The Remedies prescribed by the Holy Church against Incubus and Succubus Devils.
In the foregoing chapters on the First Question we have treated of the methods of bewitching men, animals and the fruits of the earth, and especially of the behaviour of witches in their own persons; how they seduce young girls in order to increase their numbers; what is their method of profession and of offering homage; how they offer to devils their own children and the children of others; and how they are transported from place to place. Now I say that there is no remedy for such practises, unless witches be entirely eradicated by the judges, or at least punished as an example to all who may wish to imitate them; but we are not immediately treating of this point, which will be dealt with in the last Part of this work, where we set forth the twenty ways of proceeding against and sentencing witches.
For the present we are concerned only with the remedies against the injuries which they inflict; and first how men who are bewitched can be cured; secondly, beasts, and thirdly, how the fruits of the earth may be secured from blight or phylloxera.
With regard to the bewitchment of human beings by means of Incubus and Succubus devils, it is to be noted that this can happen in three ways. First, when women voluntarily prostitute themselves to Incubus devils. Secondly, when men have connexion with Succubus devils; yet it does not appear that men thus devilishly fornicate with the same full degree of culpability; for men, being by nature intellectually stronger than women, are more apt to abhor such practises.
There is in the town of Coblenz a poor man who is bewitched in this way. In the presence of his wife he is in the habit of acting after the manner of men with women, that is to say, of practising coition, as it were, and he continues to do this repeatedly, nor have the cries and urgent appeals of his wife any effect in making him desist. And after he has fornicated thus two or three times, he bawls out, “We are going to start all over again”; when actually there is no person visible to mortal sight lying with him. And after an incredible number of such bouts, the poor man at last sinks to the floor utterly exhausted. When he has recovered his strength a little and is asked how this happened to him, and whether he has had any women with him, he answers that he saw nothing, but his mind is in some way possessed so that he can by no means refrain from such priapism. And indeed he harbours a great suspicion that a certain woman bewitched him in this way, because he had offended her, and she had cursed him with threatening words, telling him what she would like to happen to him.
But there are no laws or ministers of justice which can proceed to the avenging of so great a crime with no other warrant than a vague charge or a grave suspicion; for it is held that no one ought to be condemned unless he has been convicted by his own confession, or by the evidence of three trustworthy witnesses, since the mere fact of the crime coupled with even the gravest suspicions against some person is not sufficient to warrant the punishment of that person. But this matter will be dealt with later.
As for instances where young maidens are molested by Incubus devils in this way, it would take too long to mention even those that have been known to happen in our own time, for there are very many well-attested stories of such bewitchments. But the great difficulty of finding a remedy for such afflictions can be illustrated from a story told by Thomas of Brabant in his Book on Bees.
I saw, he writes, and heard the confession of a virgin in a religious habit, who said at first that she had never been a consenting party to fornication, but at the same time have been known in this way. This I could not believe, but narrowly charged and exhorted her, with the most solemn adjurations, to speak the truth on peril of her very soul. At last, weeping bitterly, she acknowledged that she had been corrupted rather in mind than in body; and that though she had afterwards grieved almost to death, and had daily confessed with tears, yet by no device or study or art could she be delivered from an Incubus devil, nor yet by the sign of the Cross, nor by Holy Water, which are specially ordained for the expulsion of devils, nor even by the Sacrament of the Body of Our Lord, which even the Angels fear. But at last after many years of prayer and fasting she was delivered.
It may be believed (saving a better judgement) that, after she repented and confessed her sin, the Incubus devil should be regarded rather in the light of a punishment for sin than as a sin in itself.
A devout nun, named Christina, in the Low Country of the Duchy of Brabant, told me the following concerning this same woman. On the vigil of one Pentacost the woman came to her complaining that she dared not take the Sacrament because of the importunate molestation of a devil. Christina, pitying her, said: “Go, and rest assured that you will receive the Body of Our Lord to-morrow; for I will take your punishment upon myself.” So she went away joyfully, and after praying the night slept in peace, and rose up in the morning and communicated in all tranquility of the soul. But Christina, not thinking of the punishment she had taken upon herself, went to her rest in the evening, and as she lay in bed hear, as it were, a violent attack being made upon her; and, seizing whatever it was by the throat, tried to throw it off. She lay down again, but was again molested, and rose up in terror; and this happened many times, whilst all the straw of her bed was turned over and thrown about everywhere, so at length she perceived that she was being persecuted by the malice of a devil. Thereupon she left her pallet, and passed a sleepless night; and when she wished to pray, she was so tormented by the devil that she said she had never suffered so much before. In the morning, therefore, saying to the other woman, “I renounce your punishment, and I am hardly alive to renounce it,” she escaped from the violence of that wicked tempter. From this it can be seen how difficult it is to cure this sort of evil, whether or not it is due to witchcraft.
However, there are still some means by which these devils may be driven away, of which Nider writes in his Formicarius. He says that there are five ways by which girls or men can be delivered: first, by Sacramental Confession; second, by the Sacred Sign of the Cross, or by the recital of the Angelic Salutation; third, by the use of exorcisms; fourth, by moving to another place; and fifth, by means of excommunication prudently employed by holy men. It is evident from what has been said that the first two methods did not avail the nun; but they are not on that account to be neglected, for that which cures one person does not necessarily cure another, and conversely. And it is a recorded fact that Incubus devils have often been driven away by the Lord’s Prayer, or by the sprinkling of Holy Water, and also especially by the Angelic Salutation.
For S. Caesarius tells in his Dialogue that, after a certain priest had hanged himself, his concubine entered a convent, where she was carnally solicited by an Incubus. She drove him away by crossing herself and using Holy Water, yet he immediately returned. But when she recited the Angelic Salutation, he vanished like an arrow shot from a bow; still he came back, although he did not dare to come near her, because of the Ave MARIA.
S. Caesarius also refers to the remedy of Sacramental Confession. For he says that the aforesaid concubine was entirely abandoned by the Incubus after she was clean confessed. He tells also of a man in Leyden who was plagued by a Succubus, and was entirely delivered after Sacramental Confession.
He adds yet another example, of an enclosed nun, a contemplative, whom an Incubus would not leave in spite of prayers and confession and other religious exercises. For he persisted in forcing his way to her bed. But when, acting on the advice of a certain religious man, she uttered the word Benedicite, the devil at once left her.
Of the fourth method, that of moving to another place, he says that a certain priest’s daughter had been defiled by an Incubus and driven frantic with grief; but when she went away across the Rhine, she was left in peace by the Incubus. Her father, however, because he had sent her away, was so afflicted by the devil that he died within three days.
He also maintains a woman who was often molested by an Incubus in her own bed, and asked a devout friend of hers to come and sleep with her. She did so, and was troubled all night with the utmost uneasiness and disquiet, and then the first woman was left in peace. William of Paris notes also that Incubus seem chiefly to molest women and girls with beautiful hair; either because they devote themselves too much to the care and adornment of their hair, or because they are boastfully vain about it, or because God in His goodness permits this so that women may be afraid to entice men by the very means by which the devils wish them to entice men.
The fifth method, that of excommunication, which is perhaps the same as exorcism, is exemplified in a history of S. Bernard. In Aquitaine a woman had for six years been molested by an Incubus with incredible carnal abuse and lechery; and she heard the Incubus threaten her that she must not go near the holy man, who was coming that way, saying: “It will avail you nothing: for when he was gone away, I, who have till now been your lover, will become the cruellest of tyrants to you.” None the less she went to S. Bernard, and he said to her: “Take my staff and set it in your bed, and may the devil do what he can.” When she had done this, the devil did not dare to enter the woman’s room, but threatened her terribly from outside, saying that he would persecute her when S. Bernard had gone away. When S. Bernard heard this from the woman, he called the people together, bidding them carry lighted candles in their hands, and, with the whole assembly which was gathered, excommunicated the devil, forbidding him evermore to approach that woman or any other. And so she was delivered from that punishment.
Here it is to be noted that the power of the Keys granted to S. Peter and his successors, which resounds on the earth, is really a power of healing granted to the Church on behalf of travellers who are subject to the jurisdiction of the Papal power; therefore is seems wonderful that even the Powers of the air can be warded off by this virtue. But it must be remembered that persons who are molested by devils are under the jurisdiction of the Pope and his Keys; and therefore it is not surprising if such Powers are indirectly kept at bay by the virtue of the Keys, just as by the same virtue the souls in purgatory can indirectly by delivered from the pains of fire; insasmuch as this Power availeth upon the earth, ay, and to the relief of souls that are under the earth.
But it is not seemly to discuss the Power of the Keys granted to the Head of the Church as Christ’s Vicar; since it is know that, for the use of the Church, Christ granted to the Church and His Vicar as much power as it is possible for God to grant to mere man.
And it is piously to be believed that, when infirmities inflicted by witches through the power of devils, together with the witches and devils themselves, are excommunicated, those who were afflicted will no longer be tormented; and that they will be delivered all the sooner by the use of other lawful exorcisms in addition.
There is a common report current in the districts of the river Etsch, as also in other places, that by the permission of God a swarm of locusts came and devoured all the vines, green leaves and crops; and that they were suddenly put to flight and dispersed by means of this kind of excommunication and cursing. Now it any wish that this should ascribed to some holy man, and not to the virtue of the Keys, let ie be so, in the name of the Lord; but of one thing we are certain, that both the power to perform miracles and the power of the Keys necessarily presuppose a condition of grace in him who performs that act of grace, since both these powers proceed from grace granted to men who are in a state of grace.
Again, it is to be noted that, if none of the aforesaid remedies are of any avail, then recourse must be had to the usual exorcisms, of which we shall treat later. And if even these are not sufficient to banish the iniquity of the devil, then that affliction must be considered to be an expiatory punishment for sin, which should be borne in all meekness, as are other ills of this sort which oppress us that they may, as it were, drive us to seek God.
But it must also be remarked that sometimes persons only think they are molested by an Incubus when they are not so actually; and this is more apt to be the case with women than with men, for they are more timid and liable to imagine extraordinary things.
In this connexion William of Paris is often quoted. He says: Many phantastical apparitions occur to person suffering fro a melancholy disease, especially to women, as is shown by their dreams and visions. And the reason for this, as physicians know, is that women’s souls are by nature far more easily and lightly impressionable than men’s souls. And he adds: I know that I have seen a woman who thought that a devil copulated with her from inside, and said she was physically conscious of such incredible things.
At time also women think they have been made pregnant by an Incubus, and their bellies grow to an enormous size; but when the time of parturition comes, their swelling is relieved by no more than the expulsion of a great quantity of wind. For by taking ants’ eggs in drink, or the seeds of spurge or of the black pine, an incredible amount of wind and flatulence is generated in the human stomach. And it is very easy for the devil to cause these and even greater disorders in the stomach. This has been set down in order that too easy credence should not be given to women, but only to those whom experience has shown to be trustworthy, and to those who, by sleeping in their beds or near them, know for a fact that such things as we have spoken of are true.