Sacred-Texts  Neo-Paganism  Index  Previous  Next 

Malleus Maleficarum Part 1

Question X

Whether Witches can by some Glamour Change Men into Beasts.

        Here we declare the truth as to whether and how witches transform men into beasts. And it is argued that this is not possible, from the following passage of Episcopus (XXVI, 5): Whoever believes that it is possible for any creature to be changed for the better or for the worse, or to be transformed into any other shape or likeness, except by the Creator Himself, Who made all things, is without doubt an infidel, and worse than a pagan.
        And we will quote the arguments of S. Thomas in the 2nd Book of Sentences, VIII: Whether devils can affect the bodily sense by the delusion of a glamour. There he argues first that they cannot. For though that shape of a beast which is seen must be somewhere, it cannot exist only in the senses; for the sense perceive no shape that is not received from actual matter, and there is no actual beast there; and he adduces the authority of the Canon. And again, that which seems to be, cannot really be; as in the case of a woman who seems to be a beast, for two substantial shapes cannot exist at one and the same time in the same matter. Therefore, since that shape of a beast which appears cannot exist anywhere, no glamour or illusion can exist in the eye of the beholder; for the sight must have some object in which it terminates.
        And if it is argued that the shape exists in the surrounding atmosphere, this is not possible; both because the atmosphere is not capable of taking any shape or form, and also because the air around that person is not always constant, and cannot be so on account of its fluid nature, especially when it is moved. And again because in that case such a transformation would be visible to everyone; but this is not so, because the devils seem to be unable to deceive the sight of Holy Men in the least.
        Besides, the sense of sight, or the faculty of vision, is a passive faculty, and every passive faculty is set in motion by the active agent that corresponds to it. Now the active agent corresponding to sight is twofold: one is the origin of the act, or the object; the other is the carrier, or medium. But that apparent shape cannot be the object of the sense, neither can it be the medium through which it is carried. First, it cannot be the object, since it cannot be taken hold of by anything, as was shown in the foregoing argument, since it does not exist in the senses received from an object, neither is it in the actual object, nor even in the air, as in a carrying medium, as was treated of above in the third argument.
        Besides, if the devil moves the inner consciousness, he does so either by projecting himself into the cognitive faculty, or by changing it. But he does not do so by projecting himself; for he would either have to assume a body, and even so could not penetrate into the inner organ of imagination; for two bodies cannot be at the same time in the same place; or he would assume a phantasmal body; and this again would be impossible, since no phantasm is quite without substance.
        Similarly also he cannot do it by changing the cognition. For he would either change it by alteration, which he does not seem able to do, since all alteration is caused by active qualities, in which the devils are lacking; or he would change it by transformation or local motion; and this does not seem feasible for two reasons. First, because a transformation or an organ cannot be effect without a sense of pain. Secondly, because in this case the devil would only make things of a known shape appear; but S. Augustine says that he creates shapes of this sort, both known and unknown. Therefore it seems that the devils can in no way deceive the imagination or senses of a man.
        But against this, S. Augustine says (de Ciuitate Dei, XVIII) that the transmutations of men into brute animals, said to be done by the art of devils, are not actual but only apparent. But this would not be possible if devils were not able to transmute the human senses. The authority of S. Augustine is again to the point in Book LXXXIII, which has already been quoted: This evil of the devil creeps in through all the sensual approaches, etc.
        Answer. If the reader wishes to refer to the method of transmutation, he will find in the Second Part of this work, chapter VI, various methods. But proceeding for the present in a scholastic manner, let us say in agreement with the opinions of the three Doctors, that the devil can deceive the human fancy so that a man really seems to be an animal. The last of those opinions, which is that of S. Thomas, is more subtle than the rest. But the first is that of S. Antoninus in the first part of his Summa, V, 5, where he declares that the devil at times works to deceive a man's fancy, especially by an illusion of the senses; and he proves this by natural reasoning, by the authority of the Canon, and by a great number of examples.
        And at first as follows: Our bodies naturally are subject to and obey the angelic nature as regards local motion. But the bad angels, although the have lost grace, have not lost their natural power, as has often been said before. And since the faculty of fancy or imagination is corporeal, that is, allied to a physical organ, it also is naturally subject to devils, so that they can transmute it, causing various phantasies, by the flow of the thoughts and perceptions to the original image received by them. So says S. Antoninus, and adds that it is proved by the following Canon (Episcopus, XXVI, 5): It must not be omitted that certain wicked women, perverted by Satan and seduced by the illusions and phantasms of devils, believe and profess that they ride in the night hours on certain beasts with Diana, the heathen goddess, or with Herodias, and with a countless number of women, and that in the untimely silence of night they travel over great distances of land. And later: Wherefore priests ought to preach to the people of God that they should know this to be altogether false, and that when such phantasms afflict the minds of the faithful, it is not of God, but of an evil spirit. For Satan himself transforms himself into the shape and likeness of different persons, and in dreams deluding the mind which he holds captive, leads it through devious ways.
        Indeed the meaning of this Canon has been treated of in the First Question, as to the four things which are to be preached. But it would be to misunderstand its meaning to maintain that witches cannot be so transported, when they wish and God does not prevent it; for very often men who are not witches are unwillingly transported bodily over great distances of land.
        But that these transmutations can be effected in both ways will be shown by the aforesaid Summa, and in the chapter where S. Augustine relates that it is read in the books of the Gentiles that a certain sorceress named Circe changed the companions of Ulysses into beasts; but that this was due to some glamour or illusion, rather than an actual accomplishment, by altering the fancies of men; and this is clearly proved by several examples.
        For we read in the Lives of the Fathers, that a certain girl would not consent to a young man who was begging her to commit a shameful act with him. And the young man, being angry because of this, caused a certain Jew to work a charm against her, by which she was changed into a filly. But this metamorphosis was not an actual fact, but an illusion of the devil, who changed the fancy and sense of the girl herself, and of those who looked at her, so that she seemed to be a filly, who was really a girl. For when she was led to the Blessed Macarius, the devil could not so work as to deceive his senses as he had those of other people, on account of his sanctity; for to him she seemed a true girl, not a filly. And at length by his prayer she was set free from that illusion, and it is said that this had happened to her because she did not give her mind to holy things, or attend the Sacraments as she ought; therefore the devil had power over her, although she was in other respects honest.
        Therefore the devil can, by moving the inner perceptions and humours, effect changes in the actions and faculties, physical, mental, and emotional, working by means of any physical organ soever; and this accords with S. Thomas, I, 91. And of this sort we may believe to have been the acts of Simon Magus in the incantations which are narrated of him. But the devil can do none of these things without the permission of God, Who with His good Angels often restrains the wickedness of him who seeks to deceive and hurt us. Wherefore S. Augustine, speaking of witches, says: These are they who, with the permission of God, stir up the elements, and confuse the minds of those who do not trust in God (XXVI, 5).
        Also devils can by witchcraft cause a man to be unable to see his wife rightly, and the converse. And this comes from an affectation of the fancy, so that she is represented to him as an odious and horrible thing. The devil also suggests representations of loathsome things to the fancy of both the waking and the sleeping, to deceive them and lead them to son. But because sin does not consist in the imagination but in the will, therefore man does not sin in these fancies suggested by the devil, and these various transformations, unless of his own will he consents to sin.
        The second opinion of the modern Doctors is to the same effect, when they declare what is glamour, and how many ways the devil can cause such illusions. Here we refer to what has already been said concerning the arguments of S. Antoninus, which there is no need to repeat.
        The third opinion is that of S. Thomas, and is an answer to the argument where it is asked, Wherein lies the existence of the shape of a beast that is seen; in the senses, or in reality, or in the surrounding air? And his opinion is that the apparent shape of a beast only exists in the inner perception, which, through the force of imagination, sees it in some way as an exterior object. And the devil has two ways of effecting such a result.
        In one way we may say that the forms of animals which are conserved in the treasury of the imagination pass by the operation of the devil into the organs of inner senses; and in this way it happens in dreams, as has been declared above. And so, when these forms are impressed on the organs of the outer senses, such as sight, they appear as if they were present as outer objects, and could actually be touched.
        The other way results from a change in the inner organs of perception, through which the judgement is deceived; as is shown in the case of him who has his taste corrupted, so that everything sweet seems bitter; and this is not very different from the first method. Moreover, even men can accomplish this by the virtue of certain natural things, as when in the vapour of a certain smoke the beams of a house appear to be serpents; and many other instances of this are found, as had been mentioned above.
Solutions of the Arguments.
        As to the first argument, that text is often quoted, but it is badly understood. For as to where it speaks of transformation into another shape or likeness, it has been made clear how this can be done by prestidigitatory art. And as to where it says that no creature can be made by the power of the devil, this is manifestly true if Made is understood to mean Created. But if the word Made is taken to refer to natural production, it is certain that devils can make some imperfect creatures. And S. Thomas shows how this may be done. For he says that all transmutations of bodily matters which can be effected by the forces of nature, in which the essential thing is the semen which is found in the elements of this world, on land or in the waters (as serpents and frogs and such things deposit their semen), can be effected by the work of devils who have acquired such semen. So also it is when anything is changed into serpents or frogs, which can be generated by putrefaction.
        But those transmutations of bodily matters which cannot be effected by the forces of nature can in no way be truly effected by the work of the devils. For when the body of a man is changed into the body of a beast, or a dead body is brought to life, such things only seem to happen, and are a glamour or illusion; or else the devil appears before men in an assumed body.
        These arguments are substantiated. For Blessed Albertus in his book On Animals, where he examines whether devils, or let us even say witches, can really make animals, says that they can, with God's permission, make imperfect animals. But they cannot do so in an instant, as God does, but by means of some motion, however sudden, as is clear in the case of witches. And touching the passage in Exodus vii, where Pharao called his wise men, he says: The devils run throughout the world and collect various germs, and by using them can evolve various species. And the gloss thereon says: When witches attempt to effect anything by the invocation of devils, they run about the world and bring the semen of those things which are in question, and by its means, with the permission of God, they produce new species. But this has been spoken of above.
        Another difficulty may arise, whether such devils' works are to be deemed miraculous. The answer was made clear in the preceding arguments, that even the devils can perform certain miracles to which their natural powers are adapted. And although such things are true in fact, they are not done with a view to the knowledge of the truth; and in this sense the works of Antichrist may be said to be deceptions, since they are done with a view to the seduction of men.
        The answer to the other argument, that concerning the shape, is also clear. The shape of a beast which is seen does not exist in the air, but only in the perception of the senses, as has been demonstrated above from the opinion of S. Thomas.
        For the argument that every passive is set in motion by its corresponding active, this is granted. But when it is inferred that the shape which is seen cannot be the original object which sets in motion the act of sight, since it arises from none of the sense, it is answered that it does not arise, since it originates from some sensible image conserved in the imagination, which the devil can draw out and present to the imagination or power of perception, as has been said above.
        For the last argument, it is to be said that the devil does not, as has been shown, change the perceptive and imaginative powers by projecting himself into them, but by transmuting them; not indeed by altering them, except in respect of local motion. For he cannot of himself induce new appearances, as has been said. But he changes them by transmutation, that is, local motion. And this again he does, not by dividing the substance of the organ of perception, since that would result in a sense of pain, but by a movement of the perceptions and humours.

Next: Question XI
That Witches who are Midwives in Various Ways Kill the Child Conceived in the Womb, and Procure an Abortion; or if they do not this Offer New-born Children to Devils.