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Williams, Howard / The Superstitions of Witchcraft
E-text prepared by Julie Barkley, Suzan Flanagan, and the Project
Online Distributed Proofreading Team ()

Transcriber's notes

The "oe" ligature is represented as [oe].

The footnotes have been moved and renumbered for easier reading.

A list of corrections is included at the end of the book.


Printed by Spottiswoode and Co.
New-Street Square




St. John's College, Cambridge.

'Somnia, terrores magicos, miracula, sagas,
Nocturnos lemures, portentaque Thessala rides?'

Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, & Green.


'THE SUPERSTITIONS OF WITCHCRAFT' is designed to exhibit a
consecutive review of the characteristic forms and facts of a
creed which (if at present apparently dead, or at least harmless,
in Christendom) in the seventeenth century was a living and
lively faith, and caused thousands of victims to be sent to the
torture-chamber, to the stake, and to the scaffold. At this day,
the remembrance of its superhuman art, in its different
manifestations, is immortalised in the every-day language of the
peoples of Europe.

* * * * *

The belief in Witchcraft is, indeed, in its full development and
most fearful results, modern still more than mediæval, Christian
still more than Pagan, and Protestant not less than Catholic.




The Origin, Prevalence, and Variety of Superstition--The
Belief in Witchcraft the most horrid Form of
Superstition--Most flourishing in the Sixteenth and
Seventeenth Centuries--The Sentiments of Addison,
Blackstone, and the Lawyers of the Eighteenth Century
upon the Subject--Chaldean and Persian Magic--Jewish
Witchcraft--Its important Influence on Christian and
Modern Belief--Greek Pharmacy and Sorcery--Early Roman
Laws against Conjuration and Magic Charms--Crimes
perpetrated, under the Empire, in connection with
Sorceric Practices--The general Persecution for Magic
under Valentinian and Valens--German and Scandinavian
Sagæ--Essential Difference between Eastern and Western
Sorcery--The probable Origin of the general Belief in an
Evil Principle PAGE 3



Compromise between the New and the Old Faiths--Witchcraft
under the Early Church--The Sentiments of the Fathers and
the Decrees of Councils--Platonic Influences--Historical,
Physiological, and Accidental Causes of the Attribution
of Witchcraft to the Female Sex--Opinions of the Fathers
and other Writers--The Witch-Compact 47


Charlemagne's Severity--Anglo-Saxon Superstition--Norman
and Arabic Magic--Influence of Arabic Science--Mohammedan
Belief in Magic--Rabbinical Learning--Roger Bacon--The
Persecution of the Templars--Alice Kyteler 63


Witchcraft and Heresy purposely confounded by the
Church--Mediæval Science closely connected with Magic and
Sorcery--Ignorance of Physiology the Cause of many of the
Popular Prejudices--Jeanne d'Arc--Duchess of
Gloucester--Jane Shore--Persecution at Arras 84



The Bull of Innocent VIII.--A new Incentive to the vigorous
Prosecution of Witchcraft--The 'Malleus Maleficarum'--Its
Criminal Code--Numerous Executions at the Commencement of
the Sixteenth Century--Examination of Christian
Demonology--Various Opinions of the Nature of
Demons--General Belief in the Intercourse of Demons and
other non-human Beings with Mankind 101


Three Sorts of Witches--Various Modes of Witchcraft--Manner
of Witch-Travelling--The Sabbaths--Anathemas of the Popes
against the Crime--Bull of Adrian VI.--Cotemporary
Testimony to the Severity of the Persecutions--Necessary
Triumph of the Orthodox Party--Germany most subject to
the Superstition--Acts of Parliament of Henry VIII.
against Witchcraft--Elizabeth Barton--The Act of
1562--Executions under Queen Elizabeth's Government--Case
of Witchcraft narrated by Reginald Scot 126


The 'Discoverie of Witchcraft,' published 1584--Wier's 'De
Præstigiis Dæmonum,' &c.--Naudé--Jean Bodin--His 'De la
Démonomanie des Sorciers,' published at Paris, 1580--His
Authority--Nider--Witch-case at Warboys--Evidence adduced
at the Trial--Remarkable as being the Origin of the
Institution of an Annual Sermon at Huntingdon 144


Astrology in Antiquity--Modern Astrology and
Alchymy--Torralvo--Adventures of Dr. Dee and Edward
Kelly--Prospero and Comus, Types respectively of the
Theurgic and Goetic Arts--Magicians on the Stage in the
Sixteenth Century--Occult Science in Southern
Europe--Causes of the inevitable Mistakes of the
pre-Scientific Ages 157


Sorcery in Southern Europe--Cause of the Retention of the
Demonological Creed among the Protestant Sects--Calvinists
the most Fanatical of the Reformed Churches--Witch-Creed
sanctioned in the Authorised Version of the Sacred
Scriptures--The Witch-Act of 1604--James VI.'s
'Demonologie'--Lycanthropy and Executions in France--The
French Provincial Parliaments active in passing Laws
against the various Witch-practices--Witchcraft in the
Pyrenees--Commission of Inquiry appointed--Its
Results--Demonology in Spain 168


'Possession' in France in the Seventeenth Century--Urbain
Grandier and the Convent of Loudun--Exorcism at
Aix--Ecstatic Phenomena--Madeleine Bavent--Her cruel
Persecution--Catholic and Protestant Witchcraft in
Germany--Luther's Demonological Fears and
Experiences--Originated in his exceptional Position and
in the extraordinary Circumstances of his Life and
Times--Witch-burning at Bamburg and at Würzburg 186


Scotland one of the most Superstitious Countries in
Europe--Scott's Relation of the Barbarities perpetrated in
the Witch-trials under the Auspices of James VI.--The Fate
of Agnes Sampson, Euphane MacCalzean, &c.--Irrational
Conduct of the Courts of Justice--Causes of Voluntary
Witch-Confessions--Testimony of Sir G. Mackenzie,
&c.--Trial and Execution of Margaret Barclay--Computation
of the Number of Witches who suffered Death in England and
Scotland in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth
Centuries--Witches burned alive at Edinburgh in 1608--The
Lancashire Witches--Sir Thomas Overbury and Dr.
Forman--Margaret Flower and Lord Rosse 203


The Literature of Europe in the Seventeenth Century proves
the Universality and Horror of Witchcraft--The most
acute and most liberal Men of Learning convinced of
its Reality--Erasmus and Francis Bacon--Lawyers prejudiced
by Legislation--Matthew Hale's judicial Assertion--Sir
Thomas Browne's Testimony--John Selden--The English
Church least Ferocious of the Protestant Sects--Jewell
and Hooker--Independent Tolerance--Witchcraft under
the Presbyterian Government--Matthew Hopkins--Gaule's
'Select Cases of Conscience'--Judicial and Popular Methods
of Witch-discovery--Preventive Charms--Witchfinders a Legal
and Numerous Class in England and Scotland--Remission in the
Severity of the Persecution under the Protectorship 219


Glanvil's Sadducismus Triumphatus--His Sentiments on
Witchcraft and Demonology--Baxter's 'Certainty of the
World of Spirits,' &c.--Witch Trial at Bury St. Edmund's
by Sir Matthew Hale, 1664--The Evidence adduced in
Court--Two Witches hanged--Three hanged at Exeter in
1682--The last Witches judicially executed in
England--Uniformity of the Evidence adduced at the
Trials--Webster's Attack upon the Witch-creed in
1677--Witch Trials in England at the end of the
Seventeenth Century--French Parliaments vindicate the
Diabolic Reality of the Crime--Witchcraft in Sweden 237


Witchcraft in the English Colonies in North
America--Puritan Intolerance and Superstition--Cotton
Mather's 'Late Memorable Providences'--Demoniacal
Possession--Evidence given before the
Commission--Apologies issued by Authority--Sudden
Termination of the Proceedings--Reactionary Feeling
against the Agitators--The Salem Witchcraft the last
Instance of Judicial Prosecution on a large Scale in
Christendom--Philosophers begin to expose the
Superstition--Meritorious Labours of Webster, Becker,
and others--Their Arguments could reach only the
Educated and Wealthy Classes of Society--These only
partially enfranchised--The Superstition continues to
prevail among the Vulgar--Repeal of the Witch Act in
England in 1736--Judicial and Popular Persecutions in
England in the Eighteenth Century--Trial of Jane
Wenham in England in 1712--Maria Renata burned in
Germany in 1749--La Cadière in France--Last Witch
burned in Scotland in 1722--Recent Cases of
Witchcraft--Protestant Superstition--Witchcraft in the
Extra-Christian World 259




The Origin, Prevalence, and Variety of Superstition--The
Belief in Witchcraft the most horrid Form of
Superstition--Most flourishing in the Sixteenth and
Seventeenth Centuries--The Sentiments of Addison,
Blackstone, and the Lawyers of the Eighteenth Century upon
the Subject--Chaldean and Persian Magic--Jewish
Witchcraft--Its important Influence on Christian and Modern
Belief--Greek Pharmacy and Sorcery--Early Roman Laws against
Conjuration and Magic Charms--Crimes perpetrated, under the
Empire, in connection with Sorceric Practices--The general
Persecution for Magic under Valentinian and Valens--German
and Scandinavian Sagæ--The probable Origin of the general
Belief in an Evil Principle.

Superstition, the product of ignorance of causes, of the
proneness to seek the solution of phenomena out of and beyond
nature, and of the consequent natural but unreasoning dread of
the Unknown and Invisible (ignorantly termed the supernatural),
is at once universal in the extent, and various in the kinds,
of its despotism. Experience and reason seem to prove that,
inherent to and apparently coexistent with the human mind, it
naturally originates in the constitution of humanity: in ignorance
and uncertainty, in an instinctive doubt and fear of the
_Unknown_. Accident may moderate its power among particular peoples
and persons; and there are always exceptional minds whose
natural temper and exercise of reason are able to free them from
the servitude of a delusive imagination. For the mass of mankind,
the germ of superstition, prepared to assume always a new shape
and sometimes fresh vigour, is indestructible. The severest
assaults are ineffectual to eradicate it: hydra-like, far from
being destroyed by a seeming mortal stroke, it often raises its
many-headed form with redoubled force.

It will appear more philosophic to deplore the imperfection, than
to deride the folly of human nature, when the fact that the
superstitious sentiment is not only a result of mere barbarism or
vulgar ignorance, to be expelled of course by civilisation and
knowledge, but is indigenous in the life of every man, barbarous
or civilised, pagan or Christian, is fully recognised. The
enlightening influence of science, as far as it extends, is
irresistible; and its progress within certain limits seems sure
and almost omnipotent. But it is unfortunately limited in the
extent of its influence, as well as uncertain in duration; while
reason enjoys a feeble reign compared with ignorance and
imagination.[1] If it is the great office of history to teach by
experience, it is never useless to examine the causes and the
facts of a mischievous creed that has its roots deep in the
ignorant fears of mankind; but against the recurrence of the
fatal effects of fanaticism apparent in the earliest and latest
records of the world, there can be no sufficient security.

[1] That 'speculation has on every subject of human enquiry
three successive stages; in the first of which it tends to
explain the phenomena by supernatural agencies, in the
second by metaphysical abstractions, and in the third or
final state, confines itself to ascertaining their laws of
succession and similitude' (_System of Logic_, by J. S.
Mill), is a generalisation of Positive Philosophy, and a
theory of the Science of History, consistent probably with
the progress of knowledge among philosophers, but is
scarcely applicable to the mass of mankind.

Dreams, magic terrors, miracles, witches, ghosts, portents, are
some of the various forms superstition has invented and magnified
to disturb the peace of society as well as of individuals. The
most extravagant of these need not be sought in the remoter ages
of the human race, or even in the 'dark ages' of European
history: they are sufficiently evident in the legislation and
theology, as well as in the popular prejudices of the seventeenth

The belief in the _infernal_ art of witchcraft is perhaps the
most horrid, as it certainly is the most absurd, phenomenon in
the religious history of the world. Of the millions of victims
sacrificed on the altars of religion this particular delusion can
claim a considerable proportion. By a moderate computation, nine
millions have been burned or hanged since the establishment of
Christianity.[2] Prechristian antiquity experienced its
tremendous power, and the primitive faith of Christianity easily
accepted and soon developed it. It was reserved, however, for the
triumphant Church to display it in its greatest horrors: and if
we deplore the too credulous or accommodative faith of the early
militant Church or the unilluminated ignorance of paganism, we
may still more indignantly denounce the cruel policy of
Catholicism and the barbarous folly of Protestant theology which
could deliberately punish an impossible crime. It is the reproach
of Protestantism that this persecution was most furiously raging
in the age that produced Newton and Locke. Compared with its
atrocities even the Marian burnings appear as nothing: and it may
well be doubted whether the fanatic zeal of the 'bloody Queen,'
is no less contemptible than the credulous barbarity of the
judges of the seventeenth century. The period 1484 (the year in
which Innocent VIII. published his famous 'Witch Hammer' signally
ratified 120 years later by the Act of Parliament of James I. of
England) to 1680 might be characterised not improperly as the era
of devil-worship; and we are tempted almost to embrace the theory
of Zerdusht and the Magi and conceive that Ahriman was then
superior in the eternal strife; to imagine the _Evil One_, as in
the days of the Man of Uz, 'going to and fro in the earth, and
walking up and down in it.' It is come to that at the present
day, according to a more rational observer of the seventeenth
century, that it is regarded as a part of religion to ascribe
great wonders to the devil; and those are taxed with infidelity
and perverseness who hesitate to believe what thousands relate
concerning his power. Whoever does not do so is accounted an
atheist because he cannot persuade himself that there are two
Gods, the one good and the other evil[3]--an assertion which is
no mere hyperbole or exaggeration of a truth: there is the
certain evidence of facts as well as the concurrent testimony of
various writers.

[2] According to Dr. Sprenger (_Life of Mohammed_). Cicero's
observation that there was no people either so civilised or
learned, or so savage and barbarous, that had not a belief
that the future may be predicted by certain persons (De
Divinatione, i.), is justified by the faith of Christendom,
as well as by that of paganism; and is as true of witchcraft
as it is of prophecy or divination.

[3] Dr. Balthazar Becker, Amsterdam, 1691, quoted in
Mosheim's _Institutes of Ecclesiastical History_, ed. Reid.

Those (comparatively few) whose reason and humanity alike
revolted from a horrible dogma, loudly proclaim the prevailing
prejudice. Such protests, however, were, for a long time at
least, feeble and useless--helplessly overwhelmed by the
irresistible torrent of public opinion. All classes of society
were almost equally infected by a plague-spot that knew no
distinction of class or rank. If theologians (like Bishop Jewell,
one of the most esteemed divines in the Anglican Church,
publicly asserting on a well known occasion at once his faith and
his fears) or lawyers (like Sir Edward Coke and Judge Hale) are
found unmistakably recording their undoubting conviction, they
were bound, it is plain, the one class by theology, the other by
legislation. Credulity of so extraordinary a kind is sufficiently
surprising even in theologians; but what is to be thought of the
deliberate opinion of unbiassed writers of a recent age
maintaining the possibility, if not the actual occurrence, of the
facts of the belief?

The deliberate judgment of Addison, whose wit and preeminent
graces of style were especially devoted to the extirpation of
almost every sort of popular folly of the day, could declare:
'When I hear the relations that are made from all parts of the
world, not only from Norway and Lapland, from the East and West
Indies, but from every particular nation in Europe, I cannot
forbear thinking that there is such an intercourse and commerce
with evil spirits as that which we express by the name of
witchcraft.... In short, when I consider the question whether
there are such persons in the world as those we call witches, my
mind is divided between two opposite opinions; or rather, to
speak my thoughts freely, I believe in general that there is and
has been such a thing as witchcraft, but at the same time can
give no credit to any particular modern instance of it.'[4]
Evidence, if additional were wanted, how deference to authority
and universal custom may subdue the reason and understanding. The
language and decision of Addison are adopted by Sir W. Blackstone
in 'Commentaries on the Laws of England,' who shelters himself
behind that celebrated author's sentiment; and Gibbon informs us
that 'French and English lawyers of the present age [the latter
half of the last century] allow the _theory_ but deny the
_practice_ of witchcraft'--influenced doubtless by the spirit of
the past legislation of their respective countries. In England
the famous enactment of the subservient parliament of James I.
against the crimes of sorcery, &c., was repealed in the middle of
the reign of George II., our laws sanctioning not 130 years since
the popular persecution, if not the legal punishment.

[4] _Spectator_, No. 117. The sentiments of Addison on a
kindred subject are very similar. Writing about the vulgar
ghost creed, he adds these remarkable words: 'At the same
time I think a person who is thus terrified with the
imagination of ghosts and spectres much more reasonable than
one who, contrary to the reports of all historians, sacred
and profane, ancient and modern, and to the traditions of
all nations, thinks the appearance of spirits fabulous and
groundless. Could not I give myself up to the general
testimony of mankind, I should to the relations of
particular persons who are now living, and whom I cannot
distrust in other matters of fact.' Samuel Johnson (whose
prejudices were equalled only by his range of knowledge)
proved his faith in a well-known case, if afterwards he
advanced so far as to consider the question as to the
reality of 'ghosts' as _undecided_. Sir W. Scott, who wrote
when the profound metaphysical inquiries of Hume had gained
ground (it is observable), is quite sceptical.

The origin of witchcraft and the vulgar diabolism is to be found
in the rude beginnings of the religious or superstitious feeling
which, known amongst the present savage nations as Fetishism,
probably prevailed almost universally in the earliest ages; while
that of the sublimer magic is discovered in the religious systems
of the ancient Chaldeans and Persians. Chaldea and Egypt were the
first, as far as is known, to cultivate the science of magic: the
former people long gave the well-known name to the professional
practisers of the art. Cicero (_de Divinatione_) celebrates, and
the Jewish prophets frequently deride, their skill in divination
and their modes of incantation. The story of Daniel evidences how
highly honoured and lucrative was the magical or divining
faculty. The Chazdim, or Chaldeans, a priestly caste inhabiting a
wide and level country, must have soon applied themselves to the
study, so useful to their interests, of their brilliant expanse
of heavens. By a prolonged and 'daily observation,' considerable
knowledge must have been attained; but in the infancy of the
science astronomy necessarily took the form of an empirical art
which, under the name of astrology, engaged the serious attention
and perplexed the brains of the mediæval students of science or
magic (nearly synonymous terms), and which still survives in
England in the popular almanacks. The natural objects of
veneration to the inhabitants of Assyria were the glorious
luminaries of the sun and moon; and if their worship of the stars
and planets degenerated into many absurd fancies, believing an
intimate connection and subordination of human destiny to
celestial influences, it may be admitted that a religious
sentiment of this kind in its primitive simplicity was more
rational, or at least sublime, than most other religious systems.

It is not necessary to trace the oriental creeds of magic further
than they affected modern beliefs; but in the divinities and
genii of Persia are more immediately traced the spiritual
existences of Jewish and Christian belief. From the Persian
priests are derived both the name and the practice of magic. The
Evil Principle of the Magian, of the later Jewish, and thence of
the western world, originated in the system (claiming Zoroaster
as its founder), which taught a duality of Gods. The philosophic
lawgiver, unable to penetrate the mystery of the empire of evil
and misery in the world, was convinced that there is an equal and
antagonistic power to the representative of light and goodness.
Hence the continued eternal contention between Ormuzd with the
good spirits or genii, Amchaspands, on one side, and Ahriman with
the Devs (who may represent the infernal crew of Christendom) on
the other. Egypt, in the Mosaic and Homeric ages, seems to have
attained considerable skill in magic, as well as in chymistry and
astrology. As an abstruse and esoteric doctrine, it was strictly
confined to the priests, or to the favoured few who were admitted
to initiation. The magic excellence of the magicians, who
successfully emulated the miracles of Moses, was apparently
assisted by a legerdemain similar to that of the Hindu jugglers
of the present day.[5]

[5] The names of two of these magicians, Jannes and Jambres,
have been preserved by revelation or tradition.

In Persian theology, the shadowy idea of the devil of western
Asia was wholly different from the grosser conception of
Christendom. Neither the evil principle of Magianism nor the
witch of Palestine has much in common with the Christian. 'No
contract of subjection to a diabolic power, no infernal stamp or
sign of such a fatal league, no revellings of Satan and his
hags,'[6] no such materialistic notions could be conformable to
the spirit of Judaism or at least of Magianism. It is not
difficult to find the cause of this essential dissimilarity. A
simple unity was severely inculcated by the religion and laws of
Moses, which permitted little exercise of the imagination: while
the Magi were equally severe against idolatrous forms. A
monstrous idea, like that of 'Satan and his hags,' was impossible
to them. Christianity, the religion of the West, has received
its _corporeal_ ideas of demonology from the divinities and
demons of heathenism. The Satyri and Fauni of Greece and Rome
have suggested in part the form, and perhaps some of the
characteristics, of the vulgar Christian devil. A knowledge of
the arts of magic among the Jews was probably derived from their
Egyptian life, while the Bedouins of Arabia and Syria (kindred
peoples) may have instilled the less scientific rites of
Fetishism. It is in the early accounts of that people that
sorcery, whatever its character and profession, with the allied
arts of divination, necromancy, incantations, &c., appears most
flourishing. The Mosaic penalty, 'Thou shalt not suffer a witch
to live,' and the comprehensive injunction, 'There shall not be
found among you that maketh his son or his daughter to pass
through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of
times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter
with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer,' indicate
at once the extent and the horror of the practice. Balaam (that
equivocal prophet), on the border-land of Arabia and Palestine,
was courted and dreaded as a wizard who could perplex whole
armies by means of spells. His fame extended far and wide; he was
summoned from his home beyond the Euphrates in the mountains of
Mesopotamia by the Syrian tribes to repel the invading enemy.
This great magician was, it seems, universally regarded as 'the
rival and the possible conqueror of Moses.'[7]

[6] Sir W. Scott, _Letters on Demonology_.

[7] Dean Stanley's _Lectures on the Jewish Church_.

About the time when the priestly caste had to yield to a profane
monarchy, the forbidden practices were so notorious and the evil
was of such magnitude, that the newly-elected prince 'ejected'
(as Josephus relates) 'the fortune-tellers, necromancers, and all
such as exercised the like arts.' His interview with the witch
has some resemblance to modern _diablerie_ in the circumstances.
Reginald Scot's rationalistic interpretation of this scene may be
recommended to the commentating critics who have been so much at
a loss to explain it. He derides the received opinion of the
woman of Endor being an agent of the devil, and ignoring any
mystery, believes, 'This Pythonist being a _ventriloqua_, that
is, speaking as it were from the bottom of her belly, did cast
herself into a trance and so abused Saul, answering to Saul
in Samuel's name in her counterfeit hollow voice.[8] An
institution very popular with the Jews of the first temple,
often commemorated in their scriptures--the schools of the
prophets--was (it is not improbable) of the same kind as the
schools of Salamanca and Salerno in the middle ages, where magic
was publicly taught as an abstruse and useful science; and when
Jehu justifies his conduct towards the queen-mother by bringing a
charge of witchcraft, he only anticipates an expedient common and
successful in Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
A Jewish prophet asserts of the Babylonian kings, that they were
diligent cultivators of the arts, reproaching them with
practising against the holy city.

[8] _Discoverie of Witchcraft_, lib. viii. chap. 12. The
contrivance of this illusion was possibly like that at
Delphi, where in the centre of the temple was a chasm, from
which arose an intoxicating smoke, when the priestess was to
announce divine revelations. Seated over the chasm upon the
tripod, the Pythia was inspired, it seems, by the soporific
and maddening drugs.

Yet if we may credit the national historian (not to mention the
common traditions), the Chaldean monarch might have justly
envied, if he could scarcely hope to emulate, the excellence of a
former prince of his now obscure province. Josephus says of
Solomon that, amongst other attainments, 'God enabled him to
learn that skill which expels demons, which is a science useful
and sanative to men. He composed such incantations also by which
distempers are alleviated, and he left behind him the manner of
using exorcisms by which they drive away demons so that they
never return.'[9] The story of Daniel is well known. In the
captivity of the two tribes carried away into an honourable
servitude he soon rose into the highest favour, because, as we
are informed, he excelled in a divination that surpassed all the
art of the Chaldeans, themselves so famous for it. The inspired
Jew had divined a dream or vision which puzzled 'the magicians,
and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans,'
and immediately was rewarded with the greatest gift at the
disposal of a capricious despot. Most of the apologetic writers
on witchcraft, in particular the authors of the 'Malleus
Maleficarum,' accept the assertion of the author of the history
of Daniel that Nebuchadnezzar was 'driven from men, and did eat
grass as oxen,' in its apparent sense, expounding it as plainly
declaring that he was corporeally metamorphosed into an ox, just
as the companions of Ulysses were transformed into swine by the
Circean sorceries.

[9] _Antiquities_, book viii. 2. Whiston's transl.

The Jewish ideas of good or at least evil spirits or angels were
acquired during their forced residence in Babylon, whether under
Assyrian or Persian government. At least 'Satan' is first
discovered unmistakably in a personal form in the poem of Job, a
work pronounced by critics to have been composed after the
restoration. In the Mosaic cosmogony and legislation, the writer
introduces not, expressly or impliedly, the existence of an evil
principle, unless the serpent of the Paradisaic account, which
has been rather arbitrarily so metamorphosed, represents it;[10]
while the expressions in books vulgarly reputed before the
conquest are at least doubtful. From this time forward (from the
fifth century B.C.), says a German demonologist, as the Jews
lived among the admirers of Zoroaster, and thus became acquainted
with their doctrines, are found, partly in contradiction to the
earlier views of their religion, many tenets prevailing amongst
them the origin of which it is impossible to explain except by
the operation of the doctrines of Zoroaster: to these belongs the
general acceptance of the theory of Satan, as well as of good and
bad angels.[11] Under Roman government or vassalage, sorceric
practices, as they appear in the Christian scriptures, were much
in vogue. Devils or demons, and the 'prince of the devils,'
frequently appear; and the _demoniacs_ may represent the victims
of witchcraft. The Talmud, if there is any truth in the
assertions of the apologists of witchcraft, commemorates many of
the most virtuous Jews accused of the crime and executed by the
procurator of Judea.[12] Exorcism was a very popular and
lucrative profession.[13] Simon Magus the magician (_par
excellence_), the impious pretender to miraculous powers, who
'bewitched the people of Samaria by his sorceries,' is celebrated
by Eusebius and succeeding Christian writers as the fruitful
parent of heresy and sorcery.

[10] Some ingenious remarks on the subject of the serpent,
&c., may be found in _Eastern Life_, part ii. 5, by H.

[11] Horst, quoted in Ennemoser's _History of Magic_. It has
been often remarked as a singular phenomenon, that the
'chosen people,' so prompt in earlier periods on every
occasion to idolatry and its cruel rites, after its
restoration under Persian auspices, has been ever since
uniformly opposed, even fiercely, to any sign contrary to the
unity of the Deity. But the Magian system was equally averse
to idolatry.

[12] Bishop Jewell (_Apology for the Church of England_)
states that Christ was accused by the malice of his
countrymen of being a juggler and wizard--_præstigiator et
maleficus_. In the apostolic narrative and epistles, sorcery,
witchcraft, &c., are crimes frequently described and
denounced. The Sadducean sect alone denied the existence of

[13] The common belief of the people of Palestine in the
transcendent power of exorcism is illustrated by a miracle
of this sort, gravely related by Josephus. It was exhibited
before Vespasian and his army. 'He [Eleazar, one of the
professional class] put a ring that had a root of one of
those sorts mentioned by Solomon to the nostrils of the
demoniac; after which he drew out the demon through his
nostrils: and when the man fell down immediately he adjured
him to return into him no more, making still mention of
Solomon, and reciting the incantations which he composed.
And when Eleazar would demonstrate to the spectators that he
had such power, he set a little way off a cup or basin full
of water, and commanded the demon as he went out of the man
to overturn it, and thereby to let the spectators know he
had left the man.' This performance was received with
contempt or credulity by the spectators according to their
faith: but the credulity of the believers could hardly
exceed that of a large number of educated people, who in our
own generation detect in the miracles of animal magnetism,
or the legerdemain of jugglers, an infernal or supernatural

That witchcraft, or whatever term expresses the criminal
practice, prevailed among the worshippers of Jehovah, is evident
from the repeated anathemas both in their own and the Christian
scriptures, not to speak of traditional legends; but the Hebrew
and Greek expressions seem both to include at least the use of
drugs and perhaps of poison.[14] The Jewish creed, as exposed in
their scriptures, has deserved a fame it would not otherwise
have, because upon it have been founded by theologians, Catholic
and Protestant, the arguments and apology for the reality of
witchcraft, derived from the sacred writings, with an ingenuity
only too common and successful in supporting peculiar prejudices
and interests even of the most monstrous kind.[15]

[14] _Chashaph_ and _Pharmakeia._ Biblical critics are
inclined, however, to accept in its strict sense the
translation of the Jacobian divines. 'Since in the LXX.,'
says Parkhurst, the lexicographer of the N.T., 'this noun
[pharmakeia] and its relatives always answer to some Hebrew
word that denotes some kind of their magical or conjuring
tricks; and since it is too notorious to be insisted upon,
that such infernal practices have always prevailed, and do
still prevail in idolatrous countries, I prefer the other
sense of incantation.'

[15] A sort of ingenuity much exercised of late by 'sober
brows approving with a text' the institution of slavery:
_divine_, according to them; _the greatest evil that afflicts
mankind_, according to Alexander von Humboldt. See _Personal

In examining the phenomenon as it existed among the Greeks and
Romans, it will be remarked that, while the Greeks seem to have
mainly adopted the ideas of the East, the Roman superstition was
of Italian origin. Their respective expressions for the
predictive or presentient faculty (_manteia_ and _divinatio_), as
Cicero is careful to explain, appear to indicate its different
character with those two peoples: the one being the product of a
sort of madness, the other an elaborate and divine skill. Greek
traditions made them believe that the magic science was brought
from Egypt or Asia by their old philosophic and legislating
sages. Some of the most eminent of the founders of philosophic
schools were popularly accused of encouraging it. Pythagoras (it
is the complaint of Plato) is said to have introduced to his
countrymen an art derived from his foreign travels; a charge
which recalls the names of Roger Bacon, Albertus Magnus, Galileo,
and others, who had to pay the penalty of a premature knowledge
by the suspicion of their cotemporaries. Xenophanes is said
to be the only one of the philosophers who admitted the existence
or providence of the gods, and at the same time entirely
discredited divination. Of the Stoics, Panætius was the only one
who ventured even to doubt. Some gave credit to one or two
particular modes only, as those of dreams and frenzy; but for the
most part every form of this sort of divine revelation was
implicitly received.[16]

[16] Cicero, in his second book _De Divinatione_, undertakes
to refute the arguments of the Stoics, 'the force of whose
mind, being all turned to the side of morals, unbent itself
in that of religion.' The divining faculty is divisible
generally into the artificial and the natural.

The science of magic proper is developed in the later schools of
philosophy, in which Oriental theology or demonology was largely
mixed. Apollonius of Tyana, a modern Pythagorean, is the most
famous magician of antiquity. This great miracle-worker of
paganism was born at the commencement of the Christian era; and
it has been observed that his miracles, though quite independent
of them, curiously coincide both in time and kind with the
Christian.[17] According to his biographer Philostratus, this
extraordinary man (whose travels and researches extended, we are
assured, over the whole East even into India, through Greece,
Italy, Spain, northern Africa, Ethiopia, &c.) must have been in
possession of a scientific knowledge which, compared with that of
his cotemporaries, might be deemed almost supernatural.
Extraordinary attainments suggested to him in later life to
excite the awe of the vulgar by investing himself with magical
powers. Apollonius is said to have assisted Vespasian in his
struggle for the throne of the Cæsars; afterwards, when accused
of raising an insurrection against Domitian, and when he had
given himself up voluntarily to the imperial tribunal at Rome, he
escaped impending destruction by the exertion of his superhuman

[17] The proclamation of the birth of Apollonius to his
mother by Proteus, and the incarnation of Proteus himself,
the chorus of swans which sang for joy on the occasion, the
casting out of devils, raising the dead, and healing the
sick, the sudden appearances and disappearances of
Apollonius, his adventures in the cave of Trophonius, and
the sacred voice which called him at his death, to which may
be added his claim as a teacher having authority to reform
the world, 'cannot fail to suggest,' says a writer in the
_Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography_, &c., ed. by Dr.
W. Smith, 'the parallel passages in the Gospel history.'

Of the incantations, charms, and magic compounds in the practice
of Greek witchcraft, numerous examples occur in the tragic and
comic poetry of Greece; and the _philtres_, or love-charms, of
Theocritus are well known. The names of Colchis, Chaldea,
Assyria, Iberia, Thrace, may indicate the origin of a great part
of the Hellenic sorceries. Yet, if the more honourable science
may have been of foreign extraction, Hellas was not without
something of the sorcery of modern Europe. The infernal goddess
Hecate, of Greek celebrity, is the omnipotent patroness of her
modern Christian slaves; and she presides at the witch meetings
of Christendom with as much solemnity but with far greater
malice. Originally of celestial rank, by a later metamorphosis
connected, if not personally identical with, Persephone,
the Queen of Hades, Hecate was invested with many of the
characteristic attributes of a modern devil, or rather perhaps of
a witch. The triple goddess, in her various shapes, wandered
about at night with the souls of the dead, terrifying the
trembling country people by apparitions of herself and infernal
satellites, by the horrible whining and howls of her hellhounds
which always announced her approach.

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