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transplanted the complicated demon-worship of the Persians into the
Christianised portions of East and West ; the Germanic nations brought
with them a gloomy behef in devils ; thus heresy, superstition, and false
belief never quite died out, and most of the heresies were mixed up with
superstitious ideas. The shepherds of the Church, therefore, as well as
the earliest councils, saw themselves compelled now and again to take
measures against heretical teaching, against magic and sorcery, against
popular superstition, and against pagan, or semi-pagan, false beliefs.
Cf . below. Concerning the opinions of the early Church on sorcery, see also
Hansen, pp. 21-31 ; for the utterances of scholars on the subject, see
p. 151 ff. of the same author ; Riezler, p. 41 fi. Both these authors, in
a most one-sided manner, and with ever-recurring attacks, make the Catholic
Church and theology, especially scholastic, chiefly res2)onsiblc for the
witch-persecutions. Riezler, at any rate, allows its full weight to the
pagan element in the witch craze and does not ignore the conflict waged
against sorcery by the early Church (pp. 21 ff., 26) ; in Bavaria he finds this
' healthier tendency in the church attitude towards sorcery actually
the dominant one till far into the sixteenth century ' (p. 32). Side by


This is the view of sorcery and witchcraft set forth,
for instance, in the famous, so-called, Ancyran Canon
Episcopi\ which was incorporated in the ecclesiastical
law. ' The Bishops and their assistants,' so runs the
preface, 'must work with all their might to eradicate
entirely from their dioceses the corrupting arts of sooth-
saying and sorcery invented by the devil ; whenever they

side with tlie pagan belief in sorcery, however, Riczlor recognises a church
belief in the same phenomenon, which, according to him, was introduced
among the people ])y tlie ChtUfch (p. 36 ff.). This ' unhallowed tendency,'
he saj-s, ' came in with the thirteenth century, and affords one of the most
convincing proofs of the danger to true religion which overweening
ecclesiastical power bears within it ' (p. 36). This ' church belief ' in
witches, ho says, was the invention of the inquisitors after the thirteenth
century (p. 37 ff.) ; ' this indeed cannot be actually proved, but it is self-
evident to those to whom the gift of historic insight has not been wholly denied '
(p. 38). ' Only when we do not blindly exclude the idea,' Riezler further
remarks, ' that the belief in witches was powerfully supported by the
Church, does the fact that such a superstition should for centuries have
dominated even the cultivated classes, lose its enigmatical character.'
(\Miere, however, do the Protestants stand in the matter ?) At p. 53 f.
Riezler works himself up against ' the modern apologists of the Church '
on the question of the ' Church's beUef in witchcraft.' Towards the end
of the fifteenth century, he says, ' an intelligent movement of opposition
to the witch craze and to witch persecution, a movement in full corre-
spondence with the growing culture of the humanist period ' (here Riezler
forgets that at p. 67 he has conceded to Dr. Hartlieb, the much-travelled
physician, diplomat, humanist, and connoisseur of literature, a man
standing on the topmost intellectual heights of his age, a belief in the
power and manifold working of the devil on earth) ' was stirred up in the
German nation and among the secular tribunals of Germany' (p. 81 ff.)
'and gave cause to hope for the best of fruits.' But through the appear-
ance of Summis desiderantes (bull on witches) and the Malleus (Witches'
Hammer), which he now holds responsible for the whole after course of
events (although the epidemic manifestation of witch-persecution only
begins towards the end of the following century), ' the exact opposite
happened.' Even when in the sixteenth century trials for witchcraft were
made over to the secular law-courts, ' they still remained a matter of religion,
though not in full purity ' (p. 48 ff.). Still more radically does Hansen go to
work. For him it is the Christian doctrine of a kingdom of pure spirits which is
the origin and cause of all the aberrations of the superstitious belief in witches


find a man or a woman given up to this vice they must
turn such persons out of their dioceses as disreputable
characters. For the apostle says : "A man that is an
heretic, after the first and second admonition reject"'
(Titus iii. 10). " Perverse and wicked are those, and they
will be held captive by Satan, who have forsaken their
creator and who seek the help of the devil," and therefore,

and sorcery, while on the other hand he considers the elements of popular
superstition in this respect, inherited from heathendom, as harmless in them-
selves. Not only the Church Fathers, especially St. Augustine, but even the
Holy Scriptures of the Old and the New Testament are subjected to the
severest criticism from this point of view. The scholastics come off very
badly : they are said to have evolved the notion of witches which inspire
the later procedure in witch -trials, and they are treated as if the pages of
their works were full of nothing but witch-superstitions. ' It was through
the harmonious co-operation of theological speculation and inquisitorial
practice,' as Hansen with untiring reiteration assures his readers (see, for
instance, pp. 305 ff.) ' that the fantastic theories about witches grew, since
the thirteenth century, in the brains of the cultured classes.' The merit
of having finally put an end to witch -persecution is due solely, in Hansen's
opinion, to the modern naturalistic philosophy of life (see pp. vii. 2 ff., 537
flf. ), while the elements of superstition on which this persecution was based
are even now, almost without exception, kept up in the doctrines of the
accredited rehgious systems of the day (p. vii.). Hansen differs in yet
another point from Riezler : he condemns words of abuse, such as forgers,
&c., with which Riezler abundantly loads historians of other opinions,
especially Janssen-Pastor. To such a method I make no reply ; he who
adopts it only injures himself. Against the imputations of blame to
the Church for having assigned dogmatic value to the witch-superstition,
and especially against Riezler, Duhr remarks {Die Stellung der Jesuiten,
p. 20) : ' The mode of argument suffers from an inward and fundamental
error : it confounds the teachings of theologians with dogmatic decisions
and doctrines of the Catholic Church. To the quintessence of almost all
witch-trials belong witch flights and dances and devil's courtship, and
yet these things were never regular dogmas of the Catholic Church. Witch -
flights and witch-dances have no place in any Papal bull, and even if they
had, they would not thereby become church doctrines, any more than
devil's courtship, although the latter in the Bull Summis desiderantcs is
included in the list of crimes reported on by the inquisitors in Germany.
True it is that many theologians ought to have gone to work more cautiously
and critically ; but this is equally true, if not more so, of the jurists.'


from a pest of this sort, the Holy Church must be

Tlie Canou brings forward proofs to show how much
of the old heathen behef in magic had still been retained
among the people who had become Christian. Among
the Greeks it was believed that human beings could
change themselves into wolves ; Thessahan women, by-
means of their salves, change human beings into birds,
donkeys, or stones ; they themselves fly up into the air
to carry on courtships, and actually have power to bring
down the moon from heaven. The goddess Hecate was
regarded as the black goddess of night, as the president
of all the occult and nocturnal arts of magic. Among
the Romans it was beheved that sorcerers and sorcer-
esses had the power to cause good or bad weather, and
to destroy the crops in the fields ; that by demoniacal
might they governed nature and could injure and heal,
excite hatred and kill. The witches ( Strigae and Lamiae)
fly about at night killing children, and enticing by the
wiles of love those whom they wish to put to death. ^
' Still now, even,' says the Canon, ' there are certain
wicked women who, misled by the wiles and tricks of the
devil, beheve and declare that in the nocturnal hours,
W'ith Diana, the goddess of the heathen, or with Herodias,
and in the company of several other women, riding on
certain animals, they can in the midnight stillness tra-
verse many lands, and they say that they must obey

' ** Concerning the magic of the ancients and its connexion with the
Greek and Roman state religions and the Pythagorean and Platonic
philosophy, see DoUinger, Heidentum und Judentum (Ratisbon, 1857)
p. 656 ff. See also Paulus, Real-Encyklopddie, s. v. Magie iv. 1365-1420,
especially on the Strigae et Lamiae ; I.e. iv. 1391, on the Thessalian women,
1394, and the sources there quoted ; on Hecate, I.e. iii. 1085 ff., see Baum-
stark's article.


the orders of their Queen in everything, and that on
stated nights they are ordered off on her service. And
these women who have thus fallen away from the faith
have not only gone to ruin themselves, but they have
dragged many others with them into the destruction of
unbehef. For countless numbers have let themselves
be led away by this false superstition and have come
to regard those things as true ; they err, in that they
beheve in them, from the right faith, and they become
entangled in the errors of the heathen, for they beheve
something to be divine or a deity which is outside the
one true God. Therefore the priests in the churches
entrusted to them must preach to the people of God
with all earnestness, and teach them that all these things
are nothing, and not from the Spirit of God, but from the
wicked spirit who puts false ideas into the minds and
hearts of behevers. Satan, who can take on the appear-
ance of an angel of hght, directly he has taken captive
the mind of some woman or other and subjugated her
by means of her unbehef, changes into all sorts of forms,
conjures up in dreams before the soul he holds in his
power now joyful scenes, now sad ones, now known, now
unknown persons ; and the victim believes that all these
visions are not merely imaginary, but real and actual.
Who has not seen in dreams and visions of the night
things which in a waking state he has never beheld ?
And who would be so simple and foohsli as to believe that
all that he saw only in the mind existed also corporeally ?
Therefore it must be proclaimed to all people that any-
one who believes such things has lost the true faith : and
whoever has lost the true faith belongs not to God but
to the devil. By the Lord it stands written that all
things were made by Him ; whosoever, therefore, believes


that any creature can be changed into a better or a
worse form, or into any other form, except by the Creator
Himself, that person is without doubt an unbehever and
worse than a heathen/ ^

The opinion expressed in recent times,^ that the
superstitious ideas alhided to were introduced into
Germany by the Romans, is very one-sided.-' On
the contrary, no less luxuriantly than among the
Greeks and Romans, indeed far more fantastically,
gloomily, and uncannily than with these nations, did
superstition and sorcery develop among the Germanic
peoples. They grew naturally out of the Germanic
system of deities, which, not content with a stately host
of higher divinities, peopled earth, sea, air, and the

' The Canon appears fii'st in an instruction on diocesan visitations
written by Regino, Abbot of the Convent at Priim (fQlS). For fuller
details about the Canon, see Soldan-Heppe, i. 130, note 3. Soldan says
erroneously (i. 131) that the Canon rejects altogether the possibility of
demoniacal sorcery. ** See the genuine Canon of the Synod of Ancyra
in Hefele, i. (second edition), 241. See now, Hansen, 78 ff.

- ** By Soldan-Heppe, i. 104 ff.

3 ** Riezler also \vrites (p. 10) : ' It is indisputable that the witch-
superstition absorbed into itself strong elements of the old Germanic
popular beUef. In spite of the connexion between heathen Germanic
and classical notions, we may perhaps venture to say that the content of
the witch -superstition which lay at the bottom of the great persecutions of
the fifteenth century — in so far as it includes primitive heathen elements —
is rooted more in the Germanic than in the Roman mythology.' See also
p. 12 on the ' old Germanic witch-superstition ' in Saxony, and how it was
combated by the Christian legislator Charlemagne. On the other hand,
Riezler says in opposition to Grimm, p. 14 : ' Of any cormexion with the
later Witch Sabbath, v/ith sacrifices and popular assembhes among the
heathen Germans, there is certainly no question.' At p. 18 ff. he refers
again to the ' allusions ' in the Uterature of the ]\'Iiddle Ages to the existence
of a popular superstition which as undoubtedly originated in Germanic
heathendom as it was connected with the beUef in witches. P. 26 ff. he
brings forward the evidence for the existence of a belief in magic in
Bavaria in the eighth century.


underworld with an immeasurable multitude of giants,
hobgoblins, elves, dwarfs, wights, and imaginary crea-
tures of all sorts ; which did not exclude matrimonial
alhances between men, giants, and gods, and which in-
vested human beings, who were under the influence of
these higher beings, with all the wonderful powers which
were attributed to gods and demi-gods.i The con-
ception of the magic power grew to such an extent that,
during the slow dechne of heathenism, it attached itself
to the gods themselves and the deities came to be re-
garded as magicians ; this idea is embodied by Snorri
Sturluson (f 1241) in the Ynghnga Saga. As in Snorri,
so, too, in other original sources, women especially appear
as mediums of sorcery, and the typical figure of the
northern sorcerers, made up of a variety of features,
corresponds exactly to the idea of a witch, except that
later ages regarded as demoniacal that which in
heathen times was considered godlike and wonderful.
These sorceresses understood the language of birds
and the art of soothsaying, could make themselves
and others invulnerable, and could raise the powers
of the body to a supernatural state. Their runes
and magic incantations conferred skill and eloquence,
victory in battle, protection from poison, heahng
of wounds, help in storms, deliverance of women in
difficult childbirth. They were able to raise the sea and
to quiet it, to control fire, to dam rivers, to bring on
floods, to call up spirits and then scatter them again
to all the winds, to excite sexual passions, to bewitch
animals, to bring back men and women and monsters

' ** J. Grimm, Dtulsche, Mylholorjie (3rd. od. Gottingcn, 1854), pp. 983-
1059. Cf. K. Simrock, Ilandbuch der deutschen Mythologie (5th cd. Bonn,
1878), pp. 469-478.

221 uisTom' OF Tmc ckrman people

from iloatli. Like Wiiotan and Frouwa they could
chaiiire into wolves and cats, the sacred animals of those
gods ; they could fly through the air in feather-garments
like swans or geese ; they rode through the air in the
morning and evening on wolves and bears and assembled
in troops at nightly solemnities in the places where of
old sacrifices and meetings had been held.^

' An exhaustive comparison between ancient mythology and mediaeval
popular superstition and the later development of belief in witchcraft
has been drawn by James Grimm : ' Down to the most recent times we
can trace a distinct connexion between the whole system of witchcraft
and the sacrificial rites and the spirit world of the ancient Germans'
{DeuLsche Mythologie, 997). The fact that women played the principal
part in German sorcery and witch -superstitions he explains as follows :
' The various terms of nomenclature of sorcery has led us to the ideas of
doing, sacrificing, spying, soothsaying, singing, blessing, dazzling, cooking,
healing, and reading. They show that magic was carried on by men as
well as by women. Our earUest antiquity, however, has attributed the
art chiefly to women.' ' The reason of this is to be sought for in all the
outward and inward conditions. Women, not men, were entrusted with
the selection and concoction of powerful means of healing, just as with
the preparation of the daily food ; preparing salves, weaving linen, binding
wounds, their soft, tender hands could do the best ; the art of writing and
reading letters and words was assigned chiefly to women in the ]\Iiddle
Ages. The disturbed existence of men was filled with war, hunting,
agriculture, and manual labour ; women had the qualification of experience
and comfortable leisure to fit them for occult magic. The imaginative
powers are warmer and more susceptible in women than in men, and hence
an inward, holy power of soothsaying has been attributed to them. Women
were priestesses and soothsayers ; Germanic and northern tradition has
handed down to us their names and their fame ; somnambulism is still
at the present day most common in women. Again, looked at from one
point of view, we find that the art of magic belonged especially to old
women, who, dead as it were to love and work, gave up their whole time
and thoughts to secret arts.' ' Popular fancy in its varying moods attributes
varying connexions of Norns and Volvs, of Valkyries and Swan- Virgins
with divine beings and sorceresses. It is on all these things together, or a
mixture of natural, fabulous and imaginary events, that the mediaeval
belief in witchcraft rests. Fancy, tradition, knowledge of means of
healing, poverty, and leisure have made sorceresses out of women — the
two last reasons, also, have made sorcerers out of shepherds.' J. Grimm,


In the tenth century, Bishop Burchard of Worms
(j 1025), on the basis of the Canon Episcopi, wrote a
special ' Beichtspiegel ' which described in greater detail
the witch-superstition still developing among the people
of Germany and connected with old Germanic heathen-
dom. Burchard decreed that every penitent at con-
fession should be asked the following questions : ' Have
you put faith in the assertions of some people that they
can raise storms or change the hearts and minds of men ?
Have you beheved that there are women who by magic
art can change the dispositions of human beings, turn
hatred into love and love into hatred, or by their witch-
craft injure or steal the possessions of other people ?
Have you beheved that there is any woman who could
do what some women, deceived by the devil, assure us
that they are obhged to do ; namely that with a troop
of devils, who have changed themselves into the form
of women (whom the stupidity of the people calls
sorceresses) they are obhged on certain nights to ride

Deutsche Mythologie, 84 ff., 369, 85 ff., 374-375, 991. Instead of tliis
explanation, which lies in the very nature of things, of the fact that the
female sex was also the chief victim of the later persecution of witclies,
Hansen, true to his whole tendency, here again puts the blame on the
Church, and actually this time on the ascetic tendency of Cliristian
theology (p. 483 ff.), which, in his opinion, 'has led to contempt for women,
and in the time of witch -persecutions was a cause of immediate danger
to their sex' (p. 485). Riezler writes (p. 11): 'Even according to the
heathen showing witches were, by a very great majority, women, who by
supernatural (sic !) influence damaged the property, health or lives of
human beings.' At p. 185 ff. Riezler expands in a thorouglily
erroneous manner on the ' mediaeval ascetico-scholastic view of women,
compounded of fear and depreciation ' ; Luther also ' is under the spell
of this opinion ' (p. 186). ' Next to this ascetico-scholastic view of the
representatives of the Church,' he says at p. 187, ' we must remember
in the second ])lace that pagan l)elicf had already attributed the j)ower
of witchcraft chiefly to women, and also that witch-trials sometimes
arose out of the gossip of neighbours.'



on animals and Ix' ivckoned among their company ?' '
If t lu> jxMiitt'nt answers these questions in the affirmative,
a eorrespoiulinpr penance must be imposed on him for
every sujierstitious offence.- As regards the behef in
* weather-making/ Agobard, archbishop of Lyons, wrote
as earlv as tlie nintli century, that there was in his
neiglibourhood a general superstition, shared by all
towns, that hailstorms and thunderstorms were pro-
duced by human caprice, namely by the sorcery of those
who were called * tempestarii," or weather-makers. It
was also believed that these ' tempestarii ' carried away
the fruits, which had been knocked down by tempests,
into other lands in airships. Persons suspected of
being weather-makers of this sort were in danger of
being stoned.'^

Pope Gregory VII. on April 19, 1080, enjoined on

^ ** See Riezler, 25, where there are fuller details on the corruption
of this text.

- See Fehr, Der Aberglauhe und die Icatholische Kirche des Mittelalters
(Stuttgart, 1857), pp. 114-125. ** See also Hansen, 78 ff., 82 ff., and
Riezler, 24 ff. (Riezler, p. 18, makes the discovery that Burchard of
Worms, praised by Hansen as an 'enlightened man,' 'was a serious pre-
cursor of the Jesuitical moral casuistry.')

' H. J. Schmitz, Die Bussbucher und die BussdiszipUn der Kirche
(Mayence, 1883), p. 308. Fuller details about the church ordinances
against the immissores (empestatum are given at pp. 309, 460, 479, 577,
663, 811. At p. 460, for instance, in the so-called Arundel Penitential
we read : ' Qui aliqua incantatione aeris serenitatem permutare tempt-
averit ... 3 annos peniteat.' For Agobard of Lyons, see also Hansen,
p. 73 ff. Hansen calls him, like Regino of Priim and Burchard of Worms,
' an enlightened man,' but connects also with this praise the following
unfounded charge against the Church : ' If Agobard ends with the state-
ment that in his time the folly of the world had grown so great that
" Christians nowadays believe things so silly that formerly no heathen
would have believed," we see in this growth of superstitious notions
(a growth also emphasised by Hinkmar) an effect of the education of the
people through church manuals of confession, and the sanction which
this old superstition had obtained through the practice of confession.'


King Harold of Denmark that ' he must no longer
tolerate among his people the gruesome superstition
according to which Christian priests or wicked women
were held answerable for bad weather, storms, unfruitful
years, or outbreaks of plagues/ ^

Down to the thirteenth century, even after civil

' Gfrorer, Gregor VII., vol. ui. 126. ** Cf. the article ' Gregor VII.
ein Hexenverfolger ' (against Gebhart's assertion in the Revue des deux
Mondes, 1891, October), in the Stimmen aus Maria-Laach, 1891, vol. xli.
599 ff. ' In this letter of the great Pope,' says Hansen (p. 96) in praise of
Gregory VII., ' there speaks an enlightened mind which extends far
beyond the horizon of many of his successors on the Roman See.' In
Germany also, in the earlier IVIiddle Ages, the clergy were opposed to
witch-trials. L. Weiland, in the Zeitschr. fiir Kirchengesch. (ix. 592 if.),
draws attention in this connexion to a contemporary record from the
Benedictine abbey Weihenstephan nearFreising {Mon. Germ. Hist., 88, 13,
52) concerning an act of popular justice in 1690, which contains all the
elements of the later witch -trial : informing by enviers and haters, water
probation, torture, and tlie stake. The water trial proved favourable
to the poor witches, the two-fold torture they endured without uttering a
single confession ; but nevertheless they were burnt. ' The narrative,'
Weiland goes on, ' is an eloquent proof of the attitude which the clergy of
the early IVIiddle Ages held towards such outbreaks of the old heathen
popular spirit. The monk of Weihenstephan regarded the women who
were burnt as martyrs, the masses of the people as possessed by the devil ;
that anything of the sort could take place he ascribes to the decline of
church discipline during a conflict between two antagonistic bishops.
That later, also, many of the German clergy did not share in the foolish

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