This section is from the book "Aphrodisiacs And Anti-Aphrodisiacs", by John Davenport. Also available from Amazon: Love Stimulants, Aphrodisiacs and Anti-aphrodisiacs.
It will easily be supposed that superstition when brought to act upon weak and ignorant minds, is capable of producing temporary impotence. The pretended charm or witchery common in France as late as the close of the 17th century, and known by the name nouer Daiguillette (point tying) is a proof of this:
Ami lecteur, vous avez quelquefois,
Oui conter qu'on nouait Daiguilette,
C'est une etrange et terrible recette,
Et dont un Saint ne doit jamais user,
Que quand d'un autre il ne peut s'aviser.
D'un pauvre amant, le feu se tourne en glance;
Vif et perclus, sans rien faire, il se lasse;
Dans ses efforts etonne de languir,
Et consume sur le bord du plaisir.
Telle une fleur des feux du jour sechee,
La tete basse, et la tige penchee,
Demande en vain les humides vapeurs.
Qui lui rendaient la vie et les couleurs. † In olden times, prior to the invention of buttons, the femoral habiliments of men, or hose, as they were called, were fastened up by means of tags or points (Gallice) aiguillettes. Thus, Falstaff says, "Their points being cut, down fell their hose".
* Comment.de Aer: aqua el loco, 210. † Voltaire, Pucelle d'Orleans, Chant xii.
From this French word aiguillette was derived the term turner aiguillete (to tie up the points), equivalent to - button up the flap, to express the rendering, by enchantment, a husband incapable of performing the conjugal rite. The whole secret of this charm consisted in the impostor choosing for his victim an individual whose youth, inexperience, or superstition presented him with a fit subject to work upon. The imagination of the party being already predisposed for the trick, a look, a sign, a menace. either of the voice or of the hand, accompanied by some extraordinary gesture, was sufficient to produce the effect, and, as the mere apprehension of an evil frequently occasions its occurrence, it followed that, superstition having prepared the event, the latter, in his turn, fortified the superstition, a vicious circle which may justly be considered an opprobrium to a man's intelligence. That such was the opinion entertained of it by sensible men when it was in vogue, will be seen by the following curious passage from an old and quaint French writer:
"Quelques uns tiennent cela pour superstition, que quand on dit la Messe des espousees, lorsque l'on prononce ce mot Sara, a la benediction nuptiale, si vous estrerignez une esguillette, que le marie ne pourra rien faire a son espousee la nuict suyuante, tant que la dite esguillette demeurera notiee. Ce que j'ay veu experimenter faux infinies fois: car pourveuque l'esguillette du compagnon soit destachee, et qu'il siot bien roide et bien au point il ne faut point douter qu'il n'accoustre bien la besongne, comme il appartient. Aussi donne l'on vn folastre amulette et digne du subject: c'est a scavoir que pour oster le sort, it faut pisser au travers d'une bague de laquelle on a este espouse. Veritablement ie le croy: car c'est a dire, en bon Francais que si on degoutte dans cet anneau de Hans Carvel, il n'y a charme qui puisse nuire, Aussi nouer l'esguillette ne signifie autre chose qu'vn couard amant qui aura le mebre aussi peu dispose, que si l'esguillette nesa brayette estoit nouee.*
As to the mode itself of conjuration, Bodin, a writer upon these subjects, asserts that there are not less than fifty different ways of performing it: of all which the most efficacious one is to take a small strip or thong of leather, or silken or worsted thread, or cotton cord, and to make on it three knots successively, each knot, when made, being accompanied by the sign of the cross> the word Ribald being pronounced upon making the first knot, Nodal upon making the second one, and Vanarbi upon making the third and last one; all which must be done during the celebration of the marriage ceremony. For the sake of change, one of the verses of the Miserere mei, Deus! may be repeated backwards, the names of the bride and bridegroom being thrice pronounced. The first time, the knot must be drawn rather tight; the second time still more so, and the third time quite close Vulgar operators content themselves with pronouncing some cabalistic words during the marriage rite, tracing, at the same time, some mysterious figures or diagrams on the earth with the left foot, and affixing to the dress of the bride or bridegroom small slips of paper having magical characters inscribed upon them.
Further details may be found in the works of Sprenger, an inquisitor, Crespet of Sans, Debris, a Jesuit, Bodin, Wier, De Lancre, and other learned demonologists.
This species of enchantment was not unknown to the ancients. Accordingly to Herodotus † Amasis was prevented enjoying his wife Ladice by a sorcery of this description, nor was it till after the Queen had vowed a statue to Venns, "si secum coiret Amasis," that the king's wishes and her own were gratified.
* Bigarrures du Seigneur des Accords. † Herodotus Enterpe clxxxii.
Plato warns married persons against such sorceries.* Virgil speaks also of impotency effected by ligature.
Tenia tibi haec primum, duplici diversa colore Licia circumdo, † Ovid admits the power of such charms in the following lines: Carmine laesa, Ceres sterilem vanescit in herbam Deficiunt laesi carmine fontis aquae: Ilicibus glandes, cantataque vitibus uva Decedit, et nulla forma movente, flexunt. Quid vetat et nervos Et juveni et Cupido, carmine abesse viro. ‡ Of that most detestable of all tyrants, Nero, it is said that, finding he could not enjoy a female whom he passionately desired, he complained of having been bewitched.
The fables of Apuleius are full of the enchantments of Pamphilus. §
Numantina, the first wife of Plautius Sylvanus, was accused of having rendered her husband impotent by means of sorcery "injecisse carminibus et veneficiis vecordium marito."║