Page images

part of the Witch-hammer answered, in which there are only two cardinal questions: 1st. How people are to defend themselves against sorcery,-treated in six chapters; and 2nd. How sorcery is again to be removed,-treated in eight chapters.

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. Of course, inquisitors and judges stand first under the protection of God. Especial injuries done by the devil to the innocent, bodily and spiritual. The devil seduces pious young women through witches. Two were burnt by the authors at Ravensburg. One of them was of bad character; and she confessed that she had suffered much from having endeavoured to seduce a young maiden of the city to the devil's will. Once she had invited her on a festival day, when the devil, in the shape of a fine young gentleman, spoke with her. But the pious maiden constantly defended herself by making the sign of the cross whenever he approached her, till at length he was compelled to abandon his attempt, for which she, the witch, had to undergo much torment. Many such edifying stories the authors of the Witch-hammer give from their own experience.

The second chapter treats of the manner in which witchcraft is expelled; one of the most important and interesting chapters. It contains also a description of the belief in witches at the end of the fifteenth century. There are three kinds of witches, it states: the mischievous-maleficæ, who cannot again disenchant you; those who hurt no one; and hurtful ones, who can, however, release their victims from their spells. Amongst the first kind, the most mischievous are the devourers of children. These are the most powerful of all, who occasion hail, thunder, and tempests, who fly through the air, and make themselves devoid of feeling on the rack; nay, they even sometimes bewitch the judges, and seek to confuse them with compassion. They rob both animals and men of their power of reproduction, and through help of the devil have revelations or future things, which they foretell distinctly. If they do not devour children, they yet persecute them in all manner

of ways; plunge them into water, if they are playing by brooks; and make horses shy and start. The form of compact with the devil is minutely described, which either took place solemnly on a witch-sabbath, or in private. In the first, the devil takes the place of honour, as the grand master, though in the witch-trials he is usually styled the little master; and the old witches present the female candidates to the prince of hell. There then takes place an examination as to faith and abilities; and the novice swears truth and obedience. The devil, on the other hand, teaches them how to make magic ointment, and drinks, and powders, for the damage or destruction of men and cattle, from the bones and members of new-born infants, and still more efficacious ones from those of baptised children. All this the authors of the Witch-hammer have themselves experienced.

A child-eater related the following ceremonial before the tribunal of justice, which is important for a true estimate of the witch-trials. "We lie in wait," she said, "for children. These are often found dead by their parents; and the simple people believe that they have themselves overlain them, or that they died from natural causes; but it is we who have destroyed them. For that purpose we steal them out of the grave and boil them with lime, till all the flesh is loosed from the bones, and is reduced to one mass. We make out of the firm part an ointment, and fill a bottle with the fluid; and whoever drinks with due ceremonies of this, belongs to our league, and is already capable of bewitching."

A similar relation of the ceremonies of abjuration was made by a young man who was accused with his wife, and who was forced to this confession by the authors of the Witch-hammer themselves; but, spite of this confession, the two were delivered up to death by fire. The young man declared before his execution that his wife would rather suffer herself to be torn to pieces on the rack-nay, even burnt alive, than confess any such thing; and this she actually did; but the husband himself made the confession, and yet was put to death. "A woman in Basle," continues the Witch-hammer, "had for seven years intercourse with the devil; but God took pity on her poor scul, for very shortly before the com

pletion of this time she was happily discovered by us, seized, and burned. She confessed her sins very penitently."

The third chapter treats of the manner in which they made their flights through the air. If people ascribe these flights merely to the imagination, that is directly contrary to the Word of God, "for the devil took the Lord Christ himself, and set him upon the pinnacle of the Temple, and showed him all the glory of the world." A good angel also took the pious Habakuk by the hair of the head, and bore him through the air. Before the flight, the witches smear a broom-stick, an oven-fork, or a piece of linen, with their ointment, and they are at once borne away; it may be by day, but much oftener by night. There are very edifying stories told of the way in which these women produce rain when it is wanted. From the fourth to the seventh chapters, the amorous affairs of the witches and the devil are treated of; in the eighth again the change of men into beasts. To doubt of that is heresy. "Was not Nebuchadnezzar changed into an ox and ate grass ?" In the ninth chapter it says, "The devil in such metamorphoses secretes himself in the head or the body of the man. He causes a blinding of the outer and inner senses; and the seats of the various faculties are very phrenologically given, as, for instance, memory in the hinder part of the head up towards the middle above, where imagination has her organ. Sensus communis has its cell in the front part of the head, where the imagination presents, with lightning speed, the figure of a horse, so that the man swears that he sees such an one. The devil does this with such skill, that not even a head-ache occurs from it, such miracles does he work; but they are no real miracles; those only are wrought by God."

The tenth chapter treats of the bodily possession of the devil; and contains a demonology in the spirit of the Witchhammer. The eleventh and twelfth are repetitions of the midwives, children-eaters, and child-offerings which were made to the devil. The thirteenth contains the conversation of a father with his eight-years'-old daughter on the drought which then prevailed; and the daughter declared that she was able to produce rain, on which the mother, with a threat

ening countenance, commanded her to keep quiet. Yes, she could produce thunder and hail. The inquisitors heard of this; the godless mother was arrested and burnt, but the maiden was saved.

The fourteenth chapter explains how the witches bewitch the cows. According to Sprenger, the witch-milking pro-. ceeds thus: The witch sticks a knife into a wall, takes a milk-pail between the knees, and cries to the devil to send them the milk of the cow that belongs to this or that person. The devil immediately milks the cow, and brings the milk to the witch, when it appears to run out of the knife-handle, by which the devil only deceives the witch, for he has brought the milk through the air. In a similar manner the witches supplied themselves with butter out of water that flowed by, and especially good May-butter; and the devil steals for them the wine of pious people, from their cellars. Cattle are bewitched by the touch, and even by looking at them. They make for such purposes all kinds of magical instruments, pictures, especially of toads, lizards, and snakes, etc., and lay them under the door-sills, and thereby they spoil milk, and produce diseases in the cattle. The fifteenth chapter treats of witch thunder-storms, and damages to cattle and corn. As on one occasion terrible tempests laid waste the country from Ravensburg to Salzburg, the peoplecried loudly against the witches who occasioned it. "We caused, therefore," says Sprenger, "a few notorious old women to be arrested and tortured; and the event showed that we had hit on the chief offenders, for they all confessed." They were burnt as a matter of course. Sixteenth chapter: The witchery of men consists of three principal kinds :Shooting with bows, the devil directing the arrows, so that they are sure to hit; the enchanting of swords, so as to sharpen those of friends and dull those of enemies, for which purpose they use magic songs, spells, and witch-knots. To the great trouble, however, of the wizards, such men were very frequently taken under the protection of the powerful nobles.

The second part consists of two chief questions, how witchcraft is to be done away with. The means are physical and spiritual. Of the first, smoke is a means; of the last, prayers and making the sign of the cross. This

is followed by a diffuse inquiry of nearly a hundred pages, with learned treatment of bewitchings and freeing from witchery.

The third part contains the criminal code, which was to be used against the witches and heretics, in five-and-thirty questions, or items, in which the whole process of trial, from the arrest to the judgment, is fully detailed. It is necessary to the understanding of the whole spirit of the Witchhammer, that we should make ourselves acquainted with the penal laws, of which I give the following brief notice :

The first chapter or query is, how a witch-prosecution is to be conducted. The arrest may take place on the simple rumour that a witch is to be found here or there, without any previous denunciation, since the duty of the judge is here to afford help. The second chapter is concerning the witnesses. Two or three are sufficient; and the judge may summon them, administer the oath, and frequently examine them. The witnesses, according to the chapters three and four, must have no high qualities. Excommunicated, infamous, runaway, and lewd scoundrels were fitting witnesses. Accomplices are admitted, in matters of faith of each kind, as evidence. Nay, in the absence of better witnesses, heretics and witches are taken as unexceptionable evidence against their fellows; the wife may witness against the husband, and vice versâ, and the children against their parents. According to the fifth chapter, enemies, when they are not mortal enemies, that is, through attempts upon life, are admitted as half witnesses; and if they agree in their evidence wholly with another they two make a whole witness. For instance, Michael's Eliza says that Peter's Barbara has quarrelled with her, and bewitched her childa half witness. Another man bears testimony that Peter's Barbara seven years before took away the milk of his cow a whole witness. Barbara is convicted of witchcraft, and burnt.

[ocr errors]

The sixth chapter teaches how the prosecution was to be conducted. Here come all sorts of interesting and most important questions which are addressed to the accused. As, whether she confessed that she was a witch? Why she let herself be seen in the field or the stall? Why she touched the cow, which thereupon became ill ? Why

« PreviousContinue »