Like double faced Janus

These fragments come from a curious little pamphlet published in 1613. What is of particular interest is the way in which the author conflates the sin of adultery with physical deformity; so an obvious case of conjoined twins becomes in this instance a punishment inflicted on the unfortunate parents for their perceived prior immorality.

At a Towne called Adlington in the Parish of Standish neere Wigon in the County of Lancaster, there was a childe borne of a strange and wonderfull shape, with foure legges foure Armes, two bellyes, proportionably joyned to one back, one head two faces, like double faced Janus, the one before, the other behinde, foure eyes, and two noses. It behoves us to looke about, when such examples beyond the order of Nature are brought forth to put us in minde of our iniquities, especially the sinnes of Adultery and fornication, which are ever justly punished by the righteous lawe and justice of God. It is well proved in the grace and blessing that Almighty God secretly infundeth in right generation, the contrary whereof is knowne in the curse that he denounceth against Bastardy, which the Prophet utters in these wordes Spuria vitulamina non agent radices altas [Bastard slippes shall never take deepe roote]: which was showne in the example of this Monster.

The father and mother whereof were both branded, shee with the marke of Basterdy. Neither was this monster borne in the night time, but towards the day, when the morning Sunne beganne to glad the earth with his brightnesse, to this end, that the blacke mantle of the night should not cover this childe of darkenesse, but that the day might plainely discover to all eyes this wonderfull example of his Justice.

Certaine Gentlemen, and many of the common people, that were then at Cockepit, when the newes came of this prodigious birth, left their sports and went to behold it with wonder and amazement. Many people came flocking from all places thereunto adjoyning, who beheld it with astonishment. The most impious of all could not but confesse, that it was a notable example of Gods fearefull wrath, which God for his mercy sake turne from us.

This happened a little before Easter Terme last upon relation of some of the Inhabitants there, Master William Leigh Bachelour of Divinity, a very worthy and Reverend gentleman, Preacher of the Parish of Standish aforesaid, being also an eye witnesse of the same.

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One comment

  • July 14, 2010 - 7:51 pm | Permalink

    Blaming the victim is a nasty habit still followed by people with little understanding of how the natural world works.

    Conjoined twins seem to be trending. I came across this 2 days ago:

    And this yesterday: Armand Leroi’s Discovery Channel show called ‘Human Mutants’

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