Malleus Maleficarum Part 2
Certain Remedies prescribed against those Dark and Horrid Harms with which Devils may Afflict Men.
Yet again we reserve our judgement in discussing the remedies against
certain injuries to the fruits of the earth, which are caused by
canker-worms, or by huge flights of locusts and other insects which cover
vast areas of land, and seem to hide the surface of the ground, eating up
everything to the very roots in the vineyards and devouring fields of ripe
crops. In the same light too we consider the remedies against the stealing
of children by the work of devils.
But with regard to the former kind of injury we may quote S. Thomas, the
Second of the Second, Question 90, where he asks whether it is
lawful to adjure an irrational creature. He answers that it is; but only in
the way of compulsion, by which it is sent back to the devil, who uses
irrational creatures to harm us. And such is the method of adjuration in the
exorcisms of the Church by which the power of the devil is kept away from
irrational creatures. But if the adjuration is addressed to the irrational
creature itself, which understands nothing, then it would be nugatory and
vain. From this it can be understood that they can be driven off by lawful
exorcisms and adjurations, the help of the Divine mercy being granted; but
first the people should be bidden to fast and to go in procession and
practice other devotions. For this sort of evil is sent on account of
adulteries and the multiplication of crimes; wherefore men must be urged to
confess their sins.
In some provinces even solemn excommunications are pronounced; but then
they obtain power of adjuration over devils.
Another terrible thing which God permits to happen to men is when their
own children are taken away from women, and strange children are put in
their place by devils. And these children, which are commonly called
changelings, or in the German tongue Wechselkinder, are of three
kinds. For some are always ailing and crying, and yet the milk of four
women is not enough to satisfy them. Some are generated by the operation of
Incubus devils, of whom, however, they are not the sons, but of that man
from whom the devil has received the semen as a Succubus, or whose semen he
has collected from some nocturnal pollution in sleep. For these children
are sometimes, by Divine permission, substituted for the real children.
And there is a third kind, when the devils at times appear in the form of
young children and attach themselves to the nurses. But all three kinds
have this in common, that though they are very heavy, they are always
ailing and do not grow, and cannot receive enough milk to satisfy them, and
are often reported to have vanished away.
And it can be said that the Divine pity permits such things for two
reasons. First, when the parents dote upon their children too much, and
this a punishment for their own good. Secondly, it is to be presumed that
the women to whom such things happen are very superstitious, and are in
many other ways seduced by devils. But God is truly jealous in the right
sense of the word, which means a strong love for a man's own wife, which
not only does not allow another man to approach her, but like a jealous
husband will not suffer the hint or suspicion of adultery. In the same way
is God jealous of the soul which He bought with His Precious Blood and
espoused in the Faith; and cannot suffer it to be touched by, to converse
with, or in any way to approach or have dealings with the devil, the enemy
and adversary of salvation. And if a jealous husband cannot suffer even a
hint of adultery, how much more will he be disturbed when adultery is
actually committed! Therefore it is no wonder if their own children are
taken away and adulterous children substituted.
And indeed that it may be more strongly impressed how God is jealous of
the soul, and will not suffer anything which might cause a suspicion, it is
shown in the Old Law where, that He might drive His people farther from
idolatry, He not only forbade idolatry, but also many other things which
might give occasion to idolatry, and seemed to have no use in themselves,
although in some marvellous way they retain some use in a mystical sense.
For He not only says in Exodus xxii: Thou shalt not suffer a witch
to live on this earth; but He adds this: She shall not dwell in thy land,
lest perchance she cause thee to sin. Similarly common bawds and bulkers
are put to death, and not allowed to company with men.
Note the jealousy of God, Who says as follows in Deuteronomy xxii:
If thou find a bird's nest, and the dam sitting upon the eggs or upon the
young ones, thou shalt not take the dam with the young, but thou shalt let
the dam fly away; because the Gentiles used these to procure sterility. The
jealous God would not suffer in His people this sign of adultery. In like
manner in our days when old women find a penny, they think it a sign of
great fortune; and conversely, when they dream of money it is an unlucky
sign. Also God taught that all vessels should be covered, and that when a
vessel had no cover it should be considered unclean.
There was an erroneous belief that when devils came in the night (or the
Good People as old women call them, though they are witches, or devils in
their forms) they must eat up everything, that afterwards they may bring
greater abundance of stores. Some people give colour to the story, and call
them Screech Owls; but this is against the opinion of the Doctors, who say
that there are no rational creatures except men and Angels; therefore they
can only be devils.
Again, in Leviticus xix: Ye shall not round the corners of your
heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard; because they did
this idolatrously in veneration of idols.
Again in Deuteronomy xxii: God says that men shall not put on the
garments of women, or conversely; because they did this in honour of the
goddess Venus, and others in honour of Mars or Priapus.
And for the same reason He commanded the altars of idols to be destroyed;
and Hezechias destroyed the Brazen Serpent when the people wanted to
sacrifice to it, saying: It is brass. For the same reason He forbade the
observance of visions and auguries, and commanded that the man or woman in
whom there was a familiar spirit should be put to death. Such are now
called soothsayers. All these things, because they give rise to suspicion
of spiritual adultery, therefore, as has been said, from the jealousy which
God has for the souls He has espoused, as a husband espouses a wife, they
were all forbidden by Him.
And so we preachers also ought to bear in mind that no sacrifice is more
acceptable to God than a jealousy of souls, as S. Jerome says in his
commentaries upon Ezekiel.
Therefore in the Third Part of this work we shall treat the extermination
of witches, which is the ultimate remedy. For this is the last recourse of
the Church, to which she is bound by Divine commandment. For it has been
said: Ye shall not suffer witches to live upon the earth. And with this
will be included the remedies against archer-wizards; since this kind can
only be exterminated by secular law.
A remedy. When certain persons for the sake of temporal gain have devoted
themselves entirely to the devil, it has often been found that, though they
may be freed from the devil's power by true confession, yet they have been
long and grievously tormented, especially in the night. And God allows this
for their punishment. But a sign that they have been delivered is that,
after confession, all the money in their purses or coffers vanishes. Many
examples of this could be adduced, but for the sake of brevity they are
passed over and omitted.
Next: General and Introductory
Who are the Fit and Proper Judges in the Trial of Witches?