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unusual, therefore, belonged to the sphere of miracle, which every one explained according to his own ideas. The chief opposition of the heathen, however, originated in the fact that the Christians represented the heathen gods altogether as evil spirits, who occasioned trouble and crime, and, indeed, asserted that the devil, enraged that his kingdom was overthrown by Christ, endeavoured to revenge himself by stirring up all the demon hosts and all heathendom in hostility to it. See Münscher's History of Dogmas; Meyer's Historia diaboli, seu comment. de diaboli malorumque spirituum existentia," etc. Tübingen, 1780. “ Demons,” says Tatian (Orat. ad Græc.),
are the founders of idolatry; and to satisfy their pride, allow themselves to be worshipped by the heathens as gods." He styles the devil προτοίως δαίμων. From them proceed all the miracles that are necessary for the authentication of idolatry; and they are the originators of oracles, by which they mock men with neologic-epigrammatic sentences (Athen. leg. Tertull. apolog. C. 29). By their aid the magical arts are maintained (Clemens Alex. cohort. ad gentes). They strive to injure men in every possible way, by public calamities, failure of crops, dearths, diseases, and all kinds of disastrous accidents (Origenes advers. Cels. viii. $. 31). The devil and the demons, or heathen gods and their assistants, are incessantly basely endeavouring to seduce men to sin and unbelief (Justin.) According to their fine organization, they are able to act upon the body and the soul (Tertullian). Justin says expressly, that they cherish the most deadly hatred to the Christians, because they will not flatter their pride, because they will not honour them, and because they are able to chase them away and by the holy cross of Christ.”
In the early ages, people had such gross ideas of demons that they regarded them as beings who had need of nourishment, which consisted in the smoke and incense of offerings, which even the acute Origen asserted (Exhortat. ad Myst. iii. 572); and also earlier teachers, as Tertullian, Athenagoras, etc., perfectly agree with him. The possibility of evil spirits being chased away by exorcism and by the cross was taught by Tertullian, Lactantius, Gregorius, etc. See Horst's Demonology, where is introduced the passage
in the name,
from Genesis, vi. 2: “And the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair,” by which many understand angels and giants.
One daring assertion of the Gnostics and Christians to be found in the three first centuries, is that a demon, or a legion of such, is appointed to each soul at its birth. A class of holy people or priests were maintained, who occupied themselves exclusively with the demon-world and with the possessed, from which miracle upon miracle arose, until the matter became so desperate that St. Augustin declared that miracles must now cease, as Christianity was widely spread, that men might become spiritual and inward, and no longer depend on mere outward things; and he again returned to this subject in his work “ De Civitate Dei,” where he relates a multitude of miracles which occurred in his time, and especially of the healing of the possessed.
We spoke, in the sorcery of the ancient times, of a glance,-a magical operation without touch, which in the old language was called the evil eye. The knowing and inquiring ones, the prophets of the future, had their own peculiar customs, incantations, and forms of blessing; and Grimm says that, as in antiquity, our expressions of cry; ing out, muttering, invoking, and abjuring, are derived from these forms of sorcery; for example-spells, female
, utterers of spells, female conjurors, etc. were terms familiar amongst them. Galdra was called a spoken magic, which was not punishable. Galdra, that is, fascinare, to bewitch, galdercraft, magic, magus, incantare, enchanter, to bewitch by singing. A light recitation, murmur, inmurmurare, was the same as conjuration; and raunen yet means to speak secretly: susurrare, to conjure, and conjuration, are of like meaning. One mode of conjuration was by casting lots, and prognosticating by cups.
Witch feasts were held on mountains and in woods at fixed times, from the earliest times of paganism, where unlawful trials were held. On the first May night the great assembly was held in meadows, under oaks and linden-trees, but more expecially on the Brocken. The
proper faith in sorcery and witchiraft, in the sense of later times, dates from about the fourteenth century, in direct contrast to the heathen faith. Angels and devils were now of higher rank, more spiritul, or of a more
supernatural character than the earlier ones who had so much intercourse with man. The devil no longer dwelt voluntarily in the possessed; man was, to a certain degree, himself responsible for bis waywardness and his sins, and became an ally of the wicked one. During the growth of this opinion, however, a singular process of intellectual fermentation was taking place; the Platonic philosophy, unbelief, freethinking, and superstition, all stirred up, entered, as it were, into a zealous rivalry of attack upon pure Christianity, as a final endeavour to sustain in Europe sinking heathenism. The supernatural power of working
. miracles in the Christians occasioned even more and more the decline of paganism, and augmented the number of zealous disciples. On the other hand, the heathen exerted all their magical power, and exhibited before the Christians the oracles of their gods, their mysteries and miracles; and presented a magical champion in opposition to every apostle and martyr. Both parties vaunted their histories of miracles, but with this difference, that the Christians attributed the miracles of the heathen to the devil, their own to the power of God. Each party asserted, as proofs of their authenticity, the favour of heaven. The contest was fierce, the fire began already to glow, and many writings also were burnt with the idols; for instance, those of Epicurus. Though disbelief and superstition grew, yet Christianity maintained the ascendancy, and its higher, divine spirit rose in the conflict, as well in theoretic as in practical respects, ever more victorious ; but in the fervour of the fullest zeal, it could not entirely cast from it the spots and rags of superstition. Thus, Theodoret relates (Historia eccles. v. c. 21) that the Bishop Marcellus in Syria, in the fourteenth century, with the help of the Prefect attempted to burn a temple of Jupiter, but a black devil always extinguished the flame. The Bishop, however, caused a cask of water to be placed on the high altar, and after a prayer and the sign of the cross the water burnt like oil, and the idol temple was consumed to ashes. The
power of the saints began also to assert itself over physical substances; and the Frankish historian, Gregory of Tours, in the sixteenth century, records the miraculous power of a holy oil against cramps and possessions. On
certain festivals demoniacs appeared in the churches raving, so that they terrified the congregations and broke the lamps.
But as soon as the oil fell upon them the demons departed out of them, and they became themselves again (Histor. Franc. lib. x. Ruinart’s Ausg.) Thus were gradually collected the materials for the genuine witch-faith of later times; for the sorcerers and sorceresses of the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries were unknown in the early period of Christianity.
The fathers of the church had in the meantime, powerfully and publicly, though involuntarily, contributed, by treating demonology according to the ideas of their time, and opening a wide door to the devil. Thus, for instance, St. Jerome himself (Opp. T. iv.; which compare with Horst’s Dæmonomagie, i. 55), in the fifth century, had often, from his lively temperament, to fight with the devils in an extraordinary manner; even they heartily flogged him, because in his beautiful Latin he was rather a Ciceronian than a Christian, which afterwards, indeed, he treated as a mere dream. He really believed, also, in his narrow cell at Bethlehem that he heard the trumpets of the angels. “ That which had a good lesson for future times," says Horst, "was, that authors then began to write in such a style that the devil had no further occasion to chastise them for their elegant diction.” The ideas of Augustine had a direct tendency to countenance the belief in the intercourse of witches and devils (De civitate Dei, lib. xv. c. 23). Gregory the Great relates incredible things of the possessed (Dialogon, vulg. Thomasius, Historical Inquiry into the Origin of the Witch-Prosecutions.)
The first trace of a formal pact with the devil, in a judicial sense, is to be found in the sorcery period of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries; and according to Schmager and Thomasius, in Basilius the Great, who had a slave who had made a pact with the devil, and whom he again “in integrum restituisti." The idea of the possibility of such an agreement existed, however, much earlier,--an agreement in which a mutual bond was entered into the soul being given up to the evil one for money, honour, and riches. Thus had even St. Theophilus (Acta SS. 4 Febr. : compare with Semler and Horst) made himselt over voluntarily to the devil, but on his earnest prayer to the Holy Virgin he finally got the fatal manuscript back again, at the sight of which he was seized with horror and consternation. Such individual cases, though rare, occur very early, and scattered the seed of the later growth of belief in infernal magic, though in the twelfth century the heathenish delusion of men having intercourse with devils was rejected by the Christians. The magic offerings, the conjuration of the dead, the divining by dreams and stars, were then zealously denounced as relics of heathenism, and, therefore, it was a great mistake to enact punishments for such nonsense, such delusion, or such simplicity. The true faith in witch-sorcery, the cruel witch inquisitions, and the punishment of compacts with the devil, may, however, be traced from this period.
The stories of the flying forth and riding about of magicians in the air, usually by night, but sometimes by day, appear in the fifteenth century, and are of old heathenish origin, and connected with women of bad character. Amongst the resolutions of the Council of Ancyra, in the middle of the fifteenth century, is one concerning women who profess to ride about at night on all kinds of beasts with Diana and Herodias. (See Council of Ancyra, in Mans; Semler, Th. i. p. 138; Fuchs, Bibl. of Assemblies of the Church, Th. ii., where it treats of the miracles of the pagan demons in wells, trees, and stones.)
Grimm, indeed, traces the general assemblies of witches for play and lewdness, for cooking and feasting, to an earlier period. The Salic laws speak of witch-kettles and witchkettle-carriers. They held their assemblies especially at salt springs, and Tacitus himself says (Ann. xiii. 57), “ If the women or priestesses attended to the preparation of salt, the salt-kettles also stood under their care, and thus the people of after ages connected the boiling of salt and witchcraft. On certain festival days the witches assembled in the sacred wood on the mountain, where the salt boiled up, bringing with them cooking vessels, spoons, and forks. Their salt-pans, however, were boiled at night. Halle in Austrian means Salzaha, Sala, or the huts at the salt-springs ; whence the popular belief that the fiends rode on besoms, oven-forks, or faggots, over bill and dale to Halle” (Grimm, 589). Grimm also points out these nocturnal flights in