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appeared twice a week in the servants' room, and
something had always to be kept back for him to eat.
Once when there were dumplings for supper, three of
them were put aside for him ; and because the maid-
servant took one of them the cat made a rumpus about
it the whole night through, and kept on running back-
wards and forwards on the leads, crpng out repeatedly :
" One dumpling, two dumplings, the third the maid
has eaten.'' In revenge he flew at the maid and
scratched so roughly at her hair that night that it
was a long time before she could make it tidy again.'
This same witness had also seen the cateress in the
stable milking her apron, the sweetest milk flowing
from its point, also how on a certain witches' Sabbath
she flew on a rake up and out of the chimney. This
was all so true that he was ready to die for it. During
the proceedings the crowd outside the court of justice
cried out : ' Burn her, burn her, to the stake with licr ! '
The court, however, decided not to convict the accused.^

' Fuller details about Bohemian witch- trialH arc given in Svatck, :)-40.
At Trautcnaii on one occasion the corpse of a ' sorcerer ' who had nlrcndy



310 HISTORY OF THE GERMAN PEOPLE

In tlio year 1588 the Utraquist parish priest, Johann
Stelcar Zeletawsky, said in his ' Geistliches Buch *
that witches and sorcerers were not able to call down
hail and thunder-storms by their own power ; hence
the belief in their power was unreasonable, and the
persecution of people suspected of witchcraft, inhuman.^

lain twenty weeks in tlie grave, but ' who had appeared to numbers of
people in his former shape, had cl.vsped them in his arms and crushed them
to death,' was dug up and brought to the place of judgment. When the
executioner, in the presence of a crowd of people, ' struck off the corpse's
head, tore the heart from the body and cut it up, the fresh blood flowed out
just as if it had been a live body. The corpse was committed to the
dames.' Wolfius. Lectiones memorah. ii. 848. ** The acts of a witch-trial
conducted at Braunau in Bohemia in 1617 are published in the Mitteilungen
des Vereins fiir Geschichte der Deutschen in Bohmen, xxxiii. (Jahrg. 1895),
pp. 285-291. The sentence is lacking; the accused appears not to have
been executed.

' I only know the book from the quotation of Svatek, p. 8. The author
makes a mistake in assuming that in the stand against witch-persecution
priority is due to the Bohemian writers over the German ones.



311



CHAPTER VI

JOHANN WEYER's STAND AGAINST WITCH-PERSECUTION

The first person who had the courage to stand up openly
and resolutely against the use of the rack for extortmg
'confessions' was JohannWeyer, house physician to Duke
Wilham III. of Cleves. In 1563 he pubhshed a Latin
work which, as had been predicted by the Benedictine
Anton Hovaeus, abbot at Echternach, ' brought his
name before the world with imdying reno^^^l.'l Prior
to its pubhcation Weyer had submitted his work to
the Emperor Ferdinand in order to obtain the copyright
of it, and in a petition he also begged for the Emperor's
personal help. Ferdmand granted him both these
favours in a eulogistic letter of November 4, 1562,
' because it was his duty not only to encourage and
praise such a glorious undertaking, but also to further
its success with the full weight of his imperial authority.' -
In the dedication of his work to his sovereign, Duke
Wilham, Weyer says : All the manifold rehgions by
which Christendom has been torn have not produced

' De 'praestigiis daemonum el incantalionibusac venefiriis, Biisileao, IflflS.
I make use of the 6tli edition, which appeared at Basle in 1583, and which is
printed verbatina in Weycr's Opera omnia (Anistolodami, IGGO), pp. 1-572.
See Hovaeua's letter, ibid. pp. G38-G40; cf. Binz, Joh. Weyrr, GG ; ♦* 2nd
ed. 72.

* Hauber, Bihl. magica, ii. 4(\. Escliljach, 100, ii. luf). ♦* Hiiiz, Ja/i.
Weyer, 2nd ed. M.



:]\'2 U\STO\\\ OV TIIK CKiniAN I'KOrLK

such groat evil as lias rosiiltod from the generally
prevalent opinion that old women who have become
chiKlish, and who are called witches or bad fairies, can
work injury to luuuan beings and animals without
administering poison. ' Daily experience teaches what
damnable apostasy from God, what indissoluble con-
nexion with the devil, what hatred of one's neighbour,
how much quarrelling and strife in town and country,
how many murders through the devil's help, are bred
and fostercil by this belief in the might of witches/
' The populace, badly instructed in the Christian rehgion,
attributes almost all illnesses to witches.' 'For a time the
hope was cherished that by means of soimd instruction
in the Word of God this abomination might be wholly
eradicated, but. on the contrary, amid the vehement
religious dissensions now raging, it increases more
and more.' 'Nearly all theologians keep silence con-
cerning such godless doings, the physicians tolerate
the false opinions as to the origin of diseases and the
healing of them by superstitious means, the jiu'ists are
entangled in old prejudices ; I do not hear of anyone
who, out of pity for mankind, dares to open a way
out of this lab^Tinth, or at least to lav a heaUng hand
on this deadly sore.' He himself, therefore, would
venture to devote his small strength to a matter which
was a disgrace to the Cliristiau rehgion.

In eloquent language Weyer praised his prince,
who had taken up a just and cii'cumspect attitude
in the witch business, and he appealed to the emperor
and all princes, secular and spiritual, not to let them-
selves be led astray by the witch-craze which had
been rooted among them for so many years. ' Then
would the eye of reason triumph over the fraudulent



WEYER'S STAND AGAINST VVITCH-PICRSECUTION 313

deceptions of the demons : seldom then would innocent
blood be shed, public peace would become more secure,
the sting of conscience would torment less often, the
dominion of the devil would collapse, and the kingdom
of Christ would spread more and more widely.' ^

In his teaching about the devil, his origin and his
power, Weyer, who was a Protestant,- is of the same
opinions as nearly all his contemporaries, to whatever
creed they belonged. He believes also in bodily
apparitions of the devil and in leagues between him and
the wizards and necromancers, whom the judges ought
to * send up in smoke to heaven.' He also by no means
disputes the effectual influence of the devil on the
so-called witches. It is the devil who gives the witches
certain salves by the use of which they are enabled
to fly out through the chimney and travel through the
air ; in Uke manner he contrives through his arts that
the witches shall become possessed of the behef that
it is in their power to make weather, to call down
hail and thunder-storms."' After the manner of the

' ** ' Aufruf an den Kaiser und die geiKtlichen und welt lichen
Fiireten,' first appended to the 3rd edition (1506, Binz, 2nd. ed. p. 30).

2 ** See below, p. 320.

■' How Weyer in dealing with thifl question made use of the pamphlet
of Ulrich Molitoris (see above, p. 2.54 f.), the following passages show :

Molitoris (reprint in Horst, Weyer (Lib. 3, cap. 10. Opj).

Zauberbibliothek, vi. 147-148): 210-211):

* Cum diabolufl ex motu elemen- ' Sinffulari insuper ratione in

torum, et planetarum cognoscat aero concitando illuduntur hao
mutationem aeris et temp^tates aniculae a diabolo, qui simulatque
fieridebere.quastamen ipse diabolufl ex eloraentorum motu et naturae
ut supra diximufl, facilius et citius cursu citiu.s faciliusquc quam ho-
quara homo praesoiro fiotorit. Vel mines mutationem aeris et tem-
cum divina providentia aliqua pestatcs fore praevidet : vel alicui
plaga et peccatorum correctio super infligcndam ex abstrusa Dei volun-
terrara aliquam insto dei iudicio U\U- i»l!igam, cuius ii^tirn siK-ctat



314



HISTORY OF THE GERMAN PEOPLE



* Witches' Hammer,' wliicli otherwise he combated,
Weyer gives the reasons why the devil busied himself
bv preference with the female sex, and had less trouble



cadoro dobot. cuius quideiu plago ct
correctiouis ipso executor a dix-ina
providentia deputatur, ita ut huius-
luodi plagam prcnoacit futuram.
Et oxtunc commov^et rnentos huius-
inodi innleficarum niulicruin ali-
quando cisdcm pcrsuadendo, ali-
quando ob invidiam quam tales
scelerate mulicres adversus proxi-
mum gerunt in vindictam movendo
easdem soUicitat ; quasi ipsas muli-
eres doccat : huiusraodi temjies-
tates et aeris turbationes provo-
care.' ' Diabolus instruit easdem, ut
quandoque accipiant lapides silicis
et versus occidentem post tergum
proiiciant, aliquando ut arenam
aque torrontis in aerem proiiciant,
aliquando quod in aliquam ollam
pilos porcorum bulliant, aliquando
quod trabcs vel ligna in ripas trans-
versaliter collocent : et sic de aliis
fatuitatibus. Et tamen talibus
faciendis communiter diabolus
praefigit eis diem et horam. Ve-
rumtamen fatue huiusmodi mulieres
diaboli doctrine credentes talia et
his similia faciunt. Itaque post-
quam ipse talia fecerunt, at succe-
dentibus tempestatibus, grandini-
bus et aliis incommoditatibus, quas
diabolus in tali tempore novit pro-
futuras, extunc credunt ille scelerate
fatue mulieres eventus huiusmodi
ex facto earum processisse, cum
tamen talia earum facta non possint
unicam guttam aque provocare.'

I have chosen these particular passages for comparison, because ' the
diaboUcal delusions connected with weather-making ' are described in the



pxequutio, intclligit : tunc harum
muiiercularuin mentes agitat variis-
que hnbuit imaginibus et sugges-
tiono niultiplici, quasi ob invidiam
in proximum, vel ob vindictam
adversus inimicum sint aerem tur-
baturae, tempestatcs excitaturae et
provocaturae grandines. Itaque
eas instruit, ut quandoque sihces
post tergum occidentem versus
proiiciant : aliquando, ut arenam
aquae torrentis in aerem coniiciant :
plerunque scopam in aqua intingant,
coelumque versus spargant : vel
fossula facta et lotio infuso vel aqua
digitum moveant : subinde in olla
porcorum pilos buUiant, nonnun-
quam trabes vel hgna in ripa trans-
verse collocent et alia id genus
deliramenta efficiant ; atque ut
arctius eas Satan illaqueet, diem
et horam sibi dictia rationibus
notas praefigit. Quum vero succes-
sum hae vident, nimiriun quas-
cunque desideratas in aere turba-
tiones, magis confirmantur : quasi
eventus hie subsequatur ipsarum
operationem, qua ne aquae quidem
stillam elicere possent.'



WEYER'S STAND AGAINST WITCH-PERSECUTION 315

with them than with men ; women were by nature
lewd, credulous, mischievous, wanting in self-control.
He appeals in confirmation to the example of Eve, to
St. Peter, who calls woman ' a weak vessel,' to utterances
of the Fathers, to Greek and Koman authors, and
actually to that saying of Plato, who ' somewhat
impolitely' was in doubt as to whether women
should be counted among reasonable or unreasonable
creatures. 1

But precisely because the female sex yielded so
easily to the seductive arts of the devil, because especially
the less intelhgent, enfeebled by ilhiess or age, distressed
in mind by poverty and suffering, and half childish
old women, could scarcely resist him, people must have
pity on them and not persecute and burn them so
mercilessly, but endeavour to rid them of their delusion
by Christian instruction.

* A witch I call a woman who, because she has been
deluded into the behef that she is in league with the
devil, thinks she can effect all sorts of evil by her thoughts
or her maledictions, by a glance, or by other laughable
means quite inadequate to the attainment of the
end in view ; for instance : disturbing the air with
unusual thunder, hghtning or hail, raising storms,
destroying the fruits of the fields or carrying them to
other places, fastening unnatural diseases on men and
animals and then curing them, travelhng through
vast spaces in a few hours, performing dances with
evil spirits, holding festive banquets with them, mixing

same way as here by nearly all the later writers of the sixteenth and seven-
teenth centuries who occupied theinsolvcs with witciicraft, but who
refused to believe that the witches tlieniselvcs could alter (lie weather, or
to credit the witches with this power.
' Lib. 3. cap. vi. Oi)i.. 178-179.



'Mi] HISTORY OF THE GERMAN PEOrLE

carnally with them, changing herself and others into
animals, and a thonsand other strange follies.' ^

All these things, however, were only delusions of
the devil ; actual leagues and carnal intercourse between
Satan and the witches were not possible, any more
than were the witch- journeys, and the transformation
of human beings into animals and monsters which
the ' w^itches ' confessed to : they were simply deluded
by the devil into thinking and beheving that they had
done impossible things.

"With deep indignation he inveighs against those of
the clergy who, ignorant, shameless and godless, from
cupidity or false ambition, meddled with the heahng of
diseases, sought to estabhsh that these did not proceed
from natural causes, and brought innocent women into
prison under the charge of being witches. With equal
vehemence he denounced the ignorant doctors and
surgeons, w-ho in like manner gave out that dis-
eases which could not be healed were the work of
witches. -

Almost all evils were set down to wdtchcraft. From
Protestant South Germany Weyer gave the following
example to prove this. ' When in recent years a thunder-
storm destroyed vines and crops far and wide, the
authorities, in those parts of the empire where, as is
beheved, the voice of the Evangel sounds more clearly,^
did not recognise in it the hand of God proving and
punishing, but they put it dow^n to a number of crazy,
senseless women, threw these w^omen into filthy prisons,
regular hostels of the devil, and after coercing them
by frightful tortures to the confession that they had

' Lib. 3, cap. 1. 0pp. 161-162. - 0pp. 149 sq.

■' ' Ubi clarius sonare vox Evangelii creditur.'



WEYER'S STAND AGAINST WITCH-PERSECUTION 317

raised the storm ^ and caused the damage, sacrificed
them solemnly to Vulcan/ 'Now it would well have
become the ministers of the divine word who beheved
that they were walking in the hght of truth, and of whom
it was supposed that they were untiringly given up to
the study of a " purer theology," it would well have
become them to have taught the authorities and the
ignorant common people something better/ - The mere
confession of weak-minded women, extorted on the rack,
was verily by no means sufficient ground for a sentence.
' When recently the fishermen of Rotterdam and
Schiedam went out herring catching, and the first lot
came back with a rich haul, while the nets of the last-
comers were full of stones, these men at once put
the blame of their ill-luck on a woman who was found
on board the ship. The woman at once " owned "
that she had flown out through the tiniest httle port-hole
of the ship and dived down into the sea in the shell
of a mussel fish, that by her magic arts she had diiven
away the herrings and thrown stones into the net in
their place. On the strength of this confession the
woman was burnt as a witch.' ^

In several sections he shows up exhaustively the
absurdity of witch-confessions to having injured other
people by exorcisms and magic spells, changed them-
selves into werewolves, &c., and cites various cases from
Westphaha and the Rhineland of innocent persons
being punished with death by fire. Not always, how-
ever, he said, did God leave such injustice unpmiished.

' 0pp. 213, §§ 9 and 10 ; 218, § 23. This ' tcinpestas calamitosa' chiefly
attacked ' Germaniae supcrioris provincias,' 211), § 27.

^ ' Propter poculiare ot indefessuin Thcologiiuj purioria atudiuiii, cui
se hi mancipasse crcduntur.'

=' Lib. 6, cap. 11, § 10. Opp. 490-4'Jl.



318 HISTORY 01' THE fiKltMAX PEOPLE

AVlion oiue in Diircn a hail-storm had destroyed all the
gardens, and the gartlen of one old woman had escaped
harm, this woman was thrown into prison and tortured
ou the charge of having been the originator of the
storm. While, with heavy weights on her feet, she
hmig ou the rack declaring her innocence, the judges
and executioners betook themselves to the public-house;
on their return they found the unfortunate victim dead,
and they set it about that she had taken her own life.
Soon after, however, the judge was seized with a raving
madness. As a punishment of God for the idiotic
cretlulity of the people Weyer related that, ' Of the
prymg, inquisitive people who in 1574 flocked to an
execution of several witches near Linz, forty were
drowned on their retmii in crossing the Khine.' ^

As regards the judicial procedure at witch- trials,
the imperial penal statute book of Charles V. was no
longer in the least observed. This code prescribed
that nobody should be thrown into prison and stretched
on the rack on a mere charge of sorcery or of soothsaying,
that the judge, if in such a case he proceeded to examina-
tion under torture ' should be bomid to make compensa-
tion to the martyred person for costs, suffering, injuries
and damage,' and that the false accuser should be
punished. It decreed further that the rack was only
to be used in case of injury veritably inflicted by sorcery.
' How entirely differently are these people proceeded
with nowadays ! Simply on a mahcious charge, and
an unreasonable suspicion of the stupid, vulgar populace,
the judges cause poor old women, who are bedazed or
possessed by the devil, to be thrown into prisons, those
hateful robber dens, and forthwith stretched on the

' Lib. 6, cap. 12-15. 0pp. 492-505,



WEYER'S STAND AGAINST WITCH-PERSECUTION 319

rack and questioned by the executioners. A\Tietlier
they will or not, whether guilty or innocent, they do
not escape from the bloody mauhng, until they have
made a confession. Hence it comes about that they
prefer to render up their souls to God in the flames,
rather than any longer endure the torment inflicted
by these ruthless tyrants. If, overpowered by the
brutality of the torture, they die under its grip, or
succumb to the long misery of imprisonment in the
dark, then there is a loud outcry that they have done
violence to their own hves (which indeed would not have
been surprising) or that the devil had wrung their
necks.'

' But,' he exclaimed to the harsh tyrants, the blood-
thirsty, inhmnan, pitiless judges, ' when once He shall
appear from whom nothing is hid, who trieth the
nearts and the reins, the Judge and the knower of the
most secret truth, then shall your works be made manifest.
I challenge you to appear before the most righteous
judgment-seat at the last day ! There sentence will be
pronounced betwixt you and me. There buried and
down-trodden truth will rise up again, will openly stare
you in the face and cry out for vengeance on your
murderous deeds. Then will your acquaintance with
evangehcal truth, of which some of you have bragged
so finely, be made manifest, and you will richly experi-
ence how much the true word of God has meant for you :
with the self-same measure that ye mete shall it be
meted to you again.' ^

Weyer devotes a special section to showing in detail
that the so-called witches cannot be included among

' Lib. G, cap. 4. Opp. 471-473. Cf. Binz, 54-5.3. *♦ 2ii{> (T.
E.schbach, 130-131.



:V20 HISTORY OK TirH (JKiniAN rKOPLK

the heretics, because, as he had already explamed, they
were nierel}' poor, feeble-minded old women misled
by the ilevil, whereas the name of heretic applied only
to those people who, after every possible exhortation and
instruction, persisted doggedly in their false opinions.
* It is not this or that particular error, but the stubborn-
ness of the will that constitutes a heretic/ 1 But even
heretics were not to be dehvered up to the flames.
In confiiination of this view he brings forward the
evidence of Erasmus.-

' Lib. C^, cap. 8. 0pp. 480, sq.

- ** Lib. 6. cap. 18. Binz (in the first edition), Eschbach, and also
Janssen have overlooked the fact that the whole of chap, xviii. i.s nothing
but an extract from Erasmus's pamphlet. Apologia adversus articuhs
aliquot per monachos quosdam in Hispaniis exhibitos (Basileae, 1529).
Paulus, who draws attention to this in the Katholik, 1895, i. 281, says
aptly : ' Herewith the only proof of Weyer's Catholic standpoint that
could stand in test, falls of itself to the ground.' See also Binz in the Allg.
Ztg. of February 11, 1895, with whom Riezler agrees (246 flf.) in the state-
ment that Weyer was a Calvinist. The opinion of Diefenbach (pp. 144, 157)
that Weyer was still a Catholic when he wrote his work De praestigiis is
untenable ; see Paulus in the Katholik, 1900, ii. 472. Concerning Weyer's
Protestantism, which can be proved with certainty after his 65th year,
Binz (2nd ed., 1896, p. 163 ff.) cites the following from the Praestigia
dacmonum ; the eulogistic mention of Clarenbach, who was executed at
Cologne in 1529 ; the warm praise bestowed on the Elector Frederick III.
of the Palatinate in the 3rd ed. of 1566 and the following ones ; the
occasional quotations from Luther and Melanchthon, and the appeal to them
{Opera omnia of 1660, pp. 53, 54, 240, 453, 535). ' Beyond this there is
nothing in the De Praestigiis which stamps the author as a friend of the
Reformation, and this, so it seems to me, designedly so. The book was
intended for both parties. Where Weyer, however, knows his cause to be
secure against attack his own innermost opinion breaks out. This was the
case in the German translation of the Praestigia daemonum (1567), which
he prepared for the magistrate of the reformed town of Bremen. In the
first preface: . . . "And although the Roman Church in this matter, as in
that of religion, adopted the abuse of the sword, it would nevertheless
be fitting that the Church which insists everywhere on being con-
sidered ' reformed ' should take the matter up Avith somewhat sharper
insight and more thoughtful judgment. The game, however, goes



WEYER'S vSTAND AGAINST WITCH-PERSECUTIOX 321

After having in the epilogue of his work, with a
fearlessness which in that age of universal terror of
witches is without equal, expressed his deepest contempt
for all arts of witchcraft and sorcery, none of which
could harm him — he only feared the real poison-mixers,
and for these he held no brief — and after exhorting
everyone ' to withstand all the snares of the devil by
means of true faith and godly conduct,' he concludes

the other way. . . . And so we do no penance with the Ninevites;
we do not acknowledge that iUness and misfortune are due to our
sins, for we are so very pious, so very evangeUcal, we are this, that and
the other, in order that we may exonerate oxirselves and make ourselves out
clean and pure." Conclusion of the 2nd preface : " I entreat therefore that
these holocausts of innocent peopl« shall not be carried on so ruthlessly as
I understand generally happeiLs among the Reformed Churches. It is,
however, Satan's method, when he finds a house cleansed and purged from
his iniquity, to return into it with seven worse devils." ' Further, in this
German translation he speaks disparagingly of confession, of abstinence-
days, of the sign of the cross and of holy water. Binz, p. 165 : * The end of
the book runs as follows : " In conclusion, I am ready to have all that I have
written submitted to the judgment of the universal Christian Church, and
will gladly recall anytliing in which I am convinced of error.' ' In the Latin
text tliis passage is as follows : " Nihil autem hie ita assertum volo, quod
aequiori iudicio catholicae Christi ecclesiae non omnino submittam. . . ." It
is the same in all the six editions of the Latin text.' The word rotruinae is
never introduced, while in the dedication to the magistracy of the town of
Bremen, where the abuse of the sword by the Church is spoken of, it is not
wanting. Nor is the word Catholicae translated liy Weyer by 'Catholic,'
but by universal (as is also done in the Augsburg Confession). At p. IGG :
The 'Liber apologeticus,' wliich is appended to the edition of the Praestigia
of 1577, contains a letter from Weyer to Brenz of October 10, 1565, in which
he deUvers liimself of the following eulogium : ' I have alwaj's esteemed and
honoured you liighly on account of the excellent doctrine and pious zeal
imder the guidance of which you have hitherto carried out the .serious
work of purging the Church of so much idolatry'; p. 160: Tin* pamphlet
De lamiis (1577) is dedicated to the Protestant Count Arnold von



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