« ПредишнаНапред »
James the First, till near the conclusion of that of James the Second. It was only during that interval that witchcraft, properly so called, (for it must not be confounded with magic, conjuration, apparitions, possessions, &c. which, though ejusdem generis, are yet very different species) was so abundant in this country as to make it a national superstition. Then was the art most common in practice amongst the ignorant, and its theory was brought to highest perfection by the learned. Then were the devil's sabbaths held most merrily, as if his infernal majesty had taken a lesson from his sacred majesty, and issued a book of sports for his loyal subjects. Then were deeds and bonds of awful obligation so multiplied, as if the reprobate souls of all the lawyers of Christendom had been industriously labouring in their vocation in their new country, and meriting, if not attaining, the highest honours of its government. Then was fought the great controversial battle on this subject, in which Scott gallantly led on the van of the rationalists to the attack; and Glanvil as gallantly fought in the rear guard of the routed demonists. Witchcraft and kingcraft both came in with the Stuarts, and went out with them. The Revolution put to rights the faith of the country, as well as its constitution ; aided by the Whigs for the one purpose, and by the Royal Society for the other. The information diffused by that band of philosophers, touched though many of them might be by the current prejudices and superstitions of the times, had a happy influence, and combined well with the efforts of those who more directly applied themselves to the matter in question. Several other causes co-operated for the healing of this mischief. The laws were more liberally interpreted and rationally administered. The trade of witch-finding ceased to be reputable or profitable. The demon of fanaticism was exorcised, and the separatists were dispossessed of their original enthusiasm. The wand of the popish conjuror was also broken. Yet, after all, the decline of this diabolical empire was scarcely so rapid as had been its rise, which
silly compilation of exotic tales and fancies, the Demonology of James,* together with the severe law enacted in his reign (for
* There seems to have been some doubt whether James Montacute, Bishop of Exeter, who edited the works of King James, both in Latin and English, in 1616, did not Gaudenize a little. Ady speaks of “ James, Bishop of Winton, setting forth three books called Demonology, in the name and title of the works of King James ;" and Webster says, “ There is a little Treatise in Latine titled Demonologia, fathered upon King James, how truly we shall not dispute, for some ascribe it to others." No reason is assigned for this doubt, nor is it probable that there was any foundation for it. Two éditions of laws have often made and multiplied crimes), no doubt materially aided; though something had been done before by the statutes of Henry VIII and Elizabeth.
James assigns, as reasons for the publication of his Demonology, both the increase of witches, and the denial of their existence.
“ The fearful abounding, at this time, in this country, of these detestable slaves of the devil, the witches or enchanters, hath moved me (beloved reader) to dispatch, in post, this following Treatise of mine, not in any wise (as I protest) to serve for a shew of my learning and ingine, but only (moved of conscience) to preasse thereby, so far as I can, to resolve the doubting hearts of many, both that such assaults of Satan are most certainly practised, and that the instruments thereof merit most severely to be punished : against the damnable opinions of two principally, in our age, whereof the one called Scott, an Englishman, is not ashamed, in publicke print, to deny that there can be such a thing as witchcraft, &c.”—
In Cap. 7 he again adverts to the comparative novelty of this kind of superstition :
“For as we know, moe ghosts and spirits were seen, nor tongue can tell, in the time of blind Papistrie in these countries, where now by the contrarie, a man shall scarcely all his time hear once of such things; and yet were these unlawful arts farre rarer at that time, and never were so much heard of, nor so rife, as they are now.”
His vigorous opposition however made them much more rife. It seemed as if the devil avenged on the episcopally christened Solomon of the west, the insults he had sustained from Solomon of the east. The latter sent out of his country all the demons that could be found, safe packed in a vessel of brass, to be buried at Babylon; and the former imported, by his book, all that were flying about Europe to plague the country which was sufficiently plagued already in such a sovereign. But tradition makes the one the greatest of magicians, and authentic history declares the other to have been no conjuror.
The evil arrived at its greatest height during the civil war, and under the domination of the Sectaries. Hutchinson says,
" In 103 years, from the statute against witchcraft in the 33d of Henry 8th, till 1644, when we were in the midst of our civil wars, I find but about fifteen executed. But in the sixteen years following, while the government was in other hands, there were an hundred and
the Demonology were printed in Edinburgh (in 1597 and 1600) before James's accession to the crown of England ; and a third in London in the year of his accession.
nine, if not more, condemned and hanged. In the five years following, before the late notions were well considered, I find five witches condemned, and three of them, if not all five, executed; and three after at Exeter, 1682. Since then, that is, in thirty-six years last past, I have not yet met with one witch hanged in England. In Scotland, indeed, and New England, several have suffered ; but in England not one, that I know of.”
Witchcraft had flourished and declined in several countries of Europe before it came over to England by royal invitation, to run here a similar career of frenzy, imposture, and bloodshed. The phænomena of its rise and subsidence were very similar. Laws were enacted against it, commissioners or inquisitors were appointed, volumes of horrid and extravagant tales were published, confessions were elicited by torture, or volunteered by insanity; the gibbet groaned, the stake blazed, and every body was either witch or bewitched. But presently the laws relaxed, the executioner grew tired, the commissions were dissolved, the books ceased to be read, and the world went on as it had done before-rather better, perhaps. Some little treasonable intercourse with “ the enemy,” or suspicion of it, or hankering after it, there undoubtedly was, previous to this bustle; but still it is most evident, that the degree of it which produced
that which they, in turn, produced. They inflamed the public imagination, and tempted superstitious wickedness to embark on the ocean of crime of which they published the chart, and superstitious weakness to fancy itself an unwilling (yet guilty) agent,
safely gratifying the most malignant propensities. But little was heard of witchcraft, properly so called, till about the middle or latter end of the fifteenth century, when Pope Innocent VIII. directed a bull to the Inquisitors of Almain, empowering them to discover and burn witches. From this time the frenzy floated from country to country, raging a short time in each, and then the persecution and the imagined crime ceased together. A few articles from Hutchinson's chronological table will illustrate its transitions, and the havoc which it made.
1485. Cumanus burnt forty-one poor women for witches in the country of Burlia in one year. "He caused them to be shaven first, that they might be searched for marks. He continued the prosecutions in the years following, and many fled out of the country.
About this time, Alciat, a famous lawyer, in his Parerga, says, one inquisitor burnt a hundred in Piedmont, and proceeded daily to burn more, till the people rose against the inquisitor, and chased him out of the country.
1515. Forty-eight were burnt about this time in Ravensburg in five years. Five hundred at Geneva in three months.
1524. About this time, a thousand burnt in one year in the diocese of Como ; and a hundred per ann. for several years together.
1580. In fifteen years, from 1580 to 1595, Remigius burnt nine hundred in Lorrain. As many more fled out of the country to save their lives ; and fifteen laid violent hands on themselves, rather than endure the tortures that they put them to; and whole towns were ready to leave their habitations for fear of witches. Great numbers also were tortured and destroyed in Spain and Germany.
1590. Most of this winter spent in examination of witches and sorcerers in Scotland. . 1594. In the neighbourhood of Bordeaux, “the crime of witchcraft was grown so common at that miserable time, that the parliament jails would not hold the prisoners, nor had they judges enough to hear their causes. Their seats of justice were daily stained with their blood, and they hardly ever went home to their houses otherwise than astonished at the hideous and frightful things which the witches confessed."
1619. The author of Cautio Criminalis, saith, that about that time the German princes finding no cure, but increase, by executions of witches, began to stay their hands, and feared they had been wrong.
1634. The celebrated possession of the nuns of Loudun.
1649. Great numbers burnt in Scotland in those unsettled times ; estimated at about four thousand.
1670. Seventy condemned, and most of them executed, at Mohra in Sweden, besides many children whipped.
1672. A “very great number of shepherds and other people,” accused of witchcraft at Rouen ; the proceedings were stopped by royal authority.
*1678. Six executed in Scotland, for bewitching Sir George Maxwell.
1682. Several punished by the Portuguese Inquisition.
1692. Nineteen hanged at Salem in New England. Many more imprisoned.
We pass over now the executions in England, as we shall have occasion to advert to them, together with other facts connected with the history of witchcraft, after attempting a picture of the theory of that art as exhibited by the writers whom we have consulted.
Magic is the genus, witchcraft the species; and the specific distinction is, that the wonders of the latter are effected by virtue of a compact, express or implied, between the devil, or rather a devil and the witch. Glanvil says, “a witch is one who can
do, or seems to do, strange things, beyond the known power of art and ordinary nature, by virtue of a confederacy with evil spirits.” In this confederacy, this covenant of death, which the devil makes in imitation of God's covenant of grace, lay the essence of the crime, of which the havoc made, in consequence, on man, beasts, or nature, constituted the overt acts.
A subject of much discussion was, whether any results out of the ordinary course of nature could be produced, saving miracles by divine agency, or that of angels or saints, except by such a contract: in other words, whether all magic ought not to be resolved into witchcraft. The witch-believers generally, as the controversy advanced, inclined towards this opinion, though some still clung to the more ancient notion, that charms, consisting of certain words, or figures, or herbs, properly disposed, had an inherent virtue, or might elicit the aid of good spirits, or even enable the bold operator to command the ministry of evil spirits, without subjecting himself to their dominion. This last practice was justly deemed, even if innocent, to be dangerous; and as one of the interlocutors, in the Demonology, observes, “ They that sup keile with the devil have need of long spoons.” It was also debated, whether, supposing charms to operate merely by demoniacal agency, that agency was voluntary, or compelled : some maintaining, that the devil spontaneously took the opportunity of displaying his power, that he might entrap the conjuror; and others, suspecting that there were certain clauses in the constitution of the kingdom of darkness, compelling its members to render services to man, when properly invoked.
The magic of heathen antiquity was, to all appearance at least, entirely free from the infernal compact. The hags of Thessaly sold not their souls, but wrought at a much cheaper rate. The divination of Greece and Rome derived its infallibility from certain secret but widely diffused sympathies in nature, by which the cackling of geese, or the appetite of chickens, or the croaking of ravens, or the flight of various kinds of birds, or the entrails of sacrificed animals, became indicative of mightier movements in the great machine, which were by these means suggested to the wise ; as to the practised physiognomist, some slight convulsion of feature may predict the brewing up of a storm of passion, which bursts most unexpectedly on the unobserving; or else they were a species of oracle, the gods explaining themselves by signs, instead of words. They had faith, too, in the inherent efficacy of magic verse; and of rare stones and herbs, with or without the con
joined power of sidereal influences. If the aid of gods or de·mons was needful, it was not basely purchased, or sold a hard bargain, like the devil's wares, but accorded to the potency of
siognomist,cans suggested to in the great