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Demonology and Medicine in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries Author(s): Sona Rosa Burstein Source: Folklore, Vol

. 67, No. 1 (Mar., 1956), pp. 16-33 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of Folklore Enterprises, Ltd. Stable URL: Accessed: 18/03/2010 11:05
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a A Paper read before meetingof theSocietyon May I8th, 1955
THERE is special interest for our world of folklore in this period, from

about 1500 to about 1700. This may seem a paradox, for this was the period of that historic rebirth of human minds to literature, art and science, the time of adventurousquesting after new lands, new knowledge and new skills. Nevertheless, it is in these centuries that we may observe, actually throwing the new learning and scientific discoveries into sharper relief, some of the very stuff of later folklore in its last stages as publicly accredited belief and practice.

In the story of the healing art within this time-span, the contrasts of

light and shadow are well marked. Medicine'sshare in the revival of learning is specially associated with the sixteenth century. In 1525 and 1526 respectively were discovered and printed the medical texts of the
golden age of Greece, viz. that of Galen (A.D. 130-200), physician and physiologist, and Hippocrates (460-370 B.c.), the great clinician of

antiquity. Since the second century, mysticism and tradition had dominated the science of medicine and physicians had worked on the assumption that Galen's conclusionson the human body were sufficient for all time. Now in the sixteenth century, the art-Renaissancebridged the gulf of fourteen hundred years. The structure of the human body became important; the great artists of the time-notably Leonardoda
Vinci (1452-1518), Michael Angelo (I475-1564) and Albrecht Direr all anatomis. Fleming Andreas Vesalius (1514-64) (147I-I528)-were

initiated a shattering revolution by rejecting book-learningand age-old tradition on human anatomy in favour of actual dissection of the body and observational evidence. He published his conclusions in a book, On the Fabric of the Human Body (1543), a vividly illustrated work which caught on and long remained standard throughout the learned world of Europe. More and more investigators were inspired to seek further knowledge. The valves of the heart, the valves of the veins, the inner parts and workings of the human body began to be realities. Medicine was rex6

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building on a basis of fact. On the technical side, a newly developing skill in the making of metal tools had its influence on surgical instruments and the development of surgery. Great practitioners such as Ambroise Pare (I517-90) in France and William Fabry (I56O-I634) in Germany had now the means and a range for their skill far beyond anything possible in earlier times. Special departments of medicine now began to have their own advances. In 1546 a rational theory of infection had been put forward by a physician in Italy; half a century later it was reintroduced and improved by a French physician. The conception was extended and stabilized by the Englishman, Thomas Sydenham (1624-89), thus laying the foundation of the modern science of epidemics. The middle of our period (about I590-1640) saw advances in experimental physics which made material contribution to medicine by providing the means of precision techniques such as pulse-timing, the use of the thermometer for measuring temperature, and so forth. In 1628, the new knowledge of the body's workings culminated in a supremely dramatic advance in the sphere of experimental physiology, when William Harvey (1567-1657) published his discovery of the circulation of the blood. The movement of the blood, believed by his predecessors to be a slow, tidal ebb and flow, he now established to be a circular one. Such are some of the reasons for the note of justifiable triumph in which historians refer to these centuries in medical history, an " atmosphere of scientific good cheer " it has been called by an eminent historian of medical psychology, Gregory Zilboorg. Zilboorg uses this phrase ruefully, even reproachfully, for as historian of the care of the mentally sick, he is specially concerned with that shadow-side, the deeply rooted, wildly flowering belief in demonology, possession and all occult influences. To appreciate the achievements of these centuries, we must look at outstanding individuals against the setting of their time. In the midsixteenth century medicine was, taken generally, still under the influence of astrology and the occult. Even in the seventeenth century the scientific certitudes of modern medicine had barely taken hold. Harvey is quoted by Aubrey as saying " that after his book on the circulation of the blood came out he fell mightily in his practice; 'twas believed by the vulgar that he was crack-brained and all the physicians were against him...."


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The art of healing had descended from the Middle Ages beset by certain special difficulties. Whereas the foundations of Church and Law were strongly organized, commanding and of unequivocal prestige, Medicine had neither system nor force and its prestige attached to individuals rather than their profession. Knowledge and skill were diffused among the laymen. In 1511 an Act of Parliament for appointing physicians and surgeons has this preamble: " Foreasmuch as the science and cunning of Physick and Surgery... is daily within this Realm exercised by a great multitude of ignorant people, of whom the greater part have no manner of insight into the same, nor in any other kind of learning, some also can read no letters on the book, so far forth that common artificers, smiths, weavers, and women, boldly and accustomarily take upon them great cures and things of great difficulty, in which they particularly use sorcery and witchcraft, partly apply such medicine unto the disease as be very noxious... to the grievous hurt, damage and destruction of many of the King's liege people .... Be it ... enacted: that no person within the city of London ... take upon him to exercise and occupy as a physician or surgeon, except he be first examined, approved and admitted by the Bishop of London." Thirty years later, in 1540, the somewhat despised barber-surgeons were united with the small and exclusive Guild of Surgeons to form the United Barber-Surgeon Company. Its first Master was Thomas Vicary, the eminent anatomist. Holbein the Younger has painted a somewhat unsympathetic picture showing Henry VIII handing over the Statute of the new Company to Vicary without turning his face towards him. In spite of royal interference, the medical profession continued to be exasperated by the hordes of unorthodox practitioners. Many of the medical profession fulminated against " the great rabblement who took upon them to be surgeons ", as they were called by the surgeon, Thomas Gale, in 1563, while Dr. Caius, President of the Royal College of Surgeons, enumerates among these unorthodox practitioners "simple women, carpenters, pewterers, braziers, apothecaries and avaunters themselves ". John Halle, surgeon-author of An Historicall Expostulation against the Beastlye Abusers, both of Chyrurgerie and Physycke, in Our Tyme (1565), demands to know "why is every rude, rusticke, braynsicke beast, fond fool, indiscreete idiot, yea every scoldinge drabbe suffered thus... to abuse this worthy arte upon the body of man? "

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Halle further bears witness to the prevalence of sorcery and witchcraft which he includes with the activities of the ubiquitous quacks. A few years later, William Clowes (I540-1604), surgeon to Queen Elizabeth and specially distinguishedfor (among other works) a book on the curing of gunshot wounds, includes witches in his vigorous condemnation of those who are wont to practise cures without any medical knowledge: " Tinkers, Toothdrawers,Paddlers, Cattlers, Carters, Porters, Horsegelders and Horse Leechers, Idiots, Apple-squires, Broom-men, Bawds, Witches, Conjurors, Soothsayers, and Sow-gelders,Rogues, Rat-catchers, Runagates and Procters of Spittlehouses...." An illustration (Fig. I) from one of his works shows the charlatan beside a table laid out with various impedimenta. At the back hangs his " diploma " bearingseals and the name " Mendax" (" Liar "), and in the top corneris the cautionarylegend, Felix quemfaciunt aliena pericula cautum (" Happy is he whom other people's risks make cautious "), which seems to be emergingfrom the mouth of an old man refusing his friend'spersuasions.
Early in the seventeenth century, John Cotta (c. 1575-1650), a

Northamptonphysician who had taken his medical degreeat Cambridge, wrote two works to expose and warn against the dangers of unorthodox " practisers of physicke ". The first, published in I612, was called A Short Discoverieof the Unobserved Dangers of Severall Sorts of Ignorant and Unconsiderate Practisersof Physicke in England, in which he wrote of: "a sort of practitioners,whom our custome and country doth call wisemen and wisewomen, reputed a kind of good and honest harmless witches or wisards, who by good words, by hallowed herbes and salves, and other superstitious ceremonies promise to allay and calme divels, practises of other witches, and the forces of many diseases." Cotta's second work on the subject, published in 1617, is entitled: A True Discoveryof theEmpericke, withtheFugitive, Physitionand Quacksalver, who display their banners upon posts: wherebyher Majesty's in subjectsare not only deceivedbut greatly endangered the health of their bodies.Being veryprofitable the ignorantas for the learned. A point of for interest in this title-page (Fig. 2) is the flask which the doctor is holding, illustrating the diagnosis of disease by uroscopy or examination of the patient's urine. In many drawingsand paintings, the physician is shown in all the glory of his doctor's robes, holding up to the light the flask of urine, from which he was to discover all about the nature and prognosis of the patient's illness.


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The attitude to medicine, in these centuries of scientific discovery and achievement, was yet in the main permeated by primitive concepts of disease and healing still surviving from ancient times. Ancient beliefs in the causation of disease by spirits and evil eye were still held by common and learned people; magical remedies for headache, plague and a host of other ills are recorded by many contemporary writers. Though widely used by high and low, these superstitious practices tended to be frowned on by authority and in the Royal Acts of the first year of the reign of Elizabeth I we find the inquiry: " Whether you knowe any that doe use charmes, sorcery, enchantements, invocations, circles, Witchcrafts, southsayinge, or any like craftes or imaginacions in the tyme of women's travayle ". While one who claimed to heal by magical remedies or by the undoing of malignant sorcery might expect to be deemed a friend of mankind, the practice was still dubious. Sorcery for good or ill involved traffic with evil spirits. The fear of personal injury through spirits, the reality of a personal devil, of evil demons and the acts of witches, formed a complex of belief held by high and low, ignorant and educated. Injury could be caused by evil demons acting on their own, by malicious human beings without spirit aid, or by demons and humans controlling or co-operating with each other, i.e. by witchcraft. Every known and unknown disease could be thus diagnosed. A remarkable example of such diagnosis by a surgeon hails from Germany. In 1583, when surgery in this country was still largely carried out by wandering stone-cutters, barbers and mountebanks, Georg Bartisch published a book on ophthalmology, filled with testaments to his undoubted skill and striking illustrations which give us a complete survey of Renaissance eye-surgery. Along with really valuable clinical and critical material, he devotes a section to diseases of the eye due to magic, witches and the work of the devil. To this section he provides an illustration (Fig. 3) to which he thus refers in the text: " Furthermore, as can be proved by Holy Writ, we have many other examples, some even of our own day, and similar ones may well happen in the future, that such wicked people, who were discovered to be the Devil's instruments or tools, have not only, at the instigation and with the aid of the Devil, bewitched other people and destroyed them, so that they became absolutely blind, but they have also with the aid of their aforesaid accomplice, caused many poor people's eyes to swell and bulge out of their heads."

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He continues, " Yea, what is still more terrible,they have caused them to become halt, lame, deaf, dumb and blind, and in some cases have caused them miserably to perish," and in a long following passage, fulminates bitterly against the sorcererswho cause these miseries. Of those sceptics who do not believe in the devil and evil spirits, he says that they " wallow in sin like swine in filth ". Any and every disease might be attributed to the workings of spirits or witchcraft, but there are certain outstanding groups, viz.: diseases of the nervous system, apoplexy, paralysis (partial and general), epilepsy; hysteria in its various manifestations; in the sexual sphere impotence, frigidity and sterility; wasting and lingering diseases; especially characteristic was the alleged intrusion of foreign bodies, pins, nails, stones, wood and other articles which were vomited and voided by the bewitched sufferers. William Drage, a practitioner of Hitchin in the latter part of the seventeenth century, in 1665 published Daimonomageia,which he described as a Treatise of Sickness and Diseases from Witchcraft and Supernatural Causes (Fig. 4). In this work he expressed many views of a kind curious to our minds. Thus, he considered that lice were beneficial to the body by feeding upon and sucking away exuded waste matter and therefore, he says, " children much frequented with them are not so subject to the headache or the falling sickness." For the diagnosis of witchcraft he gives many signs, though he does not claim eye-witness experience. The chief signs are the usual ones of convulsions with hideous clamours, and unnatural voiding and vomiting. Thus, if the sick person excretes " rose briarsan hand length by stool, or hundreds of worms at a time ", or again, if he voids " knives, scissors, whole eggs or dogs' tails ", then, says Drage, " concludehe is bewitched." In conclusion he cites a large number of biblical texts in support and sums up: " If there were ever such diseases in man that were impossible to be effected by natural causes, they must be made supernatural; and if so, by diabolical; and if so, by Agents; but it is clear there have been such; Ergo we conclude the Devil hath done these, and that by agents which we call witches." There was another side of occultism, pursued by learned men in scholars' rooms and laboratory. The allegoricaldrawingsof alchemists, seeking the philosopher's stone with alembic and crucible, and the writings of Cabbalists added their quota to the prevailing belief in demonic causation of disease. Robert Fludd (1574-1637), an Oxford graduate, widely travelled,


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later a successful physician in London, was one of the many mystics of his time. He applied his mystical beliefs to medicine and claimed that by interesting the minds of his patients, he aided their cure. He believed that disease was caused by demons and his work, The WholeMysteryof Diseases (IntegrumMorborum Mysterium)is entirely based upon this conviction. Robert Fludd's demons were in animal form and this is quite common in the less sophisticatedrepresentations. The demonicconcept has such a long history, so many streams have been confluent to its making, that it is not surprisingto find the spirit or demon entity varying from a bodiless, animistic concept to a personaldevil with horns,tail and superhuman

Going back a thousand years from Fludd, Felix of Crowland'sAngloSaxon Life of St. Guthlac shows a picture of the saint being tormented by demons part human, part animal, with fantastic additions. In spite of the rough handling he seems to be having on this occasion, St. Guthlac is recordedto have expressed relief when, at another time, some midnight trespassersturned out to be merely devils and not invading Welshmen. This estimate of devils merely by their nuisance-valueis in striking contrast to the horrorand repulsionaroused at a later date by the devil and all his kind and their works.

Where disease is attributed to supernaturalcauses or malicioushuman agency, its treatment or suppression is a matter for religious or legal rather than medical handling. This becomes evident in any reading of the history of witchcraft and demonology. From about the middle of the thirteenth century, with the establishment of the Inquisition, popular magic and folk belief graduallytook on the more sinister aspect of heresy. Differentiated as a prohibited cult, witchcraft actually became crystallized and strengthened in character, the belief and practice more widely diffused, albeit secretly. Some of the familiar elements of later witch cult begin to be named and characterized. A Bull of GregoryXI refers to meetings at which the Devil appearedas a toad or a ghost or a black cat. Denunciations by other theologians confirmedand diffused belief in these meetings. In the same way, the existence of incubi and succubi, demonic nightvisitants who had carnal connexion with sleeping women and men respectively, was translated from vague, traditional belief to indisputable dogma.

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In France sorcery was established as a crime in I398. During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, a series of papal bulls gave inquisitors authority for drastic investigation and punishment for dabblers in sorcery and heresy. Towards the close of the fifteenth century a famous bull of Innocent VIII (1485) led to the publication of Malleus Maleficarum (" The Witches' Hammer "), a complete guide for the discovery, examination, torture, trial and execution of witches. This remained for centuries the text-book on procedure against witches and sorcerers, both on the Con. tinent and in England. Witchcraft was first made a felony in England by a law of Henry VIII (I54I), but this law seems not to have been applied. John Jewel, Bishop of Salisbury, one of the returned Marian exiles, in one of his first sermons before Elizabeth (c. I559) complained that sorcerers and witches had " marvellously increased " and prayed that the laws might be put in execution. Perhaps influenced by this sermon, in I563 Elizabeth passed a law imposing the death penalty for killing by witchcraft, and a year's imprisonment for causing illness or injury by such means. The means referred to included, apart from the administration of actual poisons, magic words and incantations, touching with the hand, threats (observed to be followed by an injury) and the waxen image, to be melted in fire or stuck with pins and so cause the wasting away or agonizing death of the victim by sympathetic magic. Of all witch-induced disorders, those arousing the greatest stir were the convulsive and hysterical seizures called " fits ". Terrifying to watch, baffling to the physician, how could their cause be other than supernatural? The writhing and twisting, dumb or screeching patient, the feats of strange vomiting of nails and pins, the griping pains or wasting sickness could frequently be cured by forcing the witch to call off the spell, by scratching her and drawing her blood or otherwise punishing her. Dr. Drage in his book offers his panacea: " Punish the witch, threaten to hang her if she help not the sick, scratch and fetch blood. When she is cast into prison, the sick are some times must transfer the disease to other delivered, some times he or she... persons, sometimes to a dog, or horse, or cow. Threaten her and beat her to remove it." The most widespread assumption of the cause of such attacks was of demoniac possession, i.e. possession of the body by devils independently or sent by the malevolent operator, the witch. Dispossession by exorcism was long a function of the minister of religion or of saints. The possessing demon may be anything from a discarnate spirit to a full-sized


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Devil, horns and tail and all, but in art it is most frequently represented in fantastic animal form. In a sixteenth-century Italian engravingshowing St. Catherineof Sienna delivering a possessed woman, the demon is seen flying out of the window (Fig. 5). In a French engraving from the Vie de St. Benoit (1578), showing St. Benedict delivering a clerk possessed by a demon, a whole flight of devils seems to be emergingfrom the afflicted clerk's head and making off through the window. The dispossesseddemon sometimescomes out of the mouth, the back of the neck or elsewhere. The belief in possessionby a demon as the cause of illness and especially of mental disorders is very ancient. The Anglo-Saxon leechdoms prescribe for a " fiend-sick man " and again for " witlessness, that is, for devil sickness or demoniacal possession ". The type of prescription remained little changed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In one of the most complete manuals for use by exorcists of the Roman Catholic Church, published in I608, there are, along with detailed instructionsfor exorcizing,formulaefor makingnoxious-smelling substances for fumigations. In another manual, Fustus Daemonum,the exorcist is instructed in obstinate cases to resort to " vituperative addresses." Nauseous mixtures compoundedfor emetics or spew-drinkswere a recognized specific. Foul smells, loud noises, blows and stripes were used mercilessly, for if the victim shrank or howled, it but proved the devil was being successfullyprovoked to be gone. This crude and savage way of treating the actually insane was long continued. Nathaniel Hawthorne, writing of seventeenth-centuryPuritans in his novel, The Scarlet Letter,makes the gaoler say of his prisoner," Verily she hath been like a possessedone, and there lacks but little that I should take in hand to drive Satan out of her with stripes."

Rebels and sceptics were, however, raising voices. The Renaissance had discovered Man, his physical framework,his intellectual potentialities. Significantly, the opening of the sixteenth century brought into being a newly coined word, anthropologia, Magnus Hundt's Nature of in Man (I501). Thinking men, especially those of the medical profession, were preoccupiedwith human problems. Even where the demonic concept of disease was held without question, rising doubt took the form of some concernfor the human host rather than the possessingspirits. The idea (not fully grown even in our own times) began to be conceived that the patient was at least as important as the malady.







Illustration from a work by William Clowes (1585) in the Wellcome Historical Medical Library



A True Discovery of the Enpericke (1617) From a copy in the British Museum





From Georg Bartisch, Ophthalmologeia, Dresden, 1583 In the Wellcome Historical Medical Library

FIG. 4. TITLE-PAGE WILLIAM OF DRAGE'S Daimonomageia, LONDON,1665 From a copy in the Wellcome Historical Medical Library



Engraving after

Taken froml J. M. l'A

FIG. 6. JOHANN WEYER (I515-1588)

Frontispiece to his De Lamiis (1577), from a copy in the Wellcome Historical Medical Library

OF FIG. 7. TITLE-PAGE Disease called the Suffoca From a copy



FIG. 9. FRONTISPIECE TO M Witches. From a copy in the Wellc

From a copy in the Wellcome Historical Medical Library

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Of mental sickness the Swiss Paracelsus (I490-54 I), who proclaimed his original opinions so loudly that his middle name, Bombastus, has fathered our word "bombastic ", declared roundly: "mental diseases have nothing to do with evil spirits or devils. . . one should not study how to exorcize the devil but rather how to cure the insane." One whose doubts, if not yet convictions, were strong enough to induce great personal sacrifice, was Henry Cornelius Agrippa (I486-I535). Born at Cologne, Agrippa became in turn soldier, lawyer, doctor, occultist, theologian. He travelled in France, Spain and Italy. His varied studies and travels sharpened his keen critical faculty and he fearlessly questioned the acknowledged orthodoxies of his day. In the teeth of inquisitorial judgment and public outcry, he sheltered an accused witch under his roof, an act which cost him his position as syndic in the city of Metz. He then turned to medicine, but again his rebel spirit brought him into trouble. He refused to cast the horoscope of Queen Louise of Savoy, and lost his position under her. His work consists of two books, published almost at the same time, but oddly contradictory. One is a considered analysis of the rules of magic, written fifteen years previously; the other a sceptic's declaration of unbelief, utterly condemning all sciences, occult and otherwise, for their dialectic falsehoods and hypocrisies. His experimental curiosity, his occult studies and his protection of suspected witches led to the belief that he was himself a wizard and that his pet, a black dog called Monsieur, was his imp. He died in great poverty, deserted and reviled. For all his dreary end, Agrippa left behind a champion to carry the inspiration of his teaching to much greater lengths. This was his pupil, Johann Weyer (1515-88) who became municipal physician at Arnhem and also personal physician to the Duke of Julisch and Cleves. Zilboorg and other historians of psychology have called this sixteenth-century doctor the founder of modern psychiatry (Fig. 6.) Weyer differs from both his teacher and his contemporary fellowdoubters in both temper and circumstance. In the first place, he did not come to medicine through a restless travelling of faiths and sciences in search of intellectual satisfaction. He became a doctor by early and unhesitant choice and had not practised long before he was drawn to a special interest in mental illness. His contributions to clinical medicine include accounts of the " sweating sickness ", of syphilis, of what he calls " pestilential cough " (probably influenza) and erysipelas, as well as a study of scurvy. In circumstance, he had some good fortune in that his enlightened protector, the Duke, ensured that he did not stand in


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danger of being thrown out of position every time he declared himself. In temper he differed from Agrippa in that the aggressive fighting methods of utter exasperation were entirely alien to him. In Zilboorg's words, he " looked on the demoniacal world around him as an enormous clinic teeming with sick people ". He could not be abusive or sacrilegious because he was genuinely pious; indeed he appears to conform to the demonic belief, and actually in one of his works records 72 " Princes of Darkness" under Lucifer and 7,405,926 devils administering the affairs of the Satanic empire. Whether this is from conviction or diplomacy we cannot know; what is certain is his preoccupation with the human aspect. Utterly fearless of the Inquisition, he rails against the " argumentation by faggots ", bids the " encowled " monks leave the management of the sick and bewitched to physicians and be more ready to study the art of healing than of killing. Having an exceptional talent of observation, he refused to judge any reported case of illness attributed to witchcraft from hearsay. He set himself the task of careful clinical studies and in his spare time subjected the entire literature of his field to critical analysis. Not until after ten years of this intensive study did he produce his book, De Praestigiis Daemonum, on the " tricks " or " illusions " of devils, first published in 1563, though it later ran into many editions. Early in the book he asserts his refusal to believe that the devil can enter into a contract with a human being. " The uninformed and unskilful physicians ", he says, " relegate all the incurable diseases, or all the diseases the remedy for which they overlook, to witchcraft. When they do this, they are talking about disease as a blind man talks about colour. " On the attribution of cattle epidemics to bewitchment he recommends the farmer to cure his cattle, not by killing the witch, but by fumigation with sulphur and aromatic substances. Inevitably many of the cases that came his way were concerned with those unnatural vomitings of foreign bodies thought to be deposited in human organisms by the devil or his agent, the witch. Weyer personally investigated every case, never denying any report merely out of scepticism. A sixteen-year-old girl was brought to him by her father who said she frequently vomited up objects which only the devil could have introduced into her stomach. Weyer removed from her mouth a heavy wad of cloth. He proceeded to the physical examination, palpated the girl's abdomen and failed to get any tactile perception of any foreign body lodged in the stomach. He then asked about her meal hours and, learning that she had fed very recently, pointed out that there were neverthe-

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less no signs of chyle or other food particles on the wad of cloth. Then proceeding to a verbal examination of the girl, he took her back point by point over the history of the trouble, tracing it at last to a stomach-ache which she had tried to cure by drinkingwater sold to her as Holy Water. Weyer remarksthat he mentions this case because the girl and her father claimed that she was always better when the sign of the cross was made over her and, while he is naturally not disrespectfulto the Cross,the case shows how misused it is at times. Frequently Weyer took a case into his own home for observation and he seems to have had a good partnerin his wife, Judith. On one occasion the latter heard of a spirit-possessedgirl to whom a priest had given as remedy a piece of paper wrappedin leather to wear round her neck, with the warning not to lose it on any account. Judith Weyer invited the girl to visit her, gave her refreshmentand, admonishingher to trust in God and scorn the devil, opened the amulet. The assembled company fled, terrifiedand expecting the girl to fall into one of her fits. Frau Weyer opened the container and showed the girl that it contained only a blank paper,whichshethrewintothe fire. "The patient,"reportsWeyer,"calmed by the admonition of my wife, developed a good appetite and appeared quite cheerful and contented ... and in so far as I know she remained from that time forward." Completely unsentimental, ever strictly rationalistic and matter-offact in his approach,Weyer always shows extraordinarycomprehension of human fears and human follies. He understands both the suspicion and the suspect; in his defence of Agrippa, he knows why the people thought the black poodle was a devil, though he also knows why the lonely-temperedAgrippa lavished excessive love on the animal. Of his clinical experienceof suspected possession or witchcraft he says, " In all such cases a good doctor is to be consulted because nothing is more important than to make the clinical situation as clear as daylight, for in no domain of human life are human passions so freely at play as in this one, these passions being superstition, rage, hate and malice." Weyer'swork was not to bearfruit at once; indeed it rousedthose very passions to which he refers. Jurists and inquisitorsrose to refute him as blasphemerand impostor. It was said that he protected witches because he was himself a wizard. In the revised CriminalCodeof Saxony of 1572, derided as worthless because he is only a doctor, and not a jurist. But Weyer had driven a solid wedge into the block of demonologicaldoctrine. In England the influence of Weyer fell, not upon any doctor, but on a
the opinions of Johann Weyer (Wieri rationes) concerning witchcraft are


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country squire of Kent. Reginald Scot (I538?-99) stands out as the first great opponent of witch-beliefs in England. His book, The Discoveryof first published in 1584, is based on wide reading (he cites in Witchcraft, his bibliography 200 Latin and 30 English titles) and personal observations. Before beginning to write the Discovery he had made wide investigation, attending trials and questioning magistrates, divines, the accused and their families and neighbours. He acknowledgesthe inspiration of Weyer and perhapswe may see somethingof the master'sinfluence in the technique of personal inquiry. He divides accused witches into " couseners" (i.e. tricksters and frauds) and " poor, doting women. " The book made an impression strong enough for James I to think it necessary to write an answer and to cause the Discoveryto be burnt by the common hangman.

In England, once the practice of witchcraft became a statutory felony, the crime became more prominent. In 1577 impetus was given to the prosecutionby the discoveryof an attempt on the Queen'slife by means of a waxen image transfixedwith a pin. Dr. Dee was called in to advise on means of protecting Her Majesty from attacks by sorcery. Growing interest and excitement were fostered by public confessions and executions, and by the issues of the printing press. Tract after tract appeared in controversialdiscussionon the nature of spirits and the guilt of witches. In witch trials, doctors of medicine appeared on either side, to provide evidence of illness caused by supernaturalmeans and witch agency, or to prove pretence of bewitchment in cases of natural illness. In the last years of Elizabeth's reign there was an increasinginterest in demoniacal possession. John Darrell, a Cambridgegraduate, was a Puritan preacherin Derbyshirewhen he began his career as a caster-out of devils. The cures by dispossessionwhich he claimed to have achieved caused a sensation and controversyraged over the genuinenessof the fits of his patients. Popular opinion sided with Darrell, but the clergy attacked him as an impostor. Long treatises were written to expose the possession and exorcisms as fraud, and Darrell replied at equal length. There is no doubt that Darrell'sactivities did much to spread the terror of witchcraft in the north Midlands.
Samuel Harsnett (I56I-I63I),

throughout the country for his record in the witchcraft controversy, played a conspicuouspart in the exposureof Darrell. Later he denounced the pretended exorcisms of a supposed Jesuit priest in his Declaration of

Archbishop of York who was famous

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Egregious Popish Impostures (1603), a masterpiece of invective made famous by Shakespeare'suse of the pamphlet as the source of the names of spirits and the mad fancies of demoniacs describedin King Lear. King James I of England, always reputed as champion of believers in witchcraft, first published his Daemonologiein I597, a few years before he came to the English throne. His Preface to the Reader begins: ..." The fearful abounding at this time in this countrie (Scotland) of these detestable slaves of the devil, the witches or enchanters,hath moved me, beloved reader, to despatch in part this following treatise of mine, not in any wise ( as I protest) to serve for a showof my learningand ingene, but only (moved by conscience) to press thereby, so far as I can, to resolve the doubting hearts of many; both that such assaults of Satan are most certainely practised, and that the instrument thereof merits most severely to be punished, against the damnable opinions of two principally in our age, whereof the one called Scot, an Englishman, is not ashamed in public print to deny there can be such a thing as witchcraft; and so maintains the old errorsof Sadduceeism denying of spirits; the other, called Wierus, a Germanphysician, sets out a public apology for all these craft folks, whereby, procuring for their impurity, he plainly betrays himself to have been one of that profession...." However, in justice to the royal author of this tirade, it must be said that, hearing of certain frauds and impostures, he investigated and later became very wary of accepting stories of possession and witchcraft. A letter preserved in the Harleian MSS (6986, art. 40), from James to his son, Prince Henry, refers to such a case of fraud : " My Sonne I am glad that by your Letter I may perceive that you make some progressin learning.... I am also glad of the discovery of yon little counterfeit Wenche. I pray God you may be my heir in such discoveries. You have often heard me say that most miracles nowadays prove but illusions and you may see by this how wary judges should be in trusting accusations without an exact trial...." An exposure of fraud which in the year 1620 contributed to the King's change of heart was the case of William Perry, the " Boy of Bilson ", who claimed, among other evidences of " possession ", that he voided blue urine. Being kept under observation in the house of Bishop Morton, the youngster was caught pouring blue ink into his chamberpot. At the next public assizes the boy was made to apologize publicly to the alleged witch. The medical profession could not long remain wholly outside the controversy on possession by spirits, in which Darrell's activities and Harsnett's writings played such an importantpart. In the first year of James I's reign, a doctor of medicine, Edward Jorden, entered the lists. In this


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year, a young girl, Mary Glover, was alleged to have been bewitched by one Mother Jackson. By the king's wish, Dr. Jorden was summoned as a skilled physician to examine the girl. He recognizedher fits as natural illness, brought the girl to a confessionand so saved the life of the accused woman. He published his account of the affairin his Briefe Discourseon the Disease called the Suffocationof the Mother(i.e. hysteria) in 1603 in order, as he says, to prove " that divers strange actions and passions of the body of man which are imputed... to the Divel have their true naturall causes" (Fig. 7). John Cotta, the Northampton physician who joined in the attack on quacks and charlatans,wrote a numberof books stressing the importance of the medical man in detecting witchcraft. While accepting the traditional witch dogma, he adopted a rationalizing attitude based on his medical experience. He maintained that many so-called bewitched persons were sufferingfrom natural disease and that it was the part of the physician to distinguish between apparent and genuine possession by devils. This thesis was published in 1616 in the work by which he is best remembered,The Triall of Witchcraft. However, despite this growing spirit of critical inquiry, trials for witchcraft " inflicted upon the bodies " of people continued and indeed increased in the seventeenth century. They were good news value. News from the North .. ; The most true and wonder(Fig. 8.) Wonderful Narration ...; Strange and terribleNews from Salisbury..., with ful such headlines the pamphleteers, the reporters of the time, spread the tidings of witches brought to trial and doom and so fostered suspicionand further convictions. Contributory in keeping the belief alive were also the professional witch-finders or, in Scotland, witch-prickers,exploiting popular fear to the tune of twenty shillings search-fee per village plus twenty shillings per head for every witch brought to judgment. In England torture was forbidden, but Matthew Hopkins and his fellow-hunters had their own third-degree methods for inducing confession. These were: keeping from sleep for many nights and days, maintainingfor hoursa strainedand painful position, " walking between two " up and down a room until the feet blistered and the wits gave way. The frontispieceof Hopkin's book, The Discovery of Witches (I647), shows the self-styled " Witch Finder General" at his work. It is of special interest as depicting the animal familiars with their names-" Pyewackett ", " Vinegar Tom ", " Griezzell Greedigutt" and so on-names, says Hopkins, "which no mortal could invent" (Fig. 9).

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The case of the Suffolk witches, Rose Cullender and Amy Duny, accused of bewitching children and tried in I665 before Lord Chief Justice Hale, is memorable for the part played in it by Sir Thomas Browne. The main points of the evidence followed a pattern common in such cases : a quarrel, threats, and children falling sick, with fits and vomiting of crooked pins. In their fits they cried out the names of the accused women. Tested with reading, they showed the recognized signs of possession. Unable to pronounce the words Lord, 7esus or Christ, when they came to the word Satan or Devil, one of them cried, " This bites but makes me speak it right well." One of the children fell into a swoon after being suckled by one of the accused. Out of the infant's blanket fell a toad which exploded in the fire like gunpowder and, lo, the alleged witch was found at home maimed and scorched. The Lord Chief Justice called in Sir Thomas Browne to give expert medical testimony. Browne, famous physician, scientist and man of letters, gave his opinion: the bewitchment of the two girls was genuine; the vomiting of needles and nails reminded him very much of a recent case in Denmark. The swooning fits were natural but were " heightened to a great excess " by the subtlety of the devil co-operating with witches. This halting between two opinions, which in our own day we like to call " keeping an open mind ", is confirmed by a later observation in his Commonplace Book: " We are noways doubtful that there are witches, but have not always been satisfied in the application of their witchcraft." Joseph Glanvill wrote a work on scientific scepticism or the vanity of dogmatizing, which he dedicated to the newly-founded Royal Society of which he was an honoured member. Scientist and true child of his time, he found it compatible also to set out the case for belief in witchcraft and persecution of witches with passionate conviction and sober, reasoned argument. This he did in his Saducismus Triumphatus (" Unbelief Conquered ") which he published in 1681. John Webster (I6I0-82) published his Displaying of Supposed Witchcraft in 1677, in refutation of Glanvill. Webster was a clergyman who turned in later life to the practice of medicine. Drawing on his experience and convictions as both minister of religion and doctor of medicine, he is at pains to refute the witch-belief and stress the likelihood of pretended sorcery among the nefarious practices of " all wicked persons. " Among these practices he includes and describes " most strange wayes of poysoning, tormenting and breeding of unwonted things in the stomach and bellies of people. " Plague-spreading by the smearing of doorposts and lintels with infectious and poisonous matter is one of


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these. Webster ascribes the serious outbreak of jail-fever at Oxford Assizes in I579 to such arts. He quotes a notorious case of plaguespreading in Italy in 1536 in which forty persons were found to have caused the death of many in this way. Lacking Glanvill's brilliance, he is nevertheless forceful and strikes some sturdy blows. It will be refreshingat this point to recall a story of William Harvey, the physician of CharlesI and discovererof the circulation of the blood. Harvey's opinion of witchcraft held no doubt or uncertainty. He simply did not believe in it. The Gentleman's Magazine of May I832 an oft-quoted story of Harvey in this connexion. Hearing of a gives reputed witch at Newmarket, he one day called on her and, pretending to be a wizard, asked to see her familiar. She respondedby calling out a toad from under a chest and giving it milk. Sending the woman away on an errand to fetch beer, the doctor lured the toad out again, seized it with the tongs and opened it up with his dissecting knife, demonstrating by examination of its interiorthat it was an ordinary,natural toad. The woman returning was furious at the slaughter of her pet and, says the story, " flew at him like a tigress," unconsoledby the doctor's assurance that he had done this in order to report it to the King and so save her life.

Another note of good cheer for the later seventeenth century comes from Germany. An occurrence quoted by J. C. Westphal, in a book called Pathologia Daemoniaca, published in Leipzig in I707, indicates that the tradition of Weyer had taken some hold in the medical world. The incident occurredin I674, a century after Weyer was writing. An old woman confessed to congresswith an incubus. She was handed over for medical examination; this in itself marksan enormousadvance. Dr. Michael Ettmiiller, .in a long opinion with much detail of symptoms, pronouncedher insane and declaredher intercoursewith demons imaginary and her progeny faecal discharges after severe constipation. The Medical Faculty of Leipzig concurredin this opinion and she was saved from the stake. This brings us back to Weyer, with whose name it seems good to close this account. The despised " little doctor " died, as his biographer,Binz, tells us, " tired of the spirit of his age." That age in which he lived and worked was one in which the lore of the people, the lore of the unwritten word, was confused and bewildered and rapidly being overwhelmedby the spread of printed books. The late Dr. Marett once said in a Presi-

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dential Address to this Society that, in our world of folklore, the happenings are many but the events are few. I like to think that it was an event of significanceto the history of our science that four hundredyears ago this man dedicated his life and labour to freeing the beliefs of the people from scholastic, clerical and legal shackles and their own darkening superstitions, and giving them health and sanity.