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"Thus," continues Mr. Lluyd, "we find it very evident that the opinion of the vulgar concerning the generation of these adder-beads, or snake-stones, is no other than a relic of the superstition or perhaps imposture of the Druids; but whether what we call snake-stones be the very same amulets that the British Druids made use of, or whether this fabulous origin was ascribed formerly to the same thing and in after times applied to these glass beads, I shall not undertake to determine. As for Pliny's ovum anguinum, it can be no other than a shell (marine or fossil) of the kind we call echinus marinus, whereof one sort, though not the same he describes, is found at this day in most parts of Wales. Dr. Borlase, who had penetrated more deeply into the Druidical monuments in this kingdom than any writer before or since, observes that instead of the natural anguinum, which must have been very rare, artificial rings of stone, glass, and sometimes baked clay, were substituted as of equal validity."
The Doctor adds, from Mr. Lluyd's letter, March 10, 1701, at the end of Rowland's Mona Antiqua, p. 342, that "the Cornish retain variety of charms, and have still, towards the Land's End, the amulets of maen magal and glain-neider, which latter they call a melprev (or milprev, i. e. a thousand worms), and have a charm for the snake to make it, when they have found one asleep, and stuck a hazel wand in the centre of her spiræ."
The opinion of the Cornish, Dr. Borlase continues, is somewhat differently given us by Mr. Carew. "The countrypeople have a persuasion that the snakes here breathing upon a hazel wand, produce a stone ring of blue colour, in which there appears the yellow figure of a snake, and that beasts bit and envenomed, being given some water to drink wherein this stone has been infused, will perfectly recover of the poison."
These beads are not unfrequently found in barrows (see Stukeley's Abury, p. 44); or occasionally with skeletons, whose nation and age are not ascertained. Bishop Gibson engraved three: one, of earth enamelled with blue, found near Dol Gelhe in Merionethshire; a second, of green glass, found at Aberfraw; and a third, found near Maes y Pandy, co. Merioneth.
"THERE is a vulgar error," says the author of the Brief Natural History, p. 91, "that a salamander lives in the fire. Yet both Galen and Dioscorides refute this opinion; and Mathiolus, in his Commentaries upon Dioscorides, a very famous physician, affirms of them, that by casting of many a salamander into the fire for tryal he found it false. The same experiment is likewise avouched by Joubertus."
PEACHAM, in his Truth of our Times, 1638, p. 174, tells us: "There are many that believe and affirm the manna which is sold in the shoppes of our apothecaries to be of the same which fell from heaven, and wherewith the Israelites were fedde." He then proceeds to give reasons why this cannot be. See also Browne's Vulgar Errors, fol. edit. p. 299.
TENTH WAVE AND TENTH EGG.
SIR THOMAS BROWNE tells us, "that fluctus decumanus, or the tenth wave, is greater or more dangerous than any other, some no doubt will be offended if we deny; and hereby we shall seem to contradict antiquity: for, answerable unto the literal and common acceptation, the same is averred by many writers, and plainly described by Ovid:
'Qui venit hic fiuctus, fluctus supereminet omnes
Which, notwithstanding, is evidently false; nor can it be
"Should a glass-house fire be kept up, without extinction, for a longer term than seven years, there is no doubt but that a salamander would be generated in the cinders. This very rational idea is much more generally credited than wise men would readily believe." Anecdotes, &c., Ancient and Modern, by James Petit Andrews, p. 359.
made out by observation either upon the shore or the ocean, as we have with diligence explored in both. And surely in vain we expect a regularity in the waves of the sea, or in the particular motions thereof, as we may in its general reciprocations, whose causes are constant and effects therefore correspondent. Whereas its fluctuations are but motions subservient, which winds, storms, shores, shelves, and every interjacency irregulates. Of affinity hereto is that conceit of ovum decumanum, so called because the tenth egg is bigger than any other, according to the reason alledged by Festus, 'decumana ova dicuntur, quia ovum decimum majus nascitur.' For the honour we bear unto the clergy, we cannot but wish this true; but herein will be found no more verity than the other." He adds, "the conceit is numeral."
THE SWAN SINGING BEFORE DEATH.
It is said "that swans, a little before their death, sing most sweetly, of which, notwithstanding, Pliny, Hist. x. 23, thus speaks: Olorum morte narratur flebilis cantus, falsò ut arbitror aliquot experimentis.' Swans are said to sing sweetly before their death, but falsely, as I take it, being led so to think by some experiments.
"And Scaliger, Exercitat. 23, to the like purpose: 'De cygni vero cantu suavissimo quem cum mendaciorum parente Græcia jactare ausus es, ad Luciani Tribunal, apud quem aliquid novi dicas, statuo te.' Touching the sweet singing of the swan, which with Greece, the mother of lies, you dare to publish, I cite you to Lucian's Tribunal, there to set abroach some new stuff. And Elian, lib. x. c. 14: Cantandi studiosos esse jam communi sermone pervulgatum est. Ego, vero, cygnum nunquam audivi canere, fortasse neque alius.' That swans are skilful in singing is now rife in every man's mouth, but, for myself, I never heard them sing, and perchance no man else." Brief Natural History, by Eugenius Philalethes,
BASILISK, OR COCKATRICE.
SIR THOMAS BROWNE informs that the generation of a basilisk is supposed to proceed from a cock's egg hatched under a toad or serpent-a conceit which he observes is as monstrous as the brood itself. This learned writer accounts, or rather endeavours to account, for its killing at a distance. "It killeth at a distance-it poisoneth by the eye, and by priority of vision. Now that deleterious it may be at some distance, and destructive without corporal contaction, what uncertainty soever there be in the effect, there is no high improbability in the relation. For, if plagues or pestilential atomes have been conveyed in the air from different regions: if men at a distance have infected each other: if the shadowes of some trees be noxious: if torpedoes deliver their opium at a distance, and stupifie beyond themselves: we cannot reasonably deny that there may proceed from subtiller seeds more agile emanations, which contemn those laws, and invade at distance unexpected. Thus it is not impossible what is affirmed of this animal: the visible rayes of their eyes carrying forth the subtilest portion of their poison, which received by the eye of man or beast, infecteth first the brain, and is from thence communicated unto the heart." He adds: "Our basilisk is generally described with legs, wings, a serpentine and winding taile, and a crist or comb somewhat like a cock. But the basilisk of elder times was a proper kind of serpent, not above three palmes long, as some account, and differenced from other serpents by advancing his head and some white marks or coronary spots upon the crown, as all authentic writers have delivered."
In Andrews's Anecdotes, p. 359, is given, from "a folio book of some price," a receipt "how to make a basiliske." It is too ridiculous to merit a place even in a collection of vulgar errors
THE original word rem, translated unicorn in our version of the book of Job, xxxix. 9, is by Jerome or Hierome, Montanus, and Aquila rendered rhinoceros; in the Septuagint, monoceros, which is nothing more than "one horn." I have no doubt but that the rhinoceros is the real unicorn of antiquity. The fabulous animal of heraldry so called, is nothing more than a horse with the horn of the pristis or sword fish. stuck in his forehead.
IT is a vulgar error "that the mandrakes represent the parts and shape of a man; yet Mathiolus, in his Commentary upon Dioscorides, affirms of them, Radices porro mandragoræ humanam effigiem representare, ut vulgo creditur, fabulosam est: that the roots of the mandrake represent the shape of a man, as is commonly believed, is fabulous, calling them cheating knaves and quacksalvers that carry them about to be sold, therewith to deceive barren women. Brief Natural History, by Eugenius Philalethes, p. 92.
ROSE OF JERICHO-GLASTONBURY THORN.
SIR THOMAS BROWNE tells us: "The rose of Jericho, that flourishes every year just about Christmas Eve, is famous in Christian reports. Bellonius tells us it is only a monastical imposture. There is a peculiarity in this plant; though it be dry, yet, on imbibing moisture, it dilates its leaves and explicates its flowers, contracted, and seemingly dried up, which is to be effected not only in the plant yet growing, but also in some measure may be effected in that which is brought exsuccous and dry unto us; which quality being observed, the subtlety of contrivers did commonly play this shew upon the eve of our Saviour's Nativity; when by drying the plant again,