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Secret Societies of the Middle Ages

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Author Topic: Secret Societies of the Middle Ages  (Read 2822 times)
Trena Alloway
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« Reply #165 on: February 04, 2009, 01:17:26 pm »

much as to look into the books which contained the laws and ordinances of the society. Death was also the portion of any member of the society who revealed its secrets; and so strongly did this terror, or a principle of honour, operate, that, as Æneas Sylvius (afterwards Pope Pius II.), the secretary of the Emperor Frederick III., assures us, though the number of the members usually exceeded 100,000, no motive had ever induced a single one to be faithless to his trust. Still, however, sufficient materials are to be found for satisfying all reasonable curiosity on the subject.

To ascertain the exact and legal sphere of the operation of this formidable jurisdiction, and to point out its most probable origin, are necessary preliminaries to an account of its constitution and its proceedings. We shall therefore commence with the consideration of these points.

Westphalia, then, was the birth-place of this institution, and over Westphalia alone did it exercise authority. But the Westphalia of the middle ages did not exactly correspond with that of the later times. In a general sense it comprehended the country between the Rhine and the Weser; its southern boundary was the mountains of Hesse; its northern, the district of Friesland, which at that time extended from Holland to Sleswig. In the records and law-books of the middle ages, this land bears the mystic appellation of the red earth, a name derived, as one writer thinks, from the gules, or red, which was the colour of the field in the ducal shield of Saxony; another regards it as synonymous with the bloody earth; and a third hints that it may owe its origin to the red colour of the soil in some districts of Westphalia.

This land formed a large portion of the country of the Saxons, who, after a gallant resistance of thirty

p. 335

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