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Digest Assoc. Ltd., 1977. Maple, Eric. The Dark World of Witches. New York: A. S.
Barnes & Co., 1962. Pennick, Nigel. Secrets of East Anglican Magic. London: Robert Hale, 1995.
Canon Episcopi One of the most important ecclesiastical documents of the Middle Ages was the Canon Episcopi, ca. 900, which defined witchcraft as Devil-worship but declared it to be nothing more than a foolish delusion. The origin of the canon is unknown. When it was made public at the beginning of the 10th century by Regino of Prüm, Abbot of Treves, it was erroneously presented as an ancient authority dating back to the fourth century. Around 1140, the Italian monk, Gratian, incorporated the Canon Episcopi into his authoritative text of canon law, the Concordance of Discordant Canons (usually called the Decretum). Thus the Episcopi became entrenched in the highest canonical law.
The Canon Episcopi denied that witches had the ability to fly through the air and metamorphose themselves into animals and birds (see FLYING; METAMORPHOSIS). Whoever was "so stupid and foolish" as to believe such fantastic tales was an infidel. While such physical feats were impossible, the canon acknowledged that they could be accomplished in spirit.
The Canon Episcopi presented a dilemma for the de-monologists of the 12th century and later, who accepted the physical reality of metamorphosis and transvection. Convoluted theories were put forth in order to skirt the Canon Episcopi. It was reasoned that, even if witches flew with DIANA and demons in spirit or imagination only, they were just as guilty as if they had done so in the flesh. It was then easy to propose that all heretics (including witches) were guilty of having pacts with the Devil (see DEVIL'S pact) just by virtue of being heretics.
With its portrayal of hordes of women riding upon beasts through the air at night, following their goddess Diana, the Canon Episcopi helped promote the idea of the demonical sabbat, the descriptions of which became increasing lurid in the writings of demonologists (see SABBATS).
The text of the Canon Episcopi is as follows:
Bishops and their officials must labor with all their strength to uproot thoroughly from their parishes the pernicious art of sorcery and malefice invented by the Devil, and if they find a man or woman follower of this wickedness to eject them foully disgraced from their parishes. For the Apostle says, "A man that is a heretic after the first and second admonition avoid." Those are held captive by the Devil who, leaving their creator, seek the aid of the Devil. And so Holy Church must be cleansed of this pest. It is also not to be omitted that some wicked women, perverted by the Devil, seduced by illusions and
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