The main purpose of our existence on earth aside from the sacred and paramount duty of securing our salvation is undoubtedly to make ourselves masters of the tangible world around us, as it stands revealed to our senses, and as it was expressly made subject to our will by the Creator. "We are, however, at the same time, not left without information about the existence of certain laws and the occurrence of certain phenomena, which belong to a world not accessible to us by means of our ordinary senses, and which yet affect seriously our intercourse with Nature and our personal welfare. This knowledge we obtain sometimes, by special favor, as direct revelation, and at other times, for reasons as yet unknown, at the expense of our health. If Hecate, the oldest patronessof witches, wandered about at night with a gruesome following, and frightened lovers at their stealthy meeting, or lonely wanderers on open heaths and in darkforests, her appearance was at least in keeping with the whole system of Greek mythology. Tacitus does not frighten us by telling us that witches used to meet at salt springs , nor the Edda when speaking of the "bearers of witches' kettles," against whomeven the Salic Law warns all good Christians. But when the Council of Ancyra, in the fifth century, fulminates its edicts against women riding at night upon weird animals in company with Diana and Herodias, the strange combination of names and the dread penalties threatened, make us almost think of witches as of real and most marvelous beings. By whatever means it may reach us, it cannot be rejected; to treat it with ridicule or to decline examining it, would be as unwise as unprofitable. The least that we can do is to ascertain the precise nature of these laws, and, after stripping these phenomena of all that can be proved to be merely incidental or delusive.
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