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Malleus Maleficarum Part 2

Chapter V

Witches commonly perform their Spells through the Sacraments of the Church. And how they Impair the Powers of Generation, and how they may Cause other Ills to happen to God's Creatures of all kinds. But herein we except the Question of the Influence of the Stars.

        But now there are several things to be noted concerning their methods of bringing injury upon other creatures of both sexes, and upon the fruits of the earth: first with regard to men, then with regard to beasts, and thirdly with regard to the fruits of the earth. And as to men, first, how they can cast an obstructive spell on the procreant forces, and even on the venereal act, so that a woman cannot conceive, or a man cannot perform the act. Secondly, how that act is obstructed sometimes with regard to one woman but not another. Thirdly, how they take away the virile member as though it were altogether torn away from the body. Fourthly, if it is possible to distinguish whether any of the above injuries have been caused by a devil on his own account, or if it has been through the agency of a witch. Fifthly, how witches change men and women into beasts by some prestige or glamour. Sixthly, how witch midwives in various ways kill that which has been conceived in the mother's womb; and when they do not do this, offer the children to devils. And lest these things should seem incredible, they have been proved in the First Part of this work by questions and answers to arguments; to which, if necessary, the doubtful reader may turn back for the purpose of investigating the truth.
        For the present our object is only to adduce actual facts and examples which have been found by us, or have been written by others in detestation of so great a crime, to substantiate those former arguments in case they should be difficult for anyone to understand; and, by those things that are related in this Second Part, to bring back to the Faith and away from their error those who think there are no witches, and that no witchcraft can be done in the world.
        And with regard to the first class of injuries with which they afflict the human race, it is to be noted that, apart from the methods by which they injure other creatures, they have six ways of injuring humanity. And one is, to induce an evil love in a man for a woman, or in a woman for a man. The second is to plant hatred or jealousy in anyone. The third is to bewitch them so that a man cannot perform the genital act with a woman, or conversely a woman with a man; or by various means to procure an abortion, as has been said before. The fourth is to cause some disease in any of the human organs. The fifth, to take away life. The sixth, to deprive them of reason.
        In this connexion it should be said that, saving the influence of the stars, the devils can by their natural power in every way cause real defects and infirmities, and this by their natural spiritual power, which is superior to any bodily power. For no one infirmity is quite like another, and this is equally true of natural defects in which there is no physical infirmity. Therefore they proceed by different methods to cause each different infirmity or defect. And of those we shall give instances in the body of this work as the necessity arises.
        But first, lest the reader's mind should be kept in any doubt as to why they have no power to alter the influence of the stars, we shall say that there is a threefold reason. First, the stars are above them even in the region of punishment, which is the region of the lower mists; and this by reason of the duty which is assigned to them. See the First Part, Question II, where we dealt with Incubus and Succubus devils.
        The second reason is that the stars are governed by the good Angels. See many places concerning the Powers which move the stars, and especially S. Thomas, part I, quest. 90. And in this matter the Philosophers agree with the Theologians.
        Thirdly, it is on account of the general order and common good of the Universe. which would suffer general detriment if evil spirits were allowed to cause any alteration in the influence of the stars. Wherefore those changes which were miraculously caused in the Old or New Testament were done by God through the good Angels; as, for example, when the sun stood still for Joshua, or when it went backward for Hezekiah, or when it was supernaturally darkened at the Passion of Christ. But in all other matters, with God's permission, they can work their spells, either the devils themselves, or devils through the agency of witches; and, in fact, it is evident that they do so.
        Secondly, it is to be noted that in all their methods of working injury they nearly always instruct witches to make their instruments of witchcraft by means of the Sacraments or sacramental things of the Church, or some holy thing consecrated to God: as when they sometimes place a waxen image under the Altar-cloth, or draw a thread through the Holy Chrism, or use some other consecrated thing in such a way. And there are three reasons for this.
        For a similar reason they are wont to practise their witchcraft at the more sacred time of the year, especially at the Advent of Our Lord, and at Christmas. First, that by such means they may make men guilty of not only perfidy, but also sacrilege, by contaminating whatever is divine in them; and that so they may the more deeply offend God their Creator, damn their own souls, and cause many more to rush into sin.
        Secondly, that God, being so heavily offended by men, may grant the devil greater power of tormenting them. For so says S. Gregory, that in His anger He sometimes grants the wicked their prayers and petitions, which He mercifully denies to others. And the third reason is that, by the seeming appearance of good, he may more easily deceive certain simple men, who think that they have performed some pious act and obtained the grace from God, whereas they have only sinned the more heavily.
        A fourth reason also can be added touching the more sacred seasons and the New Year. For, according to S. Augustine, there are other mortal sins besides adultery by which the observance of the Festivals may be infringed. Superstition, moreover, and witchcraft arising from the most servile operations of the devil are contrary to the reverence that is due to God. Therefore, as has been said, he causes a man to fall more deeply, and the Creator is the more offended.
        And of the New Year we may say, according to S. Isidore, Etym. VIII. 2, that Janus, from whom the month of January is named, which also begins on the Day of Circumcision, was an idol with two faces, as if one were the end of the old year and the other the beginning of the new, and, as it were, the protector and auspicious author of the coming year. And in honour of him, or rather of the devil in the form of that idol, the Pagans made much boisterous revelry, and were very merry among themselves, holding various dances and feasts. And concerning these Blessed Augustine makes mention in many places, and gives a very ample description of them in his Twenty-sixth Book.
        And now bad Christians imitate these corruptions, turning them to lasciviousness when the run about at the time of Carnival with masks and jests and other superstitions. Similarly witches use these revelries of the devil for their own advantage, and work their spells about the time of the New Year in respect of the Divine Offices and Worship; as on S. Andrew's Day and at Christmas.
        And now, as to how they work their witchcraft, first by means of the Sacraments, and then by means of sacramental objects, we will refer to a few known facts, discovered by us in the Inquisition.
        In a town which it is better not to names, for the sake of charity and expediency, when a certain witch received the Body of Our Lord, she suddenly lowered her head, as is the detestable habit of women, placed her garment near her mouth, and taking the Body of the Lord out of her mouth, wrapped it in a handkerchief; and afterwards, at the suggestion of the devil, placed it in a pot in which there was a toad, and hid it in the ground near her house by the storehouse, together with several other things, by means of which she had to work her witchcraft. But with the help of God's mercy this great crime was detected and brought to light. For on the following day a workman was going on his business near that house, and heard a sound like a child crying; and when he had come near to the stone under which the pot had been hidden, he heard it much more clearly, and thinking that some child have been buried there by the woman, went to the Mayor or chief magistrate, and told him what had been done, as he thought, by the infanticide. And the Mayor quickly send his servants and found it to be as he had said. But they were unwilling to exhume the child, thinking it wiser to place a watch and wait to see if any woman came near the place; for they did not know that it was the Lord's Body that was hidden there. And so it happened that the same witch came to the place, and secretly hid to pot under her garment before their eyes. And when she was taken and questioned, she discovered her crime, saying that the Lord's Body had been hidden in the pot with a toad, so that by means of their dust she might be able to cause injuries at her will to men and other creatures.
        It is also to be noted that when witches communicate they observe this custom, that, when they can do so without being noticed, they receive the Lord's Body under their tongue instead of on the top. And as far as can be seen, the reason is that they never wish to receive any remedy that might counteract their abjuration of the Faith, either by Confession or by receiving the Sacrament of the Eucharist; and secondly, because in this way it is easier for them to take the Lord's Body out of their mouths so that they can apply it, as has been said, to their own uses, to the greater offence of the Creator.
        For this reason all rectors of the Church and those who communicate the people are enjoined to take the utmost care when they communicate women that the mouth shall be well open and the tongue thrust well out, and their garments be kept quite clear. And the more care is taken in this respect, the more witches become known by this means.
        Numberless other superstitions they practise by means of sacramental objects. Sometimes they place a waxen image or some aromatic substance under the altar cloth, as we said before, and then hide it under the threshold of a house, so that the person for whom it is placed there may be bewitched on crossing over it. Countless instances could be brought forward, but these minor sorts of spells are proved by the greater.
Next: Chapter VI
How Witches Impede and Prevent the Power of Procreation.