Shirley, Ralph - The Angel Warriors at Mons 11 – The Battle of Edge Hill
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
THE ANGEL WARRIORS AT MONS [continued]
This strange state of psychic exaltation is also doubtless accountable for the remarkable and well-attested phenomena which took place nightly for some months after the Battle of Edge Hill, in the English Civil War, on the subject of which Lord Nugent makes comment "that the world abounds with histories of preternatural appearances, the most utterly incredible, supported by testimonies the most undeniable."
Here is a ghost story of the most preposterous sort.
" Yet is this story," he adds, " attested upon the oath of three officers, men of honour and distinction, and of three other gentlemen of credit, selected by the King as commissioners to report upon these prodigies, and to tranquillize and disabuse the alarms of a country town."
The record of these phenomena is given in a rare and curious tract entitled A Great Wonder in Heaven, showing the late Apparitions and Prodigious Noyses of War and Battels, seen on Edge Hill, neere Keinton in Northamptonshire. Certified under the Hands of William Wood, Esquire, and Justice for the Peace in the said Countie, Samuel Marshall, Preacher of Gods Word in Keinton, and other Persons of Qualitie. — London : Printed for Thomas Jackson, January 23, ArmoDom. 1642 (1643 ?).
Its bearing on the question under discussion seems to me to warrant its reproduction here in the words of the narrator:
The Battle of Edge Hill
Between twelve and one o'clock in the morning (say3 our authority), was heard by some shepherds, and other country-men, and travellers, first the sound of drummes afar off, and the noyse of souldiers, as it were, giving out their last groanes ; at which they were much amazed, and amazed stood still, till it seemed, by the neernesse of the noyse, to approach them ; at which too much affrighted, they sought to withdraw as fast as possibly they could ; but then, on the sudden, whilest they were in these cogitations, appeared in the ayre the same incorporeall souldiers that made those clamours, and immediately, with ensignes display'd, drummes beating, musquets going off, cannons discharged, horses neyghing, which also to these men were visible, the alarum or entrance to this game of death was strucke up, one Army, which gave the first charge, having the King's colours, and the other the Parliaments, in their head or front of the battells, and so pell mell to it they went ; the battell that appeared to the Kings forces seeming at first to have the best, but afterwards to be put into apparent rout ; but till two or three in the morning in equall scale continued this dreadful fight, the clattering of Armes, noyse of cannons, cries of souldiers, so amazing and terifying the poore men, that they could not believe they were mortall, or give credit to their eares and eyes ; runne away they durst not, for feare of being made a prey to these infernall souldiers, and so they, with much feare and affright, stayed to behold the successe of the businesse, which at last suited to this effect : after some three hours fight, that Army which carryed the Kings colours withdrew, or rather appeared to flie ; the other remaining, as it were, masters of the field, stayed a good space triumphing, and expressing all the signes of joy and conquest, and then, with all their drummes, trumpets, ordinance, and souldiers, vanished ; the poore men were glad they were gone, that had so long staid them there against their wills, made with all haste to Keinton, and there knocking up Mr. Wood, a Justice of Peace, who called up his neighbour, Mr. Marshall, the Minister, they gave them an account of the whole passage, and averred it upon their oaths to be true. At which affirmation of theirs, being much amazed, they should hardly have given credit to it, but would have conjectured the men to have been either mad or drunk, had they not knowne some of them to have been of approved integritie : and so, suspending their judgements till the next night about the same houre, they, with the same men, and all the substantiall inhabitants of that and the neighbouring parishes, drew thither ; where, about half an houre after their arrivall, on Sunday, being Christmas night, appeared in the same tumultuous warlike manner, the same two adverse Armies, fighting with as much spite and spleen as formerly. The next night they appeared not, nor all the week, so that the dwellers thereabout were in good hope they had for ever departed ; but on the ensuing Saturday night, in the same place, and at the same houre, they were again scene with far greater tumult* fighting in the manner afore-mentioned for foure houres, and then vanished, appearing againe on Sunday night, and performing the same actions of hostilitie and bloodshed ; so that both Mr. Wood and others, whose faith, it should seeme, was not strong enough to carry them out against these delusions, forsook their habitations thereabout, and retired themselves to other more secure dwellings ; but Mr. Marshall stayed, and some other ; and so successively the next Saturday and Sunday the same tumults and prodigious sights and actions were put in the state and condition they were formerly. The rumour whereof coming to his Majestic at Oxford, he immediately dispatched thither Colonell Lewis Kirke, Captaine Dudley, Captaine Wainman, and three other gentlemen of credit, to take the full view and notice of the said businesse, who, first hearing the true attestation and relation of Mr. Marshall and others staid there till Saturday night following, wherein they heard and saw the fore-mentioned prodigies, and so on Sunday, distinctly knowing divers of the apparitions or incorporeall substances by their faces, as that of Sir Edmund Varney, and others that were there slaine ; of which upon oath they made testimony to his Majestic.
What this does portend God only knoweth, and time perhaps will discover ; but doubtlessly it is a signe of his wrath against this Land, for these civil wars, which He in His good time finish, and send a sudden peace between his Majestic and Parliament.
This strange psychic record is not indeed in any sense an exact parallel to the phenomena which have excited so great an interest at the present time, but it serves to show the effect that war is liable to produce upon the psychic atmosphere, and in this manner may render such incidents as those recently recorded credible to the minds of many who would at first sight be disposed to reject them as old wives' tales. If the phenomena following the Battle of Edge Hill so fully substantiated by contemporary evidence actually took place, why should it not be possible for psychic phenomena of a certainly no more remarkable kind, to be one of the concomitant circumstances of the greatest war in the world's history ? Would it not rather be strange it if were otherwise ?
The source of the experienceShirley, Ralph
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