Christianity And The Witch Hunt Era (6/12)

* 1631: Friedrich Spee von Lagenfield, a German Jesuit, wrote an influential work on witchcraft trials (‘Cautio Criminalis’, 1631). Despite being convinced of the existence of witches, Spee believed that the standard German methods of investigation, prosecution, court procedure and punishment were grossly unjust, unChristian, and inhumane. Although his was not the first work of this kind, it had the significant effect of raising popular opinion against these abuses, and is credited with contributing to the abolition of witch trials in Germany:

‘Spee’s topics are diverse but guided by his concern over the judicial treatment of accused witches rather than the characteristics of witches themselves. Taken from the fifty-one questions Spee uses to organize his book, the following give a sense of his arguments and tone: “Question 6: Whether the princes of Germany act well when they proceed harshly against witchcraft” (pp. 16-18); “Question 12: Whether inquisitions against witches should cease if it is established that many innocent people have actually been entangled in them” (pp. 42-44); “Question 36: Whether rumor alone is sufficient for torture, at least when the crimes are difficult to prove” (pp. 141-144); “Question 49: What are the arguments of those who consider denunciations by witches to be completely trustworthy, and say they suffice for torturing those denounced” (pp. 198-212).’

‘Rather than relying on reform from within the judiciary, Spee concentrates his appeal on the reason and humanity of Germany’s princes, stressing the brutal experience and subversive nature of torture: “If we constantly insist on conducting trials, no one of any sex, fortune, condition, or rank whatsoever who has earned himself even one enemy or slanderer who can drag him into the suspicion and reputation for witchcraft can be sufficiently safe in these times” (p. 221).’

Kathryn A Edwards, ‘Review of Friedrich Spee von Langenfeld, Cautio Criminalis, or a Book on Witch Trials’, H-German, H-Net Reviews, August, 2005

‘Spee was engaged in Franconia as pastor, and had prepared for their death at the stake not fewer than two hundred persons accused of witchcraft. Scarcely thirty years of age, he was asked one day by Philip of Schoenborn, Bishop of Würzburg, why his hair had turned gray. “Through grief,” he said. “Of the many witches whom I have prepared for death, not one was guilty.” The reply must have burnt into the soul of the questioner, for ever after Philip of Schoenborn remained under its influence. Spee confessed to the Bishop that he was the author of the Cautio criminalis, and the Bishop did not betray the confidence of the young Jesuit.

Says Spee in his Cautio criminalis:

“In these proceedings no one is allowed to have legal assistance or defence, however honestly it may be conducted. For it is claimed that the crime is a crimen exceptum, one not subject to the rules of ordinary legal proceedings. And even if an attorney were allowed to the prisoner, the former would from the outset be suspected himself, as a patron and protector of witches, so that all mouths are shut and all pens are blunted, and one can neither speak nor write. . . . I swear solemnly that of the many persons whom I accompanied to the stake, there was not one who could be said to have been duly convicted; and two other pastors made me the same confession from their experience. Treat the heads of the Church, the judges, myself, in the same way as those unfortunate ones, make us undergo the same tortures, and you will convict us all as wizards.”

Spee did not deny the possibility of witchcraft; he was a faithful believer in the dogmas held by the Church of his age. He merely objected to the abuses of witchcraft and recommended clemency.

Philip of Schoenborn became Archbishop of Mayence and to his honor be it said that under his government no fagots were lit.’

Paul Carus, ‘History of the Devil’, pages 375-377, 1900

* 1631: The Spanish Inquisition took active steps to educate people against the belief in witches and witchcraft. In the following circumstance, the Suprema removed from office a vicar who believed in witchcraft, and ordered him to be replaced with ‘a proper person’. The Inquisitor responsible for handling the case was to ‘instruct the people as to the fallacies of witchcraft’:

‘This scepticism increased and there was a desire to train the people to disbelief, as appears from a highly creditable act in 1631. The Inquisitor of Novara reported that his vicar in ” Vallis Vigelli” had commenced proceedings for witchcraft against a woman, when she hanged herself in prison, and he asked instructions whether to continue the prosecution against the corpse or whether she had been strangled by the demon or other witches; also whether he should proceed against a girl and her accomplices who had confessed extra-judicially to have been at the Sabbat.

In reply the Congregation ordered him to send the proceedings in the case of the suicide and also the deposition of the girl; meanwhile he was to remove the vicar and replace him with a proper person and take pains himself, by means of the parish priests, to instruct the people as to the fallacies of witchcraft.’

Charles Lea, ‘A History of the Inquisition In Spain’, volume 4, book 8, chapter 9, pages 244-245, 1906-1907

There was at this time no other Christian organisation actively teaching the people to abandon the common belief in witchcraft. This remarkable decision was far ahead of its time.

* 1632: Nuns at the Ursuline convent on Loudun accused Urbain Grandier (a local priest), of having bewitched them. Claiming to be possessed by a demon Grandier had sent, they exhibited wild convulsions and fits. The Archbishops of Bordeaux acquitted Grandier in an ecclesiastical court, and dismissed the charges as both false and malicious. Grandier was less fortunate when tried by a second court (initiated by his enemy Cardinal Richelieu), and was first tortured then burned to death.

* 1640-1641: Two cases of women accused of witchcraft by alleged eyewitnesses, were suspended or dismissed by the Inquisition:

‘…in 1640, it suspended the case of María Sanz of Trigueros, against whom there was testimony of witchcraft and, in 1641, it discharged with a reprimand María Alfonsa de la Torre, accused of killing cattle, although a witness swore to seeing her at midnight riding on a stick over a rye-field, with a noise as though accompanied by a multitude of demons.’

Charles Lea, ‘A History of the Inquisition In Spain’, volume 4, book 8, chapter 9, page 238, 1906-1907

By this time the Suprema’s view of witchcraft was skeptical to the point of complete disbelief. Its strict procedural guidelines had made conviction of witchcraft extremely difficult (if not impossible), and it commonly dismissed confessions as illusory:

‘When we compare these cases with the penalties inflicted at the period on vulgar sorceresses and poor old curanderas, for implied pact, it is evident that the Inquisition had reached the conclusion that witchcraft was virtually a delusion, or that incriminating testimony was perjured. This could not be openly published; the belief was of too long standing and too firmly asserted by the Church to be pronounced false; witchcraft was still a crime to be punished when proved but, under the regulations, proof was becoming impossible and confessions were regarded as illusions.’

Charles Lea, ‘A History of the Inquisition In Spain’, volume 4, book 8, chapter 9, page 239, 1906-1907

* 1641: The Inquisition ruled that those mistreating suspected witches should be prosecuted:

‘The same spirit was manifested, in 1641, when an affirmative answer was given to the Inquisitor of Mantua, who asked whether he should prosecute those who beat and insulted witches on the pretext of their being witches.’

Charles Lea, ‘A History of the Inquisition In Spain’, volume 4, book 8, chapter 9, pages 244-245, 1906-1907

By the mid-17th century, the Inquisition’s position on witches and witchcraft had become entirely skeptical, and its regulations were effectively preventing any more convictions in Spain:

‘…it is evident that the Inquisition had reached the conclusion that witchcraft was virtually a delusion, or that incriminating testimony was perjured. This could not be openly published; the belief was of too long standing and too firmly asserted by the Church to be pronounced false; witchcraft was still a crime to be punished when proved but, under the regulations, proof was becoming impossible and confessions were regarded as illusions.’

Charles Lea, ‘A History of the Inquisition In Spain’, volume 4, book 8, chapter 9, page 239, 1906-1907

After the successful handling of the Logroño panic in 1610, there were no more witch hunts in Spain. Cases of witchcraft became increasingly rare, and the last formal case took place around 1641:

‘Yet the Inquisition imperturbably pursued its way. It did not deny the existence of witchcraft, or modify the penalties of the crime but, as we have seen, it practically rendered proof impossible, thus discouraging formal accusations, while its prohibition of preliminary proceedings by its commissioners and by the local officials, secular and ecclesiastical, was effectual in preventing the outbreak of witchcraft epidemics. So far as the records before me show, cases became very few after the Logroño experience of 1610.’

‘…in the Valladolid record from which they are derived, embracing in all six hundred and sixty-seven cases between 1622 and 1662, there are but five of witchcraft, of which the latest is in 1641. (57) In Toledo, from 1648 to 1794, there is not a single one, nor is there one among the nine hundred and sixty-two cases in the sixty-four autos celebrated by all the tribunals of Spain between 1721 and 1727.’

‘In 1765, at Callosa de Ensarria (Alicante) when some young children disappeared, it was attributed to Angela Piera who had the reputation of a witch, able to fly to Tortosa and back, and who was supposed to have killed them for her incantations. (60) These scattering cases become rarer with time.’

Charles Lea, ‘A History of the Inquisition In Spain’, volume 4, book 8, chapter 9, pages 240-241, 1906-1907

It is undoubtedly due to the careful, intelligent, and rational action of the Spanish Inquisition that between the years 1300 and 1800 there are only 6 recorded executions for witchcraft, with scholarly estimates (allowing for lost records), ranging from 40-50.

This is one of the lowest tolls for any nation during the entire witch hunt era, and contradicts completely the theory that witch hunt epidemics were invariably the product of a powerful religious elite hunting down heretics, women, and any other supposed rival of the church.

The Spanish Inquisition was the most powerful and influential Christian organisation during the entire witch hunt era, and yet towards cases of witchcraft it behaved more rationally, more skeptically, and more humanely than the established church in any other country of the time.

* 1656: Englishman Thomas Ady published the first of three devastating works attacking beliefs in witches and witchcraft. In the first (‘A Candle In the Dark’, 1656), he challenged ‘witch mongers’ to prove their beliefs from the Bible, insisting that the common beliefs in witches and witchcraft were found nowhere in Scripture. This book of Ady’s is indeed notable for the extent to which it uses the Bible to overturn popular superstitions, proving that they came from pagan beliefs rather than the Bible itself:

‘The First Book, shewing what Witches are in the Scripture sence, throughout the Old and New Testament.

The Second Book, shewing how grosly the Scriptures have been mis-interpreted by Antichrist concerning Witches, by which interpretation he hath made the Nations go astray. With a confutation of those Errours.’

Thomas Ady, ‘A Candle In the Dark’, page 3, 1661

He criticized without mercy a number of the popular books of the day on witches, including those published by the French witch hunter Bodin, the English witch hunter Matthew Perkins, and James I of England himself. Ady also protested against the unreasonable and superstitious methods of enquiry and investigation used by the courts to detect witches and ‘prove’ accusations of witchcraft, and explains how many of the acts attributed to witchcraft or sorcery can be imitated by magicians or street performers, as Reginald Scot before him had also done.

In the second work (‘A Perfect Discovery of Witches’, 1661), Ady ridiculed the poor reasoning which led to suspicion of witchcraft, illustrating how easily inclined people were to attributed disaster to supernatural evil, especially at the hand of the socially marginalised or those whom they felt instinctively they had wronged:

And people are now so infected with this damnable Heresie, of ascribing to the power of Witches, that seldom hath a man the hand of God against him in his estate, or health of body, or any way, but presently he cryeth out of some poor innocent Neighbour, that he, or she hath bewitched him; for saith he, such an old man or woman came lately to my door, and desired some relief, and I denied it, and God forgive me, my heart did rise against her at that time, my mind gave me she looked like a Witch, and presently my Child, my Wife, my Self, my Horse, my Cow, my Sheep, my Sow, my Hogge, my Dogge, my Cat, or somewhat was thus and thus handled, in such a strange manner, as I dare swear she is a Witch, or elfe how should those things be, or come to pass?’

Thomas Ady, ‘A Perfect Discovery of Witches’, 1661

Especially perceptive is this observation of Ady’s, that accusations of witchcraft were readily levelled at the socially marginalised, and were often an ‘after the fact’ means of justifying ill treatment of the needy. Current historians and researchers studying the witch hunt panics have made the same observations.

In this work Ady also addressed the misdiagnosis of medical conditions for demonic possession or affliction by witchcraft, and suggested that the witch hunts often resulted from men in power (such as physicians), grappling for an explanation of sickness or natural disaster which would not expose their ignorance of the true cause. He condemned the attribution of natural disaster and sickness to supernatural evil causes, showing that the Bible taught no such thing:

‘…seldom goeth any man or woman to a Physician for cure of any Disease, but one question they ask the the Physician is, Sir, do you not think this Party is in ill handling, or under an ill tongue? or more plainly, Sir, do you not think the party is bewitched? and to this many an ignorant Physician will answer, Yes verily; the reason is, Ignorantiæ pallium maleficium & incantatio, a cloak for a Physicians ignorance, when he cannot finde the nature of the Disease, he saith, the Party is bewitched. But for all such as go on to defile the people with these Doctrins, that not only have no grounds in the Scriptures, but are flat contrary to the light of the Scriptures.’

Thomas Ady, ‘A Perfect Discovery of Witches’, 1661

Note Ady’s careful observation of the power of suggestion, and the unconscious collusion between patient and physician to find a supernatural evil cause for an otherwise inexplicable pathology.

In his third work (‘The Doctrine of Devils: Proved to be the Grand Apostasy of these Latter Times’, 1676), Ady went even further and attacked the very concepts on which the witch hunts were based. Stopping just short of repudiating a belief in satan and devils, Ady insisted that the popular beliefs concerning witches, demons, and evil spirits were a gross apostasy from Biblical teaching, ascribing to these supernatural forces a power which was never granted them in Scripture:

‘This is the sum and drift of this Tract. There is not here any, the least intention so much as to insinuate, 1. That there be no Devils. Or 2. That they are not abominably villainous in themselves. Or 3. That they are not mischievous, to the utmost of their power, against Mankind: But only, That they have not such an unlimited, irresistible, and omnipotent power, as Demonologers idolatrously attribute to them; especially in Physical or natural things, what-ever their power may be in respect of Morals. That is another question.’

Thomas Ady, ‘The Doctrine of Devils: Proved to be the Grand Apostasy of these Latter Times’, page 30, 1676

Nevertheless, despite retaining a belief in supernatural evil, Ady felt compelled to ask why it was that demonic activity was so much greater in the distant past than in present times, as even his opponents acknowledged:

‘It is the general opinion of Demonologers, That by Obsession, and Possession, the Devil domineered more unrestrainedly over the World in the Primitive times, than in these latter; and if so, Why not by injections too as much? I see not.’

Thomas Ady, ‘The Doctrine of Devils: Proved to be the Grand Apostasy of these Latter Times’, page 22, 1676

In his books Ady not only made his case from the Bible, but also argued powerfully that the very consequence of these beliefs (namely the vast bloodshed, torture, and deaths of countless innocent people), should alone reveal to any intelligent Christian that they were unGodly:

‘I demand of them, at whose hands will Christ require at the latter day, not only the bloud of the innocent, but also the Souls of such as have perished by the practice of these Atheistical and bloud-guilty ways? which are in every point so absurd and phantastical, that if many Ministers can say they never did teach any such Doctrin to the people, yet are they guilty, in that they have not preached against these devillish Doctrins, which do make against the true worship of God, and against the life of charity toward our Neighbour, and toward the poor and widows, and lame and aged people.’

Thomas Ady, ‘A Perfect Discovery of Witches’, 1661

‘From whence in consequence, our Land of late, in the Rebellious times at least (not these of our Restauration I hope) hath been defiled and polluted, with blood of Innocents; and thence, I think it follows, beyond all controversy, or question: That the Doctrine of Devils, is a most abominable Heterodox: yea, without this consequence of blood-guiltiness (which yet no doubt must aggravate), once, this it is an Apostacy, the great, or greatest that ever was in the World, or peradventure ever shall, or can be.’

Thomas Ady, ‘The Doctrine of Devils: Proved to be the Grand Apostasy of these Latter Times’, page 7, 1676

This argument of Ady’s is insufficiently appreciated, even today. Those Christians who still maintain a belief in supernatural evil cannot avoid the fact that the history of the doctrine is a history of bloodshed, misery, torture, slander, and shockingly inhuman acts without one saving grace whatever. A doctrine which throughout its entire history fails to produce a single one of the fruits of the spirit, and instead causes without fail the very acts which would delight ‘satan’ (if he even existed), is a doctrine which stands self-condemned.

* 1669: John Wagstaffe published ‘The Question of Witchcraft Debated; or, a Discourse against their Opinions that affirm Witches’. In his work he defended the arguments of Scot and Ady, repeating Ady’s objection to ‘the doctrine of devils’ in powerful language.

Like Scot and Ady before him, Wagstaffe argued from Scripture that popular ideas of witches, witchcraft and demons were mere superstition, and could not be found in the Bible. Similarly, though he stopped short of disbelief in ‘satan’, he condemned all other teachings concerning supernatural evil as gross and dangerous superstition.

Wagstaffe also made specific mention of the destructive nature of beliefs in witchcraft, and the horrific results it had produced:

I cannot think without trembling and horror on the vast numbers of people that in several ages and several countries have been sacrificed unto this idol, Opinion. Thousands, ten thousands, are upon record to have been slain, and many of them not with simple deaths, but horrid, exquisite tortures. And yet, how many are there more who have undergone the same fate, of whom we have no memorial extant. Since, therefore, the opinion of witchcraft is a mere stranger unto Scripture, and wholly alien from true religion; since it is ridiculous by asserting fables and impossibilities; since it[xxvii] appears, when duly considered, to be all bloody and full of dangerous consequence unto the lives and safety of men; I hope that with this my Discourse, opposing an absurd and pernicious error, I can not at all disoblige any sober, unbiassed person; especially if he be of such ingenuity as to have freed himself from a slavish subjection unto those prejudicial opinions which custom and education do with too much tyranny impose.’

‘Wherefore I presume that this Discourse of mine, attempting to prove the vanity and impossibility of witchcraft, is so far from any deserved censure and blame, that it rather deserves commendation and praise, if I can[xxviii] in the least measure contribute to the saving of the lives of men.’

John Wagstaffe, ‘‘The Question of Witchcraft Debated; or, a Discourse against their Opinions that affirm Witches’, pages xxvi-xxviii, 1669

* 1669: The curiously named Englishman Lodowick Muggleton published a work entitled ‘A true interpretation of the witch of Endor’ (an abbreviation of the entire title, which is 153 words long and takes up a quarter of a page). In this remarkable work Muggleton not only repeated a number of the Scriptural arguments made by previous Christian objectors to the doctrine of witches and witchcraft, but went beyond them to dismiss the existence of evil spirits, demons, familiar spirits, and the devil himself.

Advancing on the firm Biblical basis that ‘no spirit can be raised without its body, neither can any spirit assume any body after death’ (extract from title page), Muggleton argued that the witch of Endor was a complete fraud, and that it was simply impossible for disembodied evil spirits to exist.

‘It is clearly made appear in this Treatise, that no spirit can be raised without its body, neither can any spirit assume any body after death; for if the spirit doth walk, the body must walk also. 3. An Interpretation all those Scriptures, that doth seem as if spirits might go out of mens bodies when they die, and subsist in some place or other without bodies.’

Lodowick Muggleton, ‘A true interpretation of the witch of Endor’, title page, 1669

This was already a step beyond most Christian critics of witches and witchcraft (though Thomas Ady had mad a similar argument regarding the incorporeal nature of demons in ‘The Doctrine of Devils: Proved to be the Grand Apostasy of these Latter Times’, page 17, 1676), but Muggleton advanced his argument further to deny that the devil existed as a personal being, insisting that this was a Scriptural term for the evil imagination of man:

‘The belief of this lying principle, it did proceed out of the imagination of reason, the devil—–the Imagination that doth arise or proceed from the seed of reason in man, is that familiar spirit that Witches deal with, and that familiar spirit it proceedeth from no spirit or devil without a man, but from the seed of reason within man; for look what evil thoughts doth arise out of the heart of man, it proceedeth out of the seed of reason in man, and not from any thing without man; for the imagination of the heart, it is placed in the seed of reason, therefore it is said in Scripture, That the imaginations of mans heart was evil, and that every imaginations of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually, as in Gen.6.5. so that there is no other devil, or spirit, or familiar spirit for Witches to deal withal, or to work any.’

Lodowick Muggleton, ‘A true interpretation of the witch of Endor’, page 3, 1669

Muggleton’s arguments here are explicit, though expressed somewhat diffusely in his idiosyncratic style. It is clear that he believes ‘there is no other devil, or spirit, or familiar spirit for Witches to deal withal, or to work any’, aside from the ‘imagination of reason, the devil’, which is ‘the Imagination that doth arise or proceed from the seed of reason in man’, or ‘the imagination of the heart’.

Muggleton’s position was radically different to that of his Christian contemporaries (with the exception of Thomas Hobbes and Bathasar Bekker, both of whom also rejected a personal supernatural devil on a similar basis), but was by no means original. In fact, his interpretation of the devil as ‘the Imagination that doth arise or proceed from the seed of reason in man’ is identical to that of the earliest Targums and Talmudic commentaries (Targum Jonathan Ben Uzziel on Psalm 103:14 and Zechariah 3:1, Talmud Babylon, Tractate Baba Bathra, Part I, Chapter 1, and Book III, Tractate Hagiga, chapter 2), as well as later Jewish commentators such as David Kimchi (born 1160) and Levi ben Gershon (1280-1344), on passages such as 2 Samuel 24:1.

Muggleton’s exposition matches the terminology of the older Jewish commentaries so closely that it is possible that they were at least an influence on his views, if not a direct source.

* 1676: An anonymous author published ‘The Doctrine of Devils’, aimed at supporting Wagstaffe’s arguments:

‘This writer sums up a panegyric upon Wagstaffe’s performance, by pronouncing it “a judicious book, that contains more good reason, true religion, and right Christianity, than all those lumps and cartloads of luggage that hath been fardled up by all the faggeters of demonologistical winter-tales, and witchcraftical legendaries, since they first began to foul clean paper.”’

Charles W Upham, ‘Salem Witchcraft: With an Account of Salem Village and A History of Opinions on Witchcraft and Kindred Subjects’, volume 1, page 371, 1867

* 1676: John Webster published ‘The Displaying Of Supposed Witchcraft’, the lengthy title of which explains well his aim in writing it:

‘Wherein is affirmed that there are many sorts of Deceivers and Impostors, And Divers persons under a passive Delusion of Melancholy and Fancy. But that there is a Corporeal League made betwixt the Devil and the Witch, Or that he sucks on the Witches Body, has Carnal Copulation, or that Witches are turned into Cats, Dogs, raise Tempests, or the like, is utterly denied and disproved. Wherein also is handled, The Existence of Angels and Spirits, the truth of Apparitions, the Nature of Astral and Sydereal Spirits, the force of Charms, and Philters; with other abstruse matters.’

John Webster, ‘The Displaying Of Supposed Witchcraft’, title page, 1676

In the dedication of the book, Webster sets out his personal views on witchcraft very plainly:

‘And though you should find some confidently confessing that they have made a visible and corporeal league with the Devil, and that he hath carnal copulation with them, and that he doth suck upon some parts of their Bodies, and that they are Transubstantiated into Dogs, Cats, and the like, or that they fly in the air, and raise Tempests; yet (I hope) I have sufficiently proved by the word of God, the true grounds of Theologie and sound reason, that there never hath been any such Witch existent in rerum natura, and so you may know what credit may be given to such Fables and impossibilities.’

John Webster, ‘The Displaying Of Supposed Witchcraft’, page 6, 1676

In his work Webster displays an extensive knowledge of the writers which preceded him, and of the long history of resistance to the witchcraft superstition to which he is contributing:

‘…the gross, absurd, impious and Popish opinions of the too much magnified powers of Demons and Witches, in this Nation, were pretty well quashed and silenced by the writings of Wierus, Tandler, Mr. Scot, Mr. Ady, Mr. Wagstaff and others; and by the grave proceedings of many learned Judges, and other judicious Magistrates…’

John Webster, ‘The Displaying Of Supposed Witchcraft’, pages 10-11, 1676

Chapter headings in Webster’s work show the extent to which he addressed the key issues:

‘Chap. 3. The denying of such a Witch as is last described in the fore-going Chapter doth not infer the denying of Angels, or Spirits. Apparitions no warrantable ground for a christian to believe the existence of Angels, or Devils by, but the word of God. p. 37.

Chap. 4. That the Scriptures, and sound reason are the true and proper mediums to prove the actions attributed unto Witches by, and not other improper ways that many Authors have used. And of the requisites necessary truly to prove a matter of fact by. p. 43.

Chap. 5. That these things now in question, are but barely supposed, and were yet never rationally nor sufficiently proved: And that the Allegations brought to prove them by are weak, frivolous, and absolutely invalid: with a full confutation of all the four parti-culars. p. 63.

Chap. 6. That divers places in Scripture have been mis-translated thereby to uphold this horrid opinion of the Devils omnipotency, and the power of Witches, when there is not one word that signi-fieth a familiar Spirit, or a Witch in that sense that is vulgarly in-tended. p. 106.

Chap. 7. Of divers places in the Old Testament, that are commonly wrested, and falsly expounded, thereby to prove Apparitions, and the power of the Devil, and Witches. p. 136.

Chap. 8. Of the Woman of Endor that pretended to raise up Samuel, and of some other places in the Scriptures, not handled yet, and of some other objections. p. 165.’

‘Chap. 13. That the ignorance of the power of Art and Nature, and such like things, hath much advanced these foolish and impious opinions. p. 267.

Chap. 14. Of divers Impostures framed and invented to prove false and lying miracles by, and to accuse persons of Witchcraft, from late and undeniable authorities. p. 270.

Chap. 15. Of divers creatures that have a real existence in nature, and yet by reason of their wonderous properties, or seldom being seen, have been taken for Spirits and Devils. p. 279’

John Webster, ‘The Displaying Of Supposed Witchcraft’, pages 13-14, 1676



  1. Why do you attribute ‘A Doctrine of Devils’ to Ady? Wing has only the two previous citations for him, (673 and 676) while the ‘Doctrine’ (Wing 1771) is, as you note later, anonymous.

  2. I followed the standard bibliographic practice of attributing this work to Ady, as is found in the Cornell University Library, the National Library of Australia, and such works as Stark, ‘Rhetoric, science, & magic in seventeenth-century England‎’ (2009). Although the work is anonymous I have no reason to dispute the attribution.

  3. Thank you for the reply. I asked because I am working on an edition of Glanvil’s Saducismus Triumphatus, in which he distinguishes between the authors of The Doctrine of Devils, (1676) and The Doctrine of Devils: Proved to be the Grand Apostasy of these Latter Times (also 1676). The second of which, Glanvil refers to as simply ‘The Grand Apostasie’. I don’t doubt he had a copy of both books, and does seem to differentiate between the authors. Wing itself does not attribute The Doctrine of Devils to Ady, as it was printed, according to the title page ‘For the Author’. Ady could as well have printed it anonymously, but why? Either way, it does not matter immensely, but I was confused, and I thank you again for your reply.

  4. You’re welcome. I investigated the authorship of ‘Doctrine of Devils: Proved to be the Grand Apostasy of these Latter Times’, and found no bibliographic attribution other than to Ady (though it is always acknowledged to be an attribution). I do not know the earliest date at which this attribution was first made.

    I have been unable to obtain a copy of Glanvil’s work (though I have copies of all the works I quote here), so I am unable to comment intelligently on why he appears to differentiate between the authors of the two.

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