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"A witch shalt thou not suffer to live." This law, it says, is by no means abolished by Christianity, but made the more imperative, insomuch as they blaspheme God and all the saints, for a witch renounces all these and the holy mother, and curses and reviles them. They insult the Christian church, for the witches imitate and bring into ridicule its most holy rites; and in the same manner the preacher makes it appear that they alone libel and corrupt all laws, institutions of society, and morals. He concludes by saying that men must seize on spiritual weapons to overcome and destroy the wizard arts of geomancy, the magic glass, and of fortune-telling by cups, chalices, and bags; and that all must admire the means of grace by which Renata had finally been rescued from the claws of the devil!
With the trial of Emma Renata the fires of the deathpyre were extinguished, but not the haunting of possession ; for in the convent of Unterzell there continued to be, for a long time afterwards, nuns who gave themselves out to be possessed. Order and decorum vanished; clergymen and laymen went into the convent every hour; everywhere they sent for exorcists, but nowhere for physicians.
But it appears very clearly from the confessions of Renata, and others, that the possession of those nuns was nothing else than the symptoms of diseases which have always been more prevalent within the walls of convents than without them. All complain of tension and unusual movement in the region of the stomach, of a rising and a swelling sensation towards the heart and throat, of anxiety, depression, and loss of voice before the actual attack of convulsions, which were accompanied by ravings, in which they uttered the most violent denunciations against everything sacred. Such invalids answered, in the character of the concealed spirit of the demon, by whom they believed themselves possessed, many times, with the imitated howling of beasts; they were also very clever at throwing their interrogators into confusion, by the exposure of their ignorance, or of their failings. Similar phenomena I have observed in mesmeric subjects, with an inimitable mimicry and wit, and every experienced physician must have done the same. Thus a possessed person answered Kerna, a celebrated Protestant theologian, who adjured her with the
words, "Spirit, thou who art a nothing, I command thee to go out!" To which the spirit replied with ironic coolness, "That is the stupidest stuff that I ever heard." The paroxysms in this convent terminated with fainting, violent diarrhoea, with a general perspiration, followed by repose, cheerfulness, and a continuance of health for some time. That which appeared the most extraordinary, and which the people believed could only be ascribed to the power of the devil, were, the terrible attacks which produced all kinds of gestures, grimaces, turning round in a speechless state, wild cries, catalepsy, epilepsy, and all sorts of prophetic visions; accompanied by the power of infecting and transferring the spasms and visions to the other sisters; and, farther, those apparitions of nightmare, insensibility to all exterior excitement, and long abstinence from any nourishment, as well as the appearance of pins and needles in various parts of the body, which is by no means unusual in cases of this kind.
Towards the end of the seventeenth century the belief in witchcraft grew more wavering, and men began to oppose it with keenness and vigour; and this even in Germany, which had hitherto swarmed with witches, and where the smoke of the death-fires had choked all genuine Christianity. But that which this mock-faith lost in Germany, France, and Italy, it gained in the far north and in the east of Europe, in Livonia, in Poland and Russia, in Servia and Wallachia, where the blood-sucking vampire hovered the longest, a superstition of the most revolting kind "A vampire-ghost," says an official document quoted by Horst, "is a dead person who continues to live on in the grave; who in the night ascends from his tomb as an apparition, in order to suck the blood of the living, by which he maintains his body in the earth unemaciated, and incapable of decay."
This vampirism had a different kind of penal trial from that of witches, for here the dead bodies were examined and burnt. It is said in the above-mentioned statement, which being official may stand as the type of many others, that "after P. Plagoymitz had been interred a few days, several persons at once fell ill, and within eight days nine people died. All these on their death-beds protested that the said Plagoymitz was the sole cause of their deaths, because he
had come by night as they slept, had seized them by their throats, and sucked their blood. In order to put an end to this general calamity in the village, it was determined to open the grave, when, to the astonishment of all the spectators, the body, although it had lain three weeks in the grave, gave forth not the slightest odour of death, and, except that his nose was somewhat fallen in, the whole was perfectly fresh and sound. They took the body out of the grave, sharpened a stake, and drove it through the heart of the vampire, upon which fresh blood gushed from the mouth and ears. They then burnt the body, and turned· him, thus pierced through, to dust and ashes." This account is drawn up from the surgeon of the place, who himself directed the inquiry.
It was in Spain-the western land of marvels-that magic was originally introduced into the universities, and there it first disappeared; to which, probably, the constant troubles and wars with the Moors mainly contributed.__On the contrary, it has maintained itself longest in the East, where possibly yet more absurd superstitions existed, where the imagination loosed itself to every poetical fancy, and where the faith in sorcery is not even yet totally subdued, because German illumination has not hitherto been able to penetrate thither: German illumination which has driven the whole witch and apparition world from its own soil, spite of all the arms and opposition that it could bring against it, and this it has done pre-eminently through the cultivation of natural philosophy. The Germans, even in the worst times of witchcraft, set themselves in the most courageous opposition to that desolating superstition, encountering it with invincible reasons, as we shall see.
In order to prolong the career of the authorized witchprosecutions, two of the succeeding popes issued from time to time bulls in the same spirit; the first of these being the act of Alexander VI., the successor of Innocent VIII. But in the sixteenth century men began gradually to awake; and there arose voices in Italy and Germany against those maniacal barbarities, and that so strongly, that the secular magistracy began to resist the arbitrary will of the witchcommissioners. It was the republic of Venice which first in Italy made complaints to the Pope through the Doge and Grand Council, praying him to add a commission extra
WITH THE DAWN OF LEARNING WITCHCRAFT DECREASES. 187
ordinary to the witch-inquisitors; to which the Pope consented, and appointed the nuncio, Bishop of Poli, to this office, either, or with others, to revise their judgments. When the judge of heresy in Berscia, Bergamo, and Como, had condemned a formidable list of witches with renewed zeal, the council of Venice forbade the sentences to be executed, and would not allow the required costs of the prosecutions to be paid. This bold proceeding gave umbrage to the Pope; he deemed it hostile to the freedom and dominance of the church, and issued a fresh bull, by which he invested the judges of heresy again with full powers. But the spirit of the time was already too far advanced; and the Venetians displayed less fear than the church had expected.
The Pope found himself engaged in other important and absorbing business, and the general persecution of witches continued more and more to relax. In Germany the Reformation put an end to the papal prosecutions of heretics, and in the countries and cities where the doctrines of Luther prevailed the heresy-edicts disappeared rapidly, yet not altogether: for after Luther's death free-thinking sprung up by the side of fanaticism, and again the death-fires blazed np, before their final extinction, fiercer than ever. Any one who now opposed himself stoutly to the heretical faith,—and this took place not only amongst the Protestants but amongst the Catholics even more frequently, was set down himself as a heretic, as was experienced by popes and cardinals. (See Staüdlin's History of
Scepticism, Vol. ii.)
Many learned men, as Stephen Dolet, Gottfried Valer at Paris, Jordan Brunus, in 1600, were executed at Rome as atheists. And, indeed, the learned had not always found the true medium course between faith and knowledge, between fanaticism and atheism; and while many of them contended against the extravagant belief in witchcraft, they not wholly themselves renounce their own faith in magic and demonology. The French and Italian schools held fast by that faith, and amongst their most distinguished men Pomponaz, Cardanus, Casalpinus, Cosmus Rugieri, ThomCampanella.
One of the most free-thinking and enlightened intellects
was Bodinus (Colloquium de abditis rerum sublimium causis, de magorum dæmonomania, 1603; Universæ naturæ Theatrum, in Baumgarten's Halle Bibliothek, Vol. iii.) Bodinus's opinions on Religion and the Church, fortunately for him, were only known after his death; yet, with all their scepticism and naturalism, they were by no means free from belief in astrology and demons. In a similar manner was Cornelius Agrippa of Rettesheim a lauder of the magic arts, and Mich. Nostradamus, the court physician of Henry II. and Catherine de Medici, had the reputation of a prophet and a magician. His oracles and prophesyings had a widely diffused fame. See Adelung's History of Folly, contained in his "Vraiss centuries et propheties," in which it is asserted that the history of the French Revolution may be found."
Amongst the Germans there were many especially who took the field courageously and with convincing arguments against the belief in witchcraft; one of the first, Cornelius Laos, priest in Mainz, who set himself determinedly, as it were, against the whole bewitched host, and demonstrated the absurdities of the witch-trials. Seized and imprisoned, he was compelled to recant; but the moment he was again free he renewed his onslaughts, was again incarcerated, and was again compelled to recant and keep silence, to avoid being himself burnt. He died in 1593.
Johannes Weier, or Wier, the physician of the Duke of Cleves, wrote very freely and luminously against the witchpersecution. His writings excited violent discussion, and were many times reprinted during his lifetime. "De præstigiis dæmonum, incantationibus et veneficiis, libri `vi.,” Basel, 1563. Also the physician Thomas Erast of Basle, in his work "De lamiis seu strigibus," 1577, operated beneficially, although he himself declared against Calvin.
As in the seventeenth century the witch-faith had reached its point of culmination, and was become quite universal; as the devil and the witches were everywhere, in the field as in the house, in the stable and in the church, in the air and on the earth; as weather and hail, drought and rain, conflagrations and death of cattle, came only from the witches; as the devil ruled in castles and public offices, in the council chamber, and, most of all, in the brains of men, so