Title Thumbnail

The Devil in Britain and America

Library of Alexandria
The belief in a good and evil influence has existed from the earliest ages, in every nation having a religion. The Egyptians had their Typho, the Assyrians their Ti-a-mat (the Serpent), the Hebrews their Beelzebub, or Prince of Flies, and the Scandinavians their Loki. And many religions teach that the evil influence has a stronger hold upon mankind than the good influence—so great, indeed, as to nullify it in a large degree. Christianity especially teaches this: ‘Enter ye by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many be they that enter in thereby. For narrow is the gate, and straitened the way, that leadeth unto life, and few be they that find it.’ This doctrine of the great power of the Devil, or evil influence over man, is preached from every pulpit, under every form of Christianity, throughout the world; and although at the present time it is only confined to the greater moral power of the Devil over man, at an earlier period it was an article of belief that he was able to exercise a greater physical power. This was coincident with a belief in his personality; and it is only in modern times that that personality takes an alluring form. In the olden days the Devil was always depicted as ugly and repulsive as the artist could represent him, and yet he could have learned a great deal from the modern Chinese and Japanese. The ‘great God Pan,’ although he was dead, was resuscitated in order to furnish a type for ‘the Prince of Darkness’; and, accordingly, he was portrayed with horns, tail and cloven feet, making him an animal, according to a mot attributed to Cuvier, ‘graminivorous, and decidedly ruminant’; while, to complete his classical ensemble, he was invested with the forked sceptre of Pluto, only supplemented with another tine. To my thinking, all modern English books on the Devil and his works are unsatisfactory. They all run in the same groove, give the same cases of witchcraft, and, moreover, not one of them is illustrated. I have endeavoured to remedy this by localizing my facts, and by reproducing all the engravings I could find suitable to my purpose. I have also tried to give a succinct account of demonology and witchcraft in England and America, by adducing authorities not usually given, and by a painstaking research into old cases, carefully taking everything from original sources, and bringing to light very many cases never before republished. For the benefit of students, I have given—as an Appendix—a list of the books consulted in the preparation of this work, which, however, the student must remember is not an exhaustive bibliography on the subject, but only applies to this book, whose raison d’être is its localization. The frontispiece is supposed to be the only specimen of Satanic caligraphy in existence, and istaken from the ‘Introductio in Chaldaicam Linguam,’ etc., by Albonesi (Pavia, 1532). The author says that by the conjuration of Ludovico Spoletano the Devil was called up, and adjured to write a legible and clear answer to a question asked him. Some invisible power took the pen, which seemed suspended in the air, and rapidly wrote what is facsimiled. The writing was given to Albonesi (who, however, confesses that no one can decipher it), and his chief printer reproduced it very accurately. I am told by experts that in some of the characters may be found a trace of Amharic, a language spoken in its purity in the province of Amhara (Ethiopia), and which, according to a legend, was the primeval language spoken in Eden.