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The Sources:

Johann Heinrich Zedler (ed.) :
"Großes vollständiges Universal-Lexicon aller Wissendschaften und Künste" vol.44
Verlag Joh. Heinrich Zedler, Leipzig & Halle, 1745


The Cases:

I first found this in Zedler's magnificent 64 volume Universal-Lexicon. This is what he has to say:

"Cornelius Agrippa will in den Cretensischen Jahrbüchern gefunden haben, daß auf dieser Insel die Seelen der Verstorbenenm welche man Catechanas genennet, offters wiedergekommen, sich zu ihren Weibern verfügt, und mit ihnen das eheliche Werck getrieben hätten. Damit aber solchem Unheil gesteuert würde, hätte man in den Gesetzen verordnet, den Cörpern der Wiederkom occultamenden einen Pfahl durchs Hertz zu schlagen, und sie gar zu verbrennen."

This more or less translates into:

Cornelius Agrippa seems to have found in the Annals of Crete that on this island the souls of the dead which are called Catechanas, often return, sleep with their wives and do what married people are supposed to do. To put an end to such misery they have made a law to put a stake through the heart of the returning dead and burn them.

Now this Cornelius Agrippa is of course no one less than Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim who wrote the "De occulta philosophia" [1533]. So I was curious to see if Zedler had given me the right quotation. I should not have worried for this is what Agrippa wrote:

"Legimus etiam in Cretensium annalibus, manes quas ipsi Catechanas vocant, in corpora remeare solitos et ad relictas uxores ingredi, libidinemque perficere; ad quod evitandum et quo amplius uxores non infestent, legibus municipalibus cautum est, surgentium cor clavo transfigere, totumque cadaver exurere."

The Date:

No date is given, but we do know the date of Agrippa's book. And although my own copy is an edition from 1551, we know that the first edition of the book dates back to 1533. So we can file this case as "before 1533".

The Place:

No need to tell you that Crete is the largest Greek island and can be found South of Athens. The greek call it Kriti, and Kreta is another name that you will often see.

Possible Follow-Up:

Zedler's "Universal-Lexicon" is a brilliant source of information for the early 17th Century and earlier than that. Go check it out. And never forget to check the original sources, just like I did.

© 2012 by Rob Brautigam - NL - Last changed January 2012

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