QUESTION VI. CONTINUED . . . .
Valerius Maximus tells how, when Phoroneus, the king of the Greeks, was
dying, he said to his brother Leontius that there would have been nothing
lacking to him of complete happiness if a wife had always been lacking to
him. And when Leontius asked how a wife could stand in the way of happiness,
he answered that all married men well knew. And when the philosopher Socrates
was asked if one should marry a wife, he answered: If you do not, you are
lonely, your family dies out, and a stranger inherits; if you do, you suffer
perpetual anxiety, querelous complaints, reproaches concerning the marriage
portion, the heavy displeasure of your relations, the garrulousness of a
mother-in-law, cuckoldom, and no certain arrival of an heir. This he said as
one who knew. For S. Jerome in his Contra
Iouinianum says: This Socrates had two wives, whom he endured with
much patience, but could not be rid of their contumelies and clamorous
vituperations. So one day when they were complaining against him, he went
out of the house to escape their plaguing, and sat down before the house;
and the women then threw filthy water over him. But the philosopher was not
disturbed by this, saying, I knew the rain would come after the
There is also a story of a man whose wife was drowned in a river, who, when
he was searching for the body to take it out of the water, walked up the
stream. And when he was asked why, since heavy bodies do not rise but fall,
he was searching against the current of the river, he answered: When
that woman was alive she always, both in word and deed, went contrary to my
commands; therefore I am searching in the contrary direction in case even
now she is dead she may preserve her contrary disposition.
And indeed, just as through the first defect in their intelligence that are
more prone to abjure the faith; so through their second defect of inordinate
affections and passions they search for, brood over, and inflict various
vengeances, either by witchcraft, or by some other means. Wherefore it is no
wonder that so great a number of witches exist in this sex.
Women also have weak memories; and it is a natural vice in them not to be
disciplined, but to follow their own impulses without any sense of what is
due; this is her whole study, and all that she keeps in her memory. So
Theophrastus says: If you hand over the whole management of the house to her,
but reserve some minute detail to your own judgement, she will think that
you are displaying a great want of faith in her, and will stir up a strife;
and unless you quickly take counsel, she will prepare poison for you, and
consult seers and soothsayers; and will become a witch.
But as to domination by women, hear what Cicero says in the Paradoxes.
Can he be called a free man whose wife governs him, imposes laws on him,
orders him, and forbids him to do what he wishes, so that he cannot and dare
not deny her anything that she asks? I should call him not only a slave, but
the vilest of slaves, even if he comes from the noblest family. And Seneca,
in the character of the raging Medea, says:
Why do you cease to follow your happy impulse; how great is that part of
vengeance in which you rejoice? Where he adduces many proofs that a woman
will not be governed, but will follow her own impulse even to her own
destruction. In the same way we read of many woman who have killed themselves
either for love or sorrow because they were unable to work their vengeance.
S. Jerome, writing of Daniel, tells a story of Laodice, wife of Antiochus
king of Syria; how, being jealous lest he should love his other wife,
Berenice, more than her, she first caused Berenice and her daughter by
Antiochus to be slain, and then poisoned herself. And why? Because she
would not be governed, and would follow her own impulse. Therefore, S. John
Chrysostom says not without reason: O evil worse than all evil, a wicked
woman, whether she be poor or rich. For if she be the wife of a rich man,
she does not cease night and day to excite her husband with hot words, to
use evil blandishments and violent importunations. And if she have a poor
husband she does not cease to stir him also to anger and strife. And if
she be a widow, she takes it upon herself everywhere to look down on
everybody, and is inflamed to all boldness by the spirit of pride.
If we inquire, we find that nearly all the kingdoms of the world have been
overthrown by women. Troy, which was a prosperous kingdom, was, for the rape
of one woman, Helen, destroyed, and many thousands of Greeks slain. The
kingdom of the Jews suffered much misfortune and destruction through the
accursed Jezebel, and her daughter Athaliah, queen of Judah, who caused her
son's sons to be killed, that on their death she might reign herself; yet
each of them was slain. The kingdom of the Romans endured much evil through
Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, that worst of women. And so with others. Therefore
it is no wonder if the world now suffers through the malice of women.
And now let us examine the carnal desires of the body itself, whence has
arise unconscionable harm to human life. Justly we may say with Cato of
Utica: If the world could be rid of women, we should not be without God in
our intercourse. For truly, without the wickedness of women, to say nothing
of witchcraft, the world would still remain proof against innumerable
dangers. Hear what Valerius said to Rufinus: You do not know that woman is
the Chimaera, but it is good that you should know it; for that monster was
of three forms; its face was that of a radiant and noble lion, it had the
filthy belly of a goat, and it was armed with the virulent tail of a viper.
And he means that a woman is beautiful to look upon, contaminating to the
touch, and deadly to keep.
Let us consider another property of hers, the voice. For as she is a liar
by nature, so in her speech she stings while she delights us. Wherefore her
voice is like the song of the Sirens, who with their sweet melody entice the
passers-by and kill them. For they kill them by emptying their purses,
consuming their strength, and causing them to forsake God. Again Valerius
says to Rufinus: When she speaks it is a delight which flavours the sin; the
flower of love is a rose, because under its blossom there are hidden many
thorns. See Proverbs v, 3-4: Her mouth is smoother than oil; that is,
her speech is afterwards as bitter as absinthium. [Her throat is smoother
than oil. But her end is as bitter as wormwood.]
Let us consider also her gait, posture, and habit, in which is vanity of
vanities. There is no man in the world who studies so hard to please the
good God as even an ordinary woman studies by her vanities to please men.
An example of this is to be found in the life of
Pelagia, a worldly woman who was wont to go
about Antioch tired and adorned most extravagantly. A holy father, named
Nonnus, saw her and began to weep, saying to his companions, that never in
all his life had he used such diligence to please God; and much more he
added to this effect, which is preserved in his orations.
It is this which is lamented in Ecclesiastes vii, and which the
Church even now laments on account of the great multitude of witches. And
I have found a woman more bitter than death, who is the hunter's snare, and
her heart is a net, and her hands are bands. He that pleaseth God shall
escape from her; but he that is a sinner shall be caught by her. More bitter
than death, that is, than the devil: Apocalypse vi, 8, His name was
Death. For though the devil tempted Eve to sin, yet Eve seduced Adam. And
as the sin of Eve would not have brought death to our soul and body unless
the sin had afterwards passed on to Adam, to which he was tempted by Eve,
not by the devil, therefore she is more bitter than death.
More bitter than death, again, because that is natural and destroys only the
body; but the sin which arose from woman destroys the soul by depriving it
of grace, and delivers the body up to the punishment of sin.
More bitter than death, again, because bodily death is an open and terrible
enemy, but woman is a wheedling and secret enemy.
And that she is more perilous than a snare does not speak of the snare of
hunters, but of devils. For men are caught not only trough their carnal
desires, when they see and hear women: for S. Bernard says: Their face is a
burning wind, and their voice the hissing of serpents: but they also cast
wicked spells on countless men and animals. And when it is said that her
heart is a net, it speaks of the inscrutable malice which reigns in their
hearts. And her hands are as bands for binding; for when they place their
hands on a creature to bewitch it, then with the help of the devil, they
perform their design.
To conclude. All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which is in women
insatiable. See Proverbs xxx: There are three things that are never
satisfied, yea, a fourth thing which says not, It is enough; that is, the
mouth of the womb. Wherefore for the sake of fulfilling their lusts they
consort even with devils. More such reasons could be brought forward, but to
the understanding it is sufficiently clear that it is no matter for wonder
that there are more women than men found infected with the heresy of
witchcraft. And in consequence of this, it is better called the heresy of
witches than of wizards, since the name is taken from the more powerful
party. And blessed be the Highest Who has so far preserved the male sex from
so great a crime: for since He was willing to be born and to suffer for us,
therefore He has granted to men the privilege.
What sort of Women are found to be above all Others
Superstitious and Witches.
As to our second inquiry, what sort of women more than others are found to
be superstitious and infected with witchcraft; it must be said, as was
shown in the preceding inquiry, that three general vices appear to have
special dominion over wicked women, namely, infidelity, ambition, and
lust. Therefore they are more than others inclined towards witchcraft, who
more than others are given to these vices. Again, since of these vices the
last chiefly predominates, women being insatiable, etc., it follows that
those among ambitious women are more deeply infected who are more hot to
satisfy their filthy lusts; and such are adulteresses, fornicatresses, and
the concubines of the Great.
Now there are, as it is said in the Papal Bull, seven methods by which they
infect with witchcraft the venereal act and the conception of the womb: First,
by inclining the minds of men to inordinate passion; second, by obstructing
their generative force; third, by removing the members accomodated to that
act; fourth, by changing men into beasts by their magic art; fifth, by
destroying the generative force in women; sixth, by procuring abortion;
seventh, by offering children to devils, besides other animals and fruits
of the earth with which they work much harm. And all these will be considered
later; but for present let us give our minds to the injuries towards men.
And first concerning those who are bewitched into an inordinate love or
hatred, this is a matter of a sort that it is difficult to discuss before
the general intelligence. Yet it must be granted that it is a fact. For S.
Thomas (IV, 34), treating of obstructions caused by witches, shows that God
allows the devil greater power against men's venereal acts than against
their other actions; and gives this reason, that this is likely to be so,
since those women are chiefly apt to be witches who are most disposed to
For he says that, since the first corruption of sin by which man became the
slave of the devil came to us through the act of generation, therefore
greater power is allowed by God to the devil in this act than in all others.
Also the power of witches is more apparent in serpents, as it is said, than
in other animals, because through the means of a serpent the devil tempted
woman. For this reason also, as is shown afterwards, although matrimony is
a work of God, as being instituted by Him, yet it is sometimes wrecked by
the work of the devil: not indeed through main force, since then he might
be though stronger than God, but with the permission of God, by causing
some temporary or permanent impediment in the conjugal act.
And touching this we may say what is known by experience; that these women
satisfy their filthy lists not only in themselves, but even in the mighty
ones of the age, of whatever state and condition; causing by all sorts of
witchcraft the death of their souls through the excessive infatuation of
carnal love, in such a way that for no shame or persuasion can they desist
from such acts. And through such men, since witches will not permit any harm
to come to them either from themselves or from others once they have them in
their power, there arises the great danger of the time, namely, the
extermination of the Faith. And in this way do witches every day increase.
And would that this were not true according to experience. But indeed such
hatred is aroused by witchcraft between those joined in the sacrament of
matrimony, and such freezing up of the generative forces, that men are unable
to perform the necessary action for begetting offspring. But since love and
hate exist in the soul, which even the devil cannot enter, lest these things
should seem incredibly to anyone, they must be inquired into; and by meeting
argument with argument the matter will be made clear.
Page 2 of 2
This chapter was transcribed by Wicasta Lovelace.
HTML Scripting Copyright ©
1998-2000 by the Windhaven Network, Inc..
All Rights Reserved.