We will, in a future part of this enquiry, endeavour to show that many of the particular articles of the popular belief respecting magic and witchcraft were derived from the opinions which the ancient Heathens entertained as part of their religion. To recommend them, however, they had principles lying deep in the human mind and heart at all times ; the tendency to belief in supernatural agencies is natural, and, indeed, seems connected with, and deduced from, the invaluable conviction of the certainty of a future state. Moreover, it is very possible that particular stories of this class may have seemed undeniable in the dark ages, though our better instructed period can explain them in a satisfactory manner, by the excited temperament of spectators, or the influence of delusions produced by derangement of the intellect, or imperfect reports of the external senses. They obtained, however, universal faith and credit; and the churchmen, either from craft or from ignorance, favoured the progress of a belief which certainly contributed, in a most powerful manner, to extend their own authority over the human mind.
To pass from the pagans of antiquity—the Mahom-medans, though their profession of faith is exclusively unitarian, were accounted worshippers of evil spirits, who were supposed to aid them in their continual warfare against the Christians, or to protect and defend them in the Holy Land, where their abode gave so much scandal and offence to the devout. Romance, and even history, combined in representing all who were out of the pale of the Church as the personal vassals of Satan, who played his deceptions openly amongst them ; and Mahound, Termagaunt, and Apollo, were, in the opinion of the "Western Crusaders, only so many names of the arch-fiend and his principal angels. The most enormous fictions, spread abroad and believed through Christendom, attested the fact, that there were open displays of supernatural aid afforded by the evil spirits to the Turks and Saracens ; and fictitious reports were not less liberal in assigning to the Christians extraordinary means of defence through the direct protection of blessed saints and angels, or of holy men, yet in the flesh, but already anticipating the privileges proper to a state of beatitude and glory, and possessing the power to work miracles.
To show the extreme grossness of these legends, we may give an example from the romance of Richard Coeur de Lion, premising, at the same time, that, like other romances, it was written in what the author designed to be the style of true history, and was addressed to hearers and readers, not as a tale of fiction, but a real narrative of facts, so that the legend is a proof of what the age esteemed credible, and were disposed to believe, as much as if it had been extracted from a graver chronicle.
The renowned Saladin, it is said, had dispatched an embassy to King Richard, with the present of a colt, recommended as a gallant warhorse, challenging Coeur de Lion to meet him in single combat between the armies, for the purpose of deciding at once their pretensions to the land of Palestine, and the theological question, whether the God of the Christians, or Jupiter, the deity of the Saracens, should be the future object of adoration by the subjects of both monarchs. Now, under this seemingly chivalrous defiance was concealed a most unknightly stratagem, and which we may, at the same time, call a very clumsy trick for the devil to be concerned in. A Saracen clerk had conjured two devils into a mare and her colt, with the instruction that whenever the mare neighed, the foal, which was a brute of uncommon size, should kneel down to suck his dam. The enchanted foal was sent to King Richard in the belief that, the foal obeying the signal of its dam as usual, the Soldan, who mounted the mare, might get an easy advantage over him.
But the English king was warned by an angel in a dream of the intended stratagem, and the colt was, by the celestial mandate, previously to the combat, conjured in the holy name to be obedient to his rider during the encounter. The fiend-horse intimated his submission by drooping his head; but his word was not entirely credited. His ears were stopped with wax. In this condition, Richard, armed at all points, and with various marks of his religious faith displayed on his weapons, rode forth to meet Saladin, and the Sol-dan, confident of his stratagem, encountered him boldly. The mare neighed till she shook the ground for miles around. But the sucking devil, whom the wax prevented from hearing the summons, could not obey the signal. Saladin was dismounted, and narrowly escaped death, while his army were cut to pieces by the Christians. It is but an awkward tale of wonder, where a demon is worsted by a trick which could hardly have cheated a common horse-jockey ; but by such legends our ancestors were amused and interested, till their belief respecting the demons of the Holy Land seems to have been not very far different from that expressed in the title of Ben Jonson's play, " The Devil is an Ass."
One of the earliest maps ever published, which appeared at Rome in the 16th century, intimates a similar belief in the connexion of the heathen nations of the north of Europe with the demons of the spiritual world. In Esthonia, Lithuania, Courland, and such districts, the chart, for want, it may be supposed, of an accurate account of the country, exhibits rude cuts of the fur-clad natives paying homage at the shrines of demons, who make themselves visibly present to them while at other places they are displayed as doing battle with the Teutonic knights, or other military associations formed lor the conversion or expulsion of the heathens in these parts. Amid the pagans, armed with scimitars, and dressed in caftans, the fiends are painted as assisting them, pourtrayed in all the modern horrors of the cloven-foot, or, as the Germans term it, horse's-foot, bat-wings, saucer-eyes, locks like serpents, and tail like a dragon. These attributes, it may be cursorily noticed, themselves intimate the connexion of modern demonology with the mythology of the ancients. The cloven foot is the attribute of Pan, to whose talents for inspiring terror we owe the word panic—the snaky tresses are borrowed from the shield of Minerva, and the dragon train alone seems to be connected with the scriptural history.*