What were Trianoma’s ancestresses doing before they joined the Order?  Here’s a quote from the Golden Ass, in which the witches do many other magical things. The text comes from Project Gutenberg.

When I was a young man I…fortuned in an evil hour to come to the City Larissa, where while I went up and down to view the streets to seeke some reliefe for my poore estate (for I had spent all my money) I espied an old man standing on a stone in the middest of the market place, crying with a loud voice and saying, that if any man would watch a dead corps that night hee should be reasonably rewarded for this paines. Which when I heard, I sayd to one who passed by, What is here to doe? Do dead men use to run away in this Countrey? Then answered he, Hold your peace, for you are but a Babe and a stranger here, and not without cause you are ignorant how you are in Thessaly, where the women Witches bite off by morsels the flesh and faces of dead men, and thereby work their sorceries and inchantments.

Then quoth I, In good fellowship tell me the order of this custody and how it is. Marry (quoth he) first you must watch all the night, with your eyes bent continually upon the Corps, never looking off, nor moving aside. For these Witches do turn themselves into sundry kindes of beasts, whereby they deceive the eyes of all men, sometimes they are transformed into birds, sometimes into Dogs and Mice, and sometimes into flies. Moreover they will charme the keepers of the corps asleepe, neither can it be declared what meanes and shifts these wicked women do use, to bring their purpose to passe: and the reward for such dangerous watching is no more than foure or sixe shillings. But hearken further (for I had well nigh forgotten) if the keeper of the dead body doe not render on the morning following, the corps whole and sound as he received the same, he shall be punished in this sort: That is, if the corps be diminished or spoyled in any part of his face, hands or toes, the same shall be diminished and spoyled in the keeper.

Which when I heard him I tooke a good heart, and went unto the Crier and bid him cease, for I would take the matter in hand, and so I demanded what I should have. Marry (quoth he) a thousand pence, but beware I say you young man, that you do wel defend the dead corps from the wicked witches, for hee was the son of one of the chiefest of the city. Tush (sayd I) you speak you cannot tell what, behold I am a man made all of iron, and have never desire to sleepe, and am more quicke of sight than Lynx or Argus. I had scarse spoken these words, when he tooke me by the hand and brought mee to a certaine house, the gate whereof was closed fast, so that I went through the wicket, then he brought me into a chamber somewhat darke, and shewed me a Matron cloathed in mourning vesture, and weeping in lamentable wise.

And he spake unto her and said, Behold here is one that will enterprise to watch the corpes of your husband this night. Which when she heard she turned her blubbered face covered with haire unto me saying, I pray you good man take good heed, and see well to your office. Have no care (quoth I) so you will give mee any thing above that which is due to be given. Wherewith shee was contented, and then she arose and brought me into a chamber whereas the corps lay covered with white sheets, and shee called seven witnesses, before whom she shewed the dead body, and every part and parcell thereof, and with weeping eyes desired them all to testifie the matter. Which done, she sayd these words of course as follow: Behold, his nose is whole, his eyes safe, his eares without scarre, his lips untouched, and his chin sound: all which was written and noted in tables, and subscribed with the hands of witnesses to confirme the same. Which done I sayd unto the matron, Madam I pray you that I may have all things here necessary. What is that? (quoth she). Marry (quoth I) a great lampe with oyle, pots of wine, and water to delay the same, and some other drinke and dainty dish that was left at supper. Then she shaked her head and sayd, Away fool as thou art, thinkest thou to play the glutton here and to looke for dainty meats where so long time hath not been seene any smoke at all? Commest thou hither to eat, where we should weepe and lament? And therewithall she turned backe, and commanded her maiden Myrrhena to deliver me a lampe with oyle, which when shee had done they closed the chamber doore and departed.

Now when I was alone, I rubbed myne eyes, and armed my selfe to keep the corpes, and to the intent I would not sleepe, I began to sing, and so I passed the time until it was midnight, when as behold there crept in a Wesel into the chamber, and she came against me and put me in very great feare, insomuch that I marvelled greatly at the audacity of so little a beast. To whom I said, get thou hence thou whore and hie thee to thy fellowes, lest thou feele my fingers. Why wilt thou not goe? Then incontinently she ranne away, and when she was gon, I fell on the ground so fast asleepe, that Apollo himself could not discern which of us two was the dead corps, for I lay prostrat as one without life, and needed a keeper likewise.

At length the cockes began to crow, declaring that it was day: wherewithall I awaked, and being greatly afeard ran to the dead body with the lamp in my hand, and I viewed him round about: and immediately came in the matron weeping with her Witnesses, and ran to the corps, and eftsoons kissing him, she turned his body and found no part diminished. Then she willed Philodespotus her steward to pay me my wages forthwith…

And by and by the corps came forth, which because it was the body of one of the chiefe of the city, was carried in funeral pompe round about the market place, according to the right of the countrey there. And forthwith stepped out an old man weeping and lamenting, and ranne unto the Biere and embraced it, and with deepe sighes and sobs cried out in this sort, O masters, I pray you by the faith which you professe, and by the duty which you owe unto the weale publique, take pitty and mercy upon this dead corps, who is miserably murdered, and doe vengeance on this wicked and cursed woman his wife which hath committed this fact: for it is shee and no other which hath poysoned her husband my sisters sonne, to the intent to maintaine her whoredome, and to get his heritage. In this sort the old man complained before the face of all people. Then they (astonied at these sayings, and because the thing seemed to be true) cried out, Burne her, burne her, and they sought for stones to throw at her, and willed the boys in the street to doe the same. But shee weeping in lamentable wise, did swear by all the gods, that shee was not culpable of this crime.

No quoth the old man, here is one sent by the providence of God to try out the matter, even Zachlas an Egypptian, who is the most principall Prophecier in all this countrey, and who was hired of me for money to reduce the soule of this man from hell, and to revive his body for the triall hereof. And therewithall he brought forth a certaine young man cloathed in linnen rayment, having on his feet a paire of pantofiles, and his crowne shaven, who kissed his hands and knees, saying, O priest have mercy, have mercy I pray thee by the Celestiall Planets, by the Powers infernall, by the vertue of the naturall elements, by the silences of the night, by the building of Swallows nigh unto the towne Copton, by the increase of the floud Nilus, by the secret mysteries of Memphis, and by the instruments and trumpets of the Isle Pharos, have mercy I say, and call to life this dead body, and make that his eyes which he closed and shut, may be open and see. Howbeit we meane not to strive against the law of death, neither intend we to deprive the earth of his right, but to the end this fact may be knowne, we crave but a small time and space of life.

Whereat this Prophet was mooved, and took a certaine herb and layd it three times against the mouth of the dead, and he took another and laid upon his breast in like sort. Thus when hee had done hee turned himself into the East, and made certaine orisons unto the Sunne, which caused all the people to marvell greatly, and to looke for this strange miracle that should happen. Then I pressed in amongst them nigh unto the biere, and got upon a stone to see this mysterie, and behold incontinently the dead body began to receive spirit, his principall veines did moove, his life came again and he held up his head and spake in this sort: Why doe you call mee backe againe to this transitorie life, that have already tasted of the water of Lethe, and likewise been in the deadly den of Styx? Leave off, I pray, leave off, and let me lie in quiet rest. When these words were uttered by the dead corps, the Prophet drew nigh unto the Biere and sayd, I charge thee to tell before the face of all the people here the occasion of thy death: What, dost thou thinke that I cannot by my conjurations call up the dead, and by my puissance torment thy body? Then the corps moved his head again, and made reverence to the people and sayd, Verily I was poisoned by the meanes of my wicked wife, and so thereby yeelded my bed unto an adulterer. Whereat his wife taking present audacity, and reproving his sayings, with a cursed minde did deny it. The people were bent against her sundry wayes, some thought best that shee should be buried alive with her husband: but some said that there ought no credit to be given to the dead body.

Which opinion was cleane taken away, by the words which the corps spoke againe and sayd, Behold I will give you some evident token, which never yet any other man knew, whereby you shall perceive that I declare the truth: and by and by he pointed towards me that stood on the stone, and sayd, When this the good Gard of my body watched me diligently in the night, and that the wicked Witches and enchantresses came into the chamber to spoyle mee of my limbes, and to bring such their purpose did transforme themselves into the shape of beasts: and when as they could in no wise deceive or beguile his vigilant eyes, they cast him into so dead and sound a sleepe, that by their witchcraft he seemed without spirit or life. After this they did call me by my name, and never did cease til as the cold members of my body began by little and little and little to revive.

Then he being of more lively soule, howbeit buried in sleep, in that he and I were named by one name, and because he knew not that they called me, rose up first, and as one without sence or perseverance passed by the dore fast closed, unto a certain hole, whereas the Witches cut off first his nose, and then his ears, and so that was done to him which was appointed to be done to me. And that such their subtility might not be perceived, they made him a like paire of eares and nose of wax: wherfore you may see that the poore miser for lucre of a little mony sustained losse of his members.

Which when he had said I was greatly astonied, and minding to prove whether his words were true or no, put my hand to my nose, and my nose fell off, and put my hand to my ears and my ears fell off. Wherat all the people wondred greatly, and laughed me to scorne: but I beeing strucken in a cold sweat, crept between their legs for shame and escaped away. So I disfigured returned home againe, and covered the losse of myne ears with my long hair, and glewed this clout to my face to hide my shame.

Advertisements

One thought on “The Habits of The Witches of Thessaly

  1. Wow, thanks for that. It feels a good bit like a short story by Poe in some respects. Time to peruse Project Gutenberg for more gems, methinks…

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s