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According to what Osthanes tells us, there are numerous sorts of magic. It is practised1 with water, for instance, with balls, by the aid of the air, of the stars, of lamps, basins, hatchets, and numerous other appliances; means by which it engages to grant a foreknowledge of things to come, as well as converse with ghosts and spirits of the dead. All these practices, however, have been proved by the Emperor Nero, in our own day, to be so many false and chimærical illusions; entertaining as he did a passion for the magic art, unsurpassed even by his enthusiastic love for the music of the lyre, and for the songs of tragedy; so strangely did his elevation to the highest point of human fortune act upon the deep-seated vices of his mind! It was his leading desire to command the gods of heaven, and no aspiration could he conceive more noble than this. Never did person lavish more favours upon any one of the arts; and for the attainment of this, his favourite object, nothing was wanting to him, neither riches, nor power, nor aptitude at learning, and what not besides, at the expense of a suffering world.

It is a boundless, an indubitable proof, I say, of the utter falsity of this art, that such a man as Nero abandoned it; and would to heaven that he had consulted the shades below, and any other spirits as well, in order to be certified in his suspicions, rather than commissioned the denizens of stews and brothels to make those inquisitions of his [with reference to the objects of his jealousy]. For assuredly there can be no superstition, however barbarous and ferocious the rites which it sanctions, that is not more tolerant than the imaginations which he conceived, and owing to which, by a series of bloodstained crimes, our abodes were peopled with ghosts.

1 These kinds of divination, rather than magic, were called hydromancy, sphæromancy, aëromancy, astromancy, lychnomancy, lecanomancy, and axinomancy. See Rabelais, B. iii. c. 25, where a very full account is given of the Magic Art, as practised by the ancients. Coffee-grounds, glair of eggs, and rose-leaves, are still used in France for purposes of divination by the superstitious.

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