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Sexual Demons

There were personages connected with the worship of Priapus who appear to have been common to the Romans under and before the empire, and to the foreign races who settled upon its ruins. The Teutonic race believed in a spiritual being who inhabited the woods, and who was called in old German scrat. His character was more general than that of a mere habitant of the woods, for it answered to the English hobgoblin, or to the Irish cluricaune. The scrat was the spirit of the woods, under which character he was sometimes called a waltscrat, and of the fields, and also of the household, the domestic spirit, the ghost haunting the house. His image was probably looked upon as an amulet, a protection to the house,

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as an old German vocabulary of the year 1482, explains schrætlin, little scrats, by the Latin word penates. The lascivious character of this spirit, if it wanted more direct evidence, is implied by the fact that fcritta, in Anglo-Saxon, and scrat, in old English, meant a hermaphrodite. Accordingly, the mediæval vocabularies explain scrat by Latin equivalents, which all indicate companions or emanations of Priapus, and in fact, Priapus himself. Isidore gives the name of Pilosi, or hairy men, and tells us that they were called in Greek, Panitæ (apparently an error for Ephialtæ), and in Latin, Incubi and Inibi, the latter word derived from the verb inire, and applied to them on account of their intercourse with animals. They were in fact the fauns and satyrs of antiquity, haunted like them the wild woods, and were characterized by the same petulance towards the other sex. Woe to the modesty of maiden or woman who ventured incautiously into their haunts. As Incubi, they visited the house by night, and violated the persons of the females, and some of the most celebrated heroes of early mediæval romances, such as Merlin, were thus the children of incubi. They were known at an early period in Gaul by the name of Dusii, from which, as the church taught that all these mythic personages were devils, we derive our modern word Deuce, used in such

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phrases as "the Deuce take you!" The term ficarii was also applied to them in mediæval Latin, either from the meaning of the word ficus, mentioned before, 59 or because they were fond of figs. Most of these Latin synonyms are given in the Anglo-Saxon vocabulary of Alfric, and are interpreted as meaning "evil men, spirits of the woods, evil beings." One of the old commentators on the Scriptures describes these spirits of the woods as "monsters in the semblance of men, whose form begins with the human shape and ends in the extremity of a beast." They were, in fact, half man, half goat, and were identical with a class of hobgoblins, who at a rather later period were well known in England by the popular name of Robin Goodfellows, whose Priapic character is sufficiently proved by the pictures of them attached to some of our early printed ballads, of which we give facsimiles. The first  60 is a figure of Robin Goodfellow, which forms the illustration to a very popular ballad of the earlier part of the seventeenth century, entitled "The mad merry Pranks of Robin Goodfellow;" he is represented party-coloured, and with the priapic attribute. The next  61 is a second illustration

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of the same ballad, in which Robin Goodfellow is represented as Priapus, goat-shaped, with his attributes still more strongly pronounced, and surrounded by a circle of his worshippers dancing about him. He appears here in the character assumed by the demon at the sabbath of the witches, of which we shall have to speak a little further on. The Romish Church created great confusion in all these popular superstitions by considering the mythic persons with whom they were connected as so many devils; and one of these Priapic demons is figured in a cut which seems to have been a favorite one, and is often repeated as an illustration of the broadside ballads of the age of James I. and Charles I. 62 It is Priapus reduced to his lowest step of degradation.


76:59 See before, p. 70.

76:60 See Plate XII, Fig. 5. From a copy of the black-letter ballad in the library of the British Museum.

76:61 Plate XII, Fig. 2. From the same ballad.

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