This section is from the book "Aphrodisiacs And Anti-Aphrodisiacs", by John Davenport. Also available from Amazon: Love Stimulants, Aphrodisiacs and Anti-aphrodisiacs.
The employment of urtication is of great antiquity, for Celsus as well as Aretaeus mentions the use of it, it being in those times, a popular remedy. That the Romans had frequent recourse to it in order to arouse the sexual appetite, is proved by the following passage from Petronius Arbiter, which for obvious reasons, we shall content ourselves with giving in the original only. "Oenothea semiebria ad me respiciens; - Per-ficienda sunt, inquit, mysteria ut recipas nervos.
"Simulque profert scorteum fascinum quod, ut olio et minuto pipere, aque urticae trito circumdedit semine, paulatim coepit in-serere ano meo. Hoc crudelissima anus spargit subinde femina mea Nasturcii † succum cum abrotono miscet, perfusis que inguinibus meir, viridis urticae fascem comprehendit omnes que infra umbilicum coepit lenta manu caedere. ‡
* Confessions, Tom. 1.
† De Nasturcio mira refert Dioscoridas, I., 2, c. 185.
‡ Satyricon, Caput xxxviii.
Menghus Faventiuus assures us that nettles have "une pro-priete merveilleuse pour allonger, tendre, grossir et eriger 1e membre viril, qui, par une parsimonie de la nature, feroit craindre la sterilite.*
Urtication appears to have been well known in France during the time of Rabelais, who alluding to this mode of procuring the vigour necessary for the amorous conflict, says, "se frotter le cul au panicaut (a species of thistle) vrai moyen d'avoir au cul passion".
Une femme en melancholie Pour faute d'occupation, Frottez moi le cul d'ortie Elle aura au cul passion. †
The irritation caused by nettles produces effects analogous to those which are observed in persons afflicted with the itch, the ring-worm and leprosy. The lubricity of those unfortunates is sometimes uncontrolable; they suffer violent priapisms, which are followed by ejaculation, whenever a severe itching forces them to scratch themselves with a kind of furor or madness.
"In a medical point of view," observes Dr. Milligen, "urtication, or stinging with nettles, is a practice not sufficiently appreciated. In many instances, especially in cases of paralysis it is more efficacous than blistering or stimulating frictions. Its effects, though perhaps less permanent, are general and diffused over the limb. This process has been found effectual in restoring heat to the lower extremities, and a case of obstinate lethargy was cured by Corvisart by a repeated urtication of the whole body. During the action of the stimulus, the patient, who was a young man, would open his eyes and laugh, but then sink again into a profound sleep. In three weeks, however, his perfect cure was effected. *
* Pract. part. ii. cap. de passioni membre-genital. † Ducatiana ii., b. 505.
In 1783, Dr. James Graham, an humble imitator of the celebrated Cagliostro, commenced giving his sanatary lectures, which he illustrated by the dazzling presence of his Goddess of Health, a character which) for a short time, was sustained by Emma Harte, afterwards the celebrated Lady Hamilton, wife of Sir William Hamilton, English Ambassador at the Court of Naples, and the chere amis of the immortal Nelson.
After describing various aphrodisiacal remedies, the lecturer thus proceeds: "But, gentlemen, if all the above means and methods, which I have thus faithfully, ingenuously, and with the frankest and most unreserved liberality, recommended, fail, suffer me, with great cordiality, and assurance of success, to recommend my celestial, or medico, magnetico, musico, electrical bed, which I have, with so much study and at so vast an expense, constructed, not alone to insure the removal of barrenness, when conception is at all in the nature of things possible, but likewise to improve, exalt, and invigorate the bodily, and through them, the mental faculties of the human species. This bed, whose seemingly magical influences are now celebrated from pole to pole and from the rising to the setting sun! is indeed an unique in science! and unquestionably the first and the only one that ever was mentioned, erected, or even, perhaps, thought of, in the world; and I will now conclude the lecture with giving you a slight descriptive sketch of the structure of the bed, and the nature of those influences with which it glows - which it breathes forth, and with which it animates, regenerates, and transports those happy, happy persons who have the honour and the paradisiacal blessedness of reposing on it.
* Curiosities of Medical Experience, vol. II., p. 55.
"The Grand Celestial State Bed! then, gentlemen, which is twelve feet long by nine wide, is supported by forty pillars of brilliant glass, of great strength and of the most exquisite workmanship, in regard to shape, cutting, and engravings; sweetly delicate and richly variegated colours, and the most brilliant polish!. They are, moreover, invisibly incrusted with a certain transparent varnish in order to render the insulation still more complete; and that otherwise, properly assisted, we may have, in even the most unfavourable weather, abundance of the electrical fire.
"The sublime, the magnificent, and, I may say, the super-celestial dome of the bed, which contains the odoriferous, balmy, and ethereal spices, odours, and essences, and which is the grand magazine or reservoir of those vivifying and invigorating influences which are exhaled and dispersed by the breathing of the music, and by the attenuating, repelling, and accelerating force of the electrical fire, - is very curiously inlaid or wholly covered on the under side with brilliant plates of looking-glass, so disposed as to reflect the various attractive charms of the happy recumbent couple, in the most flattering, most agreeable and most enchanting style.
"On the top or summit of the dome, are placed, in the most loving attitudes, two exquisite figures, representing the marriage of Cupid and Psyche, with a fine figure of Hymen behind, and over them, with his torch flaming with electrical fire in one hand and, with the other, supporting a celestial crown, sparkling, likewise, with the effulgent fire over a pair of real living turtledoves, who, on a little bed of roses, coo and bill under the super-animating impulses of the genial fire! The other elegant groups of figures which sport on the top of the dome - the Cupids, the Loves, and the Graces! - besides festoons of the freshest and most beautiful flowers, have each of them musical instruments in their hands, which by the exquisite and most expensive mechanism, are made to breathe forth sounds corresponding with the appearance of the several instruments, - flutes, guitars, violins, clarionets, trumpets, horns, oboes, kettle-drums, etc. On the posts or pillars, too, which support the grand dome are groups of figures, musical instruments, organ-pipes, etc., which, in sweet concert with the other instruments, at the commencement of the tender dalliance of the happy pair, breathe forth celestial sounds!! lulling them in visions of elysian joys! opening new sources of pleasure, and "untwisting all the chains which tie the hidden soul of harmony!" At the head of the bed, in the full centre front, appears, sparkling with electrical fire, through a glory of burnished and effulgent gold, the great, first, ever-operating commandment, Be fruitful, multiply, and replenish the earth 1 under this is a most elegant and sweet-toned organ, in the front of which is a fine landscape of moving figures on the earth, birds flying, swans, etc, gliding on the waters, a fine procession, too, is seen, village nymphs strewing flowers before priests, brides, bridegrooms, and their attendants, who, all entering into the temple of Hymen, disappear from the delightful eye.
The painting and embellishment of this front are most masterly, and reflect the highest honour on the artists by whom they were executed; and the whole view is terminated with fountains, waterfalls, shepherds, shepherdesses, and other peasants, as pastoral sports and rural employment, and by a little church, the dial of which points out truly and distinctly the hour.