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The Witches' Sabbath

We have thus seen in how many various forms the old phallic, or priapic, worship presented itself in the middle ages, and how pertinaciously it held its ground through all the changes and developments of society, until at length we find all the circumstances of the ancient priapic orgies, as well as the mediæval additions, combined in that great and extensive superstition--witchcraft. At all times the initiated were believed to have obtained thereby powers which were not possessed by the uninitiated, and they only were supposed to know the proper forms of invocation of the deities who were the objects of their worship, which deities the Christian teachers invariably transformed into devils. The vows which the people of antiquity addressed to Priapus, those of the middle ages addressed to Satan. The witches' "Sabbath" was simply the last form which the Priapeia and Liberalia assumed in Western Europe, and in its various details all the incidents of those great and licentious orgies of the Romans were reproduced. The Sabbath of the witches does not appear to have formed a part of the Teutonic mythology, but we can trace it from the South through the countries in which the Roman element of society predominated. The incidents of the Sabbath are distinctly traced in Italy as early as the beginning of the fifteenth century, and soon afterwards they are found in the south

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of France. Towards the middle of that century an individual named Robinet de Vaulx, who had lived the life of a hermit in Burgundy, was arrested, brought to a trial at Langres, and burnt. This man was a native of Artois; he stated that to his knowledge there were a great number of witches in that province, and he not only confessed that he had attended these nocturnal assemblies of the witches, but he gave the names of some inhabitants of Arras whom he had met there. At this time--it was in the year 1459--the chapter general of the Jacobins, or friars preachers, was held at Langres, and among those who attended it was a Jacobin friar named Pierre de Broussart, who held the office of inquisitor of the faith in the city of Arras, and who eagerly listened to the circumstances of Robinet's confession. Among the names mentioned by him as having been present at the witches' meetings, were those of a prostitute named Demiselle, then living at Douai, and a man named Jehan Levite, but who was better known by the nickname of Abbé de peu de sens (the abbot of little sense). On Broussart's return to Arras, he caused both these persons to be arrested and brought to that city, where they were thrown into prison. The latter, who was a painter, and a composer and singer of popular songs, had left Arras before Robinet de Vaulx had made his confession,

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but he was traced to Abbeville, in Ponthieu, and captured there. Confessions were extorted from these persons which compromised others, and a number of individuals were committed to prison in consequence. In the sequel a certain number of them were burnt, after they had been induced to unite in a statement to the following effect. At this time, in this part of France at least, the term Vauderie, or, as it was then written, Vaulderie, was applied to the practice or profession of witchcraft. They said that the place of meeting was commonly a fountain in the wood of Mofflaines, about a league distant from Arras, and that they sometimes went thither on foot. The more usual way of proceeding, however, according to their own account, was this--they took an ointment given to them by the devil, with which they annointed a wooden rod, at the same time rubbing the palms of their hands with it, and then, placing the rod between their legs, they were suddenly carried through the air to the place of assembly. They found there a multitude of people, of both sexes, and of all estates and ranks, even wealthy burghers and nobles--and one of the persons examined declared that he had seen there not only ordinary ecclesiastics, but bishops and even cardinals. They found tables already spread, covered with all sorts of meats, and abundance of wines. A devil presided, usually in the form

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of a goat, with the tail of an ape, and a human countenance. Each first did oblation and homage to him by offering him his or her soul, or, at least some part of their body, and then, as a mark of adoration, kissed him on the posteriors. All this time the worshippers held burning torches in their hands. The abbot of little sense, already mentioned, held the office of master of the ceremonies at these meetings, and it was his duty to see that the new-comers duly performed their homage. After this they trampled on the cross, and spit upon it, in despite of Jesus and of the Holy Trinity, and performed other profane acts. They then seated themselves at the tables, and after they had eaten and drunk sufficiently, they rose and joined in a scene of promiscuous intercourse between the sexes, in which the demon took part, assuming alternately the form of either sex, according to that of his temporary partner. Other wicked acts followed, and then the devil preached to them, and enjoined them especially not to go to church, or hear mass, or touch holy water, or perform any other of the duties of good Christians. After this sermon was ended, the meeting was dissolved, and they separated and returned to their several homes. 104

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The violence of these witch persecutions at Arras led to a reaction, which, however, was not lasting, and from this time to the end of the century, the fear of witchcraft spread over Italy, France, and Germany, and went on increasing in intensity. It was during this period that witchcraft, in the hands of the more zealous inquisitors, was gradually worked up into a great system, and books of considerable extent were compiled, containing accounts of the various practices of the witches, and directions for proceeding against them. One of the earliest of these writers was a Swiss friar, named John Nider, who held the office of inquisitor in Switzerland, and has devoted one book of his Formicarium to witchcraft as it existed in that country. He makes no allusion to the witches' Sabbath, which, therefore, appears then not to have been known among the Swiss. Early in 1489, Ulric Molitor published a treatise on the same subject, under the title of De Pythonicis Mulieribus, and in the same year, 1489, appeared the celebrated book, the Malleus Maleficarum, or Hammer of Witches, the work of the three inquisitors for Germany, the chief of whom was Jacob Sprenger. This work gives us a complete and very interesting account of witchcraft as it then existed as an article of belief in Germany. The authors discuss various questions

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connected with it, such as that of the mysterious transport of witches from one place to another, and they decide that this transport was real, and that they were carried bodily through the air. It is remarkable, however, that even the Malleus Maleficarum contains no direct allusion to the Sabbath, and we may conclude that even then this great priapic orgie did not form a part of the Germanic creed; it was no doubt brought in there amid the witchcraft mania of the sixteenth century. From the time of the publication of the Malleus Maleficarum until the beginning of the seventeenth century, through all parts of Western Europe, the number of books upon sorcery which issued from the press was immense; and we must not forget that a monarch of our own, King James I, shone among the writers on witchcraft.

Three quarters of a century nearly had passed since the time of the Malleus, when a Frenchman named Bodin, Latinised into Bodinus, published a rather bulky treatise which became from that time the text-book on witchcraft. The Sabbath is described in this book in all its completeness. It was usually held in a lonely place, and when possible on the summits of mountains or in the solitude of forests. When the witch prepared to attend it, she went to her bedroom, stripped herself naked, and anointed her body with an ointment made for that purpose. She next

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took a staff, which also in many cases she anointed, and placing it between her legs and uttering a charm, she was carried through the air, in an incredibly short space of time, to the place of meeting. Bodin discusses learnedly the question whether the witches were really carried through the air corporeally or not, he decides it in the affirmative. The Sabbath itself was a great assemblage of witches, of both sexes, and of demons. It was a point of emulation with the visitors to bring new converts with them, and on their arrival they presented these to the demon who presided, and to whom they offered their adoration by the unclean kiss upon his posteriors. They next rendered an account of all the mischief they had perpetrated since the previous meeting, and received reward or reproof according to its amount. The devil, who usually took the form of a goat, next distributed among them powders, unguents, and other articles to be employed in similar evil doings in future. The worshippers now made offerings to the devil, consisting of sheep, or other articles, or, in some cases, of a little bird only, or of a lock of the witches' hair, or of some other equally trifling object. They were then obliged to seal their denial of the Christian faith by trampling on the cross and blaspheming the saints. The devil then, or in the course of the meeting, had sexual intercourse with the new witch,

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placed his mark upon some concealed part of her body, very commonly in her sexual parts, and gave her a familiar or imp, who was to be at her bidding and assist in the perpetration of evil. All this was what may be called the business of the meeting, and when it was over, they all went to a great banquet, which was set out on tables, and which sometimes consisted of sumptuous viands, but more frequently of loathsome or unsubstantial food, so that the guests often left the meeting as hungry as though they had tasted nothing. After the feast they all rose from the table to dance, and a scene of wild and uproarious revelry followed. The usual dance on this occasion appears to have been the carole of the middle ages, which was no doubt the common dance of the peasantry; a party, alternately a male and a female, held each other's hands in a circle, with this peculiarity that, whereas in ordinary life the dancers turned their faces inward into the circle, here they turned them outwards, so that their backs were towards the interior of the circle. It was pretended that this arrangement was designed to prevent them from seeing and recognizing each other; but others supposed that it was a mere caprice of the evil one, who wished to do everything in a form contrary to that in which it was usually done by Christians. Other dances were introduced, of a more violent, and some of them

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of an obscene, character. The songs, too, which were sung in this orgie were either obscene or vulgarly ridiculous. The music was often drawn from burlesque instruments, such as a stick or a bone for a flute, a horse's skull for a lyre, the trunk of a tree for a drum, and a branch for a trumpet. As they became excited, they became more licentious, and at last they abandoned themselves to indiscriminate sexual intercourse, in which the demons played a very active part. The meeting separated in time to allow the witches, by the same expeditious conveyance which brought them, to reach their homes before the cock crowed. 105

Such is the account of the Sabbath, as described by Bodin; but we have reviewed it briefly in order to describe this strange scene from the much fuller and more curious narrative of another Frenchman, Pierre de Lancre. This man was a conseiller du roi, or judge in the parliament of Bordeaux, and was joined in 1609 with one of his colleagues in a commission to proceed against persons accused of sorcery in Labourd, a district in the Basque provinces, then celebrated for its witches, and apparently for

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the low state of morality among its inhabitants. It is a wild, and, in many parts, desolate region, the inhabitants of which held to their ancient superstitions with great tenacity. De Lancre, after arguing learnedly on the nature and character of demons, discusses the question why there were so many of them in the country of Labourd, and why the inhabitants of that district were so much addicted to sorcery. The women of the country, he says, were naturally of a lascivious temperament, which was shown even in their manner of dressing, for he describes their headdress as being singularly indecent, and describes them as commonly exposing their person very immodestly. He adds, that the principal produce of this country consisted of apples, and argues thence, it is not very apparent why, that the women partook of the character of Eve, and yielded more easily to temptation than those of other countries. After having spent four months in dealing out rather severely what was then called "justice" to these ignorant people, the two commissioners returned to Bordeaux, and there De Lancre, deeply struck with what he had seen and heard, betook himself to the study of witchcraft, and in due time produced his great work on the subject, to which he gave the title of Tableau de l'Inconstance des Mauvais Anges et 

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[paragraph continues] Démons106Pierre de Lancre writes honestly and conscientiously, and he evidently believes everything he has written. His book is valuable for the great amount of new information it contains, derived from the confessions of the witches, and given apparently in their own words. The second book is devoted entirely to the details of the Sabbath.

It was stated by the witches in their examinations that, in times back, they had appointed Monday to be the day, or rather night, of assembly, but that in their time they had two nights of meeting in the week, those of Wednesday and Friday. Although some stated that they had been carried to the place of meeting in the middle of the day, they mostly agreed in saying that the hour at which they were carried to the Sabbath was midnight. The place of assembly was usually chosen at a spot where roads crossed, but this was not always the case, for De Lancre tells us that they were accustomed to hold their Sabbath in some lonely and wild locality, as in the middle of a heath, which was selected especially for being far from the haunts or habitations of man. To this place, he says, they gave the name of Aquelarre, which he interprets as meaning Lane de Bouc, that is, the heath of the goat, meaning that it was the place where the

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goat, the usual form assumed by Satan, convoked his assemblies. And he goes on to express his opinion that these wild places were the original scenes of the Sabbath, though subsequently other places had been often adopted. "For we have heard more than fifty witnesses who assured us that they had been at the Goat's Heath to the Sabbath held on the mountain of La Rhune, sometimes on the open mountain, sometimes in the chapel of the St. Esprit, which is on the top of it, and sometimes in the church of Dordach, which is on the borders of Labourd. At times they held it in private houses, as when we held the trial, in the parish of St. Pé, the Sabbath was held one night in our hotel, called Barbare-nena, and in that of Master ---- de Segure, assessor-criminal at Bayonne, who, at the same time when we were there, made a more ample inquisition against certain witches, by an authority of an arrest of the parliament of Bordeaux. Then they went the same night to hold it at the residence of the lord of the place, who is Sieur d'Amou, and in his castle of St. Pé. But we have not found in the whole country of Labourd any other parish but that of St. Pé where the devil held the Sabbath in private houses."

The devil is further described as seeking for his places of meeting, besides the heaths, old decayed houses, and ruins of old castles, especially when they

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were situated on the summits of mountains. An old cemetery was sometimes selected, where, as De Lancre quaintly observes, there were "no houses but the houses of the dead," especially if it were in a solitary situation, as when attached to solitary churches and chapels, in the middle of the heaths, or on the tops of cliffs on the sea shore, such as the chapel of the Portuguese at St. Jean de Luz, called St. Barbe, situated so high that it serves as a landmark to the ships approaching the coast, or on a high mountain, as La Rhune in Labourd, and the Puy de Dome in Perigord, and other such places.

At these meetings, sometimes, but rarely, Satan was absent, in which case a little devil took his place. De Lancre enumerates the various forms which the devil usually assumed on these occasions, with the remark that these forms were as numerous as "his movements were inconstant, full of uncertainty, illusion, deception, and imposture." Some of the witches he examined, among whom was a girl of thirteen years of age, named Marie d'Aguerre, said that at these assemblies there appeared a great pitcher or jug in the middle of the Sabbath, and that out of it the devil issued in the form of a goat, which suddenly became so large that it was "frightful," and that at the end of the Sabbath he returned into the pitcher. Others described him as being like the great

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trunk of a tree, without arms or feet, seated in a chair, with the face of a great and frightful looking man. Others spoke of him as resembling a great goat, with two horns before and two behind, those before turned up in the semblance of a woman's perruque. According to the most common account, De Lancre says he had three horns, the one in the middle giving out a flame, with which he used at the Sabbath to give both light and fire to the witches, some of whom who had candles lit them at his horn, in order to hold them at a mock service of the mass, which was one of the devil's ceremonies. He had also, sometimes, a kind of cap or hat over his horns. "He has before him his member hanging out, which he exhibits always a cubit in length; and he has a great tail behind, with a form of a face under it, with which face he does not utter a word, but it serves only to offer to kiss to those he likes, honouring certain witches of either sex more than the others." The devil, it will be observed, is here represented with the symbol of Priapus. Marie d'Aspilecute, aged nineteen years, who lived at Handaye, deposed that the first time she was presented to the devil she kissed him on this face behind, beneath a great tail, and that she repeated the kiss three times, adding that this face was made like the muzzle of a goat. Others said that he was shaped like a great man, "enveloped in a cloudiness, because

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he would not be seen clearly," and that he was all "flamboyant," and had a face red like an iron coming out of the furnace. Corneille Brolic, a lad of twelve years of age, said that when he was first introduced to him he had the human form, with four horns on his head, and without arms. He was seated in a pulpit, with some of the women, who were his favourites, always near him. "And they are all agreed that it is a great pulpit, which seems to be gilt and very pompous." Janette d'Abadie, of Siboro, sixteen years old, said that Satan had a face before and another behind his head, as they represent the god Janus. De Lancre had also heard him described as a great black dog, as a large ox of brass lying down, and as a natural ox in repose.

Although it was stated that in former times the devil had usually appeared in the form of a serpent,--another coincidence with the priapic worship,--it appears certain that in the time of De Lanere his favourite form of showing himself was that of a goat. At the opening of the Sabbath the witches, male or female, presented formally to the devil those who had never been at the Sabbath before, and the women especially brought to him the children whom they allured to him. The new converts, the novices, were made to renounce Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the saints, and they were then re-baptized with mock

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ceremonies. They next performed their worship to the devil by kissing him on the face under the tail, or otherwise. The young children were taken to the edge of a stream--for the scene was generally chosen on the banks of a stream--and white wands were placed in their hands, and they were entrusted with the care of the toads which were kept there, and which were of importance in the subsequent operations of the witches. The renunciation was frequently renewed, and in some cases it was required every time the witch attended the Sabbath. Janette d'Abadie, a girl of sixteen, said that he made her repeatedly go through the ceremony of kissing him on the face, and afterwards on the navel, then on the virile member, and then on the posteriors. After rebaptism, he put his mark on the body of his victim, in some covered part where it was not likely to be seen. In women it was often placed on or within the sexual parts.

De Lancre's account of the proceedings at the Sabbath is very full and curious. He says that it "resembled a fair of merchants mingled together, furious and in transports, arriving from all parts--a meeting and mingling of a hundred thousand subjects, sudden and transitory, novel, it is true, but of a frightful novelty, which offends the eye and sickens you. Among these same subjects some are real, and others

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deceitful and illusory. Some are pleasing (but very little), as are the little bells and melodious instruments of all sorts, which only tickle the ear and do not touch the heart at all, consisting more in noise which amazes and stuns than in harmony which pleases and rejoices, the others displeasing, full of deformity and horror, tending only to desolation, privation, ruin, and destruction, where the persons become brutish and transformed to beasts, losing their speech while they are in this condition, and the beasts, on the contrary, talk, and seem to have more reason than the persons, each being drawn out of his natural character."

The women, according to De Lancre, were the active agents in all this confusion, and had more employment than the men. They rushed about with their hair hanging loose, and their bodies naked; some rubbed with the magical ointment, others not. They arrived at the Sabbath, or went from it, on their errands of mischief, perched on a stick or besom, or carried upon a goat or other animal, with an infant or two behind, and guided or driven on by the devil himself. "And when Satan will transport them into the air (which is an indulgence only to the most superior), he sets them off and launches them up like fired rockets, and they repair to and dart down upon

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the said place a hundred times more rapidly than an eagle or a kite could dart upon its prey."

These women, on their arrival, reported to Satan all the mischief they had perpetrated. Poison, of all kinds and for all purposes, was there the article most in vogue. Toads were said to form one of its ingredients, and the charge of these animals, while alive, was given to the children whom the witches brought with them to the Sabbath, and to whom, as a sort of ensign of office, little white rods were given, "just such as they give to persons infected with the plague as a mark of their contagion."

The devil was the sovereign master of the assembly, and appeared at it sometimes in the form of a stinking and bearded goat, as one, De Lancre says, which was especially repulsive to mankind. The goat, we know, was dedicated to Priapus. Sometimes he assumed a form, if we clearly understand De Lancre, which presented a confused idea of something between a tree and a man, which is compared, for he becomes rather poetical, to the old decayed cypresses on the summit of a high mountain, or to aged oaks whose heads already bear the marks of approaching decay.

When the devil appeared in human form, that form was horribly ugly and repulsive, with a hoarse voice and an imperious manner. He was seated in a pulpit,

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which glittered like gold; and at his side sat the queen of the Sabbath, one of the witches whom he had debauched, to whom he chose to give greater honour than to the others, and whom he decked in gay robes, with a crown on her head, to serve as a bait to the ambition of the rest. Candles of pitch, or torches, yielded a false light, which gave people in appearance monstrous forms and frightful faces.

Here you see false fires, through which some of the demons were first passed, and afterwards the witches, without suffering any pain, which, as explained by De Lancre, was intended to teach them not to fear the fire of hell. But we see in these the need-fires, which formed a part of the priapic orgies, and of which we have spoken before (p. 94). There women are presenting to him children, whom they have initiated in sorcery, and he shows them a deep pit, into which he threatens to throw them if they refuse to renounce God and to adore Satan.

In other parts are seen great cauldrons, full of toads and vipers, hearts of unbaptized children, flesh of criminals who bad been hanged, and other disgusting ingredients, of which they make pots of ointments, &c. and poisons, the ordinary articles of commerce in this "fair." Of such objects, also, were composed the dishes served at the Sabbath tables, at

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which no salt was allowed, because Satan wished everything to be insipid, musty, and bad-tasted.

Here see people "dancing, either 'in long,' in couples, turned back to back, or sometimes 'in round,' till turning their backs towards the centre of the dance, the girls and women each holding by the hand their demons, who teach them movements and gestures so lascivious and indecent that they would horrify the most shameless woman in the world; with songs of a composition so brutal, and in terms and words of such license and lubricity, that the eyes become troubled, the ears confounded, and the understanding bewitched, at the appearance of so many monstrous things ill crowded together."

The women and girls with whom the demons choose to have connection are covered with a cloud, to conceal the execrations and ordures attached to these scenes, and to prevent the compassion which others might have on the screams and sufferings of these poor wretches." In order to "mix impiety with the other abominations," they pretended to perform religious rites, which were a wild and contemptuous parody on the catholic mass. An altar was raised, and a priest consecrated and administered the host, but it was made of some disgusting substance, and the priest stood with his head downwards and his legs in the air, and with his back turned to the altar.

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[paragraph continues] Thus all things were performed in monstrous or disgusting forms, so that Satan himself appeared almost ashamed of them.

De Lancre acknowledges that there was some diversity in the manner of the proceedings of the Sabbath in different countries, arising from difference in the character of the locality, in the "master" who presided, and in the various humours of those who attended. "But all well considered, there is a general agreement on the principal and most important of the more serious ceremonies. Wherefore, I will relate what we have learnt by our trials, and I will simply repeat what some notable witches deposed before us, as well as to the formalities of the Sabbath, as to all that was usually seen there, without changing or altering anything in what they deposed, in order that every one may select what he likes."

The first witness adduced by De Lancre is not one belonging to his own time, but dating back as far as the 18th of December, 1567, and he had obtained a copy of the confession. Estébene de Cambrue, of the parish of Amou, a woman twenty-five years of age, said that the great Sabbath was held four times a year, in derision of the four annual festivals of the Church. The little assemblies, which were held in the neighbourhood of the towns or parishes, were attended only by those of the locality; they were called

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[paragraph continues] "pastimes," and were held sometimes in one place and sometimes in another, and there they only danced and frolicked, for the devil did not come there in all his state as at the great assemblies. They were, in fact, the greater and lesser Priapeia. She said that the place of the grand convocation was generally called the "Lanne de Bouc" (the goat's heath), where they danced round a stone, which was planted in the said place, (perhaps one of the so-called Druidical monuments,) upon which was seated a great black man, whom they called "Monsieur." Each person present kissed this black man on the posteriors. She said that they were carried to that place on an animal which sometimes resembled a horse and at others a man, and they never rode on the animal more than four at a time. When arrived at the Sabbath, they denied God, the Virgin, "and the rest," and took Satan for their father and protector, and the she-devil for their mother. This witness described the making and sale of poisons. She said that she had seen at the Sabbath a notary, whose name she gave, whose business it was to denounce those who failed in attendance. When on their way to the Sabbath, however hard it might rain, they were never wet, provided they uttered the words, Haut la coude, Quillet, because then the tail of the beast on which they were mounted covered them so well that they were sheltered from the rain. When they had to make a long journey they

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said these words: Pic suber hoeilhe, en ta la lane de bouc bien m' arrecoueille.

A man seventy-three years of age, named Petri Daguerre, was brought before De Lancre and his fellow commissioners at Ustarits; two witnesses asserted that he held the office of master of ceremonies and governor of the Sabbath, and that the devil gave him a gilt staff, which he carried in his hand as a mark of authority, and arranged and directed the proceedings. He returned the staff to Satan at the close of the meeting.

One Leger Rivasseau confessed that he had been at the Sabbath twice without adoring the devil, or doing any of the things required from the others, because it was part of his bargain, for he had given the half of his left foot for the faculty of curing, and the right of being present at the Sabbath without further obligation. He said "that the Sabbath was held about midnight, at a meeting of cross roads, most frequently on the nights of Wednesday and Friday; that the devil chose in preference the stormiest nights, in order that the winds and troubled elements might carry their powders farther and more impetuously; that two notable devils presided at their Sabbaths, the great negro, whom they called Master Leonard, and

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another little devil, whom Master Leonard at times substituted in his place, and whom they called Master Jean Mullin; that they adored the grand master, and that, after having kissed his posteriors, there were about sixty of them dancing without dress, back to back, each with a great cat attached to the tail of his or her shirt, and that afterwards they danced naked; that this Master Leonard, taking the form of a black fox, hummed at the beginning a word ill articulated, after which they were all silent."

Some of the witches examined spoke of the delight with which they attended the Sabbath. Jeanne Dibasson, a woman twenty-nine years old, said that the Sabbath was the true Paradise, where there was far more pleasure than can be expressed; that those who went there found the time so short by reason of the pleasure and enjoyment, that they never left it without marvelous regret, so that they looked forward with infinite impatience to the next meeting.

Marie de la Ralde, "a very handsome woman twenty-eight years of age," who had then abandoned her connection with the devil five or six years, gave a full account of her experience of the Sabbath. She said she had frequented the Sabbaths from the time she was ten years old, having been first taken there by Marissans, the wife of Sarrauch, and after her death the devil took her there himself. That the first

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time she was there she saw the devil in the shape of a trunk of a tree, without feet, but apparently sitting in a pulpit, with some form of a human face, very obscure; but since she had often seen him in man's form, sometimes red, sometimes black. That she had often seen him approach a hot iron to the children which were presented to him, but she did not know if he marked them with it. That she had never kissed him since she had arrived at the age of knowledge, and does not know whether she had kissed him before or not; but she had seen how, when one went to adore him, he presented sometimes his face to kiss, sometimes his posteriors, as it pleased him, and at his discretion. That she had a singular pleasure in going to the Sabbath, so that every time she was summoned to go there, she went as though it were to a wedding feast; not so much for the liberty and license they had there to have connection with each other (which out of modesty she said she had never done or seen done), but because the devil had so strong a hold on their hearts and wills that it hardly allowed any other desire to enter. Besides that the witches believe they are going to a place where there are a hundred thousand wonders and novelties to see, and where they hear so great a diversity of melodious instruments that they are ravished, and believe themselves to be in some terrestrial paradise. Moreover

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the devil persuades them that the fear of hell, which is so much apprehended, is a piece of folly, and gives them to understand that the eternal punishments will hurt them no more than a certain artificial fire which he causes them craftily to light, and then makes them pass through it and repass without hurt. And more, that they see there so many priests, their pastors, cures, vicars, and confessors, and other people of quality of all sorts, so many heads of families, and so many mistresses of the principal houses in the said country, so many people veiled, whom they considered to be grandees, because they concealed themselves and wished to be unknown, that they believed and took it for a very great honour and good fortune to be received there.

Marie d'Aspilcouëtte, a girl nineteen years old, who lived at Handaye, said that she had frequented the Sabbath ever since the age of seven, and that she was taken there the first time by Catherine de Moleres, who had since been executed to death for having caused a man's death by sorcery. She said that it was now two years since she had withdrawn from her relations with Satan. That the devil appeared in the form of a goat, having a tail and under it the face of a black man, which she was compelled to kiss, and that this posterior face has not the power of speech, but they were obliged to adore and kiss it. Afterwards


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the said Moleres gave her seven toads to keep. That the said Moleres transported her through the air to the Sabbath, where she saw people dancing, with violins, trumpets, and tabors, which made a very great harmony. That in the said assemblies there was an extreme pleasure and enjoyment. That they made love in full liberty before all the world. That some were employed in cutting off the heads of toads, while others made poison of them; and that they made the poison at home as well as at the Sabbath.

After describing the different sorts of poisons prepared on these occasions, De Lancre proceeds to report the testimony of other witnesses to the details of the Sabbath. Jeannette de Belloc, called Atsoua, a damsel of twenty-four years of age, said that she had been made a witch in her childhood by a woman named Oylarchahar, who took her for the first time to the Sabbath, and there presented her to the devil; and after her death, Mary Martin, lady of the house of Adamechorena, took her place. About the month of February, 1609, Jeannette confessed to a priest who was the nephew of Madame Martin, who went to his aunt and merely enjoined her not to take the girl to the Sabbath any more. Jeannette said that at the solemn festivals all kissed the devil's posteriors except the notable witches, who kissed him in the face. According to her account, the children, at the age of two

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or three years, or as soon as they could speak, were made to renounce Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, their baptism, &c. and from that moment they were taught to worship the devil. She described the Sabbath as resembling a fair, well supplied with all sorts of objects, in which some walked about in their own form, and others were transformed, she knew not how, into dogs, cats, asses, horses, pigs, and other animals. The little boys and girls kept the herds of the Sabbath, consisting of a world of toads near a stream, with small white rods, and were not allowed to approach the great mass of the witches; while others, of more advanced age, who were not objects of sufficient respect, were kept apart in a sort of apprenticeship, during which they were only allowed to look on at the proceedings of the others. Of these there were two sorts; some were veiled, to make the poorer classes believe that they were people of rank and distinction, and that they did not wish themselves to be known in such a place; others were uncovered, and openly danced, had sexual intercourse, made the poisons, and performed their other diabolical functions; and these were not allowed to approach so near "the master" as those who were veiled. The holy water used at the Sabbath was the devil's urine. She pointed out two of the accused whom she had seen at the Sabbath playing upon the tabor and the

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violin. She spoke of the numbers who were seen arriving and departing continually, the latter to do evil, the former to report what they had done. They went out at sea, even as far as Newfoundland, where their husbands and sons went to fish, in order to raise storms, and endanger their ships. This deponent spoke also of the fires at the Sabbath, into which the witches were thrown without sustaining any hurt. She had seen the frequenters of the Sabbath make themselves appear as big as houses, but she had never seen them transform themselves into animals, although there were animals of different kinds running about at the Sabbath.

Jeanette d'Abadie, an inhabitant of Siboro, of the age of sixteen, said that she was taken for the first time to the Sabbath by a woman named Gratianne; that for the last nine months she had watched and done all she could to withdraw herself from this evil influence; that during the first three of these months, because she had watched at home by night, the devil carried her away to the Sabbath in open day; and during the other six, until the 16th of September, 1609, she had only gone to them twice, because she had watched, and still watches in the church; and that the last time she was there was the 13th of September, 1609, which she narrated in a "bizarre and very terrible manner." It appears that, having

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watched in the church of Siboro during the night between Saturday and Sunday, at daybreak she went to sleep at home, and, during the time of the grand mass, the devil came to her and snatched from her neck a "fig of leather which she wore there, as an infinity of other people did;" this higo, or fig, she described as "a form of hand, with the fist closed, and the thumb passed between the two fingers, which they believe to be, and wear as, a remedy against all enchantment and witchcraft; and, because the devil cannot bear this fist, she said that he did not dare to carry it away, but left it at the threshold of the door of the room in which she was sleeping." This Jeanette said, that the first time she went to the Sabbath she saw there the devil in the form of a man, black and hideous, with six horns on his head, and sometimes eight, and a great tail behind, one face in front and another at the back of the head, as they paint the god Janus. Gratianne, on presenting her, received as her reward a handful of gold; and then the child-victim was made to renounce her Creator, the Virgin, the baptism, father, mother, relatives, heaven, earth, and all that was in the world, and then she was required to kiss the fiend on the posteriors. The renunciation she was obliged to repeat every time she went to the Sabbath. She added that the devil often made her kiss his face, his navel, his member, and his posteriors.

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[paragraph continues] She had often seen the children of witches baptized at the Sabbath.

Another ceremony was that of baptizing toads. These animals perform a great part in these old popular orgies. At one of the Sabbaths, a lady danced with four toads on her person, one on each shoulder, and one on each wrist, the latter perched like hawks. Jeanette d'Abadie went on further in her revelations in regard to still more objectionable parts of the proceedings. She said that, with regard to their libidinous acts, she had seen the assembly intermix incestuously, and contrary to all order of nature, accusing even herself of having been robbed of her maidenhead by Satan, and of having been known an infinite number of times by a relation of hers, and by others, whoever would ask her. She always fought to avoid the embraces of the devil, because it caused her an extreme pain, and she added that what came from him was cold, and never produced pregnancy. Nobody ever became pregnant at the Sabbath. Away from the Sabbath, she never committed a fault, but in the Sabbath she took a marvellous pleasure in these acts of sexual intercourse, which she displayed by dwelling on the description of them with a minuteness of detail, and language of such obscenity, as would have drawn a blush from the most depraved woman in the world. She described also the tables

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covered in appearance with provisions, which, however, proved either unsubstantial or of a disgusting nature.

This witness further declared that she had seen at the Sabbath a number of little demons without arms, who were employed in kindling a great fire, into which they threw the witches, who came out without being burnt; and she had also seen the grand master of the assembly throw himself into a fire, and remain there until he was burnt to powder, which powder was used by the witches to bewitch young children, and cause them to go willingly to the Sabbath. She had seen priests who were well-known, and gave the names of some of them, performing the service of the mass at the Sabbath, while the demons took their places on the altar in the forms of saints. Sometimes the devil pierced the left foot of a sorcerer under the little toe, and drew blood, which he sucked, and after this that individual could never be drawn to make a confession; and she named, as an example, a priest named Francois de Bideguaray, of Bordegaina, who, in fact, could not be made to confess. She named many other persons whom she had seen at the Sabbaths, and especially one named Anduitze, whose office it was to summon the witches and sorcerers to the meeting.

De Lancre says that many others, in their depositions,

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spoke of the extreme pleasures and enjoyments experienced in these Sabbaths, which made men and women repair to them with the greatest eagerness. "The woman indulged before the face of her husband without suspicion or jealousy, he even frequently acted the part of procurer; the father deprived his daughter of her virginity without shame; the mother acted the same part towards her son; the brother towards his sister; fathers and mothers carried thither and presented their children."

The dances at the Sabbath were mostly indecent, including the well-known Sarabande, and the women danced in them sometimes in chemise, but much more frequently quite naked. They consisted especially in violent movements; and the devil often joined in them, taking the handsomest woman or girl for his partner. De Lancre's account of these dances is so minute and curious that it may be given in his own words. "If the saying is true that never woman or girl returned from the ball as chaste as she went there, how unclean must she return who has abandoned herself to the unfortunate design of going to the ball of the demons and evil spirits, who has danced in hand with them, who has kissed them obscenely, who has yielded herself to them as a prey, has adored them, and has even copulated with them? It is to be, in good earnest, inconstant and

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fickle; it is to be not only lewd, or even a shameless whore, but to be stark-mad, unworthy of the favours with which God loads her in bringing her into the world, and causing her to be born a Christian. We caused in several places the boys and girls to dance in the same fashion as they danced at the Sabbath, as much to deter them from such uncleanness, by convincing them to what a degree the most modest of these movements was filthy, vile, and unbecoming in a virtuous girl, as also because, when accused, the greater part of the witches, charged with having among other things danced in hand with the devil, and sometimes led the dance, denied it all, and said that the girls were deceived, and that they could not have known how to express the forms of dance which they said they had seen at the Sabbath. They were boys and girls of a fair age, who had already been in the way of salvation before our commission. In truth some of them were already quite out of it, and had gone no more to the Sabbath for some time; others were still struggling to escape, and, held still by one foot, slept in the church, confessed and communicated, in order to withdraw themselves entirely from Satan's claws. Now it is said that they dance always with their backs turned to the centre of the dance, which is the cause that the girls are so accustomed to carry their hands behind them in this round dance,

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that they draw into it the whole body, and give it a bend curved backwards, having their arms half turned; so that most of them have the belly commonly great, pushed forward, and swollen, and a little inclining in front. I know not whether this be caused by the dance or by the ordure and wretched provisions they are made to eat. But the fact is, they dance very seldom one by one, that is one man alone with one woman or girl, as we do in our galliards; so they have told and assured us, that they only danced there three sorts of branles, or brawls, usually turning their shoulders to one another, and the back of each looking towards the round of the dance, and the face turned outwards. The first is the Bohemian dance, for the wandering Bohemians are also half devils; I mean those long-haired people without country, who are neither Egytians (gipsies), nor of the kingdom of Bohemia, but are born everywhere, as they pursue their route, and pass countries, in the fields, and under the trees, and they go about dancing and playing conjuring tricks, as at the Sabbath. So they are numerous in the country of Labourd, on account of the easy passage from Navarre and Spain.

"The second is with jumping, as our working men practise in towns and villages, along the streets and fields; and these two are in round. The third is also with the back turned, but all holding together in

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length, and, without disengaging hands, they approach so near as to touch, and meet back to back, a man with a woman; and at a certain cadence they push and strike together immodestly their two posteriors. And it was also told us that the devil, in his strange humours, did not cause them all to be placed in order, with their backs turned towards the crown of the dance, as is commonly said by everybody; but one having the back turned, and the other not, and so on to the end of the dance. . . . They dance to the sound of the tabor and flute, and sometimes with the long instrument they carry at the neck, and thence stretching to near the girdle, which they beat with a little stick; sometimes with a violin (fiddle). But these are not the only instruments of the Sabbath, for we have learnt from many of them that all sorts of instruments are seen there, with such harmony that there is no concert in the world to be compared to it."

Nothing is more remarkable than the sort of prurient curiosity with which these honest commissioners interrogated the witnesses as to the sexual peculiarities and capabilities of the demon, and the sort of satisfaction with which De Lancre reduces all this to writing. They all tend to show the identity of these orgies with those of the ancient worship of Priapus, who is undoubtedly figured in the Satan of the Sabbath.

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[paragraph continues] The young witch, Jeannette d'Abadie, told how she had seen at the Sabbath men and women in promiscuous intercourse, and how the devil arranged them in couples, in the most unnatural conjunctions--the daughter with the father, the mother with her son, the sister with the brother, the daughter-in-law with the father-in-law, the penitent with her confessor, without distinction of age, quality, or relationship, so that she confessed to having been known an infinity of times at the Sabbath by a cousin-german of her mother, and by an infinite number of others. After repeating much that she had said before relating to the impudicity of the Sabbath, this girl said that she had been deflowered by the devil at the age of thirteen--twelve was the common age for this--that they never became pregnant, either by him or by any of the wizards of the Sabbath; that she had never felt anything come from the devil except the first time, when it was very cold, but that with the sorcerers it was as with other men. That the devil chose the handsomest of the women and girls for himself, and one he usually made his queen for the meeting. That they suffered extremely when he had intercourse with them, in consequence of his member being covered with scales like those of a fish. That when extended it was a yard long, but that it was usually twisted. Marie d'Aspilcuette, a girl between nineteen

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and twenty years of age, who also confessed to having had frequent connection with Satan, described his member as about half a yard long, and moderately large. Marguerite, a girl of Sare, between sixteen and seventeen, described it as resembling that of a mule, and as being as long and thick as one's arm. More on this subject the reader will find in De Lancre's own text. The devil, we are further told, preferred married women to girls, because there was more sin in the connection, adultery being a greater crime than simple fornication.

In order to give still more truthfulness to his account of the Sabbath, De Lancre caused all the facts gathered from the confessions of his victims to be embodied in a picture which illustrates the second edition of his book, and which places the whole scene before us so vividly that we have had it re-engraved in facsimile as an illustration to the present essay. 107 The different groups are, as will be seen, indicated by capital letters. At A we have Satan in his gilt pulpit, with five horns, the one in the middle lighted, for the purpose of giving light to all the candles and fires at the Sabbath. B is the queen of the Sabbath, seated at his right hand, while another favorite, though in less degree, sits on the other side. C, a witch presenting a child which she has seduced. D,

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the witches, each with her demon, seated at table. E, a party of four witches and sorcerers, who are only admitted as spectators, and are not allowed to approach the great ceremonies. F, "according to the old proverb, Après la pance, vient la dance," the witches and their demons have risen from table, and are here engaged in one of the descriptions of dances mentioned above. G, the players on instruments, who furnish the music to which the witches dance. H, a troop of women and girls, who dance with their faces turned outwards from the round of the dance. I, the cauldron on the fire, to make all sorts of poisons and noxious compounds. K, during these proceedings, many witches are seen arriving at the Sabbath on staffs and broomsticks, and others on goats, bringing with them children to offer to Satan; others are departing from the Sabbath, carried through the air to the sea and distant parts, where they will raise storms and tempests. L, "the great lords and ladies and other rich and powerful people, who treat on the grand affairs of the Sabbath, where they appear veiled, and the women with masks, that they may remain always concealed and unknown." Lastly, at M, we see the young children, at some distance from the busy part of the ceremonies, taking charge of the toads.

In reviewing the extraordinary scenes which are

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developed in these witch-depositions, we are struck not only with their general resemblance among themselves, although told in different countries, but also with the striking points of identity between the proceedings of the Sabbath and the secret assemblies with which the Templars were charged. We have in both the initiatory presentation, the denial of Christ, and the homage to the new master, sealed by the obscene kiss. This is just what might be expected. In preserving secretly a religious worship after the open practice of it had been proscribed, it would be natural, if not necessary, to require of the initiated a strong denial of the new and intrusive faith, with acts as well as words which compromised him entirely in what he was doing. The mass and weight of the evidence certainly goes to prove that such secret rites did prevail among the Templars, though it is not equally evident that they prevailed throughout the order; and the similarity of the revelations of the witch-confessions, in all countries where they were taken, seems to show that there was in them also a foundation in truth. We look upon it as not admitting of doubt, that the Priapic orgies and the other periodical assemblies for worship of this description, which we have described in an earlier part of this essay, were continued long after the fall of the Roman power and the introduction of the Christian

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religion. The rustic population, mostly servile, whose morals or private practices were little heeded by the other classes of society, might, in a country so thinly peopled, assemble by night in retired places without any fear of observation. There they perhaps indulged in Priapic rites, followed by the old Priapic orgies, which would become more and more debased in form, but through the effects of exciting potions, as described by Michelet, 108 would have become wilder than ever. They became, as Michelet describes them, the Saturnalia of the serf. The state of mind produced by these excitements would lead those who partook in them to believe easily in the actual presence of the beings they worshipped, who, according to the Church doctrines, were only so many devils. Hence arose the diabolical agency in the scene. Thus we easily obtain all the materials and all the incidents of the witches' Sabbath. Where this older worship was preserved among the middle or more elevated classes of society, who had other means of secrecy at their command, it would take a less vulgar form, and would show itself in the formation of concealed sects and societies, such as those of the different forms of Gnosticism, of the Stadingers, of the Templars, and

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of other less important secret clubs, of a more or less immoral character, which continued no doubt to exist long after what we call the middle ages had passed away. As we have before intimated, these mediæval practices prevailed most in Gaul and the South, where the influence of Roman manners and superstitions was greatest.


157:104 The account of the witch trials at Arras was published in the supplementary additions to Monstrelet; but the original records of the proceedings have since been found and printed.

162:105 The first edition of the work of Bodin, De la Démonomanie des Sorciers, was published at Paris, in 4to, in 1580. It went through many editions, and was translated into Latin and other languages.

164:106 4to. Parts, 1612. A new and improved edition appeared in 1613.

191:107 See our plate XVI.

194:108 See Michelet, La Sorcière, liv. i, c. 9, on the use and the effects of the Solaneæ, to which he attributes much of the delusions of the Sabbath.

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