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THE WITCH'S ATTRIBUTES
IN his very learned and exhaustive treatise, "De la Demonomanie des Sorciers," the worthy Bodin, with enterprise worthy of a modern serial-story writer, keeps his reader's curiosity whetted to its fullest by darkly hinting his knowledge of awesome spells and charms commonly employed by Satan's servants. Unlike the modern writer, however, he refrains from detailing them at length in his last chapter, fearing to impart knowledge which may easily be put to the worst account. However valuable a testimony to his good faith and discretion, this would certainly have brought down upon him the strictures of modern critics, and might indeed have entailed serious loss to the world had not other less conscientious writers more than rectified the omission.
It were, of course, impossible to include within the limits of such a volume as is this or of a hundred like it one tithe of the great store of spells, charms, and miscellaneous means towards enchantment gathered together in the long centuries since the birth of the first witch. So also it is impossible to select any particular stage in her long evolution as the most characteristic, as regards her manners and customs, of all that we imply by the word "witch." On the other hand, she has definitely crystallised in the minds of those of us who have ever been children, in the shape of the "horrid old witch" of fairy lore; and just as, in a preceding chapter, I have endeavoured to reproduce one of her working days as imaged in the popular mind so the witch of the Middle Ages may best be chosen when we would reconstruct her more human aspect.
Of her actual appearance, divested of her infernal attributes, no better description could be desired than that given by Reginald Scot in "The Discoverie of Witchcraft": "Witches be commonly old, lame, bleare-eied, pale, fowle, and full of wrinkles; poore, sullen, superstitious, and papists" (it is perhaps unnecessary to point out that Scot was of the Reformed Faith) "or such as know no religion; in whose drousie minds the devill hath goten a fine seat; so as, what mischiefe, mischance, calamitie or slaughter is brought to passe, they are easilie persuaded the same is doone by themselves, imprinting in their minds an earnest and constant imagination hereof. They are leane and deformed, showing melancholie in their faces to the horror of all that see them. They are doting, scolds, mad, divilish."
Endowed with so unfortunate a personality, it is not surprising that, as Scot goes on to inform us, the witch should have found it difficult to make a living. It is indeed an interesting example of the law of supply and demand that such woeful figures being needed for the proper propagation of the witch-mania, the conditions of mediaeval life, by their harsh pressure upon the poor and needy among women, should have provided them by the score in every village. You may find the conventional witch-figure to-day in the lonely hamlet or in the city workhouse, but, thanks to our better conditions of life, she has become almost as rare as have accusations of witchcraft against her.
The only means of subsistence open to her, Scot goes on, is to beg from house to house. In time it comes about that people grow weary of her importunities. Perhaps they show their impatience too openly. "Then," says Scot, "she curses one or the other, from the master of the house to the little pig that lieth in the stie." Someone in the wide range between those two extremes will be certain to suffer some kind of mischance before long on much the same principle as that which gives life to one of our most popular present-day superstitions, the ill-luck attending a gathering of "thirteen at table." Any such disaster is naturally attributed to the old beggar-woman who is thus at once elevated to the dangerous eminence of witch-hood. Nor did the sufferer always wait for her curse. Edward Fairfax, for example, the learned seventeenth century translator of Tasso, upon an epidemic sickness attacking his children, sought out their symptoms in a "book of medicine." Not finding any mention of "such agonies" as those exhibited by his children, he determined that some unholy agency must be at work. His thoughts turned, naturally enough, to the gloomy forest of Knaresborough, within convenient distance of his abode. Nothing could be more suspicious than the mere fact of living in such a suggestive locality, yet Margaret White, widow of a man executed for theft, her daughter, and Jennie Dibble, an old widow coming of a family suspected of witchcraft for generations past, were imprudent, or unfortunate, enough to live within its borders. The natural result attended their rashness and so earnest was the worthy Fairfax that he set the whole proceedings down in a book, adding a minute account of the symptoms and delusions of the invalids.
As the King has his orb and sceptre, the astrologer his spheres and quadrant, so the witch has her insignia of office. And it is a strong indication of her descent from the first house-wife that most of them are domestic or familiar objects.
The imp or "familiar" who attends her may have the form of a bird or dog, but is far more often the most domestic animal of all, the cat. Frequently it is malformed or monstrous, in common with Satan himself and all the beings who owe him allegiance. It may have any number of legs, several tails, or none at all; its mewing is diabolic; it may be far above the usual stature of its kind. Usually it is black, but is equally eligible if white or yellow. As is a common incident of all religions, the symbol is sometimes confused with the office, the witch and her cat exchanging identities. Thus witches have confessed under torture to have formerly been cats, and to owe their human shape to Satan's interference with natural laws. A piebald cat is said to become a witch if it live for nine years, and the witch, when upon a nefarious errand, frequently assumes a feline shape.
A characteristic of the witch, in common with demons and imps in general, is that she does everything contrary to the tastes and customs of good Christians. With the one steady exception of the cat, she most esteems animals repellent to the ordinary person, to women in particular, and her imps may appear as rats or mice, usually tailless, spiders, fleas, nits, flies, toads, hares, crows, hornets, moles, frogs, or, curiously enough, domestic poultry. An important item in her outfit is her broomstick as homely an insignia as the cat. Its feminine connection is obvious, though possibly its power of flight may be derived from the magic wand. Smeared with a Satanic ointment, it acts as her chariot, or is prepared to serve her as a weapon of offence or defence and woe to him who suffers a beating from the witch's broom-handle.
The spindle, emblem of domesticity, becomes in the witch's hands a maleficial instrument, and may be applied by her to a number of evil uses. The idea of the thread of life enters into many mythologies, and it, from some confusion of ideas, may well have been instrumental in transforming the natural occupation of an old woman into one of the dangerous tricks of witchcraft.
Just as "loathly" reptiles, the snake, the lizard, and the toad, stand in close relation to the witch, so plants growing in suggestive places or notoriously poison-bearing are especially connected with her. Hemlock, mandrake, henbane, deadly nightshade or moonshade, as it was sometimes called saffron, poplar-leaves, all avoided by the common folk, are held in high esteem by Satan's servants for their use in the concoction of love-philtres and other noxious brews.
For the brewing of potions a cauldron is a matter of course, and the mixtures popularly supposed to have been brewed in it were enough to have given it an evil reputation for all time.
The enumeration of their ingredients is unpleasantly suggestive, even to the unbeliever, and the credulous may well have shuddered at such a mixture as:
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blindworm's sting,
Lizard's leg and howlet's wing,
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat and slips of yew,
Finger of birth-strangled babe, &c., &c.
It is true that a Macbeth was not to be catered for every day, and simpler effects could have been obtained by less complicated, though perhaps not less unappetising means.
Of all these insignia and attributes of her office the most important, as the most characteristic, were her "familiars" or imps. In mediaeval real life, just as in modern fairy-lore, the witch's possession of a cat or other animal, however harmless it might seem was proof positive of her guilt. Without her familiar, indeed, she could scarcely have claimed the powers attributed to her, for, whatever its form, it was the ever-present reminder of her contract with their common master, and in many cases the channel through which his commands and the means for their carrying out were communicated to her. The infinite variations of form and kind of these same "imps," as set out in the proceedings at the trials, bear strong testimony of the wild imaginations possessed by our forefathers or the Devil, as we may prefer to believe. Thus Margaret White, in the Fairfax case just referred to, had for familiar a deformed creature with many feet, sooty in hue and rough-haired, being of name unknown. Her daughter, who resembled her in all things, with the addition of "impudency and lewd behaviour," had a white cat spotted with black. Jennie Dibble had a black cat called Gibbe, "who hath attended her above 40 yeares." All these imps, whatever their shape, obtained their nourishment by sucking their mistress's blood, leaving marks upon her body, which formed deadly evidence against her at her trial. Nor was there any hope of cheating justice by giving these devil's marks commonplace forms, for they were recognised even when made, by the Devil's cunning, to appear like moles, birth-marks, or even flea-bites!
There is some slight confusion about the provenance of this same witch-mark, unless it varied in individual cases whether, that is to say, the marks were the result of suckling the imps, or whether, being already imprinted on the witch's body, they were selected for that reason. Certainly there is frequent reference to the ceremony of its imprinting immediately after the signature of the contract with Satan, and at the same time that her nickname and familiars were assigned to his new servant. Its object is ingeniously explained by the unctuous Pierre de Lancre, no mean authority. Satan, he tells us, wishing to ape God in all things, has instituted this marking of his servants in imitation of the stigmata and also of the circumcision. A more practical explanation, given by some writers, is that the Devil's mark, having the quality of itching at certain seasons, is conferred upon witches that they may never oversleep themselves and thus be late for the Sabbath ceremonies. The root of the whole matter, however, as the worthy Pierre is half-inclined to believe and as some of us may be half-inclined to agree with him in thinking is that the mark (he compares it to a toad's foot) has merely been instituted by Satan out of his love of importance and display, and with no further motive.
Although in earlier ages this formality may have been dispensed with, by the sixteenth century the witch invariably signed a definite contract with Satan. As was only too probable, seeing that they dispensed with an attorney, while the other person to the bargain, himself of no mean intelligence, might chose among an infinity of legal advisers, the contract was of a very one-sided nature. Nothing, at least, was ever outwardly visible of those advantages for which she bartered away body and soul. Even such satisfaction as may have come from attending the Sabbaths was dearly bought, for not only did her earthly neighbours show their resentment in the most forcible manner, but her reception by Satan, unless she had carried out his instructions to the furthest limit, was apt to be unamiable in the extreme. Of any more material satisfaction save, of course, that, and it is perhaps as substantial as human happiness can be of paying off old scores, there is no sign at all. It is perhaps this lack of business instinct which most markedly differentiates the witch from the sorcerer. He almost invariably gained whatever worldly advantages he desired during the term of his agreement, and not infrequently tricked Satan out of his share of the bargain at the end of it.
Of the preliminaries leading up to the bargain we are given an illuminating glimpse by Edward Fairfax in his already quoted book. His daughter Helen, being in a trance, saw the wife of one Thorp, and, with the impertinent enthusiasm of youth as it now seems to us urged her to pray "with such vehemence that Thorp's wife wept bitterly a long time. Then she asked her how she became a witch, and the woman answered that a man like to a man of this world came unto her upon the moor and offered her money, which at first she refused, but at the second time of his coming he did overcome her in such sort that she gave him her body and soul, and he made her a lease back again of her life for 40 years, which was now ended upon Shrove Tuesday last. The man did write their lease with their blood, and they likewise with their blood set their hands to them. That her lease was in his keeping, and every 7th year he showed it unto them, and now it was 3 years since she saw hers, and that each 7th year they renewed it. She said further that she knew 40 witches, but there were only 7 of her company." From other accounts we learn that in the act of signing the contract the witch frequently put one hand to the sole of her foot and the other to the crown of her head a gymnastic exercise that can scarcely have been coincident with the affixing of her signature, however. Anyone who, despite his cozening of witches, may urge the number of times when Satan was over-reached by sorcerers, as a proof that his intelligence is over-rated, may find evidence that he is occasionally gifted with business acumen in the confession of one M. Guillaume de Livre, Doctor of Theology, who was so unlucky as to be condemned for witchcraft in 1453. By the terms of his bargain with Satan he was bound to preach whenever possible that there was no such thing as real sorcery. "Such," as Bodin very acutely remarks, "are the wiles and lures of the Evil One.
Her contract once signed, the witch naturally became as soon as possible proficient in the "Devil's rudiments," which James I. describes as "unlawful charms without natural causes. Such kinde of charms as commonlie dafte wives use, for healing of forspoken goodes, for preserving them from evil eyes, by knitting roun trees or sundriest kinde of hearbes, to the haire or tailes of the goodes; by curing the worme, by stemming of bloode; by healing of Horse-crookes, by turning of the riddle, or doing of such-like innumerable things by words without applying aniething meete to the part offended, as Mediciners doe." "Children cannot smile upon a witch without the hazard of a perpetual wry smile," writes Stephens in 1615. "Her prayers and amens be a charm and a curse . . . her highest adoration hie yew trees, dampest churchyards, and a fayre moonlight; her best preservatives odde numbers and mightie Tetragrammaton."
Her crimes were many and varied enough to provide contemporary writers with long pages of delectable matter. Thus, Holland declares, in "A Treatise Against Witchcraft" (1590), that:
They renounce God and all true religion.
They blaspheme and provoke His Divine Majesty with unspeakable contempt.
They believe in the Devill, adore him, and sacrifice unto him.
They offer their children unto devils.
They sweare unto Satan, and promise to bring as many as they can unto his service and profession.
They invocate Satan in their praiers, and sweare by his name."
Besides preaching gross immorality:
They commit horrible murders, and kill young infants.
Al Sorcerers for the most part exercise poison, and to kill with poison is far more heinous than simple murder.
They kill men's cattle.
And, lastly, the witches (as they themselves confesse) commit many abominations and filthenes.
Other accounts follow similar lines or add further indictments; as Jean Bodin, who also details the crimes of eating human flesh and drinking blood, destroying fruit and causing famine and sterility. Generally speaking, then, the crimes of witchcraft fall under the headings of offences against religion and the Church; of those against the community in general, such as causing epidemics or bad weather; and of those against individuals, including murder, especially of young children, causing disease, and injury to property. Such catholic appreciation in wrong-doing could not fail to arouse the disapproval of all right-thinking people, and as the mere charge of witchcraft, supported by any one accusation, implied the perpetration of all these various misdeeds, it is scarcely wonderful that the witch, once apprehended, had small chance of escape.
Although less generally harmful in its effects, the witch's passion for aviation was as reprehensible as the rest of her proceedings. For one thing, it was generally considered an offensive parody of the angels' mode of progression. Pierre de Lancre, indeed, who is unusually well informed, states this as a fact. He points out further that the good angels can fly much faster, being able to use their wings, while the witch has to make use of some artificial means of support, as, for example, a broomstick. It is characteristic of the cross-grained eccentricity of witches that whereas a good angel, like a good Christian, enters or leaves the room by the door, the witch prefers the less convenient egress of the chimney. This was the more aggravating that it rendered useless any attempts by beleaguering the house to catch her in the act, seeing that she only flies by night; and Satan further provides against discovery by allowing her to leave her imp in her own shape behind her, and thus, if need be, provide a satisfactory alibi. The only way of getting at the real fact of the matter was then by obtaining a confession from the witch herself which could, however, usually be arranged for by the authorities. The broomstick, be it noted, was not an essential to the witch's aerial journeys; asses and horses, if properly anointed with witch-ointment, could be used at a pinch, as could a straw, an eggshell, or a barndoor fowl to mention three out of many possible mounts. Satan has been known to take upon himself the shape of a goat, and thus to provide a steed for those he most delights to honour. This is, however, attended by one grave and dangerous disadvantage. Satan hates the sound of church-bells, and should he hear the sound of the Ave Maria while carrying a witch through the air, will very likely drop her at once as actually happened to a witch named Lucrece in 1524.
The ever-helpful De Lancre details four ways of getting to the Sabbath:
(1) By thought or meditation, as in the vision of Ezekiel.
(2) On foot.
(3) By being carried through the air by Satan.
(4) By going in dreams or illusions, which leave the witch uncertain whether she has really been present in the flesh or only had a nightmare. But De Lancre is assured that the transport is real, seeing that they have actually been seen descending from the clouds, naked and often wounded, while they are often so exhausted thereafter as to be obliged to keep their beds for several days.
The ointment used by witches for such purposes are by many considered to have been but another instance of Satan's cunning and lack of good faith. As a tangible token of her service, they flatter the witch's sense of importance though in themselves quite useless while the obtaining of these ingredients necessitates a good deal of mischief being done to good Christians. Holland, who tells us that "Witches make oyntements of the fatte of young children," adds that Satan has no great opinion of the said "oyntements," but loves the bloodshed it entails. Wierus provides us with a more detailed gruesome recipe. By their spells witches cause young children to die in the cradle or by their mother's side. When they are dead, of suffocation or other causes, and have been buried, the witches take them out of the grave and boil them in a cauldron until the flesh leaves the bones, and the rest is as easy to drink as melted wax. Of the thicker portions the ointment is made; while whoever drinks the liquid will become mistress of the whole art of witchcraft. Bacon speaks of several other ingredients. To the customary fat of children "digged out of their graves," he adds the juices of smallage, wolf-bane, and cinque-foil, mingled with the meal of fine wheat, and, he says, "I suppose the soporiferous medicines are likest to do it, which are hen-bane, hemlock, mandrake, moon-shade, tobacco, opium, saffron, and poplar-leaves." Some are of opinion that such soporific elements are introduced into the ointment by the Devil in order to dull the senses of his servants, that he may the more easily do as he likes with them but as those who have gone so far in procuring the piece de resistance of the mixture are not likely to be over-scrupulous, such a precaution seems almost unnecessary.
The poisons, "charms," and baleful powders needed by the witches in their ordinary business-routine may be made either in their own domestic cauldron or at the Sabbath. They include such ingredients as the heads of toads, spiders, or the bark and pith of the "Arbre Maudit." The semi-solids are the most poisonous to human beings, while the liquid varieties are used to destroy crops and orchards. For doing damage on the sea or among the mountains, powders are well considered made of toads' flesh, roasted, dried, and pulverised, and subsequently cast into the air or scattered on the ground, according to the circumstances of the case. Another and very baleful poison may be made of "green water"; so potent is it that even to touch it causes instant death. A paste entirely efficacious against confession under torture may be made with black millet mixed with the dried liver of an unbaptised child. A skinned cat, a toad, a lizard or an asp, roasted, dried, pulverised, and burned until required, may be put to excellent purposes of offence. Cast in the air or on the ground, with the words "This is for corn, this for apples," and so forth, such a powder, if used in sufficient quantities, will turn, a smiling country-side into a desert. There is, indeed, one plant which resists all such spells the common onion. Thus De Lancre tells us of a certain garden so injured by these powders that everything died except the onions for which, he adds, the Devil has a particular respect. If this respect comes from dislike of its smell and Satan is known to have a very delicate nose our modern prejudice against the onion-eater immediately after dinner would seem to be only another proof of man's natural tendency to evil.
In deference to the unceasing demand, the witch has ever been a prominent exponent of prophecy and divination nor have any of her practices given more offence to Holy Church. At the late period of her history we are now considering, she had acquired a sufficiently varied repertoire of methods to satisfy the most exacting. To quote from a long list supplied us by Holland, the witch of his times could divine: "By fire, by the ayer, by water, by the earth, by the dead, by a sive, by a cocke, by a twibble or an axe, by a ring, by Ise, by meale, by a stone, by a lawrell, by an asse's head, by smoake, by a rodde, by pieces of wood, by a basin of water, by certain round vessels of glasse full of water, by rubbing of the nayles." All of which go to show that she had lost little of the skill possessed before her by Egyptian necromancers and mediaeval magicians.
But the most fantastic, as it became the most famous, incident of the witch's life, as viewed by her contemporaries, was certainly the Sabbath. In a previous chapter I have endeavoured to provide some narrative account of such a gathering as being the simplest and directest method of reconstruction. It was, however, obviously impossible to include one tithe of the various incidents at one or other period attached thereto by writers, Inquisitors or witches themselves and this quite apart from the obvious limitations entailed, in matters of detail, upon one who writes for the general public.
These same Sabbaths might be described in modern terms of commerce as Satan's stock-takings, whereon he might check the number and loyalty of his subjects. They were of two kinds the more important, or "Sabbaths-General," to which flocked witches from all parts of the world, and the more localised and frequent "Sabbaths" simple. Their place and time varied, though most frequently held after midnight on Friday an arrangement agreeable to the Church view of the Jews and their Sabbath, and not impossibly arising therefrom. In earlier days or so De Lancre informs us the Devil chose Monday, the first day of the week, as most suitable, but, with his usual inconstancy, has varied it several times since then. Darkness was not essential, Sabbaths having been occasionally held at high noon. In Southern countries, indeed, the hours between midday and 3 p.m. were considered the most dangerous to mortals, the terrestrial demons having then most power. The pleasures of the midday meal might have a fatal influence in putting the intended victim off his guard, his sleepy content making him peculiarly susceptible to the attacks of Satan's agents. Some authorities give from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. as the hours, seeing that, as in more legitimate assemblies, everybody could not arrive at once, and there was much business to be gone through. The Sabbaths-General, in mockery of the Church, were usually held on the four great annual festivals. They might take place anywhere, though certain spots were especially favoured. Marketplaces, especially if beside an important church, were among them. The mountain of Dome, in Perigord, again, was among the most famous meeting-places in France, as were the Wrekin in England, the Blocksburg in Germany, and the Blockula in Sweden. Attendance was not a mere matter of pleasure, witches who failed being severely punished by demons sent in search of them or on their next appearance.
Satan himself usually presided in person, though he was occasionally represented by an underling, to the great anger of the witches. Thus, on one occasion, he deprecated their wrath by the explanation that in view of a strenuous persecution then on foot he had been pleading the cause of his followers with Janicot an impious name for Jesus that he had won his case, and that they would not be burnt. As a reward, he added, they must bring him eighty children, to be given to a certain priest present at the Sabbath, and later tried for sorcery. He appeared in many forms, that of a goat being perhaps his favourite. Anyone who has ever studied a goat's face, and more particularly the expression of its eyes, can testify to Satan's sense of the fitness of things in so doing, as also to that of the old Flemish painters, and more particularly Jerome Bosch, who, in the paintings of devils for which he is so justly famous, has made copious use of the goat's head as a model for his most demoniacal demons. As a goat Satan was usually of monstrous size, having one face in the usual position and another between his haunches. Marie d'Aguerre, who attended a Sabbath at the mature age of thirteen, and afterwards paid the penalty with her life, testified that in the middle of the assembly was a huge pitcher of water, out of which Satan emerged as a goat, grew to enormous size, and, on his departure, returned again into the pitcher. Sometimes he had two pairs of horns, in front and behind, more usually only three in all, that in the centre supporting a light, to serve the double purpose of illuminating the proceedings and of lighting the candles carried by the witches in mockery of Christian ceremonies. Above his horns he sometimes wore a species of cap, and sometimes he had a long tail, in the usual place, with a human face above it. This was saluted by his guests, but he was unable to speak with it.
He might also appear in the form of a tree-trunk, without arms or feet, but with the indistinct suggestion of a face, seated on a throne; sometimes like a giant, clad in dark clothes, as he does not wish his disciples to realise that he is himself suffering the proverbial torture of hell. Some attendants at the Sabbath as, for instance, poor little Corneille Brolic, aged twelve saw him as a four-horned man; others, Janette d'Abadie among them, vouch for his having two faces; others saw him as a black greyhound or a huge brass bull lying on the ground. The constant uncertainty as to the form likely to be taken by the host must have been an added interest to the proceedings and it has been supposed by some that his powerful imagination led him occasionally to appear in a different shape to each several guest, and to change from one to another at frequent intervals during the proceedings.
The actual ceremonies, festivities, and ritual of the Sabbath varied greatly at different times and places, but having already given a typical example in an earlier chapter, it is unnecessary to dwell further on so unsavoury a subject. The various accounts, evolved from the imaginations of over-willing witnesses or tortured witch, however much they may suffer in detail, unite in being the expression of the foulest and most obscene images of a disordered brain, and as such we may leave them. So again the Devil's Mass was conducted in such a manner as might most impiously parody the Christian ritual. The Devil, however, as an old writer astutely points out, in thinking to imitate Christ by sitting on a great golden throne during the ceremony, only shows his exceeding folly, forgetting that, although Christ often spoke while sitting, He yet gained His greatest triumph on the Cross. With the aforesaid throne Satan conjures up all the paraphernalia of worship temples, altars, music, bells though only little ones, for he hates and fears church-bells and even crosses. Four priests, one serving the Mass, a deacon, and a sub-deacon usually officiate. Candles, holy water, incense, the offertory, sermons, and the elevation of the Host all find place in the Devil's Mass. The sign of the cross is made with the left hand, and in further mockery they chant: In nomine Patricia Aragueaco
Petrica, agora, agora! Valentia
Jouanda goure gaitz goustia.
Which is to say:Au nom de Patrique, Petrique d'Arragon, a cette heure. Valence, tout nostre mal est passé.
One Jehannes du Hard, in her confession, gives us an account of the method of compounding poisons and witch-ointments at the Sabbaths. On her second attendance she saw a great man dressed in black. An attendant produced an earthenware pot, in which were many great spiders and a white slug, along with two toads. These latter Jehannes skinned, while a companion pounded the spiders and the slug with a pestle. To this mixture the skinned toads were added later, having first been beaten with switches to render them more poisonous. The resultant mixture was used with entire success to poison cattle. There is some uncertainty whether this, and similar poisons, was identical with the ointment used by witches to anoint their broomsticks. In any case, it is intended by Satan in mockery of the sacrament of baptism and Holy Unction.
Were there any room for doubting that Satan habitually breaks faith with his servants, it would be dispelled by the testimony given before the oft-quoted authority, Pierre de Lancre, when that learned gentleman was holding an inquisition in the hag-ridden district of Labourt by command of the Parliament of Bordeaux. That of one witness, Legier Rivasseau, was the more dependable in that, although an eye-witness at the Sabbath, he was yet under no sort of obligation to Satan, having bought the privilege from him for the moderate price of two fingers and two and a half toes. His object was worthier than the mere gratifying of curiosity, for he wished to disenchant a certain Jeanne Perrin, who was among those present. That he might be present without danger, two friends shut him in a dark room, wherein he remained for eight days. There the Devil appeared to him, and explained that if he wished to see the Sabbath and also acquire the power of healing he could do it for two toes and half a foot, to which bargain he agreed. His friends afterwards released him from his voluntary captivity, but he could not escape the dark man, who eight days later took the flesh from the great and second toes and half the third of his left foot, without, however, hurting him in the least. Had he desired the power of doing evil as well, he might have bought it for the remainder of his toes and half the foot, but being as good as he was prudent he refrained. From his further evidence we learn that the Sabbath takes place in the market-square towards midnight on Wednesday or Friday Satan preferring stormy weather, that the wind may scatter poisons over a wider area. That witnessed by Rivasseau was presided over by a large and a small devil, and all present the witness presumably excepted adored Satan by kissing his posterior face. Thereafter sixty witches danced before him, each with a cat tied to the tail of her shift. Marie de la Ralde, another witness, deposed that she often saw Satan approach the children present with a hot iron, but could not say definitely whether or not he branded them. She asserted that all enjoyed the Sabbath to the utmost, the Devil having absolute command over their hearts and wills. Witches, she added, hear heavenly music and really believe themselves to be in Paradise. The Devil persuades them that there is no such place as Hell, and further, by rendering them momentarily immune, that fire has no power over them. As a further proof of Satanic astuteness, she declared that witches see so many priests, pastors, confessors, and other persons of quality attending the Sabbath as to be perfectly convinced of the entire correctness of the proceedings. She herself, even when she saw that the Host was black instead of white, did not at the time realise that anything was wrong.