress, by his unparalleled skill in killing people at a distance, by torturing with various incantations their wax simulacra. The process has been described over and over again, and we scarcely need repeat it.

Charles was lying sick of an incurable disease. The queen-mother, had everything to lose in case of his death, resorted to necromancy, consulted the oracle of the "bleeding head." This infernal operation required the decapitation of a child who must be possessed of great beauty and purity. He had been prepared in secret for his first communion, by the chaplain of the palace, who was apprised of the plot, and at midnight of the appointed day, in the chamber of the sick man, and in presence only of Catherine and a few of her confederates, the "devil's mass" was celebrated. Let us give the rest of the story as we find it in one of Levi's works: "At this mass, celebrated before the image of the demon, having under his feet a reversed cross, the sorcerer consecrated two wafers, one black and one white. The white was given to the child, whom they brought clothed as for baptism, and who was murdered upon the very steps of the altar, immediately after his communion. His head, separated from the trunk by a single blow, was placed, all palpitating, upon the great black wafer which covered the bottom of the paten, then placed upon a table where some mysterious lamps were burning. The exorcism then began, and the demon was charged to pronounce an oracle, and reply by the mouth of this head to a secret question that the king dared not speak aloud, and that had been confided to no one. Then a feeble voice, a strange voice, which had nothing of human character about it, made itself audible in this poor little martyr's head." The sorcery availed nothing; the king died, and — Catherine remained the faithful daughter of Rome!

How strange, that des Mousseaux, who makes such free use of Bodin's materials to construct his formidable indictment against Spiritualists and other sorcerers, should have overlooked this interesting episode!

It is a well-attested fact that Pope Sylvester II was publicly accused by Cardinal Benno with being a sorcerer and an enchanter. The brazen "oracular head" made by his Holiness was of the same kind as the one fabricated by Albertus Magnus. The latter was smashed to pieces by Thomas Aquinas, not because it was the work of or inhabited by a "demon," but because the spook who was fixed inside, by mesmeric power, talked incessantly, and his verbiage prevented the eloquent saint from working out his mathematical problems. These heads and other talking statues, trophies of the magical skill of monks and bishops, were fac-similes of the "animated" gods of the ancient temples. The accusation against the Pope was proved at the time. It was also demonstrated that he was constantly attended by "demons" or spirits. In the preceding chapter we have mentioned Benedict IX, John XX, and the Vlth and Vllth Gregory, who were all known as magicians. The latter Pope, moreover, was the famous Hildebrand, who was said to have been so expert at "shaking lightning out of his sleeve." An expression which makes the venerable spiritualistic writer, Mr. Howitt, think that "it was the origin of the celebrated thunder of the Vatican."

The magical achievements of the Bishop of Ratisbon and those of the "angelic doctor," Thomas Aquinas, are too well known to need repetition; but we may explain farther how the "illusions" of the former were produced. If the Catholic bishop was so clever in making people believe on a bitter winter night that they were enjoying the delights of a splendid summer day, and cause the icicles hanging from the boughs of the trees in the garden to seem like so many tropical fruits, the Hindu magicians also practice such biological powers unto this very day, and claim the assistance of neither god nor devil. Such "miracles" are all produced by the same human power that is inherent in every man, if he only knew how to develop it.

About the time of the Reformation, the study of alchemy and magic had become so prevalent among the clergy as to produce great scandal. Cardinal Wolsey was openly accused before the court and the privy-council of confederacy with a man named Wood, a sorcerer, who said that "My Lord Cardinale had suche a rynge that whatsomevere he askyd of the Kynges grace that he hadd yt"; adding that "Master Cromwell, when he . . . was servaunt in my lord cardynales housse . . . rede many bokes and specyally the boke of Salamon . . . and studied mettells and what vertues they had after the canon of Salamon." This case, with several others equally curious, is to be found among the Cromwell papers in the Record Office of the Rolls House.

A priest named William Stapleton was arrested as a conjurer, during the reign of Henry VIII., and an account of his adventures is still preserved in the Rolls House records. The Sicilian priest whom Benvenuto Cellini calls a necromancer, became famous through his successful conjurations, and was never molested. The remarkable adventure of Cellini with him in the Colosseum, where the priest conjured up a whole host of devils, is well known to the reading public. The subsequent meeting of Cellini with his mistress, as predicted and brought about by the conjurer, at the precise time fixed by him, is to be considered, as a matter of course, a "curious coincidence." In the latter part of the sixteenth century there was hardly a parish to be found in which the priests did not study magic and alchemy. The practice of exorcism to cast out devils "in imitation of Christ," who by the way never used exorcism at all, led the clergy to devote themselves openly to "sacred" magic in contradistinction to black art, of which latter crime were accused all those who were neither priests nor monks.

The occult knowledge gleaned by the Roman Church from the once fat fields of theurgy she sedulously guarded for her own use, and sent to the stake only those practitioners who "poached" on her lands of the Scientia Scientiarum, and those whose sins could not be concealed by the friar's frock. The proof of it lies in the records of history. "In the course only of fifteen years, between 1580 to 1595, and only in the single province of Lorraine, the President Remigius burned 900 witches," says Thomas Wright, in his Sorcery and Magic. It was during these days, prolific in ecclesiastical murder and unrivalled for cruelty and ferocity, that Jean Bodin wrote.

While the orthodox clergy called forth whole legions of "demons" through magical incantations, unmolested by the authorities, provided they held fast to the established dogmas and taught no heresy, on the other hand, acts of unparalleled atrocity were perpetrated on poor, unfortunate fools. Gabriel Malagrida, an old man of eighty, was burnt by these evangelical Jack Ketches in 1761. In the Amsterdam library there is a copy of the report of his famous trial, translated from the Lisbon edition. He was accused of sorcery and illicit intercourse with the Devil, who had "disclosed to him futurity." (?) The prophecy imparted by the Arch-Enemy to the poor visionary Jesuit is reported in the following terms: "The culprit hath confessed that the demon, under the form of the blessed Virgin, having commanded him to write the life of Antichrist (?), told him that he, Malagrida, was a second John, but more clear than John the Evangelist; that there were to be three Antichrists, and that the last should be born at Milan, of a monk and a nun, in the year 1920; that he would marry Proserpine, one of the infernal furies," etc.

The prophecy is to be verified forty-three years hence. Even were all the children born of monks and nuns really to become antichrists if allowed to grow up to maturity, the fact would seem far less deplorable than the discoveries made in so many convents when the foundations have been removed for some reason. If the assertion of Luther is to be disbelieved on account of his hatred for popery, then we may name discoveries of the same character made quite recently in Austrian and Russian Poland. Luther speaks of a fish-pond at Rome, situated near a convent of nuns, which, having been cleared out by order of Pope Gregory, disclosed, at the bottom, over six thousand infant skulls; and of a nunnery at Neinburg, in Austria, whose foundations, when searched, disclosed the same relics of celibacy and chastity!

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