Of Three Ways in which Mean and Women may be Discovered to be Addicted to Witchcraft: Divided into Three Heads: and First of the Witchcraft of Archers.
For our present purpose the last class of witchcraft is that which is practised in three forms by men; and first we must consider the seven deadly and horrible crimes which are committed by wizards who are archers. For first, on the Sacred Day of the Passion of Our Lord, that is to say, on Good Friday, as it is called, during the solemnization of the Mass of the Presanctified they shoot with arrows, as at a target, at the most sacred image of the Crucifix. Oh, the cruelty and injury to the Saviour! Secondly, though there is some doubt whether they have to utter a verbal form of apostasy to the devil in addition to that apostasy of deed, yet whether it be so or not, no greater injury to the Faith can be done by a Christian. For it is certain that, if such things were done by an infidel, they would be of no efficacy; for no such easy method of gratifying their hostility to the Faith is granted to them. Therefore these wretches ought to consider the truth and power of the Catholic Faith, for the confirmation of which God justly permits such crimes.
Thirdly, such an archer has to shoot three or four arrows in this way, and as a consequence he is able to kill on any day just the same number of men. Fourthly, they have the following assurance from the devil; that though they must first actually set eyes on the man they wish to kill, and must bend their whole will on killing him, yet it matter not where the man may shut himself up, for he cannot be protected, but the arrows which have been shot will be carried and struck into him by the devil.
Fifthly, they can shoot an arrow with such precision as to shoot a penny from a person’s head without hurting his head, and they can continue to do this indefinitely. Sixthly, in order to gain this power they have to offer homage of body and soul to the devil. We shall give some instances of this sort of practice.
For a certain prince of the Rhineland, named Eberhard Longbeard because he let his beard grow, had, before he was sixty years old, acquired for himself some of the Imperial territory, and was besieging a certain castle named Lendenbrunnen because of the raids which were made by the men of the castle. And he had in his company a wizard of this sort, named Puncker, who so molested the men of the castle that he killed them all in succession with his arrows, except one. And this is how he proceeded. Whenever he had looked at a man, it did not matter where that man went to or hid himself, he had only to loose an arrow and that man was mortally wounded and killed; and he was able to shoot three such arrows every day because he had shot three arrows at the image of the Saviour. It is probable that the devil favours the number three more than any other, because it represents an effective denial of the Holy Trinity. But after he had shot those three arrows, he could only shoot with the same uncertainty as other men. At last one of the men of the castle called out to him mockingly, “Puncker, will you not at least spare the ring which hangs in the gate?” And he answered from outside in the night, “No; I shall take it away on the day that the castle is captured.” And he fulfilled his promise: for when, as has been said, all were killed except one, and the castle had been taken, he took that ring and hung it in his own house at Rorbach in the diocese of Worms, where it can be seen hanging to this day. But afterwards he was one night killed with their spades by some peasants whom he had injured, and he perished in his sins.
It is told also of this man, that a very eminent person wished to have proof of his skill, and for a test placed his little son before the target with a penny on his cap, and ordered him to shoot the penny away without removing the cap. The wizard said that he would do it, but with reluctance, not being sure whether the devil was seducing him to his death. But, yielding to the persuasions of the prince, he placed one arrow in readiness in the cord which was slung over his should, fitted another to his bow, and shot the penny from the cap without hurting the boy. Seeing this, the prince asked him why he had placed the arrow in that cord; and he answered: “If I had been deceived by the devil and had killed my son, since I should have had to die I would quickly have shot you with the other arrow to avenge my death.”
And though such wickedness is permitted by God for the proving and chastisement of the faithful, nevertheless more powerful miracles are performed by the Saviour’s mercy for the strengthening and glory of the Faith.
For in the diocese of Constance, near the castle of Hohenzorn and a convent of nuns, there is a newly-built church where may be seen an image of Our Saviour pierced with an arrow and bleeding. And the truth of this miracle is shown as follows. A miserable wretch who wished to be assured by the devil of having three or four arrows with which he could, in the manner we have told, kill whom he pleased, shot and pierced with an arrow (just as it is still seen) a certain Crucifix at a crossroad; and when it miraculously began to bleed, the wretch was stuck motionless in his steps by Divine power. And when he was asked by a passer-by why he stood fixed there, he shook his head, and trembling in his arms and his hands, in which he held the bow, and all over his body, could answer nothing. So the other looked about him, and saw the Crucifix with the arrow and the blood, and said: “You villain, you have pierced the image of Our Lord!” And calling some others, he told them to see that he did not escape (although, as has been said, he could not move), and ran to the castle and told what had happened. And they came down and found the wretched man in the same place; and when they had questioned him, and he had confessed his crime, he was removed from that district by public justice, and suffered a miserable death in merited expiation of his deeds.
But, alas! how horrible it is to think that human perversity is not afraid to countenance such crimes. For it is said that in the halls of the great such men are maintained to glory in their crimes in open contempt of the Faith, to the heavy offence of the Divine Majesty, and in scorn of Our Redeemer; and are permitted to boast of their deeds.
Wherefore such protectors, defenders and patrons are to be judged not only heretics, but even apostates from the Faith, and are to be punished in the manner that will be told. And this is the seventh deadly sin of these wizards. For first they are by very law excommunicated; and if the patrons are clerics they are degraded and deprived of all office and benefit, nor can they be restored except by a special indulgence from the Apostolic See. Also, if after their proscription such protectors remain obstinate in their excommunication for the period of a year, they are to be condemned as heretics.
This is in accordance with the Canon Law; for, in Book VI, it touches on the question of direct or indirect interference with the proceedings of Diocesans and Inquisitors in the cause of the Faith, and mentions the aforesaid punishment to be inflicted after a year. For it say: We forbid any interference from Potentates, temporal Lords and Rulers, and their Officials, etc. Anyone may refer to the chapter.
And further, that witches and their protectors are by very law to be excommunicated is shown in the Canon of the suppressing of the heresy of witchcraft; especially where it says: We excommunicate and anathematize all heretics, Catharists, Sectaries . . . and others, by whatever names they are known, etc. And with these it includes all their sympathizers and protectors, and others; saying later on: Also we excommunicate all followers, protectors, defenders and patrons of such heretics.
The Canon Law prescribes various penalties which are incurred within the space of a year by such heretics, whether laymen or clerics, where it says: We place under the ban of excommunication all their protectors, patrons and defenders, so that when any such has been so sentenced and has scorned to recant his heresy, within a year from that time he shall be considered an outlaw, and shall not be admitted to any office or council, nor be able to vote in the election of such officers, nor be allowed free opportunity of giving evidence; he shall not succeed to any inheritance, and no one shall be held responsible for any business transaction with him. If he be a judge, his judgement shall not stand, nor shall any case be brought to his hearing. If he be an advocate, he shall not be allowed to plead. If he be a notary, no instrument drawn up by him shall have any weight, but is to be condemned together with its condemned author; and similar penalties are decreed for the holders of other offices. But if he be a cleric, he is to be degraded from all office and benefice; for, his guilt being the greater, it is more heavily avenged. And if any such, after they have been marked down by the Church, contemptuously try to ignore their punishment, the sentence of excommunication is to be rigorously applied to them to the extreme limits of vengeance. And the clergy shall not administer the Sacraments of the Church to such heretics, nor presume to give them Christian burial, nor accept their alms and oblations, on pain of being deprived of their office, to which they can in no way be restored without a special indulgence from the Apostolic See.
There are, finally, many other penalties incurred by such heretics even when they do not persist in their obstinacy for a year, and also by their children and grandchildren: for they can be degraded by a Bishop or by an Inquisitor, declared deprived of all titles, possessions, honours and ecclesiastical benefits, in fine of all public offices whatsoever. But this is only when they are persistently and obstinately impenitent. Also their sons to the second generation may be disqualified and unable to obtain either ecclesiastical preferment or public office; but this is to be understood only of the descendants on the father’s side, and not on the mother’s, and only of those who are impenitent. Also all their followers, protectors, fautors and patrons shall be denied all right of petition or appeal; and this is explained as meaning that, after a verdict has been returned that they are such heretics, then can they make no appeal before their sentence, however much they may have been in any respect ill-used or treated with undue severity. Much more could be adduced in support of our standpoint, but this is sufficient.
Now for the better understanding of what has been said, some few points are to be discussed. And first, if a prince or secular potentate employ such a wizard as we have described for the destruction of some castle in a just war, and with his help crushes the tyranny of wicked men; is his whole army to be considered as protectors and patrons of that wizard, and to be subjected to the penalties we have mentioned? The answer seems to be that the rigour of justice must be tempered on account of their numbers. For the leader, with his counsellors and advisers, must be considered to have aided and abetted such witchcraft, and they are by law implicated in the aforesaid penalties when, after being warned by their spiritual advisers, they have persisted in their bad course; and then they are to be judged protectors and patrons, and are to be punished. But the rest of the army, since they have no part in their leaders’ council, but are simply prepared to risk their lives in defence of their country, although they may view with approval the feats of the wizard, nevertheless escape the sentence of excommunication; but they must in their confession acknowledge the guilt of the wizard, and in their absolution by the confessor must receive a solemn warning to hold all such practices for ever in detestation, and as far as they are able drive from their land all such wizards.
It may be asked by whom such princes are to be absolved when they come to their senses, whether by their own spiritual advisers or by the Inquisitors? We answer that, if they repent, they may be absolved either by their spiritual advisers, or by the Inquisitors. This is provided in the Canon Law concerning the proceedings to be taken, in the fear of God and as a warning to men, against heretics, their followers, protectors, patrons and fautors, as also against those who are accused or suspected of heresy. But if any of the above, forswearing his former lapse into heresy, wish to return to the unity of the Church, he may receive the benefit of absolution provided by Holy Church.
A prince, or any other, may be said to have returned to his senses when he has delivered up the wizard to be punished for his offences against the Creator; when he has banished from his dominions all who have been found guilty of witchcraft or heresy; when he is truly penitent for the past; and when, as becomes a Catholic prince, he is firmly determined in his mind not to show any favour to any other such wizard.
But it may be asked to whom should such a man be surrendered, in what court he should be tried, and whether he is to be judged as one openly apprehended in heresy? The first difficulty is specially dealt with at the beginning of the Third part; namely, whether it is the business of a secular or of an ecclesiastical judge to punish such men. It is manifestly stated in the Canon Law that no temporal magistrate or judge is competent to try a case of heresy without a licence from the Bishops and Inquisitors, or at least under the hand of someone who has authority from them. But when it says that the secular courts have no jurisdiction in this matter because the crime of heresy is exclusively ecclesiastical, this does not seem to apply to the case of witches; for the crimes of witches are not exclusively ecclesiastical, but are also civil on account of the temporal damage which they do. Nevertheless, as will be shown later, although the ecclesiastical judge must try and judge the case, yet it is for the secular judge to carry out the sentence and inflict punishment, as is shown in the chapters of the Canon no the abolition of heresy, and on excommunication. Wherefore, even if he does surrender the witch to the Ordinary to be judged, the secular judge has still the power of punishing him after he has been delivered back by the Bishop; and with the consent of the Bishop, the secular judge can even perform both offices, that is, he can both sentence and punish.
And it is no valid objection to say that such wizards are rather apostates than heretics; for both these are offenders against the Faith; but whereas a heretic is only in some partial or total doubt with regard to the Faith, witchcraft in its very essence implies apostasy intent from the Faith. For it is a heavier sin to corrupt the Faith, which is the life of the soul, than to falsify money, which is a prop to the life of the body. And if counterfeiters of money, and other malefactors, are immediately sentenced to death, how much more just and equitable it is that such heretics and apostates should be immediately put to death when they are convicted.
Here was have also answered the second difficulty, namely, by what court and judge such men are to be punished. But this will be more fully considered in the Third Part of this work, where we treat of the methods of sentencing the offenders, and how one taken in open heresy is to be sentenced (see the eighth and twelfth methods), and of the question whether one who becomes penitent is still to be put to death.
For if a simple heretic constantly backslides as often as he repents, he is to be put to death according to the Canon Law; and this is reasonable according to S. Thomas, as being for the general good. For if relapsed heretics are often and often received back and allowed to live and keep their temporal goods, it might prejudice the salvation of others, both because they might infect others if they fell again, and because, if they were to escape without punishment, others would have less fear in being infected with heresy. And their very relapse argues that they are not constant in the Faith, and they are therefore justly to be put to death. And so we ought to say here that, if a mere suspicion of inconstancy is sufficient warrant for an ecclesiastical judge to hand over such a backslider to the secular court to be put to death, much more must he do so in the case of one who refuses to prove his penitence and change of heart by handing over to the secular court an apostate or any witch, but rather leaves free and unchecked one whom the secular judge wishes to put to death as a witch according to the law, on account of the temporal injuries of which he has been guilty. But if the witch is penitent, the ecclesiastical judge must first absolve him from the excommunication which he has incurred because of the heresy of witchcraft. Also when a heretic is penitent, he can be received back into the bosom of the Church for the salvation of his soul. This matter is further discussed in the First Question of the Third Part, and this is ample for the present. Only let all Rulers consider how strictly and minutely they will be called to account by that terrible Judge; for indeed there will be a severe judgement on those in authority who allow such wizards to live and work their injuries against the Creator.
The other two classes of wizards belong to the general category of those who can use incantations and sacrilegious charms so as to render certain weapons incapable of harming or wounding them; and these are divided into two kinds. For the first class resemble the archer-wizards of whom we have just spoken, in that they also mutilate the image of Christ crucified. For example, if they wish their head to be immune from any wound from a weapon or from any blow, they take off the head of the Crucifix; if they wish their neck to be invulnerable, they take off its neck; if their arm, they take off, or at least shorten, the arm, and so on. And sometimes they take away all above the waist, or below it. And in proof of this, hardly one in ten of the Crucifixes set up at cross-roads or in the fields can be found whole and intact. And some carry the limbs thus broken off about with them, and others procure their invulnerability by means of sacred or unknown words: therefore there is this difference between them. The first sort resemble the archer-wizards in their contempt of the Faith and their mutilation of the image of the Saviour, and are therefore to be considered as true apostates, and so much be judged when they do not approach them in wickedness. For they seem only to act for the protection of their own bodies, either above the waist or below it, or of the whole body. Therefore they are not to be judged as penitent heretics and not relapsed, when they have been convicted as wizards and have repented; and they are to be imposed a penance according to the eighth manner, with solemn adjuration and incarceration, as is shown in the Third Part of this work.
The second sort can magically enchant weapons so that they can walk on them with bare feet, and similar strange feats do they perform (for according to S. Isidore, Etym. VIII, enchanters are those who have some skill to perform wonders by means of words). And there is a distinction to be made between them; for some perform their incantations by means of sacred words, or charms written up over the sick, and these are lawful provided that seven conditions are observed, as will be shown later where we deal with the methods of curing those who are bewitched. But incantations made over weapons by certain secret words, or cases where the charms written for the sick have been taken down, are matters for the judge’s attention. For when they use words of which they do not themselves know the meaning, or characters and signs which are not the sign of the Cross, such practices are altogether to be repudiated, and good men should beware of the cruel arts of these warlocks. And if they will not desist from such deeds, they must be judges as suspects although lightly, and the manner of sentencing such after the second method will be shown later. For they are not untainted with the sin of heresy; for deeds of this kind can only be done with the help of the devil, and, as we have shown, he who uses such help is judged to be an apostate from the Faith. Yet on the plea of ignorance or of mending their ways they may be dealt with more leniently than the archer-wizards.
It is more commonly found that traders and merchants are in the habit of carrying about them such charms and runes; and since they partake of the nature of incantations, a complete riddance must be made of them, either by the father confessor in the box, or in open court by the ecclesiastical judge. For these unknown words and characters imply a tacit compact with the devil, who secretly uses such things for his own purpose, granting their wearers their wishes, that he may lure them on to worse things. Therefore in the court of law such men must be warned and sentenced after the second method. In the box, the confessor must examine the charm, and if he is unwilling to throw it away altogether, he must delete the unknown words and signs, but may keep any Gospel words or the sign of the Cross.
Now with regard to all these classes of wizards, and especially the archers, it must be noted, as has been declared above, whether they are to be judged as heretics openly taken in that sin; and we have touched on this matter even before in the First Question of the First Part. And there it is shown that S. Bernard says that there are three ways by which a man can be convicted of heresy: either by the evidence of the fact when in simply heresy he publicly preaches his errors, or by the credible evidence of witnesses, or by a man’s own confession. S. Bernard also explains the meaning of some of the words of the Canon Law in this connexion, as was shown in the First Question of the First Part of this work.
It is clear, therefore, that archer-wizards, and those mages who enchant other weapons, are to be considered as manifestly guilty of flagrant heresy, through some expressed pact with the devil, since it is obvious that their feats would not be possible without the devil’s help.
Secondly, it is equally clear that the patrons, protectors and defenders of such men are manifestly to be judged in the same way, and subjected to the prescribed punishments. For there is not in their case, as there may be in that of several others, any doubt as to whether they are to be regarded as lightly or strongly or gravely suspected; but they are always very grave sinners against the Faith, and are always visited by God with a miserable death.
For it is told that a certain prince used to keep such wizards in his favour, and by their help unduly oppressed a certain city in matters of commerce. And when one of his retainers remonstrated with him over this, he threw away all fear of God and exclaimed, “God grant that I may die in this place if I am oppressing them unjustly.” Divine vengeance quickly followed these words, and he was stricken down with sudden death. And this vengeance was not so much on account of his unjust oppression as because of his patronage of heresy.
Thirdly, it is clear that all Bishops and Rulers who do not essay their utmost to suppress crimes of this sort, with their authors and patrons, are themselves to be judged as evident abettors of the crime, and are manifestly to be punished in the prescribed manner.