Martha Brossier

Martha Brossier, the youngest daughter of a draper in the French town of Romorantin, claimed to be possessed in 1598. She was taken by her father from town to town, being repeatedly and publically exorcized, and eventually arrived in Paris. In March of 1599, the authorities, disturbed by the possibility of religious conflict stirred up by Martha's provocation of Huguenots, ordered that she be examined by theologians and physicians. Their conclusion was that the possession was not authentic, and that the synptoms were `Nihil a Daemone: Multa ficta: A morbo pauca' (`Nothing demonic; much fabricated; a little from disease'). Martha was ordered to return home to Romorantin, where she was to remain quietly. In defiance of this order, she resumed her career as public demoniac outside France. When last heard of, in 1604, she was still having demoniac fits in Milan. The following discussion of her ventriloquial voice is from the report of the physicians of Paris to the King in 1599, in the translation effected by Abraham Hartwell. Hartwell's translation appeared at the time of some controversial English exorcisms, which led in 1599 to the trial of an Anglican minister, John Darrell, and is clearly intended to aid his exposure. It was compiled by Steven Connor. as part of The Dumbstruck Archive, a continuing, online supplement to Dumbstruck: A Cultural History of Ventriloquism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).
Some bring a reason that is more urgent, that is to say, That Martha did speake in her bellie, when her mouth and her lips were shut and closed. Truely Martha spake as another bodie did. And yet if she had done so, should she therefore have a Deuill that spake within her bellie? Hippocrates in his fift book of the Epidemies, the 58. sentence, maketh mention of the wife of one Polemarchus, which spake in her bellie. Iohn Gorraeus in his Definitions Medicinall, sayth, that in Hippocrates, they are called Engastrimythoi, which talke in their bellie, when their Mouthes and their Lippes are shut and closed. Looke upon Scaliger against Cardan in the 258. Exercise, and the third part. Foetius in his Oeconomica Hippocratica writeth, that the Great Adrian Turnebus did say in his Reading- Chayre, that he had seen a Rogue, who without opening his Mouth or stirring his lippes, did with his bellie, make such a sound, and vtttered such a voyce as pleased him, and gained great store of money by practising that feate. And in truth it might very well bee done: because in closing or shutting the breast and stomacke, there may enter some Ayre into the Arterie, which may make a kinde of sound or voyce, not very distinct or plaine to bee discerned at first, and yet by long exercise may be in a sorte perceiued: and such persons are called Engastrimythoi, that is, Talking in their Bellies, or Sternomythoi, Talking in their Breasts. Or Sternomanteis, Prophecying out of their Breasts. Caelius Rhodogynus referreth to the Deuill, that speaketh within the Bellie. But he is but a Reporter of Fables, and therefore let us leaue these popular and common reasons. S. Augustine also reporteth a straneg dexteritie (though it be somewhat filthie) of a man that with the winde of his hinder parts, could make what sound he liked, and that with so good measure, as you would have thought he had sung. Piedro Mexia de Sevilla, lib.variarum lectionum. cap 26

A true discourse, upon the matter of Martha Brossier of Romorantin, pretended to be possessed by a devil. Translated out of French into English, by Abraham Hartwell (London: John Wolfe, printer, 1599), sigs. E2v-E3r.