The lingering belief in the old religion, and in the magical and thaumaturgical practices which had, like ivy around an oak, gradually accrued to it, was productive in the decline of Paganism of many poetical forms of superstition. It is curious and instructive to remark the increasing earnestness with which the decaying creed of Heathendom sought to array itself against the encroachments of Christianity. The light persiflage with which the philosophy of the Augustan age treated the state-religion nearly disappears. The indifference of the magistrate gives place to an intolerant and indignant tone of reclamation. The Pagan Csesars attack the new religion as a formidable antagonist ; the Christian emperors, in their turn, assail directly or ferret out perseveringly the superstitions which lingered among the rural towns and districts. The ancient gods are no longer regarded by either their worshipers or their opponents as simply deified heroes or men, but as powerful and mysterious beings, informed with demoniac energies and capable of conferring temporal good or evil,-beauty, power, and wealth, on the one hand; deformity, ignominy, and disease, on the other,-upon those who honoured or abjured them. Such conceptions of blessing or of bale were embodied in strange narratives of weeping or jubilant processions of majestic forms when the moon was hid in her vacant interlimar cave, of demons assuming the shape of fair enchantresses who beguiled men to their undoing, of palaces reared in a night and dislimning in the day, of banquets, like that visionary banquet in the wilderness, which Milton has adorned with all the graces of imagination in his ' Paradise Lost"
We can afford room for only two of the narratives of demoniac influence in which the later Pagans expressed their belief in the influence of the early gods.
1. The superstition of the Lamia. One result of the consolidation of Western Asia with Europe, under the Roman Empire, was to spread widely over the latter continent the germs of the serpent-worship of the East. The subtlest beast of the field, retaining in full vigour his powers of assuming tempting forms and uttering beguiling words, was wont, it seems, to disport himself among the sons and daughters of men under the shape in which he deceived our general mother, the over-curious Eve. Especially did he delight to entrap some hopeful youth who was studying philosophy in the schools of Athens or Berytus, or some neophyte in the Christian Church. A fair young gentleman at Corinth had been abroad on a pleasure excursion, and might perchance be returning home a little the worse for wine. However this may have been, at the gates of Corinth he encountered a damsel richly attired, "beautiful exceedingly," but with hair dishevelled, and drowned in tears. He began by inquiring the cause of her distress. Faithless servants had carried off her litter and left her lone. He offered her consolation, winch she accepted, and his arm also, which she did not decline. She led him to a lordly palace in a bye street of the city, where he had never yet been. At its marble portico waited a crowd of slaves with torches awaiting their absent mistress, and the pair, now become fond, were ushered into a sumptuous banqueting hall, where a board was spread covered with all the delicacies of the season, and garnished with effulgent plate. In this palace of delight the young man abode many days, taking no account of time. But at length, cloyed with sweets, he proposed inviting a party of his college friends, much to the dismay of his fair hostess* who, with many tears and embraces, besought him to forego his wish. In an evil hour however he persevered, and his rooms were filled with gownsmen, marvelling much, not without envy, at the good fortune that had befallen their chum, Lucius, no one knew how or why. But among the undergraduates came a grave and grey college tutor, deeply read in conjurors' books, who could detect by his skill the devil under any shape. Pale and silent the old man sat at the festive board, and was ill-bred enough to stare the lady not only out of countenance, but out of her beauty also. She grew pale, livid,an indiscriminate form: she melted away; the palace melted also; the plate, the viands, and the wines vanished also; and in place of columns and ceiled roofs was a void square in Corinth, and in place of the damsel was a loathsome serpent, writhing in the agonies of dissolution. The white-bearded fellow had scanned and scotched and slain the snake-the Lamia-but he destroyed his patient also, for Lucius became a maniac; had the charm lasted awhile longer, his soul would have become the fiend's property.
2. A young man had sorely offended the great goddess Venus, or, as she was called in his native city, the Syrian Byblus, Astarte. To redeem himself from the curse upon his board and bed,-for he had recently married a fair wife,-he applied to a wise astrologer. The sage heard his case, and advised him, as his only remedy, to go on a certain night, at its very noon, to a spot just without the gates, called the Pagan's Tomb,-to station himself on the roof of it, and to recite, at a prescribed moment, a certain formulary, with which his counsel, learned in magical law, furnished him. On the Pagan's Tomb accordingly the young man placed himself at the noon of night, and awaited his deliverance. And presently, towards the confines of morning, was heard a sound of sad and solemn music, and of much wailing, and of the measured tread of a long procession. And there drew nigh a mournful company of persons, who might have seemed men and women, but for their extraordinary stature, and their surpassing majesty and beauty: and the young man remembered the words of the magician, and knew that before him was the goodly company of the gods whom his forefathers in past generations had worshiped. One only of that august and weeping band was borne in a chariot-the god Saturn-perhaps by reason of his great age; and to Saturn he addressed his prayer, which. was of such potency that Saturn straightway commanded Astarte to release the petitioner from the curse she had laid upon him.
We have been able merely to indicate how wide a field lies beyond the proper domain of medieval witchcraft. It would be curious to trace the similarity of the Heathen and Christian superstitions, or rather the derivation of one from the other. But we must reserve this subject to some other occasion, and conclude with repeating the wish with which we commenced, that some competent hand would undertake to trace through all its ramifications the obscure yet recompensing subject of Magic and "Witchcraft.