“The Britain of today,” asserted Pliny back in the first century, “performs the rites of magic in manic fashion.” Given the piles of plastic Halloween tat in the shops here, it’s hard to see that much has changed.
I’m normally as cynical as Pliny about this sort of thing, but at four o’clock this morning, all alone in a dim and silent Downie Towers, I turned to find that the wardrobe and book-case had silently slid themselves along the wall to block the bedroom door.
Unable to find a rational explanation for this, and surprised by how calm I was, I thought, So it really is true about poltergeists after all. Then as I watched, the blanket draped over the book-case lifted. A batch of ring-binder files floated out from beneath it and turned in mid-air, ready to place itself on a different shelf.
“#*@/$!*” I shrieked, not so calm now, and woke myself up.
I’m pretty sure Dr Freud would say it was something to do with reading this:
…combined with frenzied bouts of furniture-shifting as we finally face redecorating a house crammed with too many books and papers. But in the middle of the night it is hard to think rationally.
The book—in the daytime, at least—is a fascinating source of ancient texts. It includes the earliest version of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice and tales of Pythagoras, who was not only good at geometry but could also appear in two places at once. That’s something they never told us at school.
Pliny, despite his scorn for “the empty craft of the mages,” goes on to list dozens of their supposedly medicinal uses for the hyena. If you have a recently-deceased hyena to hand, and you caught it while the moon was traversing the constellation of Gemini, here’s a remedy you might want to try:
“Their most emphatic recommendation is the use of the end part of the intestinal tube against the unfair behaviour of leaders and rulers.”
Meanwhile, in view of the date, you might also want to remove one its larger teeth and tie it to yourself before darkness falls. “It is said to be helpful against the terrors of the night and the fear of ghosts.”