THE DEVILS OF LOUDUN by Edmund Goldsmid

DevilsThis is the account of the possession in 1634 of the French Ursuline nuns of Loudon.  This is one of the largest cases of mass possession in history. Father Urbain Grandier, a local priest, was interrogated under torture, convicted of being responsible for the possessions (as well as sorcery), and subsequently burned at the stake.

This is a 19th century translation of the primary account of the episode, originally written in French by Des Niau in 1634.

There is a long introductory piece on magic, which I found absolutely fascinating.  Let me give you a taste:

Magic appears to have had its origin on the plains of Assyria, and the worship of the stars was the creed of those pastoral tribes who, pouring down from the mountains of Kurdistan into the wide level where Babylon afterwards raised its thousand towers, founded the sacerdotal race of the Chasdim or Chaldeans.

In Persia magic assumed a yet more definite development.  The Chaldeans had attributed the origin of all things to a great central everlasting fire. .. In Persia, everything associated with science or religion was included under the denomination ‘magic.’  The Persian priests were named the Magnise or Magi. … Plato says the Persian kings studied magic, which is a worship of their gods.

In Egypt, magic received its development as an art.

Magic found its way into Greece, and there assumed various novel developments.  The Greek sorcery was chiefly manifested in the peculiar rites of the Orpheotelesta, the invocation of the dead, the cave of Trophonios, the oracles of the gods, and the worship of Hekate.

The occult science does not appear to have been known to the Romans until about 200 years before the Christian era.  But they had previously cultivated a modification of the Etruscan sorcery.

The Christian Church formally recognized the efficacy of exorcism in 367.  Connected with magic and magical rites were the supposed curative properties of the relics of saints, and the divine origin popularly ascribed to visions and ecstatic trances.

In the middle ages, magic asserted its supremacy over the whole of Christian Europe; but it had entirely lost the religious character communicated to it by the Chaldeans.  It had degenerated into the ‘black art’.

The book goes into great detail the manner that the possessions took, demons, lots of crazy behavior that today we would attribute to schizophrenia, accounts of the nuns speaking in languages of which they had no knowledge, and a great deal of detailed explanation of the tortures and burnings of the times.  Cripes, what an era to have to live in!

All in all, an very interesting book, of which the history of magic was the most fascinating for me.

This is available in many sites as a free download.  Just Google it.  Google is your friend.  It is worth it alone for the little treatise  on the power of words, including a short lesson on magical incantations.

It may not be superfluous to remember that in every word there is a magical influence, and that each word is in itself the breath of the internal and moving spirit.  A word of love, of comfort, of promise, is able to strengthen the timid, the weak, or the physically ill; but words of hatred, censure, enmity, or menace, lower our confidence and self-reliance.    There is probably no one who is proof against curse or blessing.

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