« PreviousContinue »
her cow gave more milk than three or four of other people's ?
Seventh chapter :- Whetherthe accused was to be regarded as a witch? Eighth chapter :- How the witches were to be arrested? And in this particular it is most important to take care that the prisoner does not touch the ground, or she might, by her witchcraft, liberate herself. On this account witches at a later day, according to Horst, were suspended in the witch-tower at Lindheim, and there burnt. Ninth and tenth chapters :-Detail further proceedings with the prisoner. Whether a defence was to be allowed? What may happen under the circumstances—but the affair is delicate. 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. (No wonder that there was no great zeal shown in defending those accused.) Eleventh and twelfth chapters :- Proceedings with unknown names, and by enemies. Here all sorts of cunning and juridical artifices were allowed. Thirteenth chapter:- What the judge has to notice in the audience of the torture-chamber. Witches who have given themselves up for years, body and soul, to the devil (who, in fact, have been afflicted with cramps and convulsions), are made by him so insensible to pain on the rack, that they rather allow themselves to be torn to pieces than confess. Others, who were not so true, he ceased to torture. Such were easy to bring to confession. (The unhappy sensitive ones preferred death to the rack.) Fourteenth chapter :-Upon torture and the mode of racking ;-very instructive! For instance: 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to bring the accused to voluntary confession, you may promise her her life; which promise, however, may afterwards be withdrawn.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. For instance, the judge announces after the first torture : “We condemn thee to be again tortured tomorrow.” Fifteenth chapter :-Continuance of the discovery of a witch by her marks. Here, amongst other signs, weeping is one. It is a damning thing if an accused, on being brought up, cannot at once 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. (Who now will only believe on God, and not on the devil too?). It was found by experience that the more a witch was adjured, the less she could weep. Further, the judge must be careful in touching the witch that he carry upon his person consecrated herbs and salt; and he must not look directly at her; for after looking at the accused, the judges lost all power of condemning them, and set them at liberty! The witehes were, therefore, carried backwards into the room. The witches must also have all their hair shorn off ; for without this foresight many cannot be brought to confession. In Germany this shaving was denounced as disgraceful, as the Witch-hammer complains. In other countries less resistance was - made. When even pity was reduced to silence, indignation against the breach of morals and decency aroused the German breast, and became loud.
Sixteenth chapter :-Continuation. Seventeenth chapter :-Means of purification on the part of the witches, and the fire-proof. The fire-proof is opposed, because there are herbs which defend against the fire, which the witches knew; and the devil can make them insensible to the effect of hot iron. Eighteenth chapter:-On how many kinds of suspicion the judgment of death may be awarded. Twentieth chapter to the three-and-twentieth :-On questioning and judging notorious witches, of which sufficient has already been seen in the preceding chapters. Five-and-twentieth :Here the grey witch-cloaks present themselves, in which the witches must, in all cases, do penance before the doors of the church. It was a wide, grey cloak, like a monk's cloak, only without a cape, with saffron-coloured crosses of three hands long and two broad. Six- and Seven-and-twentieth chapters :-The mode of proceeding with a heretic who has confessed, but afterwards has returned to the church. Twenty-eighth :-But how, when a repentant heretic again apostatises, he shall be dealt with. Twenty-ninth to the thirtythird chapter:—Similarquestions as toconfession, and the then denying of confession: of avoiding temptation. Of caution in the proceedings against persons who have been accused by witches already tried and burnt, because the devil often spoke out in them. _(Nearly the only trace of humanity in the whole work.) Thirty-fourth chapter :-How to proceed with a witch who has actually employed magic means, -as midwives and shooters. Finally, thirty-fifth chapter :—How sorcerers and witches are to be dealt with who appeal to a higher tribunal. This appeal must be opposed ; and if it sometimes please the judge to allow of it, he is under no necessity to hasten the proceedings.
These brief indications of the contents of the Witchhammer are all of an essential character, and may serve us as a little abridgment of the history of the faith and legal practice of that time, and especially as it regards the witchprosecutions, on which, therefore, we may be more concise.
The bull of Innocent VIII. opened a wide door to the most terrific tyranny of past ages; body and life, honour and estate, were given up as a prey to the will of ignorant and fanatic wizards, so that no one was any longer safe in his house, nor even in his sleep and dreams. We have here certainly an unexampled reign of terror, for the bull and the Witch-hammer were not of an evanescent nature, but their influence continued operating for ages both on Catholics and Protestants, so that all conditions and both sexes suffered under a chronic bewilderment of mind, and were affected, as it were, by a universal mania. But if we calmly consider that in history, as in nature, everything has a fixed, certain course prescribed by certain laws, as we have already shown, we shall see that this was also, as it were, a natural development of the time. Pope Innocent, who had assumed this name at Fleury, undoubtedly because he wished it to indicate what he really desired to be, has been denounced by later, and especially by Protestant writers, as “a scandalous hypocrite,” and his bull as “a cursed war-song of hell ;” the inquisitors as hangman's slaves, rabid jailers, blood-thirsty monsters, etc. Pope Innocent was the child of the time. Witchcraft had grown up long before him; prosecutions of heretics and witches had been carried on; but what the Papal throne had not yet accomplished—that of setting its principle of sacerdotal authority above the secular power
Innocent effected. Witchcraft and heresy had long been judged to be twin-sisters, and the devil as the universal enemy, who was the soul and mainspring of the system. The spiritual power deemed itself bound to proclaim eternal war against him; and it was thought that success was the most certain if they seized on his allies and destroyed them. And 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 whatever of the devil, and that the witches were no heretics.
The idea of witchcraft was a disease of the time; and who shall assert that in such a general condition of ignorance and bewilderment there were not reckless and base men enow who invented all sorts of stratagems in order to speculate on the health, the properties, and the lives of others, and to make their own fortunes on their ruin ? who, contrary to all law and order, contrary to morals and decency, took the field, and to whom the Holiest and his servants were a stumbling-block? The question then was, whence was help to arise ? A few sagacious and well-meaning persons might preach and teach, but their voices were lost in the wilderness. The secular magistracy was destitute of the knowledge and understanding to detect mere lies and deceit,—what was human and what devilish. They had no influence on public opinion, nor even on faith. Did not these concern the ecclesiastical power, which possessed the greatest rank, consideration, and knowledge ? did it not behove the head of the Church to discover some means of putting a stop to the universal evil and corruption ? The will is one thing, and the consequence of the act is another. Who shall declare that Innocent did not really desire the good of mankind, although his bull produced so much abuse, so much calamity and misery ? That which is really wonderful lies rather in the Witch-hammer than in the bull; wonderful is it how such a medley of nonsense, of theologic, sophistical and juridical silliness, should become the general code of law for four centuries; for, till the end of the seventeenth century, witch-prosecutions were still in progress, and the death-fires were not extinguished. A hundred and fifty years after the Reformation, even amongst jurists in general, the same belief in witches still continued as in the Witch-hammer, of which the last edition of Carpzov's Criminal Practice of 1758 affords evidence, “B. Carpzovii practica nova rerum criminalium, editio Boehmer, 3 vols. fol."
The cause of this long-continued effect lay in the prevalence of the religious faith, which in both Catholics and Protestants continued the same on this head. With both, demonology stood on the same basis,-namely, the devilish; they believed that the devil possessed an unspeakably great, at least as great a power as God himself; or that God permitted this to him ; permitted him to seduce men, to possess and to bewitch them. Now man is in nothing so slow as in adopting heartily a new faith ; and, once adopted, he is equally slow in yielding it up again, whether his faith be rooted in fact or in mere appearance. And as now the voices of the superior few, however urgent, convincing, and well-meant they might be, fell on deaf ears, and only rarely found attention or acquiescence, it is easy to perceive by what slow degrees and with what labour the mind was opened, and the understanding enlightened by the light of truth. This was only possible to be effected very gradually, both as regarded religious errors and the laws of natural phe
In this department a great number of natural philosophers, theologists, and men learned in the law, have in mutual action and reaction won a deathless renown by the cure of the witch-mania and absurdity, by breaking the bonds of sorcery, teaching us to discriminate between witchcraft and the operations of nature, and, in a word, bringing the witch-mania to an end. Paracelsus, Van Helmont, Bacon, Wier, Becker, Thomasius, Spee, Molitor, Tartaretti, Reginald Scott, Dell'Ossa, Reiche, Hauber, etc., are the writers who, bold and enterprising, illuminated their own times, stood forth undauntedly against the monstrous tyranny of the devil, and delivered over the Witch-hammer to the rust of the obsolete armoury of Superstition.
By the detailed description of the contents of the Witchhammer, we have become acquainted with the conditions, the means, and the aim of the witch-prosecutions. We have, therefore, no further occasion for a long history of these. But as the magical phenomena which appear in these concern our subject nearly, we shall notice a few par