Saturday, February 18, 2012

Merda Variegata

Dr. S-----t, Human Ordure, Botanically Considered (London: F. Coggan, 1733), pp. 11-16:
[p. 11] The Third Class or Tribe are the Merdae variegatae, sive marmoratae, the Marbl'd or Strip'd Excrement; 'tis really diverting to see how Nature sports in the production of this kind of Faeces, as to the shape they may participate of the two former, but have not half the solidity or consistency; I have seen some white, bluish, and brown, others yellow, orange, and gray, and all in the same Excretion; these are [p. 12] properly the variegatae, but the marmoratae, tho' of the same Tribe, yet their distinguishing Characteristicks are different, for their variations chiefly depend on sanguiferous streaks, and specks, and lines of a different colour'd Choler or Bile, marbling as it were the Faeces: The former Species of this Tribe proceed either from Meats of different kinds or consistency eaten the same Day, or from Drinks of different colours, taken after, which generally tinge some parts of the Excrement with a colour some way or other analagous to what was originally taken in. (Claret-Drinkers always have costive dark reddish stools, and as costiveness was looked upon to be beneficial to Men in Years, upon this account 'twas ordered to old Men by * two of the greatest Philosophers of the Faculty in their Days. But this by the by.)

The latter Species of this Tribe proceeds either from overstraining, which occasions perhaps a Rupture of some minute intestinal Vessel, which spills its contents upon this kind of Faeces [p. 13] in streaks, or perhaps from a tincture of the Gaul in the intestinum Duodenum, or it may be from an accidental mixture of an Atra bilis with the Faeces in the circuit of the Guts; but happen as it will, I have been strangely diverted with the variety of Figures that those Maeandrous variegated streaks have produc'd; I have often fancy'd I have seen as whimsical Landskips as the hand of Art could possibly depict; at other times I have actually and distinctly read unintelligible words formed by those irregular party-coloured streaks, which makes me believe, 'twas by the assistance of those Species of Faeces that † Zid Benzool the famous Persian Soothsayer used to prophesy, and not only foretel the death of particular Personages, but also the fate of Cities, Provinces, Kingdoms, &c. There is a very authentick Tradition that says, this Zid Benzool foretold the death of the Governor of Susa, (Anno 1662) by some extraordinary Hieroglyphick he saw in his Excrement, three Days before he was [p. 14] killed by the random shot of an Arrow: This way of Divination, I think, bears some Analogy to that of the Ancients, who used to. prophesy by the Viscera or Entrails of Beasts, Birds, and Men after Death; and indeed the Divination by ‡ Ob or Pithonissa was only by Answers given from the Viscera, when in their proper situation, and the subject alive.

But why this way of Fortune-telling by Faeces has not been handed down to Posterity, and been better known amongst us, certainly must proceed from the uncleanness and filthiness of the Subject by which we are to form our predictions, tho' there is a method of Fortune-telling even amongst us now, that bears some resemblance to that of the Persians, practised mostly by a Sect of People calling themselves Aegyptians, or Gypsies, and that is, by the Faeces of Coffee, from thence calling themselves Coffee-Toffers, but. as 'tis now practised 'tis a meer Cheat.

[p. 15] I remember to have been told an odd Story of one * T------ S------ Esq; a Justice of the Peace in Devonshire, a Man of great Wealth and Immorality, who was remarkable for voiding always those Faeces Striatae, one Morning having occasion to ease Nature in a Field, and having done, died of an Apoplectick Fit before he had time to pull up his Breeches; his Friends missing him, after some search found him lying by his Faeces, and the Word CaVe, writ in the manner express'd, upon his Excrement in sanguineous Characters, and they that were Scholars in Company said, 'twas an admonition from Ob or the Lares of his Excrement, to take care he should be decently buried, seeing he was a remarkable Man in his Country: But my Author fancies this was a misinterpretation of the meaning of the Word, for 'twas designed no doubt (said he) for a Warning to the Gentleman himself; and he believed had his Excrements been inspected into before, the same Phaenomenon might have happened, and the Man [p. 16] might have either escaped or have been better prepared, had he fortunately looked about him; but this is but a conjecture. And indeed that very action of turning about to see what's voided, which most People do, (that have not the opportunity of modest neceslary Conveniencies) which I used to take to be nothing more than a natural Mechanical motion, I believe intirely proceeds from some confus'd Ideas or hints of this nature, scattered amongst Mankind.

[p. 12] * Hippocrates and Galen.

[p. 13] † Sid Benzool or Siddy, died at Ispahan Anno 1694. Some say be was burned at Amanzarifdin for Sorcery.

[p. 14] ‡ Vide Selden de diis Syris Symagmat. 2. Plutarch in Patin, &c.

[p. 15] * Vid. Verstegan de Terriculamentis, &c. page 102.

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