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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

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Charlton, Thomas (2)
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(לָחִשׁ, lachash´, to whisper, as enchanters). In Psalms 58:5; Jeremiah 8:17; Ecclesiastes 10:11 ("enchantment"), this word is used to express serpent-charming. In the first of these passages it occurs in connection with חֶבֶר (che´ ber, strictly a confederacy, i.e. with spirits of the other world), which is rendered in the same manner, and has a similar meaning. In other passages, although still rendered "charm," both words, as is the case also with other terms, signify ordinary necromancy or conjuration. That the most venomous reptiles might be rendered tame and harmless by certain charms, or soft and sweet sounds, and trained to delight in music, was an opinion which prevailed very early and universally (see Bochart, Hieroz. I, 3, cap. 6). Virgil speaks of it particularly (AEn. 7:750); so also Lucan (Pharsalia). (See SERPENT). The most famous serpent-charmers of antiquity were the Psylli, a people of Cyrenaica; and that theirs was relieved to be a natural power appears from the story old by Pliny, that they were accustomed to try the legitimacy of their new-born children by exposing them to the most cruel and venomous serpents, which dared not molest or even approach them unless they were illegitimate. He thinks their power resided in some peculiar odor in their persons which the serpents abhorred (Nat. Hist. lib. 7, 100:2). Shaw, Bruce, and indeed all travelers who have been in the Levant, speak of the charming of serpents as a thing frequently seen (see especially Thomson, Land and Book, 2:216, 233). The much-dreaded Cobra di Capello, or good Serpent of the Hindoos, is capable of being tamed; and the Malabar jugglers have the art of teaching them to dance to the inharmonious and slow notes of their flageolet. The serpent first seems astonished, then begins to rear himself, and sometimes, by a gentle undulatory motion of the head, and with distended hood, seems to listen with pleasure to the notes. These dancing snakes are carried about in baskets by the jugglers all over India, and Mr. Forbes states it as a well- attested fact that when a house is infested with these snakes, and some others of the Coluber genus, which destroy poultry, or with some even of the larger serpents of the boa tribe, the musicians are sent for, who charm the reptiles from their hiding-places to their own destruction (Oriental Memoirs). It is often said that the charmer introduces his tame serpents, and that they obey the accustomed call, and are exhibited in proof of the triumph of the charmer's art. This may sometimes be the case, but instances are known in which: there could not have been any collusion or contrivance; and, after the severest test and scrutiny, many have been obliged to rest in the conclusion that the charmers do really possess the physical means of discovering the presence of serpents without seeing them, and of attracting them from their lurking-places. This is Mr. Lane's conclusion, who also suspects that they discover the presence of serpents by the smell, and compares their attractive powers to those of the fowler, who, by the fascination of his voice, allures the bird into his net (Modern Egyptians). The deaf-adder or asp may either be a serpent of a species naturally deaf (for such kinds are mentioned by Avicenna as quoted by Bochart), or on account of its appearing to be so. In either case, in the language of poetry, it may be said to stop its ear, from its being proof against all the efforts of the charmer (Un. Presb. Quart. Review, July, 1860). (See DIVINATION); (See MAGICIAN).

In modern usage the word charm (Lat carmen, a song) denotes a spell, ill a form of words, generally in verse, supposed to possess, when recited, some occult power, either hurtful or beneficial. When written on paper or parchment, and worn on the person, charms are to be classed with amulets (q.v.). (See INCANTATION); (See MAGIC).

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Charm'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​c/charm.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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