The Superstitions of Witchcraft
by Howard Williams
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[46] Sadducismus Triumphatus, part i. sect. 8.

[47] Grose's Antiquities, in Brand's Popular Antiquities of Great Britain.


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

Tremendous as was the power of the witch in earlier Christendom, it was not yet degraded into the thoroughly diabolistic character of her more recent successors. Diabolism advanced in the same proportion with the authority of the Church and the ignorant submission of the people. In the civil law, the Emperor Leo, in the sixth century, abrogated the Constantinian edict as too indulgent or too credulous: from that time all sorts of charms, all use of them, beneficial or injurious, were declared worthy of punishment. The different states of Europe, founded on the ruins of the Western Empire, more or less were engaged in providing against the evil consequences of sorcery. Charlemagne pursued the criminals with great severity. He 'had several times given orders that all necromancers, astrologers, and witches should be driven from his states; but as the number of criminals augmented daily, he found it necessary at last to resort to severer measures. In consequence, he published several edicts, which may be found at length in the "Capitulaire de Baluse." By these every sort of magic, enchantment, and witchcraft was forbidden, and the punishment of death decreed against those who in any way evoked the devil, compounded love-philters, afflicted either man or woman with barrenness, troubled the atmosphere, excited tempests, destroyed the fruits of the earth, dried up the milk of cows, or tormented their fellow-creatures with sores and diseases. All persons found guilty of exercising these execrable arts were to be executed immediately upon conviction, that the earth might be rid of the curse and burden of their presence; and those who consulted them might also be punished with death.'[48]

[48] M. Garinet's Histoire de la Magic en France, quoted in Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions.

The Saxons, in the fifth century, imported into Britain the pagan forms of the Fatherland; and the Anglo-Saxon (Christian) laws are usually directed against practices connected with heathen worship, of which many reminiscences were long preserved. Their Hexe, or witch,[49] appears to be half-divine, half-diabolic, a witch-priestess who derived her inspiration as much from heavenly as from hellish sources; from some divinity or genius presiding at a sacred grove or fountain. King Athelstan is said to have made a law against witchcraft and similar acts which inflict death; that if one by them be made away, and the thing cannot be denied, such practicers shall be put to death; but if they endeavour to purge themselves, and be cast by the threefold ordeal, they shall be in prison 120 days; which ended, their kindred may redeem them by the payment [in the universal style of the English penalties] of 120 shillings to the king, and further pay to the kindred of the slain the full valuation of the party's head; and then the criminals shall also procure sureties for good behaviour for the time to come; and the Danish prince Knut denounces by an express doom the noxious acts of sorcery.[50] Some of the witches who appear under Saxon domination are almost as ferocious as those of the time of Bodin or of James; cutting up the bodies of the dead, especially of children, devouring their heart and liver in midnight revels. Fearful are the deeds of Saxon sorcery as related by the old Norman or Anglo-Norman writers. Roger of Wendover ('Flowers of History') records the terrible fate of a hag who lived in the village of Berkely, in the ninth century. The devil at the appointed hour (as in the case of Faust) punctually carries off the soul of his slave, in spite of the utmost watch and ward. These scenes are, perhaps, rather Norman than Saxon. It was a favourite belief of the ancients and mediaevalists that the inhospitable regions of the remoter North were the abode of demons who held in those suitable localities their infernal revels, exciting storms and tempests: and the monk-chronicler Bede relates the northern parts of Britain were thus infested.[51]

[49] The Saxon 'witch' is derived, apparently, from the verb 'to weet,' to know, be wise. The Latin 'saga' is similarly derived—'Sagire, sentire acute est: ex quo sagae anus, quia malta scire volunt.'—Cicero, de Divinatione.

[50] A curious collection of old English superstitions in these and their allied forms, as exhibited in various documents, appears in a recent work of authority, entitled 'Leechdoms, Wort-Cunning, and Starcraft of Early England. Published by the authority of the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury, under the direction of the Master of the Rolls.' Diseases of all sorts are for the most part inflicted upon mankind by evil demons, through the agency of spells and incantations.

[51] Strutt derives the 'long-continued custom of swimming people suspected of witchcraft' from the Anglo-Saxon mode of judicial trial—the ordeal by water. Another 'method of proving a witch,' by weighing against the Church Bible (a formidable balance), is traced to some of their ancient customs. James VI. (Demonologie) is convinced that 'God hath appointed, for a supernatural sign of the monstrous impiety of witches, that the water shall refuse to receive them in her bosom that have shaken off them the sacred water of baptism and wilfully refused the benefit thereof.'

From Scandinavia the Normans must have brought a conviction of the truths of magic; and although they had been long settled, before the conquest of England, in Northern France and in Christianity, the traditional glories of the land from which were derived their name and renown could not be easily forgotten. Not long after the Conquest the Arabic learning of Spain made its way into this country, and it is possible that Christian magic, as well as science, may have been influenced by it. Magic, scientifically treated, flourished in Arabic Spain, being extensively cultivated, in connection with more real or practical learning, by the polite and scientific Arabs. The schools of Salamanca, Toledo, and other Saracenic cities were famous throughout Europe for eminence in medicine, chymistry, astronomy, and mathematics. Thither resorted the learned of the North to perfect themselves in the then cultivated branches of knowledge. The vast amount of scientific literature of the Moslems of Spain, evidenced in their public libraries, relieves Southern Europe, in part at least, from the stigma of a universal barbaric illiteracy.[52] Several volumes of Arabian philosophy are said to have been introduced to Northern Europe in the twelfth century; and it was in the school of Toledo that Gerbert—a conspicuous name in the annals of magic—acquired his preternatural knowledge.

[52] The royal library of the Fatimites consisted of 100,000 manuscripts, elegantly transcribed and splendidly bound, which were lent, without avarice or jealousy, to the students of Cairo. Yet this collection must appear moderate if we believe that the Ommiades of Spain had formed a library of 600,000 volumes, 44 of which were employed in the mere catalogue. Their capital, Cordova, with the adjacent towns of Malaga, Almeira, and Murcia, had given birth to more than 300 writers; and above 70 public libraries were opened in the cities of the Andalusian kingdom.—Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, lii.

The few in any way acquainted with Greek literature were indebted to the Latin translations of the Arabs; while the Jewish rabbinical learning, whose more useful lore was encumbered with much mystical nonsense, enjoyed considerable reputation at this period. The most distinguished of the rabbis taught in the schools in London, York, Lincoln, Oxford, and Cambridge; and Christendom has to confess its obligations for its first acquaintance with science to the enemies of the Cross.[53] The later Jewish authorities had largely developed the demonology of the subjects of Persia; and the spiritual or demoniacal creations of the rabbinical works of the Middle Ages might be readily acceptable, if not coincident, to Christian faith. But the Western Europeans, before the philosophy of the Spanish Arabs was known, had come in contact with the Saracens and Turks of the East during frequent pilgrimages to the tomb of Christ; and the fanatical crusades of the eleventh and twelfth centuries facilitated and secured the hazardous journey. Mohammedans of the present day preserve the implicit faith of their ancestors in the efficacy of the 113th chapter of the Koran against evil spirits, the spells of witches and sorcerers—a chapter said to have been revealed to the Prophet of Islam on the occasion of his having been bewitched by the daughters of a Jew. The Genii or Ginn—a Preadamite race occupying an intermediate position between angels and men, who assume at pleasure the form of men, of the lower animals, or any monstrous shape, and propagate their species like, and sometimes with, human kind—appear in imposing proportions in 'The Thousand and One Nights'—that rich display of the fancy of the Oriental imagination.[54] Credulous and confused in critical perception, the crusading adventurers for religion or rapine could scarcely fail to confound with their own the peculiar tenets of an ill-understood mode of thought; and that the critical and discriminating faculties of the champions of the Cross were not of the highest order, is illustrated by their difficulty in distinguishing the eminently unitarian religion of Mohammed from paganism. By a strange perversion the Anglo-Norman and French chroniclers term the Moslems Pagans, while the Saxon heathen are dignified by the title of Saracens; and the names of Mahmoud, Termagaunt, Apollo, could be confounded without any sense of impropriety. However, or in whatever degree, Saracenic or rabbinical superstition tended to influence Christian demonology, from about the end of the thirteenth century a considerable development in the mythology of witchcraft is perceptible.[55]

[53] Chymistry and Algebra still attest our obligation by their Arabic etymology.

[54] A common tradition is that Soliman, king of the Jews, having finally subdued—a success which he owed chiefly to his vast magical resources—the rebellious spirits, punished their disobedience by incarcerating them in various kinds of prisons, for longer or shorter periods of time, in proportion to their demerits. For the belief of the followers of Mohammed in the magic excellence of Solomon, see Sale's Koran, xxi. and xxvii. According to the prophet, the devil taught men magic and sorcery. The magic of the Moslems, or, at least, of the Egyptians, is of two kinds—high and low—which are termed respectively rahmanee (divine) and sheytanee (Satanic). By a perfect knowledge of the former it is possible to the adept to 'raise the dead to life, kill the living, transport himself instantly wherever he pleases, and perform any other miracle. The low magic (sooflee or sheytanee) is believed to depend on the agency of the devil and evil spirits, and unbelieving genii, and to be used for bad purposes and by bad men.' The divine is 'founded on the agency of God and of His angels, &c., and employed always for good purposes, and only to be practised by men of probity, who, by tradition or from books, learn the names of those superhuman agents, &c.'—Lane's Modern Egyptians, chap. xii.

[55] Its effect was probably to enlarge more than to modify appreciably the current ideas. A large proportion of the importations from the East may have been indebted to the invention, as much as to the credulity, of the adventurers; and we might be disposed to believe with Hume, that 'men returning from so great a distance used the liberty [a too general one] of imposing every fiction upon their believing audience.'

Conspicuous in the vulgar prejudices is the suspicion attaching to the extraordinary discoveries of philosophy and science. Diabolic inspiration (as in our age infidelity and atheism are popular outcries) was a ready and successful accusation against ideas or discoveries in advance of the time. Roger Bacon, Robert Grostete, Albert the Great, Thomas of Ercildoun, Michael Scot—eminent names—were all more or less objects of a persecuting suspicion. Bacon may justly be considered the greatest name in the philosophy of the Middle Age. That anomaly of mediaevalism was one of the few who could neglect a vain and senseless theology and system of metaphysics to apply his genius to the solid pursuits of truer philosophy; and if his influence has not been so great as it might have been, it is the fault of the age rather than of the man. Condemned by the fear or jealousy of his Franciscan brethren and Dominican rivals, Bacon was thrown into prison, where he was excluded from propagating 'certain suspected novelties' during fourteen years, a victim of his more liberal opinions and of theological hatred. One of the traditions of his diabolical compacts gives him credit at least for ingenuity in avoiding at once a troublesome bargain and a terrible fate. The philosopher's compact stipulated that after death his soul was to be the reward and possession of the devil, whether he died within the church's sacred walls or without them. Finding his end approaching, that sagacious magician caused a cell to be constructed in the walls of the consecrated edifice, giving directions, which were properly carried out, for his burial in a tomb that was thus neither within nor without the church—an evasion of a long-expected event, which lost the disappointed devil his prize, and probably his temper. 'Friar Bacon' became afterwards a well-known character in the vulgar fables: he was the type of the mediaeval, as the poet Virgil was of the ancient, magician. A popular drama was founded on his reputed exploits and character in the sixteenth century, by Robert Greene, in 'Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay;' but the famous Dr. Faustus, the most popular magic hero of that time on the stage, was a formidable rival. While his cotemporaries denounced his rational method, preferring their theological jargon and scholastic metaphysics; how much the Aristotle of mediaevalism has been neglected even latterly is a surprising fact.[56]

[56] The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge have not exhibited the same impatience for a worthy edition of the works of Bacon with which Clement IV. expected a copy of the Opus Majus. His principal writings remained in MS. and were not published to the world until the middle of last century.

But in proof of the prevalence of the popular suspicion, not even the all-powerful spiritual Chief of Christendom was spared. Many of the pontiffs were charged with being addicted to the 'Black Art'—an odd imputation against the vicars of Christ and the successors of St. Peter. A charge, however, which we may be disposed to receive as evidence that in a long and disgusting list of ambitious priests and licentious despots there have been some popes who, by cultivating philosophy, may have in some sort partially redeemed the hateful character of Christian sacerdotalism. At a council held at Paris in the interest of Philip IV., Boniface VIII. was publicly accused of sorcery: it was affirmed that 'he had a familiar demon [the Socratic Genius?]; for he has said that if all mankind were on one side and he alone on the other, he could not be mistaken either in point of fact or of right, which presupposes a diabolical art'—a dogma of sacerdotalism sufficiently confident, but scarcely requiring a miraculous solution. This pope's death, it is said, was hastened by these and similar reports of his dealings with familiar spirits, invented in the interest of the French king to justify his hostility. Boniface VIII.'s esoteric opinions on Catholicism and Christianity, if correctly reported, did not show the orthodoxy to be expected from the supreme pontiff: but he would not be a singular example amongst the numerous occupants of the chair of St. Peter.[57]

[57] Leo X. (whose tastes were rather profane than pious) instructed or amused himself by causing to be discussed the question of the nature of the soul—himself adopting the opinion 'redit in nihilum quod fuit ante nihil,' and the decision of Aristotle and of Epicurus.

John XXII., one of his more immediate successors, is said to be the pope who first formally condemned the crime of witchcraft, more systematically anathematised some hundred and fifty years afterwards by Innocent VIII. He complains of the universal infection of Christendom: that his own court even, and immediate attendants, were attached to the devil's service, applying to him on all occasions for help. The earliest judicial trial for the crime on record in England is said to have occurred in the reign of John. It is briefly stated in the 'Abbreviatio Placitorum' that 'Agnes, the wife of Odo the merchant, accused Gideon of sorcery; and he was acquitted by the judgment of iron.' The first account of which much information is given occurs in Edward II.'s reign, when the lives of the royal favourites, the De Spencers, and his own, were attempted by a supposed criminal, one John of Nottingham, with the assistance of his man, Robert Marshall, who became king's evidence, and charged his master with having conspired the king's death by the arts of sorcery.[58] Cupidity or malice was the cause of this informer's accusation. One of the distinguishing characteristics in its annals was the abuse of the common prejudice for political purposes, or for the gratification of private passion.

[58] Narratives of Sorcery and Magic, by Thomas Wright.

At the commencement of the fourteenth century the persecution and final destruction of the Order of the Knights Templars in the different countries of Europe, but chiefly in France (an instance of the former abuse), is one of the most atrocious facts in the history of those times. The fate of the Knights of the Temple (whose original office it had been to protect their coreligionists during pilgrimages in the Holy City, and whose quarters were near the site of the Temple—whence the title of the Order) in France was determined by the jealousy or avarice of Philip IV. Founded in the first half of the twelfth century as a half-religious, half-military institution, that celebrated Order was, in its earlier career, in high repute for valour and success in fighting the battles of the Cross. With wealth and fame, pride and presumption increased to the highest pitch; and at the end of 150 years the champions of Christendom were equally hated and feared. Their entire number was no more than 1,500; but they were all experienced warriors, in possession of a number of important fortresses, besides landed property to the amount, throughout their whole extent, of nine thousand manorial estates. When the Holy Land was hopelessly lost to the profane ambition or religious zeal of the West, its defenders returned to their homes loaded with riches and prestige if not with unstained honour, and without insinuations that they had betrayed the cause of Christ and the Crusades. Such was the condition of the Temple when Philip, after exhausting the coffers of Jews and Christians, found his treasury still unfilled. The opportunity was not to be neglected: it remained only to secure the consent of the Church, and to provoke the ready credulity of the people. Church and State united, supported by the popular superstition, were irresistible; and the destined victims expected their impending fate in silent terror. At length the signal was given. Prosecutions in 1307 were carried on simultaneously throughout the provinces; but in French territory they assumed the most formidable shape. In many places they were acquitted of the gravest indictments: the English king, from a feeling of justice or jealousy, expressed himself in their favour. As for Spain, 'it was not in presence of the Moors, and on the classic ground of Crusade, that the thought could be entertained of proscribing the old defenders of Christendom.' Paris, where was their principal temple, was the centre of the Order; their wealth and power were concentrated in France; and thus the spoils not of a single province, but almost of the entire body, were within the grasp of a single monarch. Hence he assumed the right of presiding as judge and executioner.[59] On October 12, 1307, Jacques Molay, with the heads of the Temple, was invited to Paris, where, loaded with favours, they were lulled into fatal security. The delusion was soon abruptly dispelled. Molay, together with 140 of his brethren, was arrested—the signal for a more general procedure throughout the kingdom.

[59] Dante seems to refer to this recent spoliation in the following verses:—

'Lo! the new Pilate, of whose cruelty Such violence cannot fill the measure up, With no decree to sanction, pushes on Into the Temple his yet eager sails.'

Purgat. xx. Cary's Transl.

The charges have been resolved under three heads: (1) The denial of Christ. (2) Treachery to the cause of Christianity. (3) The worship of the devil, and the practice of sorcery. The principal articles in the indictment were that the knights at initiation formally denied the divinity of Christ, pronouncing he was not truly a God—even going so far as to assert he was a false prophet, a man who had been punished for his crimes; that they had no hopes of salvation through him; that at the final reception they always spat on the Cross, trampling it under foot; that they worshipped the devil in the form of a cat, or some other familiar animal; that they adored him in the figure of an idol consecrated by anointing it with the fat of a new-born infant, the illegitimate offspring of a brother; that a demon appeared in the shape of a black or gray cat, &c. The idol is a mysterious object. According to some it was a head with a beard, or a head with three faces: by others it was said to be a skull, a cat. One witness testified that in a chapter of the Order one brother said to another, 'Worship this head; it is your God and your Mahomet.' Of this kind was the general evidence of the witnesses examined. Less incredible, perhaps, is the statement that they sometimes saw demons in the appearance of women; and a more credible allegation is that of a secret understanding with the Turks.

Notoriously suspicious communication had been maintained with the enemy; they even went so far as to adopt their style of dress and living. Worse than all, by an amiable but unaccustomed tolerance, the followers of Mohammed had been allowed a free exercise of their religion, a sort of liberality little short of apostasy from the faith. Without recounting all the horrors of the persecution, it must be sufficient to repeat that fifty-four of the wretched condemned, having been degraded by the Bishop of Paris, were handed over to the flames. Four years afterwards the scene was consummated by the burning of Jacques Molay. Torture of the most dreadful sort had been applied to force necessary confessions; and the complaint of one of the criminals is significant—'I, single, as I am, cannot undertake to argue with the Pope and the King of France.'[60] In attempting to detect the mysterious facts of this dark transaction little assistance is given by the contradictory statements of cotemporary or later writers; some asserting the charges to be mere fabrications throughout; others their positive reality; and recent historians have attempted to substantiate or destroy them. Hallam truly remarks that the rapacious and unprincipled conduct of Philip, the submission of Clement V. to his will, the apparent incredibility of the charges from their monstrousness, the just prejudice against confessions obtained by torture and retracted afterwards; the other prejudice, not always so just, but in the case of those not convicted on fair evidence deserving a better name, in favour of assertions of innocence made on the scaffold and at the stake, created, as they still preserve, a strong willingness to disbelieve the accusations which come so suspiciously before us.[61] An approximation to the truth may be obtained if, rejecting as improbable the accusations of devil-worship and its concomitant rites which, invented to amuse the vulgar, characterise the proceedings, we admit the probability of a secret understanding with the Turks, or the possibility of infidelity to the religion of Christ. Their destruction had been predetermined; the slender element of truth might soon be exaggerated and confounded with every kind of fiction. Their pride, avarice, luxury, corrupt morals, would give colour to the most absurd inventions.[62]

[60] Michelet's History of France, book v. 4. M. Michelet suggests an ingenious explanation of some of their supposed secret practices. 'The principal charge, the denial of the Saviour, rested on an equivocation. The Templars might confess to the denial without being in reality apostates. Many averred that it was a symbolical denial, in imitation of St. Peter's—one of those pious comedies in which the antique Church enveloped the most serious acts of religion, but whose traditional meaning was beginning to be lost in the fourteenth century.' The idol-head, believed to represent Mohammed or the devil, he supposes to have been 'a representation of the Paraclete, whose festival, that of Pentecost, was the highest solemnity of the Temple.' Some have identified them, like those of the Albigenses or Waldenses, with the ceremonies of the Gnostics.

[61] View of the Middle Ages, chap. i. The judicial impartiality (eulogised by Macaulay) and patient investigation of truth (the first merits of a historian) of the author of the Constitutional History of England, might almost entitle him to rank with the first of historians, Gibbon.

[62] The alliance of the Church—of the Dominican Order in particular—with the secular power against its once foremost champions, is paralleled and explained by the causes that led to the dissolution of the Order of Jesus by Clement XIV. in the eighteenth century—fear and jealousy.

If the history of the extermination of the Templars exemplifies in an eminent manner the political uses made by the highest in office of a prevalent superstition, the story of Alice Kyteler illustrates equally the manner in which it was prostituted to the private purposes of designing impostors. The scene is in Ireland, the period the first half of the fourteenth century; Richard de Ledrede, Bishop of Ossory, being the principal prosecutor, and a lady, Alice Kyteler, the defendant. The details are too tedious to be repeated here;[63] but the articles upon which the conviction of Alice Kyteler and her accomplices was sought are not dissimilar to those just narrated. To give effect to their sorcery they were in the habit of denying the faith for a year, or shorter period, as the object to be attained was greater or less. Demons were propitiated with sacrifices of living animals, torn limb by limb and scattered (a Hecatean feast) about cross-roads. It was alleged that by sorceries they obtained help from the devil; that they impiously used the ceremonies of the Church in nightly conventicles, pronouncing with lighted candles of wax excommunication against the persons of their own husbands, naming expressly every member from the sole of the foot to the top of the head. Their compositions are of the Horatian and Shakspearian sort. With the intestines of cocks were sacrificed various herbs, the nails of dead men, hair, brains, and clothes of children dying unbaptized, with other equally efficacious ingredients, boiled in the skull of a certain famous robber recently beheaded: powders, ointments, and candles of fat boiled in the same skull were the intended instruments for exciting love or hatred, and in affecting the bodies of the faithful. An unholy connection existed between the Lady Alice and a demon in the form sometimes of a black dog, sometimes of a cat. She was possessed of a secret ointment for impregnating a piece of wood, upon which, with her companions, she was carried to any part of the world without hurt or hindrance: in her house was found a wafer of consecrated bread inscribed with the name of the devil. The event of this trial was the conviction and imprisonment of the criminals, with the important exception of the chief object of the bishop's persecution, who contrived an escape to England. Petronilla de Meath was the first to suffer the extreme penalty. This lady, by order of the bishop, had been six times flogged, when, to escape a repetition of that barbarous infliction, she made a public confession involving her fellow-prisoners. After which Petronilla was carried out into the city and burned before all the people—the first witch, it is said, ever burned in Ireland. Of the other accused all were treated with more or less severity; two were subsequently burned, some were publicly flogged in the market-place and through the city, others banished; a few, more fortunate, escaping altogether.

[63] They are given in full in Narratives of Sorcery and Magic from the most Authentic Sources, by Thomas Wright. In the Annals of Ireland, affixed to Camden's Britannia, ed. 1695, sub anno 1325 A.D., the case of Dame Alice Ketyll is briefly chronicled. Being cited and examined by the Bishop of Ossory, it was discovered, among other things, 'That a certain spirit called Robin Artysson lay with her; and that she offered him nine red cocks on a stone bridge where the highway branches out into four several parts. Item: That she swept the streets of Kilkenny with besoms between Compline and Courefeu, and in sweeping the filth towards the house of William Utlaw, her son, by way of conjuring, wished that all the wealth of Kilkenny might flow thither. The accomplices of this Alice in these devilish practices were Pernil of Meth, and Basilia the daughter of this Pernil. Alice, being found guilty, was fined by the bishop, and forced to abjure her sorcery and witchcraft. But being again convicted of the same practice, she made her escape with Basilia, and was never found. But Pernil was burnt at Kilkenny, and before her death declared that William above-said deserved punishment as well as she—that for a year and a day he wore the devil's girdle about his bare body,' &c.


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

What can hardly fail to be discerned in these prosecutions is the confusion of heresy and sorcery industriously created by the orthodox Church to secure the punishment of her offending dissentients. There are few proceedings against the pretended criminals in which it is not discoverable; the one crime being, as a matter of course, the necessary consequence of the other. In the interest of the Church as much as in the credulity of the people must be sought the main cause of so violent an epidemic, of so fearful a phenomenon in its continuance and atrocities, a fact demonstrated by the whole course of the superstition in the old times of Catholicism. Materials for exciting animosity and indignation against suspected heretics were near at hand. In the assurance of the pre-scientific world everything remote from ordinary knowledge or experience was inseparable from supernaturalism. What surpassed the limits of a very feeble understanding, what was beyond the commonest experience of every-day life, was with one accord relegated to the domain of the supernatural, or rather to that of the devil. For what was not done or taught by Holy Church must be of 'that wicked One'—the cunning imitator.

In the twelfth century the Church was alarmed by the simultaneous springing up of various sects, which, if too hastily claimed by Protestantism as Protestants, in the modern sense, against Catholic theology, were yet sufficiently hostile or dangerous to engage the attention and to provoke the enmity of the pontiffs. The fate of the Stedingers and others in Germany, of the Paulicians in Northern France; of the Albigenses and Waldenses in Southern Europe, is in accordance with this successful sort of theological tactics. Many of the articles of indictment against those outlaws of the Church and of society are extracted from the primitive heresies, in particular from the doctrines of the anti-Judaic and spiritualising Gnostics, and their more than fifty subdivided sects—Marcionites, Manicheans, &c. Gregory IV. issued a bull in 1232 against the Stedingers, revolted from the rule of the Archbishop of Bremen, where they are declared to be accustomed to scorn the sacraments, hold communion with devils, make representative images of wax, and consult with witches.[64]

[64] A second bull enters into details. On the reception of a convert, a toad made its appearance, which was adored by the assembled crowd. On sitting down to the banquet a black cat comes upon the stage, double the size of an ordinary dog, advancing backwards with up-turned tail. The neophytes, one after another, kissed this feline demon, with due solemnity, on the back. Walter Mapes has given an account of the similar ceremonies of the Publicans (Paulicians). Heretical worship was of a most licentious as well as disgusting kind. The religious meetings terminate always in indiscriminate debauchery.

Alchymy, astrology, and kindred arts were closely allied to the practice of witchcraft: the profession of medicine was little better than the mixing of magical ointments, love-potions, elixirs, not always of an innocent sort; and Sangrados were not wanting in those days to trade upon the ignorance of their patients.[65] Nor, unfortunately, are the genuine seekers after truth who honestly applied to the study of nature exempt from the charge of often an unconscious fraud. Monstrous notions mingled with the more real results of their meritorious labours. Science was in its infancy, or rather was still struggling to be freed from the oppressive weight of speculative and theological nonsense before emerging into existence. Many of the fancied phenomena of witch-cases, like other physical or mental eccentricities, have been explained by the progress of reason and knowledge. Lycanthropy (the transformation of human beings into wolves by sorcery), with the no less irrational belief in demoniacal possession, the product of a diseased imagination and brain, was one of the many results of mere ignorance of physiology. In the seventeenth century lycanthropy was gravely defended by doctors of medicine as well as of divinity, on the authority of the story of Nebuchadnezzar, which proved undeniably the possibility of such metamorphoses.

[65] Pliny (Hist. Natur. xxx.) 'observes,' as Gibbon quotes him, 'that magic held mankind by the triple chain of religion, of physic, and of astronomy.'

Cotemporary annalists record the extraordinary frenzy aggravated, as it was, by the proceedings against the Templars, the signal of witch persecutions throughout France. The historian of France draws a frightful picture of the insecure condition of an ignorantly prejudiced society. Accusations poured in; poisonings, adulteries, forgeries, and, above all, charges of witchcraft, which, indeed, entered as an ingredient into all causes, forming their attraction and their horror. The judge shuddered on the judgment seat when the proofs were brought before him in the shape of philtres, amulets, frogs, black cats, and waxen images stuck full of needles. Violent curiosity was blended at these trials with the fierce joy of vengeance and a cast of fear. The public mind could not be satiated with them: the more there were burnt, the more there were brought to be burnt.[66] In 1398 the Sorbonne, at the chancellor's suggestion, published 27 articles against all sorts of sorcery, pictures of demons, and waxen figures. Six years later a synod was specially convened at Langres, and the pressing evil was anxiously deliberated at the Council of Constance.

[66] Michelet, whose poetic-prose may appear hardly suitable to the philosophic dignity of history, relating the fate of two knights accused with a monk of having 'sinned' with the king's daughter-in-law 'even on the holiest days,' and who were castrated and flayed alive, truly enough infers that 'the pious confidence of the middle age which did not mistrust the immuring of a great lady along with her knights in the precincts of a castle, of a narrow tower; the vassalage which imposed on young men as a feudal duty the sweetest cares, was a dangerous trial to human nature.'

Conspicuous about this period, by their importance and iniquity, are the cases of the Pucelle d'Orleans and the catastrophe of Arras. Incited (it is a modern conviction) by a noble enthusiasm, by her own ardent imagination, the Pucelle divested herself of the natural modesty of her sex for the dress and arms of a warrior; and 'her inexperienced mind, working day and night on the favourite object, mistook the impulses of passion for heavenly inspiration.' Reviewing the last scenes in the life of that patriotic shepherdess, we hesitate whether to stigmatise more the unscrupulous policy of the English authorities or the base subservience of the Parliament of Paris. The English Regent and the Cardinal of Winchester, unable to allege against their prisoner (the saviour of her country, taken prisoner in a sally from a besieged town, had been handed over by her countrymen to the foreigner) any civil crime, were forced to disguise a violation of justice and humanity in the pretence of religion; and the Bishop of Beauvais presented a petition against her, as an ecclesiastical subject, demanding to have her tried by an ecclesiastical court for sorcery, impiety, idolatry, and magic. The University of Paris acquiesced. Before this tribunal the accused was brought, loaded with chains, and clothed in her military dress. It was alleged that she had carried about a standard consecrated by magical enchantments; that she had been in the habit of attending at the witches' sabbath at a fountain near the oak of Boulaincourt; that the demons had discovered to her a magical sword consecrated in the Church of St. Catherine, to which she owed her victories; that by means of sorcery she had gained the confidence of Charles VIII. Jeanne d'Arc was convicted of all these crimes, aggravated by heresy: her revelations were declared to be inventions of the devil to delude the people.[67]

[67] Shakspeare brings the fiends upon the stage: their work is done, and they now abandon the enchantress. In vain La Pucelle invokes in her extremity—

'Ye familiar spirits, that are cull'd Out of the powerful regions under earth, Help me this once, that France may get the field. Oh, hold me not with silence over-long!

'Where I was wont to feed you with my blood, I'll lop a member off, and give it you, In earnest of a further benefit; So you do condescend to help me now.

* * * * *

Cannot my body, nor blood-sacrifice, Entreat you to your wonted furtherance? Then take my soul; my body, soul, and all, Before that England give the French the foil. See! they forsake me.

* * * * *

My ancient incantations are too weak And hell too strong for me to buckle with.'

But a worthier, if contradictory, origin is assigned for her enthusiasm when she replies to the foul aspersion of her taunting captors—

'Virtuous, and holy; chosen from above, By inspiration of celestial grace, To work exceeding miracles on earth, I never had to do with wicked spirits. But you—that are polluted with your lusts, Stain'd with the guiltless blood of innocents, Corrupt and tainted with a thousand vices— Because you want the grace that others have, You judge it straight a thing impossible To compass wonders, but by help of devils.'

Her ecclesiastical judges then consigned their prisoner to the civil power; and, finally, in the words of Hume, 'this admirable heroine—to whom the more generous superstition of the ancients would have erected altars—was, on pretence of heresy and magic, delivered over alive to the flames; and expiated by that dreadful punishment the signal services she had rendered to her prince and to her native country.'[68]

[68] History of England, XX. Shakspeare (Henry VI. part ii. act i.) has furnished us with the charms and incantations employed about the same time in the case of the Duchess of Gloucester. Mother Jourdain is the representative witch-hag.

Without detracting from the real merit of the patriotic martyr, it might be suspected that, besides her inflamed imagination, a pious and pardonable collusion was resorted to as a last desperate effort to rouse the energy of the troops or the hopes of the people—a collusion similar to that of the celebrated Constantinian Cross, or of the Holy Lance of Antioch. Every reader is acquainted with the fate of the great personages who in England were accused, politically or popularly, of the crime; and the histories of the Duchess of Gloucester and of Jane Shore are immortalised by Shakspeare. In 1417, Joan, second wife of Henry IV., had been sentenced to prison, suspected of seeking the king's death by sorcery; a certain Friar Randolf being her accomplice and agent. The Duchess of Gloucester, wife of Humphry and daughter of Lord Cobham, was an accomplice in the witchcraft of a priest and an old woman. Her associates were Sir Roger Bolingbroke, priest; Margery Jordan or Guidemar, of Eye, in Suffolk; Thomas Southwell, and Roger Only. It was asserted 'there was found in their possession a waxen image of the king, which they melted in a magical manner before a slow fire, with the intention of making Henry's force and vigour waste away by like insensible degrees.' The duchess was sentenced to do penance and to perpetual imprisonment; Margery was burnt for a witch in Smithfield; the priest was hanged, declaring his employers had only desired to know of him how long the king would live; Thomas Southwell died the night before his execution; Roger Only was hanged, having first written a book to prove his own innocence, and against the opinion of the vulgar.[69] Jane Shore (whose story is familiar to all), the mistress of Edward IV., was sacrificed to the policy of Richard Duke of Gloucester, more than to any general suspicion of her guilt. Both the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Ely were involved with the citizen's wife in demoniacal dealings, and imprisoned in the Tower. As for the 'harlot, strumpet Shore,' not being convicted, or at least condemned, for the worse crime, she was found guilty of adultery, and sentenced (a milder fate) to do penance in a white sheet before the assembled populace at St. Paul's.[70]

[69] The historian of England justly reflects on this case that the nature of the crime, so opposite to all common sense, seems always to exempt the accusers from using the rules of common sense in their evidence.

[70] This unfortunate woman was celebrated for her beauty and, with one important exception, for her virtues; and, if her vanity could not resist the fascination of a royal lover, her power had been often, it is said, exerted in the cause of humanity. Notwithstanding the neglect and ill-treatment experienced from the ingratitude of former fawning courtiers and people, she reached an advanced age, for she was living in the time of Sir Thomas More, who relates that 'when the Protector had awhile laid unto her, for the manner sake, that she went about to bewitch him, and that she was of counsel with the lord chamberlain to destroy him; in conclusion, when no colour could fasten upon this matter, then he laid heinously to her charge the thing that herself could not deny, that all the world wist was true, and that natheless every man laughed at to hear it then so suddenly so highly taken—that she was naught of her body.'—Reign of Richard III., quoted by Bishop Percy in Reliques of Old English Romance Poetry. The deformed prince fiercely attributes his proverbial misfortune to hostile witchcraft. He addresses his trembling council:

'Look how I am bewitch'd; behold mine arm Is, like a blasted sapling, wither'd up: And this is Edward's wife, that monstrous witch, Consorted with that harlot, strumpet Shore, That by their witchcraft thus have marked me.'

Richard III. act iii. sc. 4.

More tremendous than any of the cases above narrated is that of Arras, where numbers of all classes suffered. So transparent were the secret but real motives of the chief agitators, that even the unbounded credulity of the public could penetrate the thin disguise. The affair commenced with the accusation of a woman of Douai, called Demiselle (une femme de folle vie). Put to the torture repeatedly, this wretched woman was forced to confess she had frequented a meeting of sorcerers where several persons were seen and recognised; amongst others Jehan Levite, a painter at Arras. The chronicler of the fifteenth century relates the diabolical catastrophe thus: 'A terrible and melancholy transaction took place this year (1459) in the town of Arras, the capital of the county of Artois, which said transaction was called, I know not why, Vaudoisie: but it was said that certain men and women transported themselves whither they pleased from the places where they were seen, by virtue of a compact with the devil. Suddenly they were carried to forests and deserts, where they found assembled great numbers of both sexes, and with them a devil in the form of a man, whose face they never saw. This devil read to them, or repeated his laws and commandments in what way they were to worship and serve him: then each person kissed his back, and he gave to them after this ceremony some little money. He then regaled them with great plenty of meats and wines, when the lights were extinguished, and each man selected a female for amorous dalliance; and suddenly they were transported back to the places they had come from. For such criminal and mad acts many of the principal persons of the town were imprisoned; and others of the lower ranks, with women, and such as were known to be of this sect, were so terribly tormented, that some confessed matters to have happened as has been related. They likewise confessed to have seen and known many persons of rank, prelates, nobles, and governors of districts, as having been present at these meetings; such, indeed, as, upon the rumour of common fame, their judges and examiners named, and, as it were, put into their mouths: so that through the pains of the torments they accused many, and declared they had seen them at these meetings. Such as had been thus accused were instantly arrested, and so long and grievously tormented that they were forced to confess just whatever their judges pleased, when those of the lower rank were inhumanly burnt. Some of the richer and more powerful ransomed themselves from this disgrace by dint of money; while others of the highest orders were remonstrated with, and seduced by their examiners into confession under a promise that if they would confess, they should not suffer either in person or property. Others, again, suffered the severest torments with the utmost patience and fortitude. The judges received very large sums of money from such as were able to pay them: others fled the country, or completely proved their innocence of the charges made against them, and remained unmolested. It must not be concealed (proceeds Monstrelet) that many persons of worth knew that these charges had been raked up by a set of wicked persons to harass and disgrace some of the principal inhabitants of Arras, whom they hated with the bitterest rancour, and from avarice were eager to possess themselves of their fortunes. They at first maliciously arrested some persons deserving of punishment for their crimes, whom they had so severely tormented, holding out promises of pardon, that they forced them to accuse whomsoever they were pleased to name. This matter was considered [it must have been an exceedingly ill-devised plot to provoke suspicion and even indignation in such a matter] by all men of sense and virtue as most abominable: and it was thought that those who had thus destroyed and disgraced so many persons of worth would put their souls in imminent danger at the last day.'[71]

[71] Enguerrand de Monstrelet's Chronicles, lib. iii. cap. 93, Johnes' Translation. Vaudoisie, which puzzles the annalist, seems to disclose the pretence, if not the motive, of the proceedings. Yet it is not easy to conceive so large a number of all classes involved in the proscribed heresy of the Vaudois in a single city in the north of France.

Meanwhile the inquisitor, Jacques Dubois, doctor in theology, dean of Notre Dame at Arras, ordered the arrest of Levite the artist, and made him confess he had attended the 'Vauldine;' that he had seen there many people, men and women, burghers, ecclesiastics, whose names were specified. The bishops' vicars, overwhelmed by the number and quality of the involved, began to dread the consequence, and wished to stop the proceedings. But this did not satisfy the projects of two of the most active promoters, Jacques Dubois and the Bishop of Bayrut, who urged the Comte d'Estampes to use his authority with the vicars to proceed energetically against the prisoners. Soon afterwards the matter was brought to a crisis; the fate of the tortured convicts was decided, and amidst thousands of spectators from all parts, they were brought out, each with a mitre on his head, on which was painted the devil in the form in which he appeared at the general assemblies, and burned.

They admitted (under the severest torture, promises, and threats) the truth of their meetings at the sabbaths. They used a sort of ointment well known in witch-pharmacy for rubbing a small wooden rod and the palms of their hands, and by a very common mode of conveyance were borne away suddenly to the appointed rendezvous. Here their lord and master was expecting them in the shape of a goat with the face of a man and the tail of an ape. Homage was first done by his new vassals offering up their soul or some part of the body; afterwards in adoration kissing him on the back—the accustomed salutation.[72] Next followed the different signs and ceremonies of the infernal vassalage, in particular treading and spitting upon the cross. Then to eating and drinking; after which the guests joined in acts of indescribable debauchery, when the devil took the form alternately of either sex. Dismissal was given by a mock sermon, forbidding to go to church, hear mass, or touch holy water. All these acts indicate schismatic offences which yet for the most part are the characteristics of the sabbaths in later Protestant witchcraft, excepting that the wicked apostates are there usually papistical instead of protestant. During nearly two years Arras was subjected to the arbitrary examinations and tortures of the inquisitors; and an appeal to the Parliament of Paris could alone stop the proceedings, 1461. The chance of acquittal by the verdict of the public was little: it was still less by the sentence of judicial tribunals.

[72] The 'Osculum in tergo' seems to be an indispensable part of the Homagium or Diabolagium.




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

Perhaps the most memorable epoch in the annals of witchcraft is the date of the promulgation of the bull of Pope Innocent VIII., when its prosecution was formally sanctioned, enforced, and developed in the most explicit manner by the highest authority in the Church. It was in the year 1484 that Innocent VIII. issued his famous bull directed especially against the crime in Germany, whose inquisitors were empowered to seek out and burn the malefactors pro strigiatus haeresi. The bull was as follows: 'Innocent, Bishop, servant of the servants of God, in order to the future memorial of the matter.... In truth it has come to our ears, not without immense trouble and grief to ourselves, that in some parts of Higher Germany ... very many persons of both sexes, deviating from the Catholic faith, abuse themselves with the demons, Incubus and Succubus; and by incantations, charms, conjurations, and other wicked superstitions, by criminal acts and offences have caused the offspring of women and of the lower animals, the fruits of the earth, the grape, and the products of various plants, men, women, and other animals of different kinds, vineyards, meadows, pasture land, corn, and other vegetables of the earth, to perish, be oppressed, and utterly destroyed; that they torture men and women with cruel pains and torments, internal as well as external; that they hinder the proper intercourse of the sexes, and the propagation of the human species. Moreover, they are in the habit of denying the very faith itself. We therefore, willing to provide by opportune remedies according as it falls to us by our office, by our apostolical authority, by the tenor of these presents do appoint and decree that they be convicted, imprisoned, punished, and mulcted according to their offences.... By the apostolic rescript given at Rome.'

This, in brief, is an outline of the proclamation of Innocent VIII., the principles of which were developed in the more voluminous work of the 'Malleus Maleficarum,'[73] or Hammer of Witches, five years later. In the interval, the effect of so forcible an appeal from the Head of the Church was such as might be expected. Cumanus, one of the inquisitors in 1485, burned forty-one witches, first shaving them to search for 'marks.' Alciatus, a lawyer, tells us that another ecclesiastical officer burned one hundred witches in Piedmont, and was prevented in his plan of daily autos-da-fe only by a general uprising of the people, who at length drove him out of the country, when the archbishop succeeded to the vacant office. In several provinces, even the servile credulity of the populace could not tolerate the excesses of the judges; and the inhabitants rose en masse against their inquisitorial oppressors, dreading the entire depopulation of their neighbourhood. As a sort of apology for the bull of 1484 was published the 'Malleus'—a significantly expressive title.[74] The authors appointed by the pope were Jacob Sprenger, of the Order of Preachers, and Professor of Theology in Cologne; John Gremper, priest, Master in Arts; and Henry Institor. The work is divisible, according to the title, into three parts—Things that pertain to Witchcraft; The Effects of Witchcraft; and The Remedies for Witchcraft.

[73] Ennemoser (History of Magic), a modern and milder Protestant, excepts to the general denunciations of Pope Innocent ('who assumed this name, undoubtedly, because he wished it to indicate what he really desired to be') by Protestant writers who have used such terms as 'a scandalous hypocrite,' 'a cursed war-song of hell,' 'hangmen's slaves,' 'rabid jailers,' 'bloodthirsty monsters,' &c.; and thinks that 'the accusation which was made against Innocent could only have been justly founded if the pope had not participated in the general belief, if he had been wiser than his time, and really seen that the heretics were no allies of the devil, and that the witches were no heretics.'

[74] The complete title is 'MALLEUS MALEFICARUM in tres partes divisus, in quibus I. Concurrentia ad maleficia; II. Maleficiorum effectus; III. Remedia adversus maleficia. Et modus denique procedendi ac puniendi maleficas abunde continetur, praecipue autem omnibus inquisitoribus et divini verbi concionatoribus utilis et necessarius.' The original edition of 1489 is the one quoted by Hauber, Bibliotheca Mag., and referred to by Ennemoser, History of Magic.

In this apology the editors are careful to affirm that they collected, rather than furnished, their materials originally, and give as their venerable authorities the names of Dionysius the Areopagite, Chrysostom, Hilary, Augustin, Gregory I., Remigius, Thomas Aquinas, and others. The writers exult in the consciousness of security, in spite of the attempts of the demons, day and night, to deter them from completing their meritorious labours. Stratagems of every sort are employed in vain. In their judgment the worst species of human wickedness sink into nothing, compared with apostasy from the Church and, by consequence, alliance with hell. A genuine or pretended dread of sorcery, and an affected contempt for the female sex, with an extremely low estimate of its virtues (adopting the language of the Fathers), characterises the opinions of the compilers.

Ennemoser has made an abstract from the 'Demonomagie' of Horst (founded on Hauber's original work), of the 'Hexenhammer,' under its three principal divisions. The third part, which contains the Criminal Code, and consists of thirty-five questions, is the most important section. It is difficult to decide which is the more astonishing, the perfect folly or the perfect iniquity of the Code: it is easier to understand how so many thousands of victims were helplessly sacrificed. The arrest might take place on the simple rumour of a witch being found somewhere, without any previous denunciation. The most abandoned and the most infamous persons may be witnesses: no criminal is too bad. Even a witch or heretic (the worst criminal in the eye of ecclesiastical law) is capable of giving evidence. Husbands and wives may witness one against the other; and the testimony of children was received as good evidence.

The ninth and tenth chapters consider the question 'whether a defence was to be allowed; if an advocate defended his client beyond what was requisite, whether it was not reasonable that he too should be considered guilty; for he is a patron of witches and heretics.... Thirteenth chapter: What the judge has to notice in the torture-chamber. Witches who have given themselves up for years, body and soul, to the devil, are made by him so insensible to pain on the rack, that they rather allow themselves to be torn to pieces than confess. Fourteenth chapter: Upon torture and the mode of racking. In order to bring the accused to voluntary confession, you may promise her her life; which promise, however, may afterwards be withdrawn. If the witch does not confess the first day, the torture to be continued the second and third days. But here the difference between continuing and repeating is important. The torture may not be continued without fresh evidence, but it may be repeated according to judgment. Fifteenth chapter: Continuance of the discovery of a witch by her marks. Amongst other signs, weeping is one. It is a damning thing if the accused, on being brought up, cannot shed tears. The clergy and judges lay their hands on the head of the accused, and adjure her by the hot tears of the Most Glorified Virgin that in case of her innocence, she shed abundant tears in the name of God the Father.'[75]

[75] Ennemoser's History of Magic. Translated by W. Howitt. There are three kinds of men whom witchcraft cannot touch—magistrates; clergymen exercising the pious rites of the Church; and saints, who are under the immediate protection of the angels.

The 'Bull' and 'Malleus' were the code and textbook of Witchcraft amongst the Catholics, as the Act and 'Demonologie' of James VI. were of the Protestants. Perhaps the most important result of the former was to withdraw entirely the authorised prosecution and punishment of the criminals from the civil to the ecclesiastical tribunals. Formerly they had a divided jurisdiction. At the same time the fury of popular and judicial fanaticism was greatly inflamed by this new sanction. Immediately, and almost simultaneously, in different parts of Europe, heretical witches were hunted up, tortured, burned, or hanged; and those parts of the Continent most infected with the widening heresy suffered most. The greater number in Germany seems to show that the dissentients from Catholic dogma there were rapidly increasing, some time before Luther thundered out his denunciations. An unusual storm of thunder and lightning in the neighbourhood of Constance was the occasion of burning two old women, Ann Mindelen and one 'Agnes.'[76] One contemporary writer asserts that 1,000 persons were put to death in one year in the district of Como; and Remigius, one of the authorised inquisitores pravitatis haereticae, boasts of having burned 900 in the course of fifteen years. Martin del Rio states 500 were executed in Geneva in the short space of three months in 1515; and during the next five years 40 were burned at Ravensburgh. Great numbers suffered in France at the same period. At Calahorra, in Spain, in 1507, a vast auto-da-fe was exhibited, when 39 women, denounced as sorceresses, were committed to the flames—religious carnage attested by the unsuspected evidence of the judges and executioners themselves.

[76] Hutchinson's Historical Essay concerning Witchcraft, chap ii.

It is opportune here to examine the common beliefs of demonology and sorcery as they existed in Europe. Christian demonology is a confused mixture of pagan, Oriental, and Christian ideas. The Christian Scriptures have seemed to suggest and sanction a constant personal interference of the 'great adversary,' who is always traversing the earth 'seeking whom he may devour;' and his popular figure is represented as a union of the great dragon, the satyrs, and fauns. Nor does he often appear without one or other of his recognised marks—the cloven foot, the goat's horns, beard, and legs, or the dragon's tail. With young and good-looking witches he is careful to assume the recommendations of a young and handsome man, whilst it is not worth while to disguise so unprepossessing peculiarities in his incarnate manifestations to old women, the enjoyment of whose souls is the great purpose of seduction.

Sir Thomas Browne ('Vulgar Errors'), a man of much learning and still more superstitious fancy, speciously explains the phenomenon of the cloven foot. He suggests that 'the ground of this opinion at first might be his frequent appearing in the shape of a goat, which answers this description. This was the opinion of the ancient Christians concerning the apparitions of panites, fauns, and satyrs: and of this form we read of one that appeared to Anthony in the wilderness. The same is also confirmed from exposition of Holy Scripture. For whereas it is said "Thou shalt not offer unto devils," the original word is Seghuirim, i. e. rough and hairy goats; because in that shape the devil most often appeared, as is expounded by the rabbins, as Tremellius hath also explained; and as the word Ascimah, the God of Emath, is by some explained.' Dr. Joseph Mede, a pious and learned divine, author of the esteemed 'Key to the Apocalypse,' pronounces that 'the devil could not appear in human shape while man was in his integrity, because he was a spirit fallen from his first glorious perfection, and therefore must appear in such shape which might argue his imperfection and abasement, which was the shape of a beast; otherwise [he plausibly contends] no reason can be given why he should not rather have appeared to Eve in the shape of a woman than of a serpent. But since the fall of man the case is altered; now we know he can take upon him the shape of a man. He appears in the shape of man's imperfection rather for age or deformity, as like an old man (for so the witches say); and, perhaps, it is not altogether false, which is vulgarly affirmed, that the devil appearing in human shape has always a deformity of some uncouth member or other, as though he could not yet take upon him human shape entirely, for that man is not entirely and utterly fallen as he is.' Whatever form he may assume, the cloven foot must always be visible under every disguise; and Othello looks first for that fabulous but certain sign when he scrutinises his treacherous friend.

Reginald Scot's reminiscences of what was instilled into him in the nursery may possibly occur to some even at this day. 'In our childhood,' he complains, 'our mothers' maids have so terrified us with an ugly devil having horns on his head, fire in his mouth, a tail in his breech, eyes like a bison, fangs like a dog, a skin like a niger, a voice roaring like a lion, whereby we start and are afraid when we hear one cry Boh!' Chaucer has expressed the belief of his age on the subject. It seems to have been a proper duty of a parish priest to bring to the notice of his ecclesiastical superior, with other crimes, those of sorcery. The Friar describes his 'Erchedeken' as one—

That boldely didde execucioun In punyschying of fornicacioun, Of wicchecraft....

This ecclesiastic employed in his service a subordinate 'sompnour,' who, in the course of his official duty, one day meets a devil, whose 'dwellynge is in Helle,' who condescends to enlighten the officer on the dark subject of demon-apparitions:—

When us liketh we can take us on Or ellis make you seme that we ben schape Som tyme like a man or like an ape; Or like an aungel can I ryde or go: It is no wonder thing though it be so, A lowsy jogelour can deceyve the; And, parfay, yet can I more craft than he.

To the question why they are not satisfied with one shape for all occasions, the devil answers at length:—

Som tyme we ben Goddis instrumentes And menes to don his commandementes, Whan that him liste, upon his creatures In divers act and in divers figures. Withouten him we have no might certayne If that him liste to stonden ther agayne. And som tyme at our prayer, have we leve Only the body and not the soule greve; Witnesse on Job, whom we didde ful wo. And som tyme have we might on bothe two, That is to say of body and soule eeke And som tyme be we suffred for to seeke Upon a man and don his soule unrest And not his body, and al is for the best. Whan he withstandeth our temptacioun It is a cause of his savacioun. Al be it so it was naught our entente He schuld be sauf, but that we wolde him hente. And som tyme we ben servaunt unto man As to the Erchebisschop Saynt Dunstan; And to the Apostolis servaunt was I.

* * * * *

Som tyme we fegn, and som tyme we ryse With dede bodies, in ful wonder wyse, And speke renably, and as fayre and wel As to the Phitonissa dede Samuel: And yit wil som men say, it was not he. I do no fors of your divinitie.[77]

[77] Canterbury Tales. T. Wright's Text. Chaucer, the English Boccaccio in verse, attacks alike with his sarcasms the Church and the female sex.

Jewish theology, expanded by their leading divines, includes a formidable array of various demons; and the whole of nature in Christian belief was peopled with every kind

'Of those demons that are found In fire, air, flood, or under ground.'

Various opinions have been held concerning the nature of devils and demons. Some have maintained, with Tertullian, that they are 'the souls of baser men.' It is a disputed question whether they are mortal or immortal; subject to, or free from, pain. 'Psellus, a Christian, and sometime tutor to Michael Pompinatius, Emperor of Greece, a great observer of the nature of devils, holds they are corporeal, and live and die: ... that they feel pain if they be hurt (which Cardan confirms, and Scaliger justly laughs him to scorn for); and if their bodies be cut, with admirable celerity they come together again. Austin approves as much; so doth Hierome, Origen, Tertullian, Lactantius, and many eminent fathers of the Church; that in their fall their bodies were changed into a more aerial and gross substance.' The Platonists and some rabbis, Porphyrius, Plutarch, Zosimus, &c., hold this opinion, which is scornfully denied by some others, who assert that they only deceive the eyes of men, effecting no real change. Cardan believes 'they feed on men's souls, and so [a worthy origin] belike that we have so many battles fought in all ages, countries, is to make them a feast and their sole delight: but if displeased they fret and chafe (for they feed belike on the souls of beasts, as we do on their bodies) and send many plagues amongst us.'

Their exact numbers and orders are differently estimated by different authorities. It is certain that they fill the air, the earth, the water, as well as the subterranean globe. The air, according to Paracelsus, is not so full of flies in summer as it is at all times of invisible devils. Some writers, professing to follow Socrates and Plato, determine nine sorts. Whatever or wherever the supralunary may be, our world is more interested in the sublunary tribes. These are variously divided and subdivided. One authority computes six distinct kinds—Fiery, Aerial, Terrestrial, Watery, Subterranean and Central: these last inhabiting the central regions of the interior of the earth. The Fiery are those that work 'by blazing stars, fire-drakes; they counterfeit suns and moons, stars oftentimes. The Aerial live, for the most part, in the air, cause many tempests, thunder and lightning, tear oaks, fire steeples, houses; strike men and beasts; make it rain stones, as in Livy's time, wool, frogs, &c.; counterfeit armies in the air, strange noises ... all which Guil. Postellus useth as an argument (as, indeed, it is) to persuade them that will not believe there be spirits or devils. They cause whirlwinds on a sudden and tempestuous storms, which, though our meteorologists generally refer to natural causes, yet I am of Bodine's mind, they are more often caused by those aerial devils in their several quarters; for they ride on the storms as when a desperate man makes away with himself, which, by hanging or drowning, they frequently do, as Kormannus observes, tripudium agentes, dancing and rejoicing at the death of a sinner. These can corrupt the air, and cause sickness, plagues, storms, shipwrecks, fires, inundations.... Nothing so familiar (if we may believe those relations of Saxo Grammaticus, Olaus Magnus, &c.) as for witches and sorcerers in Lapland, Lithuania, and all over Scandia to sell winds to mariners and cause tempests, which Marcus Paulus, the Venetian, relates likewise of the Tartars.[78]

[78] It is still the custom of the Tartar or Thibetian Lamas, or at least of some of them, to scatter charms to the winds for the benefit of travellers. M. Huc's Travels in Tartary, Thibet, &c.

'These are they which Cardan thinks desire so much carnal copulation with witches (Incubi and Succubi), transform bodies, and are so very cold if they be touched, and that serve magicians.... Water devils are those naiads or water nymphs which have been heretofore conversant about waters and rivers. The water (as Paracelsus thinks) is their chaos, wherein they live ... appearing most part (saith Trithemius) in women's shapes. Paracelsus hath several stories of them that have lived and been married to mortal men, and so continued for certain years with them, and after, upon some dislike, have forsaken them. Such an one was Egeria, with whom Numa was so familiar, Diana, Ceres, &c.... Terrestrial devils are Lares, Genii, Fauns, Satyrs, Wood-nymphs, Foliots, Fairies, Robin Goodfellows, Trulli; which, as they are most conversant with men, so they do them most harm. Some think it was they alone that kept the heathen people in awe of old.... Subterranean devils are as common as the rest, and do as much harm. Olaus Magnus makes six kinds of them, some bigger, some less, commonly seen about mines of metals, and are some of them noxious; some again do no harm (they are guardians of treasure in the earth, and cause earthquakes). The last (sort) are conversant about the centre of the earth, to torture the souls of damned men to the day of judgment; their egress and ingress some suppose to be about AEtna, Lipari, Hecla, Vesuvius, Terra del Fuego, because many shrieks and fearful cries are continually heard thereabouts, and familiar apparitions of dead men, ghosts, and goblins.'

As for the particular offices and operations of those various tribes, 'Plato, in Critias, and after him his followers, gave out that they were men's governors and keepers, our lords and masters, as we are of our cattle. They govern provinces and kingdoms by oracles, auguries, dreams, rewards and punishments, prophecies, inspirations, sacrifices and religious superstitions, varied in as many forms as there be diversity of spirits; they send wars, plagues, peace, sickness, health, dearth, plenty, as appears by those histories of Thucydides, Livius, Dionysius Halicarnassensis, with many others, that are full of their wonderful stratagems.' They formerly devoted themselves, each one, to the service of particular individuals as familiar demons, 'private spirits.' Numa, Socrates, and many others were indebted to their Genius. The power of the devil is not limited to the body. 'Many think he can work upon the body, but not upon the mind. But experience pronounceth otherwise, that he can work both upon body and mind. Tertullian is of this opinion.'

The causes and inducements of 'possession' are many. One writer affirms that 'the devil being a slender, incomprehensible spirit can easily insinuate and wind himself into human bodies, and cunningly couched in our bowels, vitiate our healths, terrify our souls with fearful dreams, and shake our minds with furies. They go in and out of our bodies as bees do in a hive, and so provoke and tempt us as they perceive our temperature inclined of itself and most apt to be deluded.... Agrippa and Lavater are persuaded that this humour [the melancholy] invites the devil into it, wheresoever it is in extremity, and, of all other, melancholy persons are most subject to diabolical temptations and illusions, and most apt to entertain them, and the devil best able to work upon them. 'But whether,' declares Burton, 'by obsession, or possession, or otherwise, I will not determine; 'tis a difficult question.'[79]

[79] The Anatomy of Melancholy, by Democritus junior; edited by Democritus minor. Part i. sect. 2. An equally copious and curious display of learning. Few authors, probably, have been more plagiarised.

The mediaevalists believed themselves surrounded everywhere by spiritual beings; but unlike the ancients, they were convinced not so much that they were the peculiar care of heaven as that they were the miserable victims of hellish malice, ever seeking their temporal as well as eternal destruction; a fact apparent in the whole mediaeval literature and art.[80]

[80] Sismondi (Literature of the South of Europe) has observed of the greatest epic of the Middle Age, that 'Dante, in common with many fathers of the Church, under the supposition that paganism, in the persons of the infernal gods, represented the fallen angels, has made no scruple to adopt its fables.' Tasso, at a later period, introduces the deities of heathendom. In the Gerusalemme Liberata they sit in council to frustrate the plans and destroy the forces of the Christian leaders before Jerusalem (iv). Ismeno, a powerful magician in the ranks of the Turks, brings up a host of diabolic allies to guard the wood which supplied the infidels with materials for carrying on the siege of the city (xiii.). And the masterpieces of art of Guido or Raffaelle, which excite at once admiration and despair in their modern disciples, consecrated and immortalised the vulgar superstition.

Glanvil's conjectures on the cause of the comparative rarity of demoniac and other spiritual apparitions in general may interest the credulous or curious reader. ''Tis very probable,' reasons the Doctor, 'that the state wherein they are will not easily permit palpable intercourses between the bad genii and mankind: since 'tis like enough their own laws and government do not allow their frequent excursions into the world. Or it may with great probability be supposed that 'tis a very hard and painful thing for them to force their thin and tenuious bodies into a visible consistence, and such shapes as are necessary for their designs in their correspondence with witches. For in this action their bodies must needs be exceedingly compressed, which cannot well be without a painful sense. And this is, perhaps, a reason why there are so few apparitions, and why appearing spirits are commonly in such a hurry to be gone, viz. that they may be delivered of the unnatural pressure of their tender vehicles,[81] which I confess holds more in the apparition of good than evil spirits ... the reason of which probably is the greater subtlety and tenuity of the former, which will require far greater degrees of compression and consequently of pain to make them visible; whereas the latter are feculent and gross, and so nearer allied to palpable existences, and more easily reducible to appearance and visibility.'[82]

[81] So specious a theory must have occurred to, and its propriety will easily be recognised by, the spirit and ghost advocates of the present day.

[82] Sadducismus Triumphatus. Considerations about Witchcraft. Sect. xi.

'Palpable intercourses between the bad genii and mankind' are more frequent than Dr. Glanvil was disposed to believe; and he must have been conversant with the acts of Incubus and Succubus. In the first age (orbe novo c[oe]loque recenti) under the Saturnian regime, 'while yet there was no fear of Jove,'[83] innocence prevailed undisturbed; but soon as the silver age was inaugurated by the usurpation of Jove, liaisons between gods and mortals became frequent. Love affairs between good or bad 'genii' and mankind are of common occurrence in the mythology of most peoples. In the romance-tales of the middle age lovers find themselves unexpectedly connected with some mysterious being of inhuman kind. The writers in defence of witchcraft quote Genesis vi. in proof of the reality of such intercourses; and Justin Martyr and Tertullian, the great apologists of Christianity, and others of the Fathers, interpret Filios Dei to be angels or evil spirits who, enamoured with the beauty of the women, begot the primeval giants.[84]

[83] 'Jove nondum Barbato.'

[84] Milton indignantly exclaims, alluding to this common fancy of the leaders of the Primitive Church, 'Who would think him fit to write an apology for Christian faith to the Roman Senate that could tell them "how of the angels"—of which he must needs mean those in Genesis called the Sons of God—"mixing with women were begotten the devils," as good Justin Martyr in his Apology told them.' (Reformation in England, book i.). And 'Clemens Alexandrinus, Sulpicius Severus, Eusebius, &c., make a twofold fall of angels—one from the beginning of the world; another a little before the deluge, as Moses teacheth us, openly professing that these genii can beget and have carnal copulation with woman' (Anatomy of Melancholy, part i.). Robert Burton gives in his adhesion to the sentiments of Lactantius (xiv. 15). It seems that the later Jewish devils owe their origin (according to the Talmudists, as represented by Pererius in the Anatomy) to a former wife of Adam, called Lilis, the predecessor of Eve.

Some tremendous results of diabolic connections appear in the metrical romances of the twelfth or thirteenth century, as well as in those early Anglo-Norman chroniclers or fabulists, who have been at the pains to inform us of the pre-historic events of their country. The author of the romance-poem of the well-known Merlin—so famous in British prophecy—in introducing his hero, enters upon a long dissertation on the origin of the infernal arts. He informs us on the authority of 'David the prophet, and of Moses,' that the greater part of the angels who rebelled under the leadership of Lucifer, lost their former power and beauty, and became 'fiendes black:' that instead of being precipitated into 'helle-pit,' many remained in mid-air, where they still retain the faculty of seducing mortals by assuming whatever shape they please. These had been much concerned at the miraculous birth of Christ; but it was hoped to counteract the salutary effects of that event, by producing from some virgin a semi-demon, whose office it should be to disseminate sorcerers and wicked men. For this purpose the devil[85] prepares to seduce three young sisters; and proceeds at once in proper disguise to an old woman, with whose avarice and cunning he was well acquainted. Her he engaged by liberal promises to be mediatrix in the seduction of the elder sister, whom he was prevented from attempting in person by the precautions of a holy hermit. Like 'the first that fell of womankind,' the young lady at length consented; was betrayed by the fictitious youth, and condemned by the law to be burnt alive.

[85] Probably,

'Belial, the dissolutest spirit that fell, The sensualist; and after Asmodai The fleshliest Incubus.'—Par. Reg.

The same fate, excepting the fearful penalty, awaited the second. And now, too late, the holy hermit became aware of his disastrous negligence. He strictly enjoined on the third and remaining sister a constant watch. Her security, however, was the cause of her betrayal. On one occasion, in a moment of remissness, she forgot her prayers and the sign of the cross, before retiring for the night. No longer excluded, the fiend, assuming human shape, effected his purpose. In due time a son was born, whose parentage was sufficiently evinced by an entire covering of black hair, although his limbs were well-formed, and his features fine. Fortunately, the careless guardian had exactly calculated the moment of the demon's birth; and no sooner was he informed of the event, than the new-born infant was borne off to the regenerating water, when he was christened by the name of Merlin; the fond hopes of the demons being for this time, at least, irretrievably disappointed. How Merlin, by superhuman prowess and knowledge, defeated the Saracens (Saxons) in many bloody battles; his magical achievements and favour at the court of King Vortigern and his successors, are fully exhibited by the author of the history.[86] Geoffrey of Monmouth recounts them as matters of fact; and they are repeated by Vergil in the History of Britain, composed under the auspices of Henry VIII.

[86] See Early English Metrical Romances, ed. by Sir H. Ellis.

By the ancients, whole peoples were sometimes said to be derived from these unholy connections. Jornandes, the historian of the Goths, is glad to be able to relate their hated rivals, the Huns (of whom the Kalmuck Tartars are commonly said to be the modern representatives), to have owed their origin to an intercourse of the Scythian witches with infernal spirits. The extraordinary form and features of those dreaded emigrants from the steppes of Tartary, had suggested to the fear and hatred of their European subjects, a fable which Gibbon supposes might have been derived from a more pleasing one of the Greeks.[87]

[87] A sufficiently large collection from ancient and modern writers of the facts of inhuman connections may be seen in the Anatomy of Melancholy, part iii. sect. 2. Having repeated the assertions of previous authors proving the fact of intercourses of human with inferior species of animals, Burton fortifies his own opinion of their reality by numerous authorities. If those stories be true, he reasons, that are written of Incubus and Succubus, of nymphs, lascivious fauns, satyrs, and those heathen gods which were devils, those lascivious Telchines of whom the Platonists tell so many fables; or those familiar meetings in our day [1624] and company of witches and devils, there is some probability for it. I know that Biarmannus, Wierus, and some others stoutly deny it ... but Austin (lib. xv. de Civit. Dei) doth acknowledge it. And he refers to Plutarch, Vita Numae; Wierus, de Praestigiis Daemon., Giraldus Cambrensis, Malleus Malef., Jacobus Reussus, Godelman, Erastus, John Nider, Delrio, Lipsius, Bodin, Pererius, King James, &c. The learned and curious work of the melancholy Student of Christ Church and Oxford Rector has been deservedly commended by many eminent critics. That 'exact mathematician and curious calculator of nativities' calculated exactly, according to Anthony Wood (Athenae Oxon.), the period of his own death—1639.

The acts of Incubus assume an important part in witch-trials and confessions. Incubus is the visitor of females, Succubus of males. Chaucer satirises the gallantries of the vicarious Incubus by the mouth of the wife of Bath (that practical admirer of Solomon and the Samaritan woman),[88] who prefaces her tale with the assurance:—

That maketh that ther ben no fayeries, For ther as wont was to walken an elf Ther walketh noon but the Lymitour himself.

* * * * *

Women may now go safely up and downe; In every busch and under every tre Ther is noon other Incubus but he.

[88] The wife of Bath, who had buried only her fifth husband, must appear modest by comparison. Not to mention Seneca's or Martial's assertions or insinuations, St. Jerome was acquainted with the case of a woman who had buried her twenty-second husband, whose conjugal capacity, however, was exceeded by the Dutch wife who, on the testimony of honest John Evelyn, had buried her twenty-fifth husband!

Reginald Scot has devoted several chapters of his work to a relation of the exploits of Incubus.[89] But he honestly warns his readers 'whose chaste ears cannot well endure to hear of such lecheries (gathered out of the books of divinity of great authority) to turn over a few leaves wherein I have, like a groom, thrust their stuff, even that which I myself loath, as into a stinking corner: howbeit none otherwise, I hope, but that the other parts of my writing shall remain sweet.' He repeats a story from the 'Vita Hieronymi,' which seems to insinuate some suspicion of the character of a certain Bishop Sylvanus. It relates that one night Incubus invaded a certain lady's bedroom. Indignant at so unusual, or at least disguised, an apparition, the lady cried out loudly until the guests of the house came and found it under the bed in the likeness of the bishop; 'which holy man,' adds Scot, 'was much defamed thereby.' Another tradition or legend seems to reflect upon the chastity of the greatest saint of the Middle Ages.[90] The superhuman oppression of Incubus is still remembered in the proverbial language of the present day. The horrors of the infernal compacts and leagues, as exhibited in the fates of wizards or magicians at the last hour, formed one of the most popular scenes on the theatrical stage. Christopher Marlow, in 'The Life and Death of Dr. Faustus,' and Robert Greene, in 'Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay,' in the Elizabethan age, dramatised the common, conception of the Compact.

[89] See the fourth book of the Discoverie.

[90] 'It is written in the legend of St. Bernard,' we are told, 'that a pretty wench that had the use of Incubus his body by the space of six or seven years in Aquitania (being belike weary of him for that he waxed old), would needs go to St. Bernard another while. But Incubus told her if she would so forsake him, he would be revenged upon her. But befal what would, she went to St. Bernard, who took her his staff and bad her lay it in the bed beside her. And, indeed, the devil, fearing the staff or that St. Bernard lay there himself, durst not approach into her chamber that night. What he did afterwards I am uncertain.' This story will not appear so evidential to the reader as Scot seems to infer it to be. If any credit is to be given to the strong insinuations of Protestant divines of the sixteenth century, the 'holy bishop Sylvanus' is not the only example among the earlier saints of the frailty of human nature.


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

The ceremonies of the compact by which a woman became a witch have been already referred to. It was almost an essential condition in the vulgar creed that she should be, as Gaule ('Select Cases of Conscience touching Witches,' &c., 1646) represents, an old woman with a wrinkled face, a furred brow, a hairy lip, a gobber tooth, a squint eye, a squeaking voice, a scolding tongue, having a ragged coat on her back, a skull-cap on her head, a spindle in her hand, a dog or cat by her side. There are three sorts of the devil's agents on earth—the black, the gray, and the white witches. The first are omnipotent for evil, but powerless for good. The white have the power to help, but not to hurt.[91] As for the third species (a mixture of white and black), they are equally effective for good or evil.

[91] A writer at the beginning of the seventeenth century (Cotta, Tryall of Witchcraft) says, 'This kind is not obscure at this day, swarming in this kingdom, whereof no man can be ignorant who lusteth to observe the uncontrouled liberty and licence of open and ordinary resort in all places unto wise men and wise women, so vulgarly termed for their reputed knowledge concerning such diseased persons as are supposed to be bewitched.' And (Short Discoverie of Unobserved Dangers, 1612) 'the mention of witchecraft doth now occasion the remembrance in the next place of a sort of practitioners whom our custom and country doth call wise men and wise women, reputed a kind of good and honest harmless witches or wizards, who, by good words, by hallowed herbs and salves, and other superstitious ceremonies, promise to allay and calm devils, practices of other witches, and the forces of many diseases.' Another writer of the same date considers 'it were a thousand times better for the land if all witches, but specially the blessing witch, might suffer death. Men do commonly hate and spit at the damnifying sorcerer as unworthy to live among them, whereas they fly unto the other in necessity; they depend upon him as their God, and by this means thousands are carried away, to their final confusion. Death, therefore, is the just and deserved portion of the good witch.'—Observations on the Popular Antiquities of Great Britain, by Brand, ed. by Sir H. Ellis.

Equally various and contradictory are the motives and acts assigned to witches. Nothing is too great or too mean for their practice: they engage with equal pleasure in the overthrow of a kingdom or a religion, and in inflicting the most ordinary evils and mischiefs in life. Their mode of bewitching is various: by fascination or casting an evil eye ('Nescio,' says the Virgilian shepherd, 'quis teneros oculus mihi fascinat agnos'); by making representations of the person to be acted upon in wax or clay, roasting them before a fire; by mixing magical ointments or other compositions and ingredients revealed to us in the witch-songs of Shakspeare, Jonson, Middleton, Shadwell, and others; sometimes merely by muttering an imprecation.

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