The Works of Aristotle - OF A MOLE, OR FALSE CONCEPTION; AND OF MONSTERS, AND MONSTROUS BIRTHS, WITH THE REASON THEREOF.

OF A MOLE, OR FALSE CONCEPTION; AND OF MONSTERS, AND MONSTROUS BIRTHS, WITH THE REASON THEREOF.

 

SECT. I. Of a Mole, or False Conception.

A MOLE or false conception is nothing else but a mass or great lump of flesh burdening the womb. It is an inarticulate piece of flesh without any form, and therefore, differs from monsters, which are both formata and articulata: and then it is said not to be a conception, but a false one; which puts a difference between a true conception and a mole; and the difference holds good three different ways: First, in the genus, because a mole cannot be said to be an animal. Secondly, it differs in species, because it hath no human figure, and bears not the character of a man. Thirdly, it differs in the individuum, for it hath no affinity with the parts of that in the whole body, or any particles of the same.

There are variety of judgments among authors about the producing cause of this effect, some affirming that it is produced by the woman's seed going into the womb without a man's; but because we have before proved that women have properly no seed at all, but only an Ovalium, which is fúcundated by the active principle of the man's seed, this opinion needs no confutation. Others say it is engendered of the menstruous blood; but should this be granted, it would follow that maids, by having their courses stopped, might be subject to the same, which never any yet were. The true cause of this carnous conception, which we call a Mole, proceeds both from the man and woman, from corrupt and barren seed in the man, and from the menstruous blood in the woman , both mixed together in the cavity of the womb; and nature, finding herself weak (yet desirous of maintaining the perpetuity of her species) labours to bring forth a vicious conception rather than none; and not being able to bring forth a living creature, generates a piece of flesh.

This imperfect conception may be known to be such by the following signs. The monthly courses are suppressed, the belly is puffed up and also waxed hard, the breath smells, and the appetite is depraved. But you will say, these are signs of a breeding Woman in true conception, and therefore these cannot distinguish a mole. To this I answer, Though thus they agree, yet they are different in several respects: for a mole may be felt in the womb before the third month, which an infant cannot: nor in the motion of the mole the effects of a sensitive power therein, but only caused by the faculty of the womb, and of the seminal spirit diffused through the substance of a mole; for though it has no animal, yet it has a vegetable life; and then the belly is suddenly swelled where there is a mole. In true conception the belly is first contracted and then riseth gradually. Another difference is, the belly being pressed with the hand, the mole gives way, and the hand being taken away it returns to the place again: but a child in the womb, though pressed with the hand, moves not presently, and being removed, returns not at all, or at least very slowly. But, (to name no more) another very material difference is, that a child continues not in the womb above eleven months at most; but a mole sometimes continues for four or five years, sometimes more and sometimes less, according to its being fastened to the matrix: for sometimes it has so fallen out that the mole falls away in four or five months; and if it remains until the eleventh month, the legs are feeble, and the whole body appears in a wasting condition, or the belly swells bigger and bigger, which is the reason that some who are thus afflicted think they are hydroptical, though it be no such thing; which a woman easily knows, if she will but consider that in a dropsy the legs will swell and grow big; in cases of a male they consume and wither. This distemper is an enemy to true conception, and of dangerous consequence; for a woman that breeds a mole is every way more inconvenienced than a woman that is with child, and all the while she keeps it she lives in danger of her life.

The cure of this distemper consists chiefly in expelling it as soon as may be; for the longer it is kept the worse it is: and this many times cannot be affected without manual operation; but that being the last remedy, all other means ought to be first used. Amongst which, Phlebotomy ought not to be omitted; for seeing letting of blood causeth Abortion, by reason it takes away that nourishment. that should sustain the life of the child, why may not this vicious conception be by the same means deprived of that vegetative sap by which it lives? To which end open the liver vein, and then the Saphena in both feet; fasten the cupping glasses to the loins and sides of the belly: which done, let the urinary part be first mollified, and the expulsive faculty be provoked to expel the burden. And to loosen the ligatures of the mole, take mallows with roots, three handfuls; pelitory, camomile, violet leaves, melilot roots, of fennel, parsley, mercury, of each two handfuls; fenugreek and linseed, of each One pound: boil them in water and make a bath thereof, and let her sit therein up to the navel. At her going out of the bath let her reins and privities be anointed with this unguent: take ammoniac, laudani, fresh butter of each an ounce: and with oil of linseed make an ointment; or instead of this may be used unguentum agrippæ or dialthæ. Also take aq. bryon. composit., roots of althæ and mercury, of each a handful: linseed and barley meal, of each six ounces; boil all these with water and honey, and make a plaster: and the ligaments of the mole being thus loosened, let the expulsive faculty be stirred up to expel the mole: for the effecting of which all those medicaments are very proper which bring down the courses. Therefore take savine, madder, valerian, horehound, sage, hyssop, betony, pennyroyal, calamint, hypericon, and with water make a decoction, and give three ounces of it with an ounce and a half of syrup of featherfew. But if these remedies prove not available, then must the mole be drawn away by manual operation, in the manner following: let the operator (having placed the woman in a proper posture, as has been directed in cases of unnatural labour) slide his hand into the womb, and with it draw forth the mole; but if it be grown so big that it cannot be drawn away whole (which is very rare, because it is a soft tender body, and much more pliable than a child), let the operator bring it away by parts, by using a crochet or knife, if it cannot be done otherwise. And if the operator finds it is joined and fastened to the womb, he must gently separate it with his finger ends, his nails being pared, putting them by little and little between the mole and the womb; beginning on the side where it does stick fast, and so pursue it till it be quite loosened, taking great care if it grows too fast not to rend or hurt the proper substance of the womb, proceeding as in the case of an after-burden, that stays behind the womb when the string is broken off: but a mole has never any string fastened to it, nor any burden, from when it should receive any nourishment, but does of itself immediately draw it from the vessels of the womb. And thus much shall suffice to be said concerning a mole: of which I have shown the cause, the signs, and the cure.

 

SECT. II: Of Monsters, and monstrous Births.

MONSTERS are properly depraved conceptions, and are deemed by the ancients to be excursions of nature, and are always vicious either by figure, situation, magnitude, or number.

They are vicious in Figure, when a man bears the character of a beast; they are vicious in magnitude, when the parts are not equal, or that one part is bigger than the other; and this is a thing very common, by reason of some excrescence. They are vicious in situation many ways, as if the ears were on the face, or the eyes on the breasts or on the legs, as were seen in a monster born at Ravenna, in Italy, in the year 1570. And lastly, they are, vicious in number when a man hath two heads, four hands, and two bodies joined, which was the case of the monster born at Zarzara, in the year 1550.

As to the cause of their generation, it is either divine or natural. The divine cause proceeds from the permissive will of the great author of our being suffering parents to bring forth such deformed monsters, as a punishment for their filthy and corrupt affections, which is let loose unto wickedness, like brute beasts that have no understanding: for which reason the ancient Romans enacted, that those who were deformed should not be put into religious houses.

<Illustration: A boy with wings instead of arms>

And St. Jerome, in his time, grieved to see the deformed and lame offered up to God in religious houses; and Kecherman, by way of inference, excluded all that were misshapen, because deformity of body is often a sign of the pollution of the heart, as a curse laid upon the child for the incontinency of the parents. Yet there are many born depraved, which ought not to be ascribed to the infirmity of the parents. Let us therefore search out the natural cause of their generation, which, according to the ancients, who dived into the secrets of nature, is either in the matter or the agent, in the seed, or in the womb. The matter may be in fault two ways, by defect or by excess. By defect when the child hath but one arm or leg, etc.; by excess, when it has three hands or two heads. Some monsters are also begotten by women's bestial and unnatural coition, as in the year 1608 there was a monster begotten by a woman's generating with a dog.

<Illustration: A woman with the legs and tail of a dog>

The agent or womb may be in fault three ways: First, in the forming faculty, which may be too strong or too weak, by which a depraved figure is sometimes produced. Secondly, the instrument, or place of conception; the evil confirmation, or evil disposition whereof will cause a monstrous birth. And thirdly, the imaginative power at the time of conception, which is of such force that it stamps a character of the imagined upon the child so that the child, or the children of an adulteress, by the mother's imaginative power, may have the nearest resemblance to her own husband, though begotten by any other man. And through this power of imaginative faculty it was that a woman, at the time of conception, beholding the picture of a black-a-moor, conceived and brought forth a child, resembling an Ethiopian. And that this power of the imagination was well enough known to the ancients, is evident by the example of Jacob, the father of the twelve tribes of israel, who having agreed with his father-in-law to have all the spotted sheep for the keeping of his flock, to increase his wages took hazel rods, peeling them with white streaks in them, and laid them before the sheep when they came to drink, and they coupling together, whilst they beheld the rods, conceived and brought forth spotted young. Nor does the imagination work on the child at the time of the conception only, but afterwards also, as was seen in the example of a worthy gentlewoman, who being big with child, and passing by a butcher killing meat, a drop of blood spurted on her face; whereupon she presently said that the child would have some blemish on his face which proved true, for at the birth it was found marked with a red spot.

But besides the way mentioned, monsters are sometimes produced by other means; to wit, by the undue coition of a man and his wife when her monthly flowings are upon her; which being a thing against nature, no wonder that it should produce an unnatural issue. If, therefore, a man's desire be ever so great for coition (as sometimes it is after long absence) yet if a woman knows that the custom of women is upon her, she ought not to admit of any embraces, which at that time are both unclean and unnatural. The issue of these unclean embraces proving often monstrous, as a just punishment for such turpidinous action. Or if they should not always produce monstrous births, yet are dull, heavy, sluggish, and defective in the understanding, wanting the vivacity and liveliness which those children who are begotten when women are free from their courses are endued with.

There has been some contending among authors, to know whether those who are born monsters have reasonable souls, some affirming and others denying it; the result of both sides at last coming to this, that those who, according to the order of nature, are descended from our first parents by the coition of a man or woman, though their outward shape be deformed and monstrous, have notwithstanding reasonable souls; by those monsters that are not begotten by man, but are the product of a woman's unnatural lust, and copulating with other creatures, shall perish as the brute beasts by whom they were begotten, not having a reasonable soul. The same being also true of imperfect and abortive births. There are some of opinion that monsters may be engendered by infernal spirits; but notwithstanding Ægidius Faoius pretended to believe it with respect to a deformed monster, barn at Cracovia; and Hieronimus Carmanus writeth of a maid that was got with child by the devil. Being of a wicked spirit, and not capable of having human seed, how is it possible he should beget a human creature? If they say that the devil may assume to himself a dead body, and enliven the faculties of it and thereby make it able to generate, I answer, that though we suppose this could be done, which I believe not, yet that body must bear the image of the devil, and it borders upon blasphemy to think that the all-wise and good Being would so far give way to the worst of spirits as to suffer him to raise up his diabolical offspring: for in the school of nature we are taught the contrary: that like begets like; whence it follows that a man can not be born a devil.

The first I shall present is a most frightful monster indeed, representing an hairy child. It was covered over with hair like a beast. That which rendered it yet more frightful was, that its navel was in the place where its nose should stand, and his eyes placed where his mouth should have been, and its month was in the chin. It of the male kind, and born in France in the year 1597. Thus:

<Illustration: the hairy child>

A boy was born in Germany with one head and one body, but having four ears, four arms, four thighs, four legs, and four feet. This birth the learned, who beheld it, judged to proceed from the redundance of the seed; but there not being enough for twins nature formed what she could, and so made the most of it. This child lived some years, and though he had four feet, he knew not how to go; by which we may see the wisdom of nature, rather the good of nature, in the formation of the body of man.

<Illustration>

In the time of Henry III. a woman was delivered of child, having two heads and four arms, and the rest was a twin under the navel: and then beneath all the rest was single, as appears in the figure.

<Illustration>

The heads were so placed that they looked contrary ways, and each had two distinct arms and hands: they would both laugh, both speak, and both cry, and eat and be hungry together. Sometimes the one would speak, and the other would keep silence, and sometimes both would speak together. It was of the female sex, and though it had two mouths, and did eat with both, yet there was but one fundament to disburden nature. It lived several years, but the one outlived the other three years, carrying the dead one (for there was no parting them), till the other fainted with the burden, and more with the stink of the dead carcase.

A child was born in Flanders which had two heads and four arms, seeming like two girls joined together, having two of their arms lifted up between and above their heads;

<Illustration>

the thighs being placed as it were cross one another, according to the figure. How long they lived I had no account of.

By this figure

<Illustration: A man with no arms holding a stick with his foot>

you will see that although the arms are missing yet they are supplied by other members.

Nature to us sometimes does Monsters show,
That we by them may our own mercies know;
And thereby sin's deformity may see
Than which there's nothing can more monstrous be.

 

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