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Before Miss Goodrich-Freer's paper in the fifth volume
(1888-9) of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical
Research nothing of any importance had been written
about scrying. Miss Freer was the first to study the
matter scientifically, and the first also to study its history.
During the following years Frederic Myers, Andrew Lang,
and other investigators tried to give the subject its place in
the whole field of psychical phenomena. Only one serious
book has as yet been published about scrying, that by Mr
N.W. Thomas, and that is unfortunately marred by
much hasty writing and by much padding — it remains
useful principally for Andrew Lang's Introduction. Needless
to say, a number of unscientific works have been
printed round and about the subject.1
|1. I think the following list is complete: W. W. Atkinson, Practical Psychomancy and Crystal Gazing (Chicago, 1908); "Carolus Rex," The Magnetic Mirror Bayswater ); "Frater Achad" [i.e, C. Stansfeld-Jones], Crystal Vision through Crystal Gazing (Chicago, 1923); W. Goldston, Crystal Gazing (London, 1905); J. Melville, Crystal-Gazing and the Wonders of Clairvoyance (London, 1920); Modern Crystal Gazing (London, ); Recollections of a Society Clairvoyant (London, 1911); "Sepharial" [i.e., Walter R, Old], How to Read the Crystal (London, 1922); C. Thorpe, Practical Crystal-Gazing (London, 1916); A. Verner, Clairvoyance and Crystal Gazing (Bolton, 1903).|
I have tried to make this book equally useful to all those to whom scrying is of interest; it is my hope that the anthropologist and the folklorist as well as the psychical researcher and the scryer will find matter of interest in the following pages. Several points have naturally arisen in the course of my study that I have not been able to discuss, that have not indeed properly come within the scope of my subject. I hope that other students will make use of this material; they are referred to several articles in the Subject Index. It is with regret that I have been unable to include any new experimental results; this is due to bad luck, for though I have conducted numerous experiments with several scryers, I have not obtained any results worth including in this book. I shall always be glad to receive well-authenticated accounts of scrying visions.
Chapters IX. and XI. were sketched in an article "On Crystal-Gazing," in The Occult Review for January 1924 (xxxix. 19-29), and part of the section on "Dr. Dee's Shew-Stone" has already appeared in Notes and Queries, cxlvi. 223-225. I am grateful to the Council of the Society for Psychical Research for permission to quote from their Journal and Proceedings.
I had intended to reproduce as a Frontispiece Mr. Henry Pegram's Sibylla Fatidica. Unfortunately the authorities at the Tate Gallery have placed the statue in a corridor which is so dark as to make a good photograph impossible.
|CHAPTER I — SCRYING AND ITS METHODS|
|§ 1 SCRYING|
|§ 2 CATOPTROMANCY|
|§ 3 CRYSTALLOMANCY|
|§ 4 CYLICOMANCY|
|§ 5 GASTROMANCY|
|§ 6 HYDROMANCY|
|§ 7 LECANOMANCY|
|§ 8 LITHOMANCY|
|§ 9 ONYCHOMANCY|
|§ 10 PEGOMANCY|
|§ 11 MISCELLANEOUS METHODS|
|CHAPTER II — SCRYING IN LEGEND AND TRADITION|
|§ 1 THE LEGEND OF THE MAGICAL TOWER|
|§ 2 FRIAR BACON'S GLASS PROSPECTIVE|
|§ 3 CORNELIUS AGRIPPA|
|§ 4 NOSTRADAMUS|
|§ 5 SCRYING IN THE FAUST LEGEND|
|§ 6 DR. DEE'S SHEW-STONE|
|§ 7 WILLIAM LILLY|
|§ 8 COUNT CAGLIOSTRO|
|CHAPTER III — SCRYING IN LITERATURE|
|§ 1 SCRYING IN EARLY LITERATURE|
|§ 2 SCRYING IN MODERN LITERATURE|
|CHAPTER IV — SCRYING IN ANCIENT AND EARLY EUROPE|
|§ 1 SCRYING IN ANCIENT GREECE|
|§ 2 SCRYING IN ANCIENT ROME|
|§ 3 SCRYING IN EARLY EUROPE|
|§ 4 SCRYING IN THE MIDDLE AGES|
|CHAPTER V — SCRYING IN MODERN EUROPE|
|§ 1 SCRYING IN ENGLAND|
|§ 2 SCRYING IN SCOTLAND|
|§ 3 SCRYING IN THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA|
|§ 4 SCRYING AMONG THE GERMANS AND SCANDINAVIANS|
|§ 5 SCRYING IN FRANCE|
|§ 6 SCRYING IN ITALY|
|§ 7 SCRYING IN MODERN GREECE|
|§ 8 SCRYING IN EASTERN AND SOUTH-EASTERN EUROPE|
|CHAPTER VI — SCRYING IN THE EAST|
|§ 1 SCRYING AMONG THE SEMITIC NATIONS|
|§ 2 SCRYING AMONG THE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS|
|§ 3 SCRYING IN ISLAM|
|§ 4 SCRYING IN PERSIA|
|§ 5 SCRYING IN INDIA|
|§ 6 MONGOLIAN SCRYING|
|CHAPTER VII — SCRYING IN OTHER CONTINENTS|
|§ 1 SCRYING AMONG THE MALAYANS AND PAPUANS|
|§ 2 SCRYING IN AUSTRALIA|
|§ 3 AMERICAN SCRYING|
|§ 4 SCRYING AMONG THE AFRICAN NEGROES|
|CHAPTER VIII — THE PROCEDURE OF SCRYING AND THE GENESIS OF VISIONS|
|§ 1 EXPERIMENT AND FRAUD|
|§ 2 THE PROCEDURE OF SCRYING|
|§ 3 THE GENESIS OF VISIONS|
|§ 4 EFFECT OF SCRYING ON THE HEALTH|
|CHAPTER IX — THE MECHANISM OF SCRYING|
|§ 1 NORMAL|
|§ 2 SEMI-HYPNOTIC AND HYPNOTIC|
|§ 3 POINTS DE REPÈRE|
|§ 4 CONCLUSION|
|CHAPTER X — MISCELLANEOUS PHENOMENA OF SCRYING|
|§ 1 COLLECTIVE SCRYING|
|§ 2 SCRYING AND AUTOMATIC WRITING|
|§ 3 SCRYING AND HALLUCINATORY AUDITION|
|§ 4 SCRYING AND HALLUCINATORY TASTE|
|§ 5 SCRYING AND RAPS|
|§ 6 SCRYING AND HAUNTINGS|
|§ 7 SCRYING AND MULTIPLE PERSONALITY|
|§ 8 SCRYING AND EXPERIMENTS WITH MAGNIFYING GLASSES|
|§ 9 COLOUR IN SCRYING VISIONS|
|§ 10 THE NUMBER OF NORMAL SCRYERS|
|§ 11 CONCLUSION|
|CHAPTER XI — THE RATIONALE OF SCRYING|
|§ 1 SUGGESTION|
|§ 2 SUBCONSCIOUS KNOWLEDGE|
|§ 3 TELEPATHY|
|§ 4 CRYPTESTHESIA|
|§ 5 SPIRIT-GUIDANCE|
|§ 6 THE DEFINITION OF SCRYING|
SCRYING AND ITS METHODS
The word crystal-gazing is loosely used to indicate a large
class of methods of divination employed in all periods of
history and all over the world, which have an element in
common. This common element can be more readily
perceived when this form of divination is called by the
North English dialect word "scrying," from "to descry."1
Scrying has been defined in many ways; according to one
writer, "One of the oldest ways to explore the future is to
have it looked for, by means of a pure boy, in a crystal, in
a glass, or in the transparency of water."2 Sir Walter
Scott says that the old astrologers "affirmed that they could
bind into their service, and imprison in a ring, a mirror, or
a stone, some fairy, sylph, or salamander, and compel it to
appear when called, and render answers to such questions
as the viewer should propose. It is remarkable that the
sage himself did not pretend to see the spirit, but the task
of viewer, or reader, was intrusted to a third party, a boy
or girl usually under the years of puberty."3 Andrew
Lang defines the faculty of scrying as that of "seeing faces,
places, persons in motion, sometimes recognisable, in a
glass ball, or in water, ink, or any clear deep."4 Without
multiplying quotations we may at this point broadly define
a scryer as one who has the faculty of seeing visions in a
smooth surface or clear deep, or both. It is not proposed
to discriminate in this book between the various methods
which have been and are used for scrying, but it will be
convenient to glance rapidly over them. In a footnote to
each section is given a list of the lesser known works to
which the reader can turn for further information.
1. See J. Wright, The English Dialect Dictionary (London, 1898-1905,
6 vols.) v. 293, s.v. "scry."
2. J. von Görres, Die christliche Mystik (Regensburg, 1836-42, 4 vols.), iii. 600.
3. Demonology and Witchcraft (London, (1876]), PP. 347-8.
4. Introduction to N. W. Thomas, Crystal Gazing (London, 1905), p. ix; cp. id., Longman's Magazine (London, 1896), xxvii. 104-7.
Catoptromancy (katoptron, mirror + manteia, divination),
sometimes called enoptromancy (enoptron, mirror + mnteia),
has probably been the most widely used of all the methods
of scrying, not only because of the convenience, in later
times, of a small steel or glass mirror, but because of the
association, in earlier times, of mirrors with astrological
and astronomical practices. These latter uses we shall see
more of among the aboriginal stocks of Mexico and
|5. T. Blount, Glossographia (London, 1656), s.v. "Catoptiomancy"; J. Bodin, Le Fleav des Demons et Sorciers (2nd ed., Niort, 1616), pp. 129-131; J. L. Boulenger, Opvscvlorvm systemata (Lyons, 1621, 2 vols.), I. iii. 7; R. Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy, II. 1. i. i.; J. C. Frommann, Tractatus de fascinatione (Nüremberg, 1675), pp. 726-7, 775; J. Gaule, The Mag-Astro-Mancer, or the Magicall-Astrologicall Diviner Posed and Puzzled (London, 1652), p. 165; J. G. Gödelmann, Von Zauberern, Hexen und Unholden (Frankfort o.M., 1592), I. v. 13; J. von Görres, op. cit., iii. 600; John of Salisbury, Policraticus, I. xii.; C. Kiesewetter, Faust in der Geschichte und Tradition (Leipzig, 1894), pp. 463-5; id., Geschichte des Occultismus (Leipzig, 1891-5, 2 vols.), ii. 363-4; E. Parish, Hallucinations and Illusions (Contemporary Science Series, London, 1897), p. 65; M. A. del Rio, Disquisitionum magicarum libri sex (Lyons, 1612), p. 244; E. Smedley and others, "The Occult Sciences" (Encyclopædia Metropolitana, London, 1~5), pp. 321-2; Journ. S.P.R. (1901-2); x. 179; Proc. S.P.R. (1889), v. 286; J. Tahureau, Les Dialogues (Paris, 1565), pp. 163, sqq.|
§ 3 CRYSTALLOMANCY6
Crystallomancy (krustalloz, crystal +
not originally one of the common forms of scrying, is now
practically the only one used, the usual name of scrying,
crystal-gazing, speaking for itself. The first use of crystals
in scrying was to place a crystal in water, which was thus
made fit for use as a speculum. An early writer thus
describes the practice: "Crystallomancy is a method of
divination by the crystal which gave its answers whether
pyramidal, cylindrical, or of any other manufactured shape
of crystal. Or else it was done by means of pieces or
kinds of crystal enclosed in rings, or else enclosed in some
vase, and cylindrical or oval in shape, in which the devil
feigns and makes it seem as though he were in it."7
6. J. Gaule, op. cit., p. 165; J. G. Gödelmann, op. cit., I. v. 12;
J. von Görres, op. cit., iii. 600; C. Kiesewetter, Faust ...,
op. cit., pp. 466-9, 472-3; id., Geschichte ..., ii. 367; M. A, del Rio,
op. cit.., pp. 244-5; Proc. S.P.R. (1888-9), v. 286.
7. P. de l'Ancre, L'Incredulité et Mescreance du Sortilege Plainement convaincve (Paris, 1622), p. 258.
§ 4 CYLICOMANCY8
Use the word cylicomancy (kulix, cup +
though it has not the countenance of the New English Dictionary,
for the very common practice of scrying in
cups filled with water or wine or some other liquid. This
method is one of the most extensively used in the East,
and always has been.
8. C. Kiesewetter, Geschichte ..., ii. 377-8; John of Salisbury,
op. cit., I. xii.; J. Tahureau, op. cit., p. 162.
§ 5 GASTROMANCY9
This method of scrying should not be confused with
another method of divination with the same name but of a
very different kind. Gastromancy (casthr, belly +
was originally a method of divination from the marks on
the human belly, and came later to be used for scrying in
the water contained in the belly of some receptacle. It
was principally employed by the Greeks and also in
medieval Europe, the bottles in use in those days being
of course of a belly-like shape. One writer defines the
practice thus: "Gastromancy, a species of divination
amongst the Greeks, in which they filled certain round
glasses with pure water, placing lighted torches around
them; then they prayed to the deity in a low, muttering
voice, and proposed their question: A chaste and unpolluted
boy, or a woman big with child, observed every
alteration in the glasses, begging and requiring an answer,
which at last, they say, was given by certain images in the
glasses, representing what should come to pass."10
9. J. Bodin, op. cit., p. 121; Borderland (London, 1897), iv.
319; J. L. Boulenger, op. cit., I. iii. 6; G. F. Creuzer, Dionysus,
sive commentationes academicæ de rerum Bacchicarum . . . (Heidelberg,
1809), pp. 27-8, 303-4; J. G. Gödelmann, op. cit., I. v. 16;
C. Kiesewetter, Geschichte. . . ., ii. 366-7; P. de l'Ancre, op. cit.,
p. 252; E. Parish, op. cit., p. 65; M. Psellus, De operatione Dæmonum
(Nüremberg, 1838), p. 42; M. A. del Rio, op. cit.,
p. 244; E. Smedley, op. cit., p. 324; Proc. S.P.R. (1888-9),
v. 286; J. L. Vives, in St Augustine, De civitate Dei (Paris, 1570),
10. T. Wilson, An Archæological Dictionary (London, 1783), s.v. "Gastromancy."
Hydromancy (udwr, water + manteia)
has so many forms
that it has been a fruitful source of error concerning
scrying. The name is used for those forms of scrying
in which the water of rivers, lakes, wells, etc., is used as a
speculum. It should not be confused with those kinds of
divination in which the omens are derived from signs in
the water, such as eddies, waves, floating matter, etc.
This form of scrying has been sometimes restricted to
water running under ground, as can be seen from this
early passage: "Also he forbideth men to make them
simylitude of any thynge in the Water vndre the erth. In
which worde he forbideth ydromancy. . . ."12
11. H. C. Agrippa, Three Books of Occult Philosophy (London,
1651), I. lvii. 125; T. Blount, op. cit., s.v. "Hydromantie";
J. Bodin, op. cit., pp. 35, 121; J. L. Boulenger, op. cit., I. iii. 9;
R. Burton, op. cit., I. II. i. ii.; N. Comes, Mythologie (Paris, 1627),
p. 333; G. F. Creuzer, op. cit., p. 320 [sic for 302]; J. Gaule,
op. cit., p. 165; J. G. Godelmann, op. cit., I. v. 18;
J. von Görres, op. cit., iii. 600; C. Kiesewetter, Geschichte . . .,
ii. 365-6; L. Le Roy, Of the Interchangeable cavse or variety of things in the whole world
(London, 1594), f. 50a; J. Melton,
Astrologaster, or The Figure-Caster (London, 1620), p. 69;
E. Parish, op. cit., p. 65; G. Ragusaeus, Epistolarvm Mathematicorvm sev de divinatione
(Paris, 1623), II. viii. 451-7; M. A. del Rio,
op. cit., pp. 179, 143-4; J. Tahureau, op. cit., p. 162; T. Wilson,
op. cit., s.v. "Hydromancy."
12. H. Parker, Dives and Pauper (London, 1493), I. xxxvi., sig. E5a.
§ 7 LECANOMANCY13
Lecanomancy (lekanh, dish + manteia) is a form of scrying
very similar to cylicomancy, instead of a cup a basin
or similar open receptacle being used. This method of
scrying has also been misconstrued, as the following
passage shows: "Lecanomancy, a kind of divination performed
in a basin with wedges of gold and silver, distinguished
with certain characters. The wedges were
suspended on the water, and the Dæmon formally invoked,
who returned the answer in a small hissing voice thro' the
fluid. How open to imposition is human credulity."14
13. T. Blount, op. cit., s.v. "Licanomancy"; J. Bodin, op. cit.,
p. 121; J. L. Boulenger, op. cit., I. iii. 5; N. Comes, op. cit.,
p. 335; G. F. Creuzer, op. cit., pp. 302-3; J. Gaule, op. cit.,
p. 165; J. G. Gödelmann, op. cit., I. v. 17; C. Kiesewetter,
Geschichte . . ., ii. 364-5; E. Parish, op. cit., p. 65; M. A. del Rio,
op. cit., p. 244; J. Tahureau, op. cit., p. 162; J. L. Vives,
op. cit., p. 217.
14. T. Wilson, op. cit., s.v. "Lecanomancy."
§ 8 LITHOMANCY15
Of all the different modes of scrying lithomancy (liqoz, stone + manteia) is probably the most peculiar. In general it is a stone that is used as speculum, but in particular there are several special stones which are supposed to possess some inherent virtue which makes them especially suitable for scrying. Among these stones are the bætyl, the sideritis, the ophitis. Pliny says: "As for the Anachitis, it is said that spirits may be raised in it by means of Hydromancy: as with the Synochitis, the ghosts that are raised may be kept above."16 To which a disciple of Pliny adds: "Affrick breedeth the Hyene. . . . There is a great varietie in their eyes, and chaungableness of colours, and in the balles of them is founde a stone called Hyenie, endued with such power, ye under what mans tongue soever it be put, he shall prophesie of thinges to come."17 And again, "The Glossopetre falleth from the  skye in the wane of the Moone, lyke to a mans tongue, and it is of no small power as the Magicians affirme. . . ."18
15. J. Bodin, op. cit., p. 35; G. Cardano, De rerum varietate
(Basel, 1557), p. 259; J. L. Boulenger, op. cit., I. iii. 30;
Damascius, Vita Isidori (Leipzig, 1911), pp. 121—3; Marbodus,
Liber Lapidum, v.; M. A. del Rio, op. cit., p. 249; T. Wilson,
op. cit., s.v. "Lithomancy."
16. Natural History, XXXVII. xi.
17. C. J. Solinus, The excellent and pleasant worke of Iulius Solinus Polyhistor (London, 1587), xxxix., sig. S  a-b.
18. C. J. Solinus, The excellent and pleasant worke of Iulius Solinus Polyhistor (London, 1587), xlix., sig. V  b.
§ 9 ONYCHOMANCY19
In onychomancy (onux, finger-nail + manteia)
the procedure is rather out of the ordinary, but as it was never
widespread we need not enter into it too closely. Here
is a description: "Onychomancy, a sort of divination
performed by examining the nails of an unpolluted boy.
For this purpose they were covered with oil and soot, and
turned to the sun: The images represented by the reflections
gave the answers required."20 This form of scrying
should not be confused with that part of chiromancy which
consists of the examination of the natural marks on the
19. T. Blount, op. cit., s.v. "Onymancy"; J. Bodin, op. cit.,
p. 130; L. J. Boulenger, op. cit., I. iii. 8; J. Gaule, op. cit.,
p. 165; C. Kiesewetter, Faust . . ., pp. 477, sqq.; id., Geschichte
. . ., ii. 367-8; E. Parish, op. cit., p. 65; M. A. del Rio, op. cit.,
p. 245; A. de Rochas d'Aiglun, "Les Forces non définies,"
Mémoires de la Société des Sciences et Lettres de Loir-et-Cher
(Blois, 1886), xi. 642.
20. T. Wilson, op. cit., s.v. "Onychomancy."
Finally we come to that specialised form of hydromancy known as pegomancy
(manteia, spring + manteia).
In this method of scrying the water of springs forms the speculum.
This practice was almost entirely limited to ancient Greece,
where certain springs were peculiarly revered because of
their association with oracles.
|21. H. C. Agrippa, op. cit., I. lvii. 126; J. Bodin, op. cit., p. 121; A. de Rochas d'Aiglun, op. cit., xi. 642; M. A. del Rio, op. cit., pp. 243-4; J. L. Vives, op. cit., p. 217; T. Wilson, op. cit., s.v. "Pegomancy."|
§11 MISCELLANEOUS METHODS
In addition to the above generally employed methods of
scrying, various unclassifiable objects have been used from
time to time for experiment or for lack of better means.
For the information of the curious and the amusement of
the cynical, these miscellaneous objects, or as many of
them as I have noted, have been listed in the Subject Index
under "Scrying, miscellaneous objects used for," to which
article the reader is referred.22
|22. See also, topazes: E. A. P., Notes and Queries (1818) 5 S. x. 496; charcoal: C. W. Leadbeater, The Astral Plane (London, 1899), p. 76; the back of a watch: Proc. S.P.R. (1888-9), v. 286; a silver lamp: A. Goodrich-Freer, "A Record of Telepathic Experiences," Proc. S.P.R. (1889-90), vi. 391; soap-bubbles: A. J. C. Kerner, The Seeress of Prevorst (London, 1845), pp. 74-5; silvered balls: F. Fusedale, in London Dialectical Society, Report on Spiritualism (London, 1871), pp. 256-7; rings: J. Bodin, op. cit., pp. 35, 120-1, 129-30; the lock of a door: C. G. Carus, in E. Parish, op. cit., p. 63n; a shield: M. A. del Rio, op. cit., p. 255 [sic]; eyes: ibid., p. 246.|
SCRYING IN LEGEND AND TRADITION
§1 THE LEGEND OF THE MAGICAL TOWER
This legend is best known as one of the tales in the collection The Seven Wise Masters. Originating apparently in India these stories exist in early Persian, Arabic, Turkish and Hebrew versions, passing through Greek, Latin and Armenian transcriptions into most modern European tongues.1 The Legend of the Magical Tower makes its first European appearance in a Latin manuscript of the eighth century, after which it is found in different versions in a number of romances and narrative poems.2 The story is that in a certain town a magician set up a tower having many wonderful qualities; one of the most marvellous of these was a mirror which shone over all the town and warned the inhabitants in time, by reflecting the enemy while he was still at a great distance, of any threatened invasion. One of the earliest English versions has it thus:
1. See H. A. von Keller's learned Introduction to his edition of
Li Roman des Sept Sages (Tübingen, 1836).
2. For an account of these see H. A. von Keller, op. cit., pp. ccvii, sqq.
... hit was a mane,
3. wayetys = watchmen.
4. The Seven Sages, ed. by T. Wright (Percy Soc, London, 1846), pp. 64-5, 11. 1879-91.
In a prose version of about the same date, the mirror is replaced by a "grete round balle of golde,"5 and Gower, writing at the end of the fourteenth century, reverts to the Latin accretion Virgil instead of the Northern Merlin:
5. The History of the Seven Wise Masters of Rome, ed. by G. L. Gomme
(Villon Soc, London, 1885), p. 82. For an account of
other variations see The Book of Sindibâd, ed. by W. A. Clouston
(privately printed, 1884), p. 337; D. Comparetti,
Researches respecting the Book of Sindibâd (Folk-Lore Soc, London, 1882),
and Vergil in the Middle Ages (London, 1895), pp. 303, sqq.;
E. du Méril, Mélanges Archéologiques et Littéraires (Paris, 1850),
pp. 467, sqq.
Whan Rome stood in noble plite,
6. clergie = learning.
7. Confessio Amantis, V. iii. 61-71, ed. by R. Pauli (London, l857, 3 vols.), ii. 195.
The old French poem Balan refers, while speaking of
Rome, to the Mirror-Castle,8 and Ser Giovanni even confuses
it with the Capitol.9 But all such names of persons
and places are not integral parts of the story, being added
by able craftsmen for the sake of local colour. This is
well enough shown by Caxton's translation of Raoul Le Fevre's
rendering of the story, in which we read that on
the top of the tower of the city Coragne, Hercules "maad
an ymage of copre lokyng in to the see and gaf hym in his
hand a myrrour hauyng suche vertue that yf hit happend
that ony men of warre were on the see in entencion to do
ony harme to the Cyte sodaynly their Oost10 and theyr
comynge shold appere in thys said myrrour."11
8. In G. Paris, Histoire poétique de Charlemagne (2nd ed., Paris,
1905), p. 251. There is a similar expression in the Letter of
9. Giovanni Fiorentino, Pecorone, V. i.
11. The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, ed. by H. O. Sommer (London, 1894, 2 vols.), ii. 414-5.
Guillaume Bouchet moves the tower still further, writing
that the inhabitants of Rhodes could see in a mirror which
was hung round the neck of "their Sun or Colossus, the
ships journeying to Syria, or to Egypt."12 By this we are
led to the legend brought home from the East, to which
Spenser refers after describing Britomart's wonderful mirror:
12. Les Sérées, ed. by C. E. Roybet (Paris, 1873—82, 6 vols.), ii. 205.
Who wonders not, that reades so wonderous worke?
13. The Faerie Queene, III. ii. 20; see p. 32 below.
Rabbi Benjamin ben Jonah, who travelled in the twelfth
century, writes of Alexandria: "Here is also erected a high
tower, called lighthouse, in Arabic Minar of Alexandriah, on
the summit of which was placed a glass mirror. All vessels,
which approached with hostile intentions from Greece and
from the western side, could be observed at fifty days
distance by means of this mirror."14 A native writer has
a similar tale; speaking of a king "named Saurid, son of
Sabaloc, three hundred years before the flood," he relates
from hearsay that this king caused to be made "a mirror
of all kinds of minerals, in which could be seen all the
climates in which there was abundance or sterility, and
what new things occurred in all the parts of Egypt. This
mirror stood on a lighthouse of bronze in the middle of
the ancient sea that was Emsos."15 Norden's account is
to the same effect; he places the tower at Alexandria in
50 B.C., and adds that the mirror "had a diameter of five
palms; certain authors say that it was made of crystal,
and according to others it was made of polished Chinese
steel, or of various metals melted together. Sentinels were
placed by this mirror and saw in it vessels when still at a
great distance."16 According to many Oriental writers,
says Reinaud, this mirror was the work of Aristotle.17
Buffon holds the existence of such a mirror on the Pharos
of Alexandria to have been not impossible, and provides
a pseudo-scientific explanation rather reminiscent of Porta
on "how to see in a smooth glass things that take place
at a distance and in other places."18 Whether this story
derives from the same source as the one in The Seven Wise Masters
it is now impossible to determine with certainty,
but any other origin is highly improbable.
14. Benjamin of Tudela, The Itinerary, ed. by A. Asher (London and Berlin, 1840-1, 2 vols.), i. 155.
15. Murtadha ibn al-Khafif, L'Egyple de Mvrtadi,fils du Gaphiphe, ov il est traité des Pyramides (Paris, 1666), pp. 27, 31—2.
16. F. L. Norden, Voyage d'Egypte et de Nubie (new ed., Paris, 1795) 3 vols.), iii. 163. See also Isma'il ibn 'Ali, Descriptio Aegypti, ed. by J. D. Michaclis (Göttingen, 1776), pp. 5-6, 38.
17. J. T. Reinaud, Description des Monumens Musulmans du cabinet de M. le Due de Blacas (Paris, 1828, 2 vols.), ii. 418.
18. G. L. Le Clerc de Buffon, Œuvres complètes (Paris, 1884, 14 vols.), ii. 401-2. G. B. Porta, Magia naturalis, XVII. ii.
According to Le Fevre the miraculous tower lasted, by
an equally miraculous handling of history, until the time of
"Nabugodonosor," who deceived the mirror by filling his
boats with trees, causing the fleet to look like a forest, and
thus destroyed the tower. As for the mirror itself, it was
preserved at the beginning of the seventeenth century in
the Abbey of St Denys in France,19 where it was seen by
Evelyn half-way through the century.20 And according to
M. Anatole France, that most laborious and accurate
historian, it is still shown in a certain Italian city.21
19. J. Doublet, Histoire de l'Abbaye de S. Denys en France (Paris
l625), p. 347.
20. John Evelyn, The Diary, ed. by A. Dobson (London, 1908), p. 28, 12th of November 1643.
21. L'Ile des Pingouins, III. vi.
§2 FRIAR BACON'S GLASS PROSPECTIVE
Roger Bacon (1214 ?-1294), the chief founder of scientific method in modern times, had to submit to almost unceasing persecution and contempt during the whole of his life. And for two centuries after his death the only references to him that can be found relate to his supposedly magical activities. For long this was the current opinion of him:
Bacon we hear, that long we haue suspect,
22. hadromaticke = hydromancy.
23. R. Greene, The Honorable Historic of frier Bacon and frier Bongay (London, 1594), scene 2.
In all the stories told of Bacon appear the brazen head and the magic glass that between them could speak and see all things. In the play just quoted, Bacon looks into the glass for his friends with such dire consequences that he addresses himself thus:
See Frier where the fathers both lie dead.
24. Ibid., scene 14.
In the chap-book about Bacon that was very widely read in
the seventeenth century, this glass is described as having
been "of that excellent nature, that any man might beholde
any thing that he desired to see, within the compass of fifty
miles round about him: With this Glass he had pleasured
divers kinds of people: for Fathers did oftentimes desire
to see (thereby) how their Children did, and Children how
their Parents did, one Friend how another did, and one
Enemy (sometimes) how his Enemies did; so that from
far they would come to see this wonderful Glass."25
25. Famous History of Fryer Bacon (London, 1627), sig. F3a.
Except for a passage in a doubtful book, "Glasses and
Perspectives may be framed to make one thing appear
many? one man an Army, the Sun and Moon to be as
many as we please,"26 (and there is nothing magical about
that), Bacon's works are free from anything that could be
interpreted as showing that he really practised scrying.
The statement that "Francis Picus says, that he read in
one of Bacon's books, That a man might become a prophet,
and foretell things to come by means of a looking glass
(which Alchumesi composed according to the rules of perspective),
provided he used it under a good constellation, and first brought
his body into an even and temperate
state by chemistry,"27 is quite false. It is no doubt true
that the fable of Bacon's wonderful glass "derives its origin
from his well-known skill in optics."28
26. Discovery of the Miracles of Art, Nature and Magick (London,
l659), p. 19-
27. F. Grose, The Antiquarian Repository (London, 1807-9, 4 vols.), ii. 306; cp. G. F. Pico della Mirandola, De rerum Prænotione, VII. vii.
28. W. J. Thorns, Early Prose Romances (2nd ed., London, 1858, 3 vols.), i. 186.
§3 CORNELIUS AGRIPPA
Henry Cornelius Agrippa (1486-1535), was an excellent
and learned German student. But if his name became
associated with magic mirrors, among other occult implements,
he has only himself to blame. Irony was not
appreciated in his time, so that his reference, while speaking
of various kinds of mirrors, to one "that causeth the
Images of all thinges to appeare"29 was probably taken
seriously. However that may be, the association stuck:
Thomas Nashe, for instance, writes how the bored courtiers
of his story "to wearie out time would tell vs further tales of
Cornelius Agrippa. . . . How the Lord Cromwell being
the kings Ambassador there ... in a perspective glasse
hee [i.e., Agrippa] set before his eyes king Henrie the eight
with all his lordes. ..." Later, Nashe and the Earl of Surrey
having become friendly with the wonder-worker, they requested
him to show them in the mirror the Earl's Geraldine.
"He shewed her vs without anie more adoe, sicke weeping
on her bed, and resolved all into deuout religion for the
absence of her Lord." Whereat her delighted Lord incontinent
"framed an extempore ditty."30 Sir Richard Burton
declares it as a fact, without giving any reference, that
Agrippa used a crystal mirror.31
29. Of the Vanitie and vncertaintie of Artes and Sciences (London, 1569),
xxvi; cp. Three Books of Occult Philosophy (London,
1651), I. lvii.
30. The Unfortunate Traveller, in Works, ed. by R. B. McKerrow (London, 1903-7, 5 vols.), ii. 253-4.
31. Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah (London, 1906, 2 vols.), i. 387-9n.
§ 4 NOSTRADAMUS
Michel de Nostredame (1503-1556), or, to give him his
affected name, Nostradamus, was not so respectable a body
as Agrippa. However, he was an official astrologer under
the patronage of Catherine, and there seems to be no
particular reason why his name should have become
connected with the speculatory art.32 Perhaps there is some
connexion between these stories and the legend that
Catherine was shown in a mirror, in the manner of Macbeth,
the future kings of France.33
32. See e.g., D. G. Morhof, Polyhistor Literarius, Philosophicus
et Practicus (Lübeck, 1732, 2 vols.), i. 95. There exists a publication
entitled The Complete Fortune-teller, being The Magical Mirror of Michael Nostradamus.
33. J. C. Frommann, Tractatus de fascinatione (Nuremberg, 1765), pp. 726-7; P. Bayle, Dictionnaire historique et critique (new ed., Paris, 1820, 14 vols.), xii. 126, sqq., s.v. "Pythagoras"; Remarques sur le gouvernement du royaume durant les règnes de Henri IV, de Louis XIII et de Louis XIV (Cologne, 1688), pp. 15-16.
§5 SCRYING IN THE FAUST LEGEND
This is not the place for discussion of the Faust legend as
a whole: it dates from the sixteenth century, and the flood
of literature evoked by it has continued unabated ever since.
It will be sufficient to note that in one offshoot of the legend,
the Höllenzwang (1575), scrying is especially in evidence.34
Here we find directions for the discovery of a thief by looking,
after appropriate prayers and incantations, into the
neck of a bottle, where "the whole man in his clothes"
will appear, and remain visible for three hours (chapter
lxxii.). In the previous chapter is given a long account of
the requisite procedure to enable a devotee to see whatever
he wishes to learn in a glass; but "this experiment must be
made in a place where neither clocks strike nor cocks crow,"
on Friday, after having put on clean clothes.35 Goethe duly
introduces the magic mirror into the Witches' Kitchen,
and causes Faust to see a great many things in it.36 No
doubt it re-appears in other plays and tales about the same
34. The very scarce Höllenzwang is reprinted by J. C. Adelung,
Geschichte des menschlichen Narrheit (Leipzig, 1785-9, 7 vols.),
vii. 365, sqq.
35. These chapters are quoted by C. Kiesewetter, Faust in der Geschichte und Tradition (Leipzig, 1893), pp. 466-8.
36. Faust, I. 2078, sqq., in Anna Swanwick's trans., see pp. 64-5 below.
§6 DR DEE'S SHEW-STONE
John Dee (1527-1608) is a unique figure in the history of
experimental psychology. He was a man of uncommon
attainments who has left a large number of learned and
ingenious works on mathematics, geography, navigation,
calendar reform, and other subjects, together with a quantity
of autobiographical material. After many years of study and
useful work in the world he turned to what we
would now call spiritualism, in this being followed by not
a few of his scientific successors. His special interest was
scrying: on the 22nd of December 1581 he swore in one
Barnabas Saul as his scryer, but a few months later he made
the acquaintance of Edward Kelly whom he installed as
permanent scryer at a salary of £50 a year. On the 21st
of November 1582 he was brought a crystal "as big as an
egg: most bryght, clere, and glorious,"37 by his angels,
having had in the meanwhile and continuing to have regular sittings
with Kelly, of which he took practically verbatim notes, which have
all come down to us.
37. Doctoris Dee Mysteriorum Libri Sex (sic), Sloane 3188, f. 596.
Dee himself nearly always refers to the speculum as the
"shew-stone" or as "the stone." There are occasional
references to the "great Christaline Globe,"38 to the
"Stone in the frame (which was given me of a frende),"39
to the "diaphanous globe,"40 to the "principal stone,"
to "this other stone," to the "first sanctified stone," to
the "usual shew stone," and to the "holy stone."41 The
marginal sketches in Dee's MSS. give the stone a globular form.42
All this — which is the whole of our first-hand
information — is enough to show that Dee possessed more
than one speculum, and that one stone, a crystal globe
(the one he claimed to have had brought to him by angels ?)43
and which he describes as above, was the most important.
During the years that Dee was on the continent he became
suspect of magical dealings and a mob invaded his house
at Mortlake, many of his books and other objects liable to
be misconstrued being destroyed. As the crowd would
certainly not have overlooked so well-known a magical
object as a scrying crystal, it is very probable that the stone
Dee carried with him on his travels was the only one left
to him on his return to England and the only one that could
have come down to us. We know from various references
in his diaries to the loss of the stone and so forth, that he
only carried with him one speculum; there can be no
doubt that he would have taken the angelical crystal. On
this point Casaubon says, "... he carried with him
where ever he went A stone, which he called his Angelicall
Stone, as brought unto him by an Angell, but by a spirit sure
enough. . . .44 Even if this conjecture is unfounded, the
authenticity of any kind of speculum other than a crystal globe
must be very doubtful, since there is no indication
anywhere in Dee's writings of his possession of a stone
other than globular in shape.
38. Ibid., f. 10a.
39. Ibid., f. 9a.
40. Ibid., f. 58a.
41. These last names are listed by the editor of J. Dee, A True and Faithful Relation of What passed for many Yeers Between Dr John Dee . . . and Some Spirits, ed. by Meric Casaubon (London, 1659), p. 47 of first pagination.
42. Sloane, 3188, 3677; Cotton App. XLVI.
43. True Relation, pp. 46 (1st pag.), 246 (2nd pag.); Sloane 3188, f. 59.
44. True Relation, p. 28 (1st pag.).
In the Cottonian collection, acquired in 1700, came to the
British Museum a globe which has been variously described
as "a piece of solid pink tinted glass, size and form of a
full-grown orange;"45 as a "globe of polished crystal";46
and as "a smoky ball."47 It is in fact a very poor spherical
piece of some slightly opaque vitreous substance, probably
that known as cairngorm or morion. It has been equally
emphatically asserted that this ball is48 and is not49 Dr Dee's
speculum. I have not been able to discover how it got with the Cotton MSS.
45. G. Ellis, Notes and Queries (1887), 7 S. iv. 306; Encyclopædia Britannica
(11th ed.), vii. 921.
46. Dictionary of National Biography, xiv. (1888), 277.
47. J. Raine, Archaeological Journal (London, 1856), xiii. 372.
48. G. Ellis, Encyc. Brit., D.N.B., locc. cit.
49. W. A. Clouston, On the Magical Elements in Chaucer's Squire's Tale (Chaucer Soc., London, 1888-90), p. 311.
In a letter to Sir Horace Mann, dated the 22nd of March
1771, Horace Walpole wrote: "Among other odd things
he [Lord Frederick Campbell] produced a round piece of
shining black marble in a leathern case, as big as the crown
of a hat and asked me what that could possibly be? I
screamed out, 'Oh, Lord, I am the only man in England
that can tell you! it is Dr Dee's black stone!' it certainly
is; Lady Betty Germaine had formerly given away or sold,
time out of mind, for she was a thousand years old, that
part of the Peterborough collection that contained Natural
Philosophy. So, or since, the black stone had wandered
into an auction, for the lotted paper is still on it. The
Duke of Argyll, who bought of everything, bought it.
Lord Frederick Campbell gave it to me . . . "50 He adds,
contradicting himself, that the stone is "only of highly
polished coal." So there is at once some doubt regarding
the material of which it is made, a doubt not resolved by the
various descriptions of it existing: the stone has been declared
to be of anthracite (? schottischer Steinkohle),51
cannel-coal,52 a "polished mass of jet,"53 a "flat black stone
of very close texture,"54 obsidian,55 and, more particularly,
Mexican obsidian.56 It has also been said, though this is
evidently mistaken, that the speculum put up at the Strawberry Hill
sale was "a crystal globe (pierced through the middle)."57
The entry in the catalogue reads: "84. A
singularly interesting and curious relic of the superstitions
of our ancestors — the celebrated SPECULUM of KENNEL COAL,
highly polished, in a leathern case. It is remarkable for having been used to
deceive the mob, by the celebrated Dr Dee, the conjuror, in the reign of
Queen Elizabeth. It was originally in the collection of the Mordaunts, Earls
of Peterborough, in whose catalogue it is called the black stone, into which
Dr Dee used to call his spirits. From the Mordaunts it passed to
Lady Elizabeth Germaine, and from her to John, last Duke of Argyll,
whose son, Lord Frederick Campbell, presented it to Mr Walpole."58
50. Letters, ed. by Mrs Paget Toynbee (Oxford, 1903-5, 16 vols.),
viii. 22-3; cp. the letter to the Countess of Upper Ossory, 12th
of January 1782, xii. 145.
51. J. C. Adelung, Geschichte der menschlichen Narrheit (Leipzic, 1785-9, 7 vols.), vii. 80.
52. J. Berkenhout, Biographia Literaria (London, 1777), p. 427n; Penny Encyclopædia, viii. (1837), 347; Sir R. F. Burton, Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah (London, 1906, 2 vols.), i. 387n; H. S. Cuming, Journal of the British Archceological Assoc. (London, 1850), v. 52; D.N.B., loc. cit.
53. W. Gregory, Animal Magnetism (London, 1896), p. 163.
54. W. C., Notes and Queries (1863), 3 S. iv. 155.
55. G. F. Kunz, The Curious Lore of Precious Stones (Philadelphia, 1913), p. 190.
56. C. Fell-Smith, John Dee (London, 1909), p. 63; O. M. Dalton, Proceedings of the Soc. of Antiquaries (London, 1900), xxi. 382-3.
57. A. R. Bayley, Notes and Queries (1907), 10 S. i. 16.
58. A Catalogue of the Classic Contents of Strawberry Hill , p. 167.
The stone was apparently purchased by Mr J. H. Smythe Piggott
(though according to some accounts it first passed through the
hands of a Mr Strong of Bristol),59 and we are
thereby enabled to know what the stone really looked like:
"At the sale of the effects of J. H. S. Piggott, Esq., at
Brockway Hall, Somerset, in October 184960 ... the
Shew-Stone of the celebrated astrologer, Dr Dee, was one
of the curiosities disposed of... [here follows a cut of the
stone] ... we cannot do better than to quote the notice
written and pasted at the back of the stone, by Horace Walpole.
... 'The black stone, into which Dr Dee
used to call his spirits by his book. This stone was mentioned
in the catalogue of the collection of the Earls of Peterborough,61
from whom it came to Lady Elizabeth Germaine.
H. W.' The stone is eight inches long, and
seven inches and a half across in its widest part."62 The
speculum has been accurately described elsewhere in a
passage worth transcribing notwithstanding the risk of
repetition, if only to compare the versions of Horace Walpole's
label: "This magic speculum of Dr Dee is
composed of a flat black stone of very close texture, with
a highly polished surface, half an inch in thickness, and
seven inches and a quarter in diameter; of a circular form,
except at the top, where there is a hole for suspension. It
came from Strawberry Hill; and Horace Walpole has attached a
statement of its history in his own handwriting on the back of
the original leather case, in which it has
been preserved:— 'The black stone into which Dr Dee
used to call his spirits, v. his book. This stone was mentioned
in the Catalogue of the collection of the Mordaunts,
Earls of Peterborough, and passed into the hands of Lady
Elizabeth Germaine; from whom it went to John Campbell,
Duke of Argyll, whose son, Lord Frederick Campbell, presented
it to H. W.' "63
59. D.N.B., Cuming, locc. cit.
60. This date was wrongly given as 1853 by W. C., loc. cit., followed by D.N.B. and Kunz, locc. cit.
61. I have not been able to see a copy of this catalogue.
62. Illustrated London News (London, 1850), xvi. 157; I am indebted to Mr O. M. Dalton for this reference.
63. W. C., loc. cit.
At the Piggott sale the stone was bought by Lord Londesborough,64
from whom it apparently passed to Prince Alexis Soltykoff.65
But "another mirror, also of Mexican obsidian, and said to have belonged
to Dr Dee, was sold at the Jeffrey Whitehead sale at Sotheby's in March
1906"!66 And to entangle the matter still further the
following passages will be useful: one writer reminds us
that Dr Dee's magic mirror "was included in the Tudor
Exhibition in 1890. There were indeed two such relics
on view. One was a pear-shaped, polished black stone,
which would, I presume, be the 'disc of highly polished
cannel coal.' It is catalogued as 'Dr Dee's Shew-Stone
or Speculum. . . .' The latter was a crystal globe,
described in the catalogue as 'Dr Dee's Divining Crystal.'
The latter was lent by G. Milner-Gibson-Cullum, Esq.,
but no owner's name was appended to the first-mentioned
exhibit."67 Miss Goodrich-Freer records having
seen Dee's crystal at the Stuart Exhibition, but this is
no doubt a slip of the pen, though Lang repeats the mistake.68
64. T. Wright, Miscellanea Graphica: . . . Remains in the possession
of Lord Londesborough (London, 1857), pp. 81-2.
65. Cp. Dalton and Kunz, loc. cit.
66. O. M. Dalton, loc. cit.
67. J. T. Page, Notes and Queries, 9 S. xii. 467; cp. [Catalogue of the] Exhibition of the Royal House of Tudor (New Gallery, London, 1890), pp. 205 (No. 1050), 208 (No. 1964*).
68. A. Goodrich-Freer, Essays in Psychical Research (London, 1899), p. 127; A. Lang, Cock Lane and Common Sense (London, 1896), p. 217; no such crystal is recorded in the [Catalogue of the] Exhibition of the Royal House of Stuart (New Gallery, London, 1889).
To turn from the black stone to the crystal, one writer
declares that a magic crystal supposed to have been Dr Dee's
came into the possession of "a noble lady, distinguished
in the literary world, who has died since that time."69
Finally, Dr Dee's crystal is said to have been in
the possession of Mr Henry Huth.70 In answer to my
query Mrs O. Huth (who is the daughter-in-law of Mr Henry Huth)
kindly informs me that this stone is now in
her possession and is "oval, and rather larger than a duck's egg."71
It will be noted that this description is the
only one that tallies with Dee's description of his angelical
stone as being "big as an egg. . . ."72
69. W. Gregory, Animal Magnetism (London, 1896), p. 134.
70. J. Brand, Popular Antiquities, ed. by W. C. Hazlitt (London, 1905, 2 vols.), i. 46, s.v. "Beryl."
71. In a letter dated the 8th of March 1924.
72. It may be worth noting that in early writers Dee's speculum, in common with Bacon's, is described as being constructed according to the rules of perspective, see e.g., G. Naudé, Apologie povr tovs les grands personnages qui ont esté faussement soupçonner de Magie (Paris, 1625), p. 490. For the speculum in general see also A. Lang, Longman's Magazine (London, 1895), xxvi. 110; W. Godwin, Lives of the Necromancers (London, 1834), pp. 376-7; D. G. Morhof, Polyhistor Literarius, Philosophicus et Practicus (Lübeck, 1732, 3 vols.), II. iii. 460.
To return now to Dee himself, we find that in the year
following his receipt of the crystal from the angels, Albert Laski,
a nobleman of Bohemia, came to England and induced Dee to return to
the continent with him, in the hope that the latter would be able to
make gold for him, in which, Dee notes in his diary, he was successful.
During the next four years Dee and his family, with Kelly and the crystal
and all, travelled about Europe, visiting Rudolph II, Emperor of the Romans,
and Stephen, King of Poland, on their way. He refused an offer to visit the
Emperor of Russia and to remain with him with a stipend of £2000 a year, a
considerable sacrifice for the constantly impecunious Dee. Early in 1589 he
broke with Kelly, and at the end of the same year was back in England, where
he was most graciously received by Elizabeth, who had already given signs of
her favour. In 1595 Dee was appointed Warden of Manchester College, whence he
returned to his house at Mortlake in 1604 owing to bad health, and in 1608,
at the age of eighty-one, he died.
The diary that Dee kept of his scrying experiments, which run into several bulky volumes, forms a very valuable source of information, having once set aside the absurdities and inconsistencies due to the temperaments of Dee and of Kelly. There can be no doubt that the latter was a  thorough scoundrel and frequently deceived the kindly Dee, yet there is equally little doubt that the mass of the visions recorded in these diaries are genuine. For there is much in them — the records, that is, of things actually seen, not the interpretations of Dee and Kelly — that is in accord with modern experience. In no case, however, can the absolute honesty of Dee be doubted, and the absurd reflections, after the fashion set by Butler,
Kelly did all his feats upon
which have been made on his integrity and even on his
sanity, are quite undeserved.74
73. Samuel Butler, Hudibras, II. iii. 631-4.
74. See for instance H. D. Traill, English Illustrated Magazine (London, 1889), vi. 480; D.N.B., xiv. 279; A. F. Pollard, in Lives of Twelve Bad Men, ed. by T. Seccombe (London, 1894), p. 36.
§7 WILLIAM LILLY
In the case of William Lilly (1602-1681), astrologer and political double-dealer, there is not much evidence to show that he knew of scrying and used a crystal for that purpose. He writes in his Autobiography that he was very familiar with one Sarah Skelhorn who had been a Speculatrix to one Arthut Gauntlet, a doctor. "This Sarah lived a long time, even until her Death, with one Mrs Stockman in the Isle of Purbeck, and died about sixteen Years since: Her Mistress one time being desirous to accompany her Mother, the Lady Beconsfield, unto London, who lived twelve miles from her Habitation, caused Sarah to inspect her Crystal to see if she, viz. her Mother was gone, yea or not; the Angels appeared, and shewed  her Mother opening a Trunk and taking out a red Wastcoat, whereby she perceived she was not gone; next Day she went to her Mother, and there, as she entred the Chamber, she was opening a Trunk, and had a red Wastcoat in her Hand": Lilly also knew one Gladwell of Suffolk "who had formerly had Sight and Conference with Uriel and Raphael, but lost them both by Carelessness." Lilly describes this gentleman's Beryl as having been of the largeness "of a good big Orange, set in Silver, with a Cross on the Top, and another on the Handle; and round about engraved the Names of these Angels, Raphael, Gabriel, Uriel."75 Lilly gained a pretty reputation during his life, being thus restrainedly described in a satirical broadsheet:
He that foresees all thing in Church and State,
75. W. Lilly, History of His Life and Times, From the Year 1602, to 1681,
Written by himself (London, 1715), pp. 101-2, 103 and note.
76. Lilly Lash't with his own Rod, or an Epigram On the quaint Skill of that Arch Temporizing Astrologer, Mr William Lilly (London, 1660).
§8 COUNT CAGLIOSTRO
Giuseppe Balsamo (1743-1795), professionally known as
Count Alessandro Cagliostro, is not unknown to notoriety.
He was a dangerous kind of charlatan: for to his sincere
interest in occult matters and to his smattering of knowledge
were added considerable baseness and duplicity.
His conquering march over the whole of Europe and most
of the Near East has been burned with the molten lead
of Carlyle's eloquence.77 What chiefly annoyed the angry
sage was Cagliostro's use of children for scrying: it must
be confessed, alas! that Carlyle's knowledge (here as elsewhere?)
lagged behind his indignation; for the Grand Copt
was in the direct line of soothsayers in so doing.
There is no reason for doubting that Cagliostro was a genuine
believer in the facts of scrying, and did indeed sometimes
obtain interesting results. But the manner in which he conducted
his performances does not leave much room for sympathy: "Cagliostro
brought to the [Masonic] Lodge ... a little child ... he placed the
child on his knees in front of a table on which stood a carafe of
pure water, behind which were several lighted candles. He made an
exorcism around him, placed his hands on the child's head, and
both, in that attitude, addressed their prayers to God for the
happy accomplishment of the work. Having been told to look into
the carafe, the child exclaimed all of a sudden that he saw a
garden. Knowing by this that God was helping him, Cagliostro
took courage, and told the child to ask God for the grace of
seeing the angel Michael. First of all the child said: 'I see
something white, without being able to distinguish what it is. . . .' "78
77. Count Cagliostro, in Works (London, 1899, 30 vols.), xxviii. 288.
78. Vie de Joseph Balsamo . . . Comte Cagliostro, Extraite de la Procedure instruite contre lui à Rome, en 1790, traduite d'après l'original italien (2nd ed., Paris, 1791), pp. 122-3; cp. Biographie Universelle, vi. (1843), 340, s.v. "Cagliostro."
Count Beugnot, a mediocre statesman of the transition
period, has left a similar picture, which deserves quoting
for its interesting details: "One of the tricks of Cagliostro
was to make known at Paris an event occurring at the
moment at Vienna, at Paris, or Pekin; or that would take
place in six days, six months, six years, or twenty years
from the moment. But this required an apparatus which
consisted of a glass globe full of clear water. . . . The
apparatus being all ready, a clairvoyante was to kneel
before the glass globe — that is to say, a young person was to
observe the scenes of which the globe should offer a representation,
and to relate them. . . . The young person must be of a purity
unequalled, except by the angels; she was to be born under a given
constellation, have delicate nerves, great susceptibility, and
blue eyes. By unspeakable good luck, Mademoiselle de Latour,
niece of Madame de Lamotte . . . was stated to fulfil all the
conditions. . . ."79
79. J. C. Beugnot, Life and Adventures of Count Beugnot, ed. by
Charlotte Yonge (London, 1871, 2 vols.), i. 55-7. For a different
interpretation of the identity and character of Cagliostro see
W. R. H. Trowbridge, Cagliostro, The Splendour and Misery of
a Master of Magic (London, 1910).
In Alexandre Dumas's novel Mémories d'un médecin,
which is based on Cagliostro's adventures, occurs a very
dramatic scene in which Marie Antoinette is shown, in a
glass of water, her impending fate (I. xv.).
The Count of St Germain, whom Cagliostro claimed as
his friend, has also been said, on about as much evidence
as most statements about that mysterious personage, to have
gone in for scrying.80
80. Sir R. F. Burton, Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah
(London, 1906, 2 vols.), i. 387n.
SCRYING IN LITERATURE
§1 SCRYING IN EARLY LITERATURE
Inspired no doubt by the magical legends then current, the
early writers frequently used supernormal themes. Scrying,
providing good enough matter for the imagination, was
naturally not overlooked. Thus in the Gesta Romanorum,
which were first translated into English at the beginning
of the fourteenth century, we find a most instructive tale,
with its moral duly appended. A knight on a pilgrimage across
the seas is accosted in a street of Rome by a strange clerk
from whom he learns that the wife he left behind him is
deceiving him with a magician, who, as a price for her
favours, is employing his magical skill to dispose of the
knight. The latter, not at all incredulous it must be confessed,
is taken home by the stranger, where he is persuaded to undress
and to step into a bath. The clerk then hands him a mirror in
which the knight sees his wife with the magician, who is shooting
at an image of her husband; but each time he draws his bow the
latter ducks under the water and is saved. The third and last
arrow permitted by the magical art is thereby not only prevented
from hitting the image but recoils with deadly effect on the
magician himself. The knight then presumably steps out of the
bath; and having taken another wife he "faire endid his
liffe."1 The moral I omit.
1. The Early English Versions of the Gesta Romanorum, ed. by
S. J. H. Herrtage (Early English Text Soc, London, 1879),
pp. 1-3. This episode also occurs in a German tale about the
magician Virgil, see C. J. Simrock, Die deutschen Volksbücher
(Frankfort o.M., 1845-67, 13 vols.), vi. 380, sqq.
Piers Plowman was almost as fortunate, for his lady made him look into a mirror in which he saw wonders:
Sithen she sayd to me, "Here mightest thou se wonders."2
|2. Cited by W. A. Clouston, On the Magical Elements in Chaucer's Squire's Tale (Chaucer Soc, London, 1888-90), p. 309.|
Froissart has framed the tale to a pretty conceit:
Je vodroie qu'il peuist estre
3. J. Froissart, Poécies, ed. by J. A. Buchon (Paris, 1829),
pp. 270-1. "I wish it were possible for me to resemble the master who made
the mirror at Rome in which were seen all men who rode nearby. For if in
this I were as able as he, by Heaven, to whatever place I went I could
clearly see my lady."
In those days we could look forward to seeing a rider of a horse of brass come to our door, if we were a pretty lady, and hand us a mirror with some such pleasant speech as this:
This mirrour eek, that I have in myn hond,
And later, if we had Chaucer's sly humour, we could listen to this conversation:
And somme of hem wondred on the mirour
4. "Alhazen was an Arab astronomer of the 11th century, and
Vitellio a Polish, of the 13th." A. W. Pollard.
5. Canterbury Tales, ed. by A. W. Pollard (London, 1894, 2 vols.), ii. 196-7, 200; Squire's Tale, ll. 132-41, 225-35.
Camoens writes (here not impeccably translated by
Fanshawe) of the Muse as
With a sweet Voyce she raises to the skies
|6. The Lusiad, X. vii.|
An early work printed by Caxton was his translation of the Dutch tales about Reynard the Fox. Reynard was another sly one, and certainly a reader of Chaucer: "I fonde this rynge in my fadres tresour, & in the same place I toke a glass or a mirrour. . . . Now ye shal here of  the mirrour. The glas that stod theron was of such vertu that men myght see therin alle that was don within a myle, of men, of beestis, and of al thynge that men wold desire to wyte and knowe."7 It is not a far step from Reynard, the Dutch Fox, to Gavin Douglas, the Scottish Bishop, who wrote of the mirror that stood before the throne of Venus in the wonderful Palace, that it surmounted far in brightness to his deme
The coistlie subtell spectakill of Rome,
7. The Historie of Reynarde the Foxe, xxxii.
8. The Palice of Honour, III. xxiii—xxiv.
Another imitator of Chaucer, charmingly human this time, was Edmund Spenser, who added broideries to the old textures. When Britomart wanted to see her lover
By straunge occasion she did him behold,
9. The Faerie Queene, III. ii. 18-19; see p. 11 above.
To depart still further from the chronological order, Spenser in turn inspired, though not so felicitously, James Thomson:
One great Amusement of our Household was,
|10. The Castle of Indolence, I. xlix.|
Before Spenser, in 1576, George Gascoigne referred to the philosopher Lucylius, a worthy man
Who at his death, bequeathed the christal glasse,
|11. The Steele Glas, in Complete Works, ed. by J. W. Cunliffe (Cambridge, 1907-10, 2 vols.), ii. 148-9.|
Thomas Lodge, a scribbler, referred to one of his
pamphlets as a "Christall in which can be seen the common
appearance of devils . . .,"12 and Robert Armin, another,
writes of a "grumbling sir, one that was wise enough, and
fond enough, and solde all for a glasse prospective, because
hee would wisely see into all but himselfe. . . . "13
12. Wits Miserie and the Worlds Madnesse: Discouering the
Deuils Incarnat of this Age (London, 1596), sig. A4b.
13. A Nest of Ninnies, in Works, ed. by A. B. Grosart (privately printed, 1880), p. 47.
But by a couple of years we have passed over Shakespeare,  who has everything; in Measure for Measure (1604) he wrote of the law's resemblance to one who
like a Prophet,
14. Act II, Scene ii.
In these lines are set out the whole argument of the New Academy
against prophecy as expounded by Cicero in his second book On Divination.
Shakespeare returned to this theme two years later in Macbeth: in the stage
directions to the second witches' scene we find "A shew of eight Kings,
and Banquo last, with a glasse in his hand." And a few lines further
Macbeth says, after the figures of the future rulers have passed, "And yet the eight appeares, who beares a glasse, Which shewes me many more. . . ."15
|15. Act IV, Scene i.|
A few years later Ben Jonson brought out The Alchemist, one of the choice crew in which reproaches another with
Erecting figures, in your rowes of Houses,
|16. Act I, Scene i; the passage in the Argument, "... casting Figures, telling Fortunes, Newes, Selling of Flyes, flat Bawdry, with the Stone:" has been erroneously cited, the stone in question being the philosopher's variety; cp. C. M. Hathaway's ed. of The Alchemist (New York, 1903), p. 251.|
But now, alas, the old writers are
declining from Theourgia,
17. T. Tomkis, Albumazar (London, 1615), II. iii. The play by J. Donneau de Visé
and T. Corncille, La Devineresse, ou les Faux enchantments (Paris, 1680), introduces
scrying as an item in its infernal machinery.
§2 SCRYING IN MODERN LITERATURE
After this decline national affairs, in England at least, were too unsettled to allow writers the time for consideration of supernatural affairs, and afterwards the spread of the rationalistic spirit made it impossible. It was not until the passing of the eighteenth century that Sir Walter Scott again made witchcraft and demonology respectable subjects. His earliest reference to scrying occurs in The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805), in which Fitzraven's song opens thus:
Dark was the vaulted room of gramarye,
But soon, within that mirror huge and high,
|18. VI. xvii-xviii.|
Nearly a quarter of a century later (1828) Scott returned to this theme, this time in prose, and wrote the story Aunt Margaret's Mirror.19 In the meanwhile Professor John Wilson, of Noctes Ambrosianæ fame, wrote a whole narrative  poem about a magic mirror, addressing it to Scott; here is a specimen:
. . . ere long I grew
19. Those who care for a heavier touch in these things can turn
to "A Manx Witch: a Weird Story of Crystal Vision and Warning,"
Borderland (London, 1897), iv. 286, sqq.
20. The Magic Mirror (Edinburgh, 1812), X. ix.
Robert Southey, renowned though unconfessed copier, had published a couple of years before The Curse of Kehama, in which occur these poetic lines:
At this the Witch, through shrivell'd lips and thin,
Sent forth a sound half-whistle and half-hiss.
Two winged Hands came in,
Armless and bodyless,
Bearing a globe of liquid crystal, set
In frame as diamond bright, yet black as jet.
A thousand eyes were quench'd in endless night,
To form that magic globe; for Lorrinite
Had, from their sockets, drawn the liquid sight,
And kneaded it, with re-creating skill,
Into this organ of her mighty will,
"Look in yonder orb," she cried,
"Tell me what is there descried."21
21. XI. cxvi—cxvii.
Harrison Ainsworth also borrowed liberally from Scott in
his description of the mirror vision shown by Dr Dee and
Kelly to Guy Fawkes.22
22. Guy Fawkes, I. viii.
Later in the century several writers make use of scrying themes. Robert Browning has a bare reference to peeping in the glass ball,23 but William Morris has some stately lines describing Sigurd's arrival at the hall of Gripir:
 There he looks and beholdeth the high-seat, and he sees it strangely wrought,
23. Mr Sludge, "The Medium" in Works, ed. by A. Birrell (London, 1898, 2 vols.), ii. 605.
24. The Story of Sigurd the Volsung, II. v. 25-32. 8 I. vii-ix.; see pp. 85-6 below.
And D. G. Rossetti let loose his enchanted imagination (and, it should be said, his precise learning and observation) on the theme in Rose Mary:
The lady unbound her jewelled zone
With shuddering light 'twas stirred and strewn
Shadows dwelt in its teeming girth
|25. I. vii-ix.; see pp. 85-6 below.|
In the famous jewel speech at the end of Salome, Herod
says, "I have a crystal, into which it is not lawful for a
woman to look, nor may young men behold it until they
have been beaten with rods." Oscar Wilde probably
learned this from his master J. K. Huysmans' À Rebours, in
which (chapter x.) there is a very complicated and peculiar
mirror vision, which in turn derives, admittedly, from that
most witty and stimulating writer Villiers de l'Isle Adam, whose
Clair Lenoir is based on the medieval legend that
the last thing seen before death remains visibly printed
on the eyes.26
26. See especially chapters iv. and xx.; in chapter xviii. is the
original of des Esseintes's vision.
To come to contemporary times we find, now that magic
and thaumaturgy are quite the thing, numerous allusions
in all sorts of works. Mr Wells, as usual, set the ball
rolling with his story The Crystal Egg,27 which is still
the best tale of its kind. In The Eyes of Youth,28 which
was brought to the St James's Theatre from America in the
autumn of 1918, crystal-gazing played an important part.
In Mr Russel Thorndike's version of Dickens's Christmas Carol
which was shown at the Old Vic. during Christmas
of 1923 (together with the Chester Play of the Shepherds),
Scrooge is shown his visions in a mirror. And Mr Lennox Robinson
has written a little play all about crystal-gazing and
card-reading.29 Miss Rose Macaulay duly trounces
crystal-gazing and its devotees in her Potterism.30
Mr Arthur Machen has these lines in his suggestive tale The Secret Glory,
as introduction to a vision: "Among the
precious stones which were set into the wonder [cup] was a
great crystal, shining with the pure light of the moon;
about the rim of it there was the appearance of faint and
feathery clouds, but in the centre it was a white splendour;
and as Ambrose gazed he thought that from the heart of this
jewel there streamed continually a shower of glittering stars,
dazzling his eyes with their incessant motion and brightness. . . ."31
27. In The Country of the Blind (London, 1911), pp. 285-307.
28. By Charles Guernon and Max Marcein.
29. "Never the Time and the Place," The Dublin Magazine (Dublin, May 1924), i. 856-867.
30. (London, 1920), pp. 108, 132-3.
31. (London, 1922), pp. 97-100.
An interesting crystal-gazing scene occurs in Mr James Stephens's
beautiful Deirdre.32 The witch in one of Mr Cabell's
alcove romances sees visions in a "dark polished stone,"33
and of course the magic mirror duly appears in
that repository of all things strange and hidden, Mr Joyce's
Ulysses,34 as well as in its offspring Antic Hay.35 After
which, for some light relief, we can turn to the chapter on
"The Magic Mirror" in The Brave Little Tailor, or Seven at a Blow.36
32. (London, 1923), pp. 32, 223-5. See also Shane Leslie, Doomsland
(London, 1923), pp. 298, sqq.
33. The High Place (London, 1923), p. 25.
34. (Paris, 1922), pp. 528-9.
35. By Aldous Huxley (London, 1923), p. 235. See also J. Middleton Murry, The Voyage (London ), p. 47.
36. By George Calderon and William Caine (London, 1923), pp. 208, sqq.
Even Mr Nahum did not escape the general contagion,
for had he not on his wall the picture of a "man in rags
looking into a small round mirror or looking-glass, but at
what you couldn't see"?37
37. Walter de la Mare, Come Hither (London, 1923), p. 498;
other such pictures are Miss E. F. Birkdale's To-day for me (1901)
and Mr G. R. Wolseley's Visions, No. 267 in this year's (1924)
Academy. A recent book of memoirs, by Elizabeth Marbury, is
entitled My Crystal Ball (London, 1924). It should not be necessary
to note that this section does not aim at completeness: these
are simply the allusions I have come across.
SCRYING IN ANCIENT AND EARLY EUROPE
§1 SCRYING IN ANCIENT GREECE
Among the innumerable modes of divination employed by
the Greeks the different methods of scrying (all of them are
known to have been used in Greece) play an important
part.1 Bouché-Leclercq curiously enough has little to
say about them, commenting in one place, quite mistakenly,
that hydromancy did not have a great vogue in
1. T. Wilson, An Archæological Dictionary (London, 1783),
under the names of the various methods of scrying; F. Lenormant,
Le Divination et la Science des Présages chez les Chaldéens
(Paris, J875), p. 78; F. T. Elworthy, The Evil Eye (London, 1895),
pp. 443, sqq.; and any standard work of an appropriate nature.
2. Histoire de la Divination dans l'antiquité (Paris, 1879-92, 4 vols.), i. 186; cp. i. 187, 340n.
Pausanias records three springs in Greece which were used for
divination by scrying. One was in front of the sanctuary of
Demeter at Patræ. "Between the spring and
the temple is a stone wall, but on the outside there is a way
down to the spring. Here is an infallible mode of divination,
not, however, for all matters, but only in cases of
sickness. They tie a mirror to a fine cord, and let it down
so far that it shall not plunge into the spring, but merely
graze the surface of the water with its rim. Then after
praying to the goddess and burning incense, they look into
the mirror, and it shows them the sick person either living
or dead. So truthful is this water."3 Another of these
springs was at the oracle of Apollo Thyrxeus, very near
Cyaneæ in Lycia, which showed anyone who looked into it
whatever he wished to see.4 The third spring was at
Tænarum: "Nowadays there is nothing wonderful about
the spring; but they say that formerly when people looked
into the water they could see the harbours and the ships.
A woman stopped these exhibitions for ever by washing
dirty clothes in the water."5
3. Description of Greece, VII. xxi. 12; Sir J. G. Frazer's trans.
(London, 1898, 8 vols.), i. 360-1.
4. VII. xxi. 13; Frazer, i. 361.
5. III. xxv. 8; Frazer, i. 176.
Damascius writes of a holy woman who poured pure water
into a drinking-glass and saw in the water the images of
things to come. He himself, adds Damascius, had not
encountered anything of the sort.6 The procedure
in this gastromancy has been thus described: "They filled
certain round glasses with fair water about which they
placed lighted torches: then invoked the question to be
solved. A chaste and unpolluted boy, or a woman big with
child, was appointed to observe with the greatest care
and exactness all the alterations in the glasses: at the
same time desiring, beseeching, and also commanding an
answer, which at length the demon used to return by images
in the glasses, which by reflections from the water
represented what should come to pass."7 Iamblichus has
it that the visions were seen by a divine light shining
through the water.8 According to Macrobius the lakes of
Sicily, which, he says, are of small size but of immense depth,
were used for scrying.9 Cicero relates that Pherecydes,
the teacher of Pythagoras, foretold an earthquake from the appearance
of some water drawn from a well; but he ridicules the idea of this
being a genuine instance of divination.10 The legend that
Pythagoras himself used a magic mirror may or may not have some
foundation in fact, but the tradition has no connexion with scrying.11
6. Vita Isidori, ed. by R. Asmus (Leipzic, 1911), p. 118.
7. J. Potter, Archæologia Græca, ed. by J. Boyd (new ed., London, 1837), pp. 327-8; which see also for some account of the other methods qf scrying; cp. p. 4 above.
8. De Mysteriis, II. xiv.
9. Saturnalia, V. xix.
10. De Divinatione, I. 1., II. xiii.
11. For a summary of this legend see P. Bayle, Dictionnaire historique et critique (new ed., Paris, 1820, 14 vols.), xii. 126, sqq., s.v. "Pythagoras."
At the top of a great pit in the moon Lucian saw "a
mighty great glass" in which could be seen all cities and
nations as well as if one were in them. And, adds the
narrator, if any disbelieve "let them take the pains to go
thither themselves and they shall find my words true."12
Nevertheless, I have been unable to find any confirmation of this
statement in the textbooks of M. Verne and of Mr Wells.
12. Vera Historia, i.; Francis Hickes's trans.
Sir Richard Burton says that the Greeks used for purposes
of divination oil poured into a boy's hand,13 but
Burton's delightful imagination was apt at times to run
away with him. It is true, however, that scrying from the
finger-nails was used in Greece, and in a Græco-Egyptian MS.
are directions for a magical operation "to be wrought
by help of a boy, with a lamp, a bowl, and a pit."14
13. Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah (London, 1906, 2 vols.), i. 387-9n.
14. Fragment of a Græco-Egyptian Work upon Magic, ed. by C. W. Goodwin (Cambridge Antiquarian Soc, Cambridge, 1852), pp. 2-3; cp. pp. 4-5, 22-3, 27, sqq.
Finally, in an old number of Notes and Queries a writer
quotes an ancient treatise (unspecified) on precious stones:
"Among the stones of choicest esteeme, that of Pyrrhus in
ancient times was accounted to be most excellent. For in
that precious stone (without any helpe, invention, or arte of
man) was naturally discerned the figures of nine goddesses
and a young naked child standing by them: so that they
were censured, by grave opinion, to bee the portraits of
the nine Muses and Apollo. A matter very strange, and somewhat
difficult to be credited."15
15. J. B. Rowlands, 3 S. iv. 108-9.
§2 SCRYING IN ANCIENT ROME
Scrying can have been little used in Rome, for it is
seldom mentioned in the numerous records of its divinatory
practices which survive. St Augustine says that "Numa
himself, being not instructed by any prophet of God, was
fain to fall to hydromancy; making his gods (or rather his
devils) to appear in water, and instruct him in his religious
institutions."16 Horace has a passage which has been
supposed to be a reference to scrying in blood in a trench.17
Among the houses unearthed at Rome there is one which is
supposed to have been the home of Livy. On the walls of
a room in this house are paintings depicting lecanomantic
ceremonies in progress.18 When Apuleius was accused
of magical practices, he denied, during the course of his
defence, that he had engaged in catoptromancy and
hydromancy.19 During the same century (the second of
the present era) flourished Pertinax, of whom "Iulius Capitolinus,
which setteth out a fewe liues of the common
Emperours, reporteth, that Pertinax for ye space of three
dayes before he was slayne by a thrust, sawe a certayn
shaddowe in one of his fishpondes, whiche with a sword
ready drawen threatned to slay him, & thereby much
disquieted him."20 And the Emperor Julian, it is related,
had some events foreseen for him by a child in a mirror.21
16. De civitate Dei, VII. xxxv.
17. Saliræ, V. viii.
18. G. Perrot, Mémoires d'Archéologie, d'Epigraphie et d'Histoire (Paris, 1875), pp. 123, sqq. and plate VII.
19. Apologia, xiii. 11-14, xlii.
20. L. Lavater, Of ghostes and spirites walking by nyght (London, 1572), p. 61; rather embroidered from Julius Capitolinus, Pertinax Imperator, xiv.; cp. P. de Valderrama, Histoire Generate dv Monde (2nd ed., Paris, 1619-17, 2 vols.), ii. 83.
21. Spartianus, Didii Juliani Vita, vii.
§ 3 SCRYING IN EARLY EUROPE
Scrying seems to have existed in Europe from very early
times, even in the parts to which the civilisations of the
East and of the Mediterranean did not penetrate, pace
Messrs Elliot Smith and W. J. Perry. It is possible that the
Druids employed crystals as one of their modes of divination.
One writer on the subject had in his possession a round piece
of rock crystal almost 3 inches in diameter and 11 inches thick
in the middle. On it was an old and partially illegible label,
"Druidical magic Plentz, or mirror of the deviner's cell,
belonging to the Arch Druid: from a barrow in the plain of
Stonehenge, in all accounts the finest known; formerly the
property of Edward Jones, bard to George the Third. This magic
Plentz is also used by the Arch Druid in the ------N------
games."22 There can, of course, be no guarantee of the
authenticity of this description, but it seems likely, to
judge from what is known and from what has survived of the
practices of the Druids, that they knew of scrying.23
22. J. Davidson, Notes and Queries (1863), 3 S. iv. 155.
23. Cp. C. Vallancey, Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicis (Dublin, 1786, 4 vols.), iv. 83, sqq.; H. S. Cuming, "On Crystals of Augury," Journal of the British Archaeological Assoc. (London, 1850), v. 51-3; Marie Trevelyan, Folk-lore and Folk-Stories of Wales (London, 1909), pp. 231-2.
As far back as the second century scrying must have been
very widely practised to have elicited this imaginative
excursus from Hippolytus: "But neither shall I be silent
respecting that piece of knavery of these sorcerers, which
consists in the divination by means of the cauldron. For,
making a closed chamber, and anointing the ceiling with
cyanus24 for present use, they introduce certain vessels of
cyanus, and stretch them upwards. The cauldron, however,
full of water, is placed in the middle of the ground;
and the reflection of the cyanus falling upon it, presents
the appearance of heaven. But the floor also has a certain
concealed aperture, on which the cauldron is laid, having
been previously supplied with a bottom of crystal, while
itself is composed of stone. Underneath, however, unnoticed
by the spectators, is a compartement, into which
the accomplices assembling, appear invested with the
figures of such gods and demons as the magician wishes to exhibit."25
24. A dark blue substance.
25. Refutation of all Heresies, IV. xxxv.; Salmond's trans., Ante-Nicene Library.
Among the objects found in the tomb of Childeric I
at Tournay in 1653 was a crystal ball of 1 ¾ inches in diameter.
It was for long impossible to know what the purpose of this ball
had been. Some fantastic theories were advanced. Thus, it was supposed
at first that the globe was used for medicinal purposes;26
others looked upon the sphere as emblematical of the power of the king.27
But later similar globes28 were found in many other
Merovingian, and in Saxon, tombs,29 and it was observed
that most of them bore the marks of metal mountings. Some indeed
were found complete, with hoops of iron or of some other substance
and with a ring for suspension. In consequence it became generally
believed that these balls were used for ornament, which theory still
holds good to some extent.30 However, still further
research has shown that the mountings of these pieces of crystal
were identical with those of globes used as charms and for magical
and divinatory purposes.31 It is, therefore, at least
probable that the Merovingians in France and the Saxons in England
used crystals for scrying. This supposition is strengthened by one
of the canons of a synod held by St Patrick (c. 389-461) and
the bishops Auxilius and Isserninus.32 This canon
declares that any Christian who believes that a lamia33
can be seen in a mirror34 shall be anathematised and
not received again into the Church until he shall have renounced
his belief and diligently performed the penance imposed upon
him.35 At this time there was a legend
current in the Church that when the pure of heart looked
into a well at Bethlehem associated with the Virgin Mary,
they saw in it a star.36 And it is related of St Remigius
(437-533), Archbishop of Rheims and Apostle of the Franks,
that on one occasion he caused a cup of wine to remain full
and divined in it.37
26. J. J. Chiflet, Anastasis Childerici I Francorvm Regis (Antwerp, 1655),
pp. 243—5; C. Lecointe, Annales Ecclesiastici Francorvm (Paris, 1665-83, 8 vols.), i. 109;
N. Poutrain, Histoire de la ville et cité de Tournai (The Hague, 1750, 2 vols.), i. 400.
27. J. B. Dubos, Histoire Critique de l'Etablissement de la Monarchie Francoise dans les Gaules (Amsterdam, 1734, 3 vols.), III. xvi. (ii. 252-3); J. Ribauld de Rochefort, Dissertation sur le Tombeau de Childeric I (Collection des meilleurs dissertations, Paris, 1862), ii. 112-3.
28. Twenty were found in one place, B. de Montfaucon, Les Monumens de la Monarchie Françoise (Paris, 1729—33, 5 vols.), i. 15.
29. See J. B. D. Cochet, Le Tombeau de Childeric I (Paris, 1859), pp. 301, sqq.; cp. Sir T. Browne, Hydriotaphia, ii., in Works, ed. by C. Sayle (The English Library, Edinburgh, 191a, 3 vols.), iii. 110.
30. J. B. D. Cochet, op. cit., pp. 300-1.
31. See e.g., G. F. Kunz, The Curious Lore of Precious Stones (Philadelphia, 1913), plate facing p. 182; J. Collin de Plancy, Dictionnaire Infernal (Paris, 1863), p. 190.
32. The authenticity of these canons has been doubted by e.g., A. W. Haddon and W. Stubbs, Councils and Ecclesiastical Documents (Oxford, 1867-78, 3 vols.), ii. 331n; but see J. B. Bury, The Life of St Patrick (London, 1905), pp. 234, sqq.
33. New English Dictionary: "A fabulous monster supposed to have the body of a woman, and to prey upon human beings and suck the blood of children."
34. The original "sæculo" has been emended to "speculo."
35. Haddon and Stubbs, op. cit., ii. 329.
36. C. A. Bernoulli, Die Heiligen der Merovinger (Tubingen, 1900), pp. 284-7.
37. P. Cotton, Institution Catholique (Paris, 1610, 2 vols.), ii. 1351.
In the ninth century Hincmarus, another Archbishop of
Rheims, inveighed against hydromancy.38 In the twelfth
John of Salisbury waxed indignant against those who divine in
"objects which are polished and shining, like a kettle of good
brass, glasses, cups, and different kinds of mirrors."39
All scryers, he says in the heading of one chapter, who believe that
evil spirits can sometimes know the future by means of their subtle
nature, deceive themselves and will inevitably come to a bad end.40
In 1398 the Faculty of Theology in Paris condemned Specularii as
being of Satanic origin.41 But the fulminations of the
Church were unavailing, and soon the practice of scrying, as one
writer says, "prevailed to a very considerable extent in all parts
of Western Europe."42
38. De divortio Lotharii et Teutbergæ, xii.
39. Policraticus, I. xii.
40. Policraticus, I. xii.
41. E. Clodd, The Question (London, 1917), p. 159; after E. Parish, Hallucinations and Illusions (Contemporary Science Series, London, 1897), p. 65.
42. T. Wright, Miscellanea Graphica (London, 1857), pp. 81-2.
§ 4 SCRYING IN THE MIDDLE AGES
The period to be considered in this section is not the
conventional Middle Ages of art and literature. The
unproductive period of science and scientific observation
closed later than the parallel period of art and philosophy.
It is in this broader sense that the title of this section
should be taken. During these obscure years magic of all kinds
flourished exceedingly. All the known methods of divination,
for instance, were practised, and more were invented. Scrying
in all its forms played its part in all these activities. Thus,
Gulielmus Arvernus writes of the practice of predicting the
future by gazing upon reflecting surfaces polished with oil
to increase their lucidity. Among the substances employed,
he says, were two-edged swords, children's finger-nails,
egg-shells, and ivory handles. Usually a boy or a virgin was
employed as scryer.43
|43. Quoted by Lynn Thorndike, A History of Magic and Experimental Science during the First Thirteen Centuries of our Era (London, 1923, 2 vols.), ii. 364-5; cp. ii. 287.|
Scrying became connected with astrology; Martin Ruland
writes of the attribution of the crystal to the sun.44
Unsavoury activities duly attached themselves to scrying: in a
Arabic MS. translated in the thirteenth century we read, "Thus in
making a magic mirror a suffumigation is employed of seven products
of the human body, namely, tears, blood, ear-wax, spittle, semen,
dung, urine."45 One writer speaks of a mirror which
shows, when looked into, as many faces as there are hours in the
day.46 However, the characters of these early investigators
have been unduly depreciated; a great deal of nonsense has been written
about their Satanic invocations and so forth. Here is a quite typical
specimen of these invocations; it is said to be translated from a
manuscript of Johann Tritheim: "Oh, God! who art the author of all
good things, strengthen, I beseech thee, thy poor servant, that he
may stand fast, without fear, through this dealing and work; enlighten
I beseech thee, oh Lord! the dark understanding of thy creature, so
that his spiritual eye may be opened to know and see the angelic spirits
descending here in this crystal: (Then lay the hand on the crystal,
saying), and thou, oh inanimate creature of God, be sanctified and
consecrated, and blessed to this purpose, that no evil phantasy may
appear in thee; or, if they do gain ingress into this creature, they
may be constrained to speak intelligibly, and truly, and without the
least ambiguity, for Christ's sake. Amen. And forasmuch as thy servant
here standing before thee, oh, Lord ! desires neither evil treasures,
nor injury to his neighbour, nor hurt to any living creature, grant
him the power of descrying those celestial spirits or intelligences,
that may appear in this crystal, and whatever good gifts (whether the
power of healing infirmities, or of imbibing wisdom, or discovering
any evil likely to afflict any person or family, or any other good
gift thou mayest be pleased to bestowe on me), enable me, by thy mercy
and wisdom, to use whatever I may receive to the honour of thy holy
name. Grant this for thy son Christ's sake. Amen."47
44. Lexicon Alchemiæ (Frankfort o.M., 1612), p. 178. The passage reads,
"Veteres Astrologi crystallum Soli dicarunt," which has been translated,
A Lexicon of Alchemy [London, 1894, six copies only printed], p. 119,
as "the crystal was referred by the old astrologers to the moon," which,
though an incorrect translation, is more in harmony with the teaching of
45. L. Thorndike, op. cit., ii. 817; in the same work (ii. 702) is quoted a thirteenth-century MS. in which hydromancy is defined as- divination by inspection of entrails!
46. P. Boaistuau, Le Theatre dv Monde ov il est faict vn ample discours des miseres humaines (Paris, 1561), f. 114b.
47. F. Barrett, The Magus or Celestial Intelligencer (London, 1801), II. iv. 136.
But, to pass from these fantastical absurdities to others
a little less absurd, we find equally little of value when
these writers struggling for the truth unaided by precise
knowledge or philosophical reflection, sought to give
explanations of the phenomena which they imperfectly observed.
Demons, of course, are well to the fore. Crystal-gazers, we are
told, see and hear demons when looking into the speculum;48
this is done by means of a clean and clear crystal in which the devil
is hidden, and in which, by means of evocations, pictures of various
matters are displayed.49 Or it may be done with a cut and
polished crystal in which the devil hides himself and plays, appearing
sometimes as a little figure.50
48. J. C. Frommann, Tractatus de fascinatione (Nüremberg, 1675), p. 503;
see also pp. 726-7, 775.1 F. Barrett, The Magus or Celestial Intelligencer (London, 1801), II. iv. 136.
49. J. J. Boissardus, De Divinatione et Magicis Praestigiis (Oppen-heim, 1616 ?), p. 17.
50. G. Peucer, Les Devins, ou Commentaire des principales sortes de devination (Antwerp, 1584), p. 222.
Gastromancy is accomplished with the help of glasses of circular shape
filled with clear water and surrounded with lighted candles; the spirit
is then invoked by secret mutterings and a virgin boy or a pregnant woman
is set to examine the glass. Finally, the devil, by his artifice, impresses
images on the water."51 Divination in mirrors is done by means
of a clear and very clean mirror in which the images of things proposed
appear, framed and represented by the devil.52 However, this
catalogue could be continued indefinitely,53 but it is scarcely
more satisfactory to turn to the more mystical writers.
Philipp Aureol Theophrast Bombast von Hohenheim, known as Paracelsus,
gives minute instructions "How to Conjure the Crystal so
that all things may be seen in it. To conjure is nothing else than to
observe rightly, to know and to understand what it is. The crystal is
a figure of the air. Whatever appears in the air, movable or immovable,
the same appears also in the speculum or crystal as a wave. For the air,
the water, and the crystal, so far as vision is concerned, are one, like
a mirror in which an inverted copy of an object is seen."54
Here at least is an attempt at rational explanation. Boehme is equally
precise and equally satisfactory, though hardly in the same way. He
writes, "In crystal or mirror-gazing, the Tincture radiates from the
eyes of the gazer and collects on the surface of the crystal or mirror,
and there forms a sensitive film in which the Astral scenery reflects
itself; and thus reveals occasionally past, present, or future events."55
51. G. Peucer, op. cit., p. 221; cp. J. Wier, De Praestigiis Daemonum, II. xii.
52. G. Peucer, loc. cit.; cp. G. Schott, Physica Curiosa (Würzburg, 1662, 2 vols.), I. iv. xiii. 635-8.
53. Those whose curiosity is still unappeased may turn for further references to H. B. Schindler, Der Aberglaube des Mittelalters (Breslau, 1858), p. 213; C. Meyer, Der Aberglaube des Mittelalters und der nächstfolgenden Jahrhunderte (Basel, 1884), pp. 281-4; A. Lehmann, Aberglaube und Zauberei den dllesten Zeiten an bis in die Gegenwart (2nd ed., Stuttgart, 1908), pp. 217-8.
54. Hermetic and Alchemical Writings, ed. by A. E. Waite (London, 1894, 2 vols.), i. 14.
55. Quoted by H. Vetterling, The Illuminate of Görlitz (Leipzic, 1922), p. 900; cp. C. W. Leadbeater, The Astral Plane (London, 1895), p. 6.
It is no wonder, with such writings as these (the best of their time)
forming the main source of information for the contemporary inquirer,
that scrying has not as yet been taken very seriously. It is left to
the comparative method to show that though these border-line scientific
investigations lend themselves only too easily to fools and quacks, yet
there remains in them the grain of truth which has to be carefully
planted in the soil of calm and dispassionate consideration to yield
results of which we are only just beginning to see the ultimate possibilities.
SCRYING IN MODERN EUROPE
§ I SCRYING IN ENGLAND
The earliest known document1 relating to scrying is the
confession made by one William Byg, alias Lech, at
Wombwell in Yorkshire, on the 22nd of August 1467. He
had earned his livelihood for a year or two by finding
stolen property through the aid of his crystal, but had
eventually been charged with heresy, that portmanteau
accusation. In his confession Byg describes the procedure
he adopted when searching in the crystal for information;
it does not differ in the least from that of later scryers. He
employed a pure boy, made the usual invocations to the heavens
and to all therein, and then addressed the boy (the only English
in the document), "Say me trewe, chylde, what man, what woman,
or what childe hase stolen yis thyng. . . ." As punishment Byg
had to walk at the head of a procession in the Cathedral Church of York
with a lighted torch in his right hand and his books depending from a
stick in his left; three placards were to be fixed en him: one on his
head with the words "Ecce sortilegus," one on his breast inscribed
"Invocator Spirituum," and one on his back bearing the solitary, dread
"Sortilegus." He had to make a full recantation and to burn his books,
the recantation to be repeated in the parish churches of Pontefract,
Barnsley, Doncaster, and Rotherham. Byg was no doubt thankful to get
off so lightly.2
1. I have taken no account of imprinted documents; but see British Museum MSS.,
Sloane 3848, ff. 148, sqq.: "Here followeth an experyment approved & vnknowne of
Ascaryell to see most excellent & certainly e in a Christall stoune what secret thou wilt."
Sloane 3849, ff. 2, sqq.: an invocation for the crystal. Sloane 3849, ff. 17, sqq.: another.
Sloane 3851, ff. 50&, sqq.: "How to call Three Heauenly Angells into a Cristall Stone or
Seeing Glasse To the visible Signe of a Childe." Egerton 1090, ff. 5, sqq.: a dissertation
entitled, "Utrum qui pro inveniendis furtis faciunt pueros vel puellas virgines inspicere in
phialas vitreas, inuocando demonem; manifeste suspecti sint de haeresi, inquisi-torisque
jurisdictioni subdantur." Egerton 2618, f. 159: a short account of a vision seen, and shown
to other people, by a maidservant, in a copper basin filled with water; the cover is endorsed
"These particulars were averred to me June 24, 1691, W. Shippen." Lansdowne 2, art. 26:
this is printed in Narratives of the Days of the Reformation (Camden Soc. [London], 1859),
pp. 331, sqq. See also L. Thorndike, op. cit., i. 774, ii. 86, 320, 354, 702, 800,
806, S17, 964; at i. 831-5, ii. 1027-36, are very full lists of MSS. dealing with magic,
2. These details are from J. Raine, "Divination in the Fifteenth Century by Aid of a Magical Crystal," The Archceological Journal (London, 1856), xiii. 372-4.
The case of which the Abbot of Abingdon wrote to Secretary Cromwell3
probably had a similar conclusion: "It shall please your Maistership to be
advertesed that my Officers have taken here a Preyste, a suspecte parson, and
with hym certeyn bokes of conjuracions, in the whiche ys conteyned many
conclusions of that worke; as fyndyng out of tresure hydde, consecratyng
of ryngs with stones in theym, and consecratyng of a cristal stone wheryn
a chylde shall loke, and se many thyngs."4
3. Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, was Secretary from 1534 to his execution in 1540.
4. Original Letters illustrative of English History, ed. by Sir Henry Ellis (3rd series, London, 1846, 4 vols.), iii. 41, Letter CCLXVIII.
In his Discoverie of Witchcraft (first published in 1584)
Reginald Scot, writing of the wondrous art perspective, says: "But
the woonderous devises, and miraculous sights
and conceipts made and conteined in glasse, doo farre exceed all
other; whereto the art perspective is verie necessarie. For it
sheweth the illusions of them, whose experiments be seene in
diverse sorts of glasses; as in the hallowe, the plaine, the
embossed, the columnarie, the pyramidate or piked, the turbinall,
the bounched, the round, the cornerd, the inversed, the eversed,
the massie, the regular, the irregular, the coloured and cleare
glasses: for you may have glasses so made, as what image or favour
soever you print in your imagination, you shall thinke you see the
same therein. Others are so framed, as therein one may see what
others doo in places far distant. . . ."5
Scot also provides us with a bond "to call him [?] into your
christall stone, or glasse," with words to say when "h" has duly
appeared, and with a "licence to depart." Here is a specimen:
"... by all things created and confirmed in the firmament, and
by their vertues & powers I con-streine thee spirit N. to appeare
visiblie in that christall stone, in faire forme and shape of a
white angell, a greene angell, a black angell, a man, a woman, a
boie, a maiden virgine, a white grehound, a divell with great
homes, without anie hurte or danger of our bodies or soules, and
trulie to informe and shew unto us, true visions of all things in
that christall stone, according to thine oth and promise, and that
without anie hinderance or tarrieng, to appeare visiblie, by this
bond of words read over by mee three times, upon paine of
everlasting condemnation. Fiat, fiat, Amen."6
5. XIII. xix.
6. XV. xix.
Of the scrying practised at this time and later Gifford
remarks, ". . . of all the various modes of imposture,
this was at once, the most artful and the most impudent.
It was usually conducted by confederacy, for the possessor
of the glass seldom pretended to see the angels, or hear their
answers. His part was to mumble over some incomprehensible
prayers: after which a speculatrix, a virgin of pure life
(for the angels were very delicate on this point), was called
in to inspect the crystal."7 The logic of this
passage is as deficient as the knowledge of Mr G. A. Sala,
"whose discursive genius leads him to take an interest in
every branch of literature," and which led him to write to
Cunningham that one of the frequent practices of these imposters
was "to show jealous husbands tableaux vivants of their
wives' adultery with their paramours."8
7. Ben Jonson, Works, ed. by W. Gifford (London, 1816, 9 vols.), iv. 16,
note on The Alchemist, I. i.
8. F. Cunningham's ed. of Gifford (London, 1875, 9 vols.), iv. 514—5, note on The Alchemist, Argument; see p. 34 above.
About 1645 a minister in Norfolk had in his possession a crystal,
together with a call, which.,,could be used for scrying. The minister
made over this beryl to a miller who worked great cures with it ("if curable"),
seeing in the speculum "either the receipt in writing, or else the herb."
Angels openly appeared to both the minister and the miller, from whom,
nevertheless, the stone passed into the hands of a person in London, who
did tell strange things of it, "insomuch that at last he was questioned
for it, and it was taken away by authority." It finally found a resting-place
among the Cimelia in Sir Edward Harley's closet at Brampton-Bryan
9. J. Aubrey, Miscellanies upon Various Subjects (London, 1784), pp. 219-20;
Aubrey was told this story by Ashmole.
Joseph Glanvil relates that during a discussion between a Mr Hill and "one Compton of
Summersetshire, who practiseth Physick and pretendeth to strange matters," which took
place about 1662, the latter "took up a Looking-glass that was in the Room, and
setting it down again, bid my friend look in it; which he did, and there, as he most
solemnly and seriously professeth, he saw the exact Image
of his Wife in that habit which she then wore, and working
at her Needle in such a part of the Room (there represented
also) in which and about which time she really was as he
found upon inquiry when he came home. The Gentleman
himself averred this to me, and he is a very sober,
intelligent and credible person."10 Glanvil also writes of
the "Prestigiatory art or faculty of these ludicrous Dæmons,
whereby they can so modifie the Air immediately next to
the party they would conceal, that it looks there like the
free skie, or what Landskip they please; as when they shew
in a Shew-stone or Glass, the very Room in which the party
is, the Daemon by the power of his Imagination, so modifying
at least his own Vehicle."11
10. Saducismus Triumphatus (London, 1681, 2 vols.), ii. 109-110.
11. Saducismus Triumphatus, ii. 204.
A few years later (in 1671) a clothier was constantly
having his goods stolen, but fortunately he possessed a
crystal. So when he lost his clothes, he went out about
midnight with his crystal and call, with him a little boy
and a little maid (for they say it must be a pure virgin)
to look into the crystal, and see the likeness of the thief;
in which, it is believed, he was successful.12 In his own
times, writes Aubrey (the book first appeared in 1696),
"the magician used a crystal sphere, or mineral pearl, for
this purpose, which is inspected by a boy, or sometimes by
the querent himself."13
12. J. Aubrey, op. cit., p. 221.
13. J. Aubrey, op. cit., p. 218. See also T. Sprat, The History of the Royal Society of London (4th ed., London, 1734), II. xvi. 97.
Although in England there are very many traditions
connected with wells, water, mirrors, and so forth,
there is very little local tradition concerning scrying.
Here and there, however, such beliefs linger. At North Kelsey in
Lincolnshire a girl who wants to know who her sweetheart
will be goes to the Maidens' well; she approaches backwards,
walks round the well three times in the same way, and then
looks into the spring, in which will then appear the face of
her future lover.14
14. Mrs E. Gutch and Mabel Peacock, Examples of Printed Folk-Lore concerning Lincolnshire
(Folk-Lore Soc, London, 1908), p. 9.
The following incident deserves a full record: "A few
days ago , at Brompton near Northallerton, an honest
hard-working weaver, named Mark Jobling, had his shop broken
into, and upwards of 40 yards of drill cloth stolen from his
loom, as well as weaver's brushes, etc. A consultation was
held by Mark's friends, as to the best plan to be adopted
to find out the thieves, and these 'wise men of Gotham'
resolved that two out of their number should go and consult
the wise man of Sowerby near Thirsk. Truly the fellow is
wise enough, to live by the credulity of such willing dupes.
The two persons fixed upon for this mission, old Mac and
Braidely, reported on their return, that they had seen the
wise man; but having the misfortune not to have been born
under the proper planet, they could not see through his magic
glass; but a young man was procured in the neighbourhood who
enjoyed this enviable distinction. This wonderful glass is a
piece of solid crystal, in form and size like that of a
goose's egg. All being ready the fellow commenced as follows:—
'I command, I exorcise ye, the archangels Michael and Gabriel,
that ye make Mark Jobling's shop to appear in the glass, and
also the likeness of the thief or thieves, so that they may
be seen and identified'; with other simple gibberish.
On conclusion of the incantations, 'Presto, quick, begone,'
lo and behold, Mark's shop, together with the water-end of
Brompton, appeared in the glass with the figures of three
the cloth out of the loom. The thieves were traced in this
wonderful glass to Yarm, 12 miles distant, where they
stopped at a public-house, and had two quarts of ale.
They were traced ultimately to South Stockton, 4 miles
further on, and were seen in the glass to enter a public-house
there, and deposit the spoil under the bed of an upper room,
and which house they would leave next morning at eight o'clock,
with the cloth in their possession. So reported the
Ambassadors. . . . Accordingly at two a.m. on a cold
frosty morning, they set out on their wild-goose chase,
and arrived at South Stockton at six. On crossing the bridge,
a new difficulty presented itself, three public-houses
appearing in view, and they had forgot to enquire from
the wise man the name of the house from which the thieves
were to make their exit. However, like prudent men, as they
are, they set a watch on each house and awaited the
event. . . . Need we state the result ? No thieves made
their appearance . . . and since their return they have
been laughed at by the thinking portion of the community,
for their simplicity and credulity."15
15. Quoted from The Cleveland Repertory and Stokeley Advertiser (1845), pp. 131-2,
by Mrs E. Gutch, Examples of Printed Folk-Lore concerning the North Riding of
Yorkshire, York and the Ainsty (Folk-Lore Soc, London, 1901), pp. 189-90.
Scrying has not died out as a profession, nor even as
a polite hobby. As an instance may be cited the action
brought by Lieutenant R. E. Morrison (Zadkiel) against
Admiral Sir E. Belcher for libel. The latter having made
contemptuous allusions to Zadkiel in The Daily Telegraph,
Lieutenant Morrison sued him for libel and won ihe case.
Many interesting things came out during the hearing, not
the least of which was the number of persons of place and
rank who had patronised Zadkiel in crystal-gazing investigations.
Zadkiel had originally obtained his crystal ball
indirectly from Lady Blessington.16 Indeed, as one writer
observes, the use of divining crystals is quite common today among
persons of good education,17 though only seldom animated,
it must be confessed, by any scientific spirit.
16. See The Times for the 30th of June 1863, p. 13b; cp. "Zadkiel's
Almanac for 1851 . . . containing . . . Most Wonderful
Revelations from the World of Spirits, Which have been given
through a Magic Crystal, in which numerous Spirits of the Dead
have appeared" (London, 1850); Household Words (London, 1851), ii. 284.
17. E. Hailstone, Notes and Queries (1863), 3 S. iv. 180.
§ 2 SCRYING IN SCOTLAND
There are probably more superstitions and traditional
beliefs to the square mile in Scotland than anywhere else.
Scrying has its due place, especially in connection with
specific occasions such as Halloween. Thus, Burns notes
at the line, "I'll eat the apple at the glass," in his poem
Halloween, "Take a candle, and go, alone, to a looking-glass:
eat an apple before it; and some traditions say you should comb
your hair all the time: the face of your conjugal companion, to
be, will be seen in the glass, as if peeping over your shoulder."18
In the Hebrides all lads and lasses who look into the
looking-glass on this day, take care not to look backwards
lest they should see more than they ought.19
18. Poems, chiefly in the Scottish Dialect (Kilmarnock, 1786), p. 10972;
cp. Sir J. G. Dalyell, The Darker Superstitions of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1834), p. 520;
G. F. Abbott, Macedonian Folklore (Cambridge, 1903), p. 50; Rev. W. Gregor,
Notes on the Folk-lore of the North-East of Scotland (Folk-lore Soc, London, 1881), p. 85;
W. G. Campbell, Witchcraft and Second Sight in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland (Glasgow, 1902), p. 285;
E. J. Guthrie, Old Scottish Customs (London, 1885), pp. 69-70.
19. C. F. Gordon Cumming, In the Hebrides (London, 1883), p. 211.
Also in the Highlands, at Nairn, lives, or lived till recently,
a family named Willox, the members of which were traditional
cattle-curers. The following relation is certainly
entitled to a full reproduction: "The history of such
a precious curiosity as this would, no doubt, prove highly
interesting to the 'curious reader'; and the writer has
to blame the shortness of his memory for not gratifying
him to the utmost of his wish, Mr Willox having more than
once personally favoured him with a very eloquent account
of it. Suffice it to say, that this stone was originally
extorted by a very ancient ancestor of Mr Willox from an
amorous slut of a mermaid, who, unfortunately for her,
happened to take a fancy to him, and no wonder, too, if
he possessed in any degree the personal attractions of his
lineal posterity. It happened, then, that this silly fool of a
mermaid once thought it proper to throw herself in this
gentleman's waya expecting, no doubt, very different
treatment from that which she experienced, — when her
unnatural sweetheart, instead of offering her any endearments,
most ungraciously chained her to a post, until she
redeemed her liberty by this precious ransom. This was,
no doubt, long ago, nobody knows how long, and the
stone has necessarily seen many revolutions of times and
manners m the course of its day. It graced for a long time
the warlike standard of the brave clan Gregor, combining,
as the upholsterers say, 'great ornament with much
utility,' . . . It is a plain-looking article, strongly resembling
the knob or bottom of a crystal bottle; and were
it not that Mr Willox solemnly assured us of his having
been told by the great Lord Henderland himself, it must
have at one time composed one of the Pleiades, we should
have had much difficulty in believing it to consist of any
other substance; but who could resist such respectable
authority? . . . Should some miserable vagabond of a
thief, residing within the pale of Mr Willox's celebrity, be
so foolhardy as to lay his dishonest hands upon the goods
or chattels of a neighbour, recovery of the goods, or at
least an exposure of the thief, is the absolute consequence.
The loser of the goods looks about him for his purpose,
and immediately proceeds to consult the GRAND ORACLE,
Mr Grigor Willox, as to the person who had the effrontery
to steal his goods. Mr Willox, willing to afford every
information on reasonable terms, instantly produces the
black stocking containing the stone, a single dip of which
clearly develops the whole circumstance. After a long
consultation, involving some inquiries as to suspected
characters, the lynx-eyed Mr Willox easily recognises
some figures reflected on the vessel containing the water by
the stone, conveying an exact representation of some old
hag not very reputable for her habits, residing in the
(complainant's neighbourhood; and thus all doubt is
removed as to his suspicions being too well founded."20
20. W. G. Stewart, The Popular Superstitions and Festive Amusements of the Highlands of Scotland
(Edinburgh, 1833), pp. 217-222.
It is regrettable, however, for the sake of the delightful,
if rather cheap, wit of this story, that the facts in the
last few sentences are probably accurate enough. Miss
Gordon Cumming, a very careful and reliable observer,
wrote that a crystal ball "remains to this day in the family
of Willox, the hereditary cattle-curers at Nairn, and is
reported to have worked wondrous cures in the present
generation." The water in a bucket, into which the
crystal is dipped, reflects the face of the neighbour who has
bewitched the cattle — the spell thus being broken.21 I
may remind the reader that we are concerned with the
facts, not with the interpretations.
21. C. F. Gordon Cumming, op. cit., p. 74. See also A. W. Moore, "Water and Well-Worship in Man,"
Folk-lore (Folk-lore Soc, London, 1894), v. 214; Notes and Queries (1852), 1 S. v. 341.
§ 3 SCRYING IN THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA
These few examples are placed at this point as the beliefs
referred to are obviously of the same character as those
detailed above; they were, that is to say, exported to the
New World by settlers from the Old. Indigenous traditions
are no doubt beginning to make their appearance in
North America, but no such scrying beliefs have as yet, as
far as I know, been recorded.
All over the United States exists a belief that on Halloween
a maiden should go down the cellar-stairs backwards
looking all the time into a mirror, in which she will see the
face of her future husband.1 At Taladega in Alabama any
single person who holds a mirror over a well on the 1st
of May, will see reflected in it the likeness of the future
wife or husband.2 In Alabama generally, "on the last
night of October place a mirror and a clock in a room
that has not been used for some time, and at a quarter
to twelve take a lighted candle and an apple, and finish
eating the apple just as the clock strikes twelve, and
then look into the mirror and you will see your future
1. F. D. Bergen, "Current Superstitions," Memoirs of the American Folk-Lore Society (Boston, 1896), iv. 56, note 313.
2. Ibid., p. 58, note 324.
3. Ibid., p. 57, note 314.
At St John, New Brunswick, on Halloween one should
go upstairs backwards looking the while into a mirror,
in which the querist's future husband will appear. In
Labrador one should "make ready a mirror, a lamp, a
basin of water, a towel and soap. Go to bed backwards,
not speaking afterwards, and lie awake till midnight. If
your sweetheart comes and washes, combs his hair, and
looks at you, you'll be married. If you don't see him,
you'll see your coffin."4
4. F. D. Bergen, op. cit., iv. 53, note 285; cp. G. F. Abbott,
Macedonian Folklore (Cambridge, 1903), p. 50.
§ 4 SCRYING AMONG THE GERMANS AND SCANDINAVIANS
Clement of Alexandria (fl. 200) writes of certain among
the Germans who were called holy women and who, by
inspecting the whirlpools and eddies of rivers, were enabled
to predict events.5 It is not certain, however, that scrying
is in question. In a fifteenth-century work are given
interesting descriptions of the arts of hydromancy, of
catoptromancy with steel mirrors, and of crystallomancy.
If the master wants to "question out theft, to dig treasure,
or to know any other secret thing, then he goes on Sunday
before the sun rises to three running springs and ladles
a little out of each one into a pure polished glass which
he carries home to a handsome chamber. There he then burns
candles before it and offers it with honour to God
Himself.6 Certainly that is a great sin, witchery and
unbelief. After that he takes a pure child and seats it on
a handsome chair before the water. Oh how happy is the
wicked devil when one so lightly does him service with
pure children! . . ."7
5. Stromata, I. xv.; cp. M. de Montaigne, Essais, I. xi.
6. "... vnd legt dem wasser ere an sam gott selber."
7. J. Hartlieb, Buch aller verbotenen Kunst, cd. by D. Ulm (Halle o.S., 1914), lv. 37; cp. liv-lxii., lxxxvi., xciii. See also C. Kohlrusch, Schweizerisches Sagenbuch (Leipzic, 1854), pp. 258, sqq., 260n.
Scrying appears always to have been common in Germany,
especially during the seventeenth century. One writer
of that time says: "I know very well that sometimes
old wives, soothsayers, astrologers, and witches, run round
with crystals prophesying. . . . But most of these gadabout
wives are great cheats and understand as much as nothing
about the arts, whether good or evil. A few, however, without
doubt have real relations with the devil and can show things
in the crystal that take place eventually and are proved. ..."
The writer then gives an experience of his own, in which one of
those women not only saw in the glass herself but enabled her
visitors to see a scene which was later acted in reality.8
8. J. Rist, Die alleredelste Zeit-Verkürtsung der Gantzen Welt
(Frankfort o.M., 1668), pp. 254, sqq.
Spengler relates in his edition of Plutarch's De defectu oraculorum
that to him once came a Nürnberger of good
family who brought with him a round crystal. This had
been given to him by a stranger, for services rendered, who
had told his benefactor that he should get an innocent boy
to look in it if he wanted to see anything forbidden. This
Spengler's visitor had done, and had seen wonderful things;
one figure especially frequently appearing in the crystal.
One day his wife, being then great with child, suddenly
began to see things in it. The mystery of this wonderful
crystal became so well known in Niirnberg that the man who
appeared in it regularly was used as a bogey to frighten
children and other sinners. At last the owner's conscience
troubled him and he made a clean breast of the whole affair
to the learned Spengler, who promptly broke the stone to
9. I have been unable to see the original account, but see H. Pröhle, Deutsche Sagen
(Berlin, 1863), pp. 232-3, No. 173; F. Nork [i.e., F. A. Korn], Die Sitten und Gebrauche der Deutschen
(Stuttgart, 1849), pp. 647-8.
In modern Germany, according to Goethe, maidens look into the glass on St Andrew's eve:
10. Faust, I. 11. 530-2; Anna Swanwick's trans.
And indeed to this day the Prussians have their "Stiklorei" or diviners by the
crystal, and their "Zerkoluttei" or diviners by the mirror.11 There
are numerous traditions connected with scrying among the German peoples. Some
believe that if a mirror is looked at during the night, the devil is seen in it.12
Others think it is bad if a child looks into a mirror and cannot speak.13 A story
is told of a hard-working but unlucky miner whom a kindly gnome gave a mirror in which could
be seen all things connected with mining, but if the man tried to see anything else in it
the glass would disappear.14 And of course the tale of "Snow-White" is known
and loved all over the country. Our information about scrying among the Scandinavians is
limited; but we learn that in Norway "on a Thursday, people were to go to the necromancer,
in order to see in a pail of water the face of the thief who robbed them."15 The custom is
also known in Sweden.16
11. O. Schrader, "Aryan Religion," E.R.E., ii. 55.
12. J. Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie (4th ed., Berlin, 1875-8, 2 vols.), ii. 438, No. 104.
13. Ibid., ii. 447, No. 1126.
14. H. Pröhle, op. cit., p. 32, No. 6.
15. S. Nilsson, The Primitive Inhabitants of Scandinavia (3rd ed., London, 1868), p. 241.
16. L. Lloyd, Peasant Life in Sweden (London, 1870), p. 269.
§ 5 SCRYING IN FRANCE
When Pierre Cotton was accused of a multitude of
malpractices of a political character, one of the counts in
the indictment against which he was most energetically
defended, was the charge that he had "enabled the King
[Henry IV] to see in a starry mirror what took place at
the courts and in the council-chambers of all the kings
of the world."17 During this century, the seventeenth,
scrying must have been a common occupation, for in the
records of the Bastille there are three examinations in a
year of persons accused of gastromancy.18 The story told
by St Simon of the year 1706 is well known: a little
girl looked in a glass of water and saw there many details of
a scene taking place elsewhere at that moment (as immediately
verified), and many historical incidents which came
to be acted as foretold in the course of years.19 The Duke
of Luynes tells substantially the same story in his own
17. A. Behotte, Response à l'Anticoton (Paris, 1611), p. 141.
18. F. Ravaisson, Archives de la Bastille (Paris, 1866-1904, 19 vols.), v. 348 (28th of April 1679), v. 440-1 (14th of August 1679), vi. 286 (10th of August 1680).
19. Mémoires (Les Grands Ecrivains de la France, Paris, 1879, etc., in progress), xiii. 458, sqq.; the whole passage is translated by A. Lang, Book of Dreams and Ghosts (London, 1897), pp. 62, sqq.
20. Memoires (Paris, 1860—5, 17 vols.), x. 161.
The Mademoiselle de Latour whom we have already
encountered in connection with Cagliostro, served the
Cardinal, so it is related, in the affair of the necklace, by
looking into a globe full of water. Into this globe the
Archangel Gabriel condescendingly entered and gave the
Cardinal all the information he required.21 While the
Count Beugnot who tells this story lay in prison with some
of his friends awaiting their trial, the fate of one of them was
foreseen in a glass of water by a boy not more than
twelve or fourteen, perfectly pure, and born under
Sagittarius, Gemini, or Virgo.22
21. J. C. Beugnot, Life and Adventures of Count Beugnot, ed. by
Charlotte Yonge (London, 1871, 2 vols.), i. 202.
22. Ibid., i. 205.
George Sand relates somewhere in her autobiography that as a child she used
to see visions on the back of a polished screen standing by the fire.23
|23. The passage is quoted in Blackwood's Magazine (Edinburgh, 1877), cxxi. 176.|
§ 6 SCRYING IN ITALY
The learned ecclesiastical historian Jurieu relates that
an Ambassador of Henry VII, being in conversation with
the Pope, said that he would like to find someone who
could tell him what would be the result of the marriage
between the enemy Houses of Lancaster and York.
"The Pope replied that there was in Rome a diviner
who had foretold that he would become Pope." The Ambassador
visited this diviner and was led into a large room
on a table in which stood a great mirror. Following the
magician's instructions he attentively observed, without
speaking, what appeared in the mirror. He was well
rewarded, for into it came a procession of Henry VIII,
Edward VI, Mary, Elizabeth, John and Charles I, together
with interesting descriptive and prophetical letterpress.
"If it were known," concludes Jurieu, "whence we draw
this history, it would not be placed, as are generally
other stories of this kind, among fabulous tales. But,
knowing it true, I have made a digression with it, which
I should not have done had it been a fable."24
As has been judiciously observed, "I confess that nevertheless
I strongly suspect M. Jurieu's faith to have been taken
advantage of, and it would have been very much more
desirable for him to have given his sources. . . ."25
24. P. Jurieu, Histoire Critique des Dogmes et des Cultes (Amsterdam, 1704), p. 472.
25. J. Saurin, Discours . . . sur les evenemens les plus remarkables du vieux et du nouveau Testament (The Hague, 1728-39, 6 vols.), iii. 409.
Another British Ambassador seems to have been similarly
fortunate: John Aubrey writes, "James Harrington
(author of Oceana) told me that the Earl of Denbigh, the
Ambassador at Venice,26 did tell him, that one did shew
him, in a glass, things past and to come."27 On his own
account Aubrey relates that when Sir Marmaduke Langdale
was in Italy "he went to one of those Magi, who did shew
him in a glass, where he saw himself kneeling before the
crucifix: he was then a Protestant; afterwards he became
a Roman Catholic."28 Unfortunately for the veracity of
this history Sir Marmaduke was born of Roman Catholic
parents and, so far as is known, was never anything else
than a Roman Catholic.29
27. Miscellanies (London, 1784), p. 318.
28. Ibid., p. 219.
29. Dictionary of National Biography, xxxiii. (1892), 96.
In modern times to detect theft the following procedure
is adopted: a damsel approaches a phial of holy water with
a sanctified taper in her hand, and says, "Angelo bianco, angelo santo,
per la tua santita et per la mia virginata,
mostra mi che ha tolto tal cosa."30 A diminutive figure of
the offender then appears in the phial.31 Among Italian
folk-tales is one which tells of a monster who gains the love of a
girl; when she wants to go to visit her friends, the monster gives
her a mirror into which she can look and discover how he is.32
In another tale a fountain fulfils a similar purpose.33
30. White angel, holy angel, by thy sanctity and by my virginity, show me who has stolen this thing.
31. Sir J. G. Dalyell, The Darker Superstitions of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1834), p. 520.
32. R. H. Busk, The Folk-Lore of Rome (London, 1874), p. 117.
33. D. Comparetti, Novelline Popolari Italiane (Torino, 1875), p. 269; cp. E. S. Hartland, The Legend of Perseus (Grimm Library, London, 1894-6, 3 vols.), ii. 18. See also G. Schott, Magia universalis naturæ et artis (Würzburg, 1657-9, 4 vols.), I. iv. 1. 174-6.
§ 7 SCRYING IN MODERN GREECE
In the island of Andros it is the custom for the girls to
hold a mirror over a well if they wish to see reflected in
it, from the water in the well, the likeness of the future
husband.34 In North Eubœa the people tell a tale which
starts, "There was once a king who had three sons and a mirror in which
he could see every enemy that entered the kingdom."35 The young
girls in the Greek-speaking districts of Salonica are in the habit on
the eve of the feast of the Nativity of St John (who is popularly known
as St John of the Divination) of gathering together in a purposely
darkened room, armed with a mirror. They then take turns to look into
the mirror. Those who are to marry within the year see the future husband's face
in the glass. In Salonica itself the following couplet is sung:
34. Sir Rennell Rodd, The Customs and Lore of Modern Greece (London, 1892), p. 185.
35. J. G. von Hahn, Griechische undalbanesische Mdrchen (Leipzic, 1864, 2 vols.), i. 284-6.
A lump of gold shall I drop into the well,
Greek girls appear to concentrate on husbands.
36. G. F. Abbott, Macedonian Folklore (Cambridge, 1903), p. 50.
§ 8 SCRYING IN EASTERN AND SOUTH-EASTERN EUROPE
According to the omniscient Sir Richard Burton, the
Finns, whom he calls barbarous, scry in a glass of brandy,37
but some confirmation of this statement would be desirable.
In Lithuania the natives cover the mirrors of a house in
which there is a corpse because they believe that the dead
rise and show themselves in mirrors.38 There is also a
Lithuanian version of the Snow-White tale.39 One writer
mentions "a curious instance of seeing visions in a flat
looking-glass, looked at almost edgeways," with which he
had met in Russia.40 Scrying duly makes its appearance
in Russian fairy-tales.41
37. Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah (London, 1906, 2 vols.), i. 387-9??.
38. J. Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie (4th ed., Berlin, 1875-8. 2 vols.), ii. 492, Lithuanian beliefs, No. 2. See Notes and Queries (1924), cxlvi. 325, 386, 420.
39. A. N. Athanas'ev, Narodnyja Russkija Skuzki (Moscow, 1855-63, 8 vols.), vii. 8, sqq.
40. Journ. S.P.R. (1889-90), iv. 156.
41. A. N. Athanas'ev, op. cit., viii. 173.
The Magyars have a story of a woman who questions
her mirror,42 and the Armenians use a child to look at the
surface of the water in a pit to discover the cause of illness
or of theft.43 In a Walachian story we read of a princess
who would only marry the man who could approach her
without being seen in her magic mirror.44 Here also occurs
the story of Snow-White, whose mirror tells her whether
she is the most beautiful lady in the world.45 The Roumanian
Gipsies tell of a mirror which shows, when looked into, both the dead
and the living.46 The Transylvanian Gipsies have a
beautiful story in which is introduced a
wonderful mirror which shows all things.47 The Gipsies
in general have tales about seeing the devil in mirrors and
so forth.48 Space will not permit entering upon these
various stories in detail.
42. W. H. Jones and L. L. Kropf, The Folk-Tales of the Magyars (Folk-Lore Soc, London, 1889), pp. 163, sqq.
43. M. Tcheraz, "Notes sur la mythologie armenienne," Transactions of the Ninth International Congress of Orientalists (London, 1893, 2 vols.), ii. 832.
44. Arthur and Albert Schott, Walachische Maehrchen (Stuttgart and Tubingen, 1845), pp. 153, sqq.
45. Ibid., pp. 105, sqq.; this story occurs among nearly all European races and is to be found in most collections of folk-tales.
46. Barbu Constantinescu's Roumanian-Gipsy Collection (Bukar-est, 1878), no. 9; cited thus by W. A. Clouston, On the Magical Elements in Chaucer's Squire's Tale (Chaucer Soc, London, 1888-90), p. 332W.
47. H. von Wlislocki, Märchen und Sagen der Transsilvanischen Zigeuner (Berlin, 1886), pp. 111-3, No. 47. See also C. G. Leland, Gypsy Sorcery and Fortune-Telling (London, 1891), p. 118.
48. H. von Wlislocki, Von wandernden Zigeunervolke (Hamburg, 1090), p. 2f8. See also O. van Reinsberg-Duringsfeld, Fast-Kalender aus Böhmen (Prague, 1862), p. 312; M. Toeppen, Aberglauben aus Masuren (2nd ed., Danzic, 1867), p. 72.
SCRYING IN THE EAST
§ 1 SCRYING AMONG THE SEMITIC NATIONS
Although the astrological supremacy of the Assyrians
caused them to be looked upon by the writers of past
centuries as the originators of all divination, we have, in
fact, little direct evidence to determine the existence of any
other particular kind of divination among the Assyrians
and their neighbours. The bare fact that they knew of scrying
and used it is, however, established. On the walls of the
Hall of Divination in one of the buildings at Nineveh,
soothsayers are shown looking into cups.1 In
Babylon the sacrificial blood was run from the altar on
the sacred baetyl stone for the purposes of divination,2
and cup-like bowls with magical inscriptions found here seem also
to have been used for scrying.3 It is also said that
the Assyrians practised scrying in a "skin full of water,"4
and that they employed the sapphire for a similar purpose.5
1. J. Bonomi, Nineveh and its Palaces (2nd ed., London, 1869), pp. 304-6, and illustration.
2. M. J. Lagrange, Etudes sur les Religions Sémitiques (Paris, 1905), pp. 187, sqq.
3. M. Gaster, "Jewish Divination," E.R.E., iv. 807; cp. S. Burder, Oriental Customs (6th ed., London, 1822, 2 vols.), i. 61; E. Pococke, A Commentary on the Prophecy of Hosea (Oxford, 1685), p. 132; F. Rabelais, Pantagruel, III. xxv.
4. H. C. Agrippa, Three Books of Occult Philosophy (London, 1651), I. lvii. 125-6.
5. J. Selden, De Dis Syris (London, 1617), p. 33.
In the episode of Joseph and his brethren we have at
any rate a direct allusion to scrying in the cup. On the
departure of the brethren Joseph ordered his silver cup
to be placed in the sack's mouth of the youngest, and then
sent the steward after them with these words in his mouth:
"Wherefore have ye rewarded evil for good? Is not this
it in which my lord drinketh, and whereby he indeed
divineth?" And Joseph later adds, a trifle self-consciously,
"Know ye not that such a man as I can indeed divine?"6
That we have here an example of cylicomancy is generally
admitted,7 and weight is added to the supposition
by the fact that the practice has not died out among the Jews.
There are allusions to it in the Talmud8 (in which
there are also references to scrying in brass objects, mirrors,
and crystals), and in medieval Hebrew MSS.9 In this
literature are allusions to divination in the "cup-like
palm of the hand," and in egg-cups.
6. Genesis, xliv. 2, 5, 15.
7. Sir J. G. Frazer, Folk-Lore in the Old Testament (London, 1918, 3 vols.), ii. 437; T. Harmer, Observations on various Passages of Scripture, ed. by A. Clarke (4th ed., London, 1808, 4 vols.), iv. 405; M. Gaster, loc. cit.
8. M. Schwab, Les Coupes Magiques et l'Hydromancie dans l'Antiquité, reprinted from the Proceedings of the Soc. of Biblical Archæology (April, 1890), p. 2; M. Gaster, loc. cit., which compare for most of what follows.
9. M. Gaster, Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archæology (London, 1900), xxii. 330.
There are interesting relics of these practices in the
ceremonials still observed by the Jews. During the ceremony
of Habdalah, celebrated at the passing over from an ordinary
day to a holy-day and vice versa, a blessing is said over a
glass of wine and a light, generally a candle. While saying
this blessing the celebrant opens
and closes his hand looking the while at his finger-nails in the light
of the candle. The meaning of this of course has been forgotten, but
in the light of comparative study it is not difficult to find here a
fragment of some ony-chomantic practice. The same applies to the
custom among illiterate Jews of looking into a glass of water on
certain occasions, especially on the eve of Hosh'annah Rabba, and
also, apparently, on the Day of Atonement.
Dean Plumptre gave the support of his learning to the
theory that the Urim and Thummim were used for the purpose
of scrying,10 and this idea has gained some support;11
but more careful consideration of the texts and the application
of the comparative method have shown this position to be untenable.
10. In W. Smith, Dictionary of the Bible, s.v. "Urim and Thummim."
11. See e.g., E. S. Hartland, The Legend of Perseus (Grimm Library, London, 1894-6, 3 vols.), ii. 15; among earlier writers this belief was universal, see e.g., J. Aubrey, Miscellanies upon Various Subjects (London, 1784), p. 217.
§ 2 SCRYING AMONG THE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS
An early writer declares that in an Egyptian temple ("in templo Aphaceno")
stood a cistern full of water for divination, but there is little evidence
to sustain the existence of scrying among the Egyptians.12
What little there is differs: Plutarch says that at the head of all
religious processions a receptacle filled with water was carried,13
while a modern scholar writes that in these processions "last of all came the
Prophet carrying in his bosom the water-pot. . . .14
According to one authority the Pharaos
held between their hands a mirror in which they discovered
the state of their various provinces.15 And Pliny has it
that the people of Egypt stained their silver vessels to enable them
to see reflected in them their god Anubis.16 A modern
writer says, on apparently insufficient grounds, that children
were used to see this god Anubis in a divining vase.17
12. G. Foucart, "Egyptian Divination," E.R.E., iv. 792.
13. De Iside et Osiride, xxxvi.
14. The editor in Horapollo, Hieroglyphics, ed. by A. T. Cory (London, 1840), p. 167.
15. J. T. Reinaud, Description des Monumens Musulmans du cabinet de M. le Due de Blacas (Paris, 1828, 2 vols.), ii. 419.
16. Natural History, XXXIII. xlvi.; cp. Fragment of a Græco-Egyptian Work upon Magic, ed. by C. W. Goodwin (Cambridge Antiquarian Soc, Cambridge, 1852), pp. 2—5.
17. V. Ermoni, La Religion de l'Egypte Ancienne (Paris, 1909), p. 122.
Scrying persisted among the Berbers, a people difficult
to place ethnologically, but who appear to be descended
from the Egyptians. In an Arabic MS., which survives in
a unique copy at the Bibliothèque Nationale, a story
is told of a mirror with marvellous properties which was to
be found in a church at the time of the Greek empire (not a
very compromising localisation). When a Berber doubted the
virtue of his wife he looked into this mirror, and if his
doubts were justified he saw in it the features of the
offending man. "When the Berbers embraced
Christianity, one of them, distinguished by his zeal for the
new religion, had obtained the rank of deacon. A Berber
who formed suspicions concerning the fidelity of his wife
went to consult the mirror, which showed him the face of
the deacon. The deacon was cited before the emperor, was
ordered to have his nose cut, and was ignominiously marched
in procession and expelled from the Church. His compatriots,
irritated by such cruel treatment, broke the mirror; but the
emperor marched troops against them and exterminated them."18
18. E. M. Quatremère, "Notice d'un manuscrit arabe contenant
la Description de l'Afrique," Notices et Extraits des Manuscrits
de la Bibliotheque du Roi (Paris, 1787, etc., in progress), xii. 484-5.
§3 SCRYING IN ISLAM
Various methods of scrying have been and are used by
the Muslims. The Khalif Mansur had a mirror which told
whether a man was a friend or an enemy.19 Another
Khalif caused to be made a ruby ring which, together with more
sinister properties, had the power of showing shining figures
when looked at in the dark.20 Leo Africanus, writing
of "the fortune-tellers and some other artisans in Fez," describes
another mode of scrying. "Others powring a drop of oile into a
viall or glasse of water, make the saide water to bee transparent
and bright, wherein, as it were in a mirrour, they affirme that
they see huge swarmes of diuels . . . and the diuels give them
answer with beckning, or with some gesture of their hands or eies:
so inconsiderate and damnable is their credulitie in this
behalfe. The foresaid glasse-viall they will deliver into
children's hands scarce of eight yeers old, of whom they
will aske whether they see on that diuell. Many of these
cities are so besotted with these vanities, that they spend
great summes upon them."21 In his travels in Egypt
Norden met an Arab who was known to have foreseen in a
cup the coming of the French.22 At Medina a sick man who
wants to get better looks into a pot full of water. "Other
have 'Mirayat,' magic mirrors, on which the patient
looks, and looses the complaint."23
19. D. S. Margoliouth, "Muslim Divination," E.R.E., iv. 817.
20. 'Ali ibn Husain al-Mas'udi, Les Prairies d'Or (Paris, 1861-77, 9 vols.), vii. 377. For further references to Arabic literature see E. Lefébure, "Le miroir d'encre dans la magie arabe," Revue Africaine (Paris, 1905), pp. 205, sqq.
21. The History and Description of Africa (John Pory's trans.), ed. by R. Brown (Hakluyt Soc, 1896, 3 vols.), ii. 457.
22. F. L. Norden, Voyage d'Egypte et de Nubie (new ed., Paris, !795, 3 vols.), iii. 68.
23. Sir R. F. Burton, Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah (London, 1906, 2 vols.), i. 387-9n. See also Lafcadio Hearn, Life and Literature (New York, 1917), p. 342.
A traveller was told by the Khedive at Cairo that in the
city was to be found a Turk who possessed a ring which he
pretended was endowed with magic virtues. "I have
seen him and the ring — it is a plain hoop of gold set with a
red stone, which is said to have come from Mecca. The
Turk also showed me a plate of silver engraved with verses
from the Koran. He explained that he could not work
the charm himself, but required a child under ten years
of age. The child takes the ring, the silver plate is put
on his head, and in a little while the colour of the stone
changes to white. Thereupon the child looks into the stone,
and sees in it visions, and can answer any questions."24
Douttè mentions hydromancy, leconamancy, catoptromancy,
and onychomancy as the methods used by the
Arabs, and adds that they also gaze at the blade of a
24. A. J. Butler, Court Life in Egypt (London, 1887), pp. 238-9.
25. E. Doutté, Magie et Religion dans l'Afrique du Nord (Algiers, 1909), p. 388.
Wherever the Muslims have wandered in their travels or
conquests they have taken with them their characteristic
forms of divination. As far afield as the Malay Peninsula
Sir F. A. Swettenham met an Arab magician who told
him "that after his vigil, fast, and prayer, he would lay in
his hand a small piece of paper on which there would be
some writing, into this he would pour a little water, and in
that extemporised mirror he would see a vision of the whole
transaction. He declared that, after gazing intently into
this divining-glass, the inquirer first recognised the figure
of a little old man. That having fully saluted the Jin, it
was only necessary to ask him to conjure up the scene of
the robbery, when all the details would be re-enacted in
the liquid glass under the eyes of the gazer, who would
there and then describe all that he saw."26
26. Malay Sketches (London, 1895), pp. 202-3; the whole passage
is reprinted by W. W. Skeat, Malay Magic (London, 1900), pp. 538, sqq.
At several places in India (as we shall see) these methods
of scrying have been imported by Muslims. The Lubbis
in the south of India use unjun, or shining globule, placed
in the hand of a boy to discover hidden treasure or stolen
property.27 At Sind, in the Bombay presidency, the
"Vinyane-waro, or finder of lost goods, rubs some dark
substance upon the thumb-nail of a youth not arrived at
puberty, or directs him to look at a black spot painted on
the bottom of a bright brass pot."28 Writing from Calicut,
Colonel A. T. Fraser says, "... I may mention that the
whole series of these gazing methods are known to the
natives as 'Unjamu.' The experiments I made with care,
and on very numerous occasions, with an illiterate native,
who, however, saw much more clearly than he was able to
describe, were with a pitchy substance made up with castor oil;
a spot — about the size of a wafer — of which
on a green leaf stuck against the wall being what the man
looked into. That pictures were seen under these circumstances
is a thing I found no native acquainted with these
matters would dispute. . . ."29
27. H. C, "Indo-Mahomedan Folk-Lore," Notes and Queries (1867), 3 S. xi. 180.
28. Sir R. F. Burton, Sindh (London, 1851), pp. 180-1.
29. Journ. S.P.R. (1889-90), iv. 149.
In Northern India in order to ascertain where stolen
goods or treasure are concealed, or the condition of a
patient possessed by the devil, "it is the custom to rub
collyrium (anjan) on the palms of the hands of a child or
adult, and to make him stare hard at it. In the Punjab
charms are written by a sorcerer on a piece of paper,
and over it a
large drop of ink is poured. . . ."30 This last procedure
has been more fully described: "The Punjab sorcerers
write some spells on a piece of paper and pour on it a large
drop of ink. Flowers are then placed in the hands of a
young child, who is told to look into the ink and to say
'summon the four guardians.' He is then asked if he sees
anything in the ink. He says he sees four persons. He is
told then to ask them to clean and carpet the place and
to summon the kings. When he appears questions are
put to him by the enchanter through the boy, and appropriate
answers are returned. No one present sees the spirit
or hears their conversations except the child." On which
the editor (W. Crooke) comments, "This is a stock-method
among enchanters in various places."31
30. Ja'far Sharif, Islam in India or the Qanun-i-Islâm
(G. A. Herklots), ed. by W. Crooke (Oxford, 1921), p. 264.
31. North Indian Notes and Queries (Allahabad, 1891), i. 85, note 564.
These examples show what must be a more than accidental
similarity, indicating very clearly a common origin.
This we find in the method of scrying employed by the
Muslims in modern Egypt, principally at Cairo. It is one
of the most interesting, and certainly the best and most
voluminously documented, of the various modes that are
considered in this book. This method is, with slight and
unimportant variations, that described in the last example
quoted from the Punjab. Perhaps the earliest reference to
it as having been seen in its home at Cairo is made by a
French traveller writing in the middle of the eighteenth
century.32 In 1814 Captain Walter Croker of H.M.S. Vanguard
having landed at Alexandria encountered there a magician with
whom he had an interview. After various preliminaries the
magician folded a piece of paper into a
cup-like shape and half-filled it with ink; he then "commanded
the boy to fix his gaze steadfastly at the jetty liquid,
and cry out when he saw anything. . . . Presently the
boy's cry interrupted the operator. 'I see,' he cried,
'two people with brooms sweeping the street and now
there is coming towards them a stranger, mounted on a
white steed.'—" After this the boy saw a vision; for an
account of this and for the story of its verification
under dramatic circumstances twenty years later and
many miles away, the reader must turn to the original
32. B. de Maillet, Description de l'Egypte (The Hague, 1740, 2 vols.), ii. 166-8.
33. J. B. Burke, Anecdotes of the Aristocracy (London, 1849, 2 vols.), i. 12.4, sqq.
Some years after this, the exact date is not known, a
party of travellers and scholars, among whom were the
Marquis de Laborde, Lord Prudhoe (afterwards the Duke
of Northumberland), and Major Felix,34 being at Cairo
visited a magician, and were met with the usual method of
scrying in ink on the palm of a boy's hand. The experiment
was strikingly successful, and the Englishmen in the
party talked about it on their return to their homes. On
the 16th of October 1831, Sir Walter Scott made this
entry in his Journal: "There is a strange story about town
of ghost-seeing vouched by Lord Prudhoe, a near relation
of the Duke of Northumberland, and whom I know as an
honourable man. A colonel described as a cool-headed
sensible man of worth and honour, Palgrave, who dined
with us yesterday, told twice over the story as vouched by
Lord Prudhoe, and Lockhart gave us Colonel [sic] Felix's
edition, which coincided exactly. . . ."35 De Laborde
himself minutely described the occurrence, and his
account agrees in all essentials with those of the Englishmen.36
34. Captain Orlando Felix retired on half-pay with the rank of
Major on the 31st of October 1826.
35. (Edinburgh, 1890, 2 vols.), ii. 419; cp. ii. 42m.
36. L. E. S. J. de Laborde, "Magie Orientale," Revue des deux mondes (Paris, 1833), iii. 332, sqq., and Commentaire Géographique sur l'Exode et les Nombres (Paris and Leipzic, 1841), pp. 22-7.
This strange event, the first of its kind to have obtained
any publicity, aroused a great deal of interest, more
especially after the publication in one of Blackwood's
Noctes Ambrosianæ of a satire on the affair.37 This account
was promptly condemned by an anonymous writer in Tait's Edinburgh Magazine,
who proceeds to relate his own experience, which, he says, had taken place
in 1822. The magician "fixed upon our little boy of seven years old to be
his instrument; and I remember he talked some nonsense about requiring an
innocent agent, and how a woman might do as well, if she could plead the
innocent presence of the unborn. ... He placed the little boy before him,
and poured ink into the hollow of the boy's hand, and bid him look into
it steadily. . . ." The experiment failed, the magician putting this down
to the fact that the boy was a Christian.38
37. J. Wilson, Noctes Ambrosianæ, ed. by R. S. Mackenzie (New York,
1866, 5 vols.), iv. 368, sqq. (August, 1831).
38. "State of Magic in Egypt," Tait's Edinburgh Magazine (Edinburgh, 1832), i. 30, sqq.
This relation was followed up by another anonymous
writer who, attacking the accuracy of the tale in a "certain
northern magazine," proceeds, after the manner of his kind,
to provide an accurate account, his own experience having taken
place "a few years ago." "There happened to be a famous magician,
lately arrived from distant parts of Africa, then at hand. . . .
This man asked for nothing but an innocent boy under ten years
of age, a virgin, or a woman quick with child. . . . The magician
then recited divers incantations, drew a circle on the floor, and
placed the boy, who was rather frightened, in the middle
of the circle . . . The next thing the magician did, was
to pour a dark liquid, like ink, into the hollow of the boy's
hand . . then he desired the boy to look into the palm
of his hand, and to tell him what he saw. . . ." This
experiment was successful.39 In 1835 Kinglake met such a
magician in Egypt, who went through the usual performance,
but whose attempts produced no satisfactory results.40
39. C. M. F., "True Stories of Necromancy in Egypt and Turkey," The Metropolitan (London, 1832), iv. 248, sqq.
40. A. W. Kinglake, Eöthen: or Traces of Travel Brought Home from the East (London, 1913), pp. 224-8.
Although these various accounts aroused a great deal of
discussion on their appearance, the subject was not made
notorious until the publication in 1836 of that fine scholar
E. A. Lane's Account of the Manners and Customs of the
Modern Egyptians. Soon after his first arrival in Egypt
Lane was told by Mr Salt, the English Consul-General, of
a curious incident which had recently taken place. Mr Salt
having suffered from thefts he had called in a magician
who put some ink on the hand of a boy not yet arrived at
puberty. In this mirror the boy saw the thief, who was
then brought before the Consul and confessed. "The
above relation," Lane continues, "made me desirous of
witnessing a similar performance during my first visit to
this country; but not being acquainted with the name of
the magician alluded to, or his place of abode, I was unable
to obtain any tidings of him. I learned, however, soon
after my return to England, that he had become known to
later travellers in Egypt; was residing in Cairo; and that
he was called the sheykh 'Abd-el-Kádir el-Maghrabee.
A few weeks after my second arrival in Egypt, my neighbour
'Osmán, interpreter of the British consulate, brought
him to me. ..." At the first interview nothing was
done, but at the next meeting interesting results were
obtained. After various burnings of incense the magician
drew a magic square in the palm of a boy's hand in the
centre of which he poured a little ink. Then after the
traditional dialogue between the magician and the boy,
Lane asked that Nelson should be called into the mirror;
this the boy did and very accurately described that personage.
The experiment was repeated by Lane asking for an acquaintance
of his entirely unknown to fame, and was equally successful.
Such, considerably abbreviated, is Lane's account.41
(Enough descriptions of the actual performance have now been
quoted to show the substantial similarity of the various accounts.)
41. (Everyman's Library, London, 1908), pp. 274, sqq.
On the appearance of Lane's book the Quarterly Review
examined his account of the magician's performance and
declared that the whole thing had been worked by an
arrangement of mirrors.42 We need not linger over this
agreeable delusion. In the following year a German
scholar who had been a member of Lane's party on the
occasion of his visit to the magician, published his account
of it, which agrees with Lane's.43 In the same year Lindsay's
Letters on Egypt appeared, in one of which, dated the
17th of December 1836, he describes his encounter in
Cairo with the same magician who had been successful
with Lord Prudhoe's party. The usual ceremony was
gone through but only inaccurate results were forthcoming.
The author refers to a Miss H------ who had encountered a
similar magician.44 In 1841 Sir Gardner Wilkinson with
a large party visited this same 'Abd-el-Kádir. A boy was
called for in the usual way (but the writer notes that the
magician could also operate with a girl under the age of
puberty, a black woman of any age, or a pregnant woman),
and after the customary dialogue various persons were
called for, the experiment ending in failure.45 In 1844
Lane, with his sister Sophia Poole, Lord Nugent, and
Major Grote, revisited the magician and came to the
conclusion, unjustifiably we must think, that his previous
successes had been the result of collusion.46
42. (London, 1837), lix. 195, sqq.
43. G. H. von Schubert, Reise in das Morgenland (Erlangen, 1838-9, 3 vols.), ii. 63-6.
44. A. W. C. Lindsay, Earl of Crawford and of Balcarres, Letters on Egypt, Edom, and the Holy Land (5th ed., London, 1858), pp. 34-5. 375-8.
45. Sir J. G. Wilkinson, Modern Egypt and Thebes (London, 1843, 2 vols.), i. 218, sqq.
46. S. Poole, The Englishwoman in Egypt (London, 1844, 2 vols.), ii. 162, sqq.; G. N. T. Grenville, Baron Nugent, Lands Classical and Sacred (London, 1845, 2 vols.), i. 241, sqq.
In 1847 Miss Martineau and her friends encountered the
same wonder-worker, and though the results were mostly
failures, she thought she had discovered the method by
which the visions were obtained, namely, by means of the
then fashionable portmanteau mesmerism.47 Sir Richard Burton
had in his possession "a Maghrabi magic formula for
inking the hand of a boy, a black slave girl, a virgin,
a pregnant woman. . . . The modern Egyptians call it
Zarbal-Mandal, and there is scarcely a man in Cairo who
does not know something about it. In selecting subjects
to hold the ink, they observe the right hand, and reject
all who have not what is called in palmistry the 'linea media naturalis'
straight and deeply cut."48 Against this we
can put the experience of a later traveller who caused
diligent inquiries to be made in Cairo for any magician
who could divine by means of the magic mirror, only to
obtain the answer that there was no such man in Cairo,
and that nobody had ever heard of one living.49 It would
be interesting to know how this writer set about his inquiries.
47. Eastern Life Present and Past (London, 1848, 3 vols.), ii. 137, sqq.
48. Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah (London, 1906, 2 vols.),
49. A. J. Butler, Court Life in Egypt (London, 1887), p. 242.
A German writer describes this same darb-el-mandel as
being performed in the usual way, but speaks of water
instead of ink.50 Budgett Meakin observed the identical
practice among the Moors.51 The chain of learned and
reliable witnesses to the Muslim scrying performances
themselves, if not to the honesty of the performers, is long
and unbroken, and the writers I have cited could be
added to if it were necessary.52 But that would be a task
50. C. B. Klunzinger, Upper Egypt (London, 1878), pp. 387-8.
51. The Moors (London, 1902), pp. 357-8.
52. See e.g., E. Doutté, Magie et Religion dans I'Afrique du Nord (Algiers, 1909), pp. 389, sqq.; L. Godard, Description et Histoire du Maroc (Paris, i860), p. 240; Fragment of a Græco-Egyptian Work upon Magic, ed. by C. W. Goodwin (Cambridge Antiquarian Soc, Cambridge, 1852), pp. 27, sqq.; W. Gregory, Animal Magnetism (4th ed., London, 1890), pp. 133-4; C. du Prel, Studien aus dem Gebiete der Geheimwissenschaften (Leipzic, 1890-1, 2 vols.), ii. (Experimentalpsychologie und Experimentalmetaphysik), 185; D. S. Margoliouth, "Muslim Divination," E.R.E., iv. 817; A. de Rochas d'Aiglun, "Les Forces non définies," Mémoires de la Soc. des Sciences et Leltres de Loir-et-Cher (Blois, 1886), xi. 642, sqq.; N. W. Thomas, Crystal Gazing (London, 1905), pp. 95, sqq.
The conversation that takes place between the magician and the scryer, which has been several times touched upon, must be left for solution to a later writer with more precise data about this particular aspect of the matter at his disposal. At present no obvious solution presents itself. This dialogue has been well pictured by Rossetti:
An instant come, in an instant gone,
53. Rose Mary, I. xvii-xviii.; see p. 37 above.
§ 4 SCRYING IN PERSIA
Scrying in Persia seems to be, and seems always to have
been, limited to cylicomancy, that method being indeed
sometimes supposed to have originated there.54 Indeed, it
used to be the custom to ascribe all divination vaguely to
the Persians; this idea seems to have originated with
Varro,55 Strabo says that the Persian diviners habitually
used hydromancy and lecanomancy.56 Purchas makes
bolder claims; he writes that the Persians had "their
Lecanomancie, which was observed in a Bason of water. . . .
Gastromancie procured answere by pictures, or representations
in a glasse-vessel of water. . . . Catoptromancie
receiued those resemblances in cleare glasses: Crystallomancie,
in Crystall. . . . Onymancie with Oile and Soote
daubed on the Naile of an vndefiled child, and held vp
against the Sunne: Hydromancy with water. . . Tibi
nomina mile, Mille nocendi artes."57
54. Cp. L. H. Gray, "Persian Divination," E.R.E., iv. 820.
55. In St Augustine, De civitate Dei, VII. xxxv.
56. XVI. li. 39.
57. S. Purchas, Pilgrimage, or Relations of the World and the Religions observed in all Ages (London, 1613), IV. v. 310.
The cup-scrying legends in Persia generally centre round some mythological or heroic personage. In the Sikandar Nama of Nizam "the royal hero is represented as possessing no fewer than three magic specula of different properties: a mirror of the stars; a mirror of the seasons; and the Sikandariya mirror, that gave intelligence of the  coming of the Europeans. . . ."58 But the personage most frequently invoked is Jamshid; several authors seriously relate, says Reinaud, that this king and his successors on the throne of Persia possessed a cup in which was reflected the whole universe;59 even supernatural things were not excluded from appearance in this wonderful cup.60 It is to it, of course, that Omar refers:
Iram indeed is gone with all its Rose,
58. W. A. Clouston, On the Magical Elements in Chaucer's Squire's Tale (Chaucer Soc, London, 1888-90), p. 307.
59. J. T. Reinaud, op. cit., ii. 419.
60. B. d'Herbelot, Bibliothèque Orientale (new ed., Paris, 1783, 6 vols.), iii. 23, s.v. "Giam."
61. FitzGerald's version, v.
Or, in Whinfield's fuller version:
To find great Jamshid's world-reflecting bowl
62. Whinfield's version, ccclv.
Indeed the Persian poets often speak of this "world-displaying cup."63
Another legend of this kind is told in The Shâhnâma;
Kai Khusrau speaks:
63. R. A. Nicholson's ed. of FitzGerald's version (London, 1923),
Then will I
Kai Khusrau then takes up the cup, and having gazed therein:
He saw the seven climes reflected there,
64. The Shahnama of Firdausi, trans. by A. G. Warner and E. Warner (London, 1905, etc., in progress),
iii. 317, 318 (Kai Khusrau, v. 12, 13).
These miraculous cups are, or were comparatively
recently, still being manufactured in Persia.65 And
although there is no record of their use in modern times,
there is no reason for supposing that the use of them
has died out. Indeed, among contemporary Zoroastrian
priests only the highest rank are allowed to carry at their
girdles the bunch of twigs and the cup. The Zoroastrians
are also supposed to have used the sapphire for divination.66
65. d'Herbelot, loc. cit.; at iii. 38-9 the use of a turquoise vase for a similar purpose is spoken of rather vaguely.
66. J. Reichelt, De Amuletis (Strassburg, 1676), p. 36.
§ 5 SCRYING IN INDIA
In Vedic India before entering into battle the warriors
looked into a vessel full of water; if their reflections
appeared in the water all was well, but if not they did
not go to battle knowing they would be killed.67 During this
same period it was believed that a maiden who had not
yet menstruated was enabled to see the future in a mirror
or spoonful of water.68 Bernier, who travelled in India in
the seventeenth century, seems to have found scrying well
known.69 Ja'far Sharif stated that he had heard it generally
said "that the Hindu Orders of Jogis and Sanyasis practise
these arts, and that in this way they discover hidden treasure."70
67. G. M. Balling, "Vedic Divination," E.R.E., iv. 828.
68. Ibid., which see for references to Vedic literature.
69. F. Bernier, Voyages . . . Contenant la Description des Etats du Grand Mogol, de l'Hindoustan, du Royaume de Kachemire . . . (Amsterdam, 1699, 2 vols.), ii. 131.
70. Islam in India, or the Qanun-i-Islam (G. A. Herklots), ed. by W. Crooke (London, 1921), p. 264.
According to Maury the Muslims of India and the
Hindus use lamp-black (unjun) placed on the hand of a
child, who sees in it the features of the demon that is afflicting
a sufferer.71 This is a Muslim mode of scrying, and
indeed what little scrying is to be found in India seems to
have been introduced there by Muslims. Thus in a legend
of one of the Muslim emperors of the sixteenth century he
is enabled to obtain information from a distance in a magic mirror.72
A story is told of Tipu Sultan, the Muslim
Nawab of Mysore, that at the siege of Seringapatam he
retired from the walls during the heat of the conflict to
consult his divining cup.73
71. L. F. A. Maury, La Magie et l'Astrologie (Paris, 1860), p. 433.
72. Sir E. C. Bailey, The Local Muhammadan Dynasties of Gujarat (London, 1886), pp. 323-5.
73. E. Smedley and others, The Occult Sciences (Encyclopædia Metropolitana, London, 1886), pp. 323-5.
§ 6 MONGOLIAN SCRYING
In common with most things divination has been carried
in China and its neighbouring countries to a very elaborate
pitch, of which we have still a great deal to learn. Scrying
is mentioned in Mandeville's Travels among the various
modes of divination employed at the court of Jenghiz Kahn.74
Du Halde, who travelled in China early in the
eighteenth century, says that the Taoist diviners showed
in a cauldron of water the changes taking place in all parts
of the Empire.75 In one of P'u Sung-Ling's folk-stories
occurs a mirror which retains the image of any woman who
looks into it indelibly fixed and not to be rubbed cut,
"but if the same woman looks into it again, dressed in a
different dress, or if some other woman chanced to look in,
then the former face would gradually fade away."76
74. Mandeville's Travels, ed. by P. Hamelius (Early English Text Soc, London,
1919-23, 2 vols.), i. 154 (ch. xxvi.).
75. J. B. Du Halde, Description . . . de l'Empire de la Chine et de la Tartarie Chinoise (The Hague, 1736, 4 vols.), iii. 22.
76. H. A. Giles, Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio (London, 1880, 2 vols.), ii. 32, See also A. Bastian, Volkerstämme am Brahmaputra (Berlin, 1883), p. 116.
The people of the Tibetan foothills scry in basins; they
burn charms and mix the ashes with the water in the basin.
The reader of the spirits' desires then stares into the
mixture and "declares he sees and hears wonderful
things belonging to another world."77 In Tibet itself a
bowl or pool of water is used,78 and the implements of the
Chinese oracle include the magic mirror of steel in which
the future is reflected.79 This kind of steel mirror is
indeed an inseparable attribute of the Shinto religion: in
a Shinto temple in Japan such a mirror stands on the altar.80
77. J. Hutson, Chinese Life in the Tibetan Foothills (Shanghai, 1921), p. 122.
78. L. A. Waddell, "Buddhist Divination," E.R.E., iv. 787.
79. L. A. Waddell, loc. cit.
80. G. Bousquet, Le Japan de nos jours (Paris, 1877, 2 vols.), ii. 72.
The magic mirror plays an important part in Japanese
mythology. When Amaterasu sent her children out to
rule the world she gave them a mirror (together with a
sword and a globe of crystal) into which they could always
look to see their mother's face and "in consequence to find
the truth."81 A similar mirror appears in Japanese folk-tales.82
81. V. Jäkel, "War der magische Spiegel im Besitztum der Vorzeit?"
Internationales Centralblatt für Anthropologie (Stettin, 1903), v. 363; G. Bousquet, loc. cit.
82. Lafcadio Hearn and others, Japanese Fairy Tales (New York, 1918), pp. 54, sqq., 130, sqq.
In Siberia the natives look in water poured into a vessel
to discover, among other things, what sacrifice the gods
require.83 They seem also to have imported some varieties
of scrying from the Saracens to judge from some lecanomantic
plates which have been found in use among them.84
Strahlenberg further reports that they also used mirrors,
which they hung on their generals, one before and one
behind, which is at least logical and decorative.
83. V. M. Mikhailovskii, "Shamanism in Siberia and European Russia,"
Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland
(London, 1895), xxiv. 155; N. Ruichkov, Tagebuch über seine Reise durch verschiedenen
Provinzen des russischen Reichs in den Jahren 1769, 1770, und 1771 (Riga, 1774), p. 92.
84. P. J. von Strahlenberg, An Historico-Geographical Description of . . . Russia, Siberia, and Great Tartary (London, 1738), p. 330 and plate facing p. 326.
In Greenland when a man has not returned from the
sea in due time, "they lift up the head of the nearest
relation of the missing party with a stick; a tub of water
stands under, and in that mirror they behold forsooth the
absent man either overset in his kayak, or sitting upright and rowing."85
85. D. Cranz, The History of Greenland (London, 1767, 2 vols.), i. 214.
SCRYING IN OTHER CONTINENTS
§ 1 SCRYING AMONG THE MALAYANS AND PAPUANS
John Turnbull, in his voyage round the world at the
beginning of the nineteenth century, encountered at
Tahiti a singular method of detecting a thief, in a case of
stolen goods, "by applying to a person possessing the spirit
of divination, who, they observe, is always sure to show
them the face of the thief reflected from a calabash of clear
water."1 Another traveller gives a different form
of this method. The natives of Tahiti, he says, "had also
recourse to several kinds of divination, for discovering
perpetrators of acts of injury, especially theft. Among these
was a kind of water ordeal. It resembled in a great degree the
wai haruru2 of the Hawaiians. When the
parties who had been robbed wished to use this method of
discovering the thief, they sent for a priest, who, on being
informed of the circumstances connected with the theft,
offered prayers to his demon. He now directed a hole to
be dug in the floor of the house, and filled with water;
then, taking a young plantain in his hand, he stood over
the hole, and offered prayers to the god, whom he invoked,
and who, if propitious, was supposed to conduct the
spirit of the thief to the house, and place it over the water. The image
of the spirit, which they imagined resembled the person of the man, was,
according to their account, reflected in the water, and being perceived
by the priest, he named the individual, or the parties, who had committed
the theft, stating that the god had shown him the image in the water."3
This account is confirmed by a more modern writer, according to whom the priest
causes a hole to be dug in the floor of the house which has been robbed;
the hole is then filled with water and the priest, holding in his hand
a young banana-tree, looks into it.4 A form of pegomancy is
also practised by the Tahitians.5
1. A Voyage Round the World in the Years 1800, 1801, 1802, 1803, and 1804 (2nd ed., London, 1813), p. 343.
2. In the 1829 ed., ii. 240, "wai harru."
3. W. Ellis, Polynesian Researches (2nd ed., London, 1832-4, 4 vols.), i. 378-9.
4. A. D. Le Plongeon, "Occultism among the Tahitians," The Metaphysical Magazine (New York, 1896), iv. 279.
5. C. Hercouet, "Superstitions et Croyances de l'Océanie Centrale," Revue des Traditions Populaires (Paris, 1889), iv. 287.
George Turner has an interesting summary of a tale which is told in Samoa
of the water-pool of a certain Sina-sengi, a lady. "She had 'caught the shadows'
of a variety of scenes, and imprinted them on the water. A problem this for the
photographers! Night-dances, races, club exercises, battles, public meetings,
and some of the employments of daily life, were all there. The pool was covered
over, but by the removal of a stone this 'chamber of imagery' could be all
seen. Everything seemed so real that a man one day was so enraptured with
the sight of one of his favourite sports that he jumped in to join a dancing
party. But, alas! he bruised his head and broke his arm on the stones which
he found under the surface, instead of the gambols of living men."6
6. Samoa a Hundred Years Ago and Long Before (London, 1884), pp. 101-2.
In Sarawak the manang, or witch-doctor, uses the
"Stone of Light," a piece of crystal quartz, to diagnose a disease submitted
to him for cure.7 He does this by using the crystal as a glass in
which to view the condition of the patient.8
7. J. Perham, "Manangism," Journal of the Straits Asiatic Soc. (1887), no. 19;
cited thus by H. L. Roth, The Natives of Sarawak and British North Borneo
(London, 1896, 2 vols.), i. 273. Cp. E. H. Gomes, Seventeen Years among the Sea Dyaks of Borneo
(London, 1911), p. 165.
8. R. Shelford, "On Two Medicine-Baskets from Sarawak," Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland (London, 1903), xxxiii. 76 and plate XVI. i.
The people of the Malay Peninsula have a folk-song in which various animals
are introduced as the persons of the drama; in it the crocodile determines
whether he can safely attack a man, by scrying in the water of the river.9
Another folk-song, of the neighbouring Nicobar Islands, introduces a
mirror which shows all things when it is unlocked.10
9. W. S. Skeat and C. O. Blagden, Pagan Races of the Malay Peninsula (London, 1906, 2 vols.), ii. 154 and note.
10. F. A. de Roepstorff, "Tiomberombi: a Nicobar Tale," Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (Bengal, 1884), L1II. i. 24, sqq.
In that outpost of the Malay race, Madagascar, the natives use, or used,
crystals, topazes, aquamarines, amethysts and opals, to which they gave a
comprehensive name, Filah, as speculums for scrying.11
|11. E. de Flacourt, Histoire de la Grande Isle de Madagascar (Paris, 1661), p. 189.|
The Papuans also reverence pieces of quartz and use them for divination,
in common with a few other stones.12 They also practise other
methods of scrying. In British New Guinea if a man suspects his wife
of infidelity and she denies the allegation, he takes the leaves of certain plants
and squeezes their red juice into a shallow open vessel. "Then in the quiet
of his own house the man stares into the pot where he sees the face[s] of
his wife and her lover; should his wife still deny the alleged infidelity
he may bid her look into the fluid, when it is said she will recognise her
own face and that of her lover. When applied to the detection of thieves
this method seems to be implicitly believed in; the accuser would not
brazen it out and deny that the image seen was true, for 'inside belong
him no good, man he savvy.' "13 In the southern extremity
of New Guinea the thief is discovered in a pool of water into which
coco-nut oil has been squeezed.14
12. A. Featherman, Social History of the Races of Mankind (London, 1885-91, 7 vols.),
Second Division (Papuo- and Malayo-Melanesians), pp. 41, 283.
13. C. G. Seligmann, The Melanesians of British New Guinea (Cambridge, 1910), pp. 654-5.
14. H. V. Newton, In Far New Guinea (London, 1914), pp. 89-90.
§ 2 SCRYING IN AUSTRALIA
There is little direct evidence for Sir Richard Burton's statement that
the natives of Australia gaze, for divination, "at a kind of shining stone."15
It is, however, well known that the aborigines have a great respect for pieces
of crystal quartz. In South-Western Australia this respect almost amounts to
veneration,16 and in Eastern Australia such crystals are always
carried about by the coradjes, or priests, who take care that nobody shall
see them unnecessarily, women being altogether excluded from this
15. Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah (London, 1906, 2 vols.), i. 387-9n.
16. G. Grey, Journals of Discovery in North-West and Western Australia (London, 1841, 2 vols.), ii. 340. See A. W. Howitt, "On Australian Medicine Men," Journal of the Anthropological Institute (London, 1887), xvi. 50.
17. T. L. Mitchell, Three Expeditions into the Interior of Eastern Australia (2nd ed,, London, 1839, 2 vols.) ii. 344. Cp. Sir J. G. Frazer, Totemism and Exogamy (London, 1910, 4 vols.), i. 412.
In New South Wales the natives worship crystals,
having the same word for agate, chalcedony, and cornelian.18
In the Euahlayi tribe in north-western New South Wales the pieces of
quartz which they revere are about the size and shape of a small lemon.
In these stones they see visions of "the past, of what is happening at
a distance, and of the future." They believe this is done by a spirit
who inhabits the crystal and who goes to obtain the required information
and then shows it in the crystal.19 At West Maitland in
New South Wales the natives use a polished ball of stone to scry the
result of an expedition.20
18. L. E. Threlkeld, An Australian Grammar . . . of the Language as spoken by the Aborigines
in . . . New South Wales (Sydney, 1834), pp. 88-9.
19. K. L. Parker, The Euahlayi Tribe (London, 1905), pp. 25-6; cp. E. Doutté, Magie el Religion dans l'Afrique du Nord (Algiers, 1909), p. 387.
20. In A. Lang, The Making of Religion (2nd ed., London, 1900), p. 83 and note.
§ 3 AMERICAN SCRYING
Among the Mayas scrying used to centre round the worship of the god
Tezcatlipcca, to whom there was dedicated a temple in Mexico the
walls of which were apparently entirely lined with mirrors.21
Mirrors made of obsidian or pyrites, generally the former, were habitually
used for divination. "In Mexico, as in Guatemala, the priest of the Below,
the personification of Tezcatli-poca = Shining Mirror, employed an actual
mirror made of polished obsidian, as an aid in pronouncing judgment on
criminals."22 For instance, it is related by Fuentes that on
a hill outside the ancient city of Guatemala stood a shining pedestal
surrounded by a low wall. When the judges in trying a person were unable
to arrive at a decision this stone pedestal, supposed to have been of
obsidian, was consulted and obeyed.23 The Bishop Francis Marroquin
having obtained intelligence of this stone, continues Fuentes, he had it
cut up and consecrated for use as an altar in the church of Teepan,
Guatemala. Stephens visited this church, and although Fuentes says
that the stone was of singular beauty, a yard and a half each way,
he writes: "The stone was sewed up in a piece of cotton cloth drawn
tight, which looked certainly as old as the thirty-five years it had
been under the cura's charge, and probably was the same covering in
which it was enveloped when first laid on the top of the altar. . . .
This oracular slab is a piece of common slate, 14 inches by 10, and
about as thick as those used by boys at school, without characters
of any kind upon it."24 On which Brinton comments:
"I am inclined to believe that the original stone, evidently
supposed to be of great value, had been stolen, and this piece
of slate substituted."25
21. T. Waitz, Anthropologie der Naturvölker (Leipzic, 1859-72, 6 vols.), iv. 150.
22. Z. Nuttall, The Fundamental Principles of Old and New World Civilisation (Archaeological and Ethnological Papers of the Peabody Museum, Harvard, 1901), p. 79.
23. F. A. de Fuentes y Guzmán, Historia de Guatemala ó Recordación florida escrita el siglo XVII, ed. by J. Zaragoza (Madrid, 1882-3, 2 vols.), ii. 133, sqq.; cp. O. Stoll, "Die Ethnologie der Indianerstämme von Guatemala," Internationales Archiv für Ethnographie (Leyden, 1889, Supplement), i. 86; L. Spence, "American Divination," E.R.E., iv. 783; Z. Nuttall, op. cit., pp. 79-80; W. H. R. Rivers, Medicine, Magic, and Religion (London, 1924), p. 75.
24. J. L. Stephens, Incidents of Travel in Central America Chiapas, and Yucatan (London, 1841, 2 vols.), ii. 149.
25. D. G. Brinton, The Annals of the Cakchiquels (Library of Aboriginal American Literature, Philadelphia, 1885), pp. 25-6.
One writer, without giving any authority, relates a very curious story,
which, he says, is to be found in the Spanish historians. "Some years
before the discovery of America by the Spaniards a fowl of extraordinary
magnitude was caught on the lake of Mexico. In the crown of its head
there was a mirror or plate of glass, in which the Mexicans saw their
future invaders, and all the misfortunes that would befall them."26
A probably more authentic story is told by Christoval de Molina. He relates
that before succeeding to the rulership of the Yncas, Yupanqui went one day
to visit his father at Sacsahuana, five leagues from Cuzco. "As he went up
to a fountain called Susur-puquio, he saw a piece of crystal fall into it,
within which he beheld the figure of an Indian. . . . On seeing this figure
the Ynca Yupanqui fled, but the figure of the apparition called him by his
name from within the fountain. . . . The apparition then vanished, while the
piece of crystal remained. The Ynca took great care of it, and they say he
afterwards saw everything he wanted in it."27 Water itself
was also used for scrying.28
26. O. G. Ritter, De Roberti Greeni Fabula: Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (Thorn, 1866), p. 28.
27. The Fables and Rites of the Yncas, ed. by C. R. Markham (Hakluyt Soc, London, 1873), p. 12.
28. Z. Nuttall, op. cit., p. 225.
To this day the Mayas of Yucatan
have the greatest faith in, and give the most implicit obedience, even in
matters of life and death, to the zaztun, or divining-stone, possessed by
their wizards.29 There is scarcely a village in Yucatan
without such a sanctified piece of crystal or other translucent
stone.30 The crystal is also used by the Indians in
Central America generally; they employ a polished sandstone which
they consult when they "are dubious as to the future."31
A case is on record, says Mr Spence, where a Cherokee kept such a
stone in a buckskin case, feeding it by rubbing it over with the
blood of a deer; "similar instances might be multiplied."32 Among the
Apache the medicine-men use pieces of crystal to discover lost property,
especially ponies. "Na-a-cha, the medicineman . . . could give no
explanation except that by looking into it he could see everything
he wanted to see."33
29. D. G. Brinton, op. cit., p. 43-5
30. Id., Essays of an Americanist (Philadelphia, 1890), p. 165.
31. L. Spence, op. cit., p. 782.
32. Loc. cit.; cp. G. A. Dorsey, "Traditions of the Skidi Pawnee," Memoirs of the American Folk-Lore Soc. (Boston, 1904), p. 351, note 217.
33. J. G. Bourke, The Medicine-Men of the Apache (Ninth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, U.S.A., Washington, 1892), p. 461.
§4 SCRYING AMONG THE AFRICAN NEGROES
Scrying is practised by a great many of the numerous tribes in Africa. The Zulus
revere a kind of Chief's Vessel in which, when it is filled with water, they
divine.34 A correspondent informed Miss Goodrich-Freer that the
Matabeles say they are accustomed to look at the shadows in pools of water
when in any difficulty.35 A member of the Kaonde tribe in
North Rhodesia when seeking information looks into a pool of river-water
and sees therein the "hitherto unrevealed past, or the secrets of the future."
The neighbouring Alunda have a similar custom.36
34. H. Callaway, The Religious System of the Amazulu (Natal, 1870; re-issued by the Folk-Lore Soc,
London, 1884), pp. 340-7.
35. "Crystal-Gazing," The Occult Review (London, 1910), xi. 270.
36. F. H. Melland, In Witch-Bound Africa (London, 1923), p. 225.
Scrying plays the principal part in the initiation ceremony among the
natives of Fernand Vaz in French Congo. At the back of the ceremonial
hut is a roughly hewn statue under which are placed the bones of a man
long since dead; in front of it stands a mirror. Into this mirror the
candidate is required to look, and until he can see in it, and accurately
describe, the features of the dead man (whom he could not possibly have
known), he is not allowed to proceed with the remaining tests awaiting
him before initiation.37
37. J. Buléon, Sous le del d'Afrique (Abbeville, 1896), p. 89.
In the villages of Chiloango, Kabinda, and Umkotschi in the Loanga
district of Congo, a mirror has been observed on the breast of the
figure in the fetich-house which is to be found in each of these
villages (and in most others). The witch-doctors use these mirrors
for divination.38 In the same district the nganga,
or priest, has a head-dress made of parrot feathers and mirrors; when
there is any difficulty about the succession to the throne of Congo,
the priest doffs his head-dress and, looking into one of its mirrors,
sees therein the face of the ruler elect. He acts in the same way to
discover the cause of a drought.39
38. A. Bastian, Die deutsche Expedition an der Loanga-Küste (Jena, 1874-5, 2 vols.), i. 41, 76-7, 205, 243.
39. R. E. Dennett, in N. W. Thomas, Crystal Gazing (London, 1905), p. 56.
Among the Mpongwe tribes of Equatorial Africa the mirror is likewise
used for scrying.40 In the northern districts of
Equatorial Africa the witch-doctor makes his medical diagnosis by
looking at water in a kettle, and is generally successful.41
In Ashango-Land the procedure is the same, except that the kettle is
replaced by a black earthenware vessel, filled with water, into which
the doctor looks "intently and mysteriously."42
40. W. W. Reade, Savage Africa (London, 1863), pp. 252-3.
41. A. Steinhausen, "Die Religion des Negers," Magazin für die neueste Geschichte der evangelischen Missions- und Bibel-Gesellschaften (Basel, 1856), ii. 138-9.
42. P. B. Du Chaillu, A Journey to Ashango-Land (London, 1867), pp. 173-4.
The Mossi of the French Soudan have a periodical test of purity for
certain of their community; the test consists of looking into a jar
of water, which gives its verdicts by its reflections.43 Samuel Burder
writes that "Julius Serenus44 tells us that the method of
divining by the cup" was known to the Abyssinians,45 but this
last term was loosely used by the ancients.
43. L. Tauxier, Le Noir du Soudan (Paris, 1912), pp. 570, 572.
44. I can trace no such person; there was a Julius Severus who was Governor of Bithynia under Hadrian, but he has left no writings; see Dion Cassius, LXIX. xiii-xiv.
45. Oriental Customs (6th ed., London, 1822, 2 vols.), i. 61.
THE PROCEDURE OF SCRYING AND THE GENESIS OF VISIONS
§ 1 EXPERIMENT AND FRAUD
There can be no great harm beyond the waste of time in scrying as an
amusement or pastime, but that is an aspect of the subject with which
I am not here concerned. If the scryer and his friends intend their
experiences to be of experimental value they should write down during,
or at worst immediately after, the sitting all the particulars of
whatever of a pertinent character that occurred, whether the scry
was successful or not. To this account should be added a description
of the conditions under which the experiment was held, the time of
starting, the length and vividness of the visions, the testimonies
and verifications of those present or concerned, and all other
details that complete the case, and the whole should then be sent
from time to time to some recognised centre such as the
Society for Psychical Research or to some appropriate individual.
Valuable results can sometimes be obtained by resort to professional
scryers, but if this is done additional precautions should be taken.
The majority of professional mediums are fraudulent mediums, but
fraud in scrying not being difficult, precautions against deception
are equally easy. One method of fraudulent scrying that has been
observed consists in a false medium handing the inquirer a globe
contained in a black box which is to be held in the hand and looked
into. After a moment or two the visitor sees a face in the glass,
and then has of course no difficulty in discovering a likeness to
someone or other dear to him. This is effected by placing a small
photograph at the bottom of the box under the sphere; the refractions
of light in the translucent globe cause the picture to appear vague
and indefinite in its outlines. Add to this a touch of self-suggestion
and the trick is done.1 Another mode of deception, and
though one restricted to prosperous circles a not less dangerous
one, is by the creation of atmosphere. "The inquirer, in a darkened
room, surrounded by all those objects which act powerfully on a lively
fancy, in perfect silence, except for the strains of a solemn music
from time to time, and steeped in balsamic and narcotic odours, is
shown the mirror, on which he is told to look earnestly, and he will
see the absent friend or lover, and how they are occupied. He does
so at first, and after a time sees a cloud on the mirror, which
clears up, and exhibits the image on which the thoughts are bent. . . ."2
1. F. Podmore, Modern Spiritualism (London, 1902, 2 vols.), ii. 249-50.
2. W. Gregory, Animal Magnetism (2nd ed., London, 1896), p. 136.
There are several other deceptions of a more direct and practical kind, but a little common sense is all that is required to avoid them. As a general rule persons who claim to be able to show the inquirer himself visions in the speculum should be avoided. Persons who do not make this claim but who ask questions about date of birth and so forth should be very carefully answered or, better, requested not to ask them. Such persons by long practice attain a remarkable skill in obtaining knowledge of the  inquirer's habits and disposition by means of seemingly innocuous questions. Again, generally speaking, a genuine scryer is one who makes no claims to supernatural powers and who sets about the job of looking into the speculum without any air of mystery and without preliminary requests addressed to the inquirer.
§ 2 THE PROCEDURE OF SCRYING
Andrew Lang has thus described the procedure to be adopted in
scrying: "It is best to go, alone, into a room, sit down with
the back to the light, place the ball, at a just focus, in the
lap on a dark dress, or a dark piece of cloth, try to exclude
reflections, think of anything you please, and stare for say,
five minutes, at the ball."3 Barbarous punctuation
apart, this statement requires much qualification, for there is
not agreement among scryers about a single one of the points
touched upon. Very few scryers exercise their faculty alone,
and if they did they would not only largely cut themselves off
from one of the most fruitful sources of visions, telepathy, but
their experiences would be scientifically useless, since even if
it were thus possible to take notes, it would be impossible to
accept as conclusive the testimony of a single person and that
the person principally engaged in the matter. It may, however,
be useful to scry in solitude while practising or developing
3. "Magic Mirrors and Crystal Gazing," Monthly Review (London, 1901), v. 127.
4. Cp. F. W. H. Myers, Human Personality (London, 1903, 2 vols.), i. 237.
The question of light is a difficult one, about which it is impossible
to lay down rules, for, as we shall see later, the very reflections
in the speculum that enable some scryers
to see the visions are the chief obstacles to others. Myers writes:
"Let the observer gaze, steadily but not fatiguingly, into some
speculum, or other depth, so arranged as to return as little
reflection as possible. A good example of what is meant will be
a glass ball enclosed in a black shawl, or placed in the back part
of a half-opened drawer; so arranged, in short, that the observer
can gaze into it with as little distraction as may be from the
reflection of his own face or of surrounding objects."5
Another authority recommends that when looked into the ball "should
be sheltered from reflection, as it should be of a uniform tint, without
any brilliant points. To obtain this result, it may be enclosed in a
piece of dark foulard or velvet, or held in the hollow of the hand,
or even at the finger-tips. . . ."6 Mrs Verrall records
having tried scrying under "varying conditions of light, with the
conclusion that a dim light is the most likely to result in the
seeing of a picture. I have sometimes seen pictures in quite bright
light, but never in absolute darkness."7 This indeed
seems to be the general opinion,8 but a few scryers like
to look into the speculum in the dark. One writes: "We took the
crystal into a somewhat dark room and placed it upon the sofa,
and I placed my eyes close to the crystal ball, with a dark cloth
over my head so that external objects could not be reflected in
the crystal."9 And Miss A. says, "I either take the crystal
into a dark corner of the room, or wrap
it up in black with only a little bit uncovered, or if it is small
I hold it inside my hand. ... I can see equally well in the dark."10
As Mrs Verrall says that she could
sometimes scry in a bright light, it is interesting to note
that the Freiin von Vay could only obtain results when
seated under an artificial light, never in daylight.11 Some
scryers like to have the light behind their crystals, and one
known to me places the crystal in broad daylight on a
table without any protection at all.
5. Cp. F. W. H. Myers, Human Personality (London, 1903, 3 vols.), i. 237.
6. J. Maxwell, Metapsychical Phenomena (London, 1905), p. 185.
7. In F. W. H. Myers, "The Subliminal Consciousness," Proc. S.P.R. (1892), viii. 473.
8. Cp. A. Goodrich-Freer, Essays in Psychical Research (London, 1899), p. 107; P. Janet, Néuroses et idées fixes (Paris, 1898, 3 vols.), i. 411.
9. Journ. S.P.R. (1891—2), v. 7; cp. A. Lang, Introduction to N. W. Thomas, Crystal Gazing (London, 1905), p. xvi.
10. In F. W. H. Myers, op. cit., viii. 500.
11. Visionen im Wasserglase (Budapest, 1877), p. 4.
There is more agreement about the distance at which the
speculum should be held from the eyes. With the exception
of the scryer quoted who held the crystal close to the
eyes, it is agreed that the distance should be within the
range of normal reading vision.12 A valuable method of
helping crystal vision without eye-strain is to look into
and beyond the crystal, not at its surface.13 How to gaze
at the speculum is another much debated point, though
the recommendation to look steadily without exertion or
concentration cannot be bettered. As regards the length
of time for which to look Lang is not so sound: his five
minutes being certainly insufficient to discover whether
any visions are likely to be forthcoming. Myers recommends
that the scryer should look for ten minutes at a time,14
while another writer advocates fifteen to twenty
minutes;15 but this again is a matter about which it is
impossible to make rules, since the length of time different
persons can look at one object without strain varies. This
indeed forms in itself the rule — that the gaze should not
be prolonged when the eyes begin to feel fatigued. The
state of mind of the scryer when looking into the speculum
should be perfectly normal, without strain or concentration,
without any attempt to make the mind a blank.
12. Cp. A, Lang, "Crystal-Gazing," E.R.E., iv. 351; J. Maxwell, op. cit., p. 185.
13. J. Maxwell, loc. cit.; R. Shirley, "The Art of Crystal Gazing," Occult Review (London, 1914), xix. 126.
14. F. W. H. Myers, Human Personality (London, 1903, 2 vols.), i. 237.
15. Annals of Psychical Science (London, 1905), i. 258.
§ 3 THE GENESIS OF VISIONS
We now come to the beginning of the visions themselves. Most scryers
discover their possession of the faculty accidentally. "In the course
of my conversation with the percipient, Mrs D------, regarding her various experiences,
she happened to mention that, when a child, if she happened to
look at the surface of a lake or body of water reflecting
sunlight, she often saw the most beautiful scenes not in
any way representing the objects about her . . . she both
resented such experiments and utterly disbelieved that
anything would result from them. She therefore felt very
greatly surprised when distinct visions were produced
by the crystal."16 Miss Goodrich-Freer discovered that
she was able to see visions in the speculum when she was
given, as a child, a glass ball in exchange for another object.
She was told that she would see soldiers in the crystal,
which she did.17
16. J. H. Hyslop, "Some Experiments in Crystal-Vision,'' Proc. S.P.R. (1896-7), xii. 259.
17. Essays in Psychical Research (London, 1899), p. 105.
There is almost universal agreement except in matters
of detail about the changes that seem to take place in
the crystal before the visions appear. Sometimes the ball
seems to disappear altogether; Miss Angus writes, "...
so far as I can judge, the moment the vision comes the ball
seems to disappear, so it is difficult for me to say if my
pictures are actually seen in the crystal."18 Another
scryer stated that the speculum disappeared and she saw
before her the scene she described.19 Mrs Verrall says
that her visions are not limited by the size of the crystal.20
Maxwell writes: "Most people see the image in the
crystal, but believe they see it life-size. The dimension
of the crystal has no influence on the apparent dimension
of the image. . . ."21 On the other hand, Miss Goodrich-Freer's
pictures always seemed to fit into the crystal, or to
be seen within the bounds of any larger speculum."22 It
is also interesting to note at this point that scryers can
sometimes look away from the speculum and still find the
picture there when they look back, though Miss A. found
that if she moved the crystal she shook the pictures out of
it.23 "Another fact of considerable interest in the case is
that sometimes the vision appears on the surface of the
crystal and sometimes at the centre of it, and gradually
develops into clearness. And again, it will sometimes
originate in this way at the centre and be transferred to
18. Journ. S.P.R. (1897-8), viii. 223-4; cp. A. Lang, "Crystal-Gazing," E.R.E., iv. 351.
19. M. Prince, "An Experimental Study of Vision," Brain (London, 1898), xxi. 533.
20. In F. W. H. Myers, "The Subliminal Consciousness", Proc. S.P.R. (1892), viii. 476.
21. J. Maxwell, op. cit., p. 195; cp. F. W. H. Myers, Human Personality, i. 239. Cp. E. Osty, Supernormal Faculties in Man (London, 1923), p. 141.
22. In F. W. H. Myers, "The Subliminal Consciousness," viii. 487.
23. In ibid., viii. 500.
24. J. H. Hyslop, op. cit., xii. 259. Cp. E. S. Bagger, Psycho-Graphology (London, 1924), pp. 26, 123.
More generally, however, than these phenomena the
scryer sees "a kind of mist or a milky obscurity cover the
ball, which then seems to become clear and black. . . ."25
Sir Walter Scott calls it a shifting of light and darkness.26
Adelma von Vay says that when she looked into her glass
of water she used first to see little cloudlets, points, spots,
then it seemed to billow, until images were formed.27
Maxwell calls this appearance an opalescent, milky tint,
and adds, "I know a sensitive — an intelligent and well-educated
lady — who compares this impression to that
produced on the eye by rising mists and fleeting clouds.
For her, the milky tint in the crystal is in movement. It
breaks away like a cloud or mist, to disclose the hallucinatory
image completely formed. To another sensitive the cloud
appears first of all immobile, and then becomes condensed
into grey forms, which gradually become coloured and mobile. . . ."28
25. A. Lang, "Crystal-Gazing," E.R.E., iv. 351.
26. Aunt Margaret's Mirror, in Prose Works (Paris, 1834, 8 vols.), viii. 904.
27. Studien über die Geisterwelt (2nd ed., Leipzic, 1874), p. 85.
28. J. Maxwell, Metapsychical Phenomena (London, 1905), p. 194.
Another student, after a series of scientific experiments
with scryers, wrote: "Usually some interval elapses
before any effect is produced. In a few cases a phantasm
was seen upon the first glance into the medium; more
commonly one must wait from five seconds to five minutes.
In one case the image appeared after a lapse of twenty
minutes. The first symptoms of a response on the part of
the central visual mechanism to the exciting stimulus are
frequently found in the appearance of visual sensations of
a rather indeterminate character. The medium becomes
opaque, being apparently filled with smoky or milky
masses; sometimes small masses of white, like minute
clouds, drift rapidly through it. At other times these
prodromal phenomena take the form of flushes of colour —
red, blue, or yellow. More seldom yet, the medium seems
to become brilliantly illuminated just before the phantasm
emerges. The cloud-masses take definite shape and then
become coloured, or the vague blur or spot becomes a
nucleus upon which the image develops. One of my
subjects, a young girl who visualised well, described it in
naive fashion: 'You see,' said she, 'the grey spot seems
to sink down to the bottom of the glass and turns and
whirls about slowly; then, of course, it has to become something.' "29
29. W. R. Newbold, "Experimental Induction of Automatic Processes," The Psychological Review
(New York, 1895), ii. 350. See also F. W. H. Myers, Human Personality, i. 237;
W. T. Stead, Real Ghost Stories (London, 1897), p. 66, and "The Mystery of the Crystal,"
Borderland (London, 1894), i. 114; G. A. T., "A Record of Experiences," Proc. Amer. S.P.R.
(New York, 1907), i. 360; "The Case of Miss Nancy Sinclair," Journ. S.P.R. (1921-2), xx. 317;
P. Janet, op. cit., i. 411-2.
Each of the phenomena described in this interesting account is well
authenticated. A fourteenth-century Arabic writer says: "Those who
gaze at diaphanous bodies, such as mirrors, basins filled with water,
and liquids . . . belong to the category of diviners. But, because of
the radical imperfection of their nature, they occupy an inferior grade
in that category. To remove the veil of the senses, the genuine
diviner does not employ great efforts; as for the others they try
to achieve their ends in seeking to concentrate in a single sense
all their perceptions. As sight is the noblest sense, they give it
preference, and fixing their gaze on an object with a level surface,
they regard it with attention until they perceive the thing that they
wish to announce. Some people believe that the image so perceived
appears on the surface of the mirror, but they are mistaken. The
diviner looks fixedly at the surface until it disappears and a
fog-like curtain interposes itself between his eyes and the mirror.
On this curtain the shapes that he desires to see form
themselves. . . ."30 This early account has been reaffirmed
by practically every scryer since.
30. 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Muhammad ibn Khaldún, "Prolégomènes Historiques,"
Notices et Extraits des Manuscrits de la Bibliothèque Impériale
(Paris, 1787, etc., in progress), xix. 221.
As for the prodromal colours spoken of, Joire says, "If
the experiment is to give any result, he [the scryer] will
first see the mirror assume a different tinge. It then seems
to become turgid, forming red or blue clouds, which whirl
like smoke, and, finally, pictures are formed."31 Sometimes
a light appears in the crystal instead of clouds or colours. An example
of the accuracy of Dee's assistant and scryer, Kelly, may well be cited
here: "E. K. In the middest of the Stone seemeth to stand, a little
round thing like a spark of fire, and it increaseth, and seemeth to
be as bigge as a Globe of 20 inches Diameter, or thereabout."32
One of the earliest of modern writers on scrying has it that before
visions in the crystal appear it is said to "become
exceedingly bright, as if it were illuminated by an effulgence
pervading its interior, in the midst of which the vision
appears."33 Mayo claims that highly sensitive subjects
see flames issuing from the poles of magnets and crystals.34
Lang records that an acquaintance of his tried to look into
the ball in darkness. "He said that it seemed to become
of a fiery quality, glowing bright, but in these conditions
he saw no pictures in the glow."35 Miss A. described her
experience as follows: "After a minute or two I seem to
see a very bright light in it, which disappears after a
few seconds, and then the surface appears cloudy and thick.
This mist clears away. . . . They only last for a few seconds
or sometimes minutes, and between each new picture I see the
same light and mist."36 Miss Coad,
another scryer, writes, "I was looking into the ball by
firelight hoping to see a favourite collie dog that had
died a year previously. The ball turned all black at first,
then a light spot appeared in the centre and gradually
spread all over the ball. In the centre of this was a
true portrait of the dog, — perfectly life-like."37
31. Psychical and Supernormal Phenomena (London, 1916), p. 157.
32. J. Dee, A True and Faithful Relation of What passed for many Yeers Between Dr John Dee . . . and Some Spirits, ed. by Meric Casaubon (London, 1659), p. 445 (2nd pagination).
33. "Gamma," "On the Ancient Magic Crystal, and its probable Connexion with Mesmerism," The Zoist (London, 1849), vii. 69.
34. H. Mayo, Letters on the Truths contained in Popular Superstitions (Frankfort o.M., 1849), p. 58.
35. Introduction to N. W. Thomas, op. cit., p. xvi.
36. In F. W. H. Myers, "The Subliminal Consciousness," viii. 500.
37. Journ. S.P.R. (1901-2), x. 135.
But this fiery part of the subject cannot be concluded
better than with the following quotation: "I soon see a
pale golden fire, seemingly uniting, frequently cut with
flashes of electric or magnetic light. In the soft, pale,
golden light there appears a spot of deep yellow gold
moving about, sometimes in a circle. After watching it
for some time it resolves itself into something like an
eye, with a dark, deep blue pupil; then with a ring of
gold around the eye centre; then into a ring of lighter
blue, resembling an eye. I first saw this object two or
three weeks after purchasing the mirror. The first object
I saw at all was in the evening, when I was sitting with
back towards the bright lamplight. I had sat about twenty
minutes, impatient and discouraged at seeing nothing but a
black mirror, when suddenly the appearance described above
showed itself near the left-hand lower corner of the disc,
slowly passing upwards two-thirds of the way towards the
right-hand upper corner, when it suddenly disappeared. Its
size is that of a silver dime."38 The
writer goes on to speak of seeing magnificent supernal realities.
38. Randolph, Seership, p. 74; thus cited and quoted by N. W. Thomas, op. cit., pp. 25-6.
The pictures in the speculum sometimes pass continuously
like a cinematographic film; sometimes one
picture succeeds another as with a magic lantern; sometimes
unrelated pictures appear after intervals. A single
picture lasts sometimes only a moment, sometimes longer.
One writer records a picture which remained in the
speculum for twenty minutes.39
39. P. Joire, op. cit., p. 165.
§ 4 EFFECT OF SCRYING ON THE HEALTH
It has been said that scrying is likely to have detrimental
effects on the health of the scryer. Dismissing Dr Janet's
thoroughly exploded idea that all scryers are neurotics,40
it remains true that some scryers have complained of indisposition
during or after scrying. One scryer "felt so great an oppression
of giddiness and alarm that he immediately replaced the crystal,
and it was a considerable time before he could throw off the
unpleasant sensation it had produced."41 One writer is
of the opinion that the "influence of the experiments is likely
to be bad on the mental or bodily health."42 Another
scryer discontinued the practice of scrying on account of its
being accompanied by a painful sensation of pressure on the forehead.43
40. As expounded in Névroses et idées fixes (Paris, 1898, 2 vols.), ii. 410, sqq.,
and exploded by A. Lang, The Making of Religion (2nd ed., London, 1900), Appendix C.
41. F. Hockley, "On the Ancient Magic Crystal, and its Connexion with Mesmerism," The Zoist (London, 1849), vii. 265.
42. F. A. Floyer, Journ. S.P.R. (1889-90), iv. 83-4.
43. D. Rogers, in A. Goodrich-Freer, "Recent Experiments in Crystal-vision," Proc. S.P.R. (1888-9), v. 520n.
Against these isolated instances must be placed the
categorical assertions of the most experienced scryers and
experimenters. Mr Podmore writes that there is nothing
in the experience of the many persons who have tried
crystal-gazing at the instance of the Society for Psychical
Research to indicate risk of injury to health.44 Myers says
that the hallucinations induced by the speculum "appear
to be absolutely harmless. I at least know of no kind of
injury resulting from them. . . ."45 Some students do
not even experiment with their scryers when these feel
indisposed;46 indeed, in the case of one scryer her power
entirely left her when she was ill.47 For my own part I can
only say that I have personally known and questioned some
ten or twelve men and women of all degrees who scryed,
not one of whom ever made any suggestion that scrying
disturbed the health.
44. Apparitions and Thought-Transference (Contemporary Science Series, new ed., London, 1915),
p. 191n. See also id., Modern Spiritualism (London, 1902, 2 vols.), ii. 327;
N. W. Thomas, Crystal Gazing (London, 1903), p. 159.
45. Human Personality, i. 239.
46. P. Joire, "Some Cases of Crystal Vision," Annals of Psychical Science (London, 1908), vii. 524.
47. F. W. H. Myers, "The Subliminal Consciousness," viii. 472-3.
But more important than these expressions of opinion are
the statements of scryers themselves: three of the most
successful of these have made such statements. Miss Goodrich-Freer
says, "In view of certain statements which are current as to the
physical conditions of crystal-gazing, I wish to say, as emphatically
as possible, that in my own case these experiments are neither the
cause nor the effect of any morbid condition. I can say positively,
from frequent experience, that to attempt experiments when mind and
body are not entirely at ease is absolutely waste
of time. ... I can with equal certainty disclaim, for
myself, the allegation that success in inducing hallucinations
of this kind is due in any way to an état maladif. The four
years during which I have carried on experiments in
crystal-gazing have been among the healthiest of my life."48
One could hardly be more precise; Mrs Verrall says,
"... my health is usually good, and was good during the
time of my experiments in crystal-gazing — I felt no fatigue,
nor any evil or unpleasant result from the experiment."49
And, which is perhaps most conclusive of all, Miss A.
writes, "I do not know if my health affects the crystal-seeing;
I am so seldom ill that I have not tried."50
48. F. W. H. Myers, "The Subliminal Consciousness," viii. 484.
49. In ibid., viii. 478.
50. In ibid., viii. 499.
THE MECHANISM OF SCRYING
§ 1 NORMAL
We have now to consider the mechanism by which the
visions in the scryer's consciousness or subconsciousness
are externalised into the speculum. The divergence of
opinion on this point is remarkable. "One has a notion
that the born scryer is a pallid, anæmic girl, with large,
mysterious eyes, hollow cheeks, untidy hair, and a strong
aversion to exercise in the open air. But the scryers whom
I know are healthy, jolly people, young, middle-aged, or
more than middle-aged." So writes Lang, and again, for
he was a great believer in sport as a hall-mark of character
and respectability, "In my own experience the subjects have
been healthy British subjects, often vigorous athletes,
sportsmen and sportswomen, golfers, tennis players, bicyclists,
and salmon fishers. . . . Hypnotism is not
the explanation. I never studied a crystal-gazer who was
not wide awake and in the full possession of all of his or
her normal faculties."1 Myers, though more tolerant,
was almost as emphatic. At one place he writes: "I know
of no real reason whatever for supposing that the power of
seeing these visions is commoner in hysterical than in normal
patients. . . ."2 Before this he had written, "It
is natural at first to suppose that the crystal-seers are
slightly self-hypnotised by the steady gaze; and in some
instances this is probably the fact. But in some of the
best-marked cases of crystal-visions which I have seen there
is no indication whatever of modification of the normal waking
state. Crystal-vision in my view is not a branch of
hypnotism. . . ."3 An early writer is quite definite
that when seeing visions the scryer remained "in a perfectly
normal condition."4 Richet is of the opinion that
crystal-vision does not produce hypnosis,5 and Podmore
declares that these visions take place outside of the hypnotic
trance.6 Miss A. says, "... I am in a perfectly normal
condition when I look; not sleepy, nor in a trance, nor unconscious
of my surroundings."7 I have myself never
observed in watching a scryer during his visions anything
more than the ordinary abstractedness of a person watching
something with care so as not to overlook any detail.
Morton Prince puts it in this way: "To me, as I observed
her, she appeared like one who, at the theatre, was completely
absorbed by the play, and in that sense was unconscious
of her surroundings, but not at all in a trance state."8
1. "Magic Mirrors and Crystal Gazing," Monthly Review (London, 1901), v. 119, 122;
see also the same writer in Journ. S.P.R. (1897-8), viii. 201; and in any of his other writings on the subject.
2. "Dr Morton Prince's 'Experimental Study of Vision,' " Proc. S.P.R. (1898-9), xiv. 371.
3. "The Subliminal Consciousness," vii. 319; cp. Human Personality, i. 238.
4. Proc. S.P.R. (1888-9), v. 286.
5. Traité de Métapsychique (2nd ed., Paris, 1923), p. 259.
6. The Naturalisation of the Supernatural (London, 1908), p. 62.
7. In F. W. H. Myers, "The Subliminal Consciousness," viii. 500.
8. "An Experimental Study of Vision," Brain (London, 1898), xxi. 533.
§ 2 SEMI-HYPNOTIC AND HYPNOTIC
There is an equally formidable array of authorities who
consider that crystal-vision takes place only in a hypnotic
condition, and there is indeed a good deal to be said on
behalf of that position. Podmore himself, in an earlier work
than that last quoted, was inclined to think that scrying
visions are due to self-suggestion plus induced hypnosis,9
and elsewhere he wrote that the images in the speculum
were seen by the scryer in a "state of ecstasy or reverie"
induced by the speculum.10 Dr Janet, who, as has been
seen, considers that all scryers are neurotics, thinks that
visions are seen in the crystal by such persons as are
predisposed to dreaming, while in a state of semi-hypnosis.11
Sir Oliver Lodge says that a slight amount of self-hypnosis
is probable in scrying.12 Sir William Barrett, in discussing
Miss Goodrich-Freer's experiences, "... ventured to
think . . . that crystal-gazing was one form of incipient
self-induced hypnotism."13 But he is not always so clear,
for a good many years later he compared scrying hallucinations
to those "in dream pictures or in hypnotic trance. . . .
Thus the crystal-gazer, if evidence be worth anything, is
not infrequently clairvoyant without being entranced."14
9. Apparitions and Thought-Transference (Contemporary Science Series, London, 1894), pp. 190-1.
10. Modern Spiritualism (London, 1912, 2 vols.), ii. 294—5.
11. Néuroses et idées fixes (Paris, 1S98, 2 vols.), i. 420—1.
12. The Survival of Man (London, 1909), p. 92.
13. Journ. S.P.R. (1889-90), iv. 83.
14. Psychical Research (Home University Library, London, 1911), p. 141.
All the writers cited so far believe that scrying visions
are obtained in a state of incipient or semi-hypnosis.
Other writers, however, lean towards belief in complete
hypnosis or in some kindred state. Thus one writer has it
that "the indispensable condition for the bringing up of
unknown notions into the consciousness appears to be a
state of sudden sleep, which in its mildest form is only a
distraction, but which can pass imperceptibly into a more
or less profound state akin to hypnosis."15 Another
writer, apparently describing an Eastern ceremony, says,
"On a table covered with a white cloth is placed an ordinary
bottle filled with water, behind which burns a small lamp;
someone then sits down on a chair at several paces distance,
and directs his eyes on the luminous point; at the end of a
few minutes a heaviness is felt in the eyelids, little by
little they lower themselves, and a sleep arrives, during
which the beating of the heart accelerates . . . the person
is plunged in a state of complete anesthesia."16 The writer quoting
this passage describes this performance as a method of producing artificial
catalepsy. An early anonymous writer said, "It is only after gazing until
the stage of hypnosis in which hallucinations can be produced is reached
that visions occur."17 Hyslop found that one of the ladies
with whom he experimented "experienced a strong tendency
to go into a sleep or trance when she looked into the
15. A. Lehmann, Aberglaube und Zauberei von den ältesten Zeiten an bis in die Gegenwart
(2nd ed., Stuttgart, 1908), pp. 537-8.
16. Dr Miguérez, in L. Godard, Description et Histoire du Maroc (Paris, 1860), p. 240.
17. Proc. S.P.R. (1888-9), v. 286.
18. Enigmas of Psychical Research (London, 1906), p. 56. See also A. Moll, Hypnotism (London, 1909), p. 1; E. Bälz, "Die sogennanten magischen Spiegel und ihr Gebrauch," Archiv für die Anthropologie (Braunschweig, 1904), II. i. 45.
§ 3 POINTS DE REPÈRE
Another theory is that the reflections and the points of
light in the crystal serve to fix the attention of the scryer
and to act as starting-point for the pictures. "Miss Angus"
describes thus the genesis of her visions: "After
focussing my eye for some time on a particular spot of
light in the ball, my mind becomes aware that it may
expect to see a vision. . . ."19 Mrs Verrall, one of the best
scryers who experimented for the Society for Psychical
Research, attributes almost the entirety of her visions in
the speculum to these points de repère.20
19. Journ. S.P.R. (1897-8), viii. 223-4.
20. See e.g., Proc. S.P.R. (1889-90), vi. 485; (1892), viii. 473.
But these scryers are almost isolated cases; practically
all other scryers and students are agreed that points de repère
are a negligible factor in the visions. Mr Kunz,
the American authority on precious stones, has, however,
exaggerated this theory rather fantastically. He writes,
"The points of light reflected from the polished surface
(points de repère) serve to attract the attention of the gazer
until, gradually, the optic nerve becomes so fatigued that
it finally ceases to transmit to the sensorium the impressions
made from without and begins to respond to the reflex actions
proceeding from the brain of the gazer. In this way the impression
received from within is apparently projected and seems to come
from without. It is easy to understand that the results must vary
according to the idiosyncrasies of the various scryers: for
everything depends on the sensitiveness of the optic nerve.
In many cases the effect of prolonged gazing upon the brilliant
surface will simply produce a loss of sight; the optic nerve
will be temporarily paralysed and will as little respond to
stimulation from within as from without; in other cases, however,
the nerve will only be deadened as regards external impressions,
while retaining sufficient activity to react against a stimulus
from the brain centres."21 Well, no doubt this means something.
21. G. F. Kunz, The Curious Lore of Precious Stones (Philadelphia, 1913), pp. 176-7.
Points de repère can be used in two ways. Anybody can
take a shiny object and so manipulate it that cloudy images
seem to appear in it, much in the same way as they do under
parallel circumstances in the pattern of a wall-paper or on
a ceiling. This is not scrying, for actual pictures do not
appear. The other way is to use the points de repère to fix
the attention and to induce a hypnoid condition, this being
purely a psychic state, having nothing to do, except in the
most indirect way, with the optic nerve.
§ 4 CONCLUSION
As can readily be seen, the question is not whether scrying is
possible in a hypnotic condition, which is undeniable,22 but
whether scrying is only possible in such a condition. The answer to this
question and the solution of the apparently contradictory opinions which
have been cited are in reality easy. Andrew Lang never encountered a
case of hypnotic crystal vision because he did not experiment with
such people as were of a nature likely to be easily thrown into a
hypnotic condition to a visible extent. Dr Janet only met with neurotic
scryers because his experience was limited to hospital neurotics.
(Vision by means of points de repère can be left on one
side for purposes of synthesis, for, even if these play an important
part in scrying, they would come under the general heading of hypnotic
visions. And it must be remembered that most scryers make great efforts
to exclude reflections.) The truth is, as a person of wider experience
and knowledge can readily perceive, that the speculum serves the double
purpose of "bringing the mind into the 'hypnoid' semi-conscious
condition, closely similar to the condition
preceding or following sleep," and of providing "a clear
field for the hallucinatory visual images."23 For obviously
all the different degrees of consciousness from absolute normality to
profound hypnosis are suitable for crystal visions according to the
constitution and disposition of the scryer. To this general rule may
be added another to the effect that, sufficiently frequently to
justify us in calling the condition an average law, the scryer
when seeing visions is in a slightly hypnotic state suitable for
sensory hallucinations and induced by the crystal itself or by
the points de repère in it, or by both.
22. See e.g., Journ. S.P.R. (1907-8), xiii. 298, sqq., 333, sqq.,
xiv. 151, sqq., 321, sqq.; M. Perty, Die mystichen Erscheinungen der menschlichen Natur
23. A. G. Tansley, The New Psychology (7th impression, London, 1923), pp. 153-4, after H. Silberer, "Lekanomantische Versuche," and "Zur Charakteristik des lckanomantischen Schauens," Zentrallblat für Psychoanalyse (1912), i-ii., which I have not been able to see. Cp. W. S. Walsh, The Psychology of Dreams (London, 1920), pp. 178-90. See also H. Carrington and W. H. Bates, "Recent Researches in Crystal Vision and Crystal Gazing," in H. Carrington, Modern Psychical Phenomena (London, 1919), pp. 275, sqq.
MISCELLANEOUS PHENOMENA OF SCRYING
§ 1 COLLECTIVE SCRYING
Before considering the rationale of scrying it is necessary
to pass briefly in review certain miscellaneous phenomena
of great interest and importance. It is natural in the
present fragmentary state of our knowledge concerning the
rationale of psychic processes that we should be unable
to fit into any given scheme all the phenomena that have
been observed. This holds good of scrying, nor indeed would
I care to include in any section of my own classification
certain of these phenomena.
What is perhaps the most interesting of these miscellaneous
phenomena can be best described as collective scrying, coming
under the general head of simultaneous hallucination. In such
a case two or more persons simultaneously see approximately the
same vision in the speculum. The qualification is necessary, for
in none of the best-attested and detailed instances of such visions
did the scryers see precisely the same vision. This forms the most
puzzling of the various aspects of this puzzling matter.
One case of such collective vision took place in connection
with the famous medium Home (almost the only
medium who never cheated), and is separately recorded by
two eye-witnesses. The Master of Lindsay says, "Another
time ... I saw a crystal ball, placed on Mr Home's head,
emit flashes of coloured light, following the order of the
spectrum. The crystal was spherical, so that it could not
have given prismatic colours. After this it changed, and we
all saw a view of the sea, as if we were looking down at it
from the top of a high cliff. It seemed to be the evening as
the sun was setting like a globe of fire, lighting up a broad
path over the little waves. The moon was faintly visible in the
north, and as the sun set her power increased. We saw also a few
stars; and suddenly the whole thing vanished, like shutting the
slide of a magic lantern; and the crystal was dead. This whole
appearance lasted about ten minutes, and pleased us very much,
both on account of the curious nature of the vision, if it may
be called such, and from the really beautiful effects of light,
etc., that we had seen. There were two candles and a bright fire
burning in the room."1 Another eye-witness, J. Hawkins Simpson,
describes the vision as "a large landscape view, as carried in
my brain, was made perfectly visible in the spherical crystal
to everyone in a dark [?] room, although the individuals
composing the party occupied opposite places to each other,
and no one, except Mr Home, who
held the crystal, was within three feet of the crystal. . . ."2
Another instance is provided by Miss Goodrich-Freer
and a friend, who, having visited the Tudor Exhibition,3
looked into a crystal supposed to be Dr Dee's which was
exhibited there, and saw in it an interesting scene. "We
had at home a certain keyed instrument, called by courtesy
'musical,' of the type special to blind beggars. In consequence
of some earlier investigations into its internal
economy it was now voiceless, and was practically utilised
as a table to hold books. In the crystal we both saw the
following scene: C. and H. were joint-owners of this
instrument, and we saw them sitting at opposite sides of
the fireplace in the room where it was kept, but while I,
in my picture, so to speak, faced the right, my friend faced
the left. Neither of us knew that H. was in the house, nor
likely to be, as he was living some few miles distant from
home, nor were we prepared for what followed. Both C. and H.
rose and went to the instrument, which was open, and H. sat
down and began to play ! On our return home we discovered
that H. had, in fact, come in, that he had mended the organ,
and that he was exhibiting his success to C. by playing upon
it at that very hour."4
1. In London Dialectical Society, Report on Spiritualism (London, 1871), pp. 206-7.
2. In I. W. Heysinger, Spirit and Matter before the Bar of Modern Science (London, 1910), pp. 250-1.
3. See p. 23 above.
4. Essays in Psychical Research (London, 1899), pp. 127-8.
Another example is related by Mrs B. H. Grieve: "On 24th June C. and myself
were reading anatomy together. C. took the crystal ball and I looked over her
shoulder — both of us wondering whether we should see the same thing.
At the same moment the ball darkened, a white cloud came over the whole, and
three pyramids appeared, a large one in front, the other two behind. Then a
train of camels, some with riders, others being led, passed from left to
right and disappeared behind the large pyramid. The vision lasted about one
minute and vanished simultaneously for both of us. We each wrote down as the
things appeared, so as to be accurate." This account is verified by
Miss Catherine Coad (the C. of the story) and testified to by Andrew Lang.5
5. Journ. S.P.R. (1901-3), x. 135; cp. Proc. S.P.R. (1907-9), xxi. 467.
The last example of these collective visions to be quoted is the more
interesting as one of the persons who saw the image did so almost
against her will, and as the two persons who had the collective
visions employed each his own speculum. Andrew Lang had been
discussing scrying with some friends and had been rather emphatic in
his assertions." My tone irritated the ladies, and as I believed in
'scrying,' they declared that 'scrys' were 'only reflections in the
glass.' I then encouraged an experiment. I would bring two glass balls,
and introduce Mr Balfour. I brought in Mr Balfour, and one of the ladies
'scryed' with her back to the window. Mr Balfour was stationed at the
other end of the room, beside the door. Both scryers indicated that
they had 'seen.' I took Mr Balfour out of the room, along a passage,
beyond earshot. He had seen an old woman, seated at a table. We
returned to the drawing-room, and asked the lady what she had
seen. She also had seen an old woman, but standing up. There was
no old woman in the, room to be reflected, and the reflections of
the two opposite ends of the room were not likely to coincide in
being construable into an old woman. . . ."6
6. Introduction to N. W. Thomas, Crystal Gazing (London, 1905), p. xxxiii.
See also A. Lang, "Crystal-Gazing," E.R.E., v. 353; Journ. S.P.R.
(1905-6), xii. 17, sqq.; Proc. S.P.R. (1907-9), xxi. 463, sqq.
§ 2 SCRYING AND AUTOMATIC WRITING
Other unclassifiable cases of scrying are those in which
the scryer at the same time sees visions in the crystal and
writes automatically, the visions and scripts being mutually
related and sometimes mutually explanatory. The scryer
Adelma von Vay does not furnish a perfect example of this
phenomenon, for in her case the automatic writing
followed the vision, explaining the symbols in the latter — a pretty play
of the subconscious.7 Here is an instance given by Mrs Verrall: "... I had
been trying to obtain automatic writing while looking in the crystal. I was
also wondering who had put a pair of lost scissors in a very conspicuous
place, where I had just found them. I saw a name written, and found that
my right hand had written the same name: it was a name likely to occur to
7. Visionen im Wasserglase (Budapest, 1877), passim; see p. 157 below.
8. In F. W. H. Myers, "The Subliminal Consciousness," viii. 475. See also P. Janet, Néuroses et idées fixes (Paris, 1898, 2 vols.), ii. 340.
§3 SCRYING AND HALLUCINATORY AUDITION
Simultaneous hallucination of vision and another sense has been
recorded principally in relation with audition. Sometimes this occurs
when the scryer simply imagines he hears a voice, that is to say, the
auditory hallucination is sometimes spontaneous. Thus Mrs Thompson wrote
to Myers, in a letter dated the 8th of November 1898: "About 11.15 this
morning I heard a little voice tell me to look in the crystal. I say a
little voice, but I could better describe it as a very weak adult voice,
which was quite strange to me; and as I was very busy sewing, I must say
I rather resented the suggestion of spending my time crystal-gazing. The
voice insisted — at least, I may say, commanded me. It said: 'Put
away that work and take for my friend a message.' I did so, and taking up
the crystal I saw perfectly the following . . ."9 With the
vision we are not here concerned.
9. In J. G. Piddington, "On the Phenomena displayed in Mrs Thompson's Trance," Proc. S.P.R.
(1903-4), xviii. 113. See also P. Joire, Psychical and Supernormal Phenomena (London, 1916), p. 157.
A parallel phenomenon is a case in which the hallucinatory audition was experimental. It is related by Mrs Salis and dated the ioth of March 1918: "My friend. Miss Taylor, who has been able for some years to see visions in the crystal, which are often veridical. She always regretted not being able to hear what the ' vision people ' were saying, and I decided to try an experiment suggested by a French writer and induce clairaudience by using -a shell. I first induced a slight hypnotic trance and suggested verbally that she would be able to hear. I then woke her and told her to look in the crystal. The first vision that appeared was the sitting-room in the house of Mr T. B., a friend of hers who[m] I have never seen. He was there with his brother and sister-in-law, and the room was minutely described. It was evening, and the gas lighted, and she saw the door open and a man came in. At this moment I said, ' Place the shell to your ear.' She did so, and to her delight she heard the newcomer exclaim,' There is good news to-night, we have taken another village.' They then proceeded to talk about Mr T. B. being called up and what arrangements he would make. Afterwards a maid came in with a tray of sandwiches and whisky and soda, and the vision then faded. Four days afterwards, Miss Taylor went to see the B.'s, and said,' I can tell you what you were doing on Saturday evening,' and to their great astonishment did so, every detail being correct. I may add that the expression ' we have taken another village ' appeared as a headline in the evening paper, but neither Miss Taylor nor I had seen it. I have never seen the B.'s nor the house in question. This occurred in the early spring of 1917." The scryer testifies to the accuracy of this statement, but Mr and Mrs B. have refused to do so.10
10. Journ. S.P.R. (1917-8), xviii. 191-2.
§ 4 SCRYING AND HALLUCINATORY TASTE
There is nothing to be added here to what has been said above about these dual phenomena. So far as I know only one case of tasting an object seen in the crystal is on record. In this case the scryer seemed to taste a biscuit which a person in the crystal was eating. Even this instance, however, is not perfectly clear.11
11. "The Case of Miss Nancy Sinclair," Journ. S.P.R. (1922-3), xx. 317.
§ 5 SCRYING AND RAPS
Here is a case of raps occurring in connection with scrying and other phenomena; the whole forms a very complicated affair. I transcribe it literally from Myers: "The next case which I shall give is a curious one as involving (1) raps, (2) a crystal-vision, (3) an apparition seen by two persons, viz., Miss A. herself and Mr Harry de Windt, well known as a traveller in Russia. Unfortunately no notes were taken, but I heard of the incident a few weeks afterwards from Lady Brooke, Mr C. D., Miss A., and Mrs A. (all present at the time), and a letter from Mr de Windt confirms two of the main points. In September 1892, on the occasion of the first meeting of Mr de Windt and Miss A., the latter wrote the word Doi-showalinksky, which at first was thought to be a sentence, but turned out to be a name well known to Mr de Windt. On the same day a face appeared near Mr C. D. which was clearly seen by Miss A. and Mr de Windt, and recognised by the latter, as stated in a letter to me, dated 5th October 1892:
'I can only tell you that I distinctly saw the face of an exile
I am acquainted with, one Dombrowski, who is (or was) located at
Tomsk, in Western Siberia. A message
was also sent me' [from a Russian source; but Mr de Windt explains the inexpedience of printing further particulars of this]. Miss A., on being afterwards shown a photograph of Dombrowski (not, however mixed with other photographs as it should have been), recognised it, but said the face as seen by her looked older and more worn; in which Mr de Windt concurred. It is not known whether Dombrowski is dead or alive. On the same day Miss A., looking into the crystal, saw a small man with bright red hair and red face, a big stick, a long petticoat, and a fur cap, walking in front of a little hut. Mr de Windt recognised the figure as resembling a hillman set to watch an isolated prisoner. These stunted hillmen dye their hair with red clay. A few days later (September 15th, 1892) a message was given by raps to Lady Brooke
(the Ranée): 'Tell your brother (Mr de Windt) that
Shiskine is the man to help him.' Neither Miss A. nor
Mr de Windt had ever consciously heard of Shiskine, but
in the St James's Gazette of September 24th they observed
that M. Shiskine had received a certain high appointment,
which explained the message. His appointment had also been
mentioned in The Times of August 31st."12
12. "The Subliminal Consciousness," ix. 82-3. See also G. A.T., "A Record of Experiences,"
Proc. Amer. S.P.R. (1907), i. 254, sqq.; H. Lambert, "A Record of Experiments,"
ibid. (1908), ii. 323, 423-6.
§ 6 SCRYING AND HAUNTINGS
In the last-quoted experience occurs an apparition as
part of the complete case. This leads us to another set
of phenomena in which scrying occurs in connection with
apparitions or hauntings. Unfortunately both the important
stories in which occur such phenomena are far too
long to quote. It will have to be sufficient to note that in
one of them a girl sees in a glass of water the person who is
supposed to have bewitched a house,13 while in the other
a girl sees in a crystal the woman who is haunting the place.14
13. J. Grasset, "The History of a Haunted House," Proc. S.P.R. (1904), xviii. 474;
an abbreviated trans. from Le Spritisme devant la Science (new ed.,
Montpellier and Paris, 1904), pp. 11-69, which was reprinted from
Leçons de clinique médicate (4th series, Montpellier and Paris, 1903), pp. 379-414.
14. Miss Fletcher, Journ. S.P.R. (1907-8), xiii. 52, sqq.
§ 7 SCRYING AND MULTIPLE PERSONALITY
Another, and not the least interesting of these rare
phenomena, is the case of a girl with four personalities.
One of the personalities scrys and sees certain visions;
the subject is then hypnotised into one or other of the
remaining personalities, and can thus sometimes explain or
throw light on the vision. The various interactions of these
personalities form a very remarkable series of phenomena
which are very difficult to understand and systematise.15
15. M. Prince, "An Experimental Study of Vision," Brain (London, 1898), xxi. 528,
sqq.; cp. id., "The Development and Genealogy of the Misses Beauchamp,"
Proc. S.P.R. (1900-1), xv. 466, sqq.
§ 8 SCRYING AND EXPERIMENTS WITH MAGNIFYING GLASSES
A further group of phenomena is formed of those
observed in experiment with magnifying glasses and
similar mediums. Mr W. A. Dixey, a well-known optician
of New Bond Street, carried out a series of such experiments
with Miss Goodrich-Freer. The purpose of these tests
was to try the effect of different kinds of lenses on her
crystal visions, "the conditions being so arranged that she
did not know the normal effects of the lenses on real objects. In five out of eight experiments the crystal pictures enlarged in appearance in the same way that real objects would have done on applying the lenses, but in the other three the changes that followed in the pictures on applying the lenses were not those that would have been produced in real objects. Mr Dixey . . . repeated these experiments, under as nearly as possible the same conditions, with Mrs Verrall, who found, on applying the lenses, that her crystal pictures
either disappeared or remained unaffected, except in one case, where
a temporary enlargement of the picture
— which was not the normal effect of the lens — took
place."16 Miss Goodrich-Freer also experimented on
her own account, and writes, "I have used the magnifying-glass
eleven times and it has always appeared to magnify. ... I have
three times used a bogus-glass of similar size and appearance,
and that glass did not magnify."17 In other experiments
the magnifying glass similarly enlarged the pictures in the speculum.18
16. "Report on the Census of Hallucinations," Proc. S.P.R. (1894), x. 108;
cp. Journ. S.P.R. (1889-90), iv. 84; Miss A., in F. W. H. Myers, "The Subliminal Consciousness," viii. 500.
17. In ibid., viii. 486.
18. London Dialectical Society, op. cit., pp. 186-7.
§ 9 COLOUR IN SCRYING VISIONS
It has been stated that the colours which occur in
scrying visions and in the preliminary appearances in the
crystal, conform to certain optic laws. These colours are
frequently complementary, and present also other interesting
and difficult phenomena. These are too complex for superficial
review, and, as they do not vitally affect the
problem of scrying, they must be left for discussion in
19. For references and a summary of some points see "Report on the Census of Hallucinations,"
Proc. S.P.R. (1894), x. 144, sqq.
§ 10 THE NUMBER OF NORMAL SCRYERSIt is impossible to determine without very extensive experiments what proportion of normal persons can scry. Myers places the figure at one in twenty,20 but this certainly appears to be an overestimate, though Lang somewhere gives a similar figure. Newbold, experimenting in a girls' school, tried 86 persons and obtained results in 22 cases. Twenty of these were young girls. But these figures show nothing, as they were not only obtained from experiments with a limited class of persons, but also from selected persons in that limited class.21
20. Human Personality, i. 237.
21. W. R. Newbold, "Experimental Induction of Automatic Processes," The Psychological Review (New York, 1895), ii. 350.
§ 11 CONCLUSION
Our ignorance about all these phenomena that have been touched upon
still so far overbalances our knowledge that it would be absurd to
attempt any explanation of them or any correlation of these occurrences
to those of which we know a little more. Scrying experiments in the
future should be directed principally along the lines indicated, for
until these outstanding points are at any rate susceptible of reasonable
explanation, it will be impossible to proceed to the classification and
synthesis which are so necessary in the whole class of these psychical phenomena.
THE RATIONALE OF SCRYING
§ 1 SUGGESTION
We have now to consider the various manners in which
pictures or ideas which are exteriorised into the speculum
get into the consciousness or subconsciousness of the scryer
preparatory to being exteriorised. It is possible to cause a scryer to see visions in the speculum which have been dictated by an onlooker. Someone may say to the scryer, "Look into the speculum and you will see a tree." And when the scryer looks he will in fact see a tree. It is similarly possible for a scryer to determine himself what he shall see in the speculum when he gazes into it. Thus Miss Goodrich-Freer could deliberately and intentionally call into the crystal the creations of her own fancy.1 Similar results can be produced by post-hypnotic suggestion and by any of the numerous methods of employing suggestion in its various forms, whether of hetero- or of autosuggestion. Of all these phenomena numerous instances can be found in many records of crystal visions.2 But these
cases do not directly affect the question of scrying, for in them it is not the speculum that plays the principal part in producing the vision, but the suggestion, and the same results can be obtained without a speculum with any person susceptible to the force of suggestion.
1. "Recent Experiments in Crystal-vision," Proc. S.P.R. (1889), v. 511.
2. See e.g., Proc. S.P.R. (1888-9), v. 286; Mrs H. Sidgwick and A. Johnson, "Experiences in Thought-Transference," Proc. S.P.R. (1892), viii. 571; C. T. Green, "Case of Cure by Suggestion," Proc. S.P.R. (1895), xi. 23.
It is unfortunately necessary to note that this power of suggestion is a very dangerous one when practised by unsuitable persons; I need not labour the point. Another form of this danger is sufficiently illustrated by the following extract from a newspaper: "A suggestion that crystal-gazing had led to a woman's death was made at the inquest at Cardiff yesterday. Mrs Violet Horatia Martin, twenty-five, the wife of a postman, committed suicide by inhaling gas. To the coroner yesterday her step-father said that she had been very excitable for two years, and used to go to see fortune-tellers frequently. Last week, after a visit
to a fortune-teller, she said: 'When she asked me to look
in the crystal I saw myself seated in a chair deliberately
committing suicide with gas.' Mrs Martin further said that the
woman told her not to say what she saw in the crystal. The coroner
told the jury they had to decide whether they believed this
fortune-teller told Mrs Martin the things that they had heard,
or whether Mrs Martin, in her highly nervous state, imagined
that she saw herself being poisoned by gas. The jury found that
the poor woman was suffering from delusions, and committed
suicide whilst of unsound mind."3
3. Manchester Guardian, 28th of October 1909.
§ 2 SUBCONSCIOUS KNOWLEDGERecent psychological investigations have shown that nothing once entered in the sensorial tracts of the brain is  ever erased. Obviously, therefore, there are more things in our subconsciousness than we know, for the things we are aware of knowing are much fewer than the things we have read or seen or otherwise contacted at one time or another. These things in our subconsciousness have got there in different ways. We may once have known a thing and forgotten it, or in other words, it may once have been present in our consciousness and have now sunk back into our subconsciousness; or we may never have known the thing, that is, we may have observed it without knowing that we had done so, and have thus allowed it to go direct to our subconsciousness. Anything in this subconsciousness may be brought up by means of a proper stimulus, in the present case a speculum, and may make its appearance haphazard, in a fragmentary, dreamlike, meaningless manner; or it may appear direct, simply reproducing the image or showing the idea, if such it is, in a pictorial manner; or it may be symbolised.
The following is an example of meaningless recrudescence of impressions. Its
close resemblance to a common type of nightmare will be noticed, as well as
its general resemblance to a dream. Maxwell was experimenting with a scryer,
who, looking into the speculum, perceived "a railway-station, and saw
portmanteaux in the luggage-room. He then plunged right into the dream,
and imagined he was going to take down his own portmanteau; he entered
the luggage-room, took his trunk and opened it. It contained a
particularly horrible dead body, which leaped out of the portmanteau, and
bitterly complained of being disturbed. It threw itself upon the sensitive,
who immediately fled, pursued by the dead body. After a desperate chase,
the sensitive darted into a road which crossed a park. This park, in
reality is situated at more
than six hundred miles from the railway-station where he believed he saw the portmanteaux; this distance had disappeared in the vision. The dead body took a corresponding road; the two roads met on a hill, where the persecutor made a dead set at the sensitive; the latter fell, and the dead body stopped and bent down to strike him. The visionary gave him a kick in the stomach, and stretched him at full length on the ground. The hallucination then ceased abruptly, and the sensitive found himself back in his room, in front of the crystal. The vision was so intense that he was still upset with fright and breathless from running."4
4. J. Maxwell, Metapsychical Phenomena (London, 1905), pp. 195-6.
This experience recorded by Miss Goodrich-Freer is an excellent illustration of a simple recrudescence of a definite memory. "I had been occupied with accounts; I opened a drawer to take out my banking-book. My hand came into contact with the crystal, and I welcomed the suggestion of a change of occupation. However, figures were still uppermost, and the crystal had nothing more attractive to show me than the combination 7694. Dismissing this as probably the number of the cab I had driven in that day, or a chance grouping of the figures with which I had been occupied, I laid aside the crystal and took up my banking-book, which I had certainly not seen for some months, and found, to my surprise, that the number on the cover was 7694."5
5. "Recent Experiments in Crystal-vision," Proc. S.P.R. (1888-9), v. 507.
The following two cases are examples of things perceived by the subconsciousness only and exteriorised into the speculum. In the first case a thing not consciously seen but preserved in the subconsciousness is conveyed to the
consciousness by the indirect route of the speculum. "I saw in the crystal a young girl, an intimate friend, waving to me from her carriage. I observed that her hair, which had hung down her back when I last saw her, was now put in young-lady fashion. Most certainly I had not consciously seen the carriage, the look of which I knew very well. But next day I called on my friend; was reproached by her for not observing her as she passed; and perceived that she had altered her hair in the way which the crystal had shown."6
6. A. Goodrich-Freer, in F. W. H. Myers, "The Subliminal Consciousness," Proc. S.P.R. (1892), viii. 489.
The second instance is a particularly interesting one, for here the subconsciousness observed something that the consciousness was unable to observe, something, that is to say, beyond the range of one of the senses, in this case of the sense of hearing. "In August, 1891, we went for a
few weeks to a small country place; where we had taken a
house for the autumn, and which I had never visited before,
except once for a single day. One day a kindly neighbour
called to offer us the use of his garden during his own
absence from home. As he left the house he looked up in
passing the window, and said something, of which neither
I nor a girl who was staying with me could catch a single
word. The same evening I saw in the crystal a picture
of some extraordinarily tall and bushy sweet-peas trained
over wire-fencing — a picture to which I could assign no
meaning. The next day we met our friend's housekeeper,
who referred to the invitation, and added, 'Mr P. says he
hoped you heard his warning not to lose yourself among
the sweet-peas!' On visiting the garden, I found the
fencing covered exactly as the crystal had shown, the
sweet-peas, of which Mr P. was justly proud, having been
arranged to intercept a view of the railway."7
7. Ibid., viii. 490.
This next example is not so clear; it seems to be a case of recrudescent memory, but without more details it would be impossible to declare it so with any certainty. It is related by the mother of Miss A.: "In October, 1886, my daughter saw in the stone in her bracelet a scene which considerably impressed me, as it was one which I at once identified, while I was absolutely sure that I had never mentioned it to her or to any of my children. She saw a man in a barge-like boat with a very large gun fixed on it, the object of which she could not understand. The man was alone and lying in the bottom of the boat, and this also puzzled her. Waves seemed to get up, and the man worked extremely hard, as though trying to get to shore. Then she saw him throw himself motionless on to the low beach, as if dead. Now this plainly refers to a sad crisis in my brother's life. He went out duck-shooting on a Norfolk Broad, with an opening on to the sea. A storm got up and he was all but blown out to sea. He was a very strong man, and by great exertion he got to land. Then he threw himself down absolutely spent. . . ."8
8. A. Goodrich-Freer, in F. W. H. Myers, "The Subliminal Consciousness," Proc. S.P.R. (1892), viii. 514.
The following example is a good specimen of symbolisa-tion of a recrudescent memory produced by association of ideas, the whole process taking place quite subconsciously. It also contains such an experiment with a magnifying glass as I have touched upon above, and is also chosen from the records of Miss Goodrich-Freer: "... I happened to want the date of Ptolemy Philadelphus, which I could not recall, though feeling sure that I knew it, and that I associated it with some event of importance. When looking into the crystal some hours later, I found a picture
of an old man with long white hair and beard, dressed like a Lyceum Shylock, and busy writing in a large book with tarnished clasps. I wondered much who he was and what he could possibly be doing, and thought it a good opportunity of carrying out a suggestion which had been made to me, of examining objects in the crystal with a magnifying glass. The glass revealed to me that my old gentleman was writing in Greek, though the lines faded away as I looked, all but the last characters he had traced, the Latin numerals LXX. Then it flashed into my mind that he was one of the Jewish elders at work on the Septuagint, and that its date, 277 B.C., would do equally
well for Ftolemy Philadelphus! It may be worth while to
add, though the fact was not in my conscious memory at
the moment, that I had once learnt a chronology on a
mnemonic system which substituted letters for figures,
and that the memoria technica for this date was 'Now
Jewish Elders indite a Greek copy.' "9
|9. "Recent Experiments in Crystal-vision," Proc. S.P.R. (1888-9), v. 5I3.|
A more complicated example of symbolisation, and possibly an even better one, is the following, which has additional elements that are not easy to disentangle for lack of detail. Miss Goodrich-Freer writes: "One day I had been seeking a medical prescription which I failed to find among my papers. After looking in many places, likely and unlikely, I concluded it had been accidentally destroyed, and dismissed the matter from my thoughts. Some hours later, without having consciously thought of my search meanwhile, I was occupied with the crystal, which, after presenting me with one or two other pictures, suddenly showed me a paper which by its colour and general appearance I recognised as the one in question.
On further inspection, however, I observed, without being able to read the words, that the prescription was in the handwriting, not of my doctor, but of my friend E. . . . I resolved to follow this indication in the only way which occurred to me, and finally found my lost prescription accidentally folded within one of E.'s letters, where it had remained, I have reason to believe, for more than four years. I may add that E. is a very frequent correspondent; that this particular letter had been preserved quite by accident, and that there was no possible connection of ideas, either of time or place, between the two documents."10
10. "Recent Experiments in Crystal-vision," Proc. S.P.R.
(1888-9), v. 509-
§ 3 TELEPATHY
No intelligent and impartial person in possession of the facts relating to telepathy can to-day deny the possibility of communicating an idea or image from the consciousness of one person to that of another without the normal intermediary of the sensorial channels. What the crystal helps to effect in the case of telepathy is the exteriorisation of
"pictures which are . . . due to stimuli which come from
minds external to the scryer's own."11 The only writer
on the subject who has denied the possibility of such telepathic scrying
is Adelma von Vay. Her words are, "A bystander's desire to see a given
picture never has any influence on me. . . ."12 Nevertheless
she records several experiences in which the visions were obviously due
to that very phenomenon. As, for instance, when a visitor
having come from a distance to consult her, she obtained a series of
pictures connected with him and of which he was thinking.13
As the Freiin strongly upheld the theory of spirit-guidance, naturally
incompatible with telepathy, her attitude can be understood.
11. F. W. H. Myers, Human Personality (London, 1903), i. 239.
For a collection and examination of telepathic scrys, see Mrs
H. Sidgwick, "Phantasms of the Living," Proc. S.P.R. (1923-3),
xxxiii. 32, sqq.
12. Visionen im Wasserglase (Budapest, 1877), p. 4.
13. Visionen in Wasserglase (Budapest, 1877), pp. 54-5, No. LXX., 16th of December 1874.
From the point of view of the scryer telepathy can be of two kinds,
experimental and spontaneous. In the former case the scry is deliberate,
the scryer and another person having arranged to test the possibility
of transmitting an idea telepathically to the scryer. Each of the two
examples here given present in addition to the main point illustrated,
other interesting phenomena.
In the first one the person stated to have been thought of
was not seen in the crystal, but instead that person's mother
appeared. The thought transmitted was not therefore
actually the one intended to be communicated but a
fugitive thought which passed across the communicator's
mind. The example, then, is not a perfect one so far as
experimental telepathy is concerned. The story is related
by "Miss Angus": "A lady one day asked me to scry
out a friend of whom she would think. Almost immediately
I exclaimed, 'Here is an old, old lady looking at me with a
triumphant smile on her face. She has a prominent nose
and a nut-cracker chin. Her face is very much wrinkled,
especially at the side of her eyes, as if she were always
smiling. She is wearing a little white shawl with a black
edge. But . . . she can't be old as her hair is quite
brown! although her face looks so very, very old.' The
picture then vanished, and the lady said that I had accurately
described her friend's mother instead of himself; that it was
a family joke that the mother must dye her hair, it was
so brown, and she was eighty-two years old. The lady
asked me if the vision were distinct enough for me to
recognise a likeness in the son's photograph; next day she
laid several photographs before me, and in a moment
without the slightest hesitation I picked him out from his
wonderful likeness to my vision!"14
14. In A. Lang, The Making of Religion (2nd ed., London, 1900), p. 89.
The second example of experimental telepathy, also
from the experiences of "Miss Angus," is partly an
instance of deliberate telepathy, with possible elements of
cryptesthesia, although these unknown elements may be
due to spontaneous telepathy between the lady seen in the
vision and the scryer. The incident is told by Andrew Lang:
"A gentleman had recently come from England to the Scottish
town where Miss Angus lives. He dined with her family, and about
10.15 to 10.30 p.m. she proposed to look into the glass for a
scene or person of whom he was to think. He called up a mental
picture of a ball at which he had recently been, and of a young
lady to whom he had there been introduced. The lady's face,
however, he could not clearly visualise, and Miss Angus reported
nothing but a view of an empty ballroom, with a polished floor and
wax lights. The gentleman made another effort, and remembered his
partner with some distinctness. Miss Angus then described another
room, not a ballroom, comfortably furnished, in which a girl with
brown hair drawn back from her forehead, and attired in a high-necked
white blouse, was reading, or writing letters, under a bright light
in an unshaded glass globe. The description
of the features, figure, and height tallied with Mr------'s
recollection; but he had never seen this Geraldine of an hour
except in ball dress. He and Miss Angus noted the
time by their watches (it was 10.30), and Mr —— said that
on the first opportunity he would ask the young lady how
she had been dressed and how employed at that hour on
December 21 . On December 22 he met her at
another dance, and her reply corroborated the crystal
picture. She had been writing letters, in a high-necked
white blouse, under an incandescent gas-lamp with an
unshaded glass globe. She was entirely unknown to Miss
Angus, and had only been seen once by Mr------. Mr------
and the lady of the crystal picture corroborated all this in writing."15
15. In A. Lang, The Making of Religion (2nd ed., London, 1900), p. 95.
The second kind of telepathy of which we have spoken,
spontaneous, or unconscious, telepathy, explains itself. It
can occur either in connection with a person present or absent,
the latter having possibly taken place in the latter part of the
above example. The following instance is one that occurred to
myself. At an exhibition of drawings in the Leicester Galleries
I met a friend whom I had not seen for several years. During
conversation at his flat I learned that he was able to "see things" in the crystal; begging him
to look for me I cleared my mind as well as I could of any
intention to communicate telepathically, and to prevent
the haphazard crowding of ideas I fixed my attention
on some trivial matter. In a few moments my friend
announced that he saw me walking arm-in-arm with a tall
dark-bearded man. As it happened the previous day at the
other side of London such a man had been suddenly
taken ill in front of me, and I had taken his arm (a pose I
do not as a rule affect) to assist him for some distance,
which I did the more readily as he was obviously a foreigner.
He was and is a total stranger to me and the incident had
certainly not been in my conscious mind during the scry.
Therefore either my friend is endowed with retrocognitive
cryptesthesia or the vision was a case of spontaneous
telepathy: the latter assumption is obviously preferable.16
It should be noted that in this case the spontaneity of which I
speak applies only to the stranger and to the actual event, for
I had asked my friend to look into the crystal for me, and the
fact that a vision of myself ensued would have to be classified,
had not other details been seen, as a case of experimental telepathy.
16. Unfortunately my friend will not permit me to publish his name and other
details; this relation cannot, therefore, be admitted to the canon of
The following case is equally imperfect as an instance of
spontaneous telepathy, for perhaps it should more properly be
considered as cryptesthetic; but when there is a choice of
interpretations I always prefer the more conservative. Miss A.
writes, "Some time ago I was looking in my crystal and saw Lady Radnor
sitting in a room I had never seen, in a big red chair; and a lady in
a black dress and white cap whom I had never seen came in and put her
hand upon Lady R.'s shoulder. It was about 7.30, I think. I immediately
wrote to Lady R. to ask her to write down what she was doing at 7.30,
as I had seen her in the crystal. Shortly afterwards I saw Lady R.
and she said she had done as I asked her, and told me to tell her
what I saw. It was quite right; she had been sitting in a red
armchair, and Lady Jane E., dressed as I described her, had
come in and put her hand on her shoulder. Afterwards, when I
met Lady Jane E., I recognised her, without knowing who she was,
as the lady I had seen. Also, when I went to the house I recognised
the chair." This story is separately testified to by Lord and Lady Radnor.17
17. In F. W. H. Myers, "The Subliminal Consciousness," Proc. S.P.R. (1892), viii. 501-2.
A similar experience is related by Lang: "My friend
Mr Lesley is known to the world as a man of business, a
golfer, and a composer. . . . One day Mr Lesley and I
had been talking about a lady, unknown to him, but known
to me, though I had never seen her house. Mr Lesley began
to look into a glass water-jug, and described what he saw,
the interior of the hall of a house, with a good deal of
detail. Neither of us recognised the house. I happened later
to tell this to the lady of whom we had been talking; she said,
'Why, that is my house,' and, on visiting it, I found that in
all respects it answered to Mr Lesley's description. It may be
a common type of hall, but I do not remember having seen one
like it elsewhere, nor did Mr Lesley know any such place."18
18. "Reflections on Mrs Piper's Telepathy," Proc. S.P.R. (1900-1), xv. 49.
The following example is of the same kind, taking place between
places at a greater distance from each other. It is told by
Mrs Verrall: "I was in my room in the afternoon [of the 29th
of July 1890], thinking about a paper I had just read in the
Proceedings [of the Society for Psychical Research]
and of a friend with whom I had talked of the matter in question,
when 'as I turned to the glass I had a sudden impression of
Mr Y., in Swiss mountaineering costume, light dittos and hat,
sitting astride on an arête, face downwards, with a stick
or ice-axe across the figure.' . . . When I saw him in November
I told him what I had seen, and he then said that he had actually
been outside of an arête for a moment on the day before,
19. In F. W. H. Myers, op. cit., viii. 481; Mrs Verrall is partly quoting from her own contemporary notes.
The next instance may have been the result of subconscious
observation plus semi-spontaneous telepathy. It is from the
records of Miss Goodrich-Freer: "On the
evening of Saturday, July 28, 1888, the crystal presented
me with a picture of a medieval saint, carrying a rabbit. This
I recognised as representing a stained-glass window at a church
in the neighbourhood, which I visit perhaps two or three times
in a year, always sitting within view of this window. As I had
not been there for many months, nor consciously pictured the spot
since my last visit, I was puzzled to account for the vision. Early
next morning, on waking I observed on my table a letter, which had
probably lain there unnoticed the previous evening and which I found
contained a request that I would, if possible, attend the early
service at the church in question that morning."20
20. "Recent Experiments in Crystal-vision," Proc. S.P.R. (1888-9), v. 515-6.
The last example to be quoted of this very interesting
and suggestive phenomenon is not only an instance of
spontaneous telepathy, but of telepathy taking place
against the will, for it will be noted that Miss Freer
determined to see a certain picture while another in fact appeared.
"On Monday evening, February 11th, I took up the crystal,
with the deliberate intention of seeing in it a figure, which
happened to occupy my thoughts at the moment, but I
found the field preoccupied by a small bunch of daffodils, —
a prim little posey, not larger than might be formed by
two or three fine heads. This presented itself in various
positions, in spite of my hurry to be rid of it, for I rashly
concluded my vision to be a consequence of my having the day
before seen, on a friend's dinner-table, the first daffodils
of the season. The resemblance was not complete, for those I
had seen were loosely arranged and intermixed with fern and
ivy, whereas my crystal vision had no foliage, and was a
compact little bunch. It was not until Thursday, 14th,
that I received, as a wholly unexpected 'Valentine,' a
painting, on a blue-satin ground, of a bunch of daffodils,
corresponding exactly with my crystal picture, and learnt that
the artist had spent some hours on Monday previous to my vision,
in making studies of the flowers in various positions."21
21. "Recent Experiments in Crystal-vision," Proc. S.P.R. (1888-9), v. 516.
It will be noted that no distinction has been made between visions telepathically obtained of events taking place contemporaneously with the vision and of events taking place before the vision, such as that last cited. Such a distinction, of course, exists, but its discussion belongs more properly to a consideration of telepathy itself than here.
§ 4 CRYPTESTHESIA
I use M. Richet's more correct word cryptesthesia in
preference to clairvoyance to indicate the faculty of
acquiring knowledge of ideas or images otherwise than by
the normal intermediary of the sensorial channels or than
by telepathy. It is a moot point whether it is possible so
to obtain knowledge by scrying (or, for that matter, whether
any such faculty exists). Without deciding one way or another
it may be said that there are cases on record which seems to
be most easily explicable by the theory of cryptesthesia. The
leading authorities are of this opinion.22
22. See e.g., J. H. Hyslop, Enigmas of Psychical Research (London, 1906), pp. 50,
sqq.; C. Richet, Traité de Métapsychique (2nd ed., Paris, 1923),
pp. 256, sqq.; Sir W. F. Barrett, Psychical Research Home University Library (London, 1921), p. 141.
Such cryptesthesia can be of two kinds, visions of the
past and of the future. In the first case, to be beyond
question cryptesthetic a vision would have to be one of
something unknown to any living person. For otherwise it
could be urged that if some living person knew the thing
seen it could have been transmitted telepathically. Needless
to say, no perfect example of such a vision exists, but several
visions are on record in which were re-enacted historical scenes
of the past of which the scryer had no knowledge, and some of
which could only be verified after laborious research.23
I am myself of the opinion that some of these visions are
cryptesthetic, but would hesitate to affirm them such.
23. See e.g., F. W. H. Myers, Human Personality (London, 1903, 2 vols.), i. 592, sqq.;
A. Lang, The Making of Religion (2nd ed., London, 1900), pp. 97-8.
We are thus left with precognitive visions. If it were
possible to see in the speculum a scene that was to take
place in reality in the future, no explanation short of the
possession by the scryer of some cryptesthetic faculty would
fit the circumstances. The reader is here reminded that the
word cryptesthesia is a name given, as its etymology indicates,
to an unknown sensibility or faculty; that a faculty the
mechanism of which is unknown may exist, such powers being
not unknown in the history of science; and that a faculty of
this kind may be unknown yet not superphysical. It is for the
reader to determine whether the following examples do indeed
involve the postulation of an unknown faculty.
The first instance to be quoted is related by Sir Joseph Barnby,
the well-known composer. He had been invited to Longford Castle
by Lord and Lady Radnor to the wedding of their daughter, which
took place on the 15th of August 1889. Staying also at the Castle
was Miss A., some of whose scrying experiences have already been
quoted. On one of the days Sir Joseph stayed at Longford she looked
into the crystal and described in Sir Joseph's words, "a room which
appeared to her to be a bedroom.
She appeared to be seeing the room from just outside the open door,
for she said: 'If there be a bed in the room it
must be behind the door on the left'; in any case it was
a long one and the end of it was occupied by a large
window which formed the entire end of the room. She
added: 'There is a lady in the room, drying her hands on
a towel.' She described the lady as tall, dark, slightly
foreign in appearance and with rather 'an air' about her.
This described with such astonishing accuracy my wife,
and the room she was then occupying in a hotel in Eastbourne,
that I was impelled to ask for further particulars
as to dress, etc. She stated that the dress was of serge,
with a good deal of braid on the bodice and a strip of braid
down one side of the skirt. This threw me off the scent,
as before I had started for Longford my wife had expressed
her regret that she had not a serge dress with her. My
astonishment, therefore, was great on returning to Eastbourne
to find my wife wearing a serge dress exactly answering to the
description given above. The sequel comes sixteen months later
on, when my wife and I attended a performance of the Magpie Minstrels
(a society of musical amateurs) at Princes' Hall, Piccadilly. We arrived
early, and after placing my wife in a seat I moved about the room
speaking to friends here and there. In the course of ten minutes
or so, Lady Radnor and Miss A. entered the room. During the greetings
which ensued, Miss A. called my attention to a standing figure, saying:
'You will remember my seeing a lady in her bedroom while looking in the
crystal; that is the lady I saw.' That was my wife." This
account of Sir Joseph Barnby's is corroborated by Lady Barnby,
who writes, "This account about me and my dress is remarkable,
as being out of the general course of things in this way: I had
been remarking to Sir Joseph that it
was a mistake to come to the seaside without a serge dress, that
being a material particularly suited for wear at the seaside, but
I added: 'I do not think there is much use in ordering one now, as
Madame D. will be gone for her holidays, it being August.' Sir Joseph
left the next day for Longford, and I wrote to Madame D., telling her
to make me this gown. She got the letter Tuesday [13th of August 1889],
and in the marvellously short time by Saturday, I received
my gown. Then again, it is not usual in a hotel to have one's bedroom
door open when one is occupying the room, but the reason for it on
this occasion was the fact that I was to meet Sir Joseph on his return
from Longford [20th of August] (as a surprise in this new serge gown)
and having no clock in my bedroom, which was at the end of the corridor,
with my daughter's room at an angle to ours, where she slept with her maid,
I — thinking I was somewhat late for meeting the train — opened
the door to call the maid to tell me the time as I washed my hands standing
at the washhand-stand in a line with the open door. I do not suppose I have
ever done such a thing at a hotel before or since." The dates given were
confirmed from Lady Barnby's diary, and the facts are testified by several
persons.24 This case, then, is one in which the scryer
saw a scene in the presence of Sir Joseph Barnby which was not actually
performed until at least half a day later, when he was almost arrived at
Eastbourne from Longford, near Salisbury.
24. In F. W. H. Myers, op. cit., i. 591-2.
Of the whole series of her visions in the crystal or other
speculum Miss Goodrich-Freer claims only two as possibly
clairvoyant. Here is one of these visions: "In January
last I saw in the crystal the figure of a man crouching
at a small window, and looking into the room from outside. I
could not see his features, which appeared to be muffled, but
the crystal was particularly dark that evening, and the picture
being an unpleasant one, I did not persevere. I concluded the
visions to be a result of a discussion in my presence of the
many stories of burglary with which the newspapers had lately
abounded, and reflected with a passing satisfaction that the
only windows in the house divided into four panes, as were those
of the crystal-picture, were in the front attic and almost
inaccessible. Three days later a fire broke out in that very
room, which had to be entered from outside through the window,
the face of the fireman being covered with a net cloth, as a
protection from the smoke which rendered access through the
25. "Recent Experiments in Crystal-vision," Proc. S.P.R. (1888-9), v. 517-8.
I also quote the other of the two visions referred to: "I
was visiting friends in the country, and was about to leave
their house on a certain morning. 'I wonder what you
will do after I'm gone,' I was saying. For answer, one of
them pulled towards me a piece of light polished mahogany
furniture brilliantly polished, and said, 'Here is a crystal —
look.' 'This is the picnic you said you were all going to
at Pin Mill, I suppose,' I said presently, as a picture
appeared. 'What and where is Pin Mill? There is no
sign of a mill — it is just a grassy bank with some thorn-bushes
beyond. Why do you and K. get up and go away? G. and S. stay
together and G. looks as if her back hurt her. The nurse is
there too, with the boy.' 'I don't know in the least what Pin Mill
is, but any way, the nurse and child won't be there,' said my
friend. A day or two later she wrote: 'You were almost right
about Pin Mill — there is no mill in sight. We sat on a bank, K. had croup
and I had to take her for a walk, G. and S. were left
together. G. had strained her back and was in some pain,
and the nurse and boy were there. There were no thorn-trees,
but there were elders and blackberry bushes grown up high,
which at a little distance looked like thorns."26
26. Essays in Psychical Research (London, 1899), pp. 129-30.
The following instance is related by Mrs A. W. Bickford-Smith
and is, the precognition apart, of a frequently occurring type:
it would be an interesting line of research to discover why so
many visions, in the speculum and otherwise, are of corpses. "The
'crystal' was about the size of a billiard ball, and looked like a
ball of well-used glass, not cut very brilliant.27 After
looking into it for a few minutes it seemed to expand, and I saw the
interior of a church I knew well. A coffin stood in the aisle, having
no lid on it. I distinctly saw the face of the corpse. It was that of
an old friend of my father's, who was then in good health. As the church
faded from my view, I seemed to see many tilings passing by, but cannot
recall them distinctly, for I felt rather glad to get rid of the crystal.
In a few days I stood by the death-bed of the gentleman, Mrs J. and I being
the only two people in the room when he died. His death was the cause of a
great change in our lives."28
27. The narrator adds that the appearance of the crystal could perhaps be better described as "glass that had been breathed on."
28. In Mrs H. Sidgwick, "On the Evidence for Premonitions," Proc. S.P.R. (1888-9), v. 298.
The next example, given by Maxwell, is of a less conclusive
character, but seems good enough to be admitted as evidential.
Maxwell writes that the vision was related to him eight days before
the event took place and that he had himself told it to several persons
in the meanwhile.
"A sensitive perceived in a crystal the following scene:
A large steamer, flying a flag of three horizontal bands,
black, white, and red, and bearing the name Leutschland,
navigating in mid-ocean; the boat was surrounded by smoke; a
great number of sailors, passengers, and men in uniform rushed
to the upper deck, and the sensitive saw the vessel founder. Eight
days afterwards, the newspapers announced the accident to the
Deutschland, whose boiler had burst, obliging the boat to
stand to."29 The ship did not actually founder, but the
difference between Leutschland and Deutschland can be
ignored. It is not likely that the boat was surrounded by smoke, but
the steam from the burst boiler would answer for this, even if the
scryer, for people are notoriously loose in their speech about this,
did not mean steam when he said smoke.
29. J. Maxwell, Metapsychical Phenomena (London, 1905), p. 185.
The last instance to be adduced here is the most remarkable
of all crystal visions authoritatively recorded. The
story is very long and complicated and loses much in
summary, as well in conviction-carrying detail as in literary
grace. Dr Edmund Waller being unable to sleep one
night thought of looking into the crystal that his father had
recently acquired. In it he saw the image of a lady, an old
friend of whom he had been very fond and who had since
married. The husband of this lady had gone to Africa
and had asked Waller to look after his wife during his
absence. The wife, however, had later gone to America
with her mother, where Waller still thought her. On the
evening of the day after that on which he had seen
the first vision in the crystal, he saw the silhouette
of his friend side by side with that of a man, the latter
being less distinct, and both being surrounded with trees
and people. He closed his eyes for a second,
opened them again, and looked again into the crystal.
This time he distinctly saw Mme. D., the lady in question,
and the man who was with her — a man whom he had
never seen — as well as the paddock of the racecourse at
Longschamps, as if during a meeting. The next Sunday,
which was the day of the next meeting, Waller gave up some
important engagements and went to Longschamps;
there he saw the two people whom he had foreseen in the
crystal. After this he obtained a series of visions in the
crystal of the wife, the husband, the stranger, and others,
all connected with the drama of which he was thus the spectator.
The lady later departed for the Riviera, and seven days
afterwards Waller saw in the glass the details of a scene
in which she took part at at a certain restaurant in Paris
which he recognised. The husband came home at that time and
Waller told him of his vision; after much anger and discussion
they both went, four days later, to the restaurant. The lady was
there with her lover and a scene ensued that eventually led to a
divorce. When Waller last heard of her she was in an asylum.30
For the evidential details and contemporary notes the reader must turn
to the original narrative, but even from the bare outline I have given
it is impossible to take away anything but a sense of the presence of
some unknown faculty (if even this be not bathos).
30. E. Waller, "The History of a Crystal Vision," The Annals of Psychical Science (London, 1915), ii. 175, sqq.
I have given a number of cases of scrying visions
that do not seem to be explicable otherwise than by
assuming the existence of some cryptesthesia or unknown
sensibility. In the present state of our knowledge no one
has the right to make any bolder or more positive statement
than this, and still less justification
is there for any attempt to dogmatise about the
problematical faculty itself. Each student can only
experiment and add his own opinion to the bulk, which,
when large enough, forms the accepted scientific opinion
of the day. I therefore content myself with saying that the
evidence above quoted, which is only a small fragment of the
whole, has been sufficient to convince me, much against my
desire and inclination, of the existence of some unknown
faculty which enables a person who possesses it to obtain
knowledge otherwise than by the normal intermediary of the
sensorial channels or than by telepathy.
§ 5 SPIRIT-GUIDANCE
The Freiin von Vay, as has already been seen, claims
in her writings that her scrying visions were given to
her by spirit-guides, or, as she puts it, that her spirit-guide
revealed to her in 1867 that she had the gift of seeing spirits
in a glass of water without entering into a somnambulic state.31
Adelma von Vay was, however, an unscientific observer, incapable, as
we have seen in regard to her opinions about telepathy, of understanding
the rationale of her visions. There is nothing in any of the visions
recorded by her to cause us to believe that they in any way come
outside of the categories detailed above. It is not sufficient to
give, as she does, a detailed account of the vision in the speculum
and to supplement this with an explanation of the vision given through
herself by means of automatic writing, claiming this also to be
spirit-given. We have seen that this duality of automatism is
not unusual. As an example of this scryer's method her first
recorded experience is literally translated: "Vision by the medium in the glass of
water: I see the Professor W. L.; he has a black spot on
his forehead. Two wonderful forms: the one is glorious,
crowned with flowers; the other is veiled and sad and points
upwards. An angel carries a naked child. A clown, who makes all
kinds of grimaces. Now a magnificent comet dives in. Christ stands
there, wrapped in the radiance. Explanation of the pictures by the
spirits through automatic writing: Professor W. L. has an affliction
in the head, he will question you. Ceres is a spirit of bliss, who
gives strength. The veiled spirit is suffering and supplicates God
for help; it is one of the millions of spirits disembodied to-day,
you saw it on its journey in the spirit world. The angel brings a
young spirit to be embodied in P., hither from M. The clown is an
evil spirit, who wants to disturb you. (Here followed a small
disturbance in the writing caused by an evil spirit.) You will
see a comet in the year 1864 [sic]; to conclude, you saw
for your encouragement and consolation the picture of Jesus, who
calls you to journey forth on this road confidently and unflinchingly.
Fulfilment of the picture by events: Professor W. L.,
who at the time was quite healthy, got in the year 1871 first
severe headaches, then troubled eyesight; as the doctors could
not make out his complaint, he came as a last resource to me;
my leader explained his complaint to be an incurable headache.
The embodiment in P., an acquaintance of mine, actually took
place at this time. The comet requires no explanation, since
everyone saw it in 1874; it remains marvellous that I foresaw
it before the astronomers had any idea of it."32
31. Studien über die Geisterwelt (2nd ed., Leipzic, 1874), p. 85.
32. Visionen im Wasserglase (Budapest, 1877), p. 7, No. I, 9th of November 1869.
The spiritualistic theory was also held by Mrs de Morgan,
an early writer on the subject, whose views, which show
accurate observation so far as facts are concerned, I need
do no more than quote: "The crystal, which is a clear spherical
or egg-shaped piece of glass or rock crystal, seems to produce
on the eye of the seer an effect exactly like what would ensue
under the fingers of a powerful mesmeriser. The person who looks
at it often becomes sleepy. Sometimes the eyes close. At other times
tears flow. . . . Then a cloudiness or mist comes over the sight; and
lastly, where before that glass with its reflections of surrounding
objects had been clearly seen, a perfect black, opaque sphere appears
to the gazer — I have known cases in which the seer has looked
off, talked about subjects in the room, and even left the room, and
then returning to the crystal, has exclaimed, 'Here it is, all just
as I left it.' The only difference noticed has been some change in the
position or appearance of the 'people in the crystal.' As an explanation
of crystal-seeing, a spiritual drawing was once made representing a
spirit directing on the crystal a stream of influence, the rays of
which seemed to be refracted, and then to converge again on the side
of the glass sphere before they met the eyes of the seer."33
33. C. D. [i.e., Mrs S. E. de Morgan], From Matter to Spirit (London, 1863), pp. 109-110.
Another early student of scrying who held this theory
was a Mr F. Hockley, who appears to have been a very
intelligent and well-informed person. While giving evidence
before the Committee of the London Dialectical Society, he
said (the story about Sir Richard Burton has been relegated
to this place because of the remarkable sentiment contained
in the last sentence of my quotation): "The person who has the
power of seeing, notices first a kind of mist in the centre of
the crystal. . . . A crystal, if properly used,
should be dedicated to a spirit. Some time ago I
was introduced to Lieutenant Burton by Earl Stanhope,
and he wished me to get him a crystal, with a spirit attached.
I also gave him a black mirror as well, and he used that in the
same manner as you would a crystal. You invoke the person whom you
wish to appear, and the seer looks in and describes all, and puts
questions and receives answers. Lieutenant Burton was greatly pleased
and went away. One day my seeress called him into the mirror. She
plainly recognised him, although dressed as an Arab and sunburnt,
and described what he was doing. He was quarrelling with a party of
Bedouins in Arabia, and speaking energetically to them in Arabic. An
old man at last pulled out his dagger and the Lieutenant his revolver,
when up rode a horseman and separated them. A long time afterwards
Lieutenant Burton came to me, and I told him what she had seen, and
read the particulars. He assured me it was correct in every particular
and attached his name to the account I had written down at the time, to
certify that it was true. These books are locked up and nobody can see
them. . . ."34
34. London Dialectical Society, Report on Spiritualism (London, 1871), pp. 184-5.
See also F. Hockley, "On the Ancient Magic Crystal, and its Connexion with Mesmerism,"
The Zoist (London, 1849), pp. 251, sqq.; Borderland (London, 1897), iv. 319.
The extracts I have given from writers on the spiritualistic
interpretation of scrying present their views in the most
favourable aspect possible. It will be noticed that no evidence
is offered for spirit-guidance, only expressions of opinion. Nor
indeed, in my opinion, does any such evidence exist in any record
of scrying visions known to me, nor any incident in any scrying vision
that requires a spiritualistic interpretation. There being thus no
evidence, it would be unprofitable to discuss so controversial a
question in vacuo.
§ 6 THE DEFINITION OF SCRYING
We may now conclude this study of scrying by giving the
definition that can be deduced from the facts available:
Scrying is a method of bringing into the consciousness of
the scryer by means of a speculum through one or more of his
senses the content of his subconsciousness, of rendering him
more susceptible to the reception of telepathically transmitted
concepts, and of bringing into operation a latent and unknown
faculty of perception.
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