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also did the number of men increase who desired to set bounds to the darkness of this superstition, and to celebrate the triumph of victorious reason. These put forth all their strength, and thereby acquired an immortal renown.
Adam Tanner, a Jesuit in Bavaria, counselled the judges to use more circumspection and obtain better evidence in the witch-trials. When he died in the Tyrol, however, Horst says that he was denied burial, because he professed to have conjured a hairy devil under a glass, but which after his death they discovered to be a flea which he had shut up in a microscope! Frederick Spee, a Jesuit, displayed a rare boldness of wisdom, by first turning round upon the rulers, judges, and clergy, and demonstrating from his own experience the barbarity and folly of superstition. He died during the thirty-years' war, and wrote an admirable work, under the title, -- Cautio criminalis, sive de processibus contra sagas, liber ad magistratus Germaniæ hoc tempore necessarius, tum autem consiliariis principum, inquisitoribus, advocatis, confessariis reorum, concionatoribus, ceterisque lictu utilis : Rintel. 1637. Autore incerto theologo orthodoxo.” A year afterwards the same work appeared at Cologne and Frankfort simultaneously, and frequently afterwards. It appeared in Germany at Bremen in 1647, as “ The Book of Conscience in the Witch-Prosecutions, by Joh. Seifert, Swedish Chaplain.”
The excellent Elector of Mainz, Joh. Phillipp, cherished Spee's memory. He says of him that he declared himself the author of that work, with the confession that he owed to the witches the grey hair which he had in the prime of life; it was caused by his consuming sorrow on account of the number of these victims of superstition which he had led to the stake. Still more revolting, if possible, was the fury against witch-devils in the seventeenth century in France; the best account of which you find in a book published at Rouen in 1606,—“Discours exécrable des sorciers, ensemble leur procès, fait depuis deux ans en divers endroits de la France, etc., par Hen. Baguet, grand juge au comté de Bourgogne. An excellent work, also, is that of Naudé,—“Apologie pour les grand hommes, faussement soupsonnés de magie, Paris, 1625.”
The Spanish Jesuit de Rio opposed himself to these wholesome endeavours, and wrote, “Disquisitiones Magic. · liv. vi.,” and defended the grossest superstition which continued rampant through the whole seventeenth century, flourishing with a deadly luxuriance, so that what war, hunger, and plague, did not destroy, superstition swept away. Kepler, the great astronomer, relates that he was summoned by the Emperor to Regensburg to give his assistance in reforming the calendar, and although he was very unwell, he was suddenly called back again, and obliged to travel amid all danger and with all possible rapidity towards his native country of Wirtemberg, where his poor old mother was in imminent danger of being burnt for a witch. He succeeded, though with great difficulty, in rescuing her from the stake (Monumentum J. Keplero dedicatum : Rhatisb. 1808).
The two authors who more than all contributed to put an end to the witch-prosecutions were, however, the theologian Balthasar Becker, and the jurist Christ. Thomasius.
At the close of the seventeenth century, Becker advanced the nine propositions which deny the influence and active power of spirits over the physical world. His work, “De vaste spessen de volmaaken,”—“Strong Food for the Perfect," 1670, brought him at once into suspicion of teaching error. His book, “The Bewitched World,” appeared first in Dutch, 1691, at Amsterdam; in German in 1693. It made so great a sensation that in two months four thousand copies
were sold. In the Netherlands at that time the witch-prosecutions had ceased, but the clergy opposed his doctrines with all their might, and defended stoutly the power of the devil and the reality of possession. Becker treated the witch-faith mercilesssly, and challenged the evil demi-god of the Christians, the Devil, formally, to take vengeance on him, if he were able. Becker contended with trenchant weapons of the Cartesian philosophy, and with his less happy Exegesis. But it was not merely his lucid philo
. sophical knowledge, it was rather his humane mind, which impelled him to rescue mankind from the degrading madness concerning the devil. The impunity which Becker enjoyed from any attempts of the devil in consequence of his challenge was explained thus by his opponents; that
Satan out of cunning abstained from spoiling his game, as he was in the end the greatest gainer by unbelief. But Becker did not achieve an immediate victory. The Church, schools, consistories, and synods, took up arms against him; and in 1693 he was deposed from his office, and was classed, on account of his zeal as an anti-diaboliker, amongst deists and atheists.
Christ. Thomasius was enabled as professor of jurisprudence to effect more than his humanely-minded coad
He succeeded in doing that which Becker could
His writings, as it regards the witch-prosecutions, are classical. They are the following,“De crimine magia dissert., by Joh. Reichen, 1701,” and more extended in German. “ Thomasius's Short Theorems on the Crime of Sorcery, with appended actis magicis, by Joh. Reichen, 1703;"'" De origine et progressu processus inquisitorii contra sagas, 1712;" also German in the same year. The rest of his juridical writings also treat this subject freely, as,
“ The Business of Jurisprudence, in 8 parts." A number of writings were published by him, amongst which the following are the most important:"Joh. Reicher's Discriminating Writings on the Nuisance of the Witch-Prosecutions, 1703;" the same on the nuisance of Sorcery, 1704 ; “ Webster, Trials for Witchcraft, from the English, 1719;" Gott. Wahrlich, “The Uselessness of the so-called WitchProsecutions,” Halle, 1720; Beaumont, “ Tract on Spirits, Apparitions, and Witches;" Ant. Prätorius, “ On Sorcery and Sorcerers.'
But that which the jurists and the theologians, with all their courage and zeal, with all their understanding and knowledge, were unable to effect by these attacks on superstition, the natural philosophers at length achieved. The diligent study of nature, the experiments and discoveries of physiology and experimental physics, it was which preeminently demonstrated those things to be mere natural phenomena which had been attributed to secret arts or to the devil. The writings of Erxleben, Funke, Fischer, Murhard on Natural History and Physics, Euler's Letters on different subjects of Natural Philosophy, 1792; the Great Magazine for the Natural History of Man, Zittau, 1788; Hallé’s Natural Magic; Martius's Instructions in Natural Magic, Wiegleb, Blumenbach, and numerous physicians, have finally dissolved the spell of sorcery, and have made superstition innocuous, if they have not utterly and for ever expelled it from the human race.
As we have now become familiar with the historical development of the witch-prosecutions, and the chief phenomena of the same, it is not here the place to enter farther into the theological and philosophical disputes concerning it, nor to take a more particular review of the sects which belong, more or less, to the department of sorcery, as the exorcists and banishers of spirits, the diggers for treasure, and the alchemical gold-makers, the astrological and hermetic mystagogues, -as the Rosicrucians, the casters of nativities, the illuminatio and fortune-tellers by cards, the necromancers and minor prophets, etc., which, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, were the order of the day. In the works of Hauber and Horst the reader will find all these things collected. The latter, in the “ Dæmonomagie," gives an enumeration of all the kinds of belief in sorcery both of Christian and heathen people and times. As I propose to take a review of the most distinguished mystics of the Middle Ages so far as they are connected with magic, and of the philosophical magic of the writers of the highest class, the reader may perhaps desire to have, preparatory to this, a sort of bird's-eye view of the prevailing beliefs in sorcery, as it were in nuce. To this end I cannot better serve the reader than by referring him to the work of Grimm, and to its 27th chapter, entitled “Sorcery." I shall here merely notice a few of such facts as have not been already introduced by me on this subject.
We have already spoken of what sorcery means, of its existence and character amongst the ancient nations Scythians, Syrians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, etc.; as it appeared amongst the ancient Scandinavians, Germans, and British. We have traced it down through its various modifications, especially through the influence of Christianity, and how it degenerated into devil-worship and witchcraft, with the horrors, scandals, and persecutions which followed, and continued nearly to our own times. Amongst the facts which led to its prevalence, contributed to vary its features, and led to its extinction, may be noticed the following.
The earliest antiquity attributed magic pre-eminently to
The cause of this lay in outward circumstances. To women, and not to men, were confided the selection and preparation of powerful medicines, even as the preparation of food belonged to them. To prepare ointments, to weave linen, to heal wounds, seemed best to suit their gentle and soft hands. The art of writing and reading letters was in the most ancient times chiefly committed to women. The unquiet career of the life of man was occupied with war, hunting, agriculture, and mechanical arts. To woman all the facilities for sorcery were furnished by experience. The imaginative power of woman is more ardent and more susceptible than that of man, and from the most remote time, homage was paid an inward and sacred strength and power of divination existing in them. Women were priestesses and soothsayers ; the German and Scandinavian traditions have handed down to us their names and their fame. According to the different popular opinions they were Nornor and Valor, Valkyrior and Swan-maidens, with a divine life, or they were sorceresses. Upon a mixture of all this, of natural, legendary, and imaginary circumstances, are founded the ideas of the Middle Ages regarding witchcraft. Fantasy, tradition, the knowledge of curative means, poverty, and laziness, converted old women into witches; and the three last circumstances created sorceresses out of shepherdesses and herds-maidens. Christianity modified these ideas, as we have seen.
The witches of Sbakspere came together to cook; but they may be placed together with the ancient prophetesses of the Cimbri. But there are other connecting points between ancient and the modern nations. Salt-springs stand in direct connection with modern witchcraft (see Tacitus, Ann. B. 57). There were undoubtedly such salt streams at that period in Germany flowing out of mountains in the sacred woods. Their produce was regarded as the immediate gift of the present godhead; the obtaining and distribution of this salt was deemed a sacred employment; possibly sacrifices and popular festivals were connected with it. These wise women or priestesses managed the preparation of the salt; when the salt pan was placed under their care and superintendence, we have a direct connection between these