Caesarus Of Heisterbach Witchcraft

CAESARIUS OF HEISTERBACH (ca. 1180-1250). A well-known Cistercian abbot of Heisterbach in the Rhineland, Caesarius was a theologian and the author of numerous treatises on religious subjects. His most famous work was the Dialogus miraculorum (Dialogue on Miracles), composed in the 1220s and 1230s. In this long, moralizing

work he included several stories of demons and demonic sorcery, particularly necromancy. He stands as an example of the increasing concern over such matters on the part of clerical authorities in the late 12th and 13 th centuries.

CALVIN, JEAN (1509-1564). After Martin Luther, Calvin was the leading figure of the Protestant Reformation. Like Luther, while he disagreed with and challenged many aspects of medieval theology, he fully accepted the power of the devil and the system of demonology on which the idea of witchcraft rested, and he fully accepted the reality of the threat posed by witches. He treated these issues in many of his sermons, biblical commentaries, and theological writings, and his doctrines provided a basis for the continuation of witch-hunting in Calvinist lands.

CANNIBALISM. One of the more horrible aspects of the witch-stereotype, cannibalism, especially the cannibalizing of babies and young children, has a long association with evil sorcery, heresy, and witchcraft. In classical mythology, nocturnal monsters such as the strix and lamia were believed to kill and often devour children. During the Middle Ages, Jews were often suspected of murdering Christian children and eating their flesh, in a dark parody of the Christian Eucharist. Later, the killing and eating of babies was thought to be a standard element of the witches' sabbath. Ironically, the association of cannibalism with unorthodox and clandestine religious assemblies probably began with the rise of Christianity itself. In the Roman Empire, when Christianity was seen as a dissident sect, authorities often condemned Christian gatherings as orgiastic festivals, and they sometimes sought to equate the consumption of the Eucharist, which in Christian doctrine is the flesh of Christ, with cannibalism.

CANON EPISCOPI. One of the most important legal texts regarding sorcery, superstition, and later witchcraft, the earliest version of the canon appears in the 10th century in the legal collection of Regino of Prüm. It later was incorporated into other collections of canon law, most importantly the Decretum of Gratian in the 12th century. The canon took its name from the first word of its text in Latin, and com-


manded bishops and their officials to work to eliminate the dangerous practice of sorcery and harmful magic in their diocese. It then went on to describe "certain women" who believed that they flew at night in large assemblies with the goddess Diana. The canon was careful to state that this did not occur in reality, but that these women were simply deluded by illusions caused by demons. The crucial passage reads:

It is also not to be omitted that some wicked women, turned away after Satan and seduced by the illusions and phantasms of demons, believe and profess that, in the hours of the night, they ride upon certain beasts with Diana, the goddess of the pagans, and an innumerable multitude of women, and in the silence of night traverse great spaces of earth, and obey her commands as of their mistress, and are summoned to her service on certain nights.

The canon then goes on to declare that such flight is only an illusion and deception, and "priests in all their churches should preach with all insistence to the people that they may know this to be in every way false and that such phantasms are imposed on the minds of infidels not by the divine spirit but by a malignant one."

This canon and the popular beliefs that it describes form an important basis for the later concept of the night flight of witches to a sabbath. Here, however, the women who supposedly engaged in such flight were declared to be deluded. They appear less the willing servants of demons than their victims, and, rather than prosecute such people, the canon enjoins ecclesiastical authorities to work to correct this false and dangerous belief. Centuries later, when many authorities had accepted the existence of witchcraft and become convinced of the very real nature of the witches' night flight and sabbath, the canon proved something of a problem because it stated in authoritative and certain terms that such practices were illusions. The most typical way around this dilemma was to argue that, while the canon stated such practices could be illusory, it did not maintain that they could never be real. Nor did it in any way state that demons were incapable of producing real flight, as well as imaginary flight. Still, many opponents of the witch-hunts, or those who were at least skeptical about many of the more fantastic elements of the witch-stereotype, such as the idea of the sabbath, continued to make use of the canon in their arguments.



CAROLINA LAW CODE. A criminal law code for all the lands of the German Empire was introduced at the Reichstag in Regensburg in 1532, under the authority of the emperor Charles V, thus deriving its name from his (Carolus in Latin). The Carolina code, in theory, governed witchcraft prosecutions in the German Empire for the remainder of the period of the witch-hunts. However, given the political fragmentation of the Empire, local courts could generally apply the law as they saw fit. For example, in the severe witch trials in Bamberg in the early 17th century, victims of the trials actually appealed to the emperor that he should enforce the proper application of the Carolina code.

CASTAÑEGA, MARTÍN DE (early 16th century). A Franciscan friar in Spain, Martín witnessed a series of witch trials in Pamplona in 1527. In response, he wrote a Tratado muy sotil bien fundado de las supersticiones y hechicerías (Treatise . . . on Superstition and Witchcraft). Published in 1529, this was the first work on witchcraft to be printed in the Spanish vernacular. Martín adopted a qualified skepticism toward witchcraft. He accepted that some witches really existed, but avoided any discussion of the more extreme elements of the witch-stereotype, such as night flight and the witches' sabbath. He also argued that many events attributed to witchcraft could be caused by other, natural means, and he was concerned that many people accused of witchcraft were actually mentally ill.

CATS. Cats have long been associated with magic and witchcraft. The ancient Egyptians venerated cats and associated them with, among other deities, Isis, the mother-goddess and lunar deity who was also a patron of the magic arts. In Christian Europe, heretics and later witches were often thought to worship cats, or demons that had transformed themselves into cats. Most descriptions of the witches' sabbath depict the devil presiding over these gatherings and receiving worship in the form of a black animal, most often a black cat. Cats were also the most common of the many forms that a demon could take when it became a witch's familiar. Cats believed to be familiars were often burned along with the witches they supposedly


served, and because of their general association with evil, cats were often killed in large numbers in regions experiencing particular hardship or misfortune, such as famines or epidemics. See also GOATS.

CHELMSFORD WITCHES. The first major witch trial in England occurred at Chelmsford, Essex, in 1566. The first statute against witchcraft had been passed by Parliament under King Henry VIII in 1542, but was quickly revoked in 1547. A new statute, mandating death for convicted witches, was passed under Elizabeth I in 1563. The Chelmsford case was the first significant trial conducted under this statute. Charges were brought against three women—Elizabeth Francis, Agnes Waterhouse, and Agnes' daughter Joan. Elizabeth eventually confessed that she had learned witchcraft from her grandmother, who had given her a cat named Sathan as a familiar. The cat was in fact the devil. She had the cat for 16 years, during which time it aided her in performing various acts of maleficium, including aborting one child and later murdering her daughter. Eventually, Elizabeth gave the cat to Agnes, who supposedly turned it into a toad that then continued to assist her in performing maleficium, including killing farm animals and causing butter to spoil. Agnes was convicted and hanged. Elizabeth received a lighter sentence, but was eventually hanged after other charges of witchcraft were brought against her years later. Agnes' daughter Joan, however, was aquitted.

The Chelmsford case is typical of English witchcraft in that elements of diabolism and a formal pact with the devil are not as developed as in trials elsewhere in Europe, and the concept of the witches' sabbath is entirely absent. Instead, a demonic familiar figures significantly in the charges. Familiars were a common feature in English witchcraft accusations, while the idea was much less prevalent on the continent. Chelmsford was also the site of several later witch trials, notably one instigated by the self-proclaimed "Witch-Finder General," Matthew Hopkins, in 1645.

CHILDREN, WITCHCRAFT AND. Historically, children have figured in witchcraft in several ways. On occasion, children could be accused of witchcraft, although this was generally rare. Such accusations usually occurred when one or more of the children's older relatives had already been accused. Also, children could play an important role as accusers

themselves. They could bring charges directly, or they could begin a panic among adults by exhibiting symptoms of bewitchment or demonic possession. Their adult relatives would then begin making accusations of witchcraft, perhaps directed by the children. The most famous case of a major series of trials being generated by the accusations of children occurred in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692. Most frequently, however, children figured in witchcraft purely as victims. Witches were regularly assumed to use their powers to commit infanticide, killing babies and small children, or causing abortions or miscarriages. A standard element of the witches' sabbath was the murder and sacrifice of babies to Satan, and the cannibalism of babies during the riotous orgies that the witches held. This aspect of the witch-stereotype persists to the present day, and some groups continue to allege that practitioners of modern witchcraft, or Wicca, and modern Satanism ritually abuse and murder children, despite the fact the no credible evidence exists linking such practices to any organized group.

CHURCH OF SATAN. Founded by Anton Szandor LaVey, the Church of Satan is the leading organization for modern Satanism. LaVey engaged in a variety of professions, but was always deeply interested in matters of magic and the occult. In 1966, he founded the Church of Satan in San Francisco. His major publications, The Satanic Bible (1969) and The Satanic Rituals (1972), have been influential far beyond his own church. Most other Satanist groups adhere to LaVey's basic principles, even if they do not accept all aspects of the Church of Satan's particular structure and forms.

Modern Satanism, as conceived by LaVey, has little to do with the traditional Satanism thought to exist in the past (and still believed by many to exist in the modern world). To begin, LaVey's Satanism does not really involve the worship of Satan, at least not in the traditional sense in which Satan is seen as the Christian devil, the representation of all evil. The Church of Satan does not (in its own view) advocate immorality or evil. Rather, it adheres to a philosophy of strong individualism and hedonism, so long as the well-being of other people is not adversely affected. The church advocates personal freedom and the pursuit of worldly pleasure, above all physical and especially sexual pleasure, which it maintains have been falsely proclaimed to be evil by Christianity. In this basic philosophy, as well as in his contin-

ued interest in occult learning and ritual magic, LaVey can be seen as following in the footsteps of such famous 19th-century figures as Aleister Crowley. Thus the Church of Satan does advocate and adhere to its own well defined, if non-Christian, ethical code. In particular, the use of illegal narcotics is strongly disapproved, and the torture or sacrifice of animals is strictly forbidden (in contrast to many popular images of Satanist activity).

Despite the use of magical rituals in the Church of Satan, and the frequent popular association of Satanism with witchcraft, the Church of Satan is in no way associated with any aspect of modern witchcraft, or Wicca. Modern witches strongly deny any aspect of Satanism in their religion. For their part, members of the Church of Satan and most other Satanist groups reject any association with Wiccan, neo-pagan, or other New Age groups. In particular they object to the strong feminist element of much modern witchcraft. It should be noted that the Church of Satan is extremely small, certainly not more than a few thousand members, and other Satanist groups are even smaller.

CHURCH OF WICCA. One of the oldest organizations of modern witchcraft, or Wicca, in the United States, the Church of Wicca was also the first such organization to receive official recognition as a religion. The church was founded in 1968 by Gavin and Yvonne Frost. The Frosts then set about trying to attain official tax-exempt religious status from the Internal Revenue Service. This came in 1972, and was the first ruling to give Wicca the status of a federally recognized religion. Subsequently, the Church of Wicca became the first Wiccan organization to have its status as an officially recognized religion upheld in court, as a result of a federal appeals court affirmation of a prisoner's rights case in Virginia.

The church follows most of the usual beliefs and rites of Wiccan practice, with one notable exception. The church holds that the nature of the deity is not definable, as opposed to the typical emphasis on the female Goddess in most other forms of modern witchcraft. The church also maintains a School of Wicca, the oldest correspondence school for modern witchcraft in the United States.

CIRCE. Along with Medea, Circe was one of the great female sorceresses in classical mythology. She was often thought to be the daughter


of Hecate, goddess of magic, and so was herself a demigoddess. She is most famous for having turned the crew of the adventurer Odysseus into swine when they came to her island. Odysseus forced her to reverse her spell, but became enamored with her and stayed on her island for a year. In the medieval and early-modern periods, Circe became a literary archetype of the witch, especially for the notion of witches as dangerous seducers of men.

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