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Secret Societies of the Middle Ages

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Author Topic: Secret Societies of the Middle Ages  (Read 2213 times)
Trena Alloway
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« Reply #180 on: February 04, 2009, 01:20:26 pm »

All the initiated of every degree might go on foot and on horseback through the country, for daring was the man who would presume to injure them, as certain death was his inevitable lot. A dreadful punishment also awaited any one of them who should forget his vow and reveal the secrets of the society; he was to be seized, a cloth bound over his eyes, his hands tied behind his back, a halter put about his neck; he was to be thrown upon his belly, his tongue pulled out behind by the nape of his neck, and he was then to be hung seven feet higher than any other felon. It is doubtful, however, if there ever was a necessity for inflicting this punishment, for Æneas Sylvius, who wrote at the time when the society had degenerated, assures us that no member had ever been induced, by any motives whatever, to betray its secrets; and he describes the initiated as grave men and lovers of right and justice. Similar language is employed concerning them by other writers of the time.

Besides the count and the assessors, there were required, for the due holding a Fehm-court, the officers named Frohnboten *, or serjeants, or messengers, and a clerk to enter the decisions in what was called the blood-book (Liber sanguinis). These were, of course, initiated, or they could not be present. It was required that the messengers should be freemen belonging to the county, and have all the qualifications of the simple schöppen. Their duty was to attend on the court when sitting, and to take care that the ignorant, against whom there was any charge, were duly cited †.



p. 352

The count was to hold two kinds of courts, the one public, named the Open or Public Court (Offenbare Ding), to which every freeman had access; the other private, called the Secret Tribunal (Heimliche Acht), at which no one who was not initiated could venture to appear.

The former court was held at stated periods, and at least three times in each year. It was announced fourteen days previously by the messengers (Frohnboten), and every householder in the county, whether initiated or not, free or servile, was bound under a penalty of four heavy shillings, to appear at it and declare on oath what crimes he knew to have been committed in the county.

When the count held the Secret Court, the clergy, who had received the tonsure and ordination, women and children, Jews and Heathens *, and, as it would appear, the higher nobility, were exempted from its jurisdiction. The clergy were exempted, probably, from prudential motives, as it was not deemed safe to irritate the members of so powerful a body, by encroaching on their privileges; they might, however, voluntarily subject themselves to the Fehm-gerichte if they were desirous of partaking of the advantages of initiation. Women and children were exempt on account of their sex and age, and the period of infancy was extended, in the citations, to fourteen, eighteen, and sometimes twenty years of age. Jews, Heathens, and such like, were exempted on account of their unworthiness. The higher nobility were exempted (if such was really the case) in compliance with the maxim of German law that


p. 353

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