Spirits that keep Watch over Treasure

[This is taken from Augustine Calmet's Phantom World, originally published in 1850, revised and edited by D. J. McAdam, 2010.  Copyright as such.]

Everybody acknowledges that there is an infinity of riches buried in the earth, or lost under the waters by shipwrecks; they fancy that the demon, whom they look upon as the god of riches, the god Mammon, the Pluto of the pagans, is the depositary, or at least the guardian, of these treasures. He said to Jesus Christ, when he tempted him in the wilderness, showing to him all the kingdoms of the earth, and their glory: "All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me." We know also that the ancients very often interred vast treasures in the tombs of the dead; either that the dead might make use of them in the other world, or that their souls might keep guard over them in those gloomy places. Job seems to make allusion to this ancient custom, when he says, "Would to God I had never been born: I should now sleep with the kings and great ones of the earth, who built themselves solitary places; like unto those who seek for treasure, and are rejoiced when they find a tomb;" doubtless because they hope to find great riches therein.

There were very precious things in the tomb of Cyrus. Semiramis caused to be engraved on her own mausoleum that it contained great riches. Josephus relates that Solomon placed great treasures in the tomb of David his father; and that the High-Priest Hyrcanus, being besieged in Jerusalem by King Antiochus, took thence three thousand talents. He says, moreover, that years after, Herod the Great having caused this tomb to be searched, took from it large sums. We see several laws against those who violate sepulchers to take out of them the precious things they contain. The Emperor Marcianus forbade that riches should be hidden in tombs. If such things have been placed in the mausoleums of worthy and holy persons, and if they have been discovered through the revelation of the good spirits of persons who died in the faith and grace of God, we cannot conclude from those things that all hidden treasures are in the power of the demon, and that he alone knows anything of them; the good angels know of them; and the saints may be much more faithful guardians of them than the demons, who usually have no power to enrich, or to deliver from the horrors of poverty, from punishment and death itself, those who yield themselves to them in order to receive some reward from them.

Melancthon relates that the demon informed a priest where a treasure was hid; the priest, accompanied by one of his friends, went to the spot indicated; they saw there a black dog lying on a chest. The priest, having entered to take out the treasure, was crushed and smothered under the ruins of the cavern.

M. Remy, in his Demonology, speaks of several persons whose causes he had heard in his quality of Lieutenant-General of Lorraine, at the time when that country swarmed with wizards and witches; those amongst them who believed they had received money from the demon, found nothing in their purses but bits of broken pots, coals, or leaves of trees, or other things equally vile and contemptible.

The Reverend Father Abram, a Jesuit, in his manuscript History of the University of Pont à Mousson, reports that a youth of good family, but small fortune, placed himself at first to serve in the army among the valets and serving men: from thence his parents sent him to school, but not liking the subjection which study requires, he quitted the school and returned to his former kind of life. On his way he met a man dressed in a silk coat, but ill-looking, dark, and hideous, who asked him where he was going to, and why he looked so sad: "I am able to set you at your ease," said this man to him, "if you will give yourself to me."

The young man, believing that he wished to engage him as a servant, asked for time to reflect upon it; but beginning to mistrust the magnificent promises which he made him, he looked at him more narrowly, and having remarked that his left foot was divided like that of an ox, he was seized with affright, made the sign of the cross, and called on the name of Jesus, when the specter directly disappeared.

Three days after, the same figure appeared to him again, and asked him if he had made up his mind; the young man replied that he did not want a master. The specter said to him, "Where are you going?" "I am going to such a town," replied he. At that moment the demon threw at his feet a purse which chinked, and which he found filled with thirty or forty Flemish crowns, amongst which were about twelve which appeared to be gold, newly coined, and as if from the stamps of the coiner. In the same purse was a powder, which the specter said was of a very subtle quality.

At the same time, he gave him abominable counsels to satisfy the most shameful passions; and exhorted him to renounce the use of holy water, and the adoration of the host—which he called in derision that little cake. The boy was horrified at these proposals, and made the sign of the cross on his heart; and at the same time he felt himself thrown roughly down on the ground, where he remained for half an hour, half dead. Having got up again, he returned home to his mother, did penance, and changed his conduct. The pieces of money which looked like gold and newly coined, having been put in the fire, were found to be only of copper.

I relate this instance to show that the demon seeks only to deceive and corrupt even those to whom he makes the most specious promises, and to whom he seems to give great riches.

Some years ago, two monks, both of them well informed and prudent men, consulted me upon a circumstance which occurred at Orbé, a village of Alsatia, near the Abbey of Pairis. Two men of that place told them that they had seen come out of the ground a small box or casket, which they supposed was full of money, and having a wish to lay hold of it, it had retreated from them and hidden itself again under ground. This happened to them more than once.

Theophanes, a celebrated and grave Greek historiographer, under the year of our era 408, relates that Cabades, King of Persia, being informed that between the Indian country and Persia there was a castle called Zubdadeyer, which contained a great quantity of gold, silver, and precious stones, resolved to make himself master of it; but these treasures were guarded by demons, who would not permit any one to approach it. He employed some of the magi and some Jews who were with him to conjure and exorcise them; but their efforts were useless. The king bethought himself of the God of the Christians—prayed to him, and sent for the bishop who was at the head of the Christian church in Persia, and begged of him to use his efforts to obtain for him these treasures, and to expel the demons by whom they were guarded. The prelate offered the holy sacrifice, participated in it, and going to the spot, drove away the demons who were guardians of these riches, and put the king in peaceable possession of the castle.

Relating this story to a man of some rank, he told me, that in the Isle of Malta, two knights having hired a slave, who boasted that he possessed the secret of evoking demons, and forcing them to discover the most hidden secrets, they led him into an old castle, where it was thought that treasures were concealed. The slave performed his evocations, and at last the demon opened a rock whence issued a coffer. The slave would have taken hold of it, but the coffer went back into the rock. This occurred more than once; and the slave, after vain efforts, came and told the knights what had happened to him; but he was so much exhausted that he had need of some restorative; they gave him refreshment, and when he had returned they after a while heard a noise. They went into the cave with a light, to see what had happened, and they found the slave lying dead, and all his flesh full of cuts as of a penknife, in form of a cross; he was so covered with them that there was not room to place a finger where he was not thus marked. The knights carried him to the shore, and threw him into the sea with a great stone hung round his neck. We could name these persons and note the dates, were it necessary.

The same person related to us, at that same time, that about ninety years before, an old woman of Malta was warned by a genius that there was a great deal of treasure in her cellar, belonging to a knight of high consideration, and desired her to give him information of it; she went to his abode, but could not obtain an audience. The following night the same genius returned, and gave her the same command; and as she refused to obey, he abused her, and again sent her on the same errand. The next day she returned to seek this lord, and told the domestics that she would not go away until she had spoken to the master. She related what had happened to her; and the knight resolved to go to her dwelling, accompanied by people with the proper instruments for digging; they dug, and very shortly there sprung up such a quantity of water from the spot where they inserted their pickaxes that they were obliged to give up the undertaking.

The knight confessed to the Inquisitor what he had done, and received absolution for it; but he was obliged to inscribe the fact we have recounted in the Registers of the Inquisition.

About sixty years after, the canons of the Cathedral of Malta, wishing for a wider space before their church, bought some houses which it was necessary to pull down, and amongst others that which had belonged to that old woman. As they were digging there, they found the treasure, consisting of a good many gold pieces of the value of a ducat, bearing the effigy of the Emperor Justinian the First. The Grand Master of the Order of Malta affirmed that the treasure belonged to him as sovereign of the isle; the canons contested the point. The affair was carried to Rome; the grand master gained his suit, and the gold was brought to him, amounting in value to about sixty thousand ducats; but he gave them up to the cathedral.

Some time afterwards, the knight of whom we have spoken, who was then very aged, remembered what had happened to himself, and asserted that the treasure ought to belong to him; he made them lead him to the spot, recognized the cellar where he had formerly been, and pointed out in the Register of the Inquisition what had been written therein sixty years before. They did not permit him to recover the treasure; but it was a proof that the demon knew of and kept watch over this money. The person who told me this story has in his possession three or four of these gold pieces, having bought them of the canons.

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