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An Oxonian

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Thaumaturgia covers a wide range of occult subjects including: Magic and Magical rites; Jewish magi; Demonology; Oracles; Origin of fairies; Aesculapian mysteries; Alchymical and astrological chimera; Definition of dreams, and many more.

This book has 237 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1835.

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Excerpt from 'Thaumaturgia'

Children and old women have been accustomed to hear so many frightful things of the cloven-footed potentate, and have formed such diabolical ideas of his satanic majesty, exhibiting him in so many horrible and monstrous shapes, that really it were enough to frighten Beelzebub himself, were he by any accident to meet his prototype in the dark, dressed up in the several figures in which imagination has embodied him. And as regards men themselves, it might be presumed that the devil could not by any means terrify them half so much, were they actually to meet and converse with him face to face: so true it is that his satanic majesty is not near so black as he is painted.

However useful the undertaking might prove, to give a true history of this "tyrant of the air," this "God of the world," this "terror and overseer of mankind," it is not our intention to become the devil's biographer, notwithstanding the facility with which the materials might be collected. Of the devil's origin, and the first rise of his family, we have sufficient authority on record; and, as regards his dealings, he has certainly always acted in the dark; though many of his doings both moral, political, ecclesiastical, and empirical, have left such strong impressions behind them, as to mark their importance in some transactions, even at the present period of the christian world. These discussions, however, we shall leave in the hands of their respective champions, in order to take, as we proceed, a cursory view of some of the diableries with which mankind, in imitation of this great master, has been infected, from the first ages of the world.

The Greeks, and after them the Romans, conferred the appellation of Demon upon certain genii, or spirits, who made themselves visible to men with the intention of either serving them as friends, or doing them an injury as enemies. The followers of Plato distinguished between their gods—or Dei Majorum Gentium; their demons, or those beings which were not dissimilar in their general character to the good and bad angels of Christian belief,—and their heroes. The Jews and the early christians restricted the name of Demon to beings of a malignant nature, or to devils properly so called; and it is to the early notions entertained by this people, that the outlines of later systems of demonology are to be traced.

It is a question, we believe, not yet set at rest by the learned in these sort of matters, whether the word devil be singular or plural, that is to say, whether it be the name of a personage so called, standing by himself, or a noun of multitude. If it be singular, and used only personal as a proper name, it consequently implies one imperial devil, monarch or king of the whole clan of hell, justly distinguished by the term DEVIL, or as our northern neighbours call him "the muckle horned deil," and poetically, after Burns "auld Clootie, Nick, or Hornie," or, according to others, in a broader set form of speech, "the devil in hell," that is, the "devil of a devil," or in scriptural phraseology, the "great red dragon," the "Devil or Satan." But we shall not cavil on this mighty potentate's name; much less dispute his identity, notwithstanding the doubt that has been broached, whether the said devil be a real or an imaginary personage, in the shape, form, and with the faculties that have been so miraculously ascribed to him; for

  If it should so fall out, as who can tell,
  But there may be a God, a heav'n and hell?
  Mankind had best consider well,—for fear
  It be too late when their mistakes appear.

The devil has always, it would seem, been particularly partial to old women; the most ugly and hideous of whom he has invariably selected to do his bidding. Mother Shipton, for instance, our famous old English witch, of whom so many funny stories are still told, is evidently very much wronged in her picture, if she was not of the most terrible aspect imaginable; and, if it be true, Merlin, the famous Welch fortune-teller, was a most frightful figure. If we credit another story, he was begotten by "old nick" himself. To return, however, to the devil's agents being so infernally ugly, it need merely be remarked, that from time immemorial, he has invariably preferred such rational creatures as most belied the "human form divine."

The sybils, of whom so many strange prophetic things are recorded, are all, if the Italian poets are to be credited, represented as very old women; and as if ugliness were the ne plus ultra of beauty in old age, they have given them all the hideousness of the devil himself. It will be seen, despite of all that has been said to the disadvantage of the devil, that he has very much improved in his management of worldly affairs; so much so, that, instead of an administration of witches, wizzards, magicians, diviners, astrologers, quack doctors, pettifogging lawyers, and boroughmongers, he has selected some of the wisest men as well as greatest fools of the day to carry his plans into effect. His satanic majesty seems also to have considerably improved in his taste; owing, no doubt, to the present improving state of society, and the universal diffusion of useful knowledge. Indeed, we no longer hear of cloven-footed devils, only in a metaphorical sense—fire and brimstone are extinct or nearly so; the embers of hell and eternal damnation are chiefly kept alive and blown up by ultras among the sectaries who are invariably the promoters of religious fanaticism. Beauty, wit, address, with the less shackled in mind, have superseded all that was frightful, and terrible, odious, ugly, and deformed. This subject is poetically and more beautifully illustrated in the following demonological stanzas, which are so appropriate to the occasion, that we cannot resist quoting them as a further prelude to our subjects:

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