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dominions in North America is one hundred and one; of local preachers, two hundred and thirty-nine. But we have already exceeded our prescribed limits; and, omitting a multitude of reflections and observations which have crowded upon us in taking this rapid survey of the operations of this great institution, we close with the general summary of all the Wesleyan missions as presented in the Report for 1846:— Central or principal stations, called circuits, occupied by the Society in various parts of the world, . - - 284 Chapels, and other preaching places, at the above-mentioned central or principal stations, as far as ascertained 2,522 Missionaries and assistant missionaries, including ten
supernumeraries . - - - - - - - 397 Other paid agents, as catechists, interpreters, dayschool teachers, &c., (this number has been very considerably reduced, as many hundreds of teachers in the Friendly Islands do not now receive any pecuniary remuneration for their services). - - - - - S47 Unpaid agents, as sabbath-school teachers, &c. . . 6,832 Full and accredited church members . - . 103,150
On trial for church membership, as far as ascertained. 4,315 Scholars, deducting for those who attend both the day and sabbath schools - - - - - - . 71,625
Printing establishments . - - - - - 8 F.
ART. II.-1. Observations on Popular Antiquities, chiefly Illustrating the Origin of our Vulgar Customs, Ceremonies, and Superstitions. By John BRAND, M. A., Fellow and Secretary of the Society of Antiquaries of London. Arranged, revised, and greatly enlarged for this edition, by Sir HENRY Ellis, K. H., F. R. S., Sec. S. A., &c., Principal Librarian of the British Museum. Three volumes. London. 1841.
2. Demonology and Witchcraft. By Sir WALTER Scott.
3. Article in Blackwood's Magazine—The Divining Rod.
THE work which heads our list is a most curious production. The matters of which it treats would seem, at the first glance, trivial and uninteresting, and, consequently, beneath the notice of such men as the learned Mr. Brand and his laborious commentator. Nevertheless, the subject, unpromising as it appears to the casual observer, is pursued with all the learning, acuteness, and patient research of grave investigation; and the facts rescued from oblivion are not without their value in the history of mind. History has too long been written on anti-republican principles. That which is palmed off upon the reader as the history of a nation, is, in most cases, the history of a few individuals only; while the story of the people's joys and sorrows, employments and condition, remains untold, save when incidentally involved in the chronicles of the nobility. Many of our histories are little more than meager, miserable details, of the manner in which one despot after another made love and war, and dressed and, feasted, till he was gathered unto his fathers, and another reigned in his stead. This mode of constructing history is contrary to all our ideas of propriety and justice. If we can have but one, we would rather know on what principle of conscription Xerxes raised his immense army for the invasion of Greece, than to learn how the silly monarch pouted because of a storm on the Hellespont, and caused the sea to be soundly flogged for its disregard of court etiquette. We wish the history of the people; their actual state, their every-day manners and customs, their hopes and fears; what they believed, and what they doubted. Sir Walter Scott, and Messrs. Brand and Ellis, have turned their attention to one branch of this popular exposition ; and we must confess that we have read their volumes with no small interest. We cannot condemn the subject as puerile We may indeed deride, as folly and weakness, the whole system of amulets, charms, and superstitions of various kinds, which once held sway over the multitude; but we cannot forget the fact that minds of culture and capacity have been brought under the same dominion. Luther threw his inkstand at a devil who sought to disturb him. Pope Innocent VIII. leveled a bull, and James I. a volume, against the heinous sin of witchcraft. And the great Boyle, in treating of the porosity of the human body, cites amulets as a proof of the ingress of external effluvia into the body. He adds, that he is “persuaded that some of these external remedies do answer; for that he himself, having once been subject to bleed at the nose, and reduced to use several remedies to check it, found the moss of a dead man's skull, though only applied till the moss was warm, the most effectual of any.” The work of Scott is doubtless well known to all our readers; and we recur to it only for corroboration. The volumes of Messrs. Brand and Ellis (which have never been republished in this country) are more learned, and more laboriously wrought out, than “Demonology and Witchcraft;” and they also take a much wider range. They treat of days lucky and unlucky; marriage customs and ceremonies; customs at deaths and funerals; drinking customs; sports and games; popular notions respecting the appearance of the devil; sorcery or witchcraft; obsolete punishments; omens, charms, divination, vulgar errors, &c., &c.
We pass over the most of this vast multitude of various superstitions, and single out two or three, traces of which are found in our own day. The first to which we beg leave to introduce the uninitiated among our readers is RHABDoMANcy; or, the use of the divining rod. The popular belief was, and, to some extent, is yet, that by means of a rod of wood, properly prepared and managed, effects may be produced for which no natural cause can be assigned; that treasures hid in the earth may be detected, lost goods found, future events ascertained, and even spirits evoked, by a skillful operator. This superstition reaches back into remote antiquity. It seems to be alluded to in the prophecy of Ezekiel: “My people ask counsel at the stocks, and their staff declareth unto them.” The Chaldeans, and all the nations of antiquity who practiced divination, frequently employed wands for that purpose. In heathen mythology the mystic wand figures very conspicuously. Minerva is represented as wielding one that could make people young or old, as circumstances required; Circe could change men into beasts, and beasts into men; it is hinted that the Caduceus of Mercury did very materially assist his locomotion; and the apocryphal Abaris is represented as flying on an arrow through the air from Scythia, like a modern witch upon her broomstick steed. It has been conjectured by some that the wand owes its celebrity in mythology to the dim traditions of the rod of Moses which have floated off among the nations. Others say that the devil, taking the idea from the rod of the Jewish lawgiver, taught men how to employ the wand, and himself gave it efficacy. This was the opinion held by many of later times, when the rod, though shorn of a portion of its glory, was still, in the popular estimation, invested with marvelous powers. A celebrated philosopher, Malbranche, who was consulted, in 1689, with reference to the matter, declared, very seriously, that none of the alledged effects could be produced without the concurrent action of some intelligent cause: “which cause,” says the pious father, “can be no other than the devil.” Indeed, it did require some intelligent supernatural agent to perform the wondrous exploits said to be accomplished by it; for it “had the virtue of discovering not only treasures, metals, landmarks, thieves, and murtherers, but also the adulterous of both sexes.”
James Aymar, a common peasant of St. Veran, in Dauphine, flourished in Lyons, in 1692, as a practical operator in rhabdomancy. His fame spread far and wide. He ascribed his power to no evil agency, no compact with the devil; but was very pious withal, attending mass and confession daily; and affirming, very sanctimoniously, that were he to marry, he would lose his powers, and become as other men. The magistrates of the city were so infatuated with his mystic arts, that he was employed to find the author of a murder; and a man was actually hung, whom he pretended to detect as the criminal. After astonishing the sages of that goodly town for a time, he was sent for to Paris, where, says father Malbranche, “he made such a multitude of discoveries as obliged many people to confess that we are now better enabled than ever to assert, by indisputable phenomena, that devils can produce a hundred things, provided they are determined thereto by the intervention of some occasional cause, such as the application of a certain stick or wand.” Multitudes came, laden with offerings, to ask his assistance. Some, who had been robbed, wished to learn where the robbers were secreted. Members of rival village churches, both claiming to have in possession the identical body of the same saint, came to know the true one. Others brought a parcel of bones, or rags, or other relics, and desired to know whether they had ever belonged to any saint; and one young man, who was betrothed to the daughter of one of his neighbors, came to learn the real character of the damsel.
At the request of the prince of Condé, Aymar attempted to perform his wonders in the palace of that nobleman. Here he failed utterly, and “quite lost his reputation;” and, although a certain M. Vallemont published a treatise apologizing for his failure, his arts were exploded, and his occupation was gone. M. Buissiere, the apothecary of the prince, wrote a book to explain his deceptions; and the man who had been gravely employed to discover the author of a murder committed in Rue St. Denis, was compelled to leave Paris in disgrace as an impostor. The last note of his fame is a doubtful story in Le Mercuré Historique and Politique, 1697. This states that the prior of the Carthusians of Willeneuve chez Avignon employed Aymar to discover the person who had deposited an infant at the gate of the Capuchin monastery. Aymar started from the gate, and, under the guidance of his wand, followed the trail some distance, to another village, where he pointed out a house where he said the child was born. Moreover, on his way thither, he detected, by means of the wand, the father of the child as he was passing by on horseback. The
judge of the place, of his own accord, desired them to make no further inquiry, and promised that the child should be taken back. But while this operator was disgraced, the instrument did not wholly share his fate. The pretensions put forth in its behalf were modified, and also somewhat reduced from their former gigantic dimensions. It could no longer detect “murtherers,” and the parents of foundlings; but was still in great repute as a discerner of hidden treasures, mines, and subterranean currents of water. It still astonished the learned, and puzzled the wise. Agricola, the learned German metallurgist of the sixteenth century, in attempting to account for its efficacy, cuts the Gordian knot by declaring that the devil is in it. Richelet affirms that after what he has seen he doubts not but that it possesses the wonderful qualities ascribed to it: and Morhoff, with all his science, admits that it “was not clear to him whether the effects are natural, or the result of demoniac agency.” A M. Thouvenot, in a memoir published in Paris in 1781, took the former as the true solution, and attempted to trace the relation between the phenomena of the divining rod and those of electricity and magnetism. The science, or superstition, in its abridged form, is yet extant in America, England, and several countries of continental Europe. Pryce, the author of “Mineralogia Cornubiensis,” gives accounts of many experiments which he says were successfully performed by the mystic instrument. A writer in Blackwood's Magazine thus discourses on the proper mode of conducting the experiments:—
“You are to understand that, in mining districts, a superstition prevails among the people that some are gifted with an occult power of detecting the proximity of veins of metal, and of underground springs of water. In Cornwall, they hold that about one in forty possesses this faculty. The mode of exercising it is very simple. They cut a hazel-twig that forks naturally into two equal branches; and, having stripped the leaves off, they cut the stump of the twig to the length of three or four inches, and each branch to the length of a foot, or something less; for the end of a branch is meant to be held in each hand in such a manner that the stump of the twig may project straight forward. The position is this: the elbows are bent, the forearms and hands advanced, the knuckles turned downward, the ends of the branches come out between the thumbs and the roots of the forefingers; the hands are supinated, and the inner side of each is turned toward its fellow, as they are held a few inches apart. The mystic operator, thus armed, walks over the ground that he intends exploring, with the full expectation that when he passes over a vein of metal, or underground spring of water, the hazel fork will move spontaneously in his hands, the point or stump rising or falling as the case may be.”