Discussion:
Gunpowder, a hellish concoction of Demon's Magic
(too old to reply)
David Rorer
2005-03-27 03:35:22 UTC
Permalink
This article was printed in a magazine something like four decades ago. The
illustration that was on the title page showed a cannon billowing smoke,
which resolved into little demons waving at the one who was riding the
cannon ball that had just been fired. The one on the ball waving back at his
fellow demons. I saved it for years intending to trace the illustration, but
eventually lost part of it. Then after typing the text out threw out the
original.

Do not remember the magazine, have no idea who the author was.

David Rorer

Gunpowder, a hellish concoction of Demon's Magic

Demons interfering in the lives of humans! During the Dark ages when
superstition and ignorance ruled the minds of men these terrible creatures
mere all about, for the devil had populated the earth with his minions to
put misery in the lives of men. They became so good at it, that nearly all
mysterious events and murders were blamed on then

The arrow and crossbow quarrel flew with the aid of feathers, and therefore
was related to angels and subject to the will of god, but, the bullet was
propelled by that hellish concoction of alchemy black powder! Therefore it
was associated with black magic and demons which were subject to the devil!
Medieval magicians were alchemists and it was they who invented fast
burning, if not very explosive, powders. Sulphur, the stone that burned
(biblical brimstone), was from the devil's domain, and so any mixture that
contained it was suspected of hellish origin,

Ancient literature is replete with tales of magicians casting powders on
fires to create great and terrifying flames, clouds of stifling smoke and
the dreadful stench of brimstone, to frighten the superstitious. Whom, both
peasant and noble, so close hell he could smell it, were willing to pay well
for protection against demons or other unwelcome visitors from the infernal
regions. Presumably the secrets to these fast-burning or semi explosive
powders were passed from alchemist to alchemist for centuries, as this was
their most impressive trick.

Crude forms of combustive powders have been use for centuries and no one can
say for sure how far back into antiquity this practice goes. We do know that
saltpeter or niter must have been the; principal ingredient, but the proper
proportions of sulphur to charcoal to create an explosion (not just fire)
must have taken a great deal of trial and error. Certain peoples have
legends ascribing the discovery to one of their own, but like all great
inventions it was the total product of many.

Age other tail tales fm. the land of mystery the myths concerning the orient
of gunpowder in China were started by early Portuguese sailors who saw
fireworks displays in 16th century China. It is known that the Moors, who
had a land route through forth Africa to China, were playing with
combustible powders in the 12th century. Probably the Chinese picked up
explosives from Arab traders. They certainly perfected the use of this
powder order in the form of fireworks, but there are no records of guns in
China before the mid 14th century.

The Francesca monk, Roger Bacon (1214-92) left the best records of his
achievements and is still proclaimed by the English, as the true inventor of
gunpowder. As an instructor at Merton College Oxford, he had access to
manuscripts written on the subject of explosives by other
alchemist/apothecary monks. He came up with a formula of 41, 2% saltpeter,
19.4% charcoal and 29.4%. Sulphur; but considering the crude and impure
chemicals then available it is doubtful if this poorly balanced mixture did
more than burn fiercely.

The Germans claim the reverend Father Bertold Schwartz invented gunpowder in
the- year 1380 the good monk, a doctor and alchemist, is portrayed on the
cover of Joseph Furrtenbach's 'School of the Art of Gunnery", (Augsburg
1643), in the act of blowing the lid off a pot with his infernal mixture.
Father Bertold did not leave a record of his formula or for that matter of
his existence. So it would seem that the good at- is a piece of folklore.

Early gunpowder was ground into a fine, flour like mixture known as
serpentine, which was difficult to handle. If coked too tight it would not
ignite or if it did it would fizzle like a roman candle. Packed too loosely
it would merely burp the projectile a few feet amid sheets of fire and
clouds of nauseous gasses.

During the 14th century cannon were more apt to frighten an enemy than hurt
him, but by the 15th century almost every prince had some of the new fire
belching ordnance among his military 'hardware. And necessity being the
mother of invention, cannoners finally arrived at the most efficient
proportions of gunpowder as, about 80% saltpeter, 13% charcoal and 7%
sulphur. All of which were actual mixed at the scene of battle. Serpentine
could not be transmitted read-mixed because the rough or non existent roads
and springless wagons would jostle the fine powders apart.

Serpentine burned so poorly that it rendered a barrel useless, with great
deposits of carbon fouling in the bore, after a few rounds. More efficient
powder was needed and its invention has been credited to the Germans, for a
Conrad von Schongau first wrote about it in 1429. The original serpentine
was wet with alcohol or urine (preferably a priests, for this would
guarantee that it would, with sods help on the side of the right, destroy
enemy with dispatch), it was then mixed into a paste and pressed into cakes.
When almost dry, the brittle substance was placed in a stamping mill and
gently fractured into grains, which were screened for size. The largest
grain being about the same size as a grain of wheat (called corn in Europe,
hence the name corned powder).

Corned powder was a great improvement over serpentine, it was easy to
handle, and no longer gave off clouds of dust that sometimes ignited the
artillerymen along with their powder. Efficient because it no longer
required the careful attention of a master gunner to load properly,
practical, for it could be transported to the scene of action ready to load,
and best of all it burned well and left only a little soft fouling that
could be easily swabbed out of the bore.

It was also terrifying, for metallurgy had not kept up with the progress in
chemistry. The new powder was so powerful it would blow up most cannon and
the artilleryman's job became the least desirable in the army. Those who
survived did so by reverting to serpentine, not till the 17th century were
cannon made strong enough handle corned powder.

The development of small arms began with the invention of corned powder. Of
course primitive hand cannon (known as fire-sticks) could burn anything, and
probably did burn (not explode) most of the mixtures stuffed into them. They
had a touch hole like any cannon, and a red-hot wire was inserted in the
hole in a brave attempt to ignite the charge. Because they were usually
fastened to the end of a pole or incorporated into some other weapon, being
just iron tubes of 3/4 to 1 inch bore and seldom over a foot long, one
soldier held and aimed the weapon while another ignited the charge. If
course any good archer could do a great deal more damage than two bumpkins
with a fire stick, but it took many- years to train a good archer and any
peasant could hold a stick.

The proud and haughty knight confronted for the first time by this hellish
contrivance, must have been terrified (though seldom harmed) by its
thunderous roar, bellowing clouds of nauseous smoke and above all by the
shrill shrieking cry of the- demon who rode astride the projectile. That was
the chief value- of the early hand cannon, to frighten horses, their riders
and superstitious peasant levies. The renaissance was not complete in the
15th century and the serfs who made up the bulk of the medieval armies were
not only the- property of their feudal lords, they were the slaves of
magicians and priests and their own superstitious ignorance.

Because the bullet was propelled by infernal powders of hellish origin under
the control and guidance of demons, and since everyone knew the great prince
of darkness and his legions of demons were engaged in eternal battle with
the Lord and his hosts of angels, it therefore behoove a cautious and
prudent soldier to buy protection from one of the gypsies, magicians, rogues
and renegade monks who grew wealthy hanging on the fringes of medieval
armies, peddling their magic charms to ward off bullets.

With the perfection of corned powder it became increasingly difficult to
ward off bullets with magic charms, especially when the harquebusier loaded
buck over the solid shot. The unhappy foot soldier armed only with sword and
pike, became somewhat reluctant to be prodded forward into the mouths of
these miniature cannon. It is for certain he needed a little heaven-sent
rain much more than protective amulets, for even the smallest amount of rain
would immediately extinguish the smoldering match cord and reduce all forms
of ordinance into so much junk.

Many theories were advanced by scientific gentlemen to account for the
magical accuracy of the spinning- bullet, after the invention of the rifled
barrel in the latter part of the 15th century, but theological opinions took
preference over all others. It was believed at the time-that the sun, moon
and stars revolved around the stationary earth and demons came from hell,
which as deep in the earths bowels. Thus some thought a demon who might ride
a projectile from a smoothbore musket could not stay astride a spinning
rifle bullet. Others believed in the old established theory of association
between demons, gunpowder and bullets, that demons actually preferred to
inhabit gun barrels (smoothbore or rifled), because- they had greater
opportunity to inflict damage on humans by directing the flight of the
bullet. But no one knew enough about ballistics to account for the accuracy
of the rifled barrel, and so it was attributed by the majority of scholars
to demons.

It had been customary for feudal lords to pass judgment on rocks, tree limbs
or other inanimate objects that were accused of hurting or killing a human
being. The offending object was brought into court, judged guilty, and then
destroyed. Presumably, the evil spirits or demons that inhabited it being
destroyed also. Even early guns, were subject to this impartial justice, but
the rifled barrel, because of its great accuracy, was especially suspect of
demonic influence.

The matter was decided once and for all time, in a rifle match held at
Mainz, in the year 1547. Two expert riflemen were selected by the local
sharp shooters' guild to fire 20 rounds each at a distance of 200 meters, at
regular bull's-eye targets. One rifleman was to use only plain lead bullets,
while the other was to use silver bullets engraved with the sign of the
cross, sprinkled with holy water, and blessed with special benedictions and
exorcisms by the Archbishop of Mainz in an attempt to free them from the
influence of demon passengers.

After the match had been fired it was discovered that 19 of 20 lead bullets
had hit somewhere on the target but all 20 holy silver bullets had missed
completely. This was undisputable proof that the magical accuracy of the
rifled barrel was the work of demons

The archbishop declared the rifle to be a work of the Devil, and under
decree of anathema, a formal ecclesiastical curse condemning the rifle (not
the smoothbore musket) to divine punishment. All rifles were seized and
destroyed by fire and their manufacture or possession was forbidden under
penalty of death by burning at the stake. But-tm the rifled barrel could not
be suppressed by formal curses or laws, and within a decade the law had
fallen into disuse because it could not be enforced. Once again rifles,
gunpowder and demons returned to make life more interesting for men.
--
David Rorer
d***@ev1.net
2005-03-29 10:30:36 UTC
Permalink
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Just a word about "the stone that burns." Seamen have told me that a
cargo of sulfur
which catches fire is made worse by spraying water on it.
The fire has to be smothered.
David H
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Bruce Sinclair
2005-03-29 22:39:53 UTC
Permalink
Post by d***@ev1.net
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Just a word about "the stone that burns." Seamen have told me that a
cargo of sulfur
which catches fire is made worse by spraying water on it.
The fire has to be smothered.
Sulfur fires are nasty indeed. Toxic gas, hot and, as you suggest, hard to
put out. Probably something to do with water and sulfur not mixing at all
well.



Bruce


-------------------------------------
The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.
- George Bernard Shaw
Cynic, n: a blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be.
- Ambrose Bierce

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