The Superstitions of Witchcraft

By Howard Williams

Published 1865

Preface

'THE SUPERSTITIONS OF WITCHCRAFT' is designed to exhibit a consecutive review of the characteristic forms and facts of a creed which (if at present apparently dead, or at least harmless, in Christendom) in the seventeenth century was a living and lively faith, and caused thousands of victims to be sent to the torture-chamber, to the stake, and to the scaffold. At this day, the remembrance of its superhuman art, in its different manifestations, is immortalised in the every-day language of the peoples of Europe.

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The belief in Witchcraft is, indeed, in its full development and most fearful results, modern still more than mediæval, Christian still more than Pagan, and Protestant not less than Catholic.

Part I--Earlier Faith

  • Chapter I--The Origin, Prevalence, and Variety of Superstition--The Belief in Witchcraft the most horrid Form of Superstition--Most flourishing in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries--The Sentiments of Addison, Blackstone, and the Lawyers of the Eighteenth Century upon the Subject--Chaldean and Persian Magic--Jewish Witchcraft--Its important Influence on Christian and Modern Belief--Greek Pharmacy and Sorcery--Early Roman Laws against Conjuration and Magic Charms--Crimes perpetrated, under the Empire, in connection with Sorceric Practices--The general Persecution for Magic under Valentinian and Valens--German and Scandinavian Sagæ--Essential Difference between Eastern and Western Sorcery--The probable Origin of the general Belief in an Evil Principle

Part II--Mediæval Faith

  • Chapter I--Compromise between the New and the Old Faiths--Witchcraft under the Early Church--The Sentiments of the Fathers and the Decrees of Councils--Platonic Influences--Historical, Physiological, and Accidental Causes of the Attribution of Witchcraft to the Female Sex--Opinions of the Fathers and other Writers--The Witch-Compact
  • Chapter II--Charlemagne's Severity--Anglo-Saxon Superstition--Norman and Arabic Magic--Influence of Arabic Science--Mohammedan Belief in Magic--Rabbinical Learning--Roger Bacon--The Persecution of the Templars--Alice Kyteler
  • Chapter III--Witchcraft and Heresy purposely confounded by the Church--Mediæval Science closely connected with Magic and Sorcery--Ignorance of Physiology the Cause of many of the Popular Prejudices--Jeanne d'Arc--Duchess of Gloucester--Jane Shore--Persecution at Arras

Part III--Modern Faith

  • Chapter I--The Bull of Innocent VIII--A new Incentive to the vigorous Prosecution of Witchcraft--The 'Malleus Maleficarum'--Its Criminal Code--Numerous Executions at the Commencement of the Sixteenth Century--Examination of Christian Demonology--Various Opinions of the Nature of Demons--General Belief in the Intercourse of Demons and other non-human Beings with Mankind
  • Chapter II--Three Sorts of Witches--Various Modes of Witchcraft--Manner of Witch-Travelling--The Sabbaths--Anathemas of the Popes against the Crime--Bull of Adrian VI--Cotemporary Testimony to the Severity of the Persecutions--Necessary Triumph of the Orthodox Party--Germany most subject to the Superstition--Acts of Parliament of Henry VIII against Witchcraft--Elizabeth Barton--The Act of 1562--Executions under Queen Elizabeth's Government--Case of Witchcraft narrated by Reginald Scot
  • Chapter III--The 'Discoverie of Witchcraft,' published 1584--Wier's 'De Præstigiis Dæmonum,' &c.--Naudé--Jean Bodin--His 'De la Démonomanie des Sorciers,' published at Paris, 1580--His Authority--Nider--Witch-case at Warboys--Evidence adduced at the Trial--Remarkable as being the Origin of the Institution of an Annual Sermon at Huntingdon
  • Chapter IV--Astrology in Antiquity--Modern Astrology and Alchymy--Torralvo--Adventures of Dr. Dee and Edward Kelly--Prospero and Comus, Types respectively of the Theurgic and Goetic Arts--Magicians on the Stage in the Sixteenth Century--Occult Science in Southern Europe--Causes of the inevitable Mistakes of the pre-Scientific Ages
  • Chapter V--Sorcery in Southern Europe--Cause of the Retention of the Demonological Creed among the Protestant Sects--Calvinists the most Fanatical of the Reformed Churches--Witch-Creed sanctioned in the Authorised Version of the Sacred Scriptures--The Witch-Act of 1604--James VI's 'Demonologie'--Lycanthropy and Executions in France--The French Provincial Parliaments active in passing Laws against the various Witch-practices--Witchcraft in the Pyrenees--Commission of Inquiry appointed--Its Results--Demonology in Spain
  • Chapter VI--'Possession' in France in the Seventeenth Century--Urbain Grandier and the Convent of Loudun--Exorcism at Aix--Ecstatic Phenomena--Madeleine Bavent--Her cruel Persecution--Catholic and Protestant Witchcraft in Germany--Luther's Demonological Fears and Experiences--Originated in his exceptional Position and in the extraordinary Circumstances of his Life and Times--Witch-burning at Bamburg and at Würzburg
  • Chapter VII--Scotland one of the most Superstitious Countries in Europe--Scott's Relation of the Barbarities perpetrated in the Witch-trials under the Auspices of James VI--The Fate of Agnes Sampson, Euphane MacCalzean, &c.--Irrational Conduct of the Courts of Justice--Causes of Voluntary Witch-Confessions--Testimony of Sir G. Mackenzie, &c.--Trial and Execution of Margaret Barclay--Computation of the Number of Witches who suffered Death in England and Scotland in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries--Witches burned alive at Edinburgh in 1608--The Lancashire Witches--Sir Thomas Overbury and Dr. Forman--Margaret Flower and Lord Rosse
  • Chapter VIII--The Literature of Europe in the Seventeenth Century proves the Universality and Horror of Witchcraft--The most acute and most liberal Men of Learning convinced of its Reality--Erasmus and Francis Bacon--Lawyers prejudiced by Legislation--Matthew Hale's judicial Assertion--Sir Thomas Browne's Testimony--John Selden--The English Church least Ferocious of the Protestant Sects--Jewell and Hooker--Independent Tolerance--Witchcraft under the Presbyterian Government--Matthew Hopkins--Gaule's 'Select Cases of Conscience'--Judicial and Popular Methods of Witch-discovery--Preventive Charms--Witchfinders a Legal and Numerous Class in England and Scotland--Remission in the Severity of the Persecution under the Protectorship
  • Chapter IX--Glanvil's Sadducismus Triumphatus--His Sentiments on Witchcraft and Demonology--Baxter's 'Certainty of the World of Spirits,' &c.--Witch Trial at Bury St. Edmund's by Sir Matthew Hale, 1664--The Evidence adduced in Court--Two Witches hanged--Three hanged at Exeter in 1682--The last Witches judicially executed in England--Uniformity of the Evidence adduced at the Trials--Webster's Attack upon the Witch-creed in 1677--Witch Trials in England at the end of the Seventeenth Century--French Parliaments vindicate the Diabolic Reality of the Crime--Witchcraft in Sweden
  • Chapter X--Witchcraft in the English Colonies in North America--Puritan Intolerance and Superstition--Cotton Mather's 'Late Memorable Providences'--Demoniacal Possession--Evidence given before the Commission--Apologies issued by Authority--Sudden Termination of the Proceedings--Reactionary Feeling against the Agitators--The Salem Witchcraft the last Instance of Judicial Prosecution on a large Scale in Christendom--Philosophers begin to expose the Superstition--Meritorious Labours of Webster, Becker, and others--Their Arguments could reach only the Educated and Wealthy Classes of Society--These only partially enfranchised--The Superstition continues to prevail among the Vulgar--Repeal of the Witch Act in England in 1736--Judicial and Popular Persecutions in England in the Eighteenth Century--Trial of Jane Wenham in England in 1712--Maria Renata burned in Germany in 1749--La Cadière in France--Last Witch burned in Scotland in 1722--Recent Cases of Witchcraft--Protestant Superstition--Witchcraft in the Extra-Christian World

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