Vom Ess-Zett (sz)

From the ongoing series “Bootless Knowledge for Everybody”.

I was reading in the Dæmonomania (mentioned here), innocently enough, when I came upon the following interesting passage :

Seiteinmal kundbar / daß wo ein Zauberer oder ein Hexin nur das Pulfferlein darvon in einen Schaaffstall leget / daß gleich das Viech darvon stirbt / wo es Gott nicht sonderlich bewaret; (gleich wie auch die Wurmkrämer ein Ratte[n] Aaß / die Mäuß darmit zutöden / wissen darauß zubereiten / daher es auch seinen Namen Maußzwibel bekommen.)”

Maußzwibel – that must be what he mentions in the previous paragraph as “Mörzwibel” or Squilla. A short research brings us the following result: In the Capitulare de Villis (Ger., Eng.) we find under number 16 a plant called “squilla(m)”, Urginea maritima (L.) Baker, also called “Meerzwiebel” (Ger., Eng.). The plant is known through the whole ancient world for medical uses. That the plant is deadly to mice and rats is mentioned in the Kräuterbuch of Tabernaemontanus (Ger., Eng.), one of the most important books of its kind of the 16th century, but it seems that the old Egyptians already knew how to use it.

Ratten Aaß – that threw me a bit off : “Aas” is a rotting carcass, but this would make no sense altogether in this sentence. A look in the holy Wörterbuch (Ger., Eng.) helped : aasz is not a cadaver, it’s something to eat, from ezan, essen ; the old word “Atzung” for food comes to my memory ; also an old word in my dialect, “aas[z]en” for stuffing oneself, over eating.

Wurmkrämer – A “Krämer” sells “Kram” – clobber, stuff, he’s a monger, a peddler. Is there a medieval worm-business I have not heard of ? Also Messers GRIMM can help : A Wurmkrämer sells drugs, “Arzney & Theriak”, against worms, parasites inhabiting the human body, a not uncommon illness in medieval Europe.

The sellers of anti-worm drugs know to prepare deadly rat-food from a plant called mice-bulb. The murine onions were not that deadly that  a cat who’d bit or munch on a poisoned mouse would also suffer. This is discussed in chapter III “Vom underscheid / so sich zwischen Guten und Bösen Geistern erhelt” (About the difference between good and bad spirits). Wurmkrämer – herrje …


8 thoughts on “Vom Ess-Zett (sz)

  1. So, must one be a magician or a witch to lay out the powder? … in the sheep barn? Is that what Schaaffstall is?
    I was going to wish you much sunshine this weekend. It appears you will have to wait till Monday though. Maybe you’ll get some snow instead.

  2. Oh my word! My brain is offline… I have rats in a bottle, witches cackling, pedlars selling powdered lilies and glow worms lighting the way for an elephant to walk to the castle. Should be an interesting night in then.

  3. One of the main jobs of witches in medieval times was seemingly to do black magic against animals and humans. For this purpose they often used some powders (pulveres, cineres), or other means, like hand-signs and looks (“der böse Blick”), or they incantated / adjurated evil spirits to do the job. The witch, who looks at the cow that refuses to give milk afterwards, is a common figure.
    BODIN & FISCHART discuss the difference between good and evil spirits in this chapter. In the paragraph directly before the cited passage he brings an example while he’s dealing with the Zauberbücher Salomonis, those magical books that are said to have their origin in king Salomon’s teachings. The story goes as follows : While the emperor Vespasian was present, a Jewish magician called Eleazar touched the nose of a possessed person with a ring and made the evil spirit leave. In this ring is – according to the magic book – a certain root (Squilla perhaps) that had the power to fight off the evil spirit. Salomon is the one who showed the power of this root, who has the magic knowledge : “Welches ein schandlicher vnnd schädlicher Irrtumb ist”.
    The error is that a) it would be magic that comes from the holy king Salomon, and b) to believe that a root would drive out an evil spirit. Then follows what I cite in the post.
    The interesting thing is that the story of the Wurmkrämer is in parenthesis – it seems to contradict what BODIN says. It must be an addition by FISCHART. BODIN says clearly that witches and magicians do kill animals and inflict harm on humans by magic. They may use natural means (plants, fluids, whatever), but always in a magic context and through a contract with the devil, always by “incantatio” or “invocatio” – he cites the authoritative passages from Thomas Aquinas about this, so is absolutely based on the catholic teachings about the whole matter.
    So the witch or the magician puts the “pulver” in a sheep barn for a certain purpose, after invocations – and only God’s help will prevent the evil (“sonderlich bewaret”). If the run-of-the-mill wurmkrämer uses it, it should do no harm to sheep, cattle or humans – simply because he has not the intention to kill the animals and because he has no contact to the Satanic majesty. And in parenthesis (I think FISCHART, the translator’s addendum) the author says, “but the peddlars can produce rat-poison from a plant”. But this is no magic, but simple plant-knowledge, no devil involved, hopefully.
    BODIN has to condemn all these magical books that are said to have their origin in Salomon, they must have been around in the 15th, 16th & 17th century, because they give instructions. So he must condemn all what is attributed to this “Zauberer” Salomon, hence he says that it is a terrible error to think that a simple ring* hold to a possessed one’s nose would do the trick, and, even worse, that something like a plant is involved charged with Salomon’s magic, for everyone to repeat – and – überhaupt ! – that all this would go back to Salomon, the biblical king. But its okay to use the wurmkrämers rat-poison, dear Hmmmm …, as long as it’s magic-free.

    * Wonder what he’d had to say about the cramp-rings of the English & French kings then ?

    They may use it to de-worm, IDV ?

    Elephant & Castle – isn’t this the name of a pub ? I looked at the pictures of the mäußzwibel and thought it would be like something resting on the window sill, I learned that this is a “Hyacinthe”. As long as we make no tea from it, it will all be well, dearest Scarlet.

  4. HalloMago! Thanks for extending my bootless knowledge! I read your answer this weekend but was bedridden .. Kind of too miserable to comment. Most interesting read indeed!
    I think he might have liked the krampfringe. But they did have to be blessed.

  5. Oh I am sorry to hear that you had to stay in bed Foam – I hope you feel better today. I feel a nasty cold coming on with running nose & headaches – one should be able to go South through the winter.
    Oh yes, “Holy Krampfring” as they say in Lautre !
    I think Kantorowicz was the first to speak about this in “The King’s Two Bodies”.

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