Nicolau Eymeric (ca. 1320-1399) reported in his Directory of Inquisitors (Directorium inquisitorum) that he had confiscated and burned the “The Key of Solomon” (Clavis Salomonis).
Also ‘Necromancy’ was not so broad a term as to cover all varieties of magic that were suspected by authorities of involving demonic power. Rather, it was a decidedly learned art involving complex rituals and ceremonies, often patterned on the church's own liturgical rites, and knowledge of this art was typically conceived as being contained in books or manuals. For example in the early fifteenth century, religious reformer Johannes Nider (ca. 1380-1438) reported that he knew a certain monk in Vienna who, before entering the religious life, had been a necromancer and had possessed several demonic books. Some of these texts survived inquisitorial flames and now allow remarkably direct access into one area of the world of medieval magic. And one example a fifteenth-century necromantic manual, titled Sworn Book of Honorius the Magician (Liber iuratus Honorii) contains following illustration:
Since necromancy was essentially a bookish art, its practitioners necessarily belonged to the small, educated elite who possessed the Latin literacy necessary to use such manuals. This meant that necromancers were virtually always clerics. The ranks of the clergy in the Middle Ages extended down from priests through a variety of more minor orders, and it was these lower orders that most likely supplied the majority of necromancers. Medieval schools and universities were religious organizations, so most students were formally required to become clergy. Thus virtually all educated people were by definition clerics. After receiving their degrees, however, these men might have few or no official ecclesiastical functions.
Much Muslim and Jewish magical literature furthermore discussed invoking and controlling demons or spirits in the name of God. Demons could either alter their own forms or they could affect human perception so that people thought they saw a horse, a boat, a banquet, or anything else the magician might desire. Aside from deceiving the senses, demons could also affect the human heart and mind, and so necromancy could be used to arouse love or hatred, to bring calm or incite agitation, and so forth. Just as in divination, here too there were debates about the extent to which human will might be directly affected by magical practices. (See Richard Kieckhefer, Magic in the Middle Ages, Cambridge University Press, 1989).
Many authorities reasoned that demons only had power over human bodies, but that by affecting the body in certain ways (manipulating bodily humors, for example), they could induce various mental states, or at least cause people to succumb to such states more readily. Demonic power over bodies of course allowed them to inflict physical harm on people and to cause disease. They could also heal, however, and so through them necromancers also commanded all these powers. And the belief that interaction with demonic forces was inherently evil and corrupting had been an essential aspect of church doctrine since the earliest days of Christianity. From the time of Augustine, Christian authorities had condemned magic primarily because of the potential involvement of demons in the rituals and practices that they deemed to be magical. They could hardly now fail to condemn ritual that was explicitly demonic in nature. That some necromancers claimed, by virtue of their position as clerics and more basically by the power of Christ, that they could interact safely with demons and command them toward positive ends was hardly an effective defense; in fact it constituted a significant challenge to the longstanding position of the church. Augustine had noted that most magic was based on evil associations between humans and demons, and Aquinas had argued that even when a magical ritual did not com in any explicit submission to demons, nevertheless a tacit pact might be supposed to exist between the magician and the entities he summoned. Necromancy, a type of magic contained in Latin manuals and performed by clerics, was probably the form of magic most familiar to Christian authorities in the high and late Middle Ages. As concern on the part of authorities over magic grew in this period and condemnations of magical practices increased, they were shaped largely by conceptions of elite necromancy, but applied ultimately to all varieties of magic and superstition. (See Richard Kieckhefer, Forbidden Rites: A Necromancer-'s Manual, 1998).
By the late Middle Ages, authorities came to regard magic more seriously, and as a more serious threat, so that this era was also marked by the increasingly rigorous and intellectually specific condemnation of many forms of magical practice, as systematic demonology and awareness of explicitly demonic necromancy fed longstanding Christian concerns about the potentially demonic nature of all magic and the demonic threat behind superstition. Legal advances also took place in this period, above all the use of inquisitorial methods in court proceedings. These methods allowed more readily for prosecutions and convictions in cases involving charges of magical practices. In addition, specially designated inquisitors began to appear who (eventually) brought cases of heretical demonic magic under their jurisdiction. To support these new procedures and personnel, advanced legal literature and theory developed, which defined the illicit qualities of magic more precisely than ever before. Legal condemnations of magic thus became as profound and encompassing as earlier moral condemnations had been.
Already in the Symposium, Plato's Socrates claimed that the gods never have direct contact with humans. Instead, they employ the daemons, beings halfway between gods and humans, as their intermediaries or messengers. Plato's term daimonion gave the West its word for demons, his word for messenger, angelos, the word for angels. When God begins to seem impossibly distant, Western Christians rediscover angels and demons. If these messengers begin to seem distant or unreal as well, someone begins daydreaming that somewhere-somewhere close – other people must be experiencing superhuman reality, physically, empirically, unmistakably.The thirteenth century was a crucial period in the development of necromancy as both idea and practice. This was the age of Aquinas, and there is clear evidence that necromancy was already under consideration as a way of investigating whether spirits really existed or were capable of interaction with humans. Around the time Aquinas was born, the German Cistercian monk Caesanius of Heisterbach wrote his Dialogus miraculorum, or Dialogue on Miracles (1225), which was very influential in the later Middle Ages. Coming to terms with the imperceptibility, improvability, and possible nonexistence of the spirit world happened gradually, in step with a reluctant acceptance of the extraordinary power of the human imagination.
In Religion and the Decline of Magic, Keith Thomas asserts that, in the early-modern period, "the evidence of widespread religious skepticism is not to be underrated, for it may be reasonably surmised that many thought what they dared not say aloud." He suggests that "not enough justice has been done to the volume of apathy, heterodoxy, and agnosticism which existed long before the onslaught of industrialism. It is generally accepted however that the witch hunts, magical activities becoming an official matter, was immensely influenced by the centuries of constant, religious conflicts and threats-usually taking the form of religious wars between Christians and Muslims or between Catholics and Protestants.
How strange to see a Franciscan philosopher-theologian arrive at a conclusion essential to scientific thinking by asserting the freedom of an omnipotent God to do as he wishes. Using hindsight, one can see Thomas Aquinas supplying the first part of a scientific worldview by emphasizing the existence of knowable causal patterns in an integrated, interdependent natural universe. Aquinas and other representatives of the via antiqua assumed the existence of metaphysical "entities" originally derived from Aristotle, such as a "potential intellect" that permits humans to receive and store information, and an "active intellect" that permits them to analyze it. But while Christian theologians could not settle for the observation that magic simply "worked," their Muslim counterparts could and did. Muslims believe that by reciting the last several sentences of the Qur'an following the five daily prayers, they neutralize all evil. forces.Thus at least one, irony about the European witch-hunts might be that they were the result of reason and logic applied to a false premise.
Clerical authorities furthermore linked magic categorically to pagan rites and demonic powers, and thus they condemned all magical activity as inherently immoral and illicit for Christians. Of course, these distinctions were never clear-cut or absolute in practice, as moral judgments were always deeply intertwined with legal rulings. Even in the ancient world, legal condemnations could become quite general in tone, and any type of illicit magical practice could be regarded as a threat to the community's harmonious relationship with divine or spiritual forces. In Christian Europe, kings and princes relied heavily on clerics and on the church to buttress their authority. Thus the church's condemnation of magic had legal effects, and law codes were always based on Christian morality. In the high and late Middle Ages, however, the church itself became a much more legalistic entity. Canon law, based on church rulings or "canons," developed into a science at the new schools and universities that appeared in this period, and increasingly the church came to define itself and its authority in terms of these legal codes. Ecclesiastical courts developed to enforce this law, which applied to all Christians. Ultimately, specialized officials appeared-inquisitors whose purpose was to root out the worst offenders against church law, those Christians who denied or rejected essential elements of their faith or aspects of church authority and so became heretics. Because of their perceived involvement with demons, people who engaged in many types of magical practices were eventually included in this category.
The history of the condemnation of magic in this period culminated in the emergence of the essentially new category of diabolical, conspiratorial witchcraft. Although people had been suspected, accused, and prosecuted for performing harmful or malevolent sorcery-maleficium-throughout the Christian era, as in antiquity, only in the fifteenth century did the idea develop that people might engage in maleficium as members of heretical, demon-worshiping cults, offering themselves to Satan in exchange for power and acting at his direction to corrupt and subvert all of Christian society.
Of course, because of their rejection of Christianity, Jews were easily depicted as being in league with demons. One legend related how the early sixth-century Christian saint Theophilus had been tempted by a Jewish sorcerer into signing a pact with the devil in order to gain magical powers. This story became an archetype for later notions of diabolical pacts associated with magic and witchcraft. Thus promising a copy of the notorious Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses, an advertisement in the Allgemeiner Litterarischer Anzeiger, 28 March 1797, drew considerable attention. Of course this now was when the 'Magic Media Market' was being formed. A copy from around 1750 (probably not long after the fake was created) is housed in the British Library. It consists of twenty-two loose, bronze-coated cardboard pages measuring 30.5 x 44.5 centimeters. They each have writing on the front and the back, mostly in blood red characters that are or at least appear to be oriental. The sections of text that are formulated in German, the headings in particular, are also written using Latin letters, which are blended with the oriental signs. During the late 1950’s a German Judge suddenly felt the need to declare the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses (by now part of folklore)-- as “anti-Semitic.”( Hans Sebald, The 6th and 7th Books of Moses: The Historical and Sociological Vagaries of a Grimoire', Ethnologica Europea 18, 1988, 53-8).
Furthermore an inquisition, inquisitio in Latin, originally did not imply an ominous institution, but simply meant a process of legal inquiry. Bishops and their officials were expected, as a matter of course, to inquire into any potential errors of faith within their jurisdictions. However by the twelfth century, as heresy became a greater concern, inquisitorial procedures became more intense and systematized. Seemingly distant from the process of inquisition, confession was actually closely related, for it involved, or was supposed to involve, a personal inquiry by an individual, although directed by a priest, into his or her own beliefs and moral state, leading to acknowledgment and repentance of any errors. This was also the underlying moral goal of an inquisition, and authorities' growing preoccupation with uncovering and uprooting potentially improper beliefs was a critical factor in the developing condemnation of heresy, as well as the condemnation of magic and superstition.
Thus growing reliance on inquisitions marked the emergence of a new type of legal procedure in Europe , where suspected sorcerers might be required to grasp hot irons, and in several days their wounds would be examined to determine whether they were healing properly (little or no healing was a sign of guilt), or suspects might be bound and dunked in water to see how quickly they rose to the surface--floating was a sign guilt. Plus if an entire community regarded an individual with suspicion, punishment could occur, and it was often severe. In 1075 for example, citizens of Cologne (now Germany) threw a woman from the town wall because they believed she was practicing magical arts. In 1128 the people of Ghent (now Belgium) eviscerated an "enchantress" and paraded her stomach around the town.
The first evidence of the legal use of torture comes from statutes of the Italian city of Verona in 1228, regarding the use of torture by secular courts. In 1252 Pope Innocent IV (reigned 1245-1254) permitted papal inquisitors to use torture to extract information from suspects. To obtain a conviction for a potentially capital offence, standard legal procedure came to require either the testimony of two' eyewitnesses or the confession of the accused. Given the clandestine nature of most magical practices, eyewitnesses were usually out of the question~ Authorities certainly recognized the potential of torture to extract false confessions, and they devised methods and imposed limitations intended to reduce this risk. Nevertheless, especially in cases involving accusations of demonic sorcery, authorities often set these restraints aside. The unrestrained use of torture would become a hallmark of most of the major witch hunts of subsequent centuries.
Inquisitorial concern about ‘magic’ continued to develop over the course of the fourteenth century, and theories regarding the essentially demonic nature of most forms of magic became increasingly elaborate and definitive. And as the fourteenth century progressed, condemnations of magic came from outside inquisitorial circles as well. In 1398 two Augustinian monks were executed in Paris after they had failed in their attempts to relieve the intermittent madness of the French king Charles VI (reigned 1380-1422) and then accused his brother Louis of Orleans of having used magic against him. Louis' wife was also accused of practicing sorcery. After Louis' death in 1407, charges of magic again circulated against him. Most importantly, in close connection to this web of concern at the royal court, the theological faculty of the University of Paris, the preeminent intellectual institution in medieval Europe , issued a broad condemnation of sorcery, divination, and superstition in 1398. The twenty-eight articles of the Paris condemnation tended to dwell mostly on the sort of elaborate, ritual magic that clerical necromancers would perform.
The stereotype of witchcraft that emerged in the course of the fifteenth century was not an absolutely stable idea that once constructed, remained constant and unchallenged in all its aspects. Most people accepted the potential reality of harmful magic and feared its power, and basic notions of demonic threat hiding behind common magical practices and superstitions were widely accepted, certainly among authorities. Even when authorities disagreed about the extent of demonic power in the world, they acknowledged· the existence of the devil and his desire to corrupt Christian souls.
Called in French sorciere (derived from the late-Latin sortiarius, or diviner and German Hexe, between 1626 and 1630, the central German city of Bamberg executed around six hundred people for this crime of the mind, among them the mayor of the city, Johannes Junius.
To be a witch was as much about a person's essential identity as it was a description of certain practices, for unlike other perceived practitioners of magic, witches were not just individual agents of harm or ‘malevolence’ in the world. Instead, they became members of a vast, diabolical army bent on corrupting and subverting everything that was good and decent in society. Thus the first major theorists of witchcraft, writing in the early fifteenth century, described groups of witches gathering to worship demons, engage in orgiastic sex, desecrate crosses, befoul consecrated hosts, and murder and devour babies at cannibalistic feasts. For all the fantastic and monstrous acts authorities envisioned taking place at sabbaths, however, they still could place them in fairly mundane and realistic settings. Small groups of witches would gather in cellars, caves, or other isolated but entirely worldly locations.
These beliefs appear to have had tremendously deep cultural roots, into which authoritative constructions of witchcraft inadvertently tapped. In many premodern societies, individuals, whom scholars now typically refer to as shamans, confronted evil spirits and sought to protect human communities, working to guarantee fertility, abundant crops, and successful harvests. The superficial although inverted similarity of such figures to witches, who were typically accused of impeding fertility and destroying crops, is clear, and in the 1960’s, the Italian historian Carlo Ginzburg discovered a remarkable historical convergence of these beliefs.(For the English translation see Ginzburg, The Night Battles: Witchcraft and Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983).
The presence of one witch in a region therefore indicated the existence of more, and a captured witch could reasonably be expected (and frequently forced) to identify others. This notion that witches were not merely individual malefactors but members of a satanic conspiracy bent on subverting Christian society led not only religious but also secular authorities to treat witchcraft very harshly. The threat posed by witchcraft was seen to be so great that authorities in many jurisdictions declared it to be a crimen exceptum, an exceptional crime, This meant that normal legal procedures could be suspended, Rules restricting certain types of questionable evidence were abandoned, the threshold for proof of guilt might be lowered, and perhaps most importantly, limitations On the use of torture could be ignored.Equally defining of witchcraft was the belief, again never absolutely uniform but certainly very broadly held, that witches were typically women. The roots of this notion were extraordinarily diverse, but it too can be seen to be at least implied in the idea of the sabbath, insofar as sabbaths emphasized the sexual congress of witches with demons and more basically their submission and subservience to demonic masters and ultimately to the devil, who was of course conceived as being male.
Biblical commandments and classical Aristotelian philosophy both were marshaled to prove that women were inferior to men spiritually, mentally, and physically, They suffered weaknesses and corruptions in their bodies, which in Aristotelian thought were imperfectly formed versions of male bodies, and they were spiritually and intellectually more vulnerable to the deceptions and seductions of demons. Yet throughout the early modern era, many authorities largely avoided much specifically gendered theorizing about witchcraft. If "witch" often meant "woman" in this period, this seems to have been due less to abstract philosophy or theology than practical reality. That is, far more women than men were being accused of witchcraft in the courts. Across Europe an average of 75 percent of witchcraft accusations focused on women, and in some regions the percentages rose into the nineties. In Siena , for example, of more than two hundred witches tried from the late sixteenth to the early eighteenth century, over 99 percent were women.Certainly one powerful reason for these percentages was the simple fact that women were, on the whole, far more legally vulnerable than men in this period, often having no legal status apart from their fathers and husbands. But the harmful magic that characterized witchcraft, encompassed issues of fertility-love potions and charms for potency, but also withered crops, withered male members, and murdered children. Thus concerns over witchcraft naturally focused on the female domains of reproduction, childbirth, and nurturing.
While courts could and did initiate hunts on their own, the vast majority of witch trials throughout the early modern period responded to charges of simple maleficium brought by ordinary people when, for example, a cow died or a child sickened unexpectedly. Such occurrences did not automatically raise suspicions of witchcraft; unexplained misfortune was common in premodern Europe . Yet if some particular animosity existed between the victim or the victim's family and another person, and if that person had a reputation for wielding malevolent magical powers, or if there had been some direct sign of magical attack, however slight-a muttered curse, a threatening gesture, or even a baleful stare-then a public accusation might be made. Authorities, when the accusation was brought to their attention, could add charges of diabolism, apostasy, and attendance at sabbaths, and wring out confessions through torture.In 1519, in the city of Metz , in Alsace , the scholar Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim (1486-1535) came to the defense of an old woman accused of witchcraft by the Dominican inquisitor Nicolas Savini, arguing that the woman was senile and deluded, not a servant of Satan. Agrippa was himself a student and practitioner of learned magic. He wrote a major study, De occulta philosophia (On Occult Philosophy), when he was twenty-four.
The Protestant Reformation was, of course, the great event of the early sixteenth century in Europe. It began in 1517, when Luther circulated his ninety-five theses challenging basic doctrines of the Catholic Church at the University of Wittenberg . Within a few years he had moved into an open break with Rome , and winning broad support across much of the German Empire, he permanently shattered the religious unity of Western Christendom. The profound political, social, and religious forces unleashed by the Reformation dominated European history until well into the next century. That the major period of witch hunting in Europe corresponded almost exactly to the Reformation era has often been noted. And much ink has been spilled over whether Catholic or Protestant authorities executed more witches, but in the end the numbers tell no clear story. When trials began to rise after 1560, they did so in both Protestant and Catholic lands. And while religious wars focused on external enemies, confessionalism directed its energies inward.
The next hundred years saw the most intense witch hunting, at least in central and western Europe. For example in the fifty-year period from 1580 to 1630. Fully 90 percent of executions for witchcraft in German lands, which were the heartland of European witch hunting, occurred in these few decades. In 1589 the suffragan bishop of Trier, Peter Binsfeld (ca. 1540-1603), published De confessionibus maleficorum et sagarum (On the Confessions of Witches), based on a major series of trials in Trier .
Then in 1595 the magistrate Nicholas Remy (1530-1612) issued his Daemonolatreiae (Demonolatry), drawing on his extensive experience with witch trials in the Duchy of Lorraine. In 1598 the Scottish king James VI (reigned 1567-1625, also as James I of England , 1603-1625) wrote Daemonologie (Demonology) after he too had some direct experience with witch trials. In 1599 and 1600 the Jesuit Martin Del Rio (1551-1608) published his massive, multivolume Disquisitiones magicae (Investigations into Magic). Henri Boguet (ca. 1550-1619), a magistrate in Franche-Comte who personally executed many witches, published his Discours des sorciers (Discourse on Witches).
In 1563, Warhafftige und Erschreckhenliche Thatten der 63 Hexen (True and Horrifying Deeds of Sixty-Three Witches), recounting a group of executions at Wiesensteig, a small principality of around 5,000 inhabitants in the highly fragmented southwestern region of the German Empire. This pamphlet described the first major hunt in what would become the region of most intense witch-hunting activity in Europe. That same year, the English Parliament passed a new act making witchcraft a capital crime, and similarly harsh legislation was also approved in Scotland . Within only a few years, in 1566, Protestant England had its first known witch trial, although hardly a major hunt as had occurred in Wiesensteig. At Chelmsford, in the southeast of England, three women were accused and one was ultimately executed. In 1590 and 1591 Scottish officials in Edinburgh put on trial the North Berwick witches, so called because they supposedly gathered at regular sabbaths at North Berwick , some twenty-five miles east of the capital. The trials are particularly famous because these witches were accused of plotting to murder King James VI by raising storms while he journeyed across the North Sea . James observed portions of the trials, and they may have inspired the interest in witchcraft that led him to write his Daemonologie.
The most terrible hunts, however, were those conducted by a handful of German bishops and prince-bishops In the territory of Trier over 300 people were executed in the 1580s and 1590s. In Maim, major hunts with victims running into the hundreds erupted every decade from the 1590s through the 1620s. From these Rhineland archbishoprics, witch hunting spread east along the Main River to the Franconian bishoprics of Bamberg and Wlirzburg, each of which experienced major hunts in the 1610’s and 1620’s, as did the Bavarian bishopric of Eichstatt along with the associated territory of the abbey of Ellwangen. The absolute worst hunt took place in the Rhineland in the territory of Cologne, the third of the great German archbishoprics. Here highly organized and efficient trials from about 1624 until 1634 resulted in the deaths of probably around 2,000 people.
Yet such gigantic hunts, were abnormalities. Despite widespread notions of satanic cults and diabolical conspiracies, most accusations of witchcraft were rooted in specific cases of perceived harm believed to be wrought through maleficium. When trials escalated into major hunts, feeding on their own energies, the situation was different. Inspired by the initial trial, other people might come forward to make unrelated accusations, magistrates might become convinced that more witches were hiding in the community and press their own investigations, and of course accused witches themselves were pressed to name names. Yet even in these cases, a hunt might well end of its own accord after a certain number of trials and executions. Officials, comforted that they had uprooted evil from their region, might stop pursuing their investigations. The community as a whole, after an initial fearful wave, might grow calmer, and so accusations would subside. In other cases, of course, this happy release of tension did not occur. Instead, as accusations and convictions mounted, fear grew, paranoia might seize courts, and real panic might grip the entire community. In these situations, accusations multiplied and grew more indiscriminate. That is, people who did not conform to the stereotypical image of a witch were accused and arrested. This was certainly the case in Bamberg when the wealthy, socially respected (and, of course, male) Burgermeister Johannes Junius was found guilty of witchcraft in 1628.
To categorize " Germany", as the zone of witch hunting par excellence is, however, somewhat misleading. The situation in the Low Countries was exceptionally complex. The territories comprising present-day Belgium and the Netherlands initially lay within the German Empire, but in 1555" Emperor Charles V, who was also King Charles I of Spain, gave them to his son Philip II of Spain (reigned 1556-1598). Philip did not, however, succeed his father as emperor (that title going instead to Charles's brother Ferdinand 1), so the Low Countries became Spanish rather than imperial territory. In the 1560s and 1570s these lands saw significant witch trials. Then in 1579, the northern provinces banded together as the United Provinces of the Netherlands, declaring their formal independence from Spain in 1581. These provinces also became predominantly Calvinist, while the southern Spanish Netherlands were Catholic. In 1592 Philip II issued a decree that extended the right to try witches to local authorities, and not surprisingly the number of trials in the south (in what is now Belgium) increased.
1533 account of the execution of a witch charged with burning the town of Schiltach(Baden-Württemberg, Germany)in 1531:
Unlike the German Empire, France had been a unified kingdom for centuries prior to the early modern period. It did not, however, have exactly the same boundaries as the modern French state. If we use present-day borders, then " France " had around 5,000 executions for witchcraft. But this figure shrinks dramatically if we exclude the eastern regions of Alsace, Lorraine, and Franche-Comte, which were French-speaking and had significant numbers of trials, but at this time nominally belonged to the German Empire and were in fact largely independent. Within its early modern borders, the Kingdom of France saw fewer than 500 recorded executions for witchcraft. Moreover, as in the German Empire, so within the Kingdom of France there were important regional variations.
The Key of Solomon P.2: Occult Science
The Key of Solomon P.3: Magical Revival