LAMIA. In classical mythology, Lamia was a queen of Libya whom Zeus, the king of the gods, loved. Hera, Zeus' queen, took revenge on Lamia by killing her children. She in turn became a monster who roamed the night seeking to kill the children of others. Over time, the individual Lamia became a whole category of demons or monsters, all called lamia (plural lamiae), that preyed on children. They were believed to be vampires who sucked the blood from their victims. They contributed to the medieval and early-modern image of the witch as a woman who performed evil at night and especially sought


to harm babies and small children. The word lamia in fact became a common term for witches in many areas of Europe during the era of the major witch-hunts.

LANCASHIRE WITCHES. A major witch trial in England occurred in 1612 in Lancashire. In all, some 20 people were accused and put on trial, but the case originated with the accusation of an old woman, Elizabeth Sowthern, who was about 80 years old. She not only confessed but also accused another old woman as well as her own granddaughter. From this point, the search for other witches grew. Although the case itself can be seen as fairly typical of English witchcraft, it is significant in the records that it produced. The court clerk kept a detailed and semi-official record of the proceedings, and this was subsequently published in 1613 as a chapbook entitled The Wonderful Discovery of Witches in the County of Lancaster.

LANCRE, PIERRE DE (1553-1631). A French lawyer and royal official, Lancre was appointed by King Henry IV to investigate witchcraft in the Pays de Labourd, a Basque-speaking region in the southwest of France. He conducted intense investigations and trials in 1609 and 1610. He then published an extensive account of these trials, Tableau de l'inconstance de mauvais anges et démons (Description of the Inconstancy of Evil Angels and Demons) in 1612, as well as later works, L'incredulité et mescréance du sortilège (The Incredulity and Misbelief of Witchcraft) and Du sortilège (On Witchcraft), in 1622 and 1627 respectively.

Lancre was extremely credulous when it came to accusations of witchcraft. He accepted the testimony of children, and many of the accused witches whom he tried were in fact minors. According to his accounts, the Basque lands were the center of the most intense witchcraft in Europe. He believed that huge witches' sabbaths were held in this region, with sometimes up to 2,000 witches supposedly attending. Ultimately, he became convinced that almost the entire population of the region, some 30,000 people, including all the local clergy, were tainted by witchcraft. Many accounts state that Lancre executed 600 people during the course of his trials, but this figure is certainly grossly inflated. A more reasonable estimate would be around 80 executions.


LE FRANC, MARTIN (1410-1461). One of the most important French poets of the 15 th century, Martin Le Franc included a section on witchcraft in his long poem Le Champion des Dames (The Defender of Ladies), written between 1440 and 1442. The poem finds its larger context in the late-medieval querelle des femmes, the literary discussion of the virtues of women. Le Franc wrote Le Champion in response to the very misogynistic poem Roman de la Rose. In Le Franc's poem, an "Adversary" raises the issue of witchcraft to attack women, noting that far more women than men are accused of this crime. The "Champion" then responds by defending women. In particular, he responds to the accusation of the night flight of female witches by arguing from the well-known canon Episcopi that such flight is only an illusion. He also points out that many learned demonic magicians are men.

Le Franc composed this poem while he was at the Council of Basel in the service of Duke Amadeus VIII of Savoy, later elected anti-pope Felix V by the council as a part of its struggle against Pope Eugenius IV. The Council of Basel was an important center for the early development and transmission of the idea of witchcraft. Aside from the purely literary influences on Le Champion des Dames, Le Franc was certainly also influenced by the environment at the council. His poem stands along with the accounts of the Dominican theologian Johannes Nider, the French secular judge Claude Tholosan, the Lucerne chronicler Hans Frund, and the anonymous author of the Errores Gazariorum, as one of the earliest sources describing the developing idea of witchcraft in the early 15th century.

LELAND, CHARLES (1824-1903). A wealthy American author and amateur anthropologist, Leland devoted his life to studying folklore, magic, and the occult. His major contribution to the emergence of modern witchcraft, or Wicca, in the 20th century came with the publication of Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches in 1899. While traveling in Italy, Leland claimed to have met a traditional, hereditary witch named Maddalena. She revealed to him that witchcraft was in fact an ancient, pagan religion that had been persecuted by religious authorities in the medieval and early-modern periods and driven underground, but which still survived. She claimed to trace her own hereditary powers back to Etruscan roots. She described the beliefs and practices of this religion to Leland, who subsequently published them as Aradia. In fact, the doctrines and supposed history outlined in Aradia are heavily indebted to 19th-century anthropology and historical studies such as those by Jules Michelet, who argued that historical witchcraft was in fact a form of popular resistance against oppressive religious authorities. Either Leland invented the supposed witch-religion himself or Maddalena simply told her wealthy patron what he wanted to hear. A similar interpretation of historical witchcraft was later advanced in the more influential writings of Margaret Murray.

LILITH. In Jewish demonology, Lilith was the first wife of Adam but refused to accept the authority God had given him over her and left him. She became a demonic creature who stalked the night, either appearing as a beautiful woman and seeking to seduce men, or trying to kill babies and small children. Like other mythological creatures, such as the lamia and strix, as well as demonic succubi, she became an archetype of female evil. As such, she contributed to the later image of the witch, especially to the notions of the female witch as sexually driven and as a murderer of young children. See also WOMEN AND WITCHCRAFT.

LOOS, CORNELIUS (1546-1593). A Catholic priest and scholar, Loos was a strong opponent of witch-hunting who ultimately suffered condemnation as a heretic for his beliefs. Born in Gouda in the Netherlands, Loos studied at Louvain and Liège and then taught at Mainz and Trier, which was a center of witch-hunting at the time. He grew increasingly concerned about the nature of the trials taking place and attempted to stop them, writing a treatise De vera et falsa magia (On True and False Magic). He not only argued that excessive use of torture led to false confessions in witch trials, but also that demons could not assume physical bodies to operate in the world. In particular, Loos criticized Peter Binsfeld, the suffragan bishop of Trier and a strong proponent of witch-hunting. He was imprisoned on the grounds that failure to accept the reality of witchcraft was a heresy, his writings were suppressed, and in 1593 he was forced to recant his beliefs. He was then banished to Brussels but refused to re main silent on matters of witchcraft and so was arrested and imprisoned as a relapsed heretic. He probably would have been executed had he not died of natural causes shortly thereafter.

LOUDUN, POSSESSIONS AT. The supposed demonic possession of several nuns in a convent at Loudun, France, in 1633 and 1634 is among the most notorious cases of possession in early-modern history, made famous again in the 20th century by Aldous Huxley's The Devils of Loudun. The case centered on a priest, Father Urbain Grandier. Grandier, an outsider, was appointed to the parish in Loudun and almost immediately began to arouse hostility by seducing local women. In 1630, he was arrested for immorality but, through political connections, was restored to his priestly office. Shortly thereafter another local priest, Father Mignon, and the mother superior and several of the nuns at Loudun hatched a plot to discredit Grandier. The nuns feigned possession and claimed Grandier was responsible.

Required to free the nuns from their possession, which of course he was unable to do, Grandier was eventually imprisoned and subjected to torture. He refused to confess to any charges of witchcraft or demonic sorcery, but was nevertheless burned at the stake in 1634. The entire case was a travesty. Outside investigations found no credible evidence of real possession, and in the course of the events several of the nuns themselves publicly recanted. Ironically, after Grandier's execution, the possessions continued. Either some of the nuns had truly come to believe in the reality of their feigned symptoms or they simply enjoyed the attention that the affair brought to themselves and their convent.

LOVE MAGIC. Producing affection or arousing discord between people, as well as increasing or impeding sexual fertility, have always been among the principal uses to which magic has been put throughout history. In medieval and early-modern Europe, such love magic took the form of a wide variety of popular spells and charms. Witchcraft was often strongly associated with the negative aspects of love magic. Witches were thought to be able to arouse enmity, jealousy, and hatred between people. Most especially they were thought to afflict sexual fertility. The harmful sorcery, or maleficium, that witches performed

was believed to be able to cause impotence in men and prevent conception in women. Witches were also thought to cause miscarriages and stillbirths. The infamous witch-hunting manual Malleus malefi-carum, in particular, contains extensive discussion of the sexually destructive aspects of witchcraft.

LUTHER, MARTIN (1483-1546). The primary figure responsible for launching the Protestant Reformation in the early 16th century, Luther challenged ecclesiastical authority and traditional medieval theology in many ways. On the question of witchcraft, however, he accepted the real existence of witches and all the aspects of medieval theology and demonology that underlay the idea of witchcraft. In fact, the great stress he laid on the power of the devil to tempt and assail humans might have disposed him to be more concerned about witchcraft than many earlier religious authorities. He never wrote about witchcraft or sorcery exclusively, but he did discuss such matters in sermons and biblical commentaries, and he made clear on many occasions that he believed witches were a serious threat to Christian society, and that they needed to be rooted out and destroyed.


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