Thursday, May 12, 2016


A Posset for the Possessed

Johannes Busch (1399-1479), Liber de Reformatione Monasteriorum 3.21, tr. G.G. Coulton, Life in the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1919), pp. 231-232:
Once as I went from Halle to Calbe, a man who was ploughing ran forth from the field and said that his wife was possessed with a devil, beseeching me most instantly that I would enter his house (for it was not far from our way) and liberate her from this demon. At last, touched by his prayers, I granted his request, coming down from my chariot and following him to his house. When therefore I had looked into the woman's state, I found that she had many fantasies, for that she was wont to sleep and eat too little, whence she fell into feebleness of brain and thought herself possessed by a demon; yet there was no such thing in her case.

So I told her husband to see that she kept a good diet, that is, good meat and drink, especially in the evening when she would go to sleep; "for then" (said I) "when all her work is over, she should drink what is called in the vulgar tongue een warme iaute, that is a quart of hot ale, as hot as she can stand, without bread but with a little butter of the bigness of a hazel-nut. And when she hath drunken it to the end, let her go forthwith to bed; thus will she soon get a whole brain again."
The Latin original, from Des Augustinerpropstes Iohannes Busch Chronicon Windeshemense und Liber de Reformatione Monasteriorum, ed. Karl Grube (Halle: Otto Hendel, 1886), pp. 701-702:
Ambulans semel per viam de Hallis usque Calvis, accurrit ad me de agro vir quidam arans, dicens mulierem suam demone obsessam, instantissime petens, ut domum eius intrarem non longe a via nostra positum et eam a demonio liberarem. Cuius precibus compassus tandem placito acquievi et secum in domum suam, descendens de curru, introivi. Cumque mulierem de statu suo examinassem, inveni eam multas habere fantasias, eo quod parum dormire et parum comedere consuevit, unde et capitis debilitatem incurrebat et se demone obsessam existimavit, quod tamen verum minime fuit.

Dixi ergo viro suo, ut provideret ei bonam dietam servandam, scilicet bene comedere et potare, presertim vesperi, quando vellet ire dormitum, quod tunc post omnia opera sua expleta biberet, ut vulgo dicitur "een warme iaute", hoc est quarta calide cerevisie, sicut posset sustinere, sine pane cum modico butiro in quantitate nucis avelane. "Qua exhausta statim vadat dormitum, ita cito capitis sui sanitatem recuperabit."

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