Ghost Stories

Do Caulbearers have special powers? Famous caulbearers with extraordinary talents


POLLYANNA JONES take a look at some amazing figures from history who were caulbearers and may have had special powers 

Superstition tells how those born with a full, either fully intact caul around the body of the infant, or a partial covering of the face or on the head, will be naturally lucky and will never drown. The phenomena of this is very rare, as the embryonic sac usually bursts during the course of labour. Statics show that only about 1 in 80,000 babies are born ‘en caul’ which as throughout history caused them to be seen as a child of fortune. It is said that such a child is a ‘King by Right’ and would be a natural leader of come to live a life of greatness. But is this really true?

Charlemagne

Born on 2nd April 742, Charlemagne was the eldest son of Pepin the Short and Bertrada of Laon. Already having advantage by his birth into a family of high status, he became king in 768, co-ruling with his brother Carloman I following their father’s death. Carloman died suddenly in 771, which resulted in Charlemagne becoming undisputed ruler of the Franks. His brother’s death was unexplained, and perhaps this was a sign of things to come with regards to Charlemagne’s ruthless ambition. Charlemagne went on to build an Empire and convert much of Europe to Christianity under pain of death. The Massacre of Verden is an example of this fervour, here in October 782, 4,500 Saxon men, women, and children were slaughtered, their sacred totem Irminsul destroyed, when they refused to abandon their gods. Bringing Europe under religious unification, Charlemagne was crowned ‘Emperor of the Romans’ at Christmas day at the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome by Pope Leo III. Such was his legacy that some credit him being the Father of Europe. He died on 28th January 814 after falling ill with pleurisy, and was buried in Aachen Cathedral.

Vseslav Bryachislavich

Born in Polotsk, Belarus, sometime around 1039, Vseslav was said to have arcane powers, which earned him the title of Vseslav the Sorcerer, or Vseslav the Seer. The Russian Primary Chronicle describes how he was conceived by sorcery and was born with a caul on his head. His mother was advised by sorcerers that the caul should remain with him for the rest of his life, and be bound to his head to ensure that he would have good luck. Vseslav had taken the throne of Polotsk in 1044 after his father died, and proved to be a great leader, later becoming the Grand Prince of Kiev in 1068 for the duration of one year. Not only was Vseslav a sorcerer, but also a werewolf who would change form in a veil of blue mist before galloping like a wild beast before rendering his foes asunder. With powers like this, Vseslav was much feared and respected. He died on 24th April, 1101, the Wednesday before Good Friday and was buried with much reverence in the Cathedral of Holy Wisdom in Polotsk.

King James VI of Scotland

Later becoming King James I after the union of English and Scottish crowns on 24th March 1603, James was born at Edinburgh Castle on 19th June, 1566 to Mary, Queen of Scots. Her only son, James was born into an age of great contention with the ruling house of England at the time. Queen Elizabeth I sat on the throne, and had followed her father Henry VIII’s Protestant Church as the established faith for England, much against the will of the Pope. Her sister Mary, remained Catholic, causing much tension, and accusations were abound that Mary and her court practised witchcraft against Elizabeth I. It is no wonder then, that Mary’s child was a caulbearer. James became interested in the dark arts after a visit to Denmark, and later wrote the book Daemonologie in 1597, which would be used to justify the countless witch trials and persecution of women all about his domain. So zealous was he to cleanse the land of black magic, that he personally supervised the torture of women accused. We can only speculate that this enthusiasm was sparked by his childhood and the tensions between Protestants and Catholics. He died on 27th March 1625 at Theobalds House, Hertfordshire after suffering a bout of dysentery and was buried at Westminster Abbey.

Napoléon Bonaparte

Famous Emperor of France, Bonaparte was born in Corsica on 15th August, 1769. He served with the army, and after suppressing a revolt against the government rose in prominence being given command of his own army. At 26, his campaign against the Austrians and Italians was a huge success whereby under his brilliant command, they won nearly every one of their battle. As a result he was declared a national hero in France, and later engineered a coup in 1799 to become the First Consul of the Republic. Not satisfied, he continued to play the game of power until he became the first Emperor of the French in 1804. Bonaparte was crowned with a golden laurel wreath symbolic of the Roman Empire, and was presented with a replica of the Crown of Charlemagne, which he placed on the head of his wife, Josephine. Napoléon became so powerful that he was deemed to be a danger, and nations came together to put a halt to his expansion, accusing him as being the sole obstacle to the restoration of peace in Europe. He was betrayed and deposed, then sent as an exile to the island of Elba, before being moved to Saint Helena far from the west coast of Africa. He died there on 5th May, 1821, and was returned to France in 1840 after permission was granted from the British to return his body from its first resting place on such a remote island. His remains lie in a sarcophagus in the crypt of Les Invalides, Paris.

Sigmund Freud

The father of psychoanalysis, Freud was born on 6th May, 1856 in Friedberg in Mähren in the Austrian Empire region of Moravia, (now known as Příbor within the Czech Republic). Born to Galician Jewish parents, he qualified in 1881 as a doctor of medicin at the University of Vienna, was appointed a docent in neuropathology, and then became an affiliated professor in 1902. Vienna became his home, where he set up his clinical practice, before fleeing Austria in 1938 to escape the Nazis, shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. He passed away whilst in exile on 23rd September, 1939. He had asked to be administered a massive dose of morphine, to relieve him of the agonising pain caused from his inoperable cancer of the jaw. He was cremated in North London, and his ashes were placed in an urn gifted to him from Princess Marie Bonaparte, great-grandniece of Emperor Napoléon himself.

Sergei Pankeyev

Born on 24th December, 1885, Sergei was a Russian aristocrat who seemed to suffer from nervous problems, depression, and an irrational phobia of wolves. In 1910 he was taken to Vienna to be treated by Sigmund Freud, who later claimed to have cured him. Sergei became known as the Wold Man after reporting this dream to the famed psychoanalyst:

“I dreamt that it was night and that I was lying in bed. (My bed stood with its foot towards the window; in front of the window there was a row of old walnut trees. I knew it was winter when I had the dream, and night-time.) Suddenly the window opened of its own accord, and I was terrified to see that some white wolves were sitting on the big walnut tree in front of the window. There were six or seven of them. The wolves were quite white, and looked more like foxes or sheep-dogs, for they had big tails like foxes and they had their ears pricked like dogs when they pay attention to something. In great terror, evidently of being eaten up by the wolves, I screamed and woke up.”

Pankeyev visited Freud many times for treatment over the span of 70 years and despite Freud’s claim, Sergei described in 1970 how he felt that he was in the same state as when he came to Freud. At the time Sergei was born, children born with cauls were thought to be lycanthropes, a superstition thought to have haunted Pankeyev despite Freud’s own theories around the dream.

Pollyanna Jones



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