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History of Treasure Hunting – Soothsayers

Some Sorcerers do boast they have a Rod,

Gather’d with Vowes and Sacrifice,

And (borne about) will strangely nod

To hidden Treasure where it lies.”

— Samuel Sheppard: Epigrams-Book VI., 1651

History is rife with treasure hunters who claim some means of their extrasensory perception can lead them to treasure.  Ol’ Sammy Sheppard had it nailed in 1651.

There is plenty of literature that describes such activity in the middle ages, apparently treasure hunting was fashionable back then. An example, Mons. Chevreul spoke of a Basil Valentine as the first to use the divining rod. However, another historical reference, Albertus Magnus (1193-1290) observed that the problem of finding places int he mountains where precious metal lie is partly in the sphere of Natural Science and that branch of Magical Art devoted to the discovery of hidden treasure.

Certain individuals were and still are credited with special treasure location powers to locate buried treasures, veins of metals, underground streams and even human remains . (Hundreds of years later this class of person still seems to be broke!)

Del Rio1 reported this special gift was held by the Zahuris, a Spanish, presumably Gypsy tribe — endowed by nature with red eyes which gave sight of a uniquely penetrating quality.  In 1575, he saw and spoke with a boy belonging to the Zahuris who possessed this magical vision. He explained this gift by the theory that metallic lodes and water give off certain vapours which these people alone, can see. Their ability to see buried treasure and entombed bodies he attributed to their presumed intimacy with demons. He found confirmation in this theory his alleged ability to perform this feat only upon Tuesdays and Fridays.


1 Martinus Antonius del Rio: Disquisitionum magicarum libri sex, 1599-1600, vol I, bk I, cp III, p35

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