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'Occult Candles Made from Victims': Philadelphia Med Article, Nov. 1888

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  • 'Occult Candles Made from Victims': Philadelphia Med Article, Nov. 1888

    We've all heard the stories about how candles with special occult powers are supposedly made from human flesh. Some have even proposed this belief as a motive for murder.

    Such candles were sometimes called "Thieves' Candles" as they were believed to render a thief invisible. In other tales they would put prospective victims or witnesses to sleep so that crimes could be committed with impunity.

    I came across an 1888 article discussing this legend in light of the Whitechapel Murders so thought I'd share it.
    This was posted in the Philadelphia Polyclinic's journal in November of 1888.

    I believe I also have an excerpt somewhere from a c.1900 book on old folk-legends & mystic lore. I'll see if I can find out, because there was an interesting section on this strange folk-belief.

    Best regards, Archaic
    Attached Files

  • #2
    Hi Archaic,

    This article has occassionally been discussed alongside the D'Onston theory. D'Onston was into similar stuff.

    Yours truly,

    Tom Wescott

    Comment


    • #3
      Hi, Tom.

      I realize this topic has been discussed in regard to D'Onston.

      I thought this particular mention of "thieves candles" was interesting because it was published in a professional Medical Journal in November 1888, which frankly surprised me. It means that well-educated professional doctors were discussing this subject, not just cranks and crack-pots.

      Personally, I don't have any particular interest in the D'Onston angle, though I know others do.

      But I am very interested in what sort of rumors, theories, and ideas were in the air at the time of the Whitechapel Murders, and this article was published in November 1888, so I thought it was worth posting.

      Best regards, Archaic

      Comment


      • #4
        The Hull Daily Mail covered the story on October 3rd 1888, stating it had got the news from the Times.

        With the Echo publishing the following 9 October 1888

        A GERMAN SUPERSTITION

        A Vienna Correspondent calls attention, in connection with the Whitechapel murders, to a strange superstition among German thieves, which survives in some quarters even to the present day. In various German criminal codes of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as also in statutes of a more recent date, punishment are prescribed for the mutilation of female corpses, with the object of making from the uterus and other organs the so-called Diebslichler or Schlafslichter, respectively "thieves' candles" or "soporific candles." According to an old superstition, still rife in various parts of Germany, the light from such candles will throw those upon whom it falls into the deepest slumbers, and they may, consequently, become a valuable instrument to the thieving profession. Hence their name. At one time there was a regular manufactory of such candles. That this superstition has survived amongst German thieves to the present day was proved by a case tried at Biala, in Galicia, as recently as 1875. In this the body of a woman had been found mutilated in precisely the same way as were the victims of the Whitechapel murderer.


        Stephenson's theory was different, he claimed that the candles were used for the purpose of Black Magic Rituals.
        Stephenson had, however, mis-quoted Eliphas Levi, and Levi, who gave a source for this particular ritual, also mis-quoted his source.

        The original French version of Levi's Dogme et Ritual de Haute Magie refers to straining a concoction of herbs through a piece of linen that has been woven by a female prostitute. The word used for linen is “linge”.

        A.E.Waite’s, who had originally translated the text in 1886, writes
        “…a cloth woven by a female prostitute”.
        In translating “cloth” back into French, we get “tissu”.

        Hand's of Glory were popular among thieves in the 17th century and one is displayed in the Museum at Whitby, sadly, when we visited in summer we did not have the time to view this unique piece.
        Regards Mike

        Comment


        • #5
          I thought this particular mention of "thieves candles" was interesting because it was published in a professional Medical Journal in November 1888, which frankly surprised me. It means that well-educated professional doctors were discussing this subject, not just cranks and crack-pots.


          No, it does not mean that "well educated professional doctors were discussing this subject...." Nothing of the sort. It was a rebuttal to the theory that the crimes were of a Jewish ritual nature.

          The original article which appeared in the Times on October 17th, 1888, was a letter prepared by a Jewish member of the Reichsrath, Rabbi Josef Bloch...and not some meeting of medical men.

          Here is a copy ( without any additional bandwidth wasted I might add...) of der letter from Herr Bloch.

          Birmingham Daily Post (Birmingham, England)
          Wednesday, October 17, 1888



          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Howard Brown View Post
            No, it does not mean that "well educated professional doctors were discussing this subject...." Nothing of the sort. It was a rebuttal to the theory that the crimes were of a Jewish ritual nature.
            If the medical journal was "rebutting" something, that subject had obviously been "discussed" by the doctors who published the journal and was believed to be of interest to their fellow physicians.

            Comment


            • #7
              The journal wasn't rebutting anything...Dr. Bloch was. This article is just one example, as were many snippets of information relative to the Case, of the type found in a wide assortment of newspapers and periodicals of the day...some garden variety...and some specialized. Call it "filler".
              Last edited by Howard Brown; 12-23-2009, 02:40 AM.

              Comment


              • #8
                Hello all,

                Pardon my apparent stupidity..
                what is the full version of the signature name at the bottom..
                Jour.Amer.Med.Ass'n ?

                Journal of American Medical Association?

                best wishes

                Phil
                Chelsea FC. TRUE BLUE. 💙


                Justice for the 96 = achieved
                Accountability? ....

                Comment


                • #9
                  yes

                  Hello Phil. Correct.

                  The best.
                  LC

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by lynn cates View Post
                    Hello Phil. Correct.

                    The best.
                    LC
                    Hello LC,
                    Thank you sir!
                    You old devil you...didnt see you lurking in the corner there!

                    best wishes

                    Phil
                    Chelsea FC. TRUE BLUE. 💙


                    Justice for the 96 = achieved
                    Accountability? ....

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Phil:

                      That article appeared in the November 10th,1888 AMA Journal on page 683. I already had that information. Thank you.

                      The notion that professional doctors would have done anything more than glance at that clipping is what I was alluding to with some concern. It was being gently inferred without supporting evidence that doctors sat around discussing the candle theory as if there was any validity to it in the context of the WM. If they did...the mere mention of the Bloch letter in a journal on page 683 doesn't sound as if it was something other than filler.

                      In any event, the point that should be remembered is that these sort of "blurbs" appear all over the place in a wide variety of periodicals if one does more than just Google.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Hello Howard,

                        Umm.. all I was doing was trying to find out what the signature name was in full as I am a novice in the area of Americam Medical papers Im afraid. It wasnt meant as any form of trying to inform YOU of anything Howard....
                        I wouldn't be that presumptious of anyone I believe.

                        best wishes

                        Phil
                        Chelsea FC. TRUE BLUE. 💙


                        Justice for the 96 = achieved
                        Accountability? ....

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          the devil you say

                          Hello Phil. In the corner? Well, old devils like me usually dwell on shoulders! (snicker!)

                          The best.
                          LC

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            You guys crack me up.


                            Ever tried late-night TV???



                            Archaic

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              telly

                              Hello Archaic. TV. What's that?

                              The best.
                              LC

                              Comment

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