Qui out indique la meilleure proportion pour compofer la Poudre.
Table of powder tests.
There was only a single method of destroying the Basilisk. This was by means of a mirror. While scrupulously avoiding the gaze of the animal, the hunter employed his skill to catch that same gaze in a mirror, whereby it would be reflected back against the Basilisk itself, which would then be instantly destroyed by the lethal power of its own eyes.
The ancients were awed also by various natural phenomena of a fiery sort. Their superstition was not limited to lightning, but extended to other manifestations, which were regarded with mingled reverence and fear. The ignis fatuus, or will-o'-the-wisp, is merely a luminous meteor, usually pale blue, the gaseous emanation from rotting vegetable or animal matter, which is sometimes seen over marshes or graveyards. This was universally regarded as a ghostly visitant of malign import. Indeed, the spread of knowledge does not yet by any means suffice to remove the popular dread of this seemingly uncanny apparition, and many a yokel hies him homeward in quaking terror after sight of the noiselessly flitting wraith of flame.
On the other hand, St. Elmo's fire was of old esteemed a good omen, though most fearful to look on. This is in reality an electrical manifestation (like the brush discharge 'from a machine), which occurs when the electricity of a low-lying cloud combines with that of the earth to make displays as luminous globes at the ends of pointed objects, especially if metallic. The St. Elmo from whom the phenomenon takes its name was probably St. Erasmus, patron saint of mariners from Calabria, Sicily, and Spain. The display was commonly called the fire of Castor and Pollux.
On our own continent, the sun and fire were worshiped from times primeval. The cult of the Mayas was essentially Egyptian, and their influence molded also the religion of the later Aztecs. Thus, Viracocha, among the Quichuas, was the god of day, while the place of his daily rising was definitely determined as Lake Titicaca.
The Sioux have a legend as to the origin of fire. According to this, the gift was bestowed on mankind by a friendly god, who, under the guise of a panther, struck sparks by the impact of his claws on flint as he scampered up a hill.
Other Indian traditions give the source of fire as Michabo, the Great Hare, who was the god of all the Algonquins, the Powhatans of Virginia, the Lenni Lenape of the Delaware, and the Ottawas of the north. He was the god of the solar life. The name is from michi, great, and wabos, white or hare. Michabo was god of the dawn, battling always against the darkness, even as Ormuzd battled against Ahriman. Here, among the aboriginees of our land, was the same old worship of sun and light and flame, the same sacred story of the sun's endless warfare against the night.
These few instances must suffice to illustrate the universality of fire-worship and sun-worship among the early pagans. There remains for brief consideration that Christian religion on which our modern civilization is founded.
And now, once again, we find that the Bible, too, is replete with incidents based on the vast importance of fire as symbol and agent, whether divine or demoniac, whether the white glory of heaven or the crimson flares of hell. The record runs from the first book of the Pentateuch to the Revelation of St. John the Divine. At the very outset, God said, "Let there be light, and there was light."
It is related in Genesis that, after the expulsion of the original sinners from Paradise:
"He placed at the East of the Garden of Eden Cherubims and a flaming sword which turned every way to keep the way of the tree of life."
For the guidance of the chosen ones, a cloud of smoke went before them by day and a pillar of fire by night. In His wrath against the cities of the plain, Sodom and Gomorrah, God utterly destroyed them by a rain of fire. In His love for the saint, God carried up Elijah from earth to heaven in a, chariot of fire. On the Ark of the Covenant, the presence of Jehovah was made visible by a white flame, the Shekinah. And, too, the Burning Bush proclaimed His Being in the holy place on the mount.
Nor are such examples, and the many like them, limited to the books of the Hebrew Scriptures. The Greek text of the New Testament abounds in analogous instances. In the Acts of the Apostles, it is said, concerning the Day of Pentecost:
"And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire. and it sat upon each of them."
The Apocalypse overflows with such allusions to the symbolism of fire:
"His eyes were as a flame of fire * * * And he had in his right hand seven stars * * * and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength."
"And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunder-ings and voices, and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne which were the seven spirits of God."
"And another angel came and stood at the altar having a golden censer, and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense which came with the prayers of the saints ascended up before God within the angel's hand. And the angel took the censer and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth, and there were voices and thunder-ings and lightnings and an earthquake."
It was natural that primitive man should exalt fire above the others of the four elements; for it chiefly was a thing to be sought for, to be tended, to be loved, to be feared. It was significant of God's beauty and glory; but, too, of His wrath against sin. An ancient fear led man to dread the destruction of the world by fire. It is a curious fact that our own astronomers warn us of the possibility that some time another heavenly body may come into collision with our earth, involving both in annihilation, consuming them instantaneously in a flaming fury, a celestial holocaust.
The hearth has always been, and is still, the heart of the home, the altar for family worship.
The priests early played on the instinctive reverence of the people for sun and flame, and taught of a mystical po-tence in the countless sacred fires that glowed everywhere on the altars of the world. The part taken by the priesthood, and by those directly developed from it, the magicians and the alchemists, now demands our attention.