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  • Title: A Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures
  • Author: Samuel Harsnett
  • Editors: Michael Best, Sarah Milligan
  • Coordinating editor: James D. Mardock

  • Copyright Michael Best. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Editors: Michael Best, Sarah Milligan
    Not Peer Reviewed

    A Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures

    35Chapter 15.

    Of the admirable power in a Priest's gloves, his hose, his girdle, his shirt, to scorch the devil.

    Gentle reader, thou must not marvel to hear those supernatural powers, spoken of before, to have been lodged in the bodies of holy priests, considering that as the plague doth infect and hang in implements and garments, and the leprosy upon walls and beams of houses, so we find those powerful virtues which showed themselves apparently in the constitution of the priests to transfuse themselves and inhere as effectually in the priests' gloves, their hose, their girdle, their shirts, their rags, their patches, yea in the water that some of their powerful hands had been washed withal. So as these holy companions, if they had been metamorphosed into fishes, as Ulysses's followers were turned into swine, they would have proved notable good codfish, of whom the fishermen report there is no part within them, nor without, that is bad.

    A little I doubt me old Thyraeus is to blame, who painting a whole chapter with the glorious parts and qualities of an exorcist, entitling his discourse De conditionibus exorcistarum, he is silent in this master-quality infixed in the temper and mold of a Priest, or received from his splendent unction, that he should have this dreadful fire to burn out a devil, and so by convivency doth smother it in his garments, and implements too. Thyraeus was of some watery and earthy constitution, and likely doth cantle all exorcists by himself. Sure I am, we find them as lively, quick, and mighty in operation in their exterior ornaments as in their interior complexion, and therefore we must not do them that wrong to bury them in oblivion.

    Maho, Sara's chief devil, with much ado was compelled to tell his name, and the first word he spake was out of Sara's hand; then was one of the priest's gloves taken and put upon her hand; Maho durst not abide it, but went his way straight, and he was so scared as we do not find that ever he came there after. It seems he had stepped thither only to grace the priest's gloves, for you have observed that her hand was none of his ordinary haunt. Or else, if he could not endure the glove by reason of some scenting quality the priest's hand had left behind him, we may imagine the priest had been using his hand holily and well, when it savored so strongly that the devil could not abide it. And now it is not without great cause, as you may see, that our Catholic gentlewomen here in England do hold in such dear esteem our wandering Catholic priests, enriching them with gilt rapiers, hangings, girdles, jerkins, and coifs more beseeming a noble man than a juggling impostor to wear. If they receive no other possessive kindness, whereof we all see they be no niggards of their store, yet this recompense at their pleasure they may entertain, to have a precious pair of priested gloves so sprightly perfumed with the pure odor-spicing from the hands of a hot ghostly father as they may use for a sure preservative against any sparrow-blasting, or sprite-blasting of the devil. This precious odor against a devil that doth continually issue from their anointed complexion doth not only ascend into their upper, and extend itself into their utter ornaments, as into their gloves, but it descends also, and distils into their inferior habit, and, for want of a fit receptacle, is ready many times to drop out at their heels. Dibdale, Sara's ghostly father, had of his fatherly kindness lent his ghostly child a pair of his old stockings that happily had seen Venice and Rome; she, as a spiritual token of his carnal kindness, doth wear them on her legs. See this odoriferous virtue, in what exceeding measure it had descended down and filled the very seams of Dibdale's hose. Sara's devil had been very turbulent and stirring in her body, and was to be delivered down to his baser lodge; he passed quietly down till he came at her knee, and coming down hill too fast slipped ere he was aware into Sara's leg, where, finding himself caught within the priest's hose being on her leg, he plunges and tumbles like a salmon taken in a net, and cries "Barro ho, out, alas! Pull off, pull off." Off in all haste with the priest's hose, or else he must mar all, for there he could not stay, and all haste was made accordingly to ease the poor devil of his pain and let him lie at his repose. And was not this a goodly gin to catch a woodcock withal, and cause him to shoot out his long bill, and cry, "O the virtue of the priesthood, O the power of the Catholic Church," when they saw with their own eyes the hose hastily snatched off, heard with their own long ears Sara's devil cry "Oh," beheld her leg quiet when it was bare without the hose, and observed how reverently the priests touched, handled, and bestowed the hose, when it was off, and with what elevation of their eyes to heaven, they finished the wonder.

    [From chapter 19]

    Hear the Miraclist reports it, who himself was an actor: "The priest, having placed Sara in a chair, he commandeth the devil to tell his name. The devil answered "bonjour" and began to make a show of speaking French; the exorcist then, reviling the devil and calling him ass in the French tongue, he said, 'I am no Ass. I will not be mocked.'" This was a sober reply to the ass, without much ado. But when Maho trifled and mocked the priest in Sara, and would by no dint of adjuration be brought to tell his name, hear the Miracle-teller again: "The exorcist, seeing the devil thus to trifle, and that he would not tell his name for abating his pride, caused to be drawn upon a piece of paper the picture of a Vice in a play, and the same to be burned with hallowed brimstone, whereat the devil cried out as being grievously tormented." No marvel, when he had a pair of vice's ears clapped red hot to his head with the solder of holy brimstone. . . .

    40It was a pretty part in the old church plays when the nimble Vice would skip up nimbly like a jackanapes onto the devil's neck and ride the devil a course, and belabor him with his wooden dagger till he made him roar, whereat the people would laugh to see the devil so vice-haunted. This action and passion had some semblance, by reason the devil looked like a patible old Corydon, with a pair of horns on his head and a cow's tail at his breech; but for a devil to be so vice-haunted as that he should roar at the picture of a vice burnt in a piece of paper, especially being without his horns and tail, is a passion exceeding all apprehension, but that our old dear mother the Romish Church doth warrant it by canon. Her devils be surely some of those old vice-haunted cashiered wooden-beaten devils, that were wont to frequent the stages, and have had their horns beaten off with Mengus his club and their tails cut off with a smart lash of his stinging whip, who are so scared with the Idaea of a vice and a dagger as they durst never since look a paper-vice in the face.