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God and nature. Men and cattle die through the
villainy of these women, and nobody dreams that it
happens by means of witchcraft. Numbers of people
are tormented with the worst diseases and do not know
that they have been bewitched.'

Nobody, however, could be ruled by the devil and
misled into witchcraft except of his own full and free
will, and every Christian possessed the surest means
against all the arts of witches. Above all he must
remain firm in his belief in Christ and in all the doctrines
of the Church, and must keep his conscience pure from
mortal sins ; he must cherish reverence towards the
Holy Sacraments, faithfully observe the commands
of the Church, and make use of the Church's bene-
dictions and consecrations. Trithemius warned his
readers against superstition, but himself propounded
superstitious methods for protection against bewitch-
ment, especially the witch-bath, which he described
in minute detail.'

' No less, however, than the witches and bad spirits,*

' Fuller details are given in J. Sill)crnagl, Johannes Trithemius (2nd
ed. Ratisbon, 1885), pp. 132-158. W. Schncogans, Abt Johannes Trithemius
(Kreuznach, 1882), pp. 226-242. ** For Trithemius, cf. also llauseu's
QiieUen und Untersttchungen, p. 291 ff.


SO Trithomius iirgtHl on tlie Emperor Maximilian, ' must
all magicians ami iiivgular oxorcisers of devils be de-
stroyed root and brancli. They go about with bans
and exorcisms, boast that they can collect devils together
in a circle, exhibit them visibly in a crystal, or shut
them up in some vessel or other. These mischievous
people deal in nothing but deceit and superstition and
are guilty of much wickedness, as any worthy person
can well imagine. They enter into positive leagues
with the devil, load themselves with quantities of books
of all sorts, full of immorahty, godlessness, and fraud,
and pretend that they are written by ancient philo-
sophers and wise people ; by reference to these books
they deceive many incautious and inquisitive people,
and plunge them into the devil's pit ; tell lying tales
of great and incredible things which startle and astonish
those who hear them. They brag of wonderful things,
which are all a pack of lies, for all that is in these books
is pure invention.' i

When the ' Witches' Hammer ' was written the
inquisitors Sprenger and Institoris,^ as they themselves

' In his answer to certain questions of the Emperor Maximilian 1.
concerning witches. It will be found in German in the Theatr. de veneficis,
357-358. ** In the legal literature emanating from the laity — for instance,
in the 2nd ed. of Ulrich Tengler's Laienspiegel (Augsbiurg, 1511) — the
trial of witches is treated on the basis of the Malleus. See Riezler,
p. 132 £f. ; Hansen, p. 516 ff. and his Quellen und Untersuchungen, p. 296 ff.
Hansen asserts (p. 516) that Tengler allowed his clerical son to add this
expansion to his work. On tlie other hand, Riezler is of opinion that the
preface to the new edition, -wiitten by this son, when compared with the
text of the chapter on witches, excludes the possibihty of the latter having
proceeded directly from this son, i.e. the priest Christopher Tengler.
Probably, however, the son put the father up to filling in this gap.

2 In G. V. Buchwald {DeutschesOesellschaftsleben, i. 129), itstands written :
' Sprenger and Gremper compiled the Witches' Hammer, and Pope Innocent
VIII. stamped it with his approval by the Bull Summis desiderantes


relate, had already, in the diocese of Constance and in
the town of Ravensburg, within five years, handed
over to the secular power for punishment forty-eight
witches who, according to their own confession, had
committed immoraUty with the devil. ^ If any woman
strongly suspected of witchcraft would not confess
at once under the first application of the rack, the
process of torture, so the ' Witches' Hammer ' decreed in
accordance with old legal statutes, must be repeated
on another day. This further torturing, however, was
not called a ' repetition of the rack,' because this,
' without further indications ' was not allowed, but a
' continuation ' of the first bout.

This dreadful statute, as the Jesuit Frederick of
Spee complained later on, ' gave opportunity to wicked
judges to do anything they pleased.' These judges say :

affectibus ' — in other words, he gave his approval in a Bull of 1484 to a book
not written tUl 1486.

' Malleus Maleficarwm, pars i. quaest. 1, cap. 4. In Upper Italy, it says
in pars iii. quaest. 14, an inquisitor in 1485, in the district of ' Wurmserbad '
(Bormio), sent forty-one persons to the stake, and moreover, 'omnibus
per totum corpus abrasis.' Against this abrasura, which was used for the
purpose of discovering the marks of the devil and hidden means of sorcery,
the German sense of shame and honour revolted at that period. ' In
Alemanie partibus talis abrasura, pracsertim circa loca secreta, plurimura
censetur inhonesta,' for which reason it never came into use there. With
regard to the abrasura ' est eadem ratio sicut supra de vestimentis exu-
endis ' ; concerning this, however, ' Dum ministri se disponunt ad question-
andum post expolient eum, vel si est mulier prius antequam ad carcercs
poenosos ducetur, ab aliis muliebribus honcstis et bonae famae expolictur,'
pars iii. quaest. 14. Later on all shame with regard to the abrasura per
totum corpus died out in Germany also. In the course of the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries this method came to be used everywhere by the
executioner's men in the most scandalous manner, even in the case of the
most honourable women of the burgher, noble and princely classes. The
Jesuit Frederick von Spee, expressed his profound distress concerning this
' scandalous, vile and disiionouring procedure, which did so great violence
to the ancient good German repute of modesty. ^Cautio criminalis, dulj. 31.


* Wo do not iiitoiul to use the rack a second time ;
far 1)0 it from us to do this without fresh and weighty-
reasons : wo aro only going to continue the process
anotlior day. We are well aware that it would be
contrary to justice and reason to repeat the trial by
torture ; God preserve us from being so inhuman and
cruol, wo only intend to postpone further proceedings
for another time ; for in proof that this is allowable
we have on our side excellent clerics and devout men,
well experienced in these matters, renowned all over
Germany and thoroughly versed in the methods of the
Inquisition/ * One would scarcely think it possible/
says the Jesuit, ' that even priests in a matter of so great
importance could as it were play with the words " con-
tinuation " and " repetition." '

' Verily, in my opinion, this is an unclerical piece of
barbarity, and this is not the first time that I have
had misgivings that it is these said inquisitors (Sprenger
and Institoris), who, through their torturing and tor-
menting, have brought this great multitude of sorcerers
and witches into Germany.' ^

The official activity of the inquisitors, invested with
papal plenipotentiary authority, was of short duration
in Germany. From the beginning of the sixteenth
century we find only isolated traces of this activity,
excepting in the town of Metz where the Dominican
Nicholas Savini still carried on bloody persecutions in
the years 1519-1520. In the town syndicus Agrippa
von Nettesheim and the priest John Koger Brennon,
he met with bold and successful opponents. ^

' Cautio criminalis, dub. 235.

- Fuller details are given in Binz, J oh. Weyer. 2nd ed. pp. 12-17. A
witch-trial in Basle in 1519 was presumably conducted by an episcopal


In general the management of witch-trials was
made over to the secular judges, who regarded the
interference of the inquisitors as an infringement on
their own jurisdiction, and who now bestirred themselves
zealously to track out and punish witches.

The method of procedure against a witch in a civil
law court at the beginning of the sixteenth century is
shown by the treatment which a perfectly innocent
woman, Anna Spiilerin from Ringingen, underwent at
Blaubeuren in 1508. According to her own statement,
which was confirmed at a later hearing of evidence, when,
the year before, her mother and some other women
were arrested on a charge of witchcraft, she had uttered
some words of righteous indignation, in consequence of
which she had become ' suspected of witchcraft ' and
had been sent off to prison at Blaubeuren. The very
same evening, without any previous legal examination
' an executioner and Hctor in the service of the honourable
council at Ulm ' came to her, and behaved most in-
humanly and dishonourably to her in order to wring
from her the confession that she was a witch. On her
persisting that she was innocent, she was taken ' to
another prison and inhumanly tortured not only once,
twice, three times or four times, but over and over
again ; all her hmbs were wrenched asunder, she was

functionary. Fischer, Easier H exenprozesse, 4. ** ' From Germany,'
says Hansen, p. 504, ' we have but few sentences of the Inquisition, for the
activity of the institution here, after tlie beginning of the sixteenth centurj',
had ahnost entirely ceased.' Sprengcr, however, can be identified after
1489 in Frankfort and in Cologne as inquisitor in a trial against an astro-
loger (see Quellen und Untersuchungen, 502 ff.), and Institoris was still at
work in 1 497 in Bavaria, and in 1 5C0 in Bohemia (Riezler, 96 ff . ), as a zealous
inquisitor against witclu's ; he was sent to Bohemia for tliis purpose on a
special mission by Pope Alexander VI. (see the Papal edict, dated January
31, 1500, in Raynaldus, 1500, No. GO).


robbed of \\cv reason ami lier live senses, so that slie no
longer eould see or hear as before.' ' Such martyrdom,
however,' said the tortured woman, ' did not appear
to be enough ; another executioner came from Tiibingen
with the baihff and threatened her that if she would not
confess, all the vcmus in her body would be torn open,
and she would be subjected to still severer torture : '
as she would not own to the least guilt the unhappy
creature had to be let out of prison. She appealed to
the Imperial High-Courts for compensation against
her false accusers. The Judges referred the matter for
further treatment to the tribunal of the town of Biberach,
but even in 1518 the case had not yet been settled.^

Towards the end of the fifteenth and in the first
decades of the sixteenth century we find only in very
rare cases detailed reports of witch-trials ; it is only from
short statements that we gather that in different
districts witches were tracked out, and that torture and
execution took place.

Thus in the Lower Ehine district in the years 1499-
1509, in Angermund, Ratingen, Viersen, Gladbach,
and Konigshoven, several witches were repeatedly
(one of them eleven times) stretched on the rack, and
some were burnt. ^

In the Cleves district in 1516 a trial conducted at
Dinslaken, before justices, notary and witnesses, against
a nun from the convent of Marienbaum, near Xanten,
accused as a witch, made a great sensation."^ An

' From the original reports of the Reichskammergericht, in Soldan-
Heppe, i. 459^63.

- J. H. Kessel, Gesch. der Stadt Ratingen (Koln and Neuss, 1877),
vol. ii. Urkundenbuch, 167-169. P. Xorrenberg, Gesch. der Pfarreien des
Dekanats Gladhach (Koln, 1889), pp. 146-149.

•' See the contributions of Crecelius in the Zeitschr. des Bergischen
Geschichtsvereins, ix. 103-110. Eschbach, 92-93.


executioner bragged before the Council of Frankfort-
on-the-Maine in 1494 that in the last two years he had
led about thirty witches at Boppard to the stake ;
from his long experience he gave a detailed description
of the way to seize and torture a witch, and he wished,
but in vain, to be appointed at Frankfort.^ In the
protocols of the Council of the town of Mayence of the
years 1505-1511 there are reports of evidence given
against supposed witches who were subjected to examina-
tion on the most trifling rumours. ■

Two ' witches,' women of thoroughly depraved
morals, hired to poison the Squire Hans Roder zu
Tiersperg and his little daughter, ' owned ' to no less than
five devils with whom they had had to do, and told of the
novel incident that on one of their journeys ' each of
them had ridden on her devil.' They were condemned
by the court of justices at Tiersberg and executed on
August 29, 1486.3 At Korbach in 1514 a witch brought
before the burgomaster and judge ' confessed ' that she
had been at different times a quill, a spider and a fly, and
that for this she well deserved to be put to death. '^ In
the Hildesheim district in 1496 two sorcerers were
beheaded ' because with their devihsh art they could
bring all women and girls to ruin.' ^ In Brunswick, in
1501, a witch was burnt who, according to her
confession under torture, ' had used witchcraft on the

' See Grotefend in the Milieilungen des Vereins fur Gesch. und Alter-
tumskunde at Frankfort-on-lhe-Maine, vi. 73.

- Horst, Zauherbibliothek, iv. 210-218.

^ Felix Roder of Diersburg in the Freiburger Didzesan-archiv,xv. 95-98.
In a town register of Pforzheim in 1491 two witches are mentioned :
Pfliiger, Gesch. von Pforzheim, 211. In 1498 a witch was executed at
Vienna : Schlager, Wiener Skizzen, Neuc Folge, ii. 35.

■* Curtze, 544. * Zeitschr. des Ilarzvereins, iii. 794-795.


c-loiuls.' ' (>iio also comes across the maddest ' con-
fessions ' in several witch-triaLs that took place during
the years ir)0()-ir)10 before secular judges and sworn
jurors from the burgher and peasant class in German
South Tyrol.-

' Ziitschr. dis llarzvcrcins, iii. 704.

- Rnpp. 143-175. ** 2nd ed. 145-170. I.e. p. 57 fT. for a trial of
sorcerers and witches in the FIcimsertal, conducted during the years 1501-
1505 in the Itahan South Tyrol, i.e. the old prince-bLshopric, the minutes
of which iiave lately been pul)lished by Panizza in the Arch. Trenlino, vii.
1-100. 199-247 ; viii. 131-147. The statements of the persons then accused
' comprise almost the whole field of the nocturnal journeys of witches and
their interviews with the devil, concerning whom in the above-men-
tioned Innsbruck trial (see p. 249 ff.) nothing is said.' In Lucern in 1490
two witches were burnt: Schneller, 351, n. 2. A very exact survey of the
witch-trials from 1240 to 1540 has lately been published by Hansen,
Qutilen und Unlerstichungen, 445-613. See also his appendix, I.e. G73, and
again in the Hisior. Zeilschr. Ixxxviii. p. 295.




After the outbreak of the schism behef in the power and
the arts of the devil became miiversally widespread,
and the demorahsation resulting everywhere from the
religious, social and political movements and struggles,
was especially favourable to the development of the
witch-superstition, procured for it an extension un-
dreamt of before, and led to the most barbarous pro-
cedure, which procedure in turn helped greatly to
increase the demorahsation of the people.

Through Luther and his followers ^ behef in the power

' Hansen, 536 ff., says indeed that ' Protestantism still further aug-
mented the belief in the devil.' But he is also anxious to make the omni-
potence of the mediaeval Cliurch responsible for all that is bad, and therefore
adds : ' The contrast of the Reformation to tlie mediaeval Church . . . did
not make itself felt in this department.' He here overlooks tlic following :
The Protestant theologians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, who
advocated the punishment of tvitches, do not appeal to the mediaeval theologians
and the Bull of Innocent VIII., but to the Bible, just as they appeal to
Scripture in defence of their new doctrine of justification, or their punish-
ment of heretics. See Paulus in the Histor. Jahrb. 1901, p. 183. See also
Schanz in the Tiibinger Theol. Quarlalschr. 1901, p. 3G. As to what
specially relates to Luther, Jordan says in his critique of Hansen : ' Enfin.
est-il tout-a-fait legitime, en un pareil sujet, do laisser de cote la Reforme ?
EUe n'a rien ajoute a la theorie dc la sorcelierie, jo Ic veux bien. Mais
Luther a donne au monde le troublant spectacle d'un esprit incontestablc-
ment grand qui, non seulemcnt par exces dc confiance en des raisonnenients


and influence of the devil, who was active in all men and
who exercised his arts especially through witches and
sorcerers, received an impetus, and spread in a manner
never known before. Luther gave accounts of number-
less devil-apparitions which had come to himself, and
of all sort of wonderful things which had happened ' in
realitv.' All his opponents he declared to be men
bodily, or at least mentally, possessed by the devil.
Everywhere, so he taught, ' the devil had a hand in the
game ' ; he was the cause of all sickness and misfortune,
of pestilence, famine and war, incendiarism, thunder
and hailstorms ; he mixed carnally with human beings
and bred children.^ ' We are all,' he wrote, ' both in
our bodies and our souls, subject to the devil, and
guests in the world of which he himself is prince and
god. The bread that we eat, the beverages we drink,
the clothes we wear, the air we breathe, in short every-
thing whereby bur fleshly hfe exists, is under his
dominion.' -

This subjection does not end, even with those who

non controles par I'experience en etait venu a adraettre trop facilement la
possibilite de certains faits extraordinaires, mais qui personnellement
croyait a toute hem'e en etre le temoin ou la victime. Les grands scoias-
tiques qui a coup sur ont trop remplace 1' esprit critique par la logique, n'ont
tout de meme pas, en pratique, donne au diable le meme role dans le monde
ou la meme place dans leurs preoccupations. II y eu la un exemple
nefaste, et on ne pourrait contester que les ecrits de Luther, si impregnc-s
de foi dans le siu-naturel diabolique, n'aient puissamment contribue
a ce debordement de credulite qui caracterise le 16'^ siecle bien plus encore
que le 15^' Revue des quest, histor. i. (1901), 607-608.

' ' Luther,' 8a5's Osborn {Teufelliteratur, 47), ' believed so firmly in the
phenomenon of devil's cliildien (begotten by the devil), that he once
advised a father, who himself believed his child to be a diabolical iove-
child, simply to throw the infant into the water.' Erlangen edition, Ix. 40.

- See our statements, vol. xii. 316-323. Luther's letters in De Wette, v.
153. Opp. lat. 24, 277 ; see also Evers, Martin Lmiher, iii. 147, n. 2.


have been born again, until they die ; in his natural
self, in all that he inherits from Adam, he who has
been born again remains to his end subject to hereditary-
sin and the servant of the devil. ^ ' Man is obliged to
will and to think as his lord, the devil, impels him/ -

If Luther in his Greater Catechism attributed to the
devil all the doings concerning which the witches were
questioned on the rack, he all the same called the witches
also ' sharply to account/ From his young days he
could tell ' how his mother had been greatly plagued
by her neighbour, a sorceress ' ; ' for she used to shoot
at her children so that they screamed themselves to
death/ ' And a preacher who only reproached her in
the congregation was so bewitched by her that he died ;
he could not be saved by any medicine. She had taken
some of the earth on which he had trodden and thrown
it into water and bewitched him with it, and he could
not have been made well again without this same earth.' ^

^ Luther's Collected Works, Eriangen ed. xxxvii. 383. See Evers,
Martin Liither, i. 100. ' Once upon a time there came to a young woman
at Wittenberg, who was ill, a vision, as though she saw Christ in a radiant
and beautiful form, and slie was about to worship the vision, flunking it
was Christ. But when Dr. Luther was fetched, he too saw the vision and
knew it was the devil's monkey-play, and he warned the young woman
not to let herself be duped by Satan ; then the young woman spat in the
devil's face, and he soon disappeared ; but the vision was changed into a
snake which rushed at the young woman and bit her ear, so that blood
came out of it and poured down, whereupon the snake also soon vanished ;
and this, and many other like things, Luther saw with his own eyes.' From
Luther's Table-Talk, quoted by Waldschmidt, 472. ** How the belief in
witch-stories was first introduced into Denmark and spread there by
Luther's Greater Catechism, and the disciples of the * Reformer,' is shown
by Plenkers in the Stimmen aus Maria-Laach, 1896, pp. G4 fT., 175 ff.,
392 ff., 494 ff.

2 De serv. arbitr. 0pp. lat. 33, 313. Cf. Evers, Martin Luther, i. 102.

^ Forstemann, iii. 9G. ** With Lutner's Manichaean belief in devils,
especially what he says about it in his Catechism, where there is more talk
about the devil than about Christ, and the unaccountable influence which


111 the first years of his public appearance he spoke
reasonably on the subjoct : ' Many people,' he said,

* believe that witches ride on a broom-stick or a ram
or a donkey's head or what not, to some place or other
where all the witches assemble and riot together as they
please ; but it is forbidden not only to do this, but also
to believe that it is done. As also it is not allowable
to believe that old women are changed into cats and
swarm round about at night.' In later years, however,
he spoke from the pulpit as follows : ' Sorcerers or witches
are the. wicked devil's whores who steal milk, raise
storms, ride on goats or broom-sticks, travel on mantles,
shoot, lame and maim people, torment children in their
cradles, change things into different shapes — so that
what is really a human being seems to be a cow or an
ox — and force people into love and immorality.' * The
devil's whores, the sorcerers,' he preached another time,

* often cause storms to destroy cattle, corn, houses and

througli it he exercised on tlie Protestant preachers, and through them on
the people, Diefenbach deals exhaustively in Der Znuberglaube des 16ten
Jahrhundert, pp. 1-3G. Luther's belief in witches appears in his Greater
Catechism in the explanation of the first commandment : ' To the number
of those who break the fu'st commandment of God belong the people who
make a compact with the devil, in order that he may give them enough
money, or help them in a love affair, preserve their cattle, restore what has
been lost, &c., such as sorcerers and necromancers.' Diefenbach, p. 8.
Diefenbach shows how greatly Luther's Catechism contributed towards
making beUef in witches the common possession of the Protestant people.
'He might also,' says Paulas {Katholik, 1900, ii. 469 ff.), 'have drawn
attention to the fact that Luther's Table-Talk had great influence in the
same direction. Luther's marvellous tales of the devil and his doings were
repeated again and again by numbers of preachers and writers in the
sixteenth century. Even in Catholic circles great attention was paid to
the Table-Talk.' Paulus cites as an example in point the Catholic pastor
of Schlettstadt, Reinhard Lutz, mentioned below. In his WarJmjtige
Zcilung von gottlosen Hexen, the latter refers, not to the Bull of Innocent
VIII., nor to the Witches' Hammer, but to works of Luther,


farms ; not that the devil is unable to do these things
by himself without sorcerers, but he is a lord of the
world and assumes to himself godhke majesty, and yet
will not act without human help/ ^ When Spalatin in
1538 told him that a httle girl at Altenburg was forced
by a witch to weep tears of blood, Luther said : * Such
a woman ought to be promptly punished with death.
The lawyers want too much evidence and they despise
these open and flagrant proofs. I have had to-day before
me a matrimonial case ; the woman had tried to poison
the man, and he vomited up hzards. When she was
questioned on the rack she answered nothing ; for such
sorceresses are dumb, they despise punishment ; the
devil will not let them speak. Such deeds, however,
are evidence enough that for the sake of frightening
others they ought to be made an example.' - ' To
witches and sorceresses, who steal eggs out of the hen's

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