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holds his (oni2;uo. hul no sooner does the devil hear his
voice Hum he lets him fall. When the witches' mis-
conduct with the devil issues in offspring, then the whole
lot of them come at a canter to the Wild Huntsman;
leil i)V the de\il, they gather from every nation and fly
over hush and hedge, over village, town and country,
over hill and dale, with fearful howls and horrid shrieks,
with the devil now in front, now behind, till they come
to the place appointed and there they bring forth
their children.' ^

Another pamphlet for the instruction of the people
was published in the years 1593 and 1594 by the
Protestant Siegfried Thomas under the title ' Eine
Richtige Antwort auf die Frage : ob die Zauberer und
Zauberinnen mit ihrem Pulfer Krankheiten oder den
Tod selber beibringen konnen.'- This work, ' supphed
with veritable stories old and new,' relates all sorts of
horrible things about the intercourse of witches with
the devil. Those who are specially well-pleasing
to the devil are ' the sorcerers who have sacrificed
their children, hke a certain Count, for instance, who
was a sorcerer and who had strangled eight httle
children and offered them up to devil, who had then
told him that he must tear his own son out of the
mother's womb and sacrifice it to him.' Children
who ' before they were born were given up to the
devil by their parents, could bewitch serpents and even
men with a look, and even kill them.' Once a witch

• The Hexenhuchlein, which appeared in 1576 without mention of
locality, printed in the Theatrum de veneficis, 306-324. In 1538 Weaker
published at Basle a work, De secretis libri xvii. Grasse, Bibl. magica, 52.

2 Erford, 1593, 1594.


had confessed tliat ' by means of unholy benisons
she had contrived that the devil should enter into the
bodies of all the monks of a monastery.' In Rome
also the same thing had been done. ' But a Jesuit had
persuaded the Pope that it was not possible for one
person to send the devil into the body of another ;
this, however, was quite possible by dispensation of
God, as is shown by stories that were related.' By a
' story ' from Blois, Siegfried Thomas had also learnt
what the devil had accomplished by means of a sorceress
' for the authorisation of the papistical mass.' ^

' For the benefit of all good Christians ' he depicted
in a series of sixteen scenes on a copper-plate all the
different proceedings of the witches ' according to
their own special confessions,' and to each separate
illustration he added a fuller explanation of the
different incidents. For instance, ' some of them ride
on broomsticks in the air far away over mountain
and valley. In some desert place they find their king,
who is riding in a golden car. Then they begin to
dance round a pillar on the top of which couches a
venomous toad. Because the toad will not come down
from its pillar, a number of other witches and sorceresses
come and tickle it with rods till it is obliged to come
down into the dancing-place. They ride to the dancing-
place on a dead horse. There they find all sorts of
extraordinary ciphers and all the hocus-pocus used in
sorcery ; also a number of black cats, and amongst these
a dead hand holding several tapers or candles. Soon
they raise a storm so that hail and lightning fall on
some house or other and set it ablaze. Then they
begin to carouse : opposite them sits their fiddler

' Bl. A 4, E 4", F. 2, H 2,


on a \\vc aiul abovo liiin a screecli-owl playing a
bagpipe. The wealthy sorcerers and sorceresses drink
out of gold and silver beakers, but the poor ones out
of cow-hoofs.' 'Then follows a scene of debauchery.
The sorceresses whom the devil does not carry off
bodilv arc buiDt in a cauldron. A notary stands by
and writes down how^ many sorceresses fly away through
the chinmey.' ' There is also a doctor at hand busily
engaged in the study of necromancy or sorcery. Others
who are also learning the art sit round on dead horses.
One of them is being singed under the arms with burning
candles. A toad and a cat are also of the party :
these animals being treasurers and secretaries in all
helUsh affairs. There is also a ram who is deep in a
book to learn where he is to ride with the dead witch.
Finally there is a soothsayer and chiromancer who are
seeking to discover what herbs are useful for sorcery.' ^

' At the end of the pamphlet is the ' copper-plate,' with a further ex-
planation in rhyme. As a supplement to this we may mention an engrav-
ing appended to a later edition of Ludwig Lavater's De spectris, lemuribus,
(kc, which appeared first at ZUrich in 1570 (see our statements, vol. xii.
340) and which represents a witches' kitchen. On the left, by the cauldron,
stands the witch, a tall haggard figure, not with the usual blear eyes, but
gazing intently at the cauldron with a sinister frown. Her hair hangs in
matted locks round her head, in her withered hand she holds a spoon with
which she stirs the cauldron. Tlie fire blazes on high, the cauldron bubbles.
On the right, opposite the witch, sits a devil on the floor. His head is a
mixture of a wild boar, a ram and a donkey. The horns are not wanting,
neither are the horse's hoofs, the claws and the tail. From his shoulders
project wings like those of a bat. He is looking at the witch and showing
his long tusks. Up in tlie air, high above the cauldron, floats another
devil with a hare's head, a long lean body, and large \ving3. Round the
cauldron hover the ghosts, and also snakes, lizards, bats, crickets, which,
impelled by Satanic force, plunge into the seething Uquid. Those who are
not willing to take the plunge are pushed in by the devil, who is sitting by
the cauldron with an iron fork which he holds in his claws. On the ground
round the cauldron Ue dead bones and magic herbs ; snakes also, lizards,
vipers, toads and suchlike animals crawl round about. In the background


* One of the many usages of witches and sorcerers
was to take a sacred host and give it to a donkey to
eat and then bury the donkey ahve by the church
door : this ceremony was followed by torrents of rain
like a deluge/ ' Some one/ Thomas goes on,' wanted
once to persuade me that in such a case the donkey
was a human being, for we often read of people being
changed into donkeys. But I see no sufficient reason
why a real donkey is not meant here, though I am quite
aware that Satan can change elements and bodies into
other elements and bodies when God wills and allows
him to do so/

Thomas was not quite in agreement with a 'marvellous'
antidote to bewitchments which, so he said, was in
universal use in Germany. ' If a sorceress has bewitched
a horse so that it becomes weak, palsied and barren,
people take the entrails of another horse, convey them
to a certain house, which they do not enter by the door
but by the cellar-trap, or some other hole, and there
they burn the entrails. No sooner has this been done
than the sorceress who has bewitched the horse feels
great pain in her body and is seized with colic in her
bowels ; she runs straight of! to the house where the

stands a skeleton with the scythe. This engraving reminds one of Shake-
speare's and Goethe's descriptions of a witch's kitchen. Horst, Zauber-
bibliothek, ii. 321, 365-373. ** Concerning the witch-pictures of the
sixteenth century see our statements, vol. xi. 228 ff. In 1507 Albert
Diirer published an engraving representing a witch : on the right of
the picture a naked old woman with a distaff and spindle in her right
hand sitting backwards on a goat and hunting through the air, holding
on with her left hand to the goat's right horn, while the storms of
heaven pursue her ; of. v. Retberg, Diirers Kupferstiche und Hohschnitte
(Munich, 1871), p. 48. Bartsch. Peintre-graveur, vii. 82 (No. 67). Heller,
A. Diirer, ii. (Leipzig, 1831), 477 IT. Hausmann, A. Diirers Kupferstiche,
(fee. (Hanover, 1861), p. 28. Prints of this sort were sold at the annual
fairs, ** Cf. Hansen, 526.

376 insTOPvY OF the cerman people

ontniils of tlio horse wore ])urned to get a red-hot coal
from the lire, ami tlien the pains in her body cease.
If they do not open the door to her instantly as soon
as slie knocks, tlie sorceress causes the house to be
euNeloped in thick darkness accompanied by such
terribk^ cracking as though the house was going to fall
to ]iieces. This usage'of tlie Germans is held by some
to be a devil's art/ i

As regards the punishment of sorcerers and witches,
Thomas said that even if it was not they themselves
who worked all the evil, but the devil, ' they must
nevertheless be examined on the rack and burnt,
because they had given themselves up to the devil,
and let themselves be used by him, and also so as to
be avenged on the devil, whose servants they had
been.' ~

A zealous antagonist of Weyer came forward in the
person of William Adolf Scribonius, professor of
philosophy at the university of Marburg. ' Weyer,'
he WTote, ' does neither more nor less than shift the
whole blame off the witches' shoulders and set them
free from all punishment, and this for no other motive
than to bring the art and the workers of sorcery every-
where into full swing. Yes, I say it boldly : I beheve
that he is initiated in all the circumstances of the witches,
that he has been their associate and confederate in
crime, that he is himself a sorcerer and poison-mixer,
and as such defends the rest of the sorcerers and poison-
mixers. Oh, that such a man had never been born, or
at any rate had never written anything, instead of
sending forth books which lead so many people to sin
and increase the kingdom of Satan ! '

1 Bl. A. 2. - Ibid. D.


Thus wrote Scriboniiis in the year of Weyer's
death, 1588, in the third edition of a pubhcation ' On
the Nature and Power of Witches,' which had first
appeared in 1583. ^ The immediate inducement to
writing this pamphlet was the question of tlie rehabihty
or non-rehabihty of the so-called ' hexenbad ' (witch-
bath), or probation of the witches by throwing them
into water.

The appeal to the ' Judgment of God,' or the apphca-
tion of the trial by water, the hot or cold bath, to which
the people were much attached, had, from the time of
the Lateran Council in 1215, been frequently forbidden
by the Church even on pain of excommunication. All
the same it continued in vogue in many districts till the
close of the JVIiddle Ages. Even as late as 1436 the
council at Hanover decided to submit an accused
person to trial by water.- Floating on the surface
was the sign of guilt, sinking to the bottom that of
innocence. After the middle of the sixteenth century
this test came into use in the case of witches, especially
in Westphaha, but was combated by Weyer and his
followers as altogether objectionable and even devihsh.
Scribonius, on the other hand, assumed a different

He chanced to be in Lemgo when, on Michaelmas
Eve, 1583, three witches were burnt to death there on
the sentence of the council. ' On the same evening,'
he says, ' three others who had been denounced by the

' De sagarum natura et polestate, d;c, ; cf . Grasse, Bibl. magica, 3G, where
the different editions are specified. Concerning Scribonius and his
pamphlet, see Soldnn-Heppe, i. 394-395. Binz, Joh. Weyer, 75-77 (** 2nd
ed. 84-85).

- See Wetzer und Wehe's Kirchenlexikoti, iv. (1850), 022-023. v. [2nd
ed.] (920 S.V.), Hefcle, Konziliengesch. vi. .537 (** 2nd cd. p. GIO).


first throe as their associates and accompUces were put
ill ]>rist)n, and the next day at 2 p.m., for the better
ostabHshnient of tlieir guilt, were thrown into the pond
outsiile the town gate, that it might be seen whether they
woiilil sink or not. They were stripped of their clothes,
their right hands were fastened to their left big toes
and their left hands to their right big toes, so that
tliev could not move their bodies in the least bit. In
the presence of several thousand people they were
thrown into the water, each of them three times ;
but like pieces of wood or cork they floated on the top,
and not one of them went down.' It was also a matter
of great surprise on the occasion that pouring rain,
which had just begun, stopped the very instant the
sorceresses touched the water, and the sky remained
clear and blue so long as they were swimming ; ' so soon,
however, as they were taken out the rain came down
again in torrents.' In Lemgo trial by water had only
been introduced that very year, 1583. The town council,
still doubtful as to the legitimacy of the proceeding,
asked for a memorandum on the subject by the philoso-
pher (Scribonius). The latter gave the question his
serious consideration and pronounced in favour of
the custom. The nature of the devil, he said, was
' airy and light,' and the witches did not sink in the
water because by the influence of the devil they too had
become ' airy and light.' ' From the moment that
sorceresses enter into league and company with the
devil they lose their former qualities, condition and
substance ; as regards their inward constitution they
also become quite different people from what they were
before, and receive a new shape. Thus witches may
be described as people who have their portion from the


devil who has taken possession of them ; the devil
dwelUng in their bodies makes them much hghter,
although other people do not notice this, and whether
they will or not they are obliged to swim on the top of
the water/ ' A positive proof of this is that the devil
often takes them high up in the air, where on account of
their corporeal nature, it would otherwise be impossible
for them to soar. ' Against Weyer, who had declared such
journeys in the air to be mere hallucination, Scribonius
appealed to the fact, often also palpably demonstrated
in Marburg, that even people who had never had any
connexion with the devil had been carried by him
by the hair from one street to another, or from a town
or village into the open field, and afterwards thrown
down again on the earth with a great bang.

By the fact of the witches floating on the water the
devil himself made known to the people what they
and their ' devilish company ' really were. * The devil
himself, as a servant and jailer employed to carry out
God's orders, thus shows the rulers and all the people
that these evil-doers must be punished (this he must
do whether he will or no), so that they may get the
reward they have so well earned.' ^

With these opinions of the Marburg philosopher,
however, Hermann Neuwaldt, professor of medicine
at Helmstiidt, was altogether at variance. ' Whoever,'
he declared, ' maintains that the devil changes the
forms of things, is cracked and not in his right senses ;
he is also ill versed in philosophical principles.' The
aerial journeys of witches were by no means, as had
been asserted, to be regarded as mere hallucinations ;
but the power of the devil could confer such skill in

' BerichtvonErforschung, d-c. Bl. B-C. (see below, p. 381 n. 1.)

380 iiisToiiY OF Tin-: (;erman people

thing without effecting any tangible change in the body.
' That the devils rule the air is reasonable to believe,
because at God's behest they can raise winds, thunder,
lightning in this place or the other in order to spoil
the crops and tlie grazing cattle and to produce floods/
They do not only rule in the air, however, ' but also
in the earth and in water, as the ancient Platonists
held.' ' We must also reject the opinion of those who
believe that, according to their deserts, some devils
have their place of abode in the east, some in the west,
some in the south, some in the north, and that they
are obliged to stay in their appointed regions. For by
nature they are restless and like robbers they rove hither
and thither in order to satiate their fury. Therefore
this opinion of the devil's confinement to and special
possession of certain places does not hold good.'

Trial by water, advocated by Scribonius, was to be
rejected as 'deviHsh sorcery.' It had been invented by
' necromancing executioners,' and w^as made into a
spectacle to gratify the vulgar curiosity of the populace.
' The devil could easily hold the witches up in the water,
but in the fire, which was the only proper place for witches,
he was powerless to save them.'

Neuwaldt praises Weyer for having emphatically
rejected the trial by water, which 'had always been
suspect to him himself on account of its superstitious
and deceptive character.' But for the rest he by no
means agrees with Weyer, who w^as alw^ays inchned to
pity the witches and who would not countenance their
'merited punishment'; the rulers must bestir themselves
dihgently to root out this devil's crew from the Christian
Churches. Weyer had been refuted by ' numbers of
excellent authorities,' for instance, by the theologian


Lambert Danaeus, and by Tliomas Erastiis, ' ahiiost
the most distinguished among all the physicians of our
time/ 1

The zealous Calvinist, Thomas Erastus, professor of
medicine at Heidelberg and house-physician to the Elector
Frederick III. of the Palatinate, was one of the first
to come forward against Weyer as a defender of the
belief in witches and an advocate for their extermination.
His Latin disputation on witches was first pubhshed in
Basle in 1572,. then again in 1577,- in Frankfort-on-the-
Maine in 1581, at Amberg in 1606, and in a French
translation at Geneva in 1579. 'A witch,' he says, ' is a
female who after denying God and religion, has given
herself up to the devil, to be by him instructed how,
by means of magic spells, herbs and other injmious
things, to cause disturbance among the elements, to
inflict injury and damage on human beings, on cattle,
fields and fruits, and to accomphsh other things
humanly impossible ; therefore it is the duty of
all those in authority to rid the earth of these

Like Erastus, many other famous physicians of the
period, for instance the house-physician of the Elector of

' Exegesis expurgationis sagarum super aquam frigidam, &c. Helmst,
1584. Our statements are from the German translation of H. Meybaum :
Bericht vorj, Erforschung, Prob und Erktnntnis der Zauberinnen durcJis
kalle Wasser (Helmstadt, 1584) BI. C3-K. How John Ewioh (see above)
spoke against trial by water has been shown by Binz, J oh. Weyer, 86-87.
Praetorius (112 ff.) deals admii'ably with the trial by water.

* Disputatio de Lamiis seu Strigibus, in qua de earum viribus perspicue
disputatur. Basil. 1572. RepetHio dispukitionis de Lamiis, die. Basil.
1577. Grasse, Bibl. magica, 33 and 52. Thommen, Universitdi Basel, 283,
asserts erroneously that the first editions of the work did not appear in
Basle. At p. 282 he mentions an edition of 1579, Concerning the IVank-
fort edition and the French translation, see Grasse, 50, 55.

^ See above, note 1.

1)82 irrsTorA' of tuk cerman teople

Hiaiulonhiirg, Tluirii \ on Thiinieissen,' were completely
ilupoil Ity \\\c witcli-suporstition. Daniel Sennert, since
1G02 i)rolos.soi' of medicine at AVittenberg, whose name
ranketl as one of the first in his profession, specified the
ditl'erent signs of direct and indirect leagues with the
devil and complained that the common people were much
too much given to attributing natural causes to illnesses
which were really to be traced to demoniacal influences;
scholars were much more aware of this fact, but the
common people would not understand it.-

Amongst German lawyers the first to speak out against
Weyer was the author of the Saxon criminal ordinance
of 1572. ' For several years past a number of books have
been pubhshed in which sorcery is regarded more as a
superstition and a form of melancholia than as a crime,
and in which the ^ATiters have strongly pleaded against
capital punishment of sorcery and witchcraft. The
arguments of Weyer are not of much importance, as he
was a medical man and not a jurist. It is also of no

' See our statements, vol. xii. 296 ff., 352 ff., 368 ff. ; and vol. xiv. 21 ff.

' Opera omnia, ii. 157, and iii. 1150. See Moehsen, 445. 'Witches,'
he wrote, ' bear on their bodies visible signs or marks stamped by the devil.
That tliis is true is seen from the fact that witches, even if the stigmas be
pricked with a needle or other pointed instrument, do not feel the least
pain or lose a drop of blood.' Here, however, he does not refer to his own
observations, but to a Lotharingian witch-executioner Remigius. Franck,
104-105. Most of the doctors attributed diseases which they could not
explain, or which exceeded the proficiency of their art, to the influence of
the devil. 'When several skilful physiciaas.' so ran one of their dogmas,
' cannot diagnose or cure the evU, or when the disease, without known
causes, reaches its ciisis all of a sudden, one may be certain that it has a
supernatural origin.' In such cases the witches were held responsible.
Anton van Haen said in his work De magia{Yl"5), parti, chap, iii., that he
could fill thirty pages with a list of all the physicians who in the course of
time had spoken in favour of the prevalent belief in witches. See Franck,
104-105, 107. ** For Luther on the devil as the originator of diseases
see vol. xiv. of present work, p. 87 ff.


moment that he thinks these women are not taken
bodily to the dances of the devil and his ghosts, since the
opposite has been shown by Grillandus with examples and
with better reason,^ and experience proves that if not
the body, at least the soul and mind, thus " praecipua
hominis pars," are carried away as John Baptist Porta,
the Neapohtan, demonstrates in his "Magia naturahs,"-
and as the Livonian stories also show.' ^

Just as these lawyers appealed against Weyer to the
Cathohc ^\Titers, so others in 1567 appealed also to
Luther against him. Luther, they said, had declared
in 1538 that ' no mercy ought to be shown to the egg,
milk and butter stealers, and that he. Dr. Luther, was
ready to burn them himself, as the priests, so we are
told in the Ancient Law, took the lead in stoning the
evil-doers." ' If then," the lawyers went on to say, ' no
mercy was to be shown to these milk- thieves, &c., how
much less should it be shown to those people who
robbed others of their health, who lamed them, plagued
them with cruel sufferings, often even killed them ;
for that they truly did do these things Luther had
shown by citing instances of several cases which had
happened to his mother, to a pious pastor who was
bewitched to death, and also to himself.' ■^•

Weyer's most vehement opponent was the French
lawyer Jean Bodin, in a work which the well-read
poet John Fischart, in his capacity of an * honourable
and highly learned doctor of both Canon and Civil Law,'

' Paul. Grillandus, De Haerelicis el sortilegiis eoriimque poenis, Ludg.
1536, 1547 ; ** also Francof. ad M. 1592.

^ Naples, 1558, and in many otlier editions, Griisse, 112.

3 Sec Wachter, 293.

^ In the Thealrum de veneficis, 374-375 ; the names of tlic lawyers arc not


inado known to the German ])oople under the title
' JJaoniononianiii : Voni aussgelassnen wiitigen Teufels-
heeu der besossenen, unsinnigen Hexen und Hexen-
meister, Unholden, Teufclsbeschworer, Wahrsager,
Si'hwarzkiinstler, Vergifter, Nestelverkniipfer, Verun-
treuer, Nachtschiidiger und aller andern Zauberer Gesch-
lecht ; erst neuUther Zeit von dem edlen hochgelehrten
und vielberiihniten Herrn Johann Bodm, der Rechte
Doktor und Beisitzer des Parlamentes in Frankreich :
zur wolzeitgen AVarnung, Vorleuchtung und Kichtigung
in der heutigen Tages sehr zweifeHcher und disputier-
Hcher Hexenstrafung griindhch und notwendiglich
beschrieben.' Weyer, it was said in this work, ' had
taken up arms against the honour of God/ God had
* distracted his understanding/ he was full of blas-
phemies and delusions, he ^^Tote ' after the manner
and style of the devil/ and thereby augmented the
devil's kingdom on earth. ' The fact that at the end
of his book Weyer's head became so heated with fury
that he denounced the judges as brutal executioners
and hangmen gives good reason for conjecture that
he himself was not a httle scared lest some sorcerer
should prove too communicative, and so he did as
httle children who sing at night from fear of the
dark/ Bodin-Fischart insisted on the persecution
and burning of witches with a ruthlessness and
barbarity shown by only a few writers of the sixteenth

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