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'Magdalene de la Croix, Abbesse des Moniales de Cordoe en Espaigne, confessa que Satan n'eust point
copulation, ny cognoissance d'elle, qu'elle n'eust douze ans.'[2] Bodin and De Lancre both cite the case of
Jeanne Hervillier of Verbery in Compigne; she was a woman of fifty-two at the time of her trial in 1578,
She 'confessa qu' l'aage de douze ans sa mere la presenta au diable, en forme d'vn grand homme noir, &
vestu de noir, bott, esperonn, auec vne espe an cost, et vn cheual noir la porte, auquel la mere dit:
Voicy ma fille que ie vous ay promise: Et la fille, Voicy vostre amy, qui vous fera bien heureuse, et deslors
qu'elle renona Dieu, & la religion, & puis coucha auec elle charnellement, en la mesme sorte & maniere
que' font les hommes auec les femmes.'[3] De Lancre also emphasizes the age: 'Ieanne Haruillier depose
qu'encore sa mere l'eust voe Satan ds sa naissance, neantmoins qu'il ne la cognut charnellement qu'elle
n'eust attainct l'aage de douze ans.'[4] De Lancre's own experience points in the same direction; he found that
the children were not treated in the same way as
[1. Bodin, p. 465.
2. Id., p. 465. The trial was in 1545, Magdalene being then forty-two. See also Pleasant Treatise, p. 6.
3. Id., p. 227.
4. De Lancre, Tableau, p. 183.]
adults, nor were they permitted to join in all the ceremonies until after they had passed childhood.[1]
The same rule appears to have held good in Scotland, for when little Jonet Howat was presented to the Devil,
he said, 'What shall I do with such a little bairn as she?'[2] It is, however, rare to find child-witches in Great
Britain, therefore the rules concerning them are difficult to discover.
Another rule appears to have been that there was no sexual connexion with a pregnant woman. In the case of
Isobel Elliot, the Devil 'offered to lie with her, but forbore because she was with child; that after she was
kirked the Devil often met her, and had carnal copulation with her'.[3]
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The Witch Cult in Western Europe
Since the days of Reginald Scot it has been the fashion of all those writers who disbelieved in the magical
powers of witches to point to the details of the sexual intercourse between the Devil and the witches as proof
positive of hysteria and hallucination. This is not the attitude of mind of the recorders who heard the evidence
at the trials. 'Les confessions des Sorciers, que i'ay eu en main, me font croire qu'il en est quelque chose:
dautant qu'ils ont tous recogneu, qu'ils auoient est couplez auec le Diable, et que la semence qu'il iettoit
estoit fort froide; Ce qui est conforme ce qu'en rapporte Paul Grilland, et les Inquisiteurs de la foy.'[4] It
pleaseth their new Maister oftentimes to offer himselfe familiarly vnto them, to dally and lye with them, in
token of their more neere coniunction, and as it were marriage vnto him.'[5] 'Witches confessing, so
frequently as they do, that the Devil lies with them, and withal complaining of his tedious and offensive
coldness, it is a shrewd presumption that he doth lie with them indeed, and that it is not a meer Dream.'[6]
It is this statement of the physical coldness of the Devil which modern writers adduce to prove their
contention that the witches suffered from hallucination. I have shown above (pp. 61 seq.) that the Devil was
often masked and his whole person covered with a disguise, which accounts for part of the evidence but not
for all, and certainly not for the most important item. For in trial after trial, in places far removed from
[1. De Lancre, Tableau, pp. 145, 398. Kinloch, p. 124.
2. Arnot, p. 360.
3. Boguet, p. 68.
4. Cooper, p. 92.
5. More, p. 241.]
one another and at periods more than a century apart, the same fact is vouched for with just the small
variation of detail which shows the actuality of the event. This is that, when the woman admitted having had
sexual intercourse with the Devil, in a large proportion of cases she added, 'The Devil was cold and his seed
likewise.' These were women of every class and every age, from just above puberty to old women of over
seventy, unmarried, married, and widows. It is unscientific to disbelieve everything, as Scot does, and it is
equally unscientific to label all the phenomena as the imagination of hysterical women. By the nature of
things the whole of this evidence rests only on the word of the women, but I have shown above (pp. 63-5)
that there were cases in which the men found the Devil cold, and cases in which the women found other parts
of the Devil's person to be cold also. Such a mass of evidence cannot be ignored, and in any other subject
would obtain credence at once. But the hallucination-theory, being the easiest, appears to have obsessed the
minds of many writers, to the exclusion of any attempt at explanation from an unbiassed point of view.
Students of comparative and primitive religion have explained the custom of sacred marriages as an attempt
to influence the course of nature by magic, the people who practise the rite believing that thereby all crops
and herds as well as the women were rendered fertile, and that barrenness was averted. This accounts very
well for the occurrence of 'obscene rites' among the witches, but fails when it touches the question of the
Devil's coldness. I offer here an explanation which I believe to be the true one, for it accounts for all the facts;
those facts which the women confessed voluntarily and without torture or fear of punishment, like Isobel
Gowdie, or adhered to as the truth even at the stake amid the flames, like Jane Bosdeau.
In ancient times the Sacred Marriage took place usually once a year; but besides this ceremony there were
other sexual rites which were not celebrated at a fixed season, but might be performed in the precincts of the
temple of a god or goddess at any time, the males being often the priests or temple officials. These are
established facts, and it is not too much to suppose that the witches' ceremonies were similar. But if the
women believed that sexual intercourse with the priests would increase fertility, how much more would they
3. Fertility 112
The Witch Cult in Western Europe
believe in the efficacy of such intercourse with the incarnate God of fertility himself. They would insist upon
it as their right, and it probably became compulsory at certain seasons, such as the breeding periods of the
herds or the sowing and reaping periods of the crops. Yet as the population and therefore the number of
worshippers in each 'congregation' increased, it would become increasingly difficult and finally impossible
for one man to comply with the requirements of so many women.[1] The problem then was that on the one
hand there were a number of women demanding what was in their eyes a thing essential for themselves and
their families, and on the other a man physically unable to satisfy all the calls upon him. The obvious solution
of the problem is that the intercourse between the Chief and the women was by artificial means, and the
evidence in the trials points clearly to this solution. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]