1902 Encyclopedia > Witchcraft


WITCHCRAFT. This subject has already been considered in its general aspects under ASTROLOGY, DEMONOLOGY, DIVINATION, MAGIC, and SPIRITUALISM. In this place what will be mainly attempted will be to illustrate the position assumed by the law towards the crime which was regarded for centuries not only as possible but also as specially noxious. It is long interval from the Twelve Tables to the Bill of Rights, but the lawyer or lawmen, who is in the interval dared to raise their voices against the prevailing superstition. The writings of Shakespeare and the other Elizabethan dramatists are sufficient of themselves to show the universal prevalence of the belief in England. From the purposes of this article witchcraft may be taken to include any claim of a power to produce effects by other than natural causes. By whatever name witchcraft, conjuration, sorcery, incantation, divination, or any similar name, the legal effects attaching to its supposed exercise were usually the same. Witchcraft was the most comprehensive English name sortilegium the most comprehensive in ecclesiastical Latin.

In Roman law it was provided by the Twelve Tables that no one should remove his neighbour’s crops to another field by incantation or conjure away his corn. At a later date the Lex Cornelia de Sicariis et Veneficis was extended by decree of the senate to cases of offering sacrifice to injure a neighbour
[Footnote 619-1]. Exercise of magical and diabolical arts rendered the magicians themselves liable to be burned alive, and those who consulted them to crucifixion. Even the possession of magical books was criminal. To administer a love potion, even though harmless, was punished by labour in the mines, or relegation and fine in the case of persons of rank [Footnote 619-2]. One title of the Code of Justinian is entirely taken up with the subject [Footnote 619-3]. Astrologers (mathematici) seem to have been specially objectionable to both the pagan and Christian emperors. Sorcery was punished by Constantine with banishment, or death by burning; and an accusation of witchcraft, as of treason, render everyone, whatever his rank, liable to torture. To teach or to learn magic art was equally criminal. The only exceptions allowed (and there were afterwards removed by Leo [Footnote 619-4]) were magic remedies for diseases and for drought, storms and other natural phenomena injurious to agriculture. A constitution of Honorius and Theodosius in 409 rendered mathematici liable to banishment unless they gave up their books to be burned in the presence of bishop [Footnote 619-5]. The trial of APULEIUS for magic in 150 A.D. is the most familiar instance occurring under Roman law.

The church followed and amplified Roman law. The graver form of witchcraft constituted HERESY, and jurisdiction over such offence was claimed by the church court to a comparatively late date
[Footnote 620-1]. This authorization of belief in witchcraft was based partly on well-known texts of the Mosaic law -- especially Exodus xxii.18, -- partly on peculiar constructions of other parts of Scripture, such as 1 Cor. xi. 10, where the words " because of the angels" were supposed to prove the reality of the class of demons called incubi [Footnote 620-2].

What kinds of witchcraft were heresy was a question learnedly discussed by Farinaccius and other writers on criminal law. The practical effect of this mode of regarding witchcraft was that, although according to the better opinion the offense was in itself the subject of both secular and ecclesiastical cognizance, in fact it was on the continent of Europe seldom punished by the secular power, except as the mere executive of ecclesiastical sentence.

The earliest ecclesiastical decree appears to have been that of Ancyra, 315 A.D., condemning soothsayers to five years’ penance. In canon law the Decretum subjected them to excommunication as idolaters and enemies of Christ, and the bishop was to take all means in his power to put down the practice of divination
[Footnote 620-3]. The Decretals contained, among others, the provision that a priest seeking to recover stolen goods by inspection of an astrolabe might be suspended from his office and benefice [Footnote 620-4].

In the 14th century John XXII punished a bull against witchcraft.

Malleus Maleficarum image

Cover of the seventh Cologne edition of the Malleus Maleficarum, 1520
(from the University of Sydney Library).

The Latin title is:
"Malleus maleficarum,
maleficas, & earum hæresim, ut phramea potentissima conterens."

(English translation:
"The Hammer of Witches which destroyeth Witches and
their heresy like a most powerful spear.")

In the 15th a vigorous crusade was begun by the bull "Summis desiderantes affectibus" of Innocent VIII in 1484. Under the authority of this bull Sprenger and Kramer (Latinized into "Institor") were appointed inquisitors, and five years later published the famous work Malleus Maleficarum or Hexenhammer, the great text book on procedure in witchcraft cases, especially in Germany
[Footnote 620-5]. The third part of the work deals with the practice at length. One or two of the more interesting points of practice deserve a brief notice. Witnesses incompetent in ordinary cases were on account of the gravity of the offense admissible on a charge of witchcraft against but not for the accused. An alleged witch was to be conjured by the tears of our Saviour and of our Lady and the saints to weep, which she could not do if she were guilty. The authors explain the witchcraft is more natural to women than to men, on account of the inherent wickedness of their hearts.

In the Roman and Greek Churches the form of EXORCISM (q.v.) still survives
[Footnote 620-6], and was acknowledged by the Church of England as lately as 1603. The 72nd canon of that year forbade attempts by the clergy at casting out devils by fasting and prayer unless by special licence from the bishop. No such canon appears among the Irish canons of 1634. On one occasion in 1612 punishment of the exorcised demons was attempted. The bishop of Beauvais, in a document which Garinet has preserved, pronounced sentence of excommunication against five such demons. [Footnote 620-7]

England. -- As in other countries, ecclesiastical law claimed cognizance of witchcraft as a crime against God. The Penitentials of Archbishop Theodore and Egbert and the Confessional of Egbert are full of condemnations of magic divination, diabolical, incantations, love-philtres, &c. An exception is made in favour of incantation by a priest by means of the Lord’s prayer or the creed. The practice of magic by women is set out in the same document with minute and disgusting details.

After the Conquest, commissions were from time to time issued empowering bishops to search for sorcerers. A form of such a commission to the bishop of Lincoln in 1406 is given by Rymer.
[Footnote 620-8]

The ecclesiastical courts punished by penance and fine up to 1542.
[Footnote 620-9] For graver punishments the secular power acted as executive. Many persons guilty of sorcery were, according to Sir Edward Coke [Footnote 620-10], burned by the king’s writ de haeretico comburendo after condemnation in the ecclesiastical courts. The secular courts dealt with witchcraft from the early period. It was indictable offence at common law and later by statute, thought apparently not a felony until the Act of Henry VII. The earliest trial recorded in England was in secular court. In 1324 several persons were appealed before the coroners of the king’s household, and the record, certifying acquittal by a jury, was then brought up by writ of certiorari. [Footnote 620-11]

In the proceedings against a woman the doctrine of coercion by the husband (see WOMEN) did not apply. A distinction, more curious than important, was drawn between conjurers, witches, sorcerers. Conjurers by force of magic words endeavoured to raise the devil and compel him to execute their commands. Witches by way of friendly conference bargained with an evil spirits that he should do what they desired of him. Sorcerers or charmers by the use of superstitious of words or by means of images or other representation of person or things, produced strange effects above the ordinary course of nature.

Legislation on the subject began in the pre-Conquest codes. Thus the laws of Ethelred banished witches, soothsayers, and magicians. The laws of Canute included love-witchcraft under heathendom. It was evidently regarded as a survival of paganism.

The first Act after the Conquest was passed in 1541 (33 Hen.VIII. c. 8), which dealt with somewhat remarkable mixture of offences. It declared felony without benefit of clergy various kinds of sorceries, discovery of hidden treasure, destruction of the neighbour’s persons or goods, making images or pictures of men, women, children, angels, devils, beast, and fowls, and pulling down crosses.

The Act having been repealed at the accession of Edward VI, another Act on similar lines but distinguishing different grades of witchcraft was passed in 1562. By this Act, 5 Eliz. c. 16, conjuration and invocation of evil spirits, and the practice of sorceries, enchantments, charm, and witchcrafts, whereby death ensued, were made felonies without the benefits of the clergy and punishment for the first offence was a year’s imprisonment and the pillory, and for a second death. If the practice was to discover hidden treasure or to provoke to unlawful love, the punishment for a first offence was the same as in the last case, for a second imprisonment for life and forfeiture of goods.

At the accession of James I, perhaps in compliment to the king’s position as an expert and specialist in the matter, was passed I Jac. I. c.12, which continued law for more than a century. The strange verbiage of the most important section of the Act is worth quoting in full. "If any person or persons shall use, practice, or exercise any invocation or conjuration of any evil and wicked spirit, or shall consult, covenant with, entertain, employ, feed, or reward any evil and wicked spirit to or for any intent or purpose, or take up any dead man, woman, or child out of his, her, or their grave or any other place where the dead body resteth, or the skin, bone, or any part of any dead person, to be employed or used in any manner of witchcraft, sorcery, charm, or enchantment, or shall use, practice, or exercise any witchcraft, enchantment, charm, or sorcery, whereby any person shall be killed, destroy, wasted, consumed, pined, or lamed in his or her body or any pat therefore," every such offender is a felon without benefit of clergy.

The Act further punished with imprisonment for a first offence, and second made it felony without benefit of clergy, to declare by witchcraft where treasure was, to provoke to unlawful love, or to attempt to hurt cattle, goods, or persons.

This Act was repealed in 1763 by 9 Geo. II. c. 5.

It will be noticed that in all the Acts it was necessary (except in the case of love-philtres) that injury could have been caused or intended or gain made.

There were statutes which, although not directly concerned with witchcraft, aimed at suppression of analogous offences . Thus multiplication of gold and silver (by means of the philosopher’s stone) was made felony in 1403 by 5 Hen. IV. c. 4. This was repealed by 1 Will. and M. c. 30, -- it is said, by the influence of Robert Boyle. Numerous acts dealing with the practice of palmistry and fortune-telling by Egyptians or Gipsies [Gypsies] were passed at different times, beginning in 1530 with 22 Hen. VIII. c. 10. They are now superseded by the provisions of the Vagrant Act of 1824.

Trials for witchcraft in England do not seem to have been proportionately as numerous or to have been accompanied with such circumstances of cruelty as those in most other countries. This may be accounted for partly by the diminishing authority of the church courts, partly by the absence of TORTURE (q.v.) as a recognized means of procedure, though no doubt it was too often used in an informal manner. The pricking of the body of an alleged witch by the Hopkins the witch-finder and similar wretches in order to find the insensible spot or devil’s mark, the proof by water (a popular survival of the old water ordeal), and similar proceedings, if not judicial torture, at least caused as much pain to the victims.

Charges of witchcraft seem to have been made with great frequency against persons of rank during the Wars of the Roses for political purposes. The cases of the duchess of Gloucester and Jane Shore will at once occur to the mind, and neither Edward IV nor his queen were exempt. The duke of Clarence was accused of imputing witchcraft to the former; and the latter and her mother, the duchess of Bedford, were charged with having obtained the promise of marriage from the king by magical means.

Trials in England were most numerous in the 17th century. In the case of the Lancashire witches in 1634 seventeen persons were condemned on the evidence of one boy. In the period from 1645 to 1647 between two and three hundred are said to have been indicted in Suffolk and Essex alone, of whom more than half were convicted. [Footnote 621-1]

The State Trials contain several instances of such trials, viz, those of Anne Turner in 1615 [Footnote 621-2], and the countess of Somerset in 1616 [Footnote 621-3], (where a charge of witchcraft was joined with the charge of poisoning Sir Thomas Overbury ), Mary Smith in 1616 [Footnote 621-4], the Essex witches in 1645 [Footnote 621-5], the Suffolk witches in 1665 [Footnote 621-6], and the Devon witches in 1682. [Footnote 621-7]

The most interesting trial is that the Suffolk witches, because Sir Mathew Hale was the judge and Sir Thomas Browne was the medical expert witness. [Footnote 621-8] And many of this trials the accuse confess before execution. The reasons which urged them to confess not only impossibilities, but impossibilities of the most revolting kind, are not very easy to discover. In some cases, no doubt, the object was to escape the misery of life as reputed witch. The theory of witchcraft, too, was universal and well known, and the revolting details of worship of the devil and of the witches' sabbath must have been familiar to all. Torture, as the Milan case shows (see TORTURE), might force from the accused confession of an impossible crime, and even without torture instances have been known in modern times where women have charged themselves with offences in which they were the only believers. [Footnote 621-9] These considerations may partially, if not fully, solve a difficulty which has been felt ever since the time of Cardan.

Towards the end of the 17th century the feeling towards witchcraft began to change. The case of Hathaway in 1702 no doubt accelerated the decay of the old belief. He was convicted of cheating and assault by falsely pretending to be bewitched and by making an attack on an alleged witch. [Footnote 621-10] The last trial in England was that of Jane Wenham in 1712, convicted at Hertford, but not executed. A case said to have occurred in 1716 does not rest on good authority. This change of feeling was no doubt caused to a great extent by the works of writers, few in number but strong in argument, who from the time of REGINALD SCOT (q.v.) struck at the very foundations of the popular belief. One of the most interesting but least-known writers is George Gifford, whose views are in the nature of a compromise. His point is that the devil may deceive not only witches but their accusers. [Footnote 621-11] The jury who convict may sometimes be right, but it must be very seldom. As lately as 1718 Dr Hutchinson, bishop of Down and Connor, thought it worth while to argue against witchcraft, but rather from the popular than the scientific point of view. [Footnote 621-12] Legal writers did little to shake the prevailing opinion. Coke, Bacon, and Hale certainly admitted the possibility of witchcraft ; Selden at least approved the statutory provisions on the subject; and Blackstone in guarded language said that its exclusion from the list of crimes was not to be understood as implying a denial of the possibility of such an offence, though, following Addison, he would not give credit to any particular modern instance.

In the present state of the law pretended supernatural powers may be such as to bring those professing them under the criminal law, or to make void a transfer of property caused by belief in their existence. The Act of 1736 enacted that any person pretending to use witchcraft, tell fortunes, or discover stolen goods by skill in any occult or crafty science, was to be imprisoned for a year, to stand in the pillory, and to find sureties for good behaviour. This is still law, except as to the pillory. By the Vagrant Act of 1824, 5 Geo. IV, c. 83, s. 4, any person pretending or professing to tell fortunes, or using any subtle craft, means, or device, by palmistry or otherwise, to deceive and impose on any of Her Majesty's subjects, is to be deemed a rogue and vagabond. Under this Act a person may be convicted for attempting to deceive by falsely pretending to have the supernatural faculty of obtaining from invisible agents and the spirits of the dead answers, messages, and manifestations of power, viz., noises, raps, and the winding up of a musical box. [Footnote 622-1] So may one who issues an advertisement professing to forecast the future, though no money is received, and the future of a particular person is not told. [Footnote 622-2] A false pretence of witchcraft is also punishable under the Larceny Act of 1861, 24 and 25 Vict. c. 96. It has been held that a false pretence that the defendant had the power to bring back the husband of the prosecutrix over hedges and ditches was within the statute. [Footnote 622-3] In a case in Chancery in 1868 a widow lady, aged seventy-five, was induced by the defendant, a spiritual medium, to transfer a large sum of money to him, under the belief that such was the wish of her deceased husband as declared in spiritualistic manifestations. The court held that his claim of supernatural power constituted undue influence, and that the gift must be set aside. [Footnote 622-4]

See, in addition to the authorities cited, Sir Walter Scott's Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft; Stephen, Hist. of the Criminal Law, vol, ii. ch. xxv.; Pike, Hist. of Crime in England, esp. vol. ii. P. 131 sq. ; Dr Nicholson's Introduction to Reginald Scot's Discovery of Witchcraft; Spalding, Elizabethan Demonology, ch. iii.; also reports of particular cases, such as the trial of the Suffolk witches, published in a separate form in 1682, and the indictment of the astrologer Lilly for advising to recover stolen goods (when the grand jury threw out the bill), to be found in his autobiography.

Scotland. -- The principal Act of the Scottish parliament was 1563, c. 73 (ratified and confirmed in 1649), making it a capital offence to sue witchcraft, sorcery, or necromancy, or to pretend to such knowledge, or to seek help from witches. It was repealed by 9 Geo. II. C. 5.
Trials were either before the ordinary courts or, more frequently, before special tribunals erected by the authority of commissions from time to time issued by the privy council, often on the petition of a presbytery or the General Assembly. Boxes were placed in the churches to receive accusations. The frequency of cases is shown by an order of parliament in 1661 that justices depute should go once a week at least to Mussel burgh and Dalkeith to try persons accused of witchcraft.

In these trials evidence of the wildest description was admitted. Anything was relevant, especially if sworn to by a professed witch-finder or witch-pricker, a position in which one Kincaid, like Hopkins in England, attained special eminence.

Torture was used in most cases, and in an aggravated form, as it was supposed that he devil protected his votaries from the effects of ordinary torture. A special form of iron collar and gag called "the witch’s bridle" was generally used. The details of the trials in Pitcairn’s Criminal Trials are utterly revolting, especially those of Bessie Dunlop in 1576 and of Dr Fian in 1590.

One of the charges in the former case in very remarkable, and the accused herself confessed it, that she acted under the guidance of the spirit of Thome Reid who had been killed at Pinkie in 1547. In some cases a charge of witchcraft was joined with a charge of another crime, as of murder in the master of Orkney’s case, of treason in Dr Fian’s, accused of raising a storm at sea when the king was on a voyage. [Footnote 622-5]

James VI was frequently present in person at trials for witchcraft, and the most horrible cases recorded are those which occurred in his reign.

The full pleadings in a charge are given in the case of Margaret Wallace. [Footnote 622-6]

It is noticeable that the articles of dittay began by resting the criminality of sorcery upon the divine law as contained in the 20th chapter of Leviticus and the 18th chapter of Deuteronomy.

The punishment was generally burning. The last execution took place in 1722, after conviction before the sheriff of Sutherland. As to pretended powers, the Act of 1736 applies to Scotland, and at common law obtaining money by pretending to tell fortunes or recover property by enchantment is punishable as falsehood, fraud, and willful imposition.

See, further, Sir Walter Scott’s Letters; appendix vii. To Pitcairn; the Register of the Privacy Council of Scotland, passim; Buckle, Hist. of Civilization, vol. ii. p. 190.

Ireland. -- The earliest recorded case is in the same year as the earliest in England, 1324, but in an ecclesiastical and not as in England in a secular tribunal. It was a proceeding against Dame Alice Kyteler and others in the bishop of Ossory’s court, which led to a considerable conflict between the church and the civil power. [Footnote 622-7]

The English statute of Elizabeth was adopted almost word for word by 28 Eliz. c. 2 (I). The only other Act of the Irish parliament bearing on the question was 10 Car. I., sess. 2, c. 19 (I), enacting that if a person bewitched in one county died in another the person guilty of causing his might be tried in the county where the death happened. It is remarkable that this Act is based upon an English Act, 2 and 3 Edw. VI. C. 24, dealing with the venue in criminal trials, but the English Act does not mention witchcraft.

28 Eliz. c. 2 was not repealed until 1821 by 1 and 2 Geo. IV. C. 18, so that Ireland appears to be distinguished as the last country in which penalties against witchcraft were retained in statute law.

United States. --The earliest execution in New England is said to have been in 1648.

In the abstract of the laws of New England printed in 1655 appear these articles:-- "III. Witchcraft, which is fellowship by covenant with a familiar spirit, to be punished with death. IV. Consulters with witches not to be tolerated, but either to be cut off by death or banishment or other suitable punishment." [Footnote 622-8]

The fanatical outbreak at Salem in 1691-92 is one of the most striking incidents in the history of New England. Nineteen persons were executed for witchcraft, among whom was Giles Cory, the only person who ever perished by the peine forte et dure in America (see TORTURE). In 1692 fifty were tried, but only three convicted, and they received the governor’s pardon. For these proceedings the writings and preaching of Cotton Mather were largely responsible. The States have now their own legislation against pretended supernatural powers. Provisions similar to those of the English Vagrant Act are common.

A full account of proceedings at Salem will be found in Hutchinson’s Hist. of Massachusetts Bay (vol. ii. Ch. 1), in Bancroft’s Hist. of the Colonization of the United States (iii. 84), and in Cotton Mather’s Memorable Provinces (Baston, 1689) and Wonders of the Invisible World (Boston, 1693).

Continental States. -- The law against witchcraft was minutely treated by Continental jurists of the 16th and 17th centuries, especially by those who, like Farinaccius and Julius Clarus, were either churchmen or laymen holding ecclesiastical appointments.

The extent to which legal refinement could go is well illustrated by the treatise on criminal law by Sinistrati de Ameno, [Footnote 622-9] an Italian writer of the 17th century, whose belief in sorcery is strikingly shown by his strange work on the subject called Daemonialitas. [Footnote 622-10]

He defines sortilegium as "actus humanus quo per media inutilia aut vetita aliquis effectus procurator ad damnum aut utilitatem propriam aut alienam."

Six species, if appears, were recognized, called amatorium, defensorium, revelatorium, lucratorium, malefactorium, divinatorium.

There were eleven distinct modes of profession to the service of the devil. Some of the indicia on which torture might be inflicted were absence of the accused from bed during the night, drawing cabalistic signs on the ground, threats of injury, anointing the body.

The text of Roman law was sometimes distorted in an extraordinary way: e.g., it was a maxim that a contract with a demon was not binding, and this was expressed in the language of Roman law in the formula "in daemonem cadere non potest obligatio."

Germany the ecclesiastical courts generally acted, though the crime was sometimes the subject of secular legislation, especially in the Constitutio Criminalis of Charles V. (the Carolina). [Footnote 623-1] The number of victims perhaps exceeded that in any other country. It was in Germany too that the last execulation for witchcraft in Europe took place, at Posen in 1793.

France prosecutions for vauderie occurred in 13th and 14th centuries. In the 15th century Joan of Arc was condemned on a charge of witchcraft. [Footnote 623-2] Henry III, like Edward IV of England, was accused by his enemies of practicing sorcery.

The most numerous prosecutions were set on foot in the 17th century, and as in other countries they meet with the firmest support from some literary men, among whom P. de I’ Ancre is conspicuous for his orthodoxy. [Footnote 623-3] A royal edict of 1682 revived all previous ordinances against the practice of sorcery and divination, and punished with corporal punishment any persons consulting sorcerers, with death those who exercised magic themselves. The "Chambre Ardente" tried some cases, and the last case ever brought before such a tribunal resulted in the condemnation in 1680 of a woman named Voisin for sorcery and poisoning in connexion with the Marquise de Brinvilliers.

The law against sorcery held its place is French legal works till at least the middle of the last century.

It was treated at length both by the Sieur de Lamarre [Footnote 623-4] and by Muyart de Vouglans. [Footnote 623-5] The latter distinguishes white from black magic, the black only being criminal as a part of the larger offence of lèse-majete divine, which included also heresy, blasphemy, and perjury. Burning was the usual punishment.

Among the more remarkable of the indicia upon which torture might be inflicted was the finding on the premises of the accused instruments of magic, as wax figures transfixed with needles, feathers in the form of a circle, or a written pact with the devil.

Pretended exercise of magic is now punished by the Code Pénal.

A very curious case of slander is mentioned by Merlin. [Footnote 623-6] It was tried in 1811 in the department of Yonne. The slander consisted in an allegation by the defendant that he complainants had danced around the devil, who was seated on a gilded arm-chair as president of the dance. The tribunal of police thought the matter more a subject of ridicule than of injury and dismissed it, but this judgment was quashed by the court of cassation on the ground that the charge was one which might trouble the public peace.

Spain and Italy there is a considerable body of legislation on the subject of witchcraft. For instance, the code of the Siete Partidas [Footnote 623-7] in Spain punished with death those who acted us acted as diviners or witches, especially in love matters. A distinction was drawn between divination by astronomy, which was legitimate, and that by augury from birds pr by incantation over water or a mirror.

On the Continent, as in England, there was during two centuries a steady flow of literary attack on the reasonableness of belief in witchcraft. The earliest attack was made in Germany, the country which had distinguished itself by the vigour of its prosecutions of the crime. Cornelius Agrippa, in his De Occulta Philosphia, was not entirely orthodox on the subject; and it was more directly treated in the De Praetisgiis Daemonum of Johann Wier or Weier in 1563, twenty-one years earlier that Reginald Scot’s work. Wier was followed in the next century by Father Frederick Spee [Footnote 623-8] in Germany, and by B. BEKKER (q.v.) in the Netherlands. The work of Spee, originally published anonymously, appears to have caused a great sensation at the time and to have caused a relaxation of prosecutions in order to give opportunity for further inquiry. The work takes the form of fifty-two doubts, the first of which is "An Sagae Striges seu Malefici revera existent?" The general conclusion is that, although witches exist in general, the question of their operation in particular cases is open to so much doubt that it would be well to suspend proceeding for a time. The writer did not profess entire disbelief, as did Bekker. The main idea of De Betooverde Wereld of the latter is that good and evil spirits could have no effect or influence on earthly affairs, for spirit could not act on matter. All prosecutions for witchcraft were therefore unjust, and against the honour of God and the advantage of man.

During the same period other writers both lay and legal treated the question incidentally, Montaigne was skeptical; Montesquieu, while not actually intimating disbelief, enjoined the greatest care in trying accusations. As in England, the current of literary feeling was not uniformly opposed to popular belief, for Wier was answered by Bodin, and Luther and other eminent writers no doubt had full faith in the existence of witchcraft.

See Lecky. Hist. of Rationalism in Europe, vol. i. ch. i., where an immense number of authorities are cited; works on magic, such as those by Delrio and Garinet; Sheltema, Geschiedenis der Heksenprocessen, Haarlem, 1828; Soldan, Geschichte der Hexenprocesse, Stuttgart, 1843; and various reports of particular trials, e.g., the proceedings against fifty-three magicians at Logroño in Castile in 1610, by P. de I’Ancre (Paris, 1612), the trials in Sweden in 1669 and 1670, by Dr Anthony Horneck (London, 1790), the proceedings against G. Köbbing at Coesfeld in 1662, by Niesert (Coesfeld, 1872), and Les Procédures de Sorcellerie à Neuchatel, by Lardy (Neuchatel. 1866). (J. W†.)

More Related Articles: Apparitions


619-1. Dig., xlviii. 8, 13.

619-2. Paulus, Sententiae, v. 21, 23.

619-3. Cod., ix. 18 (De Maleficis et Mathematicis)

619-4. Const., 65.

619-5. Cod., i. 4, 10.

620-1. The name of one form of heresy (vauderie) came in time to denote a particular type of witchcraft.

620-2. A reference to the incubus a a matter of common knowledge occurs in the prologue to Chaucer's Wife of Bath's Tale.

620-3. Pt. ii. caus. xxvi. qu. 5.

620-4. Bk. v. c. 21 (De Sortilegiis).

620-5. The practice was also regulated by instructions promulgated by the Inquisition. A code of such instructions framed in 1657 will be found in the later editions of Cautio Criminalis (see below).

620-6. The extraordinary minuteness of detail by which the practice of exorcism was regulated, even in the last century, appears in a curious little book by Brognolo, Methodo de exorcisar expelindo Demonios (Coimbra, 1727).

620-7. For the Roman and ancient church law, see Smith's Dict. of Antiquities, s.vv.. "Magica", "Mathematici", and Dict. of Chr. Antiq., s. v. "Magic".

620-8. Foedera, vol. vii, p. 427.

620-9. See Hale, Ecclesiastical Precedents, cited in Stephen, Hist. of the Criminal Law, vol. ii. p. 410.

620-10. Inst., 44.

620-11. Parliamentary Writs (Record Commission edition), vol. ii. div. i. p. 403.

621-1. 2 State Trials, 1052 n.

621-2. Ibid., 930.

621-3. Ibid, 951.

621-4. Ibid., 1050.

621-5. Ibid., 817.

621-6. Ibid., 647.

621-7. Ibid., 1017.

621-8. In this case, tried at the assizes at Bury St Edmunds on March 16, 1664-65, two widows named Rose Culleuder and Annie Duny were accused of bewitching young children. The main points of the evidence were these. There had been a quarrel between the accused and the parents of the children, and the accused had uttered threats against them. The children fell into fits and vomited crooked pins, and once one of them vomited a twopenny nail with a broad head; they cried out the names of the accused in their fits; they could not pronounce the words "Lord," "Jesus," or "Christ" in reading, but when they came to "Satan" or "devil" they cried, "This bites, but makes me speak it right well." One of the children fell into a swoon after being suckled by one of the accused, and out of the child's blanket fell a great toad which exploded in the fire like gunpowder, and immediately afterwards the alleged witch was seen sitting at home maimed and scorched. Evidence of finding the witch's mark was given, and then evidence of reputation, viz., that the accused, besides being themselves accounted witches, had had some of their kindred condemned as such. A farmer swore that once when his cart had touched Cullender's house it overturned continually and they could not get it home. Sir Thomas Browne testified that the swooning fits were natural, heightened to great excess by the subtlety of the devil co-operating with the witches. Experiments upon the children were then made in court by bringing them into contact with the witches and others. These were of so unsatisfactory a nature that many present openly declared that they thought the children impostors. The chief baron in his summing up said that there were such creatures as witches was undoubted, for the Scriptures affirmed it and the wisdom of nations had provided laws against such persons. The report alleges that after conviction of the accused the children immediately recovered.

621-9. A remarkable instance is a case of Robinson v. Robinson and Lane (to be found in the Divorce Court Reports in 1859), where purely imaginary acts of adultery were recorded by the respondent in her diary.

621-10. 14 St. Tr., 643.

622-11. A Discourse of the Subtle Practices of the Devil by Witches (1587),and A Dialogue concerning Witches and Witchcraft (1603). John Webster's Displaying of Supposed Witchcraft (1677) takes a similar line.

623-12. Historical Essay concerning Witchcraft, 1st ed., 1718.

622-1. Monk v. Hilton, Law. Rep., 2 Exch. Div., 268.

622-2. Penny v. Hanson, 10 Cox Crim. Cas., 173.

622-3. Reg. v. Giles, Leigh and Cave's Rep., 502.

622-4. Lyon v. Home, Law Rep., 6 Equity, 655. A very similar case occurs among the plaidoyers of D'Aguesseau, Oeuvres, vol. v. p. 514.

622-5. All of these cases will be found in vol. i. of Pitcairn. In one case (noted at p. 216), a jury having acquitted an accused woman who had confessed under torture, the king had them tried for wilful error.

622-6. Pitcairn, vol. iii. p. 508.

622-7. The case, edited by Mr Thomas Wright, forms vol. xxiv. of the Camden Society's publications.

622-8. Cited in 6 State Trials, 647, where an account of the Salem trials will be found.

622-9. De Delictis and Poenis Tractatus Absolutissimus, Rome, 1754.

622-10. Published at Paris with an English translation in 1879.

623-1. Art. 44 gives the indicia which suffice to put to the torture. Art. 52 gives the questions which are to be asked by the judge.

623-2. The numerous allusions to Joan of Arc's witchcraft in the First Part of Shakespeare's Henry VI. will be very familiar.

623-3. L' Incrédulité et Mescréance du Sortilège Plainement Convaincue, Paris, 1622.

623-4. Traité sur la Magie, Sortilège, Possessions, Obsessions, et Maléfices, Paris, 1737.

623-5. Instituts au Droit Criminel, Paris, 1757.

623-6. Répertoire de Jurisprudence, s. v. "Sortilège".

623-7. Partida vii. tit. 23.

623-8. Cautio Criminalis, seu de Processibus Contra Sagas, the first edition (Frankfort [Frankfurt]. 1632) being anonymous, "auctore incerto theologo Romano", while later ones bear the name of the author. A full account of an ordinary trial for witchcraft will be found in the work. One of the most shameful parts of it, the stripping and shaving of an alleged witch, meets with the author's strongest reprobation.

The above article was written by James Williams, D.C.L.; Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford; Hon. LL.D., Yale; author of The Schoolmaster and the Law, Wills and Succession, The Institutes of Justinian, illustrated by English Law, and other works on legal questions; also of A Lawyer's Leisure, Ethandune, Simple Stories of London, in verse.

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-23 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries