Archive for November 25th, 2013

Quacks, Who in Cool Blood Undertook to Overreach Mankind (4/6)

King James’s Demonology
It was by a train of observations and experience like this, that James was prompted seven years after to compose and publish his Dialogues on Demonology in Three Books. In the Preface to this book he says, “The fearfull abounding at this time in this countrey, of these detestable slaves of the Diuel, the Witches or enchaunters, hath moved me (beloued Reader) to dispatch in post this following Treatise of mine, not in any wise (as I protest) to serue for a shew of my learning and ingine, but onely (moued of conscience) to preasse thereby, so farre as I can, to resolue the doubting hearts of many, both that such assaults of Satan are most certainely practised, and that the instruments thereof merits most seuerely to be punished.”

In the course of the treatise he affirms, “that barnes, or wiues, or neuer so diffamed persons, may serue for sufficient witnesses and proofes in such trialls; for who but Witches can be prooves, and so witnesses of the doings of Witches?” But, lest innocent persons should be accused, and suffer falsely, he tells us, “There are two other good helps that may be used for their trial: the one is, the finding of their marke [a mark that the devil was supposed to impress upon some part of their persons], and the trying the insensibleness thereof: the other is their fleeting on the water: for, as in a secret murther, if the dead carkasse be at any time thereafter handled by the murtherer, it will gush out of bloud, as if the bloud were crying to the heauen for revenge of the murtherer, God hauing appointed that secret supernaturall signe, for triall of that secret unnaturall crime, so it appears that God hath appointed (for a supernaturall signe of the monstrous impietie of Witches) that the water shall refuse to receive them in her bosome, that haue shaken off them the sacred water of Baptisme, and wilfully refused the benefite thereof: No, not so much as their eyes are able to shed teares (threaten and torture them as ye please) while first they repent (God not permitting them to dissemble their obstinacie in so horrible a crime.)”

Statute 1 of James I
In consequence of the strong conviction James entertained on the subject, the English parliament was induced, in the first year of his reign, to supersede the milder proceedings of Elizabeth, and to enact that “if any person shall use, practice, or exercise any invocation or conjuration of any evil and wicked spirit, or shall consult, covenant with, entertain, employ, feed or reward any evil and wicked spirit, to or for any intent and purpose; or take up any dead man, woman, or child out of their grave, or the skin, bone, or any part of any dead person, to be used in any manner of witchcraft, sorcery or enchantment, or shall use any witchcraft, sorcery or enchantment, whereby any person shall be killed, destroyed, wasted, consumed, pined or lamed in his or her body, or any part thereof; that then every such offender, their aiders, abettors and counsellors shall suffer the pains of death.” And upon this statute great numbers were condemned and executed.

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