Tag Archive: XVIth Century


The Master of the Hunt

According to Sully, Henri IV met the Master of the Hunt in the Fontainebleau Forest.

According to Sully, Henri IV met the Master of the Hunt in the Fontainebleau Forest.

It is the 8 September 1598.  A group of hunters are riding in the Fontainebleau Forest.  At their head is a cavalier who speaks loudly with a rough accent.  His dress is neglected, his big nose reddened, his beard and moustache badly maintained, his fingernails black with dirt, a fairly strong smell emanates from him.  This is King Henri IV of France.

Since morning, the royal hunt has been travelling through the underbrush in pursuit of a stag.  Soon, they will stop in a clearing to eat some little meat patties and empty numerous flasks of Jurancon wine which the King has transported with him in all of his outings.  However, for the moment, they haven’t had anything to drink – and it is important to stress this fact.

Suddenly, the King stops his horse and tells everyone to listen.  All the cavaliers obey.  They then hear, coming from a distant place, which they estimate to be about half a league away, that is to say around two kilometres, the voices of a pack of hounds, cries and sounding of horns…

The King asks his companions if they too can hear hunting horns and hounds.  The Count of Soissons, who has cupped his big hand around his ear, nods and declares that it is astounding.  The King would like to know who it is who dares to hunt at the same time as himself.  Someone suggests that it could be an echo of their own horns.  The King dismisses this explanation:

“Our horns have never sounded any of the airs that we are hearing now…  Listen…”

It is true, the music coming to their ears – of course very muffled by the distance and the forest’s density – does not correspond to any of the airs which have accompanied the group’s hunt since morning.  The King decides to investigate.

He is about to spur his horse when, suddenly, the same sounding of horns, the same cries, the same hound voices explode at twenty paces from him, as if, by some spell, the mysterious hunt had made a prodigious leap through the forest.

Astonished, the King and his friends turn toward the track near them whence the noise of the horns and hounds seems to be coming.  The track is empty.  The King asks if anyone can see anything.  They see only the sun playing on the ferns, through the trees.

And yet, the hunters, the horns, the noisy pack are there, close by.  Calling voices, neighing horses, metallic sounds, like weapons clashing, can be heard.

Suddenly, these sounds, these noises, these fanfares move.  They were coming from the right, now they are coming from the front, then the left, then from behind, then, again, from the right.  Invisible, the phantom hunt slowly circles the King and his companions.  Henri IV is worried.  He orders Soissons to go to see what is happening.

Anxiously, the Count heads his horse towards the place whence the noise is coming and soon returns to say that he sees nothing but, like everyone else, he can hear the hounds and the horns.

At this moment, a big, dark, bearded man with long hair and flaming eyes surges from the underbrush and cries out in a terrible voice:

“You wanted to see me!  Here I am!”

Then he turns toward Henri IV and says:

“Turn over a new leaf!”

And he disappears.

Immediately, there is silence in the forest.  Not one cry, no sound of hounds, no horns, not a hoof beat.  The phantom hunt seems to have evaporated.  The King orders his companions to find the man.

They search the thickets, the bushes, the ferns, they look at trees, clumps of rocks, nothing!  The strange person has also disappeared.  The King decides to question the peasants.

And without a word, almost without a sound, everyone starts off and heads towards Fontainebleau.  All of them seem to feel superstitious fear to the point that no-one dares to break the silence.  Not even the King, who is usually so talkative, so joyful, so prompt to jest.

After half-an-hour of travelling along tracks of moss and Spring ferns, the little troop arrives in a clearing where there are tree fellers and charcoal smokers.  Henri IV calls to them and explains that he has seen a mysterious person surge in front of him like a devil, his eyes full of sparks.  The woodsmen nod their heads and tell him that it is the Master of the Hunt who often hunts around there.  The King wants to know who this Master of the Hunt is.

“It’s a ghost who roams in the forest…  Oh!  He’s apparently not nasty.  We see him from time to time.  But to tell the truth, we don’t like it much…  Once I saw the Master of the Hunt near Franchard.  He came out of the ground, right there, in front of me…  He was two strides away.  He looked at me for a good moment without saying anything.  I didn’t dare move.  Then he laughed out loud and disappeared little by little like smoke…”

The Count of Soissons asks:

“And you say that this Master of the Hunt is a ghost?”

“For sure he’s not a human like us.  It’s the Master of the Hunt!  Or the Black Hunter as he’s sometimes called.  Sometimes, he’s accompanied by a whole invisible hunt.  A hunt that makes the devil of a noise, with dogs, cries, horns…”

The King tells him that that was what they had heard.

“Well then, it’s the Saint Hubert Hunt.”

And the woodsman explains that it is a mysterious hunt composed of ghosts of men and ghosts of dogs who have been haunting the Fontainebleau Forest for a long time.

Most impressed, Henri IV and his companions return to the castle where they recount their adventure.

And the whole French kingdom soon learns and marvels, that the King of France had met a ghost…

***

Many questions have been raised about this story and the craziest suppositions have been made.  First of all, it was thought that an attempt on the King’s life had been made, then that it was a diabolical apparition…  Finally, people with no imagination concluded that the sovereign had been tricked by facetious poachers who had had fun imitating the sound of horns and the voices of hounds.  Henri IV had therefore been the victim of a joke.

***

If it were poachers, why did they tell him to “turn over a new leaf”?

It was said that the dark man who told Henri IV to "turn over a new leaf" was supposed to frighten the King and prevent his marriage to Gabrielle d'Estrees.

It was said that the dark man who told Henri IV to “turn over a new leaf” was supposed to frighten the King and prevent his marriage to Gabrielle d’Estrees.

In April 1599, that is to say eight months after the incident in the Fontainebleau Forest, Gabrielle d’Estrees, whom the King was about to marry, died of poison, and Henri IV took for wife the overweight Marie de Medicis.  Rumours then began.  It was murmured that at Fontainebleau, the King had not been the victim of a bad joke, but of a plot cooked up by a high-placed person.  Which one?  The Papal Legate.

The Papal Legate – who was in Paris at this time – was Alexandre de Medicis, who wanted the King of France to marry his fat cousin.  And it is explained that, to strike the King’s mind and bring him to repudiate Gabrielle, the Legate contacted the famous poachers and gave them the task of setting up the whole thing.  Which is supposedly why the Master of the Hunt was accompanied by a phantom hunt and why he told the King to turn over a new leaf…

***

Although this explanation was accepted by all of the contemporary chroniclers, the story does not end there.  In 1625, in 1647 and in 1672, the Master of the Hunt appears again to stag hunters, still accompanied by his invisible whippers-in and his phantom pack of hounds.  And in 1698, it is Louis XIV himself who sees him.  He would say:

“A person of supernatural appearance surged before me, making my horse rear, and addressed a few words to me.”

Words that the King never repeated.

And that is not all.  In 1897, an English tourist who was riding a bicycle in Fontainebleau Forest, recounted that she had met, near the Croix du Grand-Maitre, a dark man who had surged from a bush and who ran with the lightness of a deer, calling out:

“Yak, Yak, Yak…”

***

These periodical apparitions of frightening men could be simply scruffy, threatening-looking people roaming the forest, whom imagination and the memory of legends transform into supernatural beings.  They could also be hallucinations, “concrete ghosts”, according to one psychoanalyst.  In this case, Freud explains that the hunter is, of course, a sexual symbol because he is hairy!…  Apart from this interpretation, the hypothesis of an hallucination – individual or collective – should perhaps not be rejected for the Master of the Hunt is a character who is found in most Western folklore.  In the North of Europe, for example, he is called the Black Hunter.

***

The invisible hunt is an extremely widespread myth.  In the Blesois, it is the flying hunt of Thibault le Tricheur, in Touraine the Briquette Hunt, the Arquin Hunt or the Menee d’Helquin.  In Berry, it is Rigaud’s Hunt or Baudet’s Hunt;  in Bourbonnais, the Maligne Hunt or the Gayere Hunt;  in Bretagne, the Gallery Hunt;  In the Maine, the Artus Hunt led by the famous King Artus who governed the Bretons in the IVth Century;  in the Orleanais, King Hugon’s Hunt;  in Sweden, Odin’s Hunt;  in Germany, the Wooden Heer.

***

George Sand studied these strange phenomena and collected a few.  Madeleine Bosquet, the author of a work on Normandie romanesque et merveilleuse, published a certain number of witness statements which are rather troubling.

One night when Ronsard was returning home, near Vendome, the poet, who was a bit deaf, heard the sound of a hunt and saw a cavalier appear who wanted to take him up behind him.  Anyone else would have made the sign of the cross to make this vision go away.  Ronsard, who had been a soldier, preferred to draw his sword, and everything disappeared.

But this meeting troubled him to the point that he noted his impressions in a poem, which I shall not try to translate here.

***

Charles IX of France.

In Spring 1574, there is plotting everywhere and the troubles which are shaking the kingdom demand an urgent solution for the future.  What is going to happen to the young monarch?  Will his mother, Catherine de Medicis, renounce all authority over the kingdom?

Cosme Ruggieri, the Queen Mother’s astrologist, convinces her, for whom her dynasty’s interests pass before all else, to hold the darkest of ceremonies of divination, the ceremony of the talking head…

On the night of 28 May 1574, we are at Vincennes inside one of the castle’s nine towers, the one still called today the Devil’s Tower.  The Queen Mother is there, with two of her inner circle and her son who, breathless, is shivering with fever and can barely stand.  An altar has been erected and is covered in a black cloth.  A statue, draped in a triple black veil, represents the Mother of the Shadows, the goddess of suicides and madness, the divinity for whom the Mass is to be served.

Catherine de Medicis.

Candles, also black, light this altar on which there is placed an ebony chalice, filled with coagulated blood and two communion wafers, one white, the other black.  The man who is going to say this Mass is an apostate monk, converted to magic…

Into the middle of this lugubrious meeting a little boy of ten advances.  He is a kidnapped Jewish child who has been prepared for a long time for this communion.  He has been dressed in a white gown, is as beautiful as he is innocent and is waiting to receive God.  The magician begins the service by planting on the altar a long dagger, the handle of which represents a snake, then he recites invocations to the Virgin, launches anathemae to the God of the Christians, and consecrates the wafers to Satan.  The child, who doesn’t know what is happening, joins his hands and closes his eyes to receive the white wafer on his tongue.  But he has barely taken  communion than one of the infernal priest’s assistants plunges a dagger into his neck.  Then it is the dull clang of a sword which rings on the altar stone:  the child has just been decapitated and the magician brandishes this poor, little, innocent head and places it on the black wafer in a big, silver paten…

Bewitchment seance organized before Catherine de Medicis by Cosme Ruggieri.

The young sovereign has been forewarned.  It is at this precise instant that he must lean over and ask the head a question.  The head would answer him, and reveal all the future to him.

Trembling, this unnatural Prince approaches and asks his question in an unintelligible voice.  They wait.  Appalling silence.  Finally, a sigh escapes the child’s dead lips and they think that they hear that this sigh signifies:

“I am forced to do it!…  I am forced to do it!”

That is all.  Then the sound of a body falling.  It is the King, already agonizing, who has just fainted.  Salts are applied and he is brought to his senses.  He struggles and lets out appalling screams:

“Take that thing away from me!  Take that thing away from me!… “

He is rushed back to his bedchamber.  He is now delirious, he sees blood everywhere, he is sinking into a river of blood.  He spends the next two days like this in terror and hallucinations then dies on 30 May.  He was barely twenty-five years old.  At the autopsy, it is seen that his heart was all shrivelled, as if it had been exposed for a long time to fire…

***

This is a true story.  The bronze bewitchment was reported by the Spanish Ambassador to France, Don Francis of Avala, who on 8 June 1569 told the story to Phillip II, with the precision that “every day, the Italian watches the nativity of the three persons and his astrolabe, then tightens and loosens  the screws”

As for the Mass of the decapitated head, it was related in detail by the great jurist Jean Bodin, the author of La Republique and founder of modern Economics.  He was also the Secretary of the Duke of Anjou, Catherine de Medicis’ last son, therefore well-placed to know about it.  Jean Bodin had only one fault:  he absolutely believed in witches and recommended that the most rigorous punishments be meted out to them…

***

The Saint-Barthelemy Massacre was basically only a big, ritual sacrifice.

Stories of talking heads have always been part of the florilege of magical beliefs, although we don’t know their origin.  It is also known that Gerbert, the Pope of the year 1000, was reputed to have built a talking head, which had the gift of revealing the future.  But this was, of course, only a legend founded on this pontiff’s vast knowledge in Astronomy and Mathematics.  In the XIIIth Century, Albert the Great is said to have also had such a head as well as an automaton, capable, it was believed, of human behaviour.  This belief was also part of the bewitchments of the Middle Ages and has its origin in the immense scientific knowledge of Albert, to whom Chemistry owes discoveries of the greatest importance:  gold refining, the treatment of sulphur, the action of acids on metals, etc.  Like Gerbert, he passed for a wizard and the confusion that was made at the time between science and magic also explains that were attributed to him the paternity of the Grand and the Petit Albert, the collections of popular magic, the success of which persisted , in the Occident, for half a millenium.

***

To conciliate evil powers, Catherine de Medicis wore permanently at her neck a big talisman made from human blood, billy-goat blood and metal which had been melted during a favorable astral conjunction.  She lived surrounded by magi, deviners and astrologists, and it is on Ruggieri’s indications that she had built in the Soissons hotel an octogonal tower orientated on the cardinal points, whence her favorite magician could observe the stars and do his horoscopes.  A column of this still exists, nearly thirty metres high, included in the walls of what is today the Bourse de Commerce in Paris…

***

Catherine de Medicis permanently wore this cabalistic talisman made from human and billy-goat blood.

Ruggieri would survive almost thirty years longer than Catherine de Medicis and would remain the unmoveable oracle of several great princes of the kingdom.  Charles IX’s brother, Henri III, also given to black magic, would use him to send spells to the ligueurs and their chiefs, the Guises.  Not without success, since the two most illustrious representatives of this Roman Catholic family, for a long time more powerful than the kings of France, are assassinated, at the end of numerous acts of bewitchment.  The Guises returned the favour:  every day, the faithful were ordered to Notre-Dame to pierce wax effigies representing the royal family, there…  Henri III had brought from Spain at great expense all the grimoires of magic which are in fashion at Phillip II’s Court…  to make counter-spells!

The whole of France would believe that the regicide dagger which killed him in 1589 had been placed in Jacques Clement’s hand by larvae, magically formed during hate ceremonies.

***

Hate ceremonies are one of the essential ingredients of black magic, the final goal of which is vengeance, the awakening of interior negative powers, with their cortege of unhealthy desires, as opposed to white magic, of which the aim is to heal and to uncover secrets which can transform life in a positive manner.

***

Ruggieri was to be found at the side of Concini and Marie de Medicis, after the assassination of Henri IV, who didn’t much like his magic which he called “effeminate foolishness”…  To Concini who would occultly govern France for three years, he taught magic and was even more popular at Court after he predicted Henri IV’s assassination, having already tried to bewitch him.  Implicated in a witchcraft trial, he once more survived, but was very wary from then on and would live from the sale of almanachs which were very popular with the little people, who were superstitious.  He wrote them under the name of  “Querberus”.

Finally, he died very old, and despite the insistence of his protector Concini, the Archbishop of Paris refused him a christian burial, having his body thrown into the road.  The wise man didn’t care anyway, for he believed in neither God nor the devil but only, as the good Florentine that he was, in the power of the greats, and in daggers and poison.

***

Ruggieri was the standard-bearer of that generation of clever adventurers who appeared in France, destabilized by the Wars of Religion.  But more than his magic, it was his intelligence and his strength of character, without counting his absolute cynicism, to which he owed his career.  More than any other, he was able to make his own these words from the frightening Leonora Galigai, Concini’s wife, who at the moment of being condemned to death, declared proudly to the judge:

“My spells were the power that strong souls have over weak souls!”…

***

Charles IX would take part in an appalling, bloody ceremony of black magic organized by his mother and Cosme Ruggieri, at Vincennes.

Lost in the depths of the Parisian Marais, the little Sourdis backstreet, which still today has its milestones and its stream, once sheltered the workshops of artisans and smelters in the Wars of Religion era.  At which time, one of them is occupied by a German master bell founder, who has been brought in at great expense from Mayence.  No-one has ever seen this artisan, who lives in the workshop and never goes out.  He receives his orders from a little man always dressed in black, who is of phenomenal ugliness with his little beard and his enormous nose which is even more pointed than it is wide, which denotes, apart from evil, Mediterranean origins…

Every day, a carriage leaves the little man in black at the entrance to the backstreet.  In his round Italian-style shoes, always wearing a felt hat on his head, he hurries to close the door behind him:  in fact, it has been six months now since the master founder from the other side of the Rhine has been seen outside.  Inside, his work is taking shape.  It is three statues for which he firstly made a mould from three full-length portraits of the French Huguenot chiefs Conde, Coligny and Andelot.  The previous day, he had broken the moulds after having poured the metal alloy and for hours, he has been cleaning up the bronze to make the statues smooth and shiny.  Now, they are lined up over there, deep inside the workshop, life-size and ready to be taken away.  But the founder who has worked without any assistance – it was a clause of his contract – has not yet completely finished his work…

He lays the statues on their sides on a workbench and attaches them to it.  Then, he starts to drill holes in diverse parts of the metal, the joints and the chest in particular.  Holes which have the diameter of steel screws of which he has made a certain number as well.  He verifies one more time that they fit the holes properly and then, looking infinitely tired, he gathers his tools in a bag and waits.

The little man has come back and is inspecting his work attentively.  Then he counts out thirty double ducats of gold, takes him amicably by the shoulders and leads him to the door.  There, he stands back to let the man pass.  The man has not taken three steps into the narrow lane before he falls, his back pierced by a dozen sword thrusts…

There is no flicker of emotion on the little man in black’s face.  He comes back slowly towards the statues, pulls from his pocket a book written in Hebrew characters and, looking fixedly at the effigy of Conde, begins to chant invocations, while slowly, very slowly tightening the screws…

Catherine de Medicis had “bronze bewitchments” performed against the huguenot chiefs, Conde, Coligny and Andelot.

This is what is known as a “bronze bewitchment”, and the little man who is at work is the favourite astrologer of Catherine de Medicis.  His name is Cosme Ruggieri and he is the son of Laurent the Magnificent’s doctor, one of the greatest scholars of the Italian Renaissance.  Continually up against her subjects’ religious divisions, the Lady Regent, who has just signed the precarious Saint-Germain peace treaty, esteems that Coligny’s influence on her son Charles IX is redoubtable.  The Florentine adventurer has offered to get rid of him by magic.  Already, fifteen years before these events, in 1559, he had predicted to the Queen the death of her spouse Henri II in the famous Tournelles tournament, and Catherine, who is more and more given to superstition and undertakes nothing without referring to her augures, has accepted.  It is not that she unreservedly believes in these spells and she knows that nothing is possible without that luck which has so often shone on her, assisted it is true by the typically Medicis use of poison…

Has the bronze bewitchment succeeded?  A few months later, Conde falls from his horse in the Battle of Jarnac and is killed in cowardly fashion by Montequiou, a gentleman of the Royal Guard.  Andelot, Admiral Coligny’s brother, follows a few months later, expedited by a bad herbal tea.  However, the doctors who practise the autopsy of the two bodies are adamant:  on the chest, the thighs and the joints of the arms, the two men bear very clear stigmata…

As for Coligny, he falls seriously ill but would resist another three years, until the knife of the German Besme, employed by the Guises, kills him, along with the thousands of other victims of the Saint-Barthelemy.

“The more dead there are, the fewer enemies there are!”

comments Catherine de Medicis, while deploring that the massacre had also made an unexpected victim:  her own son Charles IX.  At the age of twenty-four, he looks like an old man, whose blood-spitting increases every time that the horrible images of the massacre return to his troubled mind.  He knows that his brother, the Duke of Alencon, is waiting for his death to take over the throne.  Against Catherine and the King, he has even formed a Party, “the Discontented”, which disapproves of the Saint-Barthelemy Massacre and wants to take measures of appeasement.  Not brilliant either, is the Duke of Alencon, mainly occupied in trying to wear the crown, even at the price of the death of his brother.  But the implacable Catherine is watching.  She discovers a plot, fomented by two close friends of the Duke, the Count de La Mole, lover of Marguerite de Navarre, the witty, nymphomaniac “Queen Margot”, daughter of Catherine and future wife of Henri IV, and a Piedmont noble, Annibal Coconas.  The conspirators are arrested and a correspondence is discovered which proves that Ruggieri not only has knowledge of it all, but that he has even been involved in the affair by preparing some little, wax statuettes stuck with pins…  One of them strikingly resembles Charles IX:  it is pierced in the heart by a sharp nail.  So Ruggieri, upon whom Catherine has been showering gifts, to the point of putting the Chateau de Chaumont at his disposition, where he has been spending enormous sums of money looking for alchemical gold, has been preparing bewitchments against her and her unfortunate son!…

The Florentine magician is a crook, but not a coward…  Atrociously tortured, he confesses nothing.  And he knows that the Queen is much too superstitious to dare to have him killed.  For appearances sake, he is sent for a while to the galleys.  Ruggieri would not go farther than the house of the Admiral whence there is a magnificent view over the Marseilles  harbour.  He would live there surrounded by luxury for a few months, making a profitable trade in horoscopes to while away the time.  Coconas and La Mole would not be as lucky:  they would be drawn and quartered by four horses and the pieces of their bodies nailed to the  gates of Paris.  So the guilty were punished.  But Charles IX’s health does not get any better.  To counter the bad spell, Catherine de Medicis pardons Ruggieri and has him brought back to her side…

We are by now in Spring 1574, and it is in this year that would take place the most appalling scenes of black magic in History.

To be continued.

Several times in the XVIIth and XVIIIth Centuries, navigators in Martinique declared having seen a merman who came out of the water to observe them.

If we study the first beliefs of men, we notice that all of the people who live by the sea have in common the myth of an ancient man coming out of the sea to educate them.  It is the Vinak-Car (the fish-man) of the Guatemalas.  It is the Cuculkan of the Mayas.  It is Manco-Capac for the Incas and it is Quetzalcoatl who comes out of the Gulf of Mexico.  On the Celtic coasts, it is Hue-Gadarn.  In India, it is Parascharya.  And must we recall the Neptune of the Greeks, and the Venus of Hesiode, who appeared in the waves?

Of course, these are all legends.  But what if the legends were really memories?

Two great astronomers, Shklovski and Paul Sagan, have seriously asked themselves questions on the legend of the Akpallus, and they wondered if it does not speak of beings who came from somewhere else, in the early days of humanity, to “launch” civilization on Earth.

The Akpallus are creatures who came from the sea and are remembered by the first Sumerian civilization.  Our History begins in Sumeria.

The famous astronomer Sagan gives the following hypothesis:  extra-terrestrial visitors, in space-suits, based on a space ship which landed on the sea, came to bring to men the rudiments of knowledge.  They appeared on the coast of Sumeria.  Hence the legend of the Akpallus, who were creatures that were half-man half-fish (the helmet which imitates a fish head, the breathing apparatus which represents a tail).  The sign of Pisces, which would unite the “initiates” of the Near-East, could be connected to this fabulous memory.

***

In the XVIIth Century, a merman belonging to Genoa sailors who claimed to have captured him in the Aegean Sea, was shown in different European cities. But it was perhaps a clever trick…

We could do away with the hypothesis of the Extra-Terrestrials and consider that the men, on the coast of Sumeria, really saw fish-men, whom they took for gods.

***

This is the oldest legend of Western Humanity.  Or rather, it is the oldest document.  Berose, who was a priest in Babylon at the time of Alexander the Great, is supposed to have had access to cuneiform and pictorial testimonies several thousands of years old.  And he has left us an account of the earliest times.  During the “first year” (that is to say, the first cycle), an animal “endowed with reason”, called Oannes, is supposed to have come out of the sea, coming from the Persian Gulf.  Its body was that of a fish and a man at the same time.  This creature taught men.  At sunset, Oannes dived back into the sea, spending the night “in the deep”.  For it was an “amphibian” creature.  After that, there were several generations of similar creatures:  the Akpallus.

As we can see, all of the religions of the maritime peoples have their origin in the apparition of beings resembling humans, emerging from the sea.

***

Life has perhaps appeared, developed and disappeared several times on Earth.  And the idea of a first humanity living in the oceans should be considered.  In this case, the “men of the seas” who were sometimes found, in former centuries, would be the degenerated remains of the first humanity.  The leftovers of a first extinct evolution…

***

For all of the children who have read Hans Christian Andersen, there is no doubt about the existence of mermaids…

The question that Benoit de Maillet asked himself in the XVIIIth Century was “Could there be creatures of human form in the sea?”  He dreamed a lot about the Botal Hole.

This is the path of our Naturalist’s reflection.  The child, inside its mother’s womb, breathes through two openings which correspond with four vessels, through which the blood coming from the heart is able to circulate without entering the lungs.  One of these openings is called the Botal Hole;  the other is the arterial canal.  The child lives like this, in the liquid environment of its mother’s womb.  At the moment of birth, air enters for the first time into his lungs where blood begins to circulate.  And the Botal Hole closes.  Benoit de Maillet concludes that, for some beings, the Botal Hole does not close completely.  They can therefore lead an amphibian existence.

Buffon pursued research in this direction.  He cites several experiments performed on little puppies, that he obliged to be born in a tub of lukewarm water.  He left them there for half an hour.  He removed them for the same length of time.  He put them back.  Going alternatively from water to air, the little dogs, Buffon tells us, were breathing perfectly in each element.  So Buffon concludes:

“It would perhaps be possible, while being careful about it, to prevent the Botal Hole from closing in this way and to create, by this method, excellent divers and amphibious species of animals who could live equally well in either air or water.”

***

As for mermaids, many illustrious men have studied the problem of monsters.  Ambroise Pare said:

“It should not be doubted that, just as we can see several monsters in diverse ways on land, in the same way there are also strange sorts in the sea.  Some are men from the waist right to the top, called Mermen;  others are women and are called Mermaids.”

Nearer to our time, the admirable Michelet, in his book La Mer, consecrates a chapter to Mermaids.  He asks:

“If these beings really existed, why were they so rare?”

Then answers:

“Alas, we don’t have to look far for the answer:  it is that they were generally killed.  It was a sin to let them live, for they were monsters…”

Perhaps the last Mermaids, the last Mermen, vestiges of an adventure of Life which aborted, did not survive longer than the XVIth and XVIIth Centuries, an epoch still rich in marvels and prodigies of Nature.  Perhaps there is still a small number of them in the oceans, hiding in distant abysses, forever far from humans, definitively afraid of our turbulent growth…

***

From Antiquity to the XVIIIth Century, men believed in the existence of mermaids. Sailors even gave very detailed descriptions of them.

Pliny, in Chapter Nine of his Natural History, writes:

“A deputation from Lisbon was sent to Emperor Tiberius to announce to him that a Triton had been seen and heard in a cavern.  Nereids have been seen on this same coast.  One of them was dying.  Her moans were heard from afar by the inhabitants.  The Legate from Gaul wrote to Emperor Augustus that several dead Nereids were to be seen on the coast.  I can cite witnesses (who occupy a high rank in the Equestrian Order) and who have certified to me having seen in the Cadiz ocean a man of the seas, of a conformation perfectly identical to ours.  During the night, this man of the seas boarded the ships!”

The Naturalist Rondelet, who professes in the XVIth Century in Montpellier, writes in his Histoire des Poissons:

“There was taken in Norway a marine monster after a great torment.  All those who saw it gave it the name of Monk, for it had a human face, but rustic and not very gracious, the head shaven, and a sort of monk’s hood on its shoulders.  The extremity of the body ended in a wide tail.”

And Rondelet continues:

“The poets say that there are Nereids (that is to say a feminine being, of human form, which lives in the sea).  Pliny considers that this is not a fable.  Some were seen on the beaches in former times.  Their complaints were heard.  Some were seen in Pomerania, with a beautiful woman’s face.  I have heard it said that a Spanish mariner held one in his ship, but that one day she escaped, threw herself into the sea and appeared no more.”

It can be read in The Great Chronicle of the Netherlands that in 1433, off the coast of Poland, a marine man, with palmed feet and hands, who let himself be touched by everybody, was fished.  He does not speak, but he seems to understand very well.

In the XVIth Century, navigators brought several mermaids to the King of Portugal who managed to keep them alive for a few years. He showed them to his friends and tried in vain to teach them to speak.

The King of Poland has him locked up in a tower.  But the man of the seas goes into such a depression that it is thought that he will die from it.  He is taken back to the shore, where a great crowd is assembled.  He waves goodbye, plunges and disappears forever.

Father Bonhour, a French Jesuit of the Renaissance, writes:

“Mermaids, of whom the poets speak, are not just inventions.  They have been seen in diverse countries.  Philip, Archduke of Austria, brought one with him to Genes, in 1548.  Another appeared on a beach of Holland at the beginning of the century.”

But it is to the Naturalist Benoit de Maillet, a precursor of Darwin, and who is the first to maintain, in the XVIIIth Century, the thesis of transformism, that we owe the most abundant documentation on the men of the seas.  Benoit de Maillet was Consulate of France in Egypt and Inspector of French Establishments in the Levant.  He made numerous maritime observations which he consigned in his work Entretiens sur l’origine de l’homme (1748).  For him, the origin of Man is in the oceans.  Voltaire, who makes jokes of everything, derides him.  But the collection of testimonies taken from the chronicles of Portugal by Benoit de Maillet demand our attention.

The King of Portugal in the XVIth Century, Manuel, nicknamed the Great or the Fortunate, is having a glorious reign.  Vasco da Gama opens the route to the Indies.  Brazil is conquered.  The Court of Manuel is grandiose, enriched by the treasures of Africa and Asia.  But never is a more surprising gift made to King Manuel than the one mentioned in History of Portugal and Relations of the East Indies:

“A fishing net, thrown at the point of India, brought in fifteen men of the seas which were immediately sent to the Lisbon Court.  Thirteen died during the voyage.  The only ones to survive were a woman and a young girl.  They came to King Manuel who never grew tired of admiring them.  The Oceanides appearing very sad, the King had them lowered into a shallow place in the sea, bearing light chains which prevented them from escaping.  And the Court, aboard boats, were able to watch their evolutions.  These creatures lived for a few years during which, each day, they were taken to the sea.  But they were never able to learn to speak.”

Here now is something taken from The Great Chronicle of the Netherlands:

“Today, six men who had gone by boat to the Diamond Islands were preparing to return home.  It was sunset.  At the edge of the island, they noticed a marine monster.  This monster had a human face and its body ended like a fish.  He had black and grey hair, a long beard, and the stomach covered in hairs.  He had a ferocious air.  When he emerged, he wiped his face with two hands while sniffing like a dog.  He approached so closely that one of the men threw a line to him to see if he would catch it.  But the man of the seas dived once more and no-one saw him again.”

This report from the captain commanding the Diamond Quarters in Martinique was received by Pierre de Beville, Notary of the Quarters of the Maritime Company, in the presence of the Jesuit Father Julien Simon.  It contained as well “the separate and unanimous statements of two other Frenchmen and four Negroes”.

Mermaids and other marine monsters as they are shown in the XVIIth Century work “Physica curiosa” by G. Schott.

Here is something else, which occurs in 1746 and is reported to us by Sieur Le Masson, employed by the Marine:

“A sentinel making his round at night on the walls of Boulogne noticed a man gesticulating in the moat.  He hailed him without receiving a reply.  At the third summation, the sentinel fired.  When the cadaver was recovered, it was  noticed that it was that of a man of the seas whom the tide had left in the moat.  The inferior part of the body had the form of a fish.”

On 8 September 1725, Monsieur d’Hautefort sends to Count de Maurepas, Minister of Louis XIV, the following sworn account:

“Seven ships had dropped anchor on the  Banks of Newfoundland, when, around ten o’clock in the morning, a man of the seas appeared on the port side of the French ship Marie-de-Grace, captained by Captain Olivier Morin.  He firstly showed himself under the barrel of the Foreman Guillaume L’Aumone.  Immediately, the Foreman took a boathook, but the Captain stopped him, fearing that the monster would drag him down with him.  For this reason, the Foreman only gave him a blow on the back, without stabbing him.  The marine man circled the ship several times, went away, came back, raised himself out of the water as far as his navel.  This all lasted from ten o’clock in the morning to midday, and the monster was seen for all this time by the thirty-two men of the crew.  They were all able to notice the following particularities:  the brown and dark skin, without scales.  All the movements of the body, from the head down to the feet (visible in the transparent water), were those of a normal man.  The eyes were well proportioned, the nose wide and flat, the teeth white, the ears similar to those of a man, the feet and hands the same, except that the fingers were joined by a film, like those that exist on the feet of geese and ducks.  To resume, it was a man’s body as well made as those that one sees ordinarily…  Around noon, the singular creature went away from the ship, dived deeply, and no-one saw it again.”

***

To be continued.

UFOs in History

A celestial phenomenon observed in Paris on 10 February 1875, from 5:25 to 6:10 in the evening.

People often say “at the UFO epoch” when referring to the second half of the XXth Century…  In the same way that they say “at the time of the Inquisition” to designate certain periods in the past.  “Practices inherited from the Middle Ages”, someone will declare while denouncing some of today’s horrors.  As if cruelty were not of all times.  As if the apparition of the first UFOs only went back to the days immediately following the Second World War…

“In the night of 12 October 1621, around eight o’clock at night, the Moon being in its last quarter, the air started to lighten in the East.  For roughly an hour and a half, the sky became as light and clear as in the most beautiful mornings of Summer.  This gave great astonishment to the inhabitants of Lyon.  And the greatest part of them were looking up, because of this brightness, when they noticed in the sky some very strange things and these things were not natural…

“Above the big Place de Bellecour, they saw appearing a sort of great mountain, on which there was the form of a castle in a round shape and from this round-shaped castle, which was moving in the air with prodigious bounds, flashes of lightning were coming out, and it seemed to float on the whole of the Port du Rhone quarter, on Saint-Michel and above the Saone River.

“Around the Place des Terreaux, there was seen by more than four hundred people, this same day, a round star which was moving, and which was very luminous and as if surrounded by flashes of lightning…

“Over the city of Nimes there was seen at the same time, and principally in the following night of 13 October, around ten o’clock at night, just above the amphitheatre, a sort of brightly shining sun which was dancing, surounded by luminous torches, and this flamboyant sun seemed to want to travel straight onto the Roman tower, that is called La Tour Magne.  And this greatly astonished all of the inhabitants of the city.

“On the city of Montpellier, from ten o’clock in the evening to three o’clock in the morning, was seen a very luminous star which was moving above some houses, and from this star lances of fire were coming out, and all the people were outside and were observing this with great astoundment.”…

A few years earlier, and without predudice to the Mediterranean people’s gift for embellishment, three strange boats appeared off Genes.  According to the numerous testimonies of the epoch, they were a type of floating carriage, perfectly spherical, surrounded and as if haloed by long filaments of fire “the same as the tongues of dragons”.  The power of suggestion of these engines must have been considerable, since several witnesses, such as the son of Sieur de Loro and the brother of Signor Bagatello as well as several women, died from emotion.  So much so that, the next day 16 August, the Bishop of Genes had a solemn Te Deum said in the cathedral…

In the Maya temple at Palenque, Mexico, there is this famous sculpted stone where some see a man at the controls of an engine propulsed by reaction.

New apparition:  in the month of January 1609, above Angers this time, the whole city rushed into the street to see torches of fire moving in the sky.  They resembled “fat thistles all ardent” surrounded by immense red and blue lights.  After a few minutes of slow navigation the “things” concentrate their flight above the Saint Maurice and Saint Pierre churches.  The inhabitants, terrorised, see in this a sign from Heaven and rush all together into these two churches thinking that if the city was going to be attacked by these “things”, the holy places at least would be preserved…

Let us go back a few years more in time, but still staying in this rich period, into the XVIth Century which saw, it seems, a veritable epidemic of flying objects…

At the beginning of Winter 1578, on 21 December, right in the middle of the day, there is seen to appear in the Geneva sky a “star” the size of the Moon and which was moving very fast.  The star in question is trailing behind it “a great abundance of fire”.  One of the testimonies, reported in a book published by the Parisian Editor Jean Pinart in 1579, gives the precision that the “star” had left behind it in the sky three great black arcs which resembled smoke and that, around Geneva, several fields had been burnt…

One month later, a new prodigy, in France this time, still reported in the Discours merveilleux et espouvantables des Signes et Prodiges by Jean Pinart:

“On 23 January 1579, around six or seven o’clock in the evening, above a village on the Seine River named Essone, there appeared a great dragon of round shape which was vomitting fire in great abundance.  And this dragon followed the river, and it was said that it sent out thunder, and there was a great flooding of the waters, to such an extent that several boats of food supplies were lost, even though there had been no storm nor earthquake.  Then, the dragon danced around and it disappeared and no-one saw it again…”

***

On 7 August 1566, over Bale, numerous spherical objects (some dark-coloured, others luminous) seemed to be in combat. This lasted several hours and terrified the population.

Most of these texts come from the Bibliotheque nationale where a friend of Louis Pauwels found them.  They were in a little book from the 1600s only re-published in  the XIXth Century and drawn up by what could be called the “journalists” of the epoch, to give an account of a particularly abundant series of prodigies.

***

They occurred in the sky, on the surface of water or on the ground but they all ended in a more or less sudden manner in the atmosphere…  They were all visions of unidentified objects which are of course interpreted according to the cultural references of the epoch.  As we have seen, they are round castles, surrounded by flashes of lightning, or round stars which move very rapidly throwing out blinding lights, or carriages (the only vehicles at the epoch which could serve as comparison) which float in the air surrounded by serpents of light or by fat thistles.  Forms where the sphere predominates and which emit red or blue lights, or fabulous animals (what impression would the Concorde make in the sky of Henri IV of France?) which vomit flames.  What is particularly remarkable is that – on the contrary to what happens today – all of these phenomena are observed at the same time by hundreds or thousands of people and always in well determined places…

***

On 14 April 1561, the inhabitants of Nuremberg fearfully watched objects with strange forms performing a fantastic ballet in the air above their city.

Everything invites us to think that these phenomena totally resemble the observations of flying saucers which appeared regularly in the press in the XXth Century.

Louis Pauwels, whose work I have translated, thinks that it would be fascinating to undertake a systematic study of all of these discours on the prodigies of the XVIth and XVIIth Centuries which, aside from the moralising conclusion attached to all of them – Heaven is sending us these signs to exhort us to repent and prepare us for the Last Judgement – are nothing more than reports taken down at the time, certain of which are excellent and worthy of the reports by our Police Forces today…

Why would these authors have invented these stories?  The most striking thing about them is perhaps the relative dryness of their accounts, their sobriety in any case.  They never try to embellish their testimony or make ulterior events depend on these manifestations.  That these events had also been seen in Geneva, in the austere capital of calvinism, is another proof of their authenticity:  the mistrust of the Reformed Church for anything marvellous of divine origin is well known.

***

Louis Pauwels does not necessarily conclude that flying saucers exist, although certain testimonies are often particularly serious and troubling.  He simply ponders the constance of these phenomena throughout all human History.  And the constance of these apparitions and of these hallucinations in the sky should lead, along with research and objective, material proof, to systematic speculation about this remarkable permanence in History…

***

I should like to add that, although I believe that people really do see these things, I do not necessarily believe that they come from another planet.  I think that they could come from the Future.  A Future where Science has managed to find an answer to the question of the expansion and contraction of Time and Space and has been able to build machines for their biologists and anthropologists, not to mention environmentalists, to visit the past.

All that work and money going into doing something that people do already today without machines.  Wouldn’t it be easier to study how they do it and develop a method that other people can use?  Of course, this would involve scientists studying all the different fields of spiritualty and they seem intent on studying only material things.  Pity.

In 1557, the inhabitants of Bale saw in the sky an object having the form of an "immense piece of reddened metal". This mysterious "thing" performed numerous evolutions before disappearing. One century earlier, in 1461, the inhabitants of Arras had witnessed the same phenomenon.

This story was found in a treatise written by Agobard, the Bishop of Lyon, himself.  Agobard relates the facts but denies their veracity for he considers them as being contrary to the dogmas.

***

No other people have mentioned this prodigious adventure but there are many others of the same order.  For it must be said that these sorts of stories are fairly common at this epoch.  To the point that the Capitulaires of Charlemagne and of Louis le Debonnaire mention the punishments imposed on the creatures sailing on airships who are accused of destroying vines and harvests…

For there to be laws and rules reprimanding the misdemeanors committed by these mysterious beings, their appearances in the sky must have been numerous…

***

Montfoucon de Villars writes:

“One saw in the air these creatures of human form, sometimes drawn up for battle marching in good order, or standing armed, or camped beneath superb pavillions – at other times on airships of admirable structure whose flying fleet sailed where the zephirs took them…”

Guy Breton, whose work I have translated, surmises that these beings were wearing dorsal helicopters which allowed them to leave the spaceship and descend easily onto Earth…

***

The angels represented on the mosaics of the Cathedral in Montreale (Sicily), like those of Cefalu, have six wings. Could they be the blades of an individual helicopter?

One day in 842, at the time of the siege of Angers by Charles the Bald, the Angevins saw, in the sky, creatures having “the form of grasshoppers each wearing six wings and armed with teeth made of metal”.  These beings were lined up in battle order and flew in good order, led by scouts and airborne diving machines of slimmer form.  “After having circled above the troops of Charles the Bald, these strange metallic grasshoppers disappeared in the direction of the sea…”  To Guy Breton, these metallic grasshoppers, these giant grasshoppers, very much seem to resemble helicopters.

***

Guy Breton one day had the feeling that he was looking at the most ancient representation of a dorsal helicopter in the Cefalu Cathedral, in Sicily, where there are admirable mosaics from the XIIth Century representing angels…  Angels with six wings, of which two give the impression of turning behind them, or above their heads…

Guy Breton says that he doesn’t want to shock anybody, but he asks the question:  What if angels were extra-terrestrials who had descended to Earth with a dorsal helicopter, and were transformed into celestial people by the men of Biblical Antiquity?…

***

In the XVIIIth Century, it was believed that a woman sleeping naked on her bed could be fecunded by the South-West zephyr.

The whole History of procreation seems to have been marked by great misogyny.  Over two or three centuries, a completely specialized literature develops it, inspired at the same time by Scripture, scientific observation and philosophy.  Speaking of Woman, eminent Sorbonnards affirm:

“The humidity of her constitution renders her inapt for tasks which demand character”,

and,

“on top of which, one is not totally sure that she has a soul”…

It is for this reason that, out of prudence, the first human dissections are practised on women.

In 1595, an opuscule in Latin by the German philosopher Acidalius proclaims:

“Mulieres non esse homines”;  women are not part of humankind…

***

It is therefore understandable that parents are not ecstatic about the birth of a little girl…

In the XVIIIth Century, it was starting to be said that women carried eggs from which children were born.

From the IVth Century before the present era, since Aristotle, the woman is only the receptacle of the embryo deposited by the man.  She is a reproduction tool accorded to the man to relieve him of the burden of having to nourish this embryo and give birth to it.

This is why L’art de procreer des males, a book by Morel de Rubempre, still has, in 1824, great success and numerous re-editions.  It essentially takes up the elucubrations of Millot in 1802, of which the following is a sample:

“The husband must always lie on the woman’s left.  At the moment of the ejaculation, he must quickly pass his left hand under his spouse’s right buttock, and lift her up until her hip forms, with the suface on which she is lying, an angle of twenty-five to thirty degrees.  This is not all, things such as the height of the bed, the position of the husband, whether he is standing, and the wife lying down, for example, must be taken into account.  If he is himself lying down, he has to modify the firing angle of the “cannon of life” in function of the width of the opening of his spouse’s hips and the depth of the dent that they make in the mattress.”

The great Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, in his Histoire des anomalies, recounts seriously, in 1832, that sentiments can have a strong influence on the child before its birth.  For example, a little girl is born in Year III of the French Republic with, on her left breast, the mark of a Phrygian bonnet.  The Directoire also rewarded with a pension of four hundred francs a mother so patriotic as to have given birth to a female child bearing on her buttock a patriotic brevet and a revolutionary emblem.

The first serious refutations of the role of the imagination or fears, or of “cravings”, only go back to the middle of the XIXth Century.  In English maternities, pregnant women are then asked what has impressed their minds during their pregnancy and it is perceived that:

(1) – children are born without anomalies;

(2) – that if there are any anomalies, it is only after the birth that the mothers find any explanations.

However, these fears of another age still last today.  In 1971, a report on pregnancy and birth, established by Marie-Therese Miehe (collection “Diagnostics”) notes the following questions asked by young women:

“I saw a black man and I had a shock.  Will my child be born black?”

“I listened to a lot of music for nine months.  Will my child be a musician?”

“Do unsatisfied cravings cause malformations?”

We are far from having left the age of magic.

***

In the XVIIIth Century, it was believed that a woman sleeping naked on her bed could be fecunded by the South-West zephyr "charged with floating embryos".

The way in which, throughout the centuries, humans have imagined that they are engendered is a passionate subject.  A young History professor, Monsieur Pierre Darmon, wrote a History of it in which procreation appears as the most prolific of mysteries, a sort of immense, baroque tapistery, around the edges of which the imagination of theologians, jurists, philosophers and doctors has enormously embroidered.

Does sleep favourise the birth of male children?  Yes.

Does the foetus resemble the mother more than the father?  Of course.

The more lascive a woman is, the more fecund she is?  Oh dear no.

Are short women more fecund than tall ones?  Definitely.

Are women whose matrice is cold fecund?  Of course not.

Are women who give birth to a boy more fecund?  Assuredly.

These are very serious subjects of thesis, defended before the very venerable Faculte de medecine de Paris up until the time when, around 1770, Lavoisier gives the first foundations of modern chemistry…

In the XVIth and XVIIth Centuries, it was believed that women who gave birth to monstrous children had been fecunded by a witch.

In the XVth Century, the monks Sprenger and Institutor write the first big treatise on demonology, Le Marteau des Sorcieres.  For two centuries, this guide – red with the blood of thousands of victims – will inflame all parts of Europe, in the hands of Inquisitors and Judges who have blind confidence in it.

During witchcraft [sorcery] trials, sexuality and generation always play a determining role.  One discovers there, in a tragic light, the idea that humanity has had, over the ages, of the role of the sexes and of procreation.

Mandated by the Pope to hunt witches [female sorcerers], Sprenger and Institutor assure that these women are capable of detaching by a spell [enchantment] the fascinus (the “object which fascinates”) of these gentlemen and of taking them away.  The witches place these little animals – these little sparrows? – endowed with their own lives, inside a nest.  The XVth Century text says:

“There, they wriggle and feed themselves with seeds, as several people have recounted.”

And our two grave demonologists recount the following story which they hold to be absolutely true:

“A man notices that, under the effect of a spell, the most precious of his goods has disappeared.  He addresses himself to a known witch and demands reparation from her by the practising of a graft which she knows how to do.  The witch makes him climb a tree and presents him with her collection.  In a nest, several objects of virility are jumping and dancing.  He chooses one, the most flattering.  The witch who, although diabolic, still has scruples, exclaims:  ‘Above all, not that one, it belongs to the parish curate!…’ “

When a woman gives birth to a monstrous child, for several centuries it was thought that it was because of a magical operation.  Therefore, the person responsible has to be found.  It is always a witch or a wizard who has impregnated the mother with bad germs.  And where do these monster germs come from?  They float in the air.  In any case, it is never the fault of the father…

Up until the middle of the XVIIIth Century, a quantity of scientific treatises can be found which doctorly explain that

“at the origin of all animal life, there are little, invisible beings, already formed, but lifeless, which are waiting to enter into contact with a liqueur which is subtle enough to vivify them”.

A woman can therefore procreate on her own, through enchantment or even simply a dream.

This is why, on 13 January 1637, the Grenoble Parliament declares Magdeleine d’Automont d’Aiguemere innocent of the sin of adultery.  This chaste spouse has just given birth to a boy.  But, her husband has been absent for four years.  However, the judgement underlines that

“having imagined the person and the physical contact of the said Lord d’Aiguemere, her husband, in a dream, she received the same sentiments of conception and of pregnancy that she would have received in his presence”.

The judges refer to Saint Thomas who said that, in the state of innocence, children were made by the intention of thoughts alone.

This judgement is accompanied by a highly scientific declaration:

“One supposes that, on the night of Madame d’Aiguemere’s dream, her window being open, her bed exposed to the West, her blanket in disorder, that the South-West zephyr, duly impregnated with organic molecules of human insects, of floating embryos, had fecunded her.”

***

To be continued.

Anne Boleyn’s ghost

Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII of England's second wife.

On 19 May 1536, at nine o’clock in the morning, the Queen of England Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s wife, who had been locked up in the Tower of London on 23 April, charged with adultery and conspiracy, is taken to the scaffold wearing a white silk gown, the neckline of which is cut very low around her neck.  An executioner stands waiting, motionless.  Once she has climbed the last steps, surrounded by her four ladies-in-waiting, the young woman discovers the block, the sabre and an open coffin.  She does not even blink.  With the serenity of the pure, she prays.

The previous day, upon learning that, by the grace of her monstrous spouse, she would be neither hanged, nor burned, but decapitated, she had gently enquired:

“Is the executioner skilled at least?”

Then she had added, touching her neck with her hand:

“It is true that it will not be too difficult for him;  it is so slim!…”

The four ladies-in-waiting approach to assist her.  She pushes them away, smiling, undoes her headdress all studded with pearls, on her own, leaving only the snood which holds her long, black hair.  After which, she kneels and places her head on the block.

Anne Boleyn's execution. When her head had fallen, the Queen's lips were seen to be moving in silent prayer.

As the executioner raises his arm, Anne can be heard to murmur:

“My sweet Jesus, take pity on me!”

Then the sabre falls on the frail neck that had so often been caressed by Henry VIII.

The head bounces and falls into the straw.

The ladies-in-waiting are then stunned to see that the Queen’s lips are still moving in silent prayer.

At this moment, the firing of a cannon makes London shake.  Its purpose is to inform the King, inside his White Hall palace, that his second wife is dead and that he can prepare his marriage to Jane Seymour.

The ladies-in-waiting, in tears, immediately take “with much precious care” the head and gentle body of Anne Boleyn, then they put them in the coffin which is whisked off to Saint Peter of Vincula Chapel where the remains are buried with no religious ceremony.

Henry VIII, who is going to marry Jane Seymour the next day, is then thinking that nothing more would be heard of Anne Boleyn, inhumed “like an anonymous shipwreck” and that even her memory would be effaced from people’s minds.

This shows his ignorance of the maliciousness of ghosts.

A few days before her death, Anne had written a poem in which she compares herself, in strangely premonitory fashion, to a “guiltless ghost”.  And, since 1536, this “guiltless ghost” has not ceased to haunt England.  It is true that, in this country, everyone knows that the innocent are unable to have any rest as long as justice has not been rendered to them.

The first manifestation of Anne’s ghost took place on the night following her execution.  A few people from Norfolk, who later assured that they had been horrified – which can easily be admitted – see a carriage drawn by four decapitated horses drive by.  Inside was the Queen in a white gown, holding her head in her lap.  This appalling carriage arrives at the gates of Blickling Hall, where Anne was born, and disappears suddenly.

From then on, Anne Boleyn’s ghost will never cease to haunt this castle where she had lived as a child, sliding along the corridors, silently climbing the stairs, warming itself by a fireside, traversing walls, travelling through the castle grounds on moonlit nights, making the cords of the psalteries and violas vibrate in the Music Room, or frightening the cats by its unusual light.  To the point that the inhabitants of Blickling Hall will very quickly get used to this “presence” and today no-one feels the least bit frightened by hearing, at night, the famous swishing of the silk gown, not even the most fearful of chambermaids…

The principal characteristic of ghosts is ubiquity.  Anne Boleyn’s ghost appears therefore in many other places.

It is regularly seen at Rockford Hall, in South-East Essex, a castle which, like Blickling Hall, used to belong to Anne’s family.  There, it roams over the lawns during the “twelve days of Christmas”, which is the period that separates the 25 December from Epiphany.  These twelve days were considered, before christianism, in Europe’s primitive societies, as a magical period.  They began at the solstice, which the Ancient peoples situated on 25 December, and ended when the lengthening of the days became clearly noticeable, that is to say, on 6 January.  The Church “christianized” this period by framing it with Christmas and the Festival of the Kings.

Anne’s ghost seems also to like a room in the North-East part of the building known by the name of “Anne’s Nursery”.  Not content with screaming, slamming doors and making diverse other noises, it indulges in lugubrious facetiae.  It is said that bloodstains appear on the floor, on the anniversary of the day of the execution.

This haunted chamber has naturally attracted numerous spiritists.  Some have felt strong emotions there.  The writer Charlotte Mason recounts, for example, that during a meeting held one night in 1928, a black cat suddenly fell down the chimney in a cloud of soot, plunging the participants into indescriptible terror.  Another time, hands surging from the invisible tore ribbons off a little girl whom wisdom should have commanded to leave at home.  Finally, in 1965, the members of an association specialized in contacts with the After-Life were deliciously ill with fear in seeing a headless woman pass among them…

***

Hever Castle in Kent, where Anne Boleyn's ghost appears each Christmas Eve, crossing the bridge over the Eden River on the twelfth stroke of midnight.

Anne Boleyn’s ghost also appears on Christmas Eve at Hever Castle, near Edenbridge, in Kent.  On the twelfth stroke of midnight, it can be seen slowly crossing the bridge over Eden River.  It is there that the young woman’s romance with Henry VIII began.

Anne Boleyn’s ghost is sometimes mischievous.  It seems to take malicious pleasure in frequenting Merwell Hall, in Hampshire, a castle haunted by the ghost of its rival, Jane Seymour.  And some nights, the inhabitants see floating on the lawn the scintillating silhouettes of the two White Ladies.  One with a head and one without…  Jane Seymour, whom Henry VIII married on 20 May 1536, died the following year, on 24 October 1537, after having given birth to the future Edward VI.

To be continued.

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