The Phantom World - or, The philosophy of spirits, apparitions, &c, &c.
by Augustin Calmet
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Macrobius[204] relates that the Emperor Trajan, to prove the oracle of Heliopolis in Phoenicia, sent him a well-sealed letter in which nothing was written; the oracle commanded that a blank letter should also be sent to the emperor. The priests of the oracle were much surprised at this, not knowing the reason of it. Another time the same emperor sent to consult this same oracle to know whether he should return safe from his expedition against the Parthians. The oracle commanded that they should send him some branches of a knotted vine, which was sacred in his temple. Neither the emperor nor any one else could guess what that meant; but his body, or rather his bones, having been brought to Rome after his death, which happened during his journey, it was supposed that the oracle had intended to predict his death, and designate his fleshless bones, which somewhat resemble the branches of a vine.

It is easy to explain this quite otherwise. If he had returned victorious, the vine being the source of wine which rejoices the heart of man, and is agreeable to both gods and men, would have typified his victory—and if the expedition had proved fruitless, the wood of the vine, which is useless for any kind of work, and only good for burning as firewood, might in that case signify the inutility of this expedition. It is allowed that the artifice, malice, and inventions of the heathen priests had much to do with the oracles; but are we to infer from this that the demon had no part in the matter?

We must allow that as by degrees the light of the Gospel was spread in the world, the reign of the demon, ignorance, corruption of morals, and crime, diminished. The priests who pretended to predict, by the inspiration of the evil spirit, things concealed from mortal knowledge, or who misled the people by their illusions and impostures, were obliged to confess that the Christians imposed silence on them, either by the empire they exercised over the devil, or else by discovering the malice and knavishness of the priests, which the people had not dared to sound, from a blind respect which they had for this mystery of iniquity.

If in our days any one would deny that in former times there were oracles which were rendered by the inspiration of the demon, we might convince him of it by what is still practiced in Lapland, and by what missionaries[205] relate, that in India the demon reveals things hidden and to come, not by the mouth of idols, but by that of the priests, who are present when they interrogate either the statues or the demon. And they remark that there the demon becomes mute and powerless, in proportion as the light of the Gospel is spread among these nations. Thus then the silence of the oracles may be attributed—1. To a superhuman cause, which is the power of Jesus Christ, and the publication of the Gospel. 2. Mankind are become less superstitious, and bolder in searching out the cause of these pretended revelations. 3. To their having become less credulous, as Cicero says.[206] 4. Because princes have imposed silence on the oracles, fearing that they might inspire the nation with rebellious principles. For which reason, Lucan says, that princes feared to discover the future.[207]

Strabo[208] conjectures that the Romans neglected them because they had the Sibylline books, and their auspices (aruspices, or haruspices), which stood them instead of oracles. M. Vandale demonstrates that some remains of the oracles might yet be seen under the Christian emperors. It was then only in process of time that oracles were entirely abolished; and it may be boldly asserted that sometimes the evil spirit revealed the future, and inspired the ministers of false gods, by permission of the Almighty, who wished to punish the confidence of the infidels in their idols. It would be going too far, if we affirmed that all that was said of the oracles was only the effect of the artifices or the malice of the priests, who always imposed on the credulity of mankind. Read on this subject the learned reply of Father Balthus to the treatises of MM. Vandale and Fontenelle.


[202] Porphr. apud Euseb. de Praepar. Evang. lib, iv. c. 5, 6.

[203] Plutarch, de Defectu Oracul. p. 434.

[204] Macrob. Saturnal. lib. i. c. 23.

[205] Lettres edifiantes, tom. x.

[206] Cicero, de Divinat. lib. ii. c. 57.

[207] "Reges timent futura Et superos vetant loqui." Lucan, Pharsal. lib. v. p. 112.

[208] Strabo, lib. xvii.



The empire of the devil nowhere shines forth with more lustre than in what is related of the Sabbath (witches' sabbath or assembly), where he receives the homage of those of both sexes who have abandoned themselves to him. It is there, the wizards and witches say, that he exercises the greatest authority, and appears in a visible form, but always hideous, misshapen, and terrible; always during the night in out-of-the-way places, and arrayed in a manner more gloomy than gay, rather sad and dull, than majestic and brilliant. If they pay their adoration in that place to the prince of darkness, he shows himself there in a despicable posture, and in a base, contemptible and hideous form; if people eat there, the viands of the feast are dirty, insipid, and destitute of solidity and substance—they neither satisfy the appetite, nor please the palate; if they dance there, it is without order, without skill, without propriety.

To endeavor to give a description of the infernal sabbath, is to aim at describing what has no existence and never has existed, except in the craving and deluded imagination of sorcerers and sorceresses: the paintings we have of it are conceived after the reveries of those who fancy they have been transported through the air to the sabbath, both in body and soul.

People are carried thither, say they, sitting on a broom-stick, sometimes on the clouds or on a he-goat. Neither the place, the time, nor the day when they assemble is fixed. It is sometimes in a lonely forest, sometimes in a desert, usually on the Wednesday or the Thursday night; the most solemn of all is that of the eve of St. John the Baptist: they there distribute to every sorcerer the ointment with which he must anoint himself when he desires to go to the sabbath, and the spell-powder he must make use of in his magic operations. They must all appear together in this general assembly, and he who is absent is severely ill-used both in word and deed. As to the private meetings, the demon is more indulgent to those who are absent for some particular reason.

As to the ointment with which they anoint themselves, some authors, amongst others, John Baptista Porta, and John Wierius,[209] boast that they know the composition. Amongst other ingredients there are many narcotic drugs, which cause those who make use of it to fall into a profound slumber, during which they imagine that they are carried to the sabbath up the chimney, at the top of which they find a tall black man,[210] with horns, who transports them where they wish to go, and afterwards brings them back again by the same chimney. The accounts given by these people, and the description which they give of their assemblies, are wanting in unity and uniformity.

The demon, their chief, appears there, either in the shape of a he-goat, or as a great black dog, or as an immense raven; he is seated on an elevated throne, and receives there the homage of those present in a way which decency does not allow us to describe. In this nocturnal assembly they sing, they dance, they abandon themselves to the most shameful disorder; they sit down to table, and indulge in good cheer; while at the same time they see on the table neither knife nor fork, salt nor oil; they find the viands devoid of savor, and quit the table without their hunger being satisfied.

One would imagine that the attraction of a better fortune, and a wish to enrich themselves, drew thither men and women. The devil never fails to make them magnificent promises, at least the sorcerers say so, and believe it, deceived, without doubt, by their imagination; but experience shows us that these people are always ragged, despised, and wretched, and usually end their lives in a violent and dishonorable manner.

When they are admitted for the first time to the sabbath, the demon inscribes their name and surname on his register, which he makes them sign; then he makes them forswear cream and baptism, makes them renounce Jesus Christ and his church; and, to give them a distinctive character and make them known for his own, he imprints on their bodies a certain mark with the nail of the little finger of one of his hands; this mark, or character, thus impressed, renders the part insensible to pain. They even pretend that he impresses this character in three different parts of the body, and at three different times. The demon does not impress these characters, say they, before the person has attained the age of twenty-five.

But none of these things deserve the least attention. There may happen to be in the body of a man, or a woman, some benumbed part, either from illness, or the effect of remedies, or drugs, or even naturally; but that is no proof that the devil has anything to do with it. There are even persons accused of magic and sorcery, on whom no part thus characterized has been found, nor yet insensible to the touch, however exact the search. Others have declared that the devil has never made any such marks upon them. Consult on this matter the second letter of M. de St. Andre, Physician to the King, in which he well develops what has been said about these characters of sorcerers.

The word sabbath, taken in the above sense, is not to be found in ancient writers; neither the Hebrews nor the Egyptians, the Greeks nor the Latins have known it.

The thing itself, I mean the sabbath taken in the sense of a nocturnal assembly of persons devoted to the devil, is not remarked in antiquity, although magicians, sorcerers, and witches are spoken of often enough—that is to say, people who boasted that they exercised a kind of power over the devil, and by his means, over animals, the air, the stars, and the lives and fortunes of men.

Horace[211] makes use of the word coticia to indicate the nocturnal meetings of the magicians—Tu riseris coticia; which he derives from Cotys, or Cotto, Goddess of Vice, who presided in the assemblies which were held at night, and where the Bacchantes gave themselves up to all sorts of dissolute pleasures; but this is very different from the witches' sabbath.

Others derive this term from Sabbatius, which is an epithet given to the god Bacchus, whose nocturnal festivals were celebrated in debauchery. Arnobius and Julius Firmicus Maternus inform us that in these festivals they slipped a golden serpent into the bosoms of the initiated, and drew it downwards; but this etymology is too far-fetched: the people who gave the name of sabbath to the assemblies of the sorcerers wished apparently to compare them in derision to those of the Jews, and to what they practiced in their synagogues on sabbath days.

The most ancient monument in which I have been able to remark any express mention of the nocturnal assemblies of the sorcerers is in the Capitularies,[212] wherein it is said that women led away by the illusions of the demons, say that they go in the night with the goddess Diana and an infinite number of other women, borne through the air on different animals, that they go in a few hours a great distance, and obey Diana as their queen. It was, therefore, to the goddess Diana, or the Moon, and not to Lucifer, that they paid homage. The Germans call witches' dances what we call the sabbath. They say that these people assemble on Mount Bructere.

The famous Agobard,[213] Archbishop of Lyons, who lived under the Emperor Louis the Debonair, wrote a treatise against certain superstitious persons in his time, who believed that storms, hail, and thunder were caused by certain sorcerers whom they called tempesters (tempestarios, or storm-brewers), who raised the rain in the air, caused storms and thunder, and brought sterility upon the earth. They called these extraordinary rains aura lavatitia, as if to indicate that they were raised by magic power. In this place the people still call these violent rains alvace. There were even persons sufficiently prejudiced to boast that they knew of tempetiers, who had to conduct the tempests where they choose, and to turn them aside when they pleased. Agobard interrogated some of them, but they were obliged to own that they had not been present at the things they related.

Agobard maintains that this is the work of God alone; that in truth, the saints, with the help of God, have often performed similar prodigies; but that neither the devil nor sorcerers can do anything like it. He remarks that there were among his people superstitious persons who would pay very punctually what they called canonicum, which was a sort of tribute which they offered to these tempest-brewers (tempetiers), that they might not hurt them, while they refused the tithe to the priest and alms to the widow, orphan, and other indigent persons.

He adds that he had of late found people sufficiently foolish enough to spread a report that Grimaldus, Duke of Benevento, had sent persons into France, carrying certain powders which they had scattered over the fields, mountains, meadows, and springs, and had thus caused the death of an immense number of animals. Several of these persons were taken up, and they owned that they carried such powders about with them and though they made them suffer various tortures, they could not force them to retract what they had said.

Others affirmed that there was a certain country named Mangonia, where there were vessels which were borne through the air and took away the productions; that certain wizards had cut down trees to carry them to their country. He says, moreover, that one day three men and a woman were presented to him, who, they said, had fallen from these ships which floated in the air. They were kept some days in confinement, and at last having been confronted with their accusers, the latter were obliged, after contesting the matter, and making several depositions, to avow that they knew nothing certain concerning their being carried away, or of their pretended fall from the ship in the sky.

Charlemagne[214] in his Capitularies, and the authors of his time, speak also of these wizard tempest-brewers, enchanters, &c., and commanded that they should be reprimanded and severely chastised.

Pope Gregory IX.[215] in a letter addressed to the Archbishop of Mayence, the Bishop of Hildesheim, and Doctor Conrad, in 1234, thus relates the abominations of which they accused the heretic Stadingians. "When they receive," says he, "a novice, and when he enters their assemblies for the first time, he sees an enormous toad, as big as a goose, or bigger. Some kiss it on the mouth, some kiss it behind. Then the novice meets a pale man with very black eyes, and so thin that he is only skin and bones. He kisses him, and feels that he is cold as ice. After this kiss, the novice easily forgets the Catholic faith; afterwards they hold a feast together, after which a black cat comes down behind a statue, which usually stands in the room where they assemble.

"The novice first of all kisses the cat on the back, then he who presides over the assembly, and the others who are worthy of it. The imperfect receive only a kiss from the master; they promise obedience; after which they extinguish the lights, and commit all sorts of disorders. They receive every year, at Easter, the Lord's Body, and carry it in their mouth to their own houses, when they cast it away. They believe in Lucifer, and say that the Master of Heaven has unjustly and fraudulently thrown him into hell. They believe also that Lucifer is the creator of celestial things, that will re-enter into glory after having thrown down his adversary, and that through him they will gain eternal bliss." This letter bears date the 13th of June, 1233.


[209] Joan. Vier. lib. ii. c. 7.

[210] A remarkably fine print on this subject was published at Paris some years ago; if we remember right, it was suppressed.

[211] Horat. Epodon. xviii. 4.

[212] "Quaedam sceleratae mulieres daemonum illusionibus et phantasmatibus seductae, credunt se et profitentur nocturnis horis cum Diana Paganorum dea et innumera multitudine mulierum equitare super quasdam bestias et multa terrarum spalia intempestae noctis silentio pertransire ejusque jussionibus veluti dominae obedire."—Baluz. Capitular. fragment. c. 13. Vide et Capitul. Herardi, Episc. Turon.

[213] Agobard de Grandine.

[214] Vide Baluzii in Agobard. pp. 68, 69.

[215] Fleury, Hist. Eccles. tom. xvii. p. 53, ann. 1234.



All that is said about witches going to the sabbath is treated as a fable, and we have several examples which prove that they do not stir from their bed or their chamber. It is true that some of them anoint themselves with a certain grease or unguent, which makes them sleepy, and renders them insensible; and during this swoon they fancy that they go to the sabbath, and there see and hear what every one says is there seen and heard.

We read, in the book entitled Malleus Maleficorum, or the Hammer of the Sorcerers, that a woman who was in the hands of the Inquisitors assured them that she repaired really and bodily whither she would, and that even were she shut up in prison and strictly guarded, and let the place be ever so far off.

The Inquisitors ordered her to go to a certain place, to speak to certain persons, and bring back news of them; she promised to obey, and was directly locked up in a chamber, where she lay down, extended as if dead; they went into the room, and moved her; but she remained motionless, and without the least sensation, so that when they put a lighted candle to her foot and burnt it she did not feel it. A little after, she came to herself, and gave an account of the commission they had given her, saying she had had a great deal of trouble to go that road. They asked her what was the matter with her foot; she said it hurt her very much since her return, and knew not whence it came.

Then the Inquisitors declared to her what had happened; that she had not stirred from her place, and that the pain in her foot was caused by the application of a lighted candle during her pretended absence. The thing having been verified, she acknowledged her folly, asked pardon, and promised never to fall into it again.

Other historians relate[216] that, by means of certain drugs with which both wizards and witches anoint themselves, they are really and corporally transported to the sabbath. Torquemada relates, on the authority of Paul Grilland, that a husband suspecting his wife of being a witch, desired to know if she went to the sabbath, and how she managed to transport herself thither. He watched her so narrowly, that he saw her one day anoint herself with a certain unguent, and then take the form of a bird and fly away, and he saw her no more till the next morning, when he found her by his side. He questioned her very much, without making her own anything; at last he told her what he had himself seen, and by dint of beating her with a stick, he constrained her to tell him her secret, and to take him with her to the sabbath.

Arrived at this place, he sat down to table with the others; but as all the viands which were on the table were very insipid, he asked for some salt; they were some time before they brought any; at last, seeing a salt-cellar, he said—"God be praised, there is some salt at last!" At the same instant, he heard a very great noise, all the company disappeared, and he found himself alone and naked in a field among the mountains. He went forward and found some shepherds; he learned that he was more than three leagues from his dwelling. He returned thither as he could, and, having related the circumstance to the Inquisitors, they caused the woman and several others, her accomplices, to be taken up and chastised as they deserved.

The same author relates that a woman, returning from the sabbath and being carried through the air by the evil spirit, heard in the morning the bell for the Angelus. The devil let her go immediately, and she fell into a quickset hedge on the bank of a river; her hair fell disheveled over her neck and shoulders. She perceived a young lad who after much entreaty came and took her out and conducted her to the next village, where her house was situated; it required most pressing and repeated questions on the part of the lad, before she would tell him truly what had happened to her; she made him presents, and begged him to say nothing about it, nevertheless the circumstance got spread abroad.

If we could depend on the truth of these stories, and an infinite number of similar ones, which books are full of, we might believe that sometimes sorcerers are carried bodily to the sabbath; but on comparing these stories with others which prove that they go thither only in mind and imagination, we may say boldly, that what is related of wizards and witches who go or think they go to the sabbath, is usually only illusion on the part of the devil, and seduction on the part of those of both sexes who fancy they fly and travel, while they in reality do not stir from their places. The spirit of malice and falsehood being mixed up in this foolish prepossession, they confirm themselves in their follies and engage others in the same impiety; for Satan has a thousand ways of deceiving mankind and of retaining them in error. Magic, impiety, enchantments, are often the effects of a diseased imagination. It rarely happens that these kind of people do not fall into every excess of licentiousness, irreligion, and theft, and into the most outrageous consequences of hatred to their neighbors.

Some have believed that demons took the form of the sorcerers and sorceresses who were supposed to be at the sabbath, and that they maintained the simple creatures in their foolish belief, by appearing to them sometimes in the shape of those persons who were reputed witches, while they themselves were quietly asleep in their beds. But this belief contains difficulties as great, or perhaps greater, than the opinion we would combat. It is far from easy to understand that the demon takes the form of pretended sorcerers and witches, that he appears under this shape, that he eats, drinks, and travels, and does other actions to make simpletons believe that sorcerers go to the sabbath. What advantage does the devil derive from making idiots believe these things, or maintaining them in such an error? Nevertheless it is related[217] that St. Germain, Bishop of Auxerre, traveling one day, and passing through a village in his diocese, after having taken some refreshment there, remarked that they were preparing a great supper, and laying out the table anew; he asked if they expected company, and they told him it was for those good women who go by night. St. Germain well understood what was meant, and resolved to watch to see the end of this adventure.

Some time after he beheld a multitude of demons who came in the form of men and women, and sat down to table in his presence. St. Germain forbade them to withdraw, and calling the people of the house, he asked them if they knew those persons: they replied, that they were such and such among their neighbors: "Go," said he, "and see if they are in their houses:" they went, and found them asleep in their beds. The saint conjured the demons, and obliged them to declare that it is thus they mislead mortals, and make them believe that there are sorcerers and witches who go by night to the sabbath; they obeyed, and disappeared, greatly confused.

This history may be read in old manuscripts, and is to be found in Jacques de Varasse, Pierre de Noels, in St. Antonine, and in old Breviaries of Auxerre, as well printed, as manuscript. I by no means guarantee the truth of this story; I think it is absolutely apocryphal; but it proves that those who wrote and copied it believed that these nocturnal journeys of sorcerers and witches to the sabbath, were mere illusions of the demon. In fact, it is hardly possible to explain all that is said of sorcerers and witches going to the sabbath, without having recourse to the ministry of the demon; to which we must add a disturbed imagination, with a mind misled, and foolishly prepossessed, and, if you will, a few drugs which affect the brain, excite the humors, and produce dreams relative to impressions already in their minds.

In John Baptist Porta Cardan, and elsewhere, may be found the composition of those ointments with which witches are said to anoint themselves, to be able to transport themselves to the sabbath; but the only real effect they produce is to send them to sleep, disturb their imagination, and make them believe they are going long journeys, while they remain profoundly sleeping in their beds.

The fathers of the council of Paris, of the year 829, confess that magicians, wizards, and people of that kind, are the ministers and instruments of the demon in the exercise of their diabolical art; that they trouble the minds of certain persons by beverages calculated to inspire impure love; that they are persuaded they can disturb the sky, excite tempests, send hail, predict the future, ruin and destroy the fruit, and take away the milk of cattle belonging to one person, in order to give it to cattle the property of another.

The bishops conclude that all the rigor of the laws enacted by princes against such persons ought to be put in force against them, and so much the more justly, that it is evident they yield themselves up to the service of the devil.

Spranger, in the Malleus Maleficorum, relates, that in Suabia, a peasant who was walking in his fields with his little girl, a child about eight years of age, complained of the drought, saying, "Alas! when will God give us some rain?" Immediately the little girl told him that she could bring him some down whenever he wished it. He answered,—"And who has taught you that secret?" "My mother," said she, "who has strictly forbidden me to tell any body of it."

"And what did she do to give you this power?"

"She took me to a master, who comes to me as many times as I call him."

"And have you seen this master?"

"Yes," said she, "I have often seen men come to my mother's house; she has devoted me to one of them."

After this dialogue, the father asked her how she could do to make it rain upon his field only. She asked but for a little water; he led her to a neighboring brook, and the girl having called the water in the name of him to whom she had been devoted by her mother, they beheld directly abundance of rain falling on the peasant's field.

The father, convinced that his wife was a sorceress, accused her before the judges, who condemned her to be burnt. The daughter was baptized and vowed to God, but she then lost the power of making it rain at her will.


[216] Alphons. a Castro ex Petro Grilland. Tract. de Haeresib.

[217] Bolland, 5 Jul. p. 287.



This is an unheard-of example; a man and woman who declared themselves to be a sorcerer and sorceress. Louis Gaufredi, Cure of the parish of Accouls, at Marseilles,[218] was accused of magic, and arrested at the beginning of the year 1611. Christopher Gaufredi, his uncle, of Pourrieres, in the neighborhood of Beauversas, sent him, six months before he (Christopher) died, a little paper book, in 16mo., with six leaves written upon; at the bottom of every leaf were two verses in French, and in the other parts were characters or ciphers, which contained magical mysteries. Louis Gaufredi at first thought very little of this book, and kept it for five years.

At the end of that time, having read the French verses, the devil presented himself under a human shape, and by no means deformed, and told him that he was come to fulfil all his wishes, if he would give him credit for all his good works. Gaufredi agreed to the condition. He asked of the demon that he might enjoy a great reputation for wisdom and virtue among persons of probity, and that he might inspire with love all the women and young girls he pleased, by simply breathing upon them.

Lucifer promised him all this in writing, and Gaufredi very soon saw the perfect accomplishment of his designs. He inspired with love a young lady named Magdalen, the daughter of a gentleman whose name was Mandole de la Palud. This girl was only nine years old, when Gaufredi, on pretence of devotion and spirituality, gave her to understand that, as her spiritual father, he had a right to dispose of her, and persuaded her to give herself to the devil; and some years afterwards, he obliged her to give a schedule, signed with her own blood, to the devil, to deliver herself up to him still more. It is even said that he made her give from that time seven or eight other schedules.

After that, he breathed upon her, inspired her with a violent passion for himself, and took advantage of her; he gave her a familiar demon, who served her and followed her everywhere. One day he transported her to the witches' sabbath, held on a high mountain near Marseilles; she saw there people of all nations, and in particular Gaufredi, who held there a distinguished rank, and who caused characters to be impressed or stamped on her head and in several other parts of her body. This girl afterwards became a nun of the order of St. Ursula, and passed for being possessed by the devil.

Gaufredi also inspired several other women with an irregular passion, by breathing on them; and this diabolical power lasted for six years. For at last they found out that he was a sorcerer and magician; and Mademoiselle de Mandole having been arrested by the Inquisition, and interrogated by father Michael Jacobin, owned a great part of what we have just told, and during the exorcisms discovered several other things. She was then nineteen years of age.

All this made Gaufredi known to the Parliament of Provence. They arrested him; and proceedings against him commenced February, 1611. They heard in particular the deposition of Magdalen de la Palud, who gave a complete history of the magic of Gaufredi, and the abominations he had committed with her. That for the last fourteen years he had been a magician, and head of the magicians; and if he had been taken by the justiciary power, the devil would have carried him body and soul to hell.

Gaufredi had voluntarily gone to prison; and from the first examination which he underwent, he denied everything and represented himself as an upright man. But from the depositions made against him, it was shown that his heart was very corrupted, and that he had seduced Mademoiselle de Mandole, and other women whom he confessed. This young lady was heard juridically the 21st of February, and gave the history of her seduction, of Gaufredi's magic, and of the sabbath whither he had caused her to be transported several times.

Some time after this, being confronted with Gaufredi, she owned that he was a worthy man, and that all which had been reported against him was imaginary, and retracted all she herself had avowed. Gaufredi on his part acknowledged his illicit connection with her, denied all the rest, and maintained that it was the devil, by whom she was possessed, that had suggested to her all she had said. He owned that, having resolved to reform his life, Lucifer had appeared to him, and threatened him with many misfortunes; that in fact he had experienced several; that he had burnt the magic book in which he had placed the schedules of Mademoiselle de la Palud and his own, which he had made with the devil; but that when he afterwards looked for them, he was much astonished not to find them. He spoke at length concerning the sabbath, and said there was, near the town of Nice, a magician, who had all sorts of garments ready for the use of the sorcerers; that on the day of the sabbath, there is a bell weighing a hundred pounds, four ells in width, and with a clapper of wood, which made the sound dull and lugubrious. He related several horrors, impieties, and abominations which were committed at the sabbath. He repeated the schedule which Lucifer had given him, by which he bound himself to cast a spell on those women who should be to his taste.

After this exposition of the things related above, the attorney-general drew his conclusions: As the said Gaufredi had been convicted of having divers marks in several parts of his body, where if pricked he has felt no pain, neither has any blood come; that he has been illicitly connected with Magdalen de la Palud, both at church and in her own house, both by day and by night, by letters in which were amorous or love characters, invisible to any other but herself; that he had induced her to renounce her God and her Church—and that she had received on her body several diabolical characters; that he has owned himself to be a sorcerer and a magician; that he had kept by him a book of magic, and had made use of it to conjure and invoke the evil spirit; that he has been with the said Magdalen to the sabbath, where he had committed an infinite number of scandalous, impious and abominable actions, such as having worshiped Lucifer:—for these causes, the said attorney-general requires that the said Gaufredi be declared attainted and convicted of the circumstances imputed to him, and as reparation of them, that he be previously degraded from sacred orders by the Lord Bishop of Marseilles, his diocesan, and afterwards condemned to make honorable amends one audience day, having his head and feet bare, a cord about his neck, and holding a lighted taper in his hands—to ask pardon of God, the king, and the court of justice—then, to be delivered into the hands of the executioner of the high court of law, to be taken to all the chief places and cross-roads of this city of Aix, and torn with red-hot pincers in all parts of his body; and after that, in the Place des Jacobins, burned alive, and his ashes scattered to the wind; and before being executed, let the question be applied to him, and let him be tormented as grievously as can be devised, in order to extract from him the names of his other accomplices. Deliberated the 18th of April, 1611, and the decree in conformity given the 29th of April, 1611.

The same Gaufredi having undergone the question ordinary and extraordinary, declared that he had seen at the sabbath no person of his acquaintance except Mademoiselle de Mandole; that he had seen there also certain monks of certain orders, which he did not name, neither did he know the names of the monks. That the devil anointed the heads of the sorcerers with certain unguents, which quite effaced every thing from their memory.

Notwithstanding this decree of the Parliament of Provence, many people believed that Gaufredi was a sorcerer only in imagination; and the author from whom we derive this history says, that there are some parliaments, amongst others the Parliament of Paris, which do not punish sorcerers when no other crimes are combined with magic; and that experience has proved that, in not punishing sorcerers, but simply treating them as madmen, it has been seen in time that they were no longer sorcerers, because they no longer fed their imagination with these ideas; while in those places where sorcerers were burnt, they saw nothing else, because everybody was strengthened in this prejudice. That is what this writer says.

But we cannot conclude from thence that God does not sometimes permit the demon to exercise his power over men, and lead them to the excess of malice and impiety, and shed darkness over their minds and corruption in their hearts, which hurry them into an abyss of disorder and misfortune. The demon tempted Job[219] by the permission of God. The messenger of Satan and the thorn in the flesh wearied St. Paul;[220] he asked to be delivered from them; but he was told that the grace of God would enable him to resist his enemies, and that virtue was strengthened by infirmities and trials. Satan took possession of the heart of Judas, and led him to betray Jesus Christ his Master to the Jews his enemies.[221] The Lord wishing to warn his disciples against the impostors who would appear after his ascension, says that, by God's permission, these impostors would work such miracles as might mislead the very elect themselves,[222] were it possible. He tells them elsewhere,[223] that Satan has asked permission of God to sift them as wheat, but that He has prayed for them that their faith may be steadfast.

Thus then with permission from God, the devil can lead men to commit such excesses as we have just seen in Mademoiselle de la Palud and in the priest Louis Gaufredi, perhaps even so far as really to take them through the air to unknown spots, and to what is called the witches' sabbath; or, without really conducting them thither, so strike their imagination and mislead their senses, that they think they move, see, and hear, when they do not stir from their places, see no object and hear no sound.

Observe, also, that the Parliament of Aix did not pass any sentence against even that young girl, it being their custom to inflict no other punishment on those who suffered themselves to be seduced and dishonored than the shame with which they were loaded ever after. In regard to the cure Gaufredi, in the account which they render to the chancellor of the sentence given by them, they say that this cure was in truth accused of sorcery; but that he had been condemned to the flames, as being arraigned and convicted of spiritual incest with Magdalen de la Palud, his penitent.[224]


[218] Causes Celebres, tom. vi. p. 192.

[219] Job i. 12, 13, 22.

[220] 2 Cor. xii. 7, 8.

[221] John xiii. 2.

[222] Matt. xxiv. 5.

[223] Luke xxi.

[224] The attentive reader of this horrible narrative will hardly fail to conclude that Gaufredi's fault was chiefly his seduction of Mademoiselle de la Palud, and that the rest was the effect of a heated imagination. The absurd proportions of the "Sabbath" bell will be sufficient to show this. If the bell were metallic, it would have weighed many tons, and a wooden bell of such dimensions, even were it capable of sounding, would weigh many hundred weight.



All that has just been said is more fitted to prove that the going of sorcerers and witches to the sabbath is only an illusion and a deranged imagination on the part of these persons, and malice and deceit on that of the devil, who misleads them, and persuades them to yield themselves to him, and renounce true religion, by the lure of vain promises that he will enrich them, load them with honors, pleasures, and prosperity, rather than to convince us of the reality of the corporeal transportation of these persons to what they call the sabbath.

Here are some arguments and examples which seem to prove, at least, that the transportation of sorcerers to the sabbath is not impossible; for the impossibility of this transportation is one of the strongest objections which is made to the opinion that supposes it.

There is no difficulty in believing that God may allow the demon to mislead men, and carry them on to every excess of irregularity, error, and impiety; and that he may also permit him to perform some things which to us appear astonishing, and even miraculous; whether the devil achieves them by natural power, or by the supernatural concurrence of God, who employs the evil spirit to punish his creature, who has willingly forsaken Him to yield himself up to his enemy. The prophet Ezekiel was transported through the air from Chaldea, where he was a captive, to Judea, and into the temple of the Lord, where he saw the abominations which the Israelites committed in that holy place; and thence he was brought back again to Chaldea by the ministration of angels, as we shall relate in another chapter.

We know by the Gospel that the devil carried our Saviour to the highest point of the temple at Jerusalem.[225] We know also that the prophet Habakkuk[226] was transported from Judea to Babylon, to carry food to Daniel in the lion's den. St. Paul informs us that he was carried up to the third heaven, and that he heard ineffable things; but he owns that he does not know whether it was in the body or only in the spirit. He therefore doubted not the possibility of a man's being transported in body and soul through the air. The deacon St. Philip was transported from the road from Gaza to Azotus in a very little time by the Spirit of God.[227] We learn by ecclesiastical history, that Simon the magician was carried by the demon up into the air, whence he was precipitated, through the prayers of St. Peter. John the Deacon,[228] author of the life of St. Gregory the Great, relates that one Farold having introduced into the monastery of St. Andrew, at Rome, some women who led disorderly lives, in order to divert himself there with them, and offer insult to the monks, that same night Farold having occasion to go out, was suddenly seized and carried up into the air by demons, who held him there suspended by his hair, without his being able to open his mouth to utter a cry, till the hour of matins, when Pope St. Gregory, the founder and protector of that monastery, appeared to him, reproached him for his profanation of that holy place, and foretold that he would die within the year—which did happen.

I have been told by a magistrate, as incapable of being deceived by illusions as of imposing any such on other people,[229] that on the 16th of October, 1716, a carpenter, who inhabited a village near Bar, in Alsace, called Heiligenstein, was found at five o'clock in the morning in the garret of a cooper at Bar. This cooper having gone up to fetch the wood for his trade that he might want to use during the day, and having opened the door, which was fastened with a bolt on the outside, perceived a man lying at full length upon his stomach, and fast asleep. He recognized him, and having asked him what he did there, the carpenter in the greatest surprise told him he knew neither by what means, nor by whom, he had been taken to that place.

The cooper not believing this, told him that assuredly he was come thither to rob him, and had him taken before the magistrate of Bar, who having interrogated him concerning the circumstance just spoken of, he related to him with great simplicity, that, having set off about four o'clock in the morning to come from Heiligenstein to Bar—there being but a quarter of an hour's distance between those two places—he saw on a sudden, in a place covered with verdure and grass, a magnificent feast, brightly illuminated, where a number of persons were highly enjoying themselves with a sumptuous repast and by dancing; that two women of his acquaintance, inhabitants of Bar, having asked him to join the company, he sat down to table and partook of the good cheer, for a quarter of an hour at the most; after that, one of the guests having cried out "Cito, Cito," he found himself carried away gently to the cooper's garret, without knowing how he had been transported there.

This is what he declared in presence of the magistrate. The most singular circumstance of this history is, that hardly had the carpenter deposed what we read, than those two women of Bar who had invited him to join their feast hung themselves, each in her own house.

The superior magistrates, fearing to carry things so far as to compromise perhaps half the inhabitants of Bar, judged prudently that they had better not inquire further; they treated the carpenter as a visionary, and the two women who hung themselves were considered as lunatics; thus the thing was hushed up, and the matter ended.

If this is what they call the witches' sabbath, neither the carpenter, nor the two women, nor apparently the other guests at the festival, had need to come mounted on a demon; they were too near their own dwellings to have recourse to superhuman means in order to have themselves transported to the place of meeting. We are not informed how these guests repaired to this feast, nor how they returned each one to their home; the spot was so near the town, that they could easily go and return without any extraneous assistance.

But if secrecy was necessary, and they feared discovery, it is very probable that the demon transported them to their homes through the air before it was day, as he had transported the carpenter to the cooper's garret. Whatever turn may be given to this event, it is certainly difficult not to recognize a manifest work of the evil spirit in the transportation of the carpenter through the air, who finds himself, without being aware of it, in a well-fastened garret. The women who hung themselves, showed clearly that they feared something still worse from the law, had they been convicted of magic and witchcraft. And had not their accomplices also, whose names must have been declared, as much to fear?

William de Neubridge relates another story, which bears some resemblance to the preceding. A peasant having heard, one night as he was passing near a tomb, a melodious concert of different voices, drew near, and finding the door open, put in his head, and saw in the middle a grand feast, well lighted, and a well-covered table, round which were men and women making merry. One of the attendants having perceived him, presented him with a cup filled with liquor; he took it, and having spilled the liquor, he fled with the cup to the first village, where he stopped. If our carpenter had done the same, instead of amusing himself at the feast of the witches of Bar, he would have spared himself much uneasiness.

We have in history several instances of persons full of religion and piety, who, in the fervor of their orisons, have been taken up into the air, and remained there for some time. We have known a good monk, who rises sometimes from the ground, and remains suspended without wishing it, without seeking to do so, especially on seeing some devotional image, or on hearing some devout prayer, such as "Gloria in excelsis Deo." I know a nun to whom it has often happened in spite of herself to see herself thus raised up in the air to a certain distance from the earth; it was neither from choice, nor from any wish to distinguish herself, since she was truly confused at it. Was it by the ministration of angels, or by the artifice of the seducing spirit, who wished to inspire her with sentiments of vanity and pride? Or was it the natural effect of Divine love, or fervor of devotion in these persons?

I do not observe that the ancient fathers of the desert, who were so spiritual, so fervent, and so great in prayer, experienced similar ecstasies. These risings up in the air are more common among our new saints, as we may see in the Life[230] of St. Philip of Neri, where they relate his ecstasies and his elevations from earth into the air, sometimes to the height of several yards, and almost to the ceiling of his room, and this quite involuntarily. He tried in vain to hide it from the knowledge of those present, for fear of attracting their admiration, and feeling in it some vain complacency. The writers who give us these particulars do not say what was the cause, whether these ecstatic elevations from the ground were produced by the fervor of the Holy Spirit, or by the ministry of good angels, or by a miraculous favor of God, who desired thus to do honor to his servants in the eyes of men. God had moreover favored the same St. Philip de Neri, by permitting him to see the celestial spirits and even the demons, and to discover the state of holy spirits, by supernatural knowledge.

St. John Columbino, teacher of the Jesuits, made use of St. Catherine Columbine,[231] a maiden of extraordinary virtue, for the establishment of nuns of his order. It is related of her, that sometimes she remained in a trance, and raised up two yards from the ground, motionless, speechless, and insensible.

The same thing is said of St. Ignatius de Loyola,[232] who remained entranced by God, and raised up from the ground to the height of two feet, while his body shone like light. He has been seen to remain in a trance insensible, and almost without respiration, for eight days together.

St. Robert de Palentin[233] rose also from the ground, sometimes to the height of a foot and a half, to the great astonishment of his disciples and assistants. We see similar trances and elevations in the Life of St. Bernard Ptolomei, teacher of the congregation of Notre Dame of Mount Olivet;[234] of St. Philip Benitas, of the order of Servites; of St. Cajetanus, founder of the Theatins;[235] of St. Albert of Sicily, confessor, who, during his prayers, rose three cubits from the ground; and lastly of St. Dominic, the founder of the order of Preaching Brothers.[236]

It is related of St. Christina,[237] Virgin at S. Tron, that being considered dead, and carried into the church in her coffin, as they were performing for her the usual service, she arose suddenly, and went as high as the beams of the church, as lightly as a bird. Being returned into the house with her sisters, she related to them that she had been led first to purgatory, and thence to hell, and lastly to paradise, where God had given her the choice of remaining there, or of returning to this world and doing penance for the souls she had seen in purgatory. She chose the latter, and was brought back to her body by the holy angels. From that time she could not bear the effluvia of the human body, and rose up into trees and on the highest towers with incredible lightness, there to watch and pray. She was so light in running that she outran the swiftest dogs. Her parents tried in vain all they could do to stop her, even to loading her with chains, but she always escaped from them. So many other almost incredible things are related of this saint, that I dare not repeat them here.

M. Nicole, in his letters, speaks of a nun named Seraphina, who, in her ecstasies, rose from the ground with so much impetuosity that five or six of the sisters could hardly hold her down.

This doctor, reasoning on the fact,[238] says, that it proves nothing at all for Sister Seraphina; but the thing well verified proves God and the devil—that is to say, the whole of religion; that the circumstance being proved, is of very great consequence to religion; that the world is full of certain persons who believe only what cannot be doubted; that the great heresy of the world is no longer Calvinism and Lutheranism, but atheism. There are all sorts of atheists—some real, others pretended; some determined, others vacillating, and others tempted to be so. We ought not to neglect this kind of people; the grace of God is all-powerful; we must not despair of bringing them back by good arguments, and by solid and convincing proofs. Now, if these facts are certain, we must conclude that there is a God, or bad angels who imitate the works of God, and perform by themselves or their subordinates works capable of deceiving even the elect.

One of the oldest instances I remark of persons thus raised from the ground without any one touching them, is that of St. Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury, who died in 988, and who, a little time before his death, as he was going up stairs to his apartment, accompanied by several persons, was observed to rise from the ground; and as all present were astonished at the circumstance, he took occasion to speak of his approaching death.[239]

Trithemius, speaking of St. Elizabeth, Abbess of Schonau, in the diocese of Treves, says that sometimes she was in an ecstatic trance, so that she would remain motionless and breathless during a long time. In these intervals, she learned, by revelation and by the intercourse she had with blessed spirits, admirable things; and when she revived, she would discourse divinely, sometimes in German, her native language, sometimes in Latin, though she had no knowledge of that language. Trithemius did not doubt her sincerity and the truth of her discourse. She died in 1165.

St. Richard, Abbot of S. Vanne de Verdun, appeared in 1036 elevated from the ground while he was saying mass in presence of the Duke Galizon, his sons, and a great number of lords and soldiers.

In the last century, the reverend Father Dominic Carme Dechaux, was raised from the ground before the King of Spain, the queen, and all the court, so that they had only to blow upon his body to move it about like a soap-bubble.[240]


[225] Matt. iv. 5.

[226] Dan. xiv. 33, 34. Douay Version.

[227] Acts viii. 40.

[228] Joan. Diacon. Vit. Gregor. Mag.

[229] Lettre de M. G. P. R., 5th October, 1746.

[230] On the 26th of May, of the Bollandists, c. xx. n. 356, 357.

[231] Acta S. J. Bolland. 3 Jul. p. 95.

[232] Ibid. 31 Jul. pp. 432, 663.

[233] Acta S. J. Bolland, 21 Aug. pp. 469, 481.

[234] Ibid. 18 Aug. p. 503.

[235] Ibid. 17 Aug. p. 255.

[236] Ibid. 4 Aug. p. 405.

[237] Vita S. Christina. 24 Jul. Bolland. pp. 652, 653.

[238] Nicole, tom. i. Letters, pp. 203, 205. Letter xlv.

[239] Vita Sancti Dunstani, xi. 42.

[240] It is worthy of remark, that in the cases which Calmet refers to of persons in his own time, and of his own acquaintance, being thus raised from the ground, he in no instance states himself to have been a witness of the wonder.



We cannot reasonably dispute the truth of these ecstatic trances, the elevations of the body of some saints to a certain distance from the ground, since these circumstances are supported by so many witnesses. To apply this to the matter we here treat of, might it not be said that sorcerers and witches, by the operation of the demon, and with God's permission, by the help of a lively and subtile temperament, are rendered light and rise into the air, where their heated imagination and prepossessed mind lead them to believe that they have done, seen, and heard, what has no reality except in their own brain?

I shall be told that the parallel I make between the actions of saints, which can only be attributed to angels and the operation of the Holy Spirit, or to the fervor of their charity and devotion, with what happens to wizards and witches, is injurious and odious. I know how to make a proper distinction between them: do not the books of the Old and New Testament place in parallel lines the true miracles of Moses with those of the magicians of Pharaoh; those of antichrist and his subordinates with those of the saints and apostles; and does not St. Paul inform us that the angel of darkness often transforms himself into an angel of light?

In the first edition of this work, we spoke very fully of certain persons, who boast of having what they call "the garter," and by that means are able to perform with extraordinary quickness, in a very few hours, what would naturally take them several days journeying. Almost incredible things are related on that subject; nevertheless, the details are so circumstantial, that it is hardly possible there should not be some foundation for them; and the demon may transport these people in a forced and violent manner which causes them a fatigue similar to what they would have suffered, had they really performed the journey with more than ordinary rapidity.

For instance, the two circumstances related by Torquemada: the first of a poor scholar of his acquaintance, a clever man, who at last rose to be physician to Charles V.; when studying at Guadaloupe, was invited by a traveler who wore the garb of a monk, and to whom he had rendered some little service, to mount up behind him on his horse, which seemed a sorry animal and much tired; he got up and rode all night, without perceiving that he went at an extraordinary pace, but in the morning he found himself near the city of Granada; the young man went into the town, but the conductor passed onwards.

Another time, the father of a young man, known to the same Torquemada, and the young man himself, were going together to Granada, and passing through the village of Almeda, met a man on horseback like themselves and going the same way; after having traveled two or three leagues together, they halted, and the cavalier spread his cloak on the grass, so that there was no crease in the mantle; they all placed what provisions they had with them on this extended cloak, and let their horses graze. They drank and ate very leisurely, and having told their servants to bring their horses, the cavalier said to them, "Gentlemen, do not hurry, you will reach the town early"—at the same time he showed them Granada, at not a quarter of an hour's distance from thence.

Something equally marvelous is said of a canon of the cathedral of Beauvais. The chapter of that church had been charged for a long time to acquit itself of a certain personal duty to the Church of Rome; the canons having chosen one of their brethren to repair to Rome for this purpose, the canon deferred his departure from day to day, and set off after matins on Christmas day—arrived that same day at Rome, acquitted himself there of his commission, and came back from thence with the same dispatch, bringing with him the original of the bond, which obliged the canons to send one of their body to make this offering in person. However fabulous and incredible this story may appear, it is asserted that there are authentic proofs of it in the archives of the cathedral; and that upon the tomb of the canon in question may still be seen the figures of demons engraved at the four corners in memory of this event. They even affirm that the celebrated Father Mabillon saw the authentic voucher.

Now, if this circumstance and the others like it are not absolutely fabulous, we cannot deny that they are the effects of magic, and the work of the evil spirit.

Peter, the venerable Abbot of Cluny,[241] relates so extraordinary a thing which happened in his time, that I should not repeat it here, had it not been seen by the whole town of Macon. The count of that town, a very violent man, exercised a kind of tyranny over the ecclesiastics, and against whatever belonged to them, without troubling himself either to conceal his violence, or to find a pretext for it; he carried it on with a high hand and gloried in it. One day, when he was sitting in his palace in company with several nobles and others, they beheld an unknown person enter on horseback, who advanced to the count and desired him to follow him. The count rose and followed him, and having reached the door, he found there a horse ready caparisoned; he mounts it, and is immediately carried up into the air, crying out, in a terrible tone to those who were present, "Here, help me!" All the town ran out at the noise, but they soon lost sight of him; and no doubt was entertained that the devil had flown away with him to be the companion of his tortures, and to bear the pain of his excesses and his violence.

It is, then, not absolutely impossible that a person may be raised into the air and transported to some very high and distant place, by order or by permission of God, by good or evil spirits; but we must own that the thing is of rare occurrence, and that in all that is related of sorcerers and witches, and their assemblings at the witches' sabbath, there is an infinity of stories, which are false, absurd, ridiculous, and even destitute of probability. M. Remi, attorney-general of Lorraine, author of a celebrated work entitled Demonology, who tried a great number of sorcerers and sorceresses, with which Lorraine was then infested, produces hardly any proof whence we can infer the truth and reality of witchcraft, and of wizards and witches being transported to the sabbath.


[241] Petrus Venerab. lib. ii. de Miraculis, c. 1, p. 1299.



It is with reason that obsessions and possessions of the devil are placed in the rank of apparitions of the evil spirit among men. We call it obsession when the demon acts externally against the person whom he besets, and possession when he acts internally, agitates them, excites their ill humor, makes them utter blasphemy, speak tongues they have never learnt, discovers to them unknown secrets, and inspires them with the knowledge of the obscurest things in philosophy or theology. Saul was agitated and possessed by the evil spirit,[242] who at intervals excited his melancholy humor, and awakened his animosity and jealousy against David, or who, on occasion of the natural movement or impulsion of these dark moods, seized him, agitated him, and disturbed from his usual tenor of mind. Those whom the Gospel speaks of as being possessed,[243] and who cried aloud that Jesus was the Christ, and that he was come to torment them before the time, that he was the Son of God, are instances of possession. But the demon Asmodeus, who beset Sara, the daughter of Raguel,[244] and who killed her first seven husbands; those spoken of in the Gospel, who were simply struck with maladies or incommodities which were thought to be incurable; those whom the Scripture sometimes calls lunatics, who foamed at the mouth, who were convulsed, who fled the presence of mankind, who were violent and dangerous, so that they were obliged to be chained to prevent them from striking and maltreating other people; these kinds of persons were simply beset, or obseded by the devil.

Opinions are much divided on the matter of obsessions and possessions of the devil. The hardened Jews, and the ancient enemies of the Christian religion, convinced by the evidence of the miracles which they saw worked by Jesus Christ, by his apostles, and by Christians, dared neither dispute their truth nor their reality; but they attributed them to magic, to the prince of the devils, or to the virtue of certain herbs, or of certain natural secrets.

St. Justin,[245] Tertullian, Lactantius, St. Cyprian, Minutius, and the other fathers of the first ages of the church, speak of the power which the Christian exorcists exercised over the possessed, so confidently and so freely, that we can doubt neither the certainty nor the evidence of the thing. They call upon their adversaries to bear witness, and pique themselves on making the experiment in their presence, and of forcing to come out of the bodies of the possessed, to declare their names, and acknowledge that those they adore in the pagan temples are but devils.

Some opposed to the true miracles of the Saviour those of their false gods, their magicians, and their heroes of paganism, such as those of Esculapius, and the famous Apollonius of Tyana. The pretended freethinkers dispute them in our days upon philosophical principles; they attribute them to a diseased imagination, the prejudices of education, and hidden springs of the constitution; they reduce the expressions of Scripture to hyperbole; they maintain that Jesus Christ condescended to the understanding of the people, and their prepossessions or prejudices; that demons being purely spiritual substances could not by themselves act immediately upon bodies; and that it is not at all probable God should work miracles to allow of their doing so.

If we examine closely those who have passed for being possessed, we shall not perhaps find one amongst them, whose mind had not been deranged by some accident, or whose body was not attacked by some infirmity either known or hidden, which had caused some ferment in the blood or the brain, and which, joined to prejudice, or fear, had given rise to what was termed in their case obsession or possession.

The possession of King Saul is easily explained by supposing that he was naturally an atrabilarian, and that in his fits of melancholy he appeared mad, or furious; therefore they sought no other remedy for his illness than music, and the sound of instruments proper to enliven or calm him. Several of the obsessions and possessions noted in the New Testament were simple maladies, or fantastic fancies, which made it believed that such persons were possessed by the devil. The ignorance of the people maintained this prejudice, and their being totally unacquainted with physics and medicine served to strengthen such ideas.

In one it was a sombre and melancholy temper, in another the blood was too fevered and heated; here the bowels were burnt up with heat, there a concentration of diseased humor, which suffocated the patient, as it happens with those subject to epilepsy and hypochondria, who fancy themselves gods, kings, cats, dogs, and oxen. There were others, who, disturbed at the remembrance of their crimes, fell into a kind of despair, and into fits of remorse, which irritated their mind and constitution, and made them believe that the devil pursued and beset them. Such, apparently, were those women who followed Jesus Christ, and who had been delivered by him from the unclean spirits that possessed them, and partly so Mary Magdalen, from whom he expelled seven devils. The Scripture often speaks of the spirit of impurity, of the spirit of falsehood, of the spirit of jealousy; it is not necessary to have recourse to a particular demon to excite these passions in us; St. James[246] tells us that we are enough tempted by our own concupiscence, which leads us to evil, without seeking after external causes.

The Jews attributed the greater part of their maladies to the demon: they were persuaded that they were a punishment for some crime either known or unrevealed. Jesus Christ and his apostles wisely supposed these prejudices, without wishing to attack them openly and reform the old opinions of the Jews; they cured the diseases, and chased away the evil spirits who caused them, or who were said to cause them. The real and essential effect was the cure of the patient; no other thing was required to confirm the mission of Jesus Christ, his divinity, and the truth of the doctrine which he preached. Whether he expelled the demon, or not, is not essentially necessary to his first design; it is certain that he cured the patient either by expelling the devil, if it be true that this evil spirit caused the malady, or by replacing the inward springs and humors in their regular and natural state, which is always miraculous, and proves the Divinity of the Saviour.

Although the Jews were sufficiently credulous concerning the operations of the evil spirit, they at the same time believed that in general the demons who tormented certain persons were nothing else than the souls of some wretches, who, fearing to repair to the place destined for them, took possession of the body of some mortal whom they tormented and endeavored to deprive of life.[247]

Josephus the historian[248] relates that Solomon composed some charms against maladies, and some formulae of exorcism to expel evil spirits. He says, besides, that a Jew named Eleazar cured in the presence of Vespasian some possessed persons by applying under their nose a ring, in which was enchased a root, pointed out by that prince. They pronounced the name of Solomon with a certain prayer, and an exorcism; directly, the person possessed fell on the ground, and the devil left him. The generality of common people among the Jews had not the least doubt that Beelzebub, prince of the devils, had the power to expel other demons, for they said that Jesus Christ only expelled them in the name of Beelzebub.[249] We read in history that sometimes the pagans expelled demons; and the physicians boast of being able to cure some possessed persons, as they cure hypochondriacs, and imaginary disorders.

These are the most plausible things that are said against the reality of the possessions and obsessions of the devil.


[242] 1 Sam. xvi. 23.

[243] Matt. viii. 16; x. 11; xviii. 28.

[244] Tob. iii. 8.

[245] Justin. Dialog. cum supplem. Tertull. de Corona Militis, c. 11; and Apolog. c. 23; Cyp. ad Demetriam, &c.; Minutius, in Octavio, &c.

[246] James i. 14.

[247] Joseph. Antiq. lib. vii. c. 25.

[248] Ibid. lib. viii. c. 2.

[249] Matt. xii. 24.



But the possibility, the verity and reality of the obsessions and possessions of the devil are indubitable, and proved by the Scripture and by the authority of the Church, the Fathers, the Jews, and the pagans. Jesus Christ and the apostles believed this truth, and taught it publicly. The Saviour gives us a proof of his mission that he cures the possessed; he refutes the Pharisees, who asserted that he expelled the demons only in the name of Beelzebub; and maintains that he expels them by the virtue of God.[250] He speaks to the demons; he threatens them, and puts them to silence. Are these equivocal marks of the reality of obsessions? The apostles do the same, as did the early Christians their disciples. All this was done before the eyes of the heathen, who could not deny it, but who eluded the force and evidence of these things, by attributing this power to other demons, or to certain divinities, more powerful than ordinary demons; as if the kingdom of Satan were divided, and the evil spirit could act against himself, or as if there were any collusion between Jesus Christ and the demons whose empire he had just destroyed.

The seventy disciples on their return from their mission came to Jesus Christ[251] to give him an account of it, and tell him that the demons themselves are obedient to them. After his resurrection,[252] the Saviour promises to his apostles that they shall work miracles in his name, that they shall cast out devils, and receive the gift of tongues. All which was literally fulfilled.

The exorcisms used at all times in the Church against the demons are another proof of the reality of possessions; they show that at all times the Church and her ministers have believed them to be true and real, since they have always practiced these exorcisms. The ancient fathers defied the heathen to produce a demoniac before the Christians; they pride themselves on curing them, and expelling the demon. The Jewish exorcists employed even the name of Jesus Christ to cure demoniacs;[253] they found it efficacious in producing this effect; it is true that sometimes they employed the name of Solomon, and some charms said to have been invented by that prince, or roots and herbs to which they attributed the same virtues, like as a clever physician by the secret of his art can cure a hypochondriac or a maniac, or a man strongly persuaded that he is possessed by the devil, or as a wise confessor will restore the mind of a person disturbed by remorse, and agitated by the reflection of his sins, or the fear of hell. But we are speaking now of real possessions and obsessions which are cured only by the power of God, by the name of Jesus Christ, and by exorcisms. The son of Sceva, the Jewish priest,[254] having undertaken to expel a devil in the name of Jesus Christ, whom Paul preached, the demoniac threw himself upon him, and would have strangled him, saying that he knew Jesus Christ, and Paul, but that for him, he feared him not. We must then distinguish well between possessions and possessions, exorcists and exorcists. There may be found demoniacs who counterfeit the possessed, to excite compassion and obtain alms. There may even be exorcists who abuse the name and power of Jesus Christ to deceive the ignorant; and how do I know that there are not even impostors to be found, who would place pretended possessed persons in the way, in order to pretend to cure them, and thus gain a reputation?

I do not enter into longer details on this matter; I have treated it formerly in a particular dissertation on the subject, printed apart with other dissertations on Scripture, and I have therein replied to the objections which were raised on this subject.


[250] Luke viii. 21.

[251] Luke x. 17.

[252] Mark xvi. 27.

[253] Mark ix. 36-38. Acts xi. 14.

[254] Acts xix. 14.



We must now report some of the most famous instances of the possession and obsession of the demon. Every body is talking at this time of the possession (by the devil) of the nuns of Loudun, on which such different opinions were given, both at the time and since. Martha Broissier, daughter of a weaver of Romorantin,[255] made as much noise in her time; but Charles Miron, Bishop of Orleans, discovered the fraud, by making her drink holy water as common water; by making them present to her a key wrapped up in red silk, which was said to be a piece of the true cross; and in reciting some lines from Virgil, which Martha Broissier's demon took for exorcisms, agitating her very much at the approach of the hidden key, and at the recital of the verses from Virgil. Henri de Gondi, Cardinal Bishop of Paris, had her examined by five of the faculty; three were of opinion that there was a great deal of imposture and a little disease. The parliament took notice of the affair, and nominated eleven physicians, who reported unanimously that there was nothing demoniacal in this matter.

In the reign of Charles IX.[256] or a little before, a young woman of the town of Vervins, fifteen or sixteen years of age, named Nicola Aubry, had different apparitions of a spectre, who called itself her grandfather, and asked her for masses and prayers for the repose of his soul.[257] Very soon after, she was transported to different places by this spectre, and sometimes even was carried out of sight, and from the midst of those who watched over her.

Then, they had no longer any doubt that it was the devil, which they had a great deal of trouble to make her believe. The Bishop of Laon gave his power (of attorney) for conjuring the spirit, and commanded them to see that the proces-verbaux were exactly drawn up by the notaries nominated for that purpose. The exorcisms lasted more than three months, and only serve to prove more and more the fact of the possession. The poor sufferer was torn from the hands of nine or ten men, who could hardly retain their hold of her; and on the last day of the exorcisms sixteen could not succeed in so doing. She had been lying on the ground, when she stood upright and stiff as a statue, without those who held her being able to prevent it. She spoke divers languages, revealed the most secret things, announced others at the moment they were being done, although at a great distance; she discovered to many the secret of their conscience, uttered at once three different voices, or tones, and spoke with her tongue hanging half a foot out of her mouth. After some exorcisms had been made at Vervins, they took her to Laon, where the bishop undertook her. He had a scaffolding erected for this purpose in the cathedral. Such immense numbers of people went there, that they saw in the church ten or twelve thousand persons at a time; some even came from foreign countries. Consequently, France could not be less curious; so the princes and great people, and those who could not come there themselves, sent persons who might inform them of what passed. The Pope's nuncios, the parliamentary deputies, and those of the university were present.

The devil, forced by the exorcisms, rendered such testimony to the truth of the Catholic religion, and, above all, to the reality of the holy eucharist, and at the same time to the falsity of Calvinism, that the irritated Calvinists no longer kept within bounds. From the time the exorcisms were made at Vervins, they wanted to kill the possessed, with the priest who exorcised her, in a journey they made her take to Notre Dame de Liesse. At Laon, it was still worse; as they were the strongest in numbers there, a revolt was more than once apprehended. They so intimidated the bishop and the magistrates, that they took down the scaffold, and did not have the general procession usually made before exorcisms. The devil became prouder thereupon, insulted the bishop, and laughed at him. On the other hand, the Calvinists having obtained the suppression of the procession, and that she should be put in prison to be more nearly examined, Carlier, a Calvinist doctor, suddenly drew from his pocket something which was averred to be a most violent poison, which he threw into her mouth, and she kept it on her stomach whilst the convulsion lasted, but she threw it up of herself when she came to her senses.

All these experiments decided them on recommencing the processions, and the scaffold was replaced. Then the outraged Calvinists conceived the idea of a writing from M. de Montmorency, forbidding the continuation of the exorcisms, and enjoining the king's officers to be vigilant. Thus they abstained a second time from the procession, and again the devil triumphed at it. Nevertheless, he discovered to the bishop the trick of this suppositious writing, named those who had taken part in it, and declared that he had again gained time by this obedience of the bishop to the will of man rather than that of God. Besides that, the devil had already protested publicly that it was against his own will that he remained in the body of this woman; that he had entered there by the order of God; that it was to convert the Calvinists or to harden them, and that he was very unfortunate in being obliged to act and speak against himself.

The chapter then represented to the bishop that it would be proper to make the processions and the conjurations twice a-day, to excite still more the devotion of the people. The prelate acquiesced in it, and everything was done with the greatest eclat, and in the most orthodox manner. The devil declared again more than once that he had gained time; once because the bishop had not confessed himself; another time because he was not fasting; and lastly, because it was requisite that the chapter and all the dignitaries should be present, as well as the court of justice and the king's officers, in order that there might be sufficient testimony; that he was forced to warn the bishop thus of his duty, and that accursed was the hour when he entered into the body of this person; at the same time, he uttered a thousand imprecations against the church, the bishop, and the clergy.

Thus, at the last day of possession, everybody being assembled in the afternoon, the bishop began the last conjurations, when many extraordinary things took place; amongst others, the bishop desiring to put the holy eucharist near the lips of this poor woman, the devil in some way seized hold of his arm, and at the same moment raised this woman up, as it were, out of the hands of sixteen men who were holding her. But at last, after much resistance, he came out, and left her perfectly cured, and thoroughly sensible of the goodness of God. The Te Deum was sung to the sound of all the bells in the town; nothing was heard among the Catholics but acclamations of joy, and many of the Calvinists were converted, whose descendants still dwell in the town. Florimond de Raimond, counselor of the parliament of Bordeaux, had the happiness to be of the number, and has written the history of it. For nine days they made the procession, to return thanks to God; and they founded a perpetual mass, which is celebrated every year on the 8th of February, and they represented this story in bas-relief round the choir, where it may be seen at this day.

In short, God, as if to put the finishing stroke to so important a work, permitted that the Prince of Conde, who had just left the Catholic religion, should be misled on this subject by those of his new communion. He sent for the poor woman, and also the Canon d'Espinois, who had never forsaken her during all the time of the exorcisms. He interrogated them separately, and at several different times, and made every effort, not to discover if they had practiced any artifice, but to find out if there was any in the whole affair. He went so far as to offer the canon very high situations if he would change his religion. But what can you obtain in favor of heresy from sensible and upright people, to whom God has thus manifested the power of his church? All the efforts of the prince were useless; the firmness of the canon, and the simplicity of the poor woman, only served to prove to him still more the certainty of the event which displeased him, and he sent them both home.

Yet a return of ill-will caused him to have this woman again arrested, and he kept her in one of his prisons until her father and mother having entreated an inquiry into this injustice to King Charles IX., she was set at liberty by order of his majesty.[258]

An event of such importance, and so carefully attested, both on the part of the bishop and the chapter, and on that of the magistrates, and even by the violence of the Calvinistic party, ought not to be buried in silence. King Charles IX., on making his entry into Laon some time after, desired to be informed about it by the dean of the cathedral, who had been an ocular witness of the affair. His majesty commanded him to give publicity to the story, and it was then printed, first in French, then in Latin, Spanish, Italian, and German, with the approbation of the Sorbonne, supported by the rescripts of Pope Pius V. and Gregory XIII. his successor. And they made after that a pretty exact abridgment of it, by order of the Bishop of Laon, printed under the title of Le Triomphe du S. Sacrament sur le Diable.

These are facts which have all the authenticity that can be desired, and such as a man of honor cannot with any good-breeding affect to doubt, since he could not after that consider any facts as certain without being in shameful contradiction with himself.[259]


[255] Jean de Lorres, sur l'an 1599. Thuan. Hist. l. xii.

[256] Charles IX. died in 1574.

[257] This story is taken from a book entitled "Examen et Discussion Critique de l'Histoire des Diables de Loudun, &c., par M. de la Menardaye." A Paris, chez de Bure l'Aine, 1749.

[258] Tresor et entiere Histoire de la Victime du Corps de Dieu, presentee au Pape, au Roi, au Chancelier de France, au Premier President. A Paris, 4to. chez Chesnau. 1578.

[259] This account is one of the many in which the theory of possession was made use of to impugn the Protestant faith. The simplicity and credulity of Calmet are very remarkable.—EDITOR.



There was in Lorraine, about the year 1620, a woman, possessed (by the devil), who made a great noise in the country, but whose case is much less known among foreigners. I mean Mademoiselle Elizabeth de Ranfaing, the story of whose possession was written and printed at Nancy, in 1622, by M. Pichard, a doctor of medicine, and physician in ordinary to their highnesses of Lorraine. Mademoiselle de Ranfaing was a very virtuous person, through whose agency God established a kind of order of nuns of the Refuge, the principal object of which is to withdraw from profligacy the girls or women who have fallen into libertinism. M. Pichard's work was approved by doctors of theology, and authorized by M. de Porcelets, Bishop of Toul, and in an assembly of learned men whom he sent for to examine the case, and the reality of the possession. It was ardently attacked and loudly denied by a monk of the Minimite order, named Claude Pithoy, who had the temerity to say that he would pray to God to send the devil into himself, in case the woman whom they were exorcising at Nancy was possessed; and again, that God was not God if he did not command the devil to seize his body, if the woman they exorcised at Nancy was really possessed.

M. Pichard refutes him fully; but he remarks that persons who are weak minded, or of a dull and melancholy character, heavy, taciturn, stupid, and who are naturally disposed to frighten and disturb themselves, are apt to fancy that they see the devil, that they speak to him, and even that they are possessed by him; above all, if they are in places where others are possessed, whom they see, and with whom they converse. He adds that, thirteen or fourteen years ago, he remarked at Nancy a great number of this kind, and with the help of God he cured them. He says the same thing of atrabilarians, and women who suffer from furor uterine, who sometimes do such things and utter such cries, that any one would believe they were possessed.

Mademoiselle Ranfaing having become a widow in 1617, was sought in marriage by a physician named Poviot. As she would not listen to his addresses, he first of all gave her philtres to make her love him, which occasioned strange derangements in her health. At last he gave her some magical medicaments (for he was afterwards known to be a magician, and burnt as such by a judicial sentence). The physicians could not relieve her, and were quite at fault with her extraordinary maladies. After having tried all sorts of remedies, they were obliged to have recourse to exorcisms.

Now these are the principal symptoms which made it believed that Mademoiselle Ranfaing was really possessed. They began to exorcise her the 2d September, 1619, in the town of Remiremont, whence she was transferred to Nancy; there she was visited and interrogated by several clever physicians, who, after having minutely examined the symptoms of what happened to her, declared that the casualties they had remarked in her had no relation at all with the ordinary course of known maladies, and could only be the result of diabolical possession.

After which, by order of M. de Porcelets, Bishop of Toul, they nominated for the exorcists M. Viardin, a doctor of divinity, counselor of state of the Duke of Lorraine, a Jesuit and Capuchin. Almost all the monks in Nancy, the said lord bishop, the Bishop of Tripoli, suffragan of Strasburg, M. de Sancy, formerly ambassador from the most Christian king at Constantinople, and then priest of the Oratoire, Charles de Lorraine, Bishop of Verdun; two doctors of the Sorbonne sent on purpose to be present at the exorcisms, often exorcised her in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, and she always replied pertinently to them, she who could hardly read Latin.

They report the certificate given by M. Nicolas de Harley, very well skilled in the Hebrew tongue, who avowed that Mademoiselle Ranfaing was really possessed, and had answered him from the movement of his lips alone, without his having pronounced any words, and had given several proofs of her possession. The Sieur Garnier, a doctor of the Sorbonne, having also given her several commands in Hebrew, she replied pertinently, but in French, saying that the compact was made that he should speak only in the usual tongue. The demon added, "Is it not enough that I show thee that I understand what thou sayest?" The same M. Garnier, speaking to him in Greek, inadvertently put one case for another; the possessed, or rather the devil, said to him, "Thou hast committed an error." The doctor said to him in Greek, "Point out my fault;" the devil replied, "Let it suffice thee that I point out an error; I shall tell thee no more concerning it." The doctor telling him in Greek to hold his tongue, he answered, "Thou commandest me to hold my tongue, and I will not do so."

M. Midot Ecolatre de Toul said to him in the same language, "Sit down;" he replied, "I will not sit down." M. Midot said to him moreover in Greek, "Sit down on the ground and obey;" but as the demon was going to throw the possessed by force on the ground, he said to him in the same tongue, "Do it gently;" he did so. He said in Greek, "Put out the right foot;" he extended it; he said also in the same language, "Cause her knees to be cold," the woman replied that she felt them very cold.

The Sieur Mince, a doctor of the Sorbonne, holding a cross in his hand, the devil whispered to him in Greek, "Give me the cross," which was heard by some persons who were near him. M. Mince desired to make the devil repeat the same sentence; he answered, "I will not repeat it all in Greek;" but he simply said in French, "Give me," and in Greek, "the cross."

The Reverend Father Albert, Capuchin, having ordered him in Greek to make the sign of the cross seven times with his tongue, in honor of the seven joys of the Virgin, he made the sign of the cross three times with his tongue, and then twice with his nose; but the holy man told him anew to make the sign of the cross seven times with his tongue; he did so; and having been commanded in the same language to kiss the feet of the Lord Bishop of Toul, he prostrated himself and kissed his feet.

The same father having observed that the demon wished to overturn the Benitier, or basin of holy water which was there, he ordered him to take the holy water and not spill it, and he obeyed. The Father commanded him to give marks of the possession; he answered, "The possession is sufficiently known;" he added in Greek, "I command thee to carry some holy water to the governor of the town." The demon replied, "It is not customary to exorcise in that tongue." The father answered in Latin, "It is not for thee to impose laws on us; but the church has power to command thee in whatever language she may think proper."

Then the demon took the basin of holy water and carried it to the keeper of the Capuchins, to the Duke Eric of Lorraine, to the Counts of Brionne, Remonville, la Vaux, and other lords.

The physician, M. Pichard, having told him in a sentence, partly Hebrew, and partly Greek, to cure the head and eyes of the possessed woman; hardly had he finished speaking the last words, when the demon replied: "Faith, we are not the cause of it; her brain is naturally moist: that proceeds from her natural constitution;" then M. Pichard said to the assembly, "Take notice, gentlemen, that he replies to Greek and Hebrew at the same time." "Yes," replied the demon, "you discover the pot of roses, and the secret; I will answer you no more." There were several questions and replies in foreign languages, which showed that he understood them very well.

M. Viardin having asked him in Latin, "Ubi censebaris quando mane oriebaris?" He replied, "Between the seraphim." They said to him, "Pro signo exhibe nobis patibulum fratris Cephae;" the devil extended his arms in the form of a St. Andrew's cross. They said to him, "Applica carpum carpo;" he did so, placing the wrist of one hand over the other; then, "Admove tarsum tarso et metatarsum metatarso;" he crossed his feet and raised them one upon the other. Then afterwards he said, "Excita in calcaneo qualitatem congregantem heterogenea;" the possessed said she felt her heel cold; after which, "Repraesenta nobis labarum Venetorum;" he made the figure of the cross. Afterwards they said, "Exhibe nobis videntum Deum bene precantem nepotibus ex salvatore Egypti;" he crossed his arms as did Jacob on giving his blessing to the sons of Joseph; and then, "Exhibe crucem conterebrantem stipiti," he represented the cross of St. Peter. The exorcist having by mistake said, "Per eum qui adversus te praeliavit," the demon did not give him time to correct himself; he said to him, "O the ass! instead of praeliatus est." He was spoken to in Italian and German, and he always answered accordingly.

They said to him one day, "Sume encolpium ejus qui hodie functus est officio illius de quo cecinit Psaltes: pro patribus tuis nati sunt tibi filii;" he went directly and took the cross hanging round the neck and resting on the breast of the Prince Eric de Lorraine, who that same day had filled the office of bishop in giving orders, because the Bishop of Toul was indisposed. He discovered secret thoughts, and heard words that were said in the ear of some persons which he was not possibly near enough to overhear, and declared that he had known the mental prayer that a good priest had made before the holy sacrament.

Here is a trait still more extraordinary. They said to the demon, speaking Latin and Italian in the same sentence: "Adi scholastrum seniorem et osculare ejus pedes, la cui scarpa ha piu di sugaro;" that very moment he went and kissed the foot of the Sieur Juillet, ecolatre of St. George, the Elder of M. Viardin, ecolatre of the Primitiale. M. Juillet's right foot was shorter than the left, which obliged him to wear a shoe with a cork heel (or raised by a piece of cork, called in Italian sugaro).

They proposed to him very difficult questions concerning the Trinity, the Incarnation, the holy sacrament of the altar, the grace of God, free will, the manner in which angels and demons know the thoughts of men, &c., and he replied with much clearness and precision. She discovered things unknown to everybody, and revealed to certain persons, but secretly and in private, some sins of which they had been guilty.

The demon did not obey the voice only of the exorcists; he obeyed even when they simply moved their lips, or held their hand, or a handkerchief, or a book upon the mouth. A Calvinist having one day mingled secretly in the crowd, the exorcist, who was warned of it, commanded the demon to go and kiss his feet; he went immediately, rushing through the crowd.

An Englishman having come from curiosity to the exorcist, the devil told him several particulars relating to his country and religion. He was a Puritan; and the Englishman owned that everything he had said was true. The same Englishman said to him in his language, "As a proof of thy possession, tell me the name of my master who formerly taught me embroidery;" he replied, "William." They commanded him to recite the Ave Maria; he said to a Huguenot gentleman who was present, "Do you say it, if you know it; for they don't say it amongst your people." M. Pichard relates several unknown and hidden things which the demon revealed, and that he performed several feats which it is not possible for any person, however agile and supple he may be, to achieve by natural strength or power; such as crawling on the ground without making use of hands or feet, appearing to have the hair standing erect like serpents.

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