Chapter 12

Of The Species of Mixt bodyes, and of firey Meteors

MIXT is Either Perfect or Imperfect.

1. Imperfect is an Element but a little altered by some Aliene Qualities, and not attaining that perfection of temperament as may fitt it for a substantiall form (if such be) to give [it] a Quite distinct being, from that of an Element this is either primary, or Secondary.

1. Primary Call’d Exhalation or steam which is a multitude of Small bodyes lifted up by the reflecting sun-beams from the terraqueous Globe much as a ball licks up moisture or dust from the floor from whence it rebounds. tis [either] vapour or fume.

1. Vapour a moist exhalation raised by heat from the Water. [38]

2. Fume is a dry Exhalation raised from the Earth, Especially its more volatile constituents, Sulphur, and Niter Volatis’d, and broken into smallest parts.

2. Secondary made out of the former, [called] Meteor which signifies somewhat lifted up hung in the air, seen at a distance, tis either real or Emphatical.

1. Real, or Substantial is 3 fold, Fiery, Airy, Watry.

1. Fiery made of fume, and dry Exhalations which (say the Antients) is kindled by Vertue of the heavens, and heat of the Air, or by Antiparistasis. But (according to moderns) tis more probable that many Sulphurious, and Inflameable particles, being Scattered and hovering about in the Air meat with more of their own kind, with which combining, they make a mass of Inflameable matter.1 to this, if particles of an Opposite nature occur, they cause an Emotion, attrition, or fermentation (as Water on unslack’t lime; or as Spirits of Nitre, and tartar,) and this fermentation may so increase as to become a flame. This flame only continues so long as the Sulphurious parts are in combination, fitt for attrition; but when these are again broken very small and Scattered abroad it seases. The Frequency of these meteors as to certain times and places may depend partly on the heavenly influences (according to their respective positions) whereby these Inflamable matters are Volatilized, and prepared for a more copious ascent; and hence parhaps tis that within the tropicks are more abundant, and Eminent fiery meteors: and Partly from their beds in the Earth where they are Generated, from whence they will not arise untill they are sufficiently fermented. Bread, Beer, Wine, Sider, Moist-hay, Carcases, etc: have all their several times which they require for the height of their fermentation; [and] these times are varied again according to the temper of the Air, and Seasons of the Year; with other outward Circumstances; add to this that Diverse parts of the Earth have Greater Quantities of diverse kinds of matter, su[c]h as minerall countryes, fossile Sulphur, Church-yards, places of battel, Dunghills, etc: have more of animal fatt; yea the sea itself may have its fish [oyle] floating on the top which the sun-beams also can Easyly lick up.

Nitro-sulphurious fumes from Earth do rise

And kindled fiery meteors supplyes.

Now from all these Varieties are the diverse kinds of meteors form’d or Inform’d.

1. Inform’d Such flames as fall under no certain Usual shape whereby fancy might give it a name.

2. Formed, and this is in the 3 several Regions of the Air, Viz: in the Lower, middle, upper region.

1. In the Lower region are commonly said to be 3





1. The flying Dragon of a Viscous, (or Clammy,) Crass fume inflamed and incurvated by some cold cloud in, [or] through which it passes not far from the Earth. Tis Somtimes Seen in a Cold Still night as a long flack of fire hanging in, or Gently passing through the Air, and not much unlike the Smoak that pases from the bowle of a lighted pipe of tobacco, or the smoak of a Candle newly Extinguished.

2. Ignis Fatuous, (the foolish fire) Jack with a lanthorn, or will with a wisp; tis (like as the other) crass heavy, and nearer the Earth, [only] lies more round togather. One alone appearing, (cal’d Helena, by the Superstition of the Antient heathens) was accounted an Ill omen, or Sign of bad luck: but two appearing togather, (called Castor, and pollux) prognosticated good in their oppinion; and hence [probably] the Apostles ship was so named, (Acts, [28]. 11.) as we now call ships Success, Victory, etc: This foolish fire is said to lead men out of the way into boggs, and mires, because in a darck night a travelling stranger being not very sure of his way and Seeing a light may hope to approach thereunto to find an house or some man with a lanthorn: but bein[g] deceived he may find (instead of company) himself in a ditch; the Amazment whereof doth sometimes so bewillder him that wandering all night and finding in the morning he has made no progress the mans fear (proceeding from Ignorance in this point) makes himself Phancy a Misguidance by evill Spirits.

3. Ignis Lambens ([the] Licking fire) is an Inflammation of the Steams proceeding from the body of a [Sweating] Animal; which (without hurt) seames to hang on the Cloaths, or hair so as not to be brushed off, because tis stil renewed by continuall Steams. It happes most when men have drunck hard, and then in a Still dark frosty night, ride hard to make hast home. The first inkindling is (not only by the Antiparistisis if at all but rather) by some spark of a flint trodden upon by the horse, or a mans hobnailled-shoe, Now as the steams of the spirits of Wine may easyly catch fire so may the vinous Spirits (known, and discovered by chymists to be plentyfull in the blood of any animal) when they are in any considerable Quantity sent out by Perspiration. hence tis probable that this happens not to all men in such Circumstances, because all men and horses have not the same Vivacity, nor are Chafed by Such Mixtures of fear, and boldness [39] as may be requisite for such Inflameable Immanations.

2. In the Middle region are the falling star, burning lances, and thunder.

1. The falling Star or Star Shooting which was antiently supposed to be a more compact and Globous matter inflam’d in those parts of the Mass that ware inflamable and the rest being Earthy, and Watry fall down in a Cold Jelly (like blew starch, boiled) which is often found in the feilds, and is called Starshot.2 Tis said to be good for burnings; ’tware worth the while Chymically to examine its composition, that we might make a better Guess at the Nature thereof: for indeed what has been said about it hitherto [does] not well Satisfye; for, Why is not the Inflamed body seen before it shoots? Why Inflamed only when the Air is inclin’d to rain, So contrary to Inflamations? Why dos not one fall burning in a longer tract than another? and lastly Why is not one more notably bigg than another, since tis not probable that all in a night have so near an Equall [quantity] of inflamable matter? It seams therefore more likly that in them is [no] matter [inflamed] at all but tis the Suns light reflected by the Gellatine body to our Eyes; as in Glow worms, Jelly of putrid [fish], Cats Eyes, Rotten-wood, etc: which may be thus conceived. Suppose some Earthy particles Intermixed with watry which are nearly disposed to fall down in rain some of these Earthy particles in the Upper part of the middle region are moistened, and thereby stick [to others], which they meat with of their own kind till so many are Joyn’d that they cant be upheld any longer by the Weight of the Adjacent bodyes; then must they sink and begin to fall downwards, and in the fall many more are added, till they become that Mass of Jelly which we find; at the first falling they are too small a lump for reflection of the suns light at such a distance, and therefore [they] are not then seen and in the Period of their fall they drop into the dark shaddow of the Earth, and So having no light falling on them can reflect none back to our Eyes; and hence probably there are none seen to fall from that part of the heavens which is [directly] opposite to the Sun because they come down all the way in the [Shade] nor from those parts which are near our twilight; because though they have light enough [upon them] yet they discend in a line so respecting our Eye; as not apt to reflect light upon it; but another way nearer the Horizon where the twilight is; for that the Angles of Incidence and reflection must be the same. The appearring obliquity in their shooting, [or] fall may be for that the line wherein they discend directly towards the Center of the Earth is oblique to the Scituation of our Eye; Now we having nothing but the Stars to compare to that line of discent, it may Easily impose upon us. As Suppose (a.) [the eye] on the Surface of the Earth (b.) the place of the Jelly, which fals towards (c.) by the line (b.c.) In which fall towards (c.) the Center of the Earth it intersects the Several lines between (a.) the Eye, and (d.e.f.g.) several stars which are far above it; hereby we perceive not its coming nearer to us, but fancy it to fall in the line (h.i.) parrallel to the line (b.k.) which is all one in appearrance for nearness, and distance is not perceived by the Eye, but where there is somthing intermediate, or by the side to be observed. And therefore the Impu[l]se by a Cloud (which the Antients talk of,) seams vain the rather also for that Star shooting is most common when the heaven is Clearest, for as yet these watry steams are not condensed into clouds. So that we may well strick off this falling star from file of fiery meteors, and may rather call it Earthy. This appearrance is most common in the summer time when the Earth sends forth more plentifull Effluviums.

2. Burning lances, these in a dark night I have once seen in Essex arising out of a very Dark Cloud which seam’d to be a segment of a Circle appearing above the [North] horizon about 20 degrees, as suppose (a.b.) the horizon (c.d.) the Darck Cloud, (e e e e) the burning lances which stood not in one state, but arose some behind the rest (like a company of pikes in a Counter March) Somwhat Suddainly start up to 50, 60, or 70 [Degrees] and some fall down again within 10 of the Cloud, and then Er’e long disappear, and all this appearrance was as bright as flame.

The Cause might be the Swiming of Sulphurious parts [above] a thick watry cloud which being there inflamed and having no h[u]mid above them (which might have caused [40] thunder) they freely blazed up in the Several places where the matter lay. Now, that they Ascended up so small tis probable ’twas for that they were above the Atmosphere, and So there was no pressure to hinder their ascent. Else their flames should have been broadned below and Joyned one to another, thereby making one Great blaze, as we see tis in our Culunary fires.

3. Fulmen, (we want a proper English word for it) whose Sound is called thunder, and its light coruscation, or Lightening. Tis made of 3 principle parts Sulphur, Niter, and Water, and Somtimes there are Earthy, Sandy and Minerall steams among them, the matter of which is cal’d the thunder-bolt; the manner how these are made may be conceived thus. [There being of] The 3 principle Steams, great Quantities raised, and held up the Sulphur, and niter (those Ingredients of Gun-powder Emulous of thunder) in a Sufficient Quantity met togather begin to ferment, and to work upon Each other in their Struggle they beget heat; this draws more Steams to them, first of their own kind (because more volatile) and [afterwards] of the Water; hence we see the thick clouds to gather and conglomerate [all in] one place, as if the Wind blew from all Quarters when indeed there is none Stirring: These Clouds are now fully dispos’d to falling rain, but are held up by the Attra[c]ting heat of the combustion (as you see the steams of water set on the hearth will draw towards the fire which is done by the [fires] Circulating parts going to, and returning from the Center) the two Active principles (Sulphur, and Niter) being thus enclosed by the Antiparistasis of the Cold clouds augment their heat till some parts which are most heated take fire, and then seek more room for their flame to Expatiate itself in; and because it cant find space it makes way through the thick Cloud whose parts thus Seperated yet pressing [hard] togather, as soon as the flame is Gone, fall one against another, and from that vacuity thus filled, Issues the Thundring bouncing sound. Now because the Cloud is broken but part by part therfore the Sound is continued in a long Series of bounces, and these Greater or less as the Clouds make resistance. The like may be observed in a Great hot Iron, when Quenched in the water of a Smiths forge, for then in Cooling the fiery particles pass off, and break through the water; though not in a flame. In a Gun the flame is better seen, but [then] the bounce is single, because the flame presently dilates itself every way when tis out of the streightening of the Gun the Atmosphere being heavy enough to make one bounce but not to keep the flame, and its parts togather, and hence it follows that if a Gun [were] Shot of[f] in a thunder Cloud it would repeat its sound like [the] thunder, and if shot above the atmosphere twould yeald no sound at all. When the flame breaks out of the Cloud downwards we see its light Immediately; but the Sound though it be formed at, or before the flame breaks out, is somewhat longer in coming according to the Distance of the Cloud, of which Distance an Estimate may be made by the measure of a pendulum compared to the distance of a Gun shot off and the space between the light and sound. After the fire and Sound and another distance of time comes down the broken Cloud in a Shower; for now the heat of the flame holds it no longer up, the water indeed sets forth togather with the light and Sound, but cant break its way down through the Atmosphere to come to us with the like Expedition. If all the Combustible matter fire not at once (as it very rarely dos) then the Lightening, thunder, and rain are repeated again and again in Several flashes, Claps, and Showers, Untill all the Inflamable matter shall be spent. If the Cloud breaks downward then beware the Earth; for then the lightening oftentimes burns higher buildings, blasts plants, and hurts Animals; and White lightening is accounted most daingerous, as the white heat of Iron is hot in a higher degree than the red or yellow, if the Cloud break upwards we have thunder without lightening, If the Cloud be not very cold or moist we have lightening without thunder, as in summer Evenings after extream hot days and this (as indeed all lightening whither with, or without thunder) is of Excellent Use [for] Clearing the Air If among the Nitro-sulphurious parts are any considerable Quantity of [Sabulous] Ashy, or mineral parts this is melted into Glass or metal by the Vehement, and brisk fire, and breaking out with the fire dos the work of a bullet, in rending trees, and slaying Animals this is cal’d the thunder-bolt which (though it may come soft out of the cloud yet) in coming down it cooles and hardens Generally in a roll. The motion contributing to the figure [41] (as in the margine.)

The blasting lightening where it burns not seam[s] to be from Vitriolick, Arsenick, or Other Corrosive steams, which flung with Violence, and Vehemence by the lightening and in small parts do somtimes Enter the Garment without [Change], and yet hurt the body. The turning of Liquors Sour by thunder is no other than what may be done by bels, Guns, Drums, or other Vehement Sounds: whereby the Smart percussion of the Air causes all the Vessels and Liquors to Vibrate which Does so allter the site of those minute, and volatile parts, (that preserve the liquor[s] by their ordinary Circulation) as that they cant do their Office; and the Same concussion also gives motion to the Corrupting parts which before ware Quiet in the Lees. As for other Effects Such as balls of fire, flying like canon-bullets, or running up, and down an house, and doing Mischeif in an Extravigant manner; because no sufficient natural reason can be given [for] them, they are ascribed to the power of the prince of the air, by divine permission. And So much for meteors of the middle region.

3. In the Upper region are such as beginning to be [Inflamed] in the Middle region do ascend above it and [there] shew themselves as a rocket gets aloft and there burns out; such are accounted 6 (but 5 only are true) Candle, beam dart, Kids, Spark[s].

1. The candle So called from its likeness, [one] such I have seen (in Surry) blazing like a torch about 25 degrees above the N. Horizon in a Summers Evening, and So continued in the Same place for a minute or two after mine observation, and then falling Extinguished; lik[e] a flaming drop falling from a torch, which goes out before it comes to the Ground.

2. The long blaze if it lyes Horizontally tis cal’d a beam (seen once by my friend Mr. N.B. in Cornwall.) If perpendicular tis cal’d a pillar (seen by Mr. W.W. Near the river between Cambridge, and Linn.) The lower End at length discending to the Earth, where it Distroyed some Acres of Growing pease; The reason of these may be the meeting of [two] firey meteors passing two Several wayes, (as the winds which make a Whirl-puff) and So the Inflamed matter shews itself (as the dust [that is] lifted up by the Whirlpuff.)

3. The [Dart], So caled from the motion more than the figure. Such as I suppose was that ball of fire in February in 1675, between day and night which flew over Northamptonshere, Bedfordshere, [Harfordshere], Middlesex, Essex, and the sea leaving a [Stream] of light in the place where it [had] passed, which continued 4 or 5 Minutes after it was gone. The Reason of it may be guessed by observing a Rocket which flyes from the End of its inflamation; It may therefore be conceived a Mass of Combustible matter mixed with other Glutinous Stuff not So combustible this may cause it to burn Gradually, and fly from the Side which was first Kindled.

4. The Skipping Kidds consist of many fumes, of unEquall Density which hovers in the Air, (like the Smoak of Tobacco.) So as the more dence being Kindled, shew themselves as a flame; and the more rare serve only to convey the Inflamation; to another Denser part, with which it is continued (like as the light of a Candle Newly blown out, by its fume only touching the flame of another candle is [revived]) and thus the flame skipping as it ware to, and fro like to a frisking Kidd thereby [obtains] its name.

5. Sparcks are when the matter is more dense and dissevered in small parts Each from other like the Charcoal-dust that falls kindled from the breaking [of] a Rocket.

6. Comets (by the Antients) used here also to be reckoned but I think they are neither fiery, nor meteors, and therefore we shall treat of them in a Chapter by themselves.