HotFreeBooks.com
The Superstitions of Witchcraft
by Howard Williams
1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Transcriber's notes

The "oe" ligature is represented as [oe].

The footnotes have been moved and renumbered for easier reading.

A list of corrections is included at the end of the book.



SUPERSTITIONS OF WITCHCRAFT.

London Printed by Spottiswoode and Co. New-Street Square

THE SUPERSTITIONS OF WITCHCRAFT.

by

HOWARD WILLIAMS, M.A.

St. John's College, Cambridge.

'Somnia, terrores magicos, miracula, sagas, Nocturnos lemures, portentaque Thessala rides?'



London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, & Green. 1865.



PREFACE.

'THE SUPERSTITIONS OF WITCHCRAFT' is designed to exhibit a consecutive review of the characteristic forms and facts of a creed which (if at present apparently dead, or at least harmless, in Christendom) in the seventeenth century was a living and lively faith, and caused thousands of victims to be sent to the torture-chamber, to the stake, and to the scaffold. At this day, the remembrance of its superhuman art, in its different manifestations, is immortalised in the every-day language of the peoples of Europe.

* * * * *

The belief in Witchcraft is, indeed, in its full development and most fearful results, modern still more than mediaeval, Christian still more than Pagan, and Protestant not less than Catholic.



CONTENTS.

PART I.

CHAPTER I.

The Origin, Prevalence, and Variety of Superstition—The Belief in Witchcraft the most horrid Form of Superstition—Most flourishing in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries—The Sentiments of Addison, Blackstone, and the Lawyers of the Eighteenth Century upon the Subject—Chaldean and Persian Magic—Jewish Witchcraft—Its important Influence on Christian and Modern Belief—Greek Pharmacy and Sorcery—Early Roman Laws against Conjuration and Magic Charms—Crimes perpetrated, under the Empire, in connection with Sorceric Practices—The general Persecution for Magic under Valentinian and Valens—German and Scandinavian Sagae—Essential Difference between Eastern and Western Sorcery—The probable Origin of the general Belief in an Evil Principle PAGE 3

PART II.

CHAPTER I.

Compromise between the New and the Old Faiths—Witchcraft under the Early Church—The Sentiments of the Fathers and the Decrees of Councils—Platonic Influences—Historical, Physiological, and Accidental Causes of the Attribution of Witchcraft to the Female Sex—Opinions of the Fathers and other Writers—The Witch-Compact 47

CHAPTER II.

Charlemagne's Severity—Anglo-Saxon Superstition—Norman and Arabic Magic—Influence of Arabic Science—Mohammedan Belief in Magic—Rabbinical Learning—Roger Bacon—The Persecution of the Templars—Alice Kyteler 63

CHAPTER III.

Witchcraft and Heresy purposely confounded by the Church—Mediaeval Science closely connected with Magic and Sorcery—Ignorance of Physiology the Cause of many of the Popular Prejudices—Jeanne d'Arc—Duchess of Gloucester—Jane Shore—Persecution at Arras 84

PART III.

CHAPTER I.

The Bull of Innocent VIII.—A new Incentive to the vigorous Prosecution of Witchcraft—The 'Malleus Maleficarum'—Its Criminal Code—Numerous Executions at the Commencement of the Sixteenth Century—Examination of Christian Demonology—Various Opinions of the Nature of Demons—General Belief in the Intercourse of Demons and other non-human Beings with Mankind 101

CHAPTER II.

Three Sorts of Witches—Various Modes of Witchcraft—Manner of Witch-Travelling—The Sabbaths—Anathemas of the Popes against the Crime—Bull of Adrian VI.—Cotemporary Testimony to the Severity of the Persecutions—Necessary Triumph of the Orthodox Party—Germany most subject to the Superstition—Acts of Parliament of Henry VIII. against Witchcraft—Elizabeth Barton—The Act of 1562—Executions under Queen Elizabeth's Government—Case of Witchcraft narrated by Reginald Scot 126

CHAPTER III.

The 'Discoverie of Witchcraft,' published 1584—Wier's 'De Praestigiis Daemonum,' &c.—Naude—Jean Bodin—His 'De la Demonomanie des Sorciers,' published at Paris, 1580—His Authority—Nider—Witch-case at Warboys—Evidence adduced at the Trial—Remarkable as being the Origin of the Institution of an Annual Sermon at Huntingdon 144

CHAPTER IV.

Astrology in Antiquity—Modern Astrology and Alchymy—Torralvo—Adventures of Dr. Dee and Edward Kelly—Prospero and Comus, Types respectively of the Theurgic and Goetic Arts—Magicians on the Stage in the Sixteenth Century—Occult Science in Southern Europe—Causes of the inevitable Mistakes of the pre-Scientific Ages 157

CHAPTER V.

Sorcery in Southern Europe—Cause of the Retention of the Demonological Creed among the Protestant Sects—Calvinists the most Fanatical of the Reformed Churches—Witch-Creed sanctioned in the Authorised Version of the Sacred Scriptures—The Witch-Act of 1604—James VI.'s 'Demonologie'—Lycanthropy and Executions in France—The French Provincial Parliaments active in passing Laws against the various Witch-practices—Witchcraft in the Pyrenees—Commission of Inquiry appointed—Its Results—Demonology in Spain 168

CHAPTER VI.

'Possession' in France in the Seventeenth Century—Urbain Grandier and the Convent of Loudun—Exorcism at Aix—Ecstatic Phenomena—Madeleine Bavent—Her cruel Persecution—Catholic and Protestant Witchcraft in Germany—Luther's Demonological Fears and Experiences—Originated in his exceptional Position and in the extraordinary Circumstances of his Life and Times—Witch-burning at Bamburg and at Wuerzburg 186

CHAPTER VII.

Scotland one of the most Superstitious Countries in Europe—Scott's Relation of the Barbarities perpetrated in the Witch-trials under the Auspices of James VI.—The Fate of Agnes Sampson, Euphane MacCalzean, &c.—Irrational Conduct of the Courts of Justice—Causes of Voluntary Witch-Confessions—Testimony of Sir G. Mackenzie, &c.—Trial and Execution of Margaret Barclay—Computation of the Number of Witches who suffered Death in England and Scotland in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries—Witches burned alive at Edinburgh in 1608—The Lancashire Witches—Sir Thomas Overbury and Dr. Forman—Margaret Flower and Lord Rosse 203

CHAPTER VIII.

The Literature of Europe in the Seventeenth Century proves the Universality and Horror of Witchcraft—The most acute and most liberal Men of Learning convinced of its Reality—Erasmus and Francis Bacon—Lawyers prejudiced by Legislation—Matthew Hale's judicial Assertion—Sir Thomas Browne's Testimony—John Selden—The English Church least Ferocious of the Protestant Sects—Jewell and Hooker—Independent Tolerance—Witchcraft under the Presbyterian Government—Matthew Hopkins—Gaule's 'Select Cases of Conscience'—Judicial and Popular Methods of Witch-discovery—Preventive Charms—Witchfinders a Legal and Numerous Class in England and Scotland—Remission in the Severity of the Persecution under the Protectorship 219

CHAPTER IX.

Glanvil's Sadducismus Triumphatus—His Sentiments on Witchcraft and Demonology—Baxter's 'Certainty of the World of Spirits,' &c.—Witch Trial at Bury St. Edmund's by Sir Matthew Hale, 1664—The Evidence adduced in Court—Two Witches hanged—Three hanged at Exeter in 1682—The last Witches judicially executed in England—Uniformity of the Evidence adduced at the Trials—Webster's Attack upon the Witch-creed in 1677—Witch Trials in England at the end of the Seventeenth Century—French Parliaments vindicate the Diabolic Reality of the Crime—Witchcraft in Sweden 237

CHAPTER X.

Witchcraft in the English Colonies in North America—Puritan Intolerance and Superstition—Cotton Mather's 'Late Memorable Providences'—Demoniacal Possession—Evidence given before the Commission—Apologies issued by Authority—Sudden Termination of the Proceedings—Reactionary Feeling against the Agitators—The Salem Witchcraft the last Instance of Judicial Prosecution on a large Scale in Christendom—Philosophers begin to expose the Superstition—Meritorious Labours of Webster, Becker, and others—Their Arguments could reach only the Educated and Wealthy Classes of Society—These only partially enfranchised—The Superstition continues to prevail among the Vulgar—Repeal of the Witch Act in England in 1736—Judicial and Popular Persecutions in England in the Eighteenth Century—Trial of Jane Wenham in England in 1712—Maria Renata burned in Germany in 1749—La Cadiere in France—Last Witch burned in Scotland in 1722—Recent Cases of Witchcraft—Protestant Superstition—Witchcraft in the Extra-Christian World 259



PART I.

EARLIER FAITH.



CHAPTER I.

The Origin, Prevalence, and Variety of Superstition—The Belief in Witchcraft the most horrid Form of Superstition—Most flourishing in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries—The Sentiments of Addison, Blackstone, and the Lawyers of the Eighteenth Century upon the Subject—Chaldean and Persian Magic—Jewish Witchcraft—Its important Influence on Christian and Modern Belief—Greek Pharmacy and Sorcery—Early Roman Laws against Conjuration and Magic Charms—Crimes perpetrated, under the Empire, in connection with Sorceric Practices—The general Persecution for Magic under Valentinian and Valens—German and Scandinavian Sagae—The probable Origin of the general Belief in an Evil Principle.

Superstition, the product of ignorance of causes, of the proneness to seek the solution of phenomena out of and beyond nature, and of the consequent natural but unreasoning dread of the Unknown and Invisible (ignorantly termed the supernatural), is at once universal in the extent, and various in the kinds, of its despotism. Experience and reason seem to prove that, inherent to and apparently coexistent with the human mind, it naturally originates in the constitution of humanity: in ignorance and uncertainty, in an instinctive doubt and fear of the Unknown. Accident may moderate its power among particular peoples and persons; and there are always exceptional minds whose natural temper and exercise of reason are able to free them from the servitude of a delusive imagination. For the mass of mankind, the germ of superstition, prepared to assume always a new shape and sometimes fresh vigour, is indestructible. The severest assaults are ineffectual to eradicate it: hydra-like, far from being destroyed by a seeming mortal stroke, it often raises its many-headed form with redoubled force.

It will appear more philosophic to deplore the imperfection, than to deride the folly of human nature, when the fact that the superstitious sentiment is not only a result of mere barbarism or vulgar ignorance, to be expelled of course by civilisation and knowledge, but is indigenous in the life of every man, barbarous or civilised, pagan or Christian, is fully recognised. The enlightening influence of science, as far as it extends, is irresistible; and its progress within certain limits seems sure and almost omnipotent. But it is unfortunately limited in the extent of its influence, as well as uncertain in duration; while reason enjoys a feeble reign compared with ignorance and imagination.[1] If it is the great office of history to teach by experience, it is never useless to examine the causes and the facts of a mischievous creed that has its roots deep in the ignorant fears of mankind; but against the recurrence of the fatal effects of fanaticism apparent in the earliest and latest records of the world, there can be no sufficient security.

[1] That 'speculation has on every subject of human enquiry three successive stages; in the first of which it tends to explain the phenomena by supernatural agencies, in the second by metaphysical abstractions, and in the third or final state, confines itself to ascertaining their laws of succession and similitude' (System of Logic, by J. S. Mill), is a generalisation of Positive Philosophy, and a theory of the Science of History, consistent probably with the progress of knowledge among philosophers, but is scarcely applicable to the mass of mankind.

Dreams, magic terrors, miracles, witches, ghosts, portents, are some of the various forms superstition has invented and magnified to disturb the peace of society as well as of individuals. The most extravagant of these need not be sought in the remoter ages of the human race, or even in the 'dark ages' of European history: they are sufficiently evident in the legislation and theology, as well as in the popular prejudices of the seventeenth century.

The belief in the infernal art of witchcraft is perhaps the most horrid, as it certainly is the most absurd, phenomenon in the religious history of the world. Of the millions of victims sacrificed on the altars of religion this particular delusion can claim a considerable proportion. By a moderate computation, nine millions have been burned or hanged since the establishment of Christianity.[2] Prechristian antiquity experienced its tremendous power, and the primitive faith of Christianity easily accepted and soon developed it. It was reserved, however, for the triumphant Church to display it in its greatest horrors: and if we deplore the too credulous or accommodative faith of the early militant Church or the unilluminated ignorance of paganism, we may still more indignantly denounce the cruel policy of Catholicism and the barbarous folly of Protestant theology which could deliberately punish an impossible crime. It is the reproach of Protestantism that this persecution was most furiously raging in the age that produced Newton and Locke. Compared with its atrocities even the Marian burnings appear as nothing: and it may well be doubted whether the fanatic zeal of the 'bloody Queen,' is no less contemptible than the credulous barbarity of the judges of the seventeenth century. The period 1484 (the year in which Innocent VIII. published his famous 'Witch Hammer' signally ratified 120 years later by the Act of Parliament of James I. of England) to 1680 might be characterised not improperly as the era of devil-worship; and we are tempted almost to embrace the theory of Zerdusht and the Magi and conceive that Ahriman was then superior in the eternal strife; to imagine the Evil One, as in the days of the Man of Uz, 'going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it.' It is come to that at the present day, according to a more rational observer of the seventeenth century, that it is regarded as a part of religion to ascribe great wonders to the devil; and those are taxed with infidelity and perverseness who hesitate to believe what thousands relate concerning his power. Whoever does not do so is accounted an atheist because he cannot persuade himself that there are two Gods, the one good and the other evil[3]—an assertion which is no mere hyperbole or exaggeration of a truth: there is the certain evidence of facts as well as the concurrent testimony of various writers.

[2] According to Dr. Sprenger (Life of Mohammed). Cicero's observation that there was no people either so civilised or learned, or so savage and barbarous, that had not a belief that the future may be predicted by certain persons (De Divinatione, i.), is justified by the faith of Christendom, as well as by that of paganism; and is as true of witchcraft as it is of prophecy or divination.

[3] Dr. Balthazar Becker, Amsterdam, 1691, quoted in Mosheim's Institutes of Ecclesiastical History, ed. Reid.

Those (comparatively few) whose reason and humanity alike revolted from a horrible dogma, loudly proclaim the prevailing prejudice. Such protests, however, were, for a long time at least, feeble and useless—helplessly overwhelmed by the irresistible torrent of public opinion. All classes of society were almost equally infected by a plague-spot that knew no distinction of class or rank. If theologians (like Bishop Jewell, one of the most esteemed divines in the Anglican Church, publicly asserting on a well known occasion at once his faith and his fears) or lawyers (like Sir Edward Coke and Judge Hale) are found unmistakably recording their undoubting conviction, they were bound, it is plain, the one class by theology, the other by legislation. Credulity of so extraordinary a kind is sufficiently surprising even in theologians; but what is to be thought of the deliberate opinion of unbiassed writers of a recent age maintaining the possibility, if not the actual occurrence, of the facts of the belief?

The deliberate judgment of Addison, whose wit and preeminent graces of style were especially devoted to the extirpation of almost every sort of popular folly of the day, could declare: 'When I hear the relations that are made from all parts of the world, not only from Norway and Lapland, from the East and West Indies, but from every particular nation in Europe, I cannot forbear thinking that there is such an intercourse and commerce with evil spirits as that which we express by the name of witchcraft.... In short, when I consider the question whether there are such persons in the world as those we call witches, my mind is divided between two opposite opinions; or rather, to speak my thoughts freely, I believe in general that there is and has been such a thing as witchcraft, but at the same time can give no credit to any particular modern instance of it.'[4] Evidence, if additional were wanted, how deference to authority and universal custom may subdue the reason and understanding. The language and decision of Addison are adopted by Sir W. Blackstone in 'Commentaries on the Laws of England,' who shelters himself behind that celebrated author's sentiment; and Gibbon informs us that 'French and English lawyers of the present age [the latter half of the last century] allow the theory but deny the practice of witchcraft'—influenced doubtless by the spirit of the past legislation of their respective countries. In England the famous enactment of the subservient parliament of James I. against the crimes of sorcery, &c., was repealed in the middle of the reign of George II., our laws sanctioning not 130 years since the popular persecution, if not the legal punishment.

[4] Spectator, No. 117. The sentiments of Addison on a kindred subject are very similar. Writing about the vulgar ghost creed, he adds these remarkable words: 'At the same time I think a person who is thus terrified with the imagination of ghosts and spectres much more reasonable than one who, contrary to the reports of all historians, sacred and profane, ancient and modern, and to the traditions of all nations, thinks the appearance of spirits fabulous and groundless. Could not I give myself up to the general testimony of mankind, I should to the relations of particular persons who are now living, and whom I cannot distrust in other matters of fact.' Samuel Johnson (whose prejudices were equalled only by his range of knowledge) proved his faith in a well-known case, if afterwards he advanced so far as to consider the question as to the reality of 'ghosts' as undecided. Sir W. Scott, who wrote when the profound metaphysical inquiries of Hume had gained ground (it is observable), is quite sceptical.

The origin of witchcraft and the vulgar diabolism is to be found in the rude beginnings of the religious or superstitious feeling which, known amongst the present savage nations as Fetishism, probably prevailed almost universally in the earliest ages; while that of the sublimer magic is discovered in the religious systems of the ancient Chaldeans and Persians. Chaldea and Egypt were the first, as far as is known, to cultivate the science of magic: the former people long gave the well-known name to the professional practisers of the art. Cicero (de Divinatione) celebrates, and the Jewish prophets frequently deride, their skill in divination and their modes of incantation. The story of Daniel evidences how highly honoured and lucrative was the magical or divining faculty. The Chazdim, or Chaldeans, a priestly caste inhabiting a wide and level country, must have soon applied themselves to the study, so useful to their interests, of their brilliant expanse of heavens. By a prolonged and 'daily observation,' considerable knowledge must have been attained; but in the infancy of the science astronomy necessarily took the form of an empirical art which, under the name of astrology, engaged the serious attention and perplexed the brains of the mediaeval students of science or magic (nearly synonymous terms), and which still survives in England in the popular almanacks. The natural objects of veneration to the inhabitants of Assyria were the glorious luminaries of the sun and moon; and if their worship of the stars and planets degenerated into many absurd fancies, believing an intimate connection and subordination of human destiny to celestial influences, it may be admitted that a religious sentiment of this kind in its primitive simplicity was more rational, or at least sublime, than most other religious systems.

It is not necessary to trace the oriental creeds of magic further than they affected modern beliefs; but in the divinities and genii of Persia are more immediately traced the spiritual existences of Jewish and Christian belief. From the Persian priests are derived both the name and the practice of magic. The Evil Principle of the Magian, of the later Jewish, and thence of the western world, originated in the system (claiming Zoroaster as its founder), which taught a duality of Gods. The philosophic lawgiver, unable to penetrate the mystery of the empire of evil and misery in the world, was convinced that there is an equal and antagonistic power to the representative of light and goodness. Hence the continued eternal contention between Ormuzd with the good spirits or genii, Amchaspands, on one side, and Ahriman with the Devs (who may represent the infernal crew of Christendom) on the other. Egypt, in the Mosaic and Homeric ages, seems to have attained considerable skill in magic, as well as in chymistry and astrology. As an abstruse and esoteric doctrine, it was strictly confined to the priests, or to the favoured few who were admitted to initiation. The magic excellence of the magicians, who successfully emulated the miracles of Moses, was apparently assisted by a legerdemain similar to that of the Hindu jugglers of the present day.[5]

[5] The names of two of these magicians, Jannes and Jambres, have been preserved by revelation or tradition.

In Persian theology, the shadowy idea of the devil of western Asia was wholly different from the grosser conception of Christendom. Neither the evil principle of Magianism nor the witch of Palestine has much in common with the Christian. 'No contract of subjection to a diabolic power, no infernal stamp or sign of such a fatal league, no revellings of Satan and his hags,'[6] no such materialistic notions could be conformable to the spirit of Judaism or at least of Magianism. It is not difficult to find the cause of this essential dissimilarity. A simple unity was severely inculcated by the religion and laws of Moses, which permitted little exercise of the imagination: while the Magi were equally severe against idolatrous forms. A monstrous idea, like that of 'Satan and his hags,' was impossible to them. Christianity, the religion of the West, has received its corporeal ideas of demonology from the divinities and demons of heathenism. The Satyri and Fauni of Greece and Rome have suggested in part the form, and perhaps some of the characteristics, of the vulgar Christian devil. A knowledge of the arts of magic among the Jews was probably derived from their Egyptian life, while the Bedouins of Arabia and Syria (kindred peoples) may have instilled the less scientific rites of Fetishism. It is in the early accounts of that people that sorcery, whatever its character and profession, with the allied arts of divination, necromancy, incantations, &c., appears most flourishing. The Mosaic penalty, 'Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,' and the comprehensive injunction, 'There shall not be found among you that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer,' indicate at once the extent and the horror of the practice. Balaam (that equivocal prophet), on the border-land of Arabia and Palestine, was courted and dreaded as a wizard who could perplex whole armies by means of spells. His fame extended far and wide; he was summoned from his home beyond the Euphrates in the mountains of Mesopotamia by the Syrian tribes to repel the invading enemy. This great magician was, it seems, universally regarded as 'the rival and the possible conqueror of Moses.'[7]

[6] Sir W. Scott, Letters on Demonology.

[7] Dean Stanley's Lectures on the Jewish Church.

About the time when the priestly caste had to yield to a profane monarchy, the forbidden practices were so notorious and the evil was of such magnitude, that the newly-elected prince 'ejected' (as Josephus relates) 'the fortune-tellers, necromancers, and all such as exercised the like arts.' His interview with the witch has some resemblance to modern diablerie in the circumstances. Reginald Scot's rationalistic interpretation of this scene may be recommended to the commentating critics who have been so much at a loss to explain it. He derides the received opinion of the woman of Endor being an agent of the devil, and ignoring any mystery, believes, 'This Pythonist being a ventriloqua, that is, speaking as it were from the bottom of her belly, did cast herself into a trance and so abused Saul, answering to Saul in Samuel's name in her counterfeit hollow voice.[8] An institution very popular with the Jews of the first temple, often commemorated in their scriptures—the schools of the prophets—was (it is not improbable) of the same kind as the schools of Salamanca and Salerno in the middle ages, where magic was publicly taught as an abstruse and useful science; and when Jehu justifies his conduct towards the queen-mother by bringing a charge of witchcraft, he only anticipates an expedient common and successful in Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. A Jewish prophet asserts of the Babylonian kings, that they were diligent cultivators of the arts, reproaching them with practising against the holy city.

[8] Discoverie of Witchcraft, lib. viii. chap. 12. The contrivance of this illusion was possibly like that at Delphi, where in the centre of the temple was a chasm, from which arose an intoxicating smoke, when the priestess was to announce divine revelations. Seated over the chasm upon the tripod, the Pythia was inspired, it seems, by the soporific and maddening drugs.

Yet if we may credit the national historian (not to mention the common traditions), the Chaldean monarch might have justly envied, if he could scarcely hope to emulate, the excellence of a former prince of his now obscure province. Josephus says of Solomon that, amongst other attainments, 'God enabled him to learn that skill which expels demons, which is a science useful and sanative to men. He composed such incantations also by which distempers are alleviated, and he left behind him the manner of using exorcisms by which they drive away demons so that they never return.'[9] The story of Daniel is well known. In the captivity of the two tribes carried away into an honourable servitude he soon rose into the highest favour, because, as we are informed, he excelled in a divination that surpassed all the art of the Chaldeans, themselves so famous for it. The inspired Jew had divined a dream or vision which puzzled 'the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans,' and immediately was rewarded with the greatest gift at the disposal of a capricious despot. Most of the apologetic writers on witchcraft, in particular the authors of the 'Malleus Maleficarum,' accept the assertion of the author of the history of Daniel that Nebuchadnezzar was 'driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen,' in its apparent sense, expounding it as plainly declaring that he was corporeally metamorphosed into an ox, just as the companions of Ulysses were transformed into swine by the Circean sorceries.

[9] Antiquities, book viii. 2. Whiston's transl.

The Jewish ideas of good or at least evil spirits or angels were acquired during their forced residence in Babylon, whether under Assyrian or Persian government. At least 'Satan' is first discovered unmistakably in a personal form in the poem of Job, a work pronounced by critics to have been composed after the restoration. In the Mosaic cosmogony and legislation, the writer introduces not, expressly or impliedly, the existence of an evil principle, unless the serpent of the Paradisaic account, which has been rather arbitrarily so metamorphosed, represents it;[10] while the expressions in books vulgarly reputed before the conquest are at least doubtful. From this time forward (from the fifth century B.C.), says a German demonologist, as the Jews lived among the admirers of Zoroaster, and thus became acquainted with their doctrines, are found, partly in contradiction to the earlier views of their religion, many tenets prevailing amongst them the origin of which it is impossible to explain except by the operation of the doctrines of Zoroaster: to these belongs the general acceptance of the theory of Satan, as well as of good and bad angels.[11] Under Roman government or vassalage, sorceric practices, as they appear in the Christian scriptures, were much in vogue. Devils or demons, and the 'prince of the devils,' frequently appear; and the demoniacs may represent the victims of witchcraft. The Talmud, if there is any truth in the assertions of the apologists of witchcraft, commemorates many of the most virtuous Jews accused of the crime and executed by the procurator of Judea.[12] Exorcism was a very popular and lucrative profession.[13] Simon Magus the magician (par excellence), the impious pretender to miraculous powers, who 'bewitched the people of Samaria by his sorceries,' is celebrated by Eusebius and succeeding Christian writers as the fruitful parent of heresy and sorcery.

[10] Some ingenious remarks on the subject of the serpent, &c., may be found in Eastern Life, part ii. 5, by H. Martineau.

[11] Horst, quoted in Ennemoser's History of Magic. It has been often remarked as a singular phenomenon, that the 'chosen people,' so prompt in earlier periods on every occasion to idolatry and its cruel rites, after its restoration under Persian auspices, has been ever since uniformly opposed, even fiercely, to any sign contrary to the unity of the Deity. But the Magian system was equally averse to idolatry.

[12] Bishop Jewell (Apology for the Church of England) states that Christ was accused by the malice of his countrymen of being a juggler and wizard—praestigiator et maleficus. In the apostolic narrative and epistles, sorcery, witchcraft, &c., are crimes frequently described and denounced. The Sadducean sect alone denied the existence of demons.

[13] The common belief of the people of Palestine in the transcendent power of exorcism is illustrated by a miracle of this sort, gravely related by Josephus. It was exhibited before Vespasian and his army. 'He [Eleazar, one of the professional class] put a ring that had a root of one of those sorts mentioned by Solomon to the nostrils of the demoniac; after which he drew out the demon through his nostrils: and when the man fell down immediately he adjured him to return into him no more, making still mention of Solomon, and reciting the incantations which he composed. And when Eleazar would demonstrate to the spectators that he had such power, he set a little way off a cup or basin full of water, and commanded the demon as he went out of the man to overturn it, and thereby to let the spectators know he had left the man.' This performance was received with contempt or credulity by the spectators according to their faith: but the credulity of the believers could hardly exceed that of a large number of educated people, who in our own generation detect in the miracles of animal magnetism, or the legerdemain of jugglers, an infernal or supernatural agency.

That witchcraft, or whatever term expresses the criminal practice, prevailed among the worshippers of Jehovah, is evident from the repeated anathemas both in their own and the Christian scriptures, not to speak of traditional legends; but the Hebrew and Greek expressions seem both to include at least the use of drugs and perhaps of poison.[14] The Jewish creed, as exposed in their scriptures, has deserved a fame it would not otherwise have, because upon it have been founded by theologians, Catholic and Protestant, the arguments and apology for the reality of witchcraft, derived from the sacred writings, with an ingenuity only too common and successful in supporting peculiar prejudices and interests even of the most monstrous kind.[15]

[14] Chashaph and Pharmakeia. Biblical critics are inclined, however, to accept in its strict sense the translation of the Jacobian divines. 'Since in the LXX.,' says Parkhurst, the lexicographer of the N.T., 'this noun [pharmakeia] and its relatives always answer to some Hebrew word that denotes some kind of their magical or conjuring tricks; and since it is too notorious to be insisted upon, that such infernal practices have always prevailed, and do still prevail in idolatrous countries, I prefer the other sense of incantation.'

[15] A sort of ingenuity much exercised of late by 'sober brows approving with a text' the institution of slavery: divine, according to them; the greatest evil that afflicts mankind, according to Alexander von Humboldt. See Personal Narrative.

In examining the phenomenon as it existed among the Greeks and Romans, it will be remarked that, while the Greeks seem to have mainly adopted the ideas of the East, the Roman superstition was of Italian origin. Their respective expressions for the predictive or presentient faculty (manteia and divinatio), as Cicero is careful to explain, appear to indicate its different character with those two peoples: the one being the product of a sort of madness, the other an elaborate and divine skill. Greek traditions made them believe that the magic science was brought from Egypt or Asia by their old philosophic and legislating sages. Some of the most eminent of the founders of philosophic schools were popularly accused of encouraging it. Pythagoras (it is the complaint of Plato) is said to have introduced to his countrymen an art derived from his foreign travels; a charge which recalls the names of Roger Bacon, Albertus Magnus, Galileo, and others, who had to pay the penalty of a premature knowledge by the suspicion of their cotemporaries. Xenophanes is said to be the only one of the philosophers who admitted the existence or providence of the gods, and at the same time entirely discredited divination. Of the Stoics, Panaetius was the only one who ventured even to doubt. Some gave credit to one or two particular modes only, as those of dreams and frenzy; but for the most part every form of this sort of divine revelation was implicitly received.[16]

[16] Cicero, in his second book De Divinatione, undertakes to refute the arguments of the Stoics, 'the force of whose mind, being all turned to the side of morals, unbent itself in that of religion.' The divining faculty is divisible generally into the artificial and the natural.

The science of magic proper is developed in the later schools of philosophy, in which Oriental theology or demonology was largely mixed. Apollonius of Tyana, a modern Pythagorean, is the most famous magician of antiquity. This great miracle-worker of paganism was born at the commencement of the Christian era; and it has been observed that his miracles, though quite independent of them, curiously coincide both in time and kind with the Christian.[17] According to his biographer Philostratus, this extraordinary man (whose travels and researches extended, we are assured, over the whole East even into India, through Greece, Italy, Spain, northern Africa, Ethiopia, &c.) must have been in possession of a scientific knowledge which, compared with that of his cotemporaries, might be deemed almost supernatural. Extraordinary attainments suggested to him in later life to excite the awe of the vulgar by investing himself with magical powers. Apollonius is said to have assisted Vespasian in his struggle for the throne of the Caesars; afterwards, when accused of raising an insurrection against Domitian, and when he had given himself up voluntarily to the imperial tribunal at Rome, he escaped impending destruction by the exertion of his superhuman art.

[17] The proclamation of the birth of Apollonius to his mother by Proteus, and the incarnation of Proteus himself, the chorus of swans which sang for joy on the occasion, the casting out of devils, raising the dead, and healing the sick, the sudden appearances and disappearances of Apollonius, his adventures in the cave of Trophonius, and the sacred voice which called him at his death, to which may be added his claim as a teacher having authority to reform the world, 'cannot fail to suggest,' says a writer in the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography, &c., ed. by Dr. W. Smith, 'the parallel passages in the Gospel history.'

Of the incantations, charms, and magic compounds in the practice of Greek witchcraft, numerous examples occur in the tragic and comic poetry of Greece; and the philtres, or love-charms, of Theocritus are well known. The names of Colchis, Chaldea, Assyria, Iberia, Thrace, may indicate the origin of a great part of the Hellenic sorceries. Yet, if the more honourable science may have been of foreign extraction, Hellas was not without something of the sorcery of modern Europe. The infernal goddess Hecate, of Greek celebrity, is the omnipotent patroness of her modern Christian slaves; and she presides at the witch meetings of Christendom with as much solemnity but with far greater malice. Originally of celestial rank, by a later metamorphosis connected, if not personally identical with, Persephone, the Queen of Hades, Hecate was invested with many of the characteristic attributes of a modern devil, or rather perhaps of a witch. The triple goddess, in her various shapes, wandered about at night with the souls of the dead, terrifying the trembling country people by apparitions of herself and infernal satellites, by the horrible whining and howls of her hellhounds which always announced her approach. She frequented cross-roads, tombs, and melancholy places, especially delighting in localities famous for deeds of blood and murder. The hobgoblins, the various malicious demons and spirits, who provoked the lively terrors of the mediaeval peoples, had some prototypes in the fairy-land of Greece, in the Hecatean hobgoblins (like the Latin larvae, &c.), Empusa, Mormo, and other products of an affrighted imagination familiar to the students of Greek literature in the comic pages of Aristophanes.[18] From the earliest literary records down to the latest times of paganism as the state religion, from the times of the Homeric Circe and Ulysses (the latter has been recognised by many as a genuine wizard) to the age of Apollonius or Apuleius, magic and sorcery, as a philosophical science or as a vulgar superstition, had apparently more or less distinctly a place in the popular mythology of old Greece. But in the pagan history of neither Greece nor Rome do we read of holocausts of victims, as in Christian Europe, immolated on the altars of a horrid superstition.[19] The occasion of the composition of the treatise by Apuleius 'On Magic' is somewhat romantic. On his way to Alexandria, the philosopher, being disabled from proceeding on the journey, was hospitably received into the mansion of one Sicinius Pontianus. Here, during the interesting period of his recovery, he captivated, or was captivated by, the love of his host's mother, a wealthy widow, and the lovers were soon united by marriage. Pudentilla's relatives, indignant at the loss of a much-coveted, and perhaps long-expected fortune, brought an action against Apuleius for having gained her affection by means of spells or charms. The cause was heard before the proconsul of Africa, and the apology of the accused labours to convince his judges that a widow's love might be provoked without superhuman means.[20]

[18] Particularly in the Batrachoi. The dread of the infernal apparition of the fierce Gorgo in Hades blanched the cheek of even much-daring Odysseus (Od. xi. 633). The satellites of Hecate have been compared, not disadvantageously, with the monstrous guardians of hell; than whom

'Nor uglier follow the night-hag when, called In secret, riding through the air she comes Lured with the smell of infant blood to dance With Lapland witches—.'

[19] An exceptional case, on the authority of Demosthenes, is that of a woman condemned in the year, or within a year or two, of the execution of Socrates.

[20] St. Augustin, in denouncing the Platonic theories of Apuleius, of the mediation and intercession of demons between gods and men, and exposing his magic heresies, takes occasion to taunt him with having evaded his just fate by not professing, like the Christian martyrs, his real faith when delivering his 'very copious and eloquent' apology (De Civitate Dei, lib. viii. 19). In the Golden Ass of the Greek romancist of the second century, who, in common with his cotemporary the great rationalist Lucian, deserves the praise of having exposed (with more wit perhaps than success) some of the most absurd prejudices of the day, his readers are entertained with stories that might pretty nearly represent the sentiments of the seventeenth century.

Gibbon observes of the Roman superstition on the authority of Petronius, that it may be inferred that it was of Italian rather than barbaric extraction. Etruria furnished the people of Romulus with the science of divination. Early in the history of the Republic the law is very explicit on the subject of witchcraft. In the decemviral code the extreme penalty is attached to the crime of witchcraft or conjuration: 'Let him be capitally punished who shall have bewitched the fruits of the earth, or by either kind of conjuration (excantando neque incantando) shall have conjured away his neighbour's corn into his own field,' &c., an enactment sneered at in Justinian's Institutes in Seneca's words. A rude and ignorant antiquity, repeat the lawyers of Justinian, had believed that rain and storms might be attracted or repelled by means of spells or charms, the impossibility of which has no need to be explained by any school of philosophy. A hundred and fifty years later than the legislation of the decemvirs was passed the Lex Cornelia, usually cited as directed against sorcery: but while involving possibly the more shadowy crime, it seems to have been levelled against the more 'substantial poison.' The conviction and condemnation of 170 Roman ladies for poisoning, under pretence of incantation, was the occasion and cause. Sulla, when dictator, revived this act de veneficiis et malis sacrificiis, for breach of which the penalty was 'interdiction of fire and water.' Senatorial anathemas, or even those of the prince, were ineffective to check the continually increasing abuses, which towards the end of the first century of the empire had reached an alarming height.[21]

[21] It will be observed that veneficus and maleficus are the significant terms among the Italians for the criminals.

A general degradation of morals is often accompanied, it has been justly remarked, by a corresponding increase of the wildest credulity, and by an abject subservience to external religious rites in propitiation of an incensed deity. It was thus at Rome when the eloquence of Cicero, and afterwards the indignant satire of Juvenal or the calm ridicule of the philosophic Lucian,[22] attempted to assert the 'proper authority of reason.' To speak the truth, says Cicero, superstition has spread like a torrent over the entire globe, oppressing the minds and intellects of almost all men and seizing upon the weakness of human nature.[23] The historian of 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire' justifies and illustrates this lament of the philosopher of the Republic in the particular case of witchcraft. 'The nations and the sects of the Roman world admitted with equal credulity and similar abhorrence the reality of that infernal art which was able to control the eternal order of the planets, and the voluntary operations of the human mind. They dreaded the mysterious power of spells and incantations, of potent herbs and execrable rites, which could extinguish or recall life, influence the passions of the soul, blast the works of creation, and extort from the reluctant demons the secrets of Futurity. They believed with the wildest inconsistency that the preternatural dominion of the air, of earth, and of hell, was exercised from the vilest motives of malice or gain by some wrinkled hags or itinerant sorcerers who passed their obscure lives in penury and contempt. Such vain terrors disturbed the peace of society and the happiness of individuals; and the harmless flame which insensibly melted a waxen image might derive a powerful and pernicious energy from the affrighted fancy of the person whom it was maliciously designed to represent. From the infusion of those herbs which were supposed to possess a supernatural influence, it was an easy step to the case of more substantial poison; and the folly of mankind sometimes became the instrument and the mask of the most atrocious crimes.'[24]

[22] If the philosophical arguments of Menippus (Nekrikoi Dialogoi) could have satisfied the interest of the priests or the ignorance of the people of after times, the infernal fires of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries might not have burned.

[23] De Divinatione, lib. ii.

[24] The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, xxv. This description applies more to the Christian and later empires.

Latin poetry of the Augustan and succeeding period abounds with illustrations, and the witches of Horace, Ovid, and Lucan are the famous classical types.[25] Propertius has characterised the Striga as 'daring enough to impose laws upon the moon bewitched by her spells;' while Petronius makes his witch, as potent as Strepsiades' Thessalian sorceress, exclaim that the very form of the moon herself is compelled to descend from her position in the universe at her command. For the various compositions and incantations in common use, it must be sufficient to refer to the pages of the Roman poets. The forms of incantation and horrid rites of the Horatian Sagana Canidia (Epod. v. and Sat. i. 8), or the scenes described by the pompous verses of the poet of the civil war (De Bello Civili, vi.), where all nature is subservient, are of a similar kind, but more familiar, in the dramatic writings of the Elizabethan age. The darker characteristics of the practice, however, are presented in the burning declamations of Juvenal, only too faithfully exhibiting the unnatural atrocities perpetrated in the form and under the disguise of love-potions and charms. Roman ladies in fact acquired considerable proficiency, worthy of a Borgia or Brinvilliers, in the art of poisoning and in the use of drugs. The reputed witch, both in ancient and modern times, very often belonged, like the Ovidian Dipsas, to the real and detestable class of panders: wrinkled hags were experienced in the arts of seduction, as well as in the employment of poison and drugs more familiar to the wealthier class (Sat. vi.). The great Satirist wrote in the latter half of the first century of Christianity; but even in the Augustan period such crimes were prevalent enough to make Ovid enumerate them among the universal evils introduced by the Iron age (Metamorphoses, i.). The despotic will of the princes themselves was exerted in vain; the mischief was too deep-rooted to succumb even to the decrees of the masters of the world. Nor did the divi themselves disdain to be initiated in the infernal or celestial science. Nigidius Figulus and the two Thrasylli are magical or mathematical names closely connected with the destinies of the two first imperial princes. Nigidius predicted, and perhaps promoted, the future elevation of Octavianus; and the elder Thrasyllus, the famous Rhodian astrologer, skilfully identified his fate with the life of his credulous dupe but tyrannical pupil. Thrasyllus' art is stated to have been of service in preventing the superstitious tyrant from executing several intended victims of his hatred or caprice, by making their safety the condition of his existence. The historian of the early empire tells of the incantations which could 'affect the mind and increase the disease' of Germanicus, Tiberius' nephew. 'There were discovered,' says Tacitus, 'dug up from the ground and out of the walls of the house, the remains of human corpses, charms and spells, and the name of Germanicus inscribed on leaden tablets, ashes half consumed covered with decaying matter, and other practices by which it is believed that souls are devoted to the deities of hell.'[26]

[25] 'The Canidia of Horace,' Gibbon pronounces, 'is a vulgar witch. The Erichtho of Lucan is tedious, disgusting, but sometimes sublime.' The love-charms of Canidia and Medea are chiefly indebted to the Pharmakeutria of Theocritus.

[26] Annales, ii. 69. Writing of the mathematicians and astrologers in the time of Galba, who urged the governor of Lusitania on the perilous path to the supreme dignity, the historian characterises them truly, in his inimitable language and style, as 'a class of persons not to be trusted by those in power, deceptive to the expectant; a class which will always be proscribed and preserved in our state.'

In the fourth century, the first Christian emperor limited the lawful exercise of magic to the beneficial use of preserving or restoring the fruits of the earth or the health of the human body, while the practice of the noxious charms is capitally punished. The science of those, proclaims the imperial convert, who, immersed in the arts of magic, are detected either in attempts against the life and health of their fellow-men, or in charming the minds of modest persons to the practice of debauchery, is to be avenged and punished deservedly by severest penalties. But in no sorts of criminal charges are those remedies to be involved which are employed for the good of individuals, or are harmlessly employed in remote places to prevent premature rains, in the case of vineyards, or the injurious effects of winds and hailstorms, by which the health and good name of no one can be injured; but whose practices are of laudable use in preventing both the gifts of the Deity and the labours of men from being scattered and destroyed.[27]

[27] Cod. Justinian, lib. ix. tit. 18.

Constantine, in distinguishing between good and bad magic, between the theurgic and goetic, maintains a distinction made by the pagans—a distinction ignored in the later Christian Church, in whose system 'all demons are infernal spirits, and all commerce with them is idolatry and apostasy.' Christian zeal has accused the imperial philosopher and apostate Julian of having had recourse—not to much purpose—to many magical or necromantic rites; of cutting up the dead bodies of boys and virgins in the prescribed method; and of raising the dead to ascertain the event of his Eastern expedition against the Persians.

Not many years after the death of Julian the Christian Empire witnessed a persecution for witchcraft that for its ferocity, if not for its folly, can be paralleled only by similar scenes in the fifteenth or seventeenth century. It began shortly after the final division of the East and West in the reigns of Valentinian and Valens, A.D. 373. The unfortunate accused were pursued with equal fury in the Eastern and Western Empires; and Rome and Antioch were the principal arenas on which the bloody tragedy was consummated. Gibbon informs us that it was occasioned by a criminal consultation, when the twenty-four letters of the alphabet were ranged round a magic tripod; a dancing ring placed in the centre pointed to the first four letters in the name of the future prince. 'The deadly and incoherent mixture of treason and magic, of poison and adultery, afforded infinite gradations of guilt and innocence, of excuse and aggravation, which in these proceedings appear to have been confounded by the angry or corrupt passions of the judges. They easily discovered that the degree of their industry and discernment was estimated by the imperial court according to the number of executions that were furnished from their respective tribunals. It was not without extreme reluctance that they pronounced a sentence of acquittal; but they eagerly admitted such evidence as was stained with perjury or procured by torture to prove the most improbable charges against the most respectable characters. The progress of the inquiry continually opened new subjects of criminal prosecution; the audacious informers whose falsehood was detected retired with impunity: but the wretched victim who discovered his real or pretended accomplices was seldom permitted to receive the price of his infamy. From the extremity of Italy and Asia the young and the aged were dragged in chains to the tribunals of Rome and Antioch. Senators, matrons, and philosophers expired in ignominious and cruel tortures. The soldiers who were appointed to guard the prisons declared, with a murmur of pity and indignation, that their numbers were insufficient to oppose the flight or resistance of the multitude of captives. The wealthiest families were ruined by fines and confiscations; the most innocent citizens trembled for their safety: and we may form some notion of the magnitude of the evil from the extravagant assertion of an ancient writer [Ammianus Marcellinus], that in the obnoxious provinces the prisoners, the exiles, and the fugitives formed the greatest part of the inhabitants. The philosopher Maximus,' it is added, 'with some justice was involved in the charge of magic; and young Chrysostom, who had accidentally found one of the proscribed books, gave himself up for lost.'[28]

[28] The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, xxv.

The similarity of this to the horrible catastrophe of Arras, recorded by the chroniclers of the fifteenth century, excepting the grosser absurdities of the latter, is almost perfect. Valentinian and Valens, who seem to have emulated the atrocious fame of the Caesarean family, with their ministers, concealed, it is probable, under the disguise of a simulated credulity the real motives of revenge and cupidity.

The Roman world, Christian and pagan, was subject to the prevailing fear. That portion of the globe, however, comprehended but a small part of the human race. The records of history are incomplete and imperfect; nor are they more confined in point of time than of extent. History is little more at any period than an imperfect account of the life of a few particular peoples. Necessarily limited almost entirely to an acquaintance with the history of that portion of the globe included in the 'Roman Empire,' we almost forget our profound ignorance of that vastly larger proportion of the earth's surface, the extra-Roman world, embracing then, as now, civilised as well as barbarous nations. The Chinese empire (the most extraordinary, perhaps, and whose antiquity far surpasses that of any known), comprehending within its limits two-thirds of the population of the globe; the refined and ingenious people of Hindustan, an immense population, in the East: in the Western hemisphere nations in existence whose remains excited the admiration of the Spanish invaders; the various savage tribes of the African continent; the nomad populations of Northern Asia and Europe; nearly all these more or less, on the testimony of past and present observation, experienced the tremendous fears of the vulgar demonism.[29]

[29] It may be safely affirmed, according to a celebrated modern philosopher, that popular religions are really, in the conception of their more vulgar votaries, a species of demonism. 'Primus in orbe deos fecit timor,' or, in the fuller expression of a modern, 'Fear made the devils, and weak Hope the gods.'

With the tribes who, in the time of Caesar or Tacitus, inhabited the forests of Germany, and, perhaps, amongst the Scandinavians, some more elevated ideas obtained, the germ, however, of a degenerated popular prejudice. By all the German tribes, on the testimony of cotemporary writers, women were held in high respect, and were believed to have something even divine in their mental or spiritual faculties. 'Very many of their women they regard in the light of prophetesses, and when superstitious fear is in the ascendant, even of goddesses.' History has preserved the names of some of these Teutonic deities. Veleda, by prophetic inspiration, or by superior genius, directed the councils of her nation, and for some years successfully resisted the progress of the imperial arms.[30] Momentous questions of state or religion were submitted to their divine judgment, and it is not wonderful if, endowed with supernatural attributes, they, like other prophets, helped to fulfil their own predictions. The Britons and Gauls, of the Keltic race, seem to have resembled the Orientals, rather than the Teutons or Italians, in their religious systems. Long before the Romans came in contact with them the magic science is said to have been developed, and the priests, like those of India or Egypt, communicated the mysteries only to a privileged few, with circumstances of profound secrecy. Such was the excellence of the magic science of the British Druids, that Pliny (Hist. Nat. xxx.) was induced to suppose that the Magi of Persia must have derived their system from Britain. For the most part the Kelts then, as in the present day, were peculiarly tenacious of a creed which it was the interest of a priestly caste to preserve. On the other hand, the looser religion of the Teuton nations, of the Scandinavians and Germans, could not find much difficulty in accepting the particular conceptions of the Southern conquerors; and the sorceric mythology of the Northern barbarians readily recognised the power of an Erichtho to control the operations of nature, to prevent or confound the course of the elements, interrupt the influence of the sun, avert or induce tempests, to affect the passions of the soul, to fascinate or charm a cruel mistress, &c., with all the usual necromantic rites. But if they could acknowledge the characteristics of the Italian Striga, those nations at the same time retained a proper respect for the venerated Saga—the German Hexe.

[30] Aurinia was the Latin name of another of these venerable sagae. Tacitus, Histor. iv. 61, and Germania, viii.

Of all the historic peoples of ancient Europe, the Scandinavians were perhaps most imbued with a persuasion of the efficacy of magic; a fact which their home and their habits sufficiently explain. In the Eddas, Odin, the leader of the immigration in the first century, and the great national lawgiver, is represented as well versed in the knowledge of that preternatural art; and the heroes of the Scandinavian legends of the tenth or twelfth century are especially ambitious of initiation. The Scalds, like the Brahmins or Druids, were possessed of tremendous secrets; their runic characters were all powerful charms, whether against enemies, the injurious effects of an evil eye, or to soften the resentment of a lover.[31] The Northmen, with the exception of some nations of Central Europe, like the Lithuanians, who were not christianised until the thirteenth or fourteenth century, from their roving habits as well perhaps as from their remoteness, were among the last peoples of Europe to abandon their old creed. Urged by poverty and the hopes of plunder, the pirates of the Baltic long continued to be the terror of the European coasts; but, without a political status, they were the common outlaws of Christendom. They were the relics of a savage life now giving way in Europe to the somewhat more civilised forms of society, continuing their indiscriminate depredations with impunity only because of the want of union and organisation among their neighbours. But they were in a transitional state: the coasts and countries they had formerly been content to ravage, they were beginning to find it their interest to colonise and cultivate. In the new interests and pursuits of civilisation and commerce, a natural disgust might have been experienced for the savage traditions of a religion whose gods and heroes were mostly personifications of war and rapine, under whose banners they had suffered the hardships, if they had enjoyed the plunder, of a piratic life. The national deities from being disregarded, must have come soon to be treated with undisguised contempt at least by the leaders: while the common people, serfs, or slaves were still immersed (as much as in Christian Europe) in a stupid superstition.

[31] The following story exhibits the influence of witchcraft among the followers of Odin. Towards the end of the tenth century, the dreaded Jomsburg sea-rovers had set out on one of their periodical expeditions, and were devastating with fire and sword the coast of Norway. A celebrated Norwegian Jarl, Hakon, collected all his forces, and sailed with a fleet of 150 vessels to encounter the pirates. Hakon, after trying in vain to break through the hostile line, retired with his fleet to the coast, and proceeded to consult a well-known sorceress in whom he had implicit confidence for any emergency. With some pretended reluctance the sorceress at length informed him that the victory could be obtained only by the sacrifice of his son. Hakon hesitated not to offer up his only son as a propitiatory sacrifice; after which, returning to his fleet, and his accustomed post in the front ranks of the battle, he renewed the engagement. Towards evening the Jomsburg pirates were overtaken and overwhelmed by a violent storm, destroying or damaging their ships. They were convinced that they saw the witch herself seated on the prow of the Jarl's ships with clouds of missile weapons flying from the tips of her fingers, each arrow carrying a death-wound. With such of his followers as had escaped the sorceric encounter, the pirate-chief made the best of his way from the scene of destruction, declaring he had made a vow indeed to fight against men, but not against witches. A narrative not inconsistent with the reply of a warrior to an inquiry from the Saint-king Olaf, 'I am neither Christian nor pagan; my companions and I have no other religion than a just confidence in our strength, and in the good success which always attends us in war; and we are of opinion that it is all that is necessary.'—Mallet's Northern Antiquities.

When men's minds are thus universally unsettled and in want—a want both universal and necessary in states—of some new divine objects of worship more suited to advanced ideas and requirements, a system of religion more civilising and rational than the antiquated one, will be adopted without much difficulty, especially if it is not too exclusive. Yet the Scandinavians were unusually tenacious of the forms of their ancestral worship; for while the Icelanders are said to have received Christianity about the beginning of the eleventh century, the people of Norway were not wholly converted until somewhat later. The halls of Valhalla must have been relinquished with a sigh in exchange for the less intelligible joys of a tranquil and insensuous paradise. An ancient Norsk law enjoins that the king and bishop, with all possible care, make inquiry after those who exercise pagan practices, employ magic arts, adore the genii of particular places, of tombs or rivers, who transport themselves by a diabolical mode of travelling through the air from place to place. In the extremity of the northern peninsula (amongst the Laplanders), where the light of science, or indeed of civilisation, has scarcely yet penetrated, witchcraft remains as flourishing as in the days of Odin; and the Laplanders at present are possibly as credulous in this respect as the old Northmen or the present tribes of Africa and the South Pacific. Before the introduction of the new religion (it is a curious fact), the Germans and Scandinavians, as well as the Jews, were acquainted with the efficacy of the rite of infant baptism. A Norsk chronicle of the twelfth century, speaking of a Norwegian nobleman who lived in the reign of Harald Harfraga, relates that he poured water on the head of his new-born son, and called him Hakon, after the name of his father. Harald himself had been baptized in the same way; and it is noted of the infant pagan St. Olaf that his mother had him baptized as soon as he was born. The Livonians observed the same ceremony; and a letter sent expressly by Pope Gregory III. to St. Boniface, the great apostle of the Germans, directs him how to act in such cases. It is probable, Mallet conjectures, that all these people might intend by such a rite to preserve their children from the sorceries and evil charms which wicked spirits might employ against them at the instant of their birth. Several nations of Asia and America have attributed such a power to ablutions of this kind; nor were the Romans without the custom, though they did not wholly confine it to new-born infants. A curious magical use of an initiatory and sacramental rite, ignorantly anticipated, it seems, by the unilluminated faith of the pagan world.

In reviewing the characteristics of sorcery which prevailed in the ancient world, it is obvious to compare the superstition as it existed in the nations of the East and West, of antiquity and of modern times. These natural or accidental differences are deducible apparently from the following causes:—(1) The essential distinction between the demonology of Orientalism—of Brahminism, Buddhism, Magianism, Judaism, Mohammedanism—and that of the West, of paganism and of Christianity, founded on their respective idealistic and realistic tendencies. (2) The divining or necromantic faculties have been generally regarded in the East as honourable properties; whereas in the West they have been degraded into the criminal follies of an infernal compact. The magical art is a noble cultivated science—a prerogative of the priestly caste: witchcraft, in its strict sense, was mostly abandoned to the lowest, and, as a rule, to the oldest and ugliest of the female sex. In the one case the proficient was the master, in the other the slave, of the demons. (3) The position of the female sex in the Western world has been always very opposite to their status in the East, where women are believed to be an inferior order of beings, and therefore incapable of an art reserved for the superior endowments of the male sex. The modern witchcraft may be traced to that perhaps oldest form of religious conception, Fetishism, which still prevails in its utmost horrors amongst the savage peoples in different parts of the world. The early practice of magic was not dishonourable in its origin, closely connected as it was with the study of natural science—with astronomy and chymistry.

The magic system—interesting to us as having influenced the later Jewish creed and mediately the Christian—referred like most developed creeds to a particular founder, Zerdusht (Zarathustra of the Zend), may have thus originated. Mankind, in seeking a solution for that most interesting but unsatisfactory problem, the cause of the predominance of evil on the earth, were obliged by their ignorance and their fears to imagine, in addition to the idea of a single supreme existence, the author and source of good, antagonistic influence—the source and representative of evil. Physical phenomena of every day experience; the alternations of light and darkness, of sunshine and clouds; the changes and oppositions in the outer world, would readily supply an analogy to the moral world. Thus the dawn and the sun, darkness and storms, in the wondering mind of the earlier inhabitants of the globe, may have soon assumed the substantial forms of personal and contending deities.[32] Such seems to be the origin of the personifications in the Vedic hymns of Indra and Vritra with their subordinate ministers (the Ormuzd and Ahriman, &c., of the Zend-Avesta), and of the first religious conceptions of other peoples. After this attempt to reconcile the contradictions, the irregularities of nature, by establishing a duality of gods whose respective provinces are the happiness and unhappiness of the human race, the step was easy to the conviction of the superior activity of a malignant god. The benevolent but epicurean security of the first deity might seem to have little concern in defeating or preventing the malicious schemes of the other. All the infernal apparatus of later ages was easy to be supplied by a delusive and an unreasoning imagination.

[32] The despotism of language and its immense influence on the destiny, as well as on the various opinions, of mankind, is well shown by Professor Max Mueller. 'From one point of view,' he declares, 'the true history of religion would be neither more nor less than an account of the various attempts at expressing the Inexpressible' (Lectures on the Science of Language, Second Series). The witch-creed may be indirectly referred, like many other absurdities, to the perversion of language.



PART II.

MEDIAEVAL FAITH.



CHAPTER I.

Compromise between the New and the Old Faiths—Witchcraft under the Early Church—The Sentiments of the Fathers and the Decrees of Councils—Platonic Influences—Historical, Physiological, and Accidental Causes of the Attribution of Witchcraft to the Female Sex—Opinions of the Fathers and other Writers—The Witch-Compact.

It might appear, in a casual or careless observation, surprising that Christianity, whose original spirit, if not universal practice, was to enlighten; whose professed mission was 'to destroy the works of the devil,' failed to disprove as well as to dispel some of the most pernicious beliefs of the pagan world: that its final triumph within the limits of the Roman empire, or as far as it extended without, was not attended by the extinction of at least the most revolting practices of superstition. Experience, and a more extended view of the progress of human ideas, will teach that the growth of religious perception is fitful and gradual: that the education of collective mankind proceeds in the same way as that of the individual man. And thus, in the expression of the biographer of Charles V., the barbarous nations when converted to Christianity changed the object, not the spirit, of their religious worship. Many of the ideas of the old religion were consciously tolerated by the first propagators of Christianity, who justly deemed that the new dogmas would be more readily insinuated into the rude and simple minds of their neophytes, if not too strictly uncompromising. Both past and present facts testify to this compromise. It was a maxim with some of the early promoters of the Christian cause, to do as little violence as possible to existing prejudices[33]—a judicious method still pursued by the Catholic, though condemned by the Protestant, missionaries of the present day.[34] It was not seldom that an entire nation was converted and christianised by baptism almost in a single day: the mass of the people accepting, or rather acquiescing in, the arguments of the missionaries in submission to the will or example of their prince, whose conduct they followed as they would have followed him into the field. Such was the case at the conversion of the Frankish chief Clovis, and of the Saxon Ethelbert. But if St. Augustin or St. Boniface, and the earlier missionaries, had more success in persuading the simple faith of the Germans, without a written revelation and miracles, than the modern emissaries have in inducing the Hindus to abandon their Vedas, it was easier to convince them of the facts, than of the reason, of their faith. Nor was it to be expected that such raw recruits (if the expression may be allowed) should lay aside altogether prejudices with which they were imbued from infancy.

[33] The remark of a late Professor of Divinity in the University of Cambridge. 'The heathen temples,' says Professor Blunt, 'became Christian churches; the altars of the gods altars of the saints; the curtains, incense, tapers, and votive-tablets remained the same; the aquaminarium was still the vessel for holy water; St. Peter stood at the gate instead of Cardea; St. Rocque or St. Sebastian in the bedroom instead of the Phrygian Penates; St. Nicholas was the sign of the vessel instead of Castor and Pollux; the Mater Deum became the Madonna; alms pro Matre Deum became alms for the Madonna; the festival of the Mater Deum the festival of the Madonna, or Lady Day; the Hostia or victim was now the Host; the "Lugentes Campi," or dismal regions, Purgatory; the offerings to the Manes were masses for the dead.' The parallel, he ventures to assert, might be drawn out to a far greater extent, &c.

[34] Conformably to this plan, the first proselytisers in Germany and the North were often reduced (we are told) to substituting the name of Christ and the saints for those of Odin and the gods in the toasts drunk at their bacchanalian festivals.

The extent of the credit and practice of witchcraft under the Church triumphant is evident from the numerous decrees and anathemas of the Church in council, which, while oftener treating it as a dread reality, has sometimes ventured to contemn or to affect to contemn it as imposture and delusion. Both the civil and ecclesiastical laws were exceptionally severe towards goetic practices. 'In all those laws of the Christian emperors,' says Bingham, 'which granted indulgences to criminals at the Easter festival, the venefici and the malefici, that is, magical practices against the lives of men, are always excepted as guilty of too heinous a crime to be comprised within the general pardon granted to other offenders.'[35] In earlier ecclesiastical history, successive councils or synods are much concerned in fulminating against them. The council of Ancyra (314) prohibits the art under the name of pharmacy: a few years' penance being appointed for anyone receiving a magician into his house. St. Basil's canons, more severe, appoint thirty years as the necessary atonement. Divination by lots or by consulting their sacred scriptures, just as afterwards they consulted Virgil, seems to have been a very favourite mode of discovering the future. The clergy encouraged and traded upon this kind of divination: in the Gallican church it was notorious. 'Some reckon,' the pious author of the 'Antiquities of the Christian Church' informs us, 'St. Augustin's conversion owing to such a sort of consultation; but the thought is a great mistake, and very injurious to him, for his conversion was owing to a providential call, like that of St. Paul, from heaven.' And that eminent saint's confessions are quoted to prove that his conversion from the depths of vice and licentiousness to the austere sobriety of his new faith, was indebted to a legitimate use of the scriptures. St. Chrysostom upbraids his cotemporaries for exposing the faith, by their illegitimate inquiries, to the scorn of the heathen, many of whom where wiser than to hearken to any such fond impostures.

[35] Bingham's Origines Ecclesiasticae, xvi.

St. Augustin complains that Satan's instruments, professing the exercise of these arts, were used to 'set the name of Christ before their ligatures, and enchantments, and other devices, to seduce Christians to take the venomous bait under the covert of a sweet and honey potion, that the bitter might be hid under the sweet, and make men drink it without discerning to their destruction.' The heretics of the primitive, as well as of the middle, ages were accused of working miracles, and propagating their accursed doctrines by magical or infernal art. Tertullian, and after him Eusebius, denounce the arch-heretic Simon Magus for performing his spurious miracles in that way: and Irenaeus had declared of the heretic Marcus, that when he would consecrate the eucharist in a cup of wine and water, by one of his juggling tricks, he made it appear of a purple and red colour, as if by a long prayer of invocation, that it might be thought the grace from above distilled the blood into the cup by his invocation. A correspondent of Cyprian, the celebrated African bishop, describes a woman who pretended 'to be inspired by the Holy Ghost, but was really acted on by a diabolical spirit, by which she counterfeited ecstasies, and pretended to prophesy, and wrought many wonderful and strange things, and boasted she would cause the earth to move. Not that the devil [he is cautious to affirm] has so great a power either to move the earth or shake the elements by his command; but the wicked spirit, foreseeing and understanding that there will be an earthquake, pretends to do that which he foresees will shortly come to pass. And by these lies and boastings, the devil subdued the minds of many to obey and follow him whithersoever he would lead them. And he made that woman walk barefoot through the snow in the depth of winter, and feel no trouble nor harm by running about in that fashion. But at last, after having played many such pranks, one of the exorcists of the Church discovered her to be a cheat, and showed that to be a wicked spirit which before was thought to be the Holy Ghost.'[36]

[36] Origines Ecclesiasticae, xvi. The exorcists were a recognised and respectable order in the Church. See id. iii. for an account of the Energumenoi or demoniacs. The lawyer Ulpian, in the time of Tertullian, mentions the Order of Exorcists as well known. St. Augustin (De Civit. Dei, xxii. 8) records some extraordinary cures on his own testimony within his diocess of Hippo.

Christian witchcraft was of a more tremendous nature than even that of older times, both in its origin and practice. The devils of Christianity were the metamorphosed deities of the old religions. The Christian convert was convinced, and the Fathers of the Church gravely insisted upon the fact, that the oracles of Delphi or Dodona had been inspired in the times of ignorance and idolatry by the great Enemy, who used the priest or priestess as the means of accomplishing his eternal schemes of malice and mischief. At the instant, however (so it was confidently affirmed), of the divine incarnation the oracular temples were closed for ever; and the demons were no longer permitted to delude mankind by impersonating pagan deities. They must now find some other means of effecting their fixed purpose. It was not far to seek. There were human beings who, by a preeminently wicked disposition, or in hope of some temporary profit, were prepared to risk their future prospects, willing to devote both soul and body to the service of hell. The 'Fathers' and great expounders of Christianity, by their sentiments, their writings, and their claims to the miraculous powers of exorcising, greatly assisted to advance the common opinions. Justin Martyr, Origen, Tertullian, Jerome, were convinced that they were in perpetual conflict with the disappointed demons of the old world, who had inspired the oracles and usurped the worship of the true God. Nor was the contest always merely spiritual: they engaged personally and corporeally. St. Jerome, like St. Dunstan in the tenth, or Luther in the sixteenth century, had to fight with an incarnate demon.

Exorcism—the magical or miraculous ejection of evil spirits by a solemn form of adjuration—was a universal mode of asserting the superior authority of the orthodox Church against the spurious pretensions of heretics.[37]

[37] The art of expelling demons, indeed, has been preserved in the Protestant section of the Christian Church until a recent age. The exorcising power, it is remarkable, is the sole claim to miraculous privilege of the Protestants. The formula de Strumosis Attrectandis, or the form of touching for the king's evil (a similar claim), was one of the recognised offices of the English Established Church in the time of Queen Anne, or of George I.

Christian theology in the first age even was considerably indebted to the Platonic doctrines as taught in the Alexandrian school; and demonology in the third century received considerable accessions from the speculations of Neo-Platonism, the reconciling medium between Greek and Oriental philosophy. Philo-Judaeus (whose reconciling theories, displayed in his attempt to prove the derivation of Greek religious or philosophical ideas from those of Moses, have been ingeniously imitated by a crowd of modern followers) had been the first to undertake to adapt the Jewish theology to Greek philosophy. Plotinus and Porphyrius, the founders of the new school of Platonism, introduced a large number of angels or demons to the acquaintance of their Christian fellow-subjects in the third century.[38] It has been remarked that 'such was the mild spirit of antiquity that the nations were less attentive to the difference than to the resemblance of their religious worship. The Greek, the Roman, and the barbarian, as they met before their respective altars, easily persuaded themselves that, under various names and with various ceremonies, they adored the same deities.'[39] Magianism and Judaism, however, were little imbued with the spirit of toleration; and the purer the form of religious worship, the fiercer, too often, seems to be the persecution of differing creeds. Christianity, with something of the spirit of Judaism from which it sprung, was forced to believe that the older religions must have sprung from a diabolic origin. The whole pagan world was inspired and dominated by wicked spirits. 'The pagans deified, the Christians diabolised, Nature.'[40] It is in this fact that the entirely opposite spirit of antique and mediaeval thought, evident in the life, literature, in the common ideas of ancient and mediaeval Europe, is discoverable.

[38] 'The knowledge that is suited to our situation and powers, the whole compass of moral, natural, and mathematical science, was neglected by the new Platonists; whilst they exhausted their strength in the verbal disputes of metaphysics, they attempted to explore the secrets of the invisible world, and studied to reconcile Aristotle with Plato on subjects of which both these philosophers were as ignorant as the rest of mankind. Consuming their reason in those deep but unsubstantial meditations, their minds were exposed to illusions of fancy. They flattered themselves that they possessed the secret of disengaging the soul from its corporeal prison; claimed a familiar intercourse with demons and spirits; and by a very singular revolution, converted the study of philosophy into that of magic.'—The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chap. xiii.

[39] The Egyptians, almost the only exception to polytheistic tolerance, seem to have been rendered intolerant by the number of antagonistic animal-gods worshipped in different parts of the country, enumerated by Juvenal, who describes the effects of religious animosity displayed in a faction fight between Ombi or Coptos and Tentyra.—Sat. xv.

[40] Life of Goethe, by G. H. Lewes.

The female sex has been always most concerned in the crime of Christian witchcraft. What was the cause of this general addiction, in the popular belief, of that sex, it is interesting to inquire. In the East now, and in Greece of the age of Simonides or Euripides, or at least in the Ionic States, women are an inferior order of beings, not only on account of their weaker natural faculties and social position, but also in respect of their natural inclination to every sort of wickedness. And if they did not act the part of a Christian witch, they were skilled in the practice of toxicology. With the Latin race and many European peoples, the female sex held a better position; and it may appear inconsistent that in Christendom, where the Goddess-Mother was almost the highest object of veneration, woman should be degraded into a slave of Satan. By the northern nations they were supposed to be gifted with supernatural power; and the universal powers of the Italian hag have been already noticed. But the Church, which allowed no miracle to be legitimate out of the pale, and yet could not deny the fact of the miraculous without, was obliged to assert it to be of diabolic origin. Thus the priestess of antiquity became a witch. This is the historical account. Physically, the cause seems discoverable in the fact that the natural constitution of women renders their imaginative organs more excitable for the ecstatic conditions of the prophetic or necromantic arts. On all occasions of religious or other cerebral excitement, women (it is a matter of experience) are generally most easily reduced to the requisite state for the expected supernatural visitation. Their hysterical (hystera) natures are sufficiently indicative of the origin of such hallucinations. Their magical or pharmaceutical attributes might be derived from savage life, where the men are almost exclusively occupied either in war or in the chase: everything unconnected with these active or necessary pursuits is despised as unbecoming the superior nature of the male sex. To the female portion of the community are abandoned domestic employments, preparation of food, the selection and mixture of medicinal herbs, and all the mysteries of the medical art. How important occupations like these, by ignorance and interest, might be raised into something more than natural skill, is easy to be conjectured. That so extraordinary an attribute would often be abused is agreeable to experience.[41]

[41] Quintilian declared, 'Latrocinium facilius in viro, veneficium in femina credam.' To the same effect is an observation of Pliny: 'Scientiam feminarum in veneficiis praevalere.'

According to the earlier Christian writers, the frailer sex is addicted to infernal practices by reason of their innate wickedness: and in the opinion of the 'old Fathers' they are fitted by a corrupt disposition to be the recipients and agents of the devil's will upon earth. The authors of the Witch-Hammer have supported their assertions of the proneness of women to evil in general, and to sorcery in particular, by the respectable names and authority of St. Chrysostom, Augustin, Dionysius Areopagiticus, Hilary, &c. &c.[42] The Golden-mouthed is adduced as especially hostile in his judgment of the sex; and his 'Homily on Herodias' takes its proper place with the satires of Aristophanes and Juvenal, of Boccaccio and Boileau.[43]

[42] 'They style a wife The dear-bought curse and lawful plague of life, A bosom-serpent and a domestic evil.'

[43] The royal author of the Demonologie finds no difficulty in accounting for the vastly larger proportion of the female sex devoted to the devil's service. 'The reason is easy,' he declares; 'for as that sex is frailer than man is, so is it easier to be entrapped in the gross snares of the devil, as was over-well proved to be true by the serpent's deceiving of Eva at the beginning, which makes him the homelier with that sex sensine:' and it is profoundly observed that witches cannot even shed tears, though women in general are, like the crocodile, ready to weep on every light occasion.

Reginald Scot gives the reasons alleged by the apologists of witchcraft. 'This gift and natural influence of fascination may be increased in man according to his affections and perturbations, as through anger, fear, love, hate, &c. For by hate, saith Varius, entereth a fiery inflammation into the eye of man, which being violently sent out by beams and streams infect and bewitch those bodies against whom they are opposed. And therefore (he saith) that is the cause that women are oftener found to be witches than men. For they have such an unbridled force of fury and concupiscence naturally, that by no means is it possible for them to temper or moderate the same. So as upon every trifling occasion they, like unto the beasts, fix their furious eyes upon the party whom they bewitch.... Women also (saith he) are oftenlie filled full of superfluous humours, and with them the melancholike blood boileth, whereof spring vapours, and are carried up and conveyed through the nostrils and mouth, to the bewitching of whatsoever it meeteth. For they belch up a certain breath wherewith they bewitch whomsoever they list. And of all other women lean, hollow-eyed, old, beetle-browed women (saith he) are the most infectious.'[44] Why old women are selected as the most proper means of doing the devil's will may be discovered in their peculiar characteristics. The repulsive features, moroseness, avarice, malice, garrulity of his hags are said to be appropriate instruments. Scot informs us, 'One sort of such as are said to be witches are women which be commonly old, lame, blear-eyed, pale, foul, and full of wrinkles, poor, sullen, superstitious, and papists, or such as know no religion, in whose drowsy minds the devil hath got a fine seat. They are lean and deformed, showing melancholy in their faces, to the horror of all that see them. They are doting, scolds, mad, devilish ... neither obtaining for their service and pains, nor yet by their art, nor yet at the devil's hands, with whom they are said to make a perfect visible bargain, either beauty, money, promotion, wealth, worship, pleasure, honour, knowledge, or any other benefit whatsoever.' As to the preternatural gifts of these hags, he sensibly argues: 'Alas! what an unapt instrument is a toothless, old, impotent, unwieldy woman to fly in the air; truly, the devil little needs such instruments to bring his purposes to pass.'[45]

[44] Discoverie of Witchcraft, book xii. 21.—We shall have occasion hereafter to notice this great opponent of the devil's regime in the sixteenth century. We may be inclined to consider a more probable reason—that spirits, being in the general belief (so Adam infers that God had 'peopled highest heaven with spirits masculine') of the masculine gender, the recipients of their inspiration are naturally of the other sex: evil spirits could propagate their human or half-human agents with least suspicion and in the most natural way.

[45] Discoverie, i. 3, 6.—Old women, however, may be negatively useful. One of the writers on the subject (John Nider) recommends them to young men since 'Vetularum aspectus et colloquia amorem excutiunt.'

Dr. Glanvil, who wrote in the latter half of the seventeenth century, and is bitterly opposed to the 'Witch-Advocate' and his followers, defends the capabilities of hags and the like for serving the demons. He conjectures, 'Peradventure 'tis one of the great designs, as 'tis certainly the interest, of those wicked agents and machinators industriously to hide from us their influences and ways of acting, and to work as near as 'tis possible incognito; upon which supposal it is easy to conceive a reason why they most commonly work by and upon the weak and the ignorant, who can make no cunning observations or tell credible tales to detect their artifice.'[46] The act of bewitching is defined to be 'a supernatural work contrived between a corporal old woman and a spiritual devil' ('Discoverie,' vi. 2). The method of initiation is, according to a writer on the subject, as follows: A decrepit, superannuated, old woman is tempted by a man in black to sign a contract to become his, both soul and body. On the conclusion of the agreement (about which there was much cheating and haggling), he gives her a piece of money, and causes her to write her name and make her mark on a slip of parchment with her own blood. Sometimes on this occasion also the witch uses the ceremony of putting one hand to the sole of her foot and the other to the crown of her head. On departing he delivers to her an imp or familiar. The familiar, in shape of a cat, a mole, miller-fly, or some other insect or animal, at stated times of the day sucks her blood through teats in different parts of her body.[47] If, however, the proper vulgar witch is an old woman, the younger and fairer of the sex were not by any means exempt from the crime. Young and beautiful women, children of tender years, have been committed to the rack and to the stake on the same accusation which condemned the old and the ugly.

1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse