“Those who have been bitten by the tarantula shortly thereafter fall to the ground half-dead, with a loss of strength and senses, with difficult breathing or moaning, often immobile and lifeless. With the beginning of the music, little by little these symptoms are attenuated, and the patient begins to move his fingers, his hands and then his feet, followed by other limbs; as the melodic rhythm becomes more pressing, the movement of his limbs gradually increases. If the patient is lying on the floor, he springs up to start the dance, sighs, and begins to contort himself in very strange ways. These first dances often last two or three hours: and after having rested briefly on the bed to wipe away his perspiration and to restore his strength, the patient resumes dancing with the same vigor. This can take place as many as a dozen times per day. The dances begin around dawn and continue without pause until around one in the afternoon. Sometimes they are compelled to stop, not because of their tiredness, but because they have perceived some dissonance in the musical instruments, a dissonance which, when it is perceived, provokes deep sighs and stabs of pain in the patient’s heart. They sigh and grieve at length until they resume dancing, the harmony having been reestablished. Around midday they rest from the music and dance. They put themselves to bed until their perspiration is over and then they refresh themselves with broth or over light food, given that the very serious lack of appetite which afflicts them would not permit them to take more substantial food. Around one o’clock in the afternoon, or at the latest around 2, they resume their dances with the same vigor. These dances last until evening, whereupon they have another light meal and then finally fall asleep. These dances usually continue for four days; rarely do they go beyond the sixth day. It is uncertain when the end will occur, since many continue to dance until they feel free of the symptoms, which usually takes place after the third or fourth day.” – Giorgio Baglivi, Dissertatio de anatome, morsu et effectibus tarantulae pg. 313
“It is said among the citizens of Galatina – whose belief has no support other than the testimony of uninterrupted tradition – that one night the apostle St. Paul, who sailed our seas after Peter’s preaching, was passing by the promontory of Santa Maria of Leuca and came to Galatina incognito for fear of persecutors, with the aim of visiting neophytes. He was welcomed there and received information at the home of a devotee. which still exists today and for this reason is called the House of St. Paul. The citizens of this town tell various things in relation to the legend, but the most important thing they say is that to reward the piety of this religious man, St. Paul obtained the power to heal for him and his descendants, a power obtained from god through the merits of Jesus Christ; they could heal by making the sign of the cross on small wounds of those who had been bitten by poisonous animals, such as scorpions, vipers, phalangids and the like, making them drink water from a well of the House of St. Paul. It is said that when the descendants of this devotee had died out, some victims of the bite of the taranta, scorpion or viper came to the well – it, too, is still visible – while the poison was in action, and asked to be healed by St. Paul, whence they were immediately cured after drinking the water; they returned home with glad hearts and gave thanks to their benefactor. This is the tradition of the citizens of Galatina, who relate various healings of this sort. Whether or not the story is to be believed in its entirety is not for us to judge, but it is too great a contrast with the faith of these citizens to maintain it is an entirely false story and that all of these events are to be attributed to the natural virtues of the water.” – Nicola Caputo of Lecce, De Tarantulae anatomie et morsu pg. 229
“What usually happens, brothers, is that a persecutor sent by the devil comes to some sick man and says, ‘Had you summoned that healer you would be better already; had you been willing to apply those symbols you could already have been cured.’ Perhaps someone comes and says, ‘Send to that diviner, give him your belt or headband to be measured, and he will inspect it.’ And someone else says, ‘That fellow knows how to fumigate well, for when he did it for such-and-such, he promptly got better and all trouble vanished from his house.’ And hereabouts the devil is accustomed to deceive careless and lukewarm Christians, so that if a man has suffered a theft, that cruelest persecutor goads him through his friends, saying, ‘Come secretly to that place and I shall raise up an apparition who will tell you who stole your silver or money.’ What wickedness!” – Caesarius of Arles, Sermon 52.5
“When the children of some women are tormented by various kinds of trials or illnesses, the weeping mothers run about in a frenzy and say to themselves, ‘Let us consult that soothsayer or diviner, that caster of lots, that herbwoman; let us sacrifice one of the patient’s garments, a belt to be inspected and measured; let us offer some symbols, let us hang some protective charms on his neck.” – Caesarius of Arles, Sermon 52.5
“It is wrong to seek help in a time of need at trees or springs or anywhere else, except in front of god and his saints in holy mother church.” – Arno of Salzburg, Synodal Sermon 393-94
“You must give up the names and inform me of the nature of their crime of all those in our diocese who foolishly make and observe their vows by springs, trees and stones for reasons of health, protection or as some kind of devotion.” – Ghärbald of Lüttich, Capitulary 2.12
“Did you do as certain women are accustomed to do? Those, I say, who have crying babies: they dig out the earth, and make a hole through a part, and they pull the baby through that hole, and they say that thus the crying baby will stop crying. If you did this or agreed to it, you shall do penance for five days on bread and water.” – Burchard of Worms, Decretum 19.5.179
“Concerning the Thalusia: At one time there were troubles at Syracuse which it was deemed were caused by Artemis. So the farmers brought gifts and sang a joyful hymn to the goddess and later on this became a customary event. As the rustics sang they would carry loaves of bread with figures of wild beasts on them, purses full of every type of seed, and a goat-skin with wine; they poured out libations for all those they met, wore a garland and deer antlers, and carried a shepherd’s rabbit-prod in their hands. The winner of the competition receives the bread of the defeated. They also sing other songs of a playful, funny nature, first saying in reverent tones, Receive good fortune, receive good health, which we bring from the goddess, by which she gave her command.” – Prolegomena to Theokritos, Bucolicorum Graecorum 2.5
“Gods! From the onset of winter until the spring plowing season the priest of Amphiaros is to go into the sanctuary with no greater interval than three days between visits, and he is to be in residence there not less than ten days in each month. He is to require the neokoros to care for the sanctuary in accordance with the law and also for those who visit the sanctuary. If anyone commits a crime in the sanctuary, whether a stranger or a member of the deme, the priest has authority to fine him up to the maximum of five drachmas, and he is to require security from the person so fined. Should he pay the fine, he is to deposit it in the treasury in the presence of the priest. If anyone suffers some private injury in the sanctuary, whether a stranger or a member of the deme, the priest is to give judgement up to a maximum of three drachmas; as for larger sums, the judgments provided in the laws for each victim are to be in effect here also. Any summons arising from an offense in the sanctuary must be issued on the same day. If the defendant does not make restitution, a trial is to be held on the next day. When a person comes to be healed by the god, he is to donate a first-fruit offering of at least nine obols of silver, and deposit it in the treasury in the presence of the neokoros. When he is present, the priest is to say the prayers over the sacrifices and place the victim on the altar; when he is not present the person making the sacrifices is to do this. During the public sacrifice each person to say the prayers for himself, but the priest is to say them over the public sacrifices and he is to receive the skin of all the victims sacrificed within the sanctuary. Each person may offer whatever sacrifices he wishes. No portions of meat are to be carried out of the precinct. Sacrificers are to donate the shoulder-portion of each victim to the priest except during a festival; at that time he is to receive the shoulder portion only from the public victims … Rules for incubation: the neokoros is to record the name and city of the incubator when he deposits his money, and to display it on a bulletin board for anyone to read. In the sleeping-hall men and women are to sleep separately, the men to the east of the altar, the women to the west …” – Sig3 1004
Having arrived near to the temple with our patient, then so unfortunate, but now at the apex of happiness, of blessedness, we first led him down to the sea to purify him.
Ah! what a singular pleasure for an old man to bathe in the cold seawater!
CARIO in the manner of the tragic messenger
Then we repaired to the temple of the god. Once the wafers and the various offerings had been consecrated upon the altar, and the cake of wheaten-meal had been banded over to the devouring Hephaestus, we made Plutus lie on a couch according to the rite, and each of us prepared himself a bed of leaves.
Had any other folk come to beseech the deity?
Yes. Firstly, Neoclides, who is blind, but steals much better than those who see clearly; then many others attacked by complaints of all kinds. The lights were put out and the priest enjoined us to sleep, especially recommending us to keep silent should we hear any noise. There we were all lying down quite quietly. I could not sleep; I was thinking of a certain stew-pan full of pap placed close to an old woman and just behind her head. I had a furious longing to slip towards that side. But just as I was lifting my head, I noticed the priest, who was sweeping off both the cakes and the figs on the sacred table; then he made the round of the altars and sanctified the cakes that remained, by stowing them away in a bag. I therefore resolved to follow such a pious example and made straight for the pap.
You rogue! and had you no fear of the god?
Aye, indeed! I feared that the god with his crown on his head might have been near the stew-pan before me. I said to myself, “Like priest, like god.” On hearing the noise I made the old woman put out her hand, but I hissed and bit it, just as a sacred serpent might have done. Quick she drew back her hand, slipped down into the bed with her head beneath the coverlets and never moved again; only she let flee a fart in her fear which stank worse than a weasel. As for myself, I swallowed a goodly portion of the pap and, having made a good feed, went back to bed.
Asclepius did the round of the patients and examined them all with great attention; then a slave placed beside him a stone mortar, a pestle and a little box.
No, not of stone.
But how could you see all this, you arch-rascal, when you say you were hiding all the time?
Why, great gods, through my cloak, for it’s not without holes! He first prepared an ointment for Neoclides; he threw three heads of Tenian garlic into the mortar, pounded them with an admixture of fig-tree sap and lentisk, moistened the whole with Sphettian vinegar, and, turning back the patient’s eyelids, applied his salve to the interior of the eyes, so that the pain might be more excruciating. Neoclides shrieked, howled, sprang towards the foot of his bed and wanted to bolt, but the god laughed and said to him, “Keep where you are with your salve; by doing this you will not go and perjure yourself before the Assembly.”
What a wise god and what a friend to our city
Thereupon he came and seated himself at the head of Plutus’ bed, took a perfectly clean rag and wiped his eyelids; Panacea covered his head and face with a purple cloth, while the god whistled, and two enormous snakes came rushing from the sanctuary.
They slipped gently beneath the purple cloth and, as far as I could judge, licked the patient’s eyelids; for, in less time than even you need, mistress, to drain down ten beakers of wine, Plutus rose up; be could see. I clapped my hands with joy and awoke my master, and the god immediately disappeared with the serpents into the sanctuary. As for those who were lying near Plutus, you can imagine that they embraced him tenderly. Dawn broke and not one of them had closed an eye. As for myself, I did not cease thanking the god who had so quickly restored to Plutus his sight and had made Neoclides blinder than ever.
Oh! thou great Asclepius! How mighty is thy power!
“It seemed that I saw Asklepios himself, and he appeared not as his statues portray him, mild and gentle, but with animated gesture, fearsome to behold. Snakes were following him, enormous specimens of serpents, speeding along in broad coils, hissing horribly, as in the desert or in forest dells. Companions came behind him with very tightly bound boxes of drugs. Then the god stretched out his hand to me; I took it joyfully, and besought him to join me and not to neglect my ministrations.” – Hippokrates, Epistles 15
“Icarius’ dog returned to his daughter, Erigone; she followed his tracks and, when she found her father’s corpse, she ended her life with a noose. Through the mercy of the gods she was restored to life again among the constellations; men call her Virgo. That dog was also placed among the stars. But after some time such a sickness was sent upon the Athenians that their maidens were driven by a certain madness to hang themselves. The oracle responded that this pestilence could be stopped if the corpses of Erigone and Icarius were sought again. These were found nowhere after being sought for a long time. Then, to show their devotedness, and to appear to seek them in another element, the Athenians hung rope from trees. Holding on to this rope, the men were tossed here and there so that they seemed to seek the corpses in the air. But since most were falling from the trees, they decided to make shapes in the likeness of their own faces and hang these in place of themselves. Hence, little masks are called oscilla because in them faces oscillate, that is, move.” – The First Vatican Mythographer 19
“By the servant of the Moon, Huy. He says, I am the man the who falsely swore to the Moon concerning the scoop, and he caused me to see the greatness of his strength before the entire land. I will recount your manifestation to the fish in the river and to the birds in the sky, and they will say to their children’s children, Beware of the Moon, the merciful, who knew how to avert this.” – Turin Stela 50044
“Giving praise to the Peak of the West; kissing the earth to her ka. I give praise; hear my invocation. I am righteous on earth. Made by the servant in the Place of Truth, Nefer-abu, justified, an ignorant man without sense. I did not know good from bad when I made the transgression against the Peak, and she punished me, I being in her hand night and day. I sat on a brick like a pregnant woman while I called out for breath without its coming to me. I humbled myself to the Peak of the West, great of power, to every god and every goddess. Behold, I will say it to the great and the small in the work-gang; Beware of the Peak, because a lion is in her. The Peak, she strikes with the strike of a fierce lion when she is after the one who transgresses against her. I called out to my mistress and found her coming to me as a sweet wind, and she was merciful to me, after she let me see her hand. She turned to me in peace, and she made me forget the sickness that was in my heart. So the Peak of the West is merciful when one calls to her. Spoken by Nefer-abu: Behold, may the ears of all those who are alive on the earth take heed – beware the Peak of the West!” – Turin Stela 50058
“But they who give straight judgements to strangers and to the men of the land, and go not aside from what is just, their city flourishes, and the people prosper in it: Peace, the nurse of children, is abroad in their land, and all-seeing Zeus never decrees cruel war against them. Neither famine nor disaster ever haunt men who do true justice; but light-heartedly they tend the fields which are all their care. The earth bears them victual in plenty, and on the mountains the oak bears acorns upon the top and bees in the midst. Their woolly sheep are laden with fleeces; their women bear children like their parents. They flourish continually with good things, and do not travel on ships, for the grain-giving earth bears them fruit. But for those who practise violence and cruel deeds far-seeing Zeus, the son of Kronos, ordains a punishment. Often even a whole city suffers for a bad man who sins and devises presumptuous deeds, and the son of Kronos lays great trouble upon the people, famine and plague together, so that the men perish away, and their women do not bear children, and their houses become few, through the contriving of Olympian Zeus. And again, at another time, the son of Kronos either destroys their wide army, or their walls, or else makes an end of their ships on the sea.” – Hesiod, Works and Days 225-247
“Aquila to Sarapion the philosopher, greetings! I was overjoyed to receive your letter. Our friend Callinicus was testifying to the utmost about the way of life you follow even under such conditions – especially in your not abandoning your austerities. Yes, we may deservedly congratulate ourselves, not because we do these things, but because we are not diverted from them by ourselves. Courage! Carry through what remains like a man! Let not wealth distract you, nor beauty, nor anything else of the same kind: for there is no good in them, if virtue is not joined to them; no without her they are vanishing and worthless. Under the protection of the gods, I expect to see you in Antinoopolis. Send Soteris the puppy, since she now spends her time by herself in the country. Good health to you and yours! Good health!” – P. Oxy. 42.3069
“So nothing, it seems, that the gods do is done without compensation. They sell men their blessings, and one can buy from them health, it may be, for a calf, wealth for four oxen, a royal throne for a hundred, a safe return from Troy to Pylos for nine bulls, and a fair voyage from Aulis to Troy for a king’s daughter! Hecuba, you know, purchased temporary immunity for Troy from Athena for twelve oxen and a frock. One may imagine, too, that they have many things on sale for the price of a cock or a wreath or nothing more than incense.” – Lucian, On Sacrifices 2
“Those who are well ask the martyrs to protect their good health, while those who are worn down by illness request release from their sufferings. The childless ask for children, infertile women call out to become mothers, and those who have received this gift request that it be kept perfectly safe for them … They do not approach them like gods – rather they entreat them as men of god and call on them to act as ambassadors on their behalf. Those who ask with confidence gain what they request – their votive offerings clearly testify to their healing. For some offer representations of eyes, some of feet, others of hands; some are made of gold, others of wood. Their master accepts these little items of little worth, valuing the gift according to the merit of the one offering it. The display of these objects advertises deliverance from suffering – they have been left as commemorations by those who have regained their health. They proclaim the power of the martyrs laid to rest there – whose power proves the greatness of their god.” – Theodoret, The Healing of Pagan Diseases 8.63-4
“He who worships Isis of Philae is fortunate, not only because he becomes wealthy, but because at the same time he enjoys a long life. I, who grew up near Isis of Pharos have come here to worship Isis of Philae. I am Serenus, assistant to the illustrious Ptolemaios, and I came along with Felix and Apollonios the painter. We have come in accordance with the oracles of the invincible lord Apollon, to offer libations and sacrifices, desiring also to share in these. We do this not only for ourselves but on behalf of our wives and children and the whole of our households. The year 31 of Emperor Commodus, 29th day of Phamenoth.” – IGPhilae 68
“To Men Axiottenos. Tatiane, daughter of Erpos, promised a bull as an offering on behalf of her brothers. And having been heard by the god, but being unable to give the bull, she asked and he agreed to accept this stele instead. In the year 320 on the 10th day of Panemos.” – CMRDM 1.50
“Before you harvest, you may do sacrifice of the Harvest Sow, in the following way. A female piglet, the Harvest Sow is offered to Ceres before the following crops are put up: emmer, wheat, barley, broad bean, rapeseed. With incense and wine address Janus, Jove and Juno before you slaughter the female pig. Offer a strues to Janus thus: ‘Father Janus, as I offer you this strues, I pray with good prayers that you be ready and favourable to me and my children, to my house and household.’ Offer and present a fertum to Jove thus: ‘Jove, as I offer you this fertum, I pray with good prayers that you be ready and favourable to me and my children, to my house and household, accepting this fertum.’ Then give wine to Janus thus: ‘Father Janus, since in offering you a strues I prayed well with good prayers, therefore accept this offertory wine.’ Then to Jove thus: ‘Jove, accept this fertum, accept this offertory wine.’ Then slaughter the Harvest Sow. When the organs are cut out, offer and present a strues to Janus as you did before; offer and present a fertum to Jove as you did before; give Janus wine and give Jove wine as you gave it before on account of the offering of the strues and the slicing of the fertum. Then give the organs and the wine to Ceres.” – Cato, De Agricultura 134
“To the able spirit Ankhiry: What have I done against you wrongfully for you to get into this evil disposition in which you are? What have I done against you? As for what you have done, it is your laying hands on me even though I committed no wrong against you. From the time that I was living with you as a husband until today, what have I done against you? I took you for a wife when I was a youth so that I was with you while I was functioning in every office and you were with me. I did not divorce you, nor did I cause you to be vexed. And when your friends came over, I received them well out of consideration for you, saying, ‘I will do according to your desire.’ I concealed nothing at all from you during your lifetime. I did not let you suffer any discomfort in anything I did, nor did you find me cheating on you after the manner of a field hand, entering a strange house. Now look, you aren’t letting my mind be at ease. I shall litigate with you, and right shall be distinguished from wrong. You are disregarding how well I have treated you. I am writing you to make you aware of the things you are doing. When you became ill with the disease which you contracted, I sent for a chief physician, and he treated you. When I was away on business for the Pharaoh, l.p.h., this condition (i.e. death) befell you, and I spent several months without eating or drinking like a normal person. When I arrived in Memphis I begged leave of Pharaoh, l.p.h., and came to where you were. And I and my people wept sorely before your body. I gave clothing of fine linen to wrap you up in and had many clothes made. I overlooked nothing good that needed to be done for you. Now look, I’ve spent these last three years without entering another house, although it is not proper for one of my position to do this, nor have I entered into any of the sisters of the house (sexually). I have done this out of consideration for you, so why are you doing this to me? One will judge between you and me.” – P. Leiden I 371
“King Menaus, who was the first king of the Egyptians, is also responsible for founding the cult of the holy bull. The reason for this is because he became seriously ill and despaired. But then in his sleep he saw a great spirit speaking to him and it said, ‘Nothing will cure you but your worship of cows,’ because the zodiac at that time was in the sign of Taurus, which is in the image of a bull with two horns. When the king awoke he gave orders and they got a handsome piebald bull and made for it in his palace a shrine with a gilded dome and he worshiped him in secret, afraid that others might find out, and he was cured. Later on a bull appeared in a dream and talked to the king and directed him to worship and look after the bull and in return the bull would look after the king’s interests and strengthen and cure him. So the king established a shrine for the bull and arranged servants to care for it and hold the service of its cult. According to some of their books that bull, after they worshiped him for some time, ordered them to make an image of him in gold, a hollow one, and to take some hair from his head and tail and a scraping from his horn and hooves, and put it all in the statue. And he informed them that he would join his heavenly world and that they were to place his body in a stone sarcophagus and establish it in the shrine with his statue on top, when the planet Saturn was in his sign and the Sun was looking upon him in trine. And the statues was to be inscribed with the signs of the images of the seven planets, and they did that. Later on after the holy bull was buried people from all over Egypt and neighboring areas flocked to his shrine with offerings to his statue and he would tell them whatever they wanted to know.” – Anonymous, Akhbar Al-Zaman 172-74
“In Alexandria there are two fallen pillars which are used to treat illnesses. They are known as the Pillars of Illness, and patients visit them, bringing seven pebbles along with them. The sick person lies down on one of the pillars, throws the seven pebbles behind himself and then leaves the site without looking backwards, cured of his ailment.” – Al-Qalqashandi, Subh 3.357
“King Menqaus built a temple with statues that cure all illnesses and wrote on top of the shrine of every statue what it would cure, so people benefited from this temple for a time until some kings spoiled. Another king, Shasta, cared so much for the health of his people that in every city he erected a statue of a woman which people suffering from depression could visit. As soon as a depressed person sees it, he smiles and forgets all his care. People hold it circumambulate it. At a later date they worshiped her.” – Anonymous, Akhbar Al-Zaman 169
“King Shadat erected another idol as well, a cow with two large udders; if a woman whose milk has decreased or dried up touches it, her milk will flow again.” – Anonymous, Akhbar Al-Zaman 167
“The idol stands on one leg and has only one arm which is raised high. There are inscriptions on his forehead and around the body. He has a prominent phallus. Many people use this idol when they are unable to attain an erection, but it is only successful if the person is able to remove the phallus without damaging the idol. Afterwards they wear the phallus around their waist and they get the desired result.” – Al-Maqrizi, Khitat 1.651
“There is a standing statue with an erect penis; if one who is impotent and cannot have an erection for any reason comes to this statue and holds it with both hands, he will recover and obtain the desired erection and the strength to copulate.” – Anonymous, Akhbar Al-Zaman 166
“There was a king of the Egyptians named Ashmoun who built a temple to the east of his town which had four gates decorated with faces talking to each other. Whoever enters that temple impure, these faces blow at him afflicting him with an illness that stays with him until death. It is said that in the middle of this there is a constant column of light and whoever embraces it never fails to see and hear the spirits.” – Anonymous, Akhbar Al-Zaman 176
“Of queen Clotild the king had a firstborn son whom the mothers wished to be baptized; she therefore persistently urged Clovis to permit it, saying, ‘The gods whom ye worship are naught; they cannot aid either themselves or others, seeing that they are images carved of wood or stone or metal. Moreover the names which ye have given them are the names of men not of gods. Saturn was a man, fabled to have escaped by flight from his son to avoid being thrust from his kingdom; Jupiter also, the lewdest practicer of debaucheries and unnatural vice, the abuser of the women of his own family, who could not even abstain from intercourse with his own sister … What powers had Mars and Mercury? They may have been endowed with magical arts but they never had the power of a divine name.’ [continues on like this for a while] Though the queen ever argued thus, the king’s mind was nowise moved towards belief, but he replied, ‘It is by command of our gods that all things are created and come forth; it is manifest that thy god availeth in nothing; nay more, he is not even proven to belong to the race of gods.’ But the queen, true to her faith, presented her son for baptism. She gave an expensive donation to the church, hoping that she might thus move god to touch the heart of her husband, which no amount of preaching could reach. The boy was duly baptized and named Ingomer, but died while yet clothed in the white raiment of his regeneration. Thereupon the king was moved to bitter wrath, nor was he slow to reproach the queen saying, ‘If the child had been dedicated in the name of my gods, surely he would have survived. But now, baptized in the name of thy god, he could not live a single day.’ The queen replied, ‘I render thanks to almighty god, creator of all things, who hath not judged me all unworthy, and deigneth to take into his kingdom this child born of my womb. My mind is untouched by grief at this event, since I know that they which be called from this world in the white clothes of baptism shall be nurtured in the sight of god.’ Afterwards she bore another son who was baptized with the name of Chlodomer. When he too began to ail, the king said, ‘It cannot but befall that this infant like his brother shall straightaway die, being baptized in the name of thy Christ.’ But the mother prayed and god ordained that the child should recover.” – Gregory of Tours, History of the Franks 2.20-22