How they Raise and Stir up Hailstorms and Tempests, and Cause Lightning to Blast both Men and Beasts.
That devils and their disciples can by witchcraft cause lightnings and hailstorms and tempests, and that the devils have power from God to do this, and their disciples do so with God’s permission, is proved by Holy Scripture in Job i and ii. For the devil received power from God, and immediately caused it to happen that the Sabeans took away from Job fifty yoke of oxen and five hundred asses, and then fire came from heaven and consumed seven thousand camels, and a great wind came and smote down this house, killing his seven sons and his three daughters, and all the young men, that is to say, the servants, except him who brought the news, were killed; and finally the devil smote the body of the holy man with the most terrible sores, and caused his wife and his three friends to vex him grievously.
S. Thomas in his commentary on Job says as follows: It must be confessed that, with God’s permission, the devils can disturb the air, raise up winds, and make the fire fall from heaven. For although, in the matter of taking various shapes, corporeal nature is not at the command of any Angel, either good or bad, but only at that of God the Creator, yet in the matter of local motion corporeal nature has to obey the spiritual nature. And this truth is clearly exemplified in man himself; for at the mere command of the will, which exists subjectively in the soul, the limbs are moved to perform that which they have been willed to do. Therefore whatever can be accomplished by mere local motion, this not only good but bad spirits can by their natural power accomplish, unless God should forbid it. But winds and rain and other similar disturbances of the air can be caused by the mere movement of vapours released from the earth or the water; therefore the natural power of devils is sufficient to cause such things. So says S. Thomas.
For God in His justice using the devils as his agents of punishment inflicts the evils which come to us who live in this world. Therefore, with reference to that in the Psalms: “He called a famine on the land, and wasted all their substance of bread.”; the gloss says: God allowed this evil to be caused by the bad Angels who are in charge of such matters; and by famine is meant the Angel in charge of famine.
We refer the reader also to what has been written above on the question as to whether witches must always have the devil’s help to aid them in their works, and concerning the three kinds of harm which the devils at times inflict without the agency of a witch. But the devils are more eager to injure men with the help of a witch, since in this way God is the more offended, and greater power is given to them to torment and punish.
And relevant to this subject is what the Doctors have written in the Second book of Sentences, dist. 6, on the question whether there is a special place assigned to the bad Angels in the clouds of the air. For in devils there are three things to be considered – their nature, their duty and their sin; and by nature they belong to the empyrean of heaven, through sin to the lower hell, but by reason of the duty assigned to them, as we have said, as ministers of punishment to the wicked and trial to the good, their place is in the clouds of the air. For they do not dwell here with us on the earth lest they should plague us too much; but in the air and around the fiery sphere they can so bring together the active and passive agents that, when God permits, they can bring down fire and lightning from heaven.
A story is told in the Formicarius of a certain man who had been taken, and was asked by the judge how they went about to raise up hailstorms and tempests, and whether it was easy for them to do so. He answered: We can easily cause hailstorms, but we cannot do all the harm that we wish, because of the guardianship of good Angels. And he added: We can only injure those who are deprived of God’s help; but we cannot hurt those who make the sign of the Cross. And this is how we got to work: first we use certain words in the fields to implore the chief of the devils to send one of his servants to strike the man whom we name. Then, when the devil has come, we sacrifice to him a black cock at two cross-roads, throwing it up into the air; and when the devil has received this, he performs our wish and stirs up the air, but not always in the places which we have named, and, according to the permission of the living God, sends down hailstorms and lightnings.
In the same work we hear of a certain leader or heresiarch of witches named Staufer, who lived in Berne and the adjacent country, and used publicly to boast that, whenever he liked, he could change himself into a mouse in the sight of his rivals and slip through the hands of his deadly enemies; and that he had often escaped from the hands of his mortal foes in this manner. But when the Divine justice wished to put an end to his wickedness, some of his enemies lay in wait for him cautiously and saw him sitting in a basket near a window, and suddenly pierced him through with swords and spears, so that he miserably died for his crimes. Yet he left behind him a disciple, named Hoppo, who had also for his master that Stadlin whom we have mentioned before in the sixth chapter.
These two could, whenever they pleased, cause the third part of the manure or straw or corn to pass invisibly from a neighbour’s field to their own; they could raise the most violent hailstorms and destructive winds and lightning; could cast into the water in the sight of their parents children walking by the water-side, when there was no one else in sight; could cause barrenness in men and animals; could reveal hidden things to others; could in many ways injure men in their affairs or their bodies; could at times kill whom they would by lightning; and could cause many other plagues, when and where the justice of God permitted such things to be done.
It is better to add an instance which came within our own experience. For in the diocese of Constance, twenty-eight German miles from the town of Ratisbon in the direction of Salzburg, a violent hailstorm destroyed all the fruit, crops and vineyards in a belt one mile wide, so that the vines hardly bore fruit for three years. This was brought to the notice of the Inquisition, since the people clamoured for an inquiry to be held; many beside all the townsmen being of the opinion that it was caused by witchcraft. Accordingly it was agreed after fifteen days’ formal deliberation that it was a case of witchcraft for us to consider; and among a large number of suspects, we particularly examined two women, one named Agnes, a bath-woman, and the other Anna von Mindelheim. These two were taken and shut up separately in different prisons, neither of them knowing in the least what had happened to the other. On the following day the bath-woman was very gently questioned in the presence of a notary by the chief magistrate, a justice named Gelre very zealous for the Faith, and by the other magistrates with him; and although she was undoubtedly well provided with that evil gift of silence which is the constant bane of judges, and at the first trial affirmed that she was innocent of any crime against man or woman; yet, in the Divine mercy that so great a crime should not pass unpunished, suddenly, when she had been freed from her chains, although it was in the torture chamber, she fully laid bare all the crimes which she had committed. For when she was questioned by the Notary of the Inquisition upon the accusations which had been brought against her of harm done to men and cattle, by reason of which she had been gravely suspected of being a witch, although there had been no witness to prove that she had abjured the Faith or performed coitus with an Incubus devil (for she had been most secret); nevertheless, after she had confessed to the harm which she had caused to animals and men, she acknowledged also all that she was asked concerning the abjuration of the Faith, and copulation committed with an Incubus devil; saying that for more than eighteen years she had given her body to an Incubus devil, with a complete abnegation of the Faith.
After this she was asked whether she knew anything about the hailstorm which we have mentioned, and answered that she did. And, being asked how and in what way, she answered: “I was in my house, and at midday a familiar came to me and told me to go with a little water on to the field or plain of Kuppel (for so is it named). And when I asked what he wanted to do with the water, he said that he wanted to make it rain. So I went out at the town gate, and found the devil standing under a tree.” The judge asked her, under which tree; and she said, “Under that one opposite that tower,” pointing it out. Asked what she did under the tree, she said, “The devil told me to dig a hole and pour the water into it.” Asked whether they say down together, she said, “I sat down, but the devil stood up.” Then she was, with what words and in what manner she had stirred the water; and she answered, “I stirred it with my finger, and called on the name of the devil himself and all the other devils.” Again the judge asked what was done with the water, and she answered: “It disappeared, and the devil took it up into the air.” Then she was asked if she had any associate, and answered: “Under another tree opposite I had a companion (naming the other capture witch, Anna von Mindelheim), but I do not know what she did.” Finally, the bath-woman was asked how long it was between the taking up of the water the hailstorm; and she answered: “There was just sufficient interval of time to allow me to get back to my house.”
But (and this is remarkable) when on the next day the other witch had at first been exposed to the very gentlest questions, being suspended hardly clear of the ground by her thumbs, after she had been set quite free, she disclosed the whole matter without the slightest discrepancy from what the other had told; agreeing as to the place, that it was under such a tree and the other had been under another; as to the method, namely, of stirring water poured into a hole in the name of the devil and all the devils; and as to the interval of time, that the hailstorm had come after her devil had taken the water up into the air and she had returned home. Accordingly, on the third day they were burned. And the bath-woman was contrite and confessed, and commended herself to God, saying that she would die with a willing heart if she could escape the tortures of the devil, and held in her hand a cross which she kissed. But the other witch scorned her for doing so. And this one had consorted with an Incubus devil for more than twenty years with a complete abjuration of the Faith, and had done far more harm than the former witch to men, cattle and the fruits of the earth, as is shown in the preserved record of their trial.
These instances must serve, since indeed countless examples of this sort of mischief could be recounted. But very often men and beasts and storehouses are struck by lightning by the power of devils; and the cause of this seems to be more hidden and ambiguous, since it often appears to happen by Divine permission without the co-operation of any witch. However, it has been found that witches have freely confessed that they have done such things, and there are various instances of it, which could be mentioned, in addition to what has already been said. Therefore it is reasonable to conclude that, just as easily as they raise hailstorms, so can they cause lightning and storms at sea; and so no doubt at all remains on these points.