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Author Topic: THE WITCH-PERSECUTIONS  (Read 1579 times)
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« Reply #45 on: April 07, 2009, 03:21:31 pm »

simply declare herself guilty; for whatever else she may say will not be the truth and cannot be.

22. She is, however, tortured with the torture of the first degree, i. e., the less severe. This is to be understood thus: that, although in itself it is exceeding severe, yet, compared with others to follow, it is lighter. Wherefore, if she confesses, they say and noise it abroad that she has confessed without torture.

23. Now, what prince or other dignitary who bears this can doubt that she is most certainly guilty who thus voluntarily without torture confesses her guilt?

24. Without any scruples, therefore, after this confession she s executed. Yet she would have been executed, nevertheless, even though she had not confessed; for, when once a beginning has been made with the torture, the die is already cast--she cannot escape, she must die.

25. So, whether she confesses or does not confess, the result is the same. If she confesses, the thing is clear, for, as I have said and as is self-evident, she is executed: all recantation is in vain, as I have shown above. If she does not confess, the torture is repeated-twice, thrice, four times: anything one pleases is permissible, for in an excepted crime 1 there is no limit of duration or severity or repetition of the tortures. As to this, think the judges, no sin is possible which can be brought up before the tribunal of conscience. 2

26. If now Gaia, no matter how many times tortured, has not yet broken silence if she contorts her features under the pain, if she loses consciousness, or the like, then they cry that she is laughing or has bewitched herself into taciturnity, 3 and hence deserves to be burned alive, as lately has been done to some who though several times tortured would not confess.

27. And then they say--even clergymen and confessors--that she died obstinate and impenitent, that she would not be converted or desert her paramour, 4 but kept rather her faith with him.

28. If, however, it chances that under so many tortures one dies,

p. 34

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« Reply #46 on: April 07, 2009, 03:21:45 pm »

they say that her neck has been broken by the Devil.

29. Wherefore justly, forsooth, the corpse is dragged out by the executioner and buried under the gallows.

30. But if, on the other hand, Gaia does not die and some exceptionally scrupulous judge hesitates to torture her further without fresh proofs or to burn her without a confession, she is kept in prison and more harshly fettered, and there lies for perhaps an entire year to rot until she is subdued.

31. For it is never possible to clear herself by withstanding and thus to wash away the aspersion of crime, as is the intention of the laws. It would be a disgrace to her examiners if when once arrested she should thus go free. Guilty must she be, by fair means or foul, whom they have once but thrown into bonds.

32. Meanwhile, both then and earlier, they send to her ignorant and headstrong priests, more importunate than the executioners themselves. It is the business of these to harass in every wise the wretched creature to such a degree that, whether truly or not, she will at last confess herself guilty; unless she does so, they declare, she simply cannot be saved, nor share in the sacraments.

33. The greatest care is taken lest there be admitted to her priests more thoughtful and learned, who have aught of insight or kindliness; as also that nobody visits her prison who might give her counsel or inform the ruling princes. For there is nothing so much dreaded by any of them as that in some way the innocence of any of the accused should be brought to light. . . .

34. In the meantime, while Gaia, as I have said, is still held in prison, and is tormented by those whom it least behooves, there are not wanting to her industrious judges clever devices by which they not only find new proofs against Gaia, but by which moreover they so convict her to her face (an 't please the gods!) that by the advice of some university faculty 1 she is then at last pronounced to deserve burning alive. . . .

35. Some, however, to leave no stone unturned, order Gaia to be exorcised and transferred to a new place, and then to be tortured again, in the hope that by this exorcism and change of place the bewitchment

p. 35

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« Reply #47 on: April 07, 2009, 03:22:04 pm »

of taciturnity may perhaps be broken. But, if not even this succeeds, then at last they commit her alive to the flames. Now, in Heaven's name, I would like to know, since both she who confesses and she who does not perish alike, what way of escape is there for any, however innocent? O unhappy Gaia, why hast thou rashly hoped? why hast thou not, at first entering prison, declared thyself guilty? why, O foolish woman and mad, wilt thou die so many times when thou mightst die but once? Follow my counsel, and before all pain declare thyself guilty and die. Thou wilt not escape; for this were a disgrace to the zeal of Germany.

36. If, now, any under stress of pain has once falsely declared herself guilty, her wretched plight beggars description. For not only is there in general no door for her escape, but she is also compelled to accuse others, of whom she knows no ill, and whose names are not seldom suggested to her by her examiners or by the executioner, or of whom she has heard as suspected or accused or already once arrested and released. These in their turn are forced to accuse others, and these still others, and so it goes on: who can help seeing that it must go on without end?

37. Wherefore the judges themselves are obliged at last either to break off the trials and so condemn their own work or else to burn their own folk, aye themselves and everybody: for on all soon or late false accusations fall, and, if only followed by the torture, all are proved guilty.

38. And so at last those are brought into question who at the outset most loudly clamored for the constant feeding of the flames; for they rashly failed to foresee that their turn, too, must inevitably come--and by a just verdict of Heaven, since with their pestilent tongues they created us so many witches and sent so many innocent to the flames,

39. But now gradually many of the wiser and more learned begin to take notice of it, and, as if aroused from deep sleep, to open their eyes and slowly and cautiously to bestir themselves. . . .

46. From all which there follows this corollary, worthy to be noted in red ink: that, if only the trials be steadily pushed on with, there is nobody in our day, of whatsoever sex, fortune, rank, or dignity, who is safe, if he have but an enemy and slanderer to bring him into suspicion of witchcraft. . . .

p. 36


31:1 i. e., of course, an insane person.

31:2 i. e., woman. Gaia was the name used for a female culprit by the Roman law--like the John Doe or Richard Roe of our own legal parlance.

32:1 Crimina excepta were those in which, by reason of their enormity, all restraints upon procedure were suspended. Such were treason, and, by analogy, treason against heaven--heresy, that is, and especially witchcraft. In dealing with the latter an added ground for severity was found in the belief that the Devil might aid supernaturally his allies.

33:1 See note on page 32.

33:2 i. e., which can be inquired into by the priest in the confessional.

33:3 Uti maleficio tacturnitatis, i. e., by witchcraft makes herself incapable of confession.

33:4 i. e., of course, the Devil.

34:1 It was sometimes the juristic, sometimes the theologic, faculty of a university which was called on for such advice, the crime of witchcraft being subject to both secular and ecclesiastical jurisdiction.

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« Reply #48 on: April 07, 2009, 03:22:22 pm »

p. 36
There are few subjects on which so much has been written, yet so little that is serious in aim and scholarly in method. An idea of the literature as a whole may be gained from a paper on "The Literature of Witchcraft," contributed by the present editor to the Papers of the American Historical Association for 1890, and from Dr. Justin Winsor's "The Literature of Witchcraft in New England," in the Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society for 1895. The best survey, in English, of the whole subject is still the chapter "Magic and Witchcraft" in Mr. Lecky's "History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in Europe." Mr. Lea's "History of the Inquisition in the Middle Ages" has precious chapters on "Sorcery and Occult Arts" and on "Witchcraft." Admirable for its insight is James Russell Lowell's essay on "Witchcraft" (in his "Among my Books"). Of the monographs the best of the more comprehensive are:

Soldan: Geschichte der Hexenprozesse. Neu bearbeitet von H. Heppe. 2 vols. Stuttgart, 1880.
Long the standard history of the witch-persecutions.

Hansen: Zauberwahn, Inquisition und Hexenprozess im Mittelalter und die Entstehung der grossen Hexenverfolgung. München, 1900.
The most thorough study of the rise of witch-persecution in Christendom. For the period prior to 1540 it supplants all else. Added as Quellen Und Untersuchungen (Bonn, 1901) is a priceless collection of sources.

Wright: Narratives of Sorcery and Magic. 2 vols. London, 1851. (1 vol. New York, 1852.).
Written to entertain, and with little attempt at exhaustiveness, but the work of a true scholar. It is episodical in treatment and gives especial attention to the persecution in lands of English speech.

Baissac: Les Grands Jours de la Sorcellerie. Paris, 1890.
The best of the French histories of the subject. It gives most attention to France. An earlier book of Baissac's, Le Diable (Paris, 1882), is also of value for this study.

Diefenbach: Der Hexenwahn vor und nach der Glaubensspaltung in Deutschland. Mainz, 1886.
A study, by a Catholic apologist, of the share of the rival faiths in the persecution. Directed in part against Soldan. An abler and more thorough treatment from the Catholic side is now to be found, however, in the eighth volume of Janssen's Geschichte des deutschen Volkes (Freiburg, 1894).

Längin: Religion und Hexenprozess. Leipzig, 1888.
From a Protestant point of view. In part an answer to Diefenbach.

Michelet: La Sorcière. Paris, 1862.
An eloquent book, by a brilliant scholar; but a rhapsody rather than a history, and as full of fancy as of fact. There is an English translation (London, 1863).

Upham: Salem Witchcraft. 2 vols. Boston, 1867.
The standard work upon the most notable of American witch-persecutions. It may be supplemented by Drake's Annals of Witchcraft in New England and elsewhere in the United States (Boston, 1869).

Roskoff: Geschichte des Teufels. 2 vols. Leipzig, 1869.
Best for the history of the Devil in his relation to witchcraft. Of value, but dealing less with the witch persecution, are also Conway's Demonology and Devil-lore (London, and New York, 1879) and Graf's Il Diavolo (Milan, 1889).

Binz: Doctor Johann Weyer. Bonn, 1885. 2d ed., enlarged, Berlin, 1896.
A scholarly biography of the first great opponent of witch-persecution, with excellent sketches of his opponents and of his followers in this humane struggle.
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