Malleus Maleficarum Part 1
Whether Witches may work some Prestidigatory Illusion so that the Male Organ appears to be entirely removed and separate from the Body.
Here is declared the truth about diabolic operations with regard to the male
organ. And to make plain the facts in this matter, it is asked whether
witches can with the help of devils really and actually remove the member,
or whether they only do so apparently by some glamour or illusion. And that
they can actually do so is argued a fortiori; for since devils can
do greater things than this, as killing them or carrying them from place
to place - as was shown above in the cases of Job and Tobias - therefore
they can also truly and actually remove men's members.
Again, an argument is taken from the gloss on the visitations of bad Angels,
in the Psalms: God punishes by means of bad Angels, as He often punished
the People of Israel with various diseases, truly and actually visited upon
their bodies. Therefore the member is equally subject to such visitations.
It may be said that this is done with the Divine permission. And in that
case, it has already been said that God allows more power of witchcraft over
the genital functions, on account of the first corruption of sin which came
to us from the act of generation, so also He allows greater power over the
actual genital organ, even to its removal.
And again, it was a greater thing to turn Lot's wife into a pillar of salt
than it is to take away the male organ; and that (Genesis xix) was a
real and actual, not an apparent, metamorphosis (for it is said that that
pillar is still to be seen), And this was done by a bad Angel; just as the
good Angels struck the men of Sodom with blindness, so that they could not
find the door of the house. And so it was with the other punishments of the
men of Gomorrah. The gloss, indeed, affirms that Lot's wife was herself
tainted with that vice, and therefore she was punished.
And again, whoever can create a natural shape can also take it away. But
devils have created many natural shapes, as is clear from Pharao's magicians,
who with the help of devils made frogs and serpents. Also S. Augustine, in
Book LXXXIII, says that those things which are visibly done by the lower
powers of the air cannot be considered to be mere illusions; but even men
are able, by some skilful incision, to remove the male organ; therefore
devils can do invisibly what others do visibly.
But on the contrary side, S. Augustine (de Ciuitate Dei, XVIII) says:
It is not to be believed that, through the art or power of devils, man's
body can be changed into the likeness of a beast; therefore it is equally
impossible that that should be removed which is essential to the truth of
the human body, Also he says (de Trinitate, III): It must not be
thought that this substance of visible matter is subject to the will of
those fallen angels; for it is subject only to God.
Answer. There is no doubt that certain witches can do marvellous
things with regard to male organs, for this agrees with what has been seen
and heard by many, and with the general account of what has been known
concerning that member through the senses of sight and touch. And as to how
this thing is possible, it is to be said that it can be done in two ways,
either actually and in fact, as the first arguments have said, or through
some prestige or glamour. But when it is performed by witches, it is only a
matter of glamour; although it is no illusion in the opinion of the sufferer.
For his imagination can really and actually believe that something is not
present, since by none of his exterior sense, such as sight or touch, can
he perceive that it is present.
From this it may be said that there is a true abstraction of the member in
imagination, although not in fact; and several things are to be noted as to
how this happens. And first as to two methods by which it can be done. It is
no wonder that the devil can deceive the outer human senses, since, as has
been treated of above, he can illude the inner senses, by bringing to actual
perception ideas that are stored in the imagination. Moreover, he deceives
men in their natural functions, causing that which is visible to be
invisible to them, and that which is tangible to be intangible, and the
audible inaudible, and so with the other senses. But such things are not
true in actual fact, since they are caused through some defect introduced
in the sense, such as the eyes or the ears, or the touch, by reason of which
defect a man's judgement is deceived.
And we can illustrate this from certain natural phenomena. For sweet wine
appears bitter on the tongue of the fevered, his taste being deceived not by
the actual fact, but through his disease. So also in the case under
consideration, the deception is not due to fact, since the member is still
actually in its place; but it is an illusion of the sense with regard to it.
Again, as has been said above concerning the generative powers, the devil
can obstruct that action by imposing some other body of the same colour
and appearance, in such a way that some smoothly fashioned body in the colour
of flesh is interposed between the sight and touch, and between the true
body of the sufferer, so that it seems to him that he can see and feel
nothing but a smooth body with its surface interrupted by no genital organ.
See the sayings of S. Thomas (2 dist. 8. artic. 5) concerning glamours and
illusions, and also in the second of the second, 91, and in his questions
concerning Sin; where he frequently quotes that of S. Augustine in Book
LXXXIII: This evil of the devil creeps in through all the sensual approaches;
he gives himself to figures, he adapts himself to colours, he abides in
sounds, he lurks in smells, he infuses himself into flavours.
Besides, it is to be considered that such an illusion of the sight and touch
can be caused not only by the interposition of some smooth unmembered body,
but also by the summoning to the fancy or imagination of certain forms and
ideas latent in the mind, in such a way that a thing is imagined as being
perceived then for the first time. For, as was shown in the preceding
question, devils can by their own power change bodies locally; and just as
the disposition or humour can be affected in this way, so can the natural
functions. I speak of things which appear natural to the imagination or
senses. For Aristotle in the de Somno et Uigila says, assigning the
cause of apparitions in dreams, that when an animal sleeps much blood flows
to the inner consciousness, and thence come ideas or impressions derived
from actual previous experiences stored in the mind. It has already been
defined how thus certain appearance convey the impressions of new
experiences. And since this can happen naturally, much more can the devil
call to the imagination the appearance of a smooth body unprovided with the
virile member, in such a way that the sense believe it to be an actual fact.
Secondly, some other methods are to be noted which are easier to understand
and to explain. For, according to S. Isidore (Etym. VIII, 9), a
glamour is nothing but a certain delusion of the senses, and especially of
the eyes. And for this reason it is also called a prestige, from prestringo,
since the sight of the eyes is so fettered that things seem to be other
than they are. And Alexander of Hales, Part 2,
says that a prestige, properly understood, is an illusion of the devil,
which is not caused by any change in matter, but only exists in the mind of
him who is deluded, either as to his inner or outer perceptions.
Wherefore, in a manner of speaking, we may say even of human prestidigitatory
art, that it can be effected in three ways. For the first, it can be done
without devils, since it is artificially done by the agility of men who show
things and conceal them, as in the case of the tricks of conjurers and
ventriloquists. The second method is also without the help of devils; as
when men can use some natural virtue in natural bodies or minerals so as to
impart to such objects some other appearance quite different from their true
appearance. Wherefore, according to S. Thomas (I, 114, 4), and several
others, men, by the smoke of certain smouldering or lighted herbs, can make
rods appear to be serpents.
The third method of delusion is effected with the help of devils, the
permission of God being granted. For it is clear that devils have, of their
nature, some power over certain earthly matters, which they exercise upon
them, when God permits, so that things appear to be other than they are.
And as to this third method, it is to be noted that the devil has fives
ways in which he can delude anyone so that he thinks a thing to be other
than it is. First, by an artificial tricks, as has been said; for that which
a man can do by art, the devil can do even better. Second, by a natural
method, by the application, as has been said, and interposition of some
substance so as to hide the true body, or by confusing it in man's fancy.
The third way is when in an assumed body he presents himself as being
something which he is not; as witness the story which S. Gregory tells in
his First Dialogue of a Nun, who ate a lettuce, which, however, as
the devil confessed, was not a lettuce, but the devil in the form of a
lettuce, or in the lettuce itself. Or as when he appeared to S. Antony in a
lump of gold which he found in the desert. Or as when he touches a real man,
and makes him appear like a brute animal, as will shortly be explained. The
fourth method is when he confuses the organ of sight, so that a clear thing
seems hazy, or the converse, or when an old woman appears to be a young girl.
For even after weeping the light appears different from what it was before.
His fifth method is by working in the imaginative power, and, by a
disturbance of the humours, effecting a transmutation in the forms perceived
by the senses, as has been treated of before, so that the senses then
perceive as it were fresh and new images. And accordingly, by the last three
of these methods, and even by the second, the devil can cast a glamour over
the senses of a man. Wherefore there is no difficulty in his concealing the
virile member by some prestige or glamour. And a manifest proof or example
of this, which was revealed to us in our Inquisitorial capacity, will be
set forth later, where more is recounted of these and other matters in the
Second Part of this Treatise.
How a Bewitchment can be Distinguished from a Natural Defect.
An incidental question, with certain other difficulties, follows. Peter's
member has been taken off, and he does not know whether it is by witchcraft
or in some other way by the devil's power, with the permission of God. Are
there any ways of determining or distinguishing between these? It can be
answered as follows. First, that those to whom such things most commonly
happen are adulterers or fornicators. For when they fail to respond to the
demand of their mistress, or if they wish to desert them and attach
themselves to other women, then their mistress, out of vengeance, through
some other power causes their members to be taken off. Secondly, it can be
distinguished by the fact that it is not permanent. For if it is not due to
witchcraft, then the loss is not permanent, but it will be restored some
But here there arises another doubt, whether it is due to the nature of the
witchcraft that it is not permanent. It is answered that it can be permanent,
and last until death, just as the Canonists and Theologians judge concerning
the impediment of witchcraft in matrimony, that the temporary can become
permanent. For Godfrey says in his Summa: A bewitchment cannot always
be removed by him who caused it, either because he is dead, or because he
does not know how to remove it, or because the charm has been lost.
Wherefore we may say in the same way that the charm which has been worked
on Peter will be permanent if the witch who did it cannot heal him.
For there are three degrees of witches. For some both heal and harm; some
harm, but cannot heal; and some seem able only to heal, that is, to take
away injuries, as will be shown later. For thus it happened to us: Two
witches were quarreling, and while they were taunting each other one said:
I am not so wicked as you, for I know how to heal those whom I injure. The
charm will also be permanent if, before it has been healed, the witch
departs, either by changing her dwelling or by dying. For S. Thomas also
says: Any charm may be permanent when it is such as can have no human
remedy; or if it has a remedy, it is not known to men, or unlawful; although
God can find a remedy through a holy Angel who can coerce the devil, if not
However, the chief remedy against witchcraft is the sacrament of Penitence.
For bodily infirmity often proceeds from sin. And how the charms or witches
can be removed will be shown in the Second Part of this Treatise, and in the
Second QUestion, chapter VI, where other different matters are treated of
Solutions of the Arguments.
For the first, it is clear that there is no doubt but that, just as, with
God's permission, they can kill men, so also can devils taken off that
member, as well as others, truly and actually. But then the devils do not
work through the medium of witches, concerning which mention has already
been made. And from this the answer to the second argument is also made
clear. But this is to be said: that God allows more power of witchcraft over
the genital forces because, etc.; and therefore even allows that that member
should be truly and actually taken off. But it is not valid to say that this
always happens. For it would not be after the manner of witchcraft for it to
happen so; and even the witches, when they do such works, do not pretend
that they have not the power to restore the member when they wish to and
know how to do so. From which it is clear that it is not actually taken off,
but only by a glamour. As for the third, concerning the metamorphosis of
Lot's wife, we say that this was actual, and not a glamour. And as to the
fourth, that devils can create certain substantial shapes, and therefore can
also remove them: it is to be said with regard to Pharaoh's magicians that
they made true serpents; and that devils can, with the help of another agent,
produce certain effects on imperfect creatures which they cannot on men, who
are God's chief care. For it is said: Does God care for oxen? They can,
nevertheless, with the permission of God, do to men true and actual harm,
as also they can create a glamour of harm, and by this the answer to the
last argument is made clear.
Next: Question X
Whether Witches can by some Glamour Change Men into Beasts.