One method recommended for escaping incantations which cause impotency is to recite backwards one of the verses of the Miserere psalm, and to pronounce three times the complete names of both of the newly-weds.  The first time, you form a knot on a lace.  The second time, you tighten it a bit.  The third time, you knot it completely.

You can also make three knots on a cord while saying:  Ribal, Nobal, Zanarbi, when the priest gives the nuptial benediction.

Some husbands thought that, to avoid such a disagreeable accident, putting salt in one of their pockets or in one of their shoes, when they went to their marriage, would work.  Others passed under the crucifix without bowing, at the moment of the nuptial benediction.  Urinating three times in the conjugal ring, while saying:  In nomine Patris is another method.  Or performing the husband’s act before the celebration of the marriage.

A rather more violent method was to hit the heads and the soles of the feet of the newly-weds with sticks, while they knelt under the stove.  Other husbands contented themselves with having two or three rings blessed, sometimes as many as five, all destined for the ring finger of the bride.  Or, they advised her to drop the ring when it was presented to her.  Weddings could also be performed in secret, at night, in some underground, locked chapel, so that the only people present at the nuptial benediction were people exempt of all suspicion.

The famous surgeon Ambroise Pare writes:

“There is no doubt that there are sorcerers who knot laces at the hour of weddings, to prevent the co-habitation of the newly-weds, on whom they want to nastily avenge themselves to sow discord, which is the true profession and office of the devil.”

Delrio, in his Disquisitions magiques, observes that this curse falls most frequently on men, and that, there being more witches than wizards, men feel the curse of these female magicians more than women.  We are able to cite a number of historical people who have suffered this curse – and they are in fact all men.

Peter the Cruel, King of Castille and of Leon, is prevented, by the charms of his concubine, Maria Padilla, from accomplishing his marriage with Blanche, his wife.

Ludovic Sforza prevents by spells, his nephew, Louis Galeas, Duke of Milano, from conjugal co-habitation with Duchess Isabella.

John, Count of Bohemia, is hit with impotence on his wedding night.  And the list goes on.

Bodin reports a story which took place in 1560.  The Criminal Judge of Niort, on the declaration of a new wife, who accused her neighbour of having bound her husband, had this enchantress imprisoned.  She was told that she would not be released until she had unbound those whom she had bound.

“Two days later, the prisoner sent a message to the newly-weds, telling them to sleep together.  As soon as the judge was averted that they were unbound, he released the prisoner.”

Doctor Dumont writes:  In reading one of the numerous memoires which talk about private life in the XVIIth Century, I saw that the famous Count de Guiche, being unable to honour a rendez-vous given to him by Countess d’Olonne, wrote about it in these terms to his friend M. de Vineuil:

“I do not understand such an extraordinary weakness in that part of me, through which I have, up until now, been a sort of chancellor.””

Rene de la Bigotiere, lord of Perchambault, author of the Commentaires sur la coutume de Bretagne and President of Parliamentary Enquiries in this province, says in his book, printed in Paris in 1702, that he had several times seen accusations of magic brought before his court, but had never found any basis for it,

“except that we have seen some poor people boast of having the art of preventing the consummation of marriage, so as to attract presents, and who really do prevent it by the impression which they make on the imagination of married people”.

The magistrate adds that he only punished this sort of people by publicly exposing them, with the inscription on their foreheads of public offender.

Dulaure, who wrote at the beginning of the XIXth Century, assures us that, shortly before the French Revolution, in the Department of l’Allier, there still existed a “fascinator”, named Gabriel Roux, known as Damiens.  He was a sharecropper at a place called Petit-Cros, in the canton of Chambon, in the town of Chatelet.  He was killed on 11 Fructidor Year X, by a miller who, married for three years, and not being able to have children, accused Roux of having put a spell on him.

Professor Brissaud wrote in the XXth Century that, only a few years before, phimosis was attributed to the curses of lace-knotters.  These sorcerers “who prevent a man from urinating, which they call blocking”, have always played a big role in the history of superstitions.

It goes without saying that, in a lot of cases of genital impotence, phimosis has nothing to do with it.

To be continued.