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Part II, Question I



Of those against whom the Power of Witches availeth not at all.

The second main part of this work deals with the method of procedure adopted by witches for the performance of their witchcraft; and these are distinguished under eighteen heads, proceeding from two chief difficulties. The first of these two, dealt with in the beginning, concerns protective remedies, by which a man is rendered immune from witchcraft: the second, dealt with at the end, concerns curative remedies, by which those who are bewitched can be cured. For, as Aristotle says (Physics, IV), prevention and cure are related to one another, and are, accidentally, matters of causation. In this way the whole foundation of this horrible heresy may be made clear.

In the above two divisions, the following points will be principally emphasized. First, the initiation of witches, and their profession of sacrilege. Second, the progress of their method of working, and of their horrible observances. Third, the preventive protections against their witchcrafts. And because we are now dealing with matters relating to morals and behaviour, and there is no need for a variety of arguments and disquisitions, since those matters which now follow under their headings are sufficiently discussed in the foregoing Questions; therefore we pray God that the reader will not look for proofs in every case, since it is enough to adduce examples that have been personally seen or heard, or are accepted at the word of credible witnesses.

In the first of the points mentioned, two matters will be chiefly examined: first, the various methods of enticement adopted by the devil himself; second, the various ways in which witches profess their heresy. And in the second of the main points, six matters will be examined in order, relating to the procedure of witchcraft, and its cure. First, the practices of witches with regard to themselves and their own bodies. Second, their practices with regard to other men. Third, those relating to beasts. Fourth, the mischief they do to the fruits of the earth. Fifth, those kinds of witchcraft which are practised by men only and not by women. Sixth, the question of removing witchcraft, and how those who are bewitched may be cured. The First Question, therefore, is divided into eighteen heads, since in so many ways are their observances varied and multiplied.

It is asked whether a man can be so blessed by the good Angels that he cannot be bewitched by witches in any of the ways that follow. And it seems that he cannot, for it has already been proved that even the blameless and innocent and the just are often afflicted by devils, as was Job; and many innocent children, as well as countless other just men, are seen to be bewitched, although not to the same extent as sinners; for they are not afflicted in the perdition of their souls, but only in their worldly goods and their bodies. But the contrary is indicated by the confessions of witches, namely, that they cannot injure everybody, but only those whom they learn, through the information of devils, to be destitute of Divine help.

Answer. There are three classes of men blessed by God, whom that detestable race cannot injure with their witchcraft. And the first are those who administer public justice against them, or prosecute them in any public official capacity. The second are those who, according to the traditional and holy rites of the Church, make lawful use of the power and virtue which the Church by her exorcisms furnishes in the aspersion of Holy Water, the taking of consecrated salt, the carrying of blessed candles on the Day of the Purification of Our Lady, of palm leaves upon Palm Sunday, and men who thus fortify themselves are acting so that the powers of devils are diminished; and of these we shall speak later. The third class are those who, in various and infinite ways, are blessed by the Holy Angels.

The reason for this in the first class will be given and proved by various examples. For since, as S. Paul says, all power if from God, and a sword for the avenging of the wicked and the retribution of the good, it is no wonder that devils are kept at bay when justice is being done to avenge that horrible crime.

To the same effect the Doctors note that there are five ways in which the devil’s power is hindered, either wholly or in part. First, by a limit fixed by God to his power, as is seen in Job i and ii. Another example is the case of the man we read of in the Formicarius of Nider, who had confessed to a judge that he had invoked the devil in order that he might kill an enemy of his, or do him bodily harm, or strike him dead with lightning. And he said: “When I had invoked the devil that I might commit such a deed with his help, he answered me that he was unable to do any of those things, because the man had good faith and diligently defended himself with the sign of the cross; and that therefore he could not harm him in his body, but the most he could do was to destroy an eleventh part of the fruit of his lands.”

Secondly, it is hindered by the application of some exterior force, as in the case of Balaam’s ass, Numbers xxii. Thirdly, by some externally performed miracle of power. And there are some who are blessed with an unique privilege, as will be shown later in the case of the third class of men who cannot be bewitched. Fourthly, by the good providence of God, Who disposes each thing severally, and causes a good Angel to stand in the devil’s way, as when Asmodeus killed the seven husbands of the virgin Sara, but did not kill Tobias.

Fifthly, it is sometimes due to the caution of the devil himself, for at times he does not wish to do hurt, in order that worse may follow from it. As, for example, when he could molest the excommunicated but does not do so, as in the case of the excommunicated Corinthian (I. Corinthians v), in order that he may weaken the faith of the Church in the power of such banishment. Therefore we may similarly say that, even if the administrators of public justice were not protected by Divine power, yet the devils often of their own accord withdraw their support and guardianship from witches, either because they fear their conversion, or because they desire and hasten their damnation.

This fact is proved also by actual experience. For the aforesaid Doctor affirms that witches have borne witness that it is a fact of their own experience that, merely because they have been taken by officials of public justice, they have immediately lost all their power of witchcraft. For example, a judge named Peter, whom we have mentioned before, wished his officials to arrest a certain witch called Stadlin; but their hands were seized with so great a trembling, and such a nauseous stench came into their nostrils, that they gave up hope of daring to touch the witch. And the judge commanded them, saying: “You may safely arrest the wretch, for when he is touched by the hand of public justice, he will lose all the power of his iniquity.” And so the event proved; for he was taken and burned for many witchcrafts perpetrated by him, which are mentioned here and there in this work in their appropriate places.

And many more such experiences have happened to us Inquisitors in the exercise of our inquisitorial office, which would turn the mind of the reader to wonder if it were expedient to relate them. But since self-praise is sordid and mean, it is better to pass them over in silence than to incur the stigma of boastfulness and conceit. But we must except those which have become so well known that they cannot be concealed.

Not long ago in the town of Ratisbon the magistrates had condemned a witch to be burned, and were asked why it was that we Inquisitors were not afflicted like other men with witchcraft. They answered that witches had often tried to injure them, but could not. And, being asked the reason for this, they answered that they did not know, unless it was because the devils had warned them against doing so. For, they said, it would be impossible to tell how many times they have pestered us by day and by night, now in the form of apes, not of dogs or goats, disturbing us with their cries and insults; fetching us from our beds at their blasphemous prayers, so that we have stood outside the window of their prison, which was so high that no one could reach it without the longest of ladders; and then they have seemed to stick the pins with which their head-cloth was fastened violently into their heads. But praise be to Almighty God, Who in His pity, and for no merit of our own, has preserved us as unworthy public servants of the justice of the Faith.

The reason in the case of the second class of men is self-evident. For the exorcisms of the Church are for this very purpose, and are entirely efficacious remedies for preserving oneself from the injuries of witches.

But if it is asked in what manner a man ought to use such protections, we must speak first of those that are used without the uttering of sacred words, and then of the actual sacred invocations. For in the first place it is lawful in any decent habitation of men or beasts to sprinkle Holy Water for the safety and securing of men and beasts, with the invocation of the Most Holy Trinity and a Paternoster. For it is said in the Office of Exorcism, that wherever it is sprinkled, all uncleanness is purified, all harm is repelled, and no pestilent spirit can abide there, etc. For the Lord saves both man and beast, according to the Prophet, each in his degree.

Secondly, just as the first must necessarily be sprinkled, so in the case of a Blessed Candle, although it is more appropriate to light it, the wax of it may with advantage be sprinkled about dwelling-houses. And thirdly, it is expedient to place or to burn consecrated herbs in those rooms where they can best be consumed in some convenient place.

Now it happened in the city of Spires, in the same year that this book was begun, that a certain devout woman held conversation with a suspected witch, and, after the manner of women, they used abusive words to each other. But in the night she wished to put her little suckling child in its cradle, and remembered her encounter that day with the suspected witch. So, fearing some danger to the child, she placed consecrated herbs under it, sprinkled it with Holy Water, put a little Blessed Salt to its lips, signed it with the Sign of the Cross, and diligently secured the cradle. About the middle of the night she heard the child crying, and, as women do, wished to embrace the child, and life the cradle on to her bed. She lifted the candle, indeed, but could not embrace the child, because he was not there. The poor woman, in terror, and bitterly weeping for the loss of her child, lit a light, and found the child in a corner under a chair, crying but unhurt.

In this it may be seen what virtue there is in the exorcisms of the Church against the snares of the devil. It is manifest that Almighty God, in His mercy and wisdom which extend from end to end, watches over the deeds of those wicked men; and that he gently directs the witchcraft of devils, so that when they try to diminish and weaken the Faith, they on the contrary strengthen it and make it more firmly rooted in the hearts of many. For the faithful may derive much profit from these evils; when, by reason of devils’ works, the faith is made strong, God’s mercy is seen, and His power manifested, and men are led into His keeping and to the reverence of Christ’s Passion, and are enlightened by the ceremonies of the Church.

There lived in a town of Wiesenthal a certain Mayor who was bewitched with the most terrible pains and bodily contortions; and he discovered, not by means of other witches, but from his own experience, how that witchcraft had been practised on him. For he said he was in the habit of fortifying himself every Sunday with Blessed Salt and Holy Water, but that he had neglected to do so on one occasion owing to the celebration of somebody’s marriage; and on that same day he was bewitched.

In Ratisbon a man was being tempted by the devil in the form of a woman to copulate, and became greatly disturbed when the devil would not desist. But it came into the poor man’s mind that he ought to defend himself by taking Blessed Salt, as he had heard in a sermon. So, he took some Blessed Salt on entering the bath-room; and the woman looked fiercely at him, and, cursing whatever devil had taught him to do this, suddenly disappeared. For the devil can, with God’s permission, present himself either in the form of a witch, or by possessing the body of an actual witch.

There were also three companions walking along a road, and two of them were struck by lightning. The third was terrified, when he heard voices speaking in the air, “Let us strike him too.” But another voice answered, “We cannot, for to-day he has heard the words ‘The Word was made Flesh.’” And he understood that he had been saved because he had that day heard Mass, and, at the end of the Mass, the Gospel of S. John: In the beginning was the Word, etc.

Also sacred words bound to the body are marvellously protective, if seven conditions for their use are observed. But these will be mentioned in the last Question of this Second Part, where we speak of curative, as here we speak of preventive measures. And those sacred words help not only to protect, but also to cure those who are bewitched.

But the surest protection for places, men, or animals are the words of the triumphal title of our Saviour, if they be written in four places in the form of a cross: IESUS † NAZARENUS † REX † IUDAEORUM †. There may also be added the name of MARY and of the Evangelists, or the words of S. John: The Word was made Flesh.

But the third class of men which cannot be hurt by witches is the most remarkable; for they are protected by a special Angelic guardianship, both within and without. Within, by the inpouring of grace; without, by the virtue of the stars, that is, by the protection of the Powers which move the stars. And this class is divided into two sections of the Elect: for some are protected against all sorts of witchcrafts, so that they can be hurt in no way; and others are particularly rendered chaste by the good Angels with regard to the generative functions, just as evil spirits by their witchcrafts inflame the lusts of certain wicked men towards one woman, while they make them cold towards another.

And their interior and exterior protection, by grace and by the influence of the stars, is explained as follows. For though it is God Himself Who pours grace into our souls, and no other creature has so great power as to do this (as it is said: The Lord will give grace and glory); yet, when God wished to bestow some especial grace, He does so in a dispositive way through the agency of a good Angel, as S. Thomas teaches us in a certain place in the Third Book of Sentences.

And this is the doctrine put forward by Dionysius in the fourth chapter de Diuinus Nominibus: This is the fixed and unalterable law of Divinity, that the High proceeds to the Low through a Medium; so that whenever of good emanates to us from the fountain of all goodness, comes through the ministry of the good Angels. And this is proved both by examples and by argument. For although only the Divine power was the cause of the Conception of the Word of God in the Most Blessed Virgin, through whom God was made man; yet the mind of the Virgin was by the ministry of an Angel much stimulated by the Salutation, and by the strengthening and information of her understanding, and was thus predisposed to goodness. This truth can also be reasoned as follows: It is the opinion of the above-mentioned Doctor that there are three properties of man, the will, the understanding, and the inner and outer powers belonging to the bodily members and organs. The first God alone can influence: For the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord. A good Angel can influence the understanding towards a clearer knowledge of the true and the good, so that in the second of his properties both God and a good Angel can enlighten a man. Similarly in the third, a good Angel can endow a man with good qualities, and a bad Angel can, with God’s permission, afflict him with evil temptations. However, it is in the power of the human will either to accept such evil influences or to reject them; and this a man can always do by invoking the grace of God.

As to the exterior protection which comes from God through the Movers of the stars, the tradition is widespread, and conforms equally with the Sacred Writings and with natural philosophy. For all the heavenly bodies are moved by angelic powers which are called by Christ the Movers of the stars, and by the Church the Powers of the heavens; and consequently all the corporeal substances of this world are governed by the celestial influences, as witness Aristotle, Metaphysics I. Therefore we can say that the providence of God overlooks each on of His elect, but He subjects some of them to the ills of this life for their correction, while He so protects others that they can in no way be injured. And this gift they receive either from the good Angels deputed by God for their protection, or from the influence of the heavenly bodies or the Powers which move them.

It is further to be noted that some are protected against all witchcrafts, and some against only a part of them. For some are particularly purified by the good Angels in their genital functions, so that witches can in no way bewitch them in respect of those functions. But it is in one sense superfluous to write of these, although in another sense it is needful for this reason: for those who are bewitched in their generative functions are so deprived of the guardianship of Angels that they are either in mortal sin always, or practise those impurities with too lustful a zest. In this connexion it has been shown in the First Part of this work that God permits greater powers of witchcraft against that function, not so much because of its nastiness, as because it was this act that caused the corruption of our first parents and, by its contagion, brought the inheritance of original sin upon the whole human race.

But let us give a few examples of how a good Angel sometimes blesses just and holy men, especially in the matter of the genital instincts. For the following was the experience of the Abbot S. Serenus, as it is told by Cassian in his Collations of the Fathers, in the first conference of the Abbot Serenus. This man, he says, laboured to achieve an inward chastity of heart and soul, by prayers both by night and day, by fasting and by vigils, till he at last perceived that, by Divine grace, he had extinguished all the surgings of carnal concupiscence. Finally, stirred by an even greater zeal for chastity, he used all the above holy practices to pray the Almighty and All-Good God to grant him that, by God’s gift, the chastity which he felt in his heart should be visibly conferred upon his body. Then an Angel of the Lord came to him in a vision in the night, and seemed to open his belly and take from his entrails a burning tumour of flesh, and then to replace all his intestines as they had been; and said: Lo! the provocation of your flesh is cut out, and know that this day you have obtained perpetual purity of your body, according to the prayer which you prayed, so that you will never again be pricked with that natural desire which is aroused even in babes and sucklings.

Similarly S. Gregory, in the first book of his Dialogues, tells of the Blessed Abbot Equitius. This man, he says, was in his youth greatly troubled by the provocation of the flesh; but the very distress of his temptation made him all the more zealous in his application to prayer. And when he continuously prayed Almighty God for a remedy against this affliction, an Angel appeared to him one night and seemed to make him an eunuch, and it seemed to him in his vision that all feeling was taken away from his genital organs; and from that time he was such a stranger to temptation as if he had no sex in his body. Behold what benefit there was in that purification; for he was so filled with virtue that, with the help of Almighty God, just as he was before pre-eminent among, so he afterwards became pre-eminent over women.

Again, in the Lives of the Fathers collected by that very holy man S. Heraclides, in the book which he calls Paradise, he tells of a certain holy Father, a monk named Helias. This man was moved by pity to collect thirty women in a monastery, and began to rule over them. But after two years, when he was thirty years old, he fled from the temptation of the flesh into a hermitage, and fasting there for two days, prayed to God, saying: “O Lord God, either slay me, or deliver me from this temptation.” And in the evening a dream came to him, and he saw three Angels approach him; and they asked him why he had fled from that monastery of virgins. But when he did not dare to answer, for shame, the Angels said: If you are set free from temptation, will you return to your cure of those women? And he answered that he would willingly. They then extracted an oath to that effect from him, and made him an eunuch. For one seemed to hold his hands, another his feet, and the third to cut out his testicles with a knife; though this was not really so, but only seemed to be. And when they asked if he felt himself remedied, he answered that he was entirely delivered. So, on the fifth day, he returned to the sorrowing women, and ruled over them for the forty years that he continued to live, and never again felt a spark of that first temptation.

No less a benefit do we read to have been conferred upon the Blessed Thomas, a Doctor of our Order, whom his brothers imprisoned for entering that Order; and, wishing to tempt him, they sent in to him a seductive and sumptuously adorned harlot. But when the Doctor had looked at her, he ran to the material fire, and snatching up a lighted torch, drove the engine of the fire of lust out of his person; and, prostrating himself in a prayer for the gift of chastity, went to sleep. Two Angels then appeared to him, saying: Behold, at the bidding of God we gird you with a girdle of chastity, which cannot be loosed by any other such temptation; neither can it be acquired by the merits of human virtue, but is given as a gift by God alone. And he felt himself girded, and was aware of the touch of the girdle, and cried out and awaked. And thereafter he felt himself endowed with so great a gift of chastity, that from that time he abhorred all the delights of the flesh, so that he could not even speak to a woman except under compulsion, but was strong in his perfect chastity. This we take from the Formicarius of Nider.

With the exception, therefore, of these three classes of men, no one is secure from witches. For all others are liable to be bewitched, or to be tempted and incited by some witchery, in the eighteen ways that are now to be considered. For we must first describe these methods in their order, that we may afterwards discuss more clearly the remedies by which those who are bewitched can be relieved. And that the eighteen methods may be more clearly shown, they are set forth under as many chapters as follows. First, we show the various methods of initiation of witches, and how they entice innocent girls to swell the numbers of their perfidious company. Second, how witches profess their sacrilege, and the oath of allegiance to the devil which they take. Third, how they are transported from place to place, either bodily or in the spirit. Fourth, how they subject themselves to Incubi, who are devils. Fifth, their general method of practising witchcraft through the Sacraments of the Church, and in particular how, with the permission of God, they can afflict all creatures except the Celestial Bodies. Sixth, their method of obstructing the generative function. Seventh, how they can take off the virile member by some art of illusion. Eighth, how they change men into the shapes of beasts. Ninth, how devils can enter the mind without hurting it, when they work some glamour or illusion. Tenth, how devils, through the operation of witches, sometimes substantially inhabit men. Eleventh, how they cause every sort of infirmity, and this in general. Twelfth, of certain infirmities in particular. Thirteenth, how witch midwives cause the greatest damage, either killing children or sacrilegiously offering them to devils. Fourteenth, how they cause various plagues to afflict animals. Fifteenth, how they raise hailstorms and tempests, and thunder and lightning, to fall upon men and animals. Sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth, the three ways in which men only, and not women, are addicted to witchcraft. After these will follow the question of the methods by which these sorts of witchcraft may be removed.

But let no one think that, because we have enumerated the various methods by which various forms of witchcraft are inflicted, he will arrive at a complete knowledge of these practices; for such knowledge would be of little use, and might even be harmful. Not even the forbidden books of Necromancy contain such knowledge; for witchcraft is not taught in books, nor is it practised by the learned, but by the altogether uneducated; having only one foundation, without the acknowledgement or practice of which it is impossible for anyone to work witchcraft as a witch.

Moreover, the methods are enumerated here at the beginning, that their deeds may not seem incredible, as they have often been though hitherto, to the great damage of the Faith, and the increase of witches themselves. But if anyone maintains that, since (as has been proved above) some men are protected by the influence of the stars so that they can be hurt by no witchcraft, it should also be attributed to the stars when anyone is bewitched, as if it were a matter of predestination whether a man can be immune from or subject to witchcraft, such a man does not rightly understand the meaning of the Doctors; and this in various respects.

And first, because there are three human qualities which may be said to be ruled by three celestial causes, namely, the act of volition, the act of understanding, and bodily acts. And the first, as has been said, is governed directly and only by God; the second by an Angel; and the third is governed, but not compelled, by a celestial body.

Secondly, it is clear from what has been said that choice and volition are governed directly by God, as S. Paul says: It is God Who causeth us to will and to perform, according to His good pleasure: and the understanding of the human intellect is ordered by God through the mediation of the Angels. Accordingly also all things corporeal, whether they be interior as are the powers and knowledge acquired through the inner bodily functions, or exterior as are sickness and health, are dispensed by the celestial bodies, through the mediation of Angels. And when Dionysius, in the fourth chapter de Diuinis Nominibus, says that the celestial bodies are the cause of that which happens in this world, this is to be understood as to natural health and sickness. But the sicknesses we are considering are supernatural, since they are inflicted by the power of the devil, with God’s permission. Therefore we cannot say that it is due to the influence of the stars that a man is bewitched; although it can truly be said that it is due to the influence of the stars that some men cannot be bewitched.

But if it is objected that these two opposite effects must spring from the same cause, and that the pendulum must swing both ways, it is answered that, when a man is preserved by the influence of the stars from these supernatural ills, this is not due directly to the influence of the stars, but to an angelic power, which can strengthen that influence so that the enemy with his malice cannot prevail against it; and that angelic power can be passed on through the virtue of the stars. For a man may be at the point of death, having reached the natural term of life, and God in His power, which in such matters always works indirectly, may alter this be sending some power of preservation instead of the natural defect in the man and in his dominating influence. Accordingly we may say of a man who is subject to witchcraft, that he can in just the same way be preserved from witchcraft, or that this preservation comes of an Angel deputed to guard him; and this is the chief of all means of protection.

And when it is said in Jeremias xxii: Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: this is to be understood with regard to the choices of the will, in which one man prospers and another does not; and this also can be ascribed to the influence of the stars. For example: one man may be influenced by his stars to make a useful choice, such as to enter some religious Order. And when his understanding is enlightened to consider such a step, and by Divine operation his will is inclined to put it into execution, such a man is said to prosper well. Or similarly when a man is inclined to some trade, or anything that is useful. On the other hand, he will be called unfortunate when his choice is inclined by the higher Powers to unprofitable things.

S. Thomas, in his third book of the Summa against the Gentiles, and in several places, speaks of these and many other opinions, when he discusses in what lies the difference that one man should be well born and another unfortunately born, that a man should be lucky or unlucky, or well or badly governed and guarded. For according to the disposition of his stars a man is said to be well or badly born, and so fortunate or unfortunate; and according as he is enlightened by an Angel, and follows such enlightenment, he is said to be well or badly guarded. And according as he is directed by God towards good, and follows it, he is said to be well governed. But these choices have no place here, since we are not concerned with them but with the preservation from witchcraft; and we have said enough for the present on this subject. We proceed to the rites practised by witches, and first to a consideration of how they lure the innocent into becoming partakers of their perfidies.

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