Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/19

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Through their efforts Cardinal Richelieu, who appears to have had an old grudge against Grandier, sent a representative, Laubardemont, to make another investigation. Most frightful scenes were now enacted; the whole convent resounded more loudly than ever with shrieks, groans, howling, and cursing, until finally Grandier, though even in the agony of torture he refused to confess the crimes that his enemies suggested, was hanged and burned.

From this center the epidemic spread; multitudes of women and men were affected by it in various convents. Several of the great cities of the south and west of France came under the same influence; the "possession" went on for several years longer, and then gradually died out, though scattered cases have occurred from that day to this.[1]

A few years later we have an even more striking example among the French Protestants. The Huguenots, who had taken refuge in the mountains of the Cevennes to escape persecution, being pressed more and more by the cruelties of Louis XIV, began to show signs of a high degree of religious exaltation. Assembled for worship in wild and desert places, an epidemic broke out, ascribed by them to the Almighty, but by their opponents to Satan. Men, women, and children preached and prophesied. Large assemblies were seized with trembling. Some underwent the most terrible tortures without showing any signs of suffering. Marshal de Villiers, who was sent against them, declared that he saw a town in which all the women and girls, without exception, were possessed of the devil, and ran leaping and screaming through the streets.

Cases like this, inexplicable to the science of the time, gave renewed strength to the theological view.[2]

Toward the end of the same century similar manifestations began to appear on a large scale in America.

The life of the early colonists in New England was such as to give rapid growth to the germs of the doctrine of possession brought from the mother-country. Surrounded by the dark pine forests; having as their neighbors Indians, who were more than suspected of being children of Satan; harassed by wild beasts apparently sent by the powers of evil to torment the elect; with no varied literature to while away the long winter evenings; with few amusements save neighborhood quarrels; dwelling intently on every text of Scripture which supported their gloomy

  1. Among the many statements of Grandier's case, one of the best in English may be found in Trollope's "Sketches from French History" (London, 1878). See also Bazin, "Louis XIII."
  2. See Bersot, "Mesmer et le Magnétisme animal" (third edition, Paris, 1864, pp. 95 et seq.).