The Forgeries Of The Canon Episcopi And The Malleus Maleficarum

I have previously referred the reader to H. C. Lea's Materials Towards a History of Witchcraft for the full details of this matter; however, as that book is not one which is within easy reach of the general reader, and as the matter is of some importance in the story of the persecution of the witch cult, I will give a brief abstract of it here. Lea quotes a large number of relevant documents to show that the earliest teaching of the Church about the witches' Sabbat differed radically from the parade of horrors for which credence was, and is, demanded by orthodox writers. The foundation for this early teaching is a document called the Canon Episcopi, which was accepted as authoritative until the time of the publication of the Malleus Maleficarum in 1486, which finally threw it overboard, after it had been "interpreted" and "re-interpreted" until the final sense in which it was taken was almost the opposite of its original sense. Regino (circa A.D. 906) seems to have been the first publisher of it, in his De Ecclesiastica Disciflinis; and he ascribes it to the Council of Ancyra, which met in A.D. 314. However, Professor George Lincoln Burr, in a note to Mr. Lea's book, says, "Already the 16th century 'Correctores' of the Canon Law pointed out that this canon is not to be found in the genuine acts of the Council of Ancyra; but they find its substance in the (apocryphal) De Spiritu et Anima of Augustin and in an old life of Pope Damasus which seems to ascribe it to a Roman synod of his time. (A.D. 366-384: my note). But Friedberg (though in his ed. of the Canon Law, Leipzig, 1879, he retains without comment this note of the 'Correctores') has in his Aus deutchen Bussbuchern (1869), pp. 67-73, shown that the ascription to the Council of Ancyra is only a misunderstanding by Gratian, while the life of Damasus deserves no credit. He thinks it is an excerpt from some Frankish capitulary. According to so high an authority as Paul Fournier (Bibliotheque de 1'Ecole des Chartes, lxxxi, 1920, p. 17ff.) Regino must not be implicitly trusted as an editor of canons. II est incontestable qu'on trouve dans son oeuvre, en assez grand nombre, des textes retouchés etparfoisplus ou moins remainiés. Nay more: not only are canons apocryphally ascribed to councils to which they do not belong, among them 'pseudo-canons d'Aneyre'. but il est, d'ailleurs, dans

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