Evans-Pritchard, E. E. Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic Among the Azande (abridged). Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983. Mair, Lucy. Witchcraft. New York: McGraw-Hill World University Library, 1969. Middleton, John, ed. Magic, Curing & Witchcraft. Austin:
University of Texas Press, 1967. Parrinder, Geoffrey. Witchcraft European and African. London: Faber & Faber, 1970.
aiguillette A knotted loop of thread, also called a ligature, which witches were said to use to cause impotence, and perhaps even castration, in men; barrenness in women; and general discontent in marriage. The aiguillette also served to bind couples in illicit amatory relationships.
The phobia of the ligature, or fear of satanic castration, was widespread in 16th-century France. It was believed that at the instant when a priest blessed a new marriage, the witch slipped behind the husband, knotted a thread and threw a coin on the ground while calling the Devil. If the coin disappeared, which all believed to mean that the Devil took it and kept it until Judgment Day, the couple was destined for unhappiness, sterility and adultery.
Couples living in Languedoc were so fearful of satanic castration that not 10 weddings in 100 were performed publicly in church. Instead, the priest, the couple and their parents went off in secret to celebrate the sacrament. Only then could the newlyweds enter their home, enjoy the feasting and go to bed. At least one physician, Thomas Platter, concluded that the panic was so bad that there was a local danger of depopulation.
Aix-en-Provence Possessions The burning alive of Father Louis Gaufridi for bewitchment of the nuns at Aix in 1611 formed the legal precedent for the conviction and execution of Urbain Grandier at Loudun more than 20 years later. This case was one of the first in France to produce a conviction based on the testimony of a possessed demoniac. Prior to the 17th century in France, accusations from a demoniac were considered unreliable, since most clerics believed that any words spoken by one possessed by the Devil were utterances from "the father of lies" (John 8:44) and would not stand up to accepted rules of evidence. As in Loudun, sexual themes dominated the manifestations of the nuns' possession (see possession).
In The World of the Witches (1961), historian Julio Caro Baroja comments that "in the history of many religious movements, particularly those which have to struggle against an Established Church, an important part is played by men who have a physical and sexual power over groups of slightly unbalanced women in addition to strong spiritual powers." By the 17th century, the Catholic Church was fighting to stem the tide of Reformation through miraculous cures and demonstrations of faith and by the torture of heretics and witches. Baroja continues: "At a later stage [in the religious movement] we find such people formally accused of being sorcerers and magicians . . . and causing the women they had abused [or seduced] to be possessed by the Devil." Baroja finds Father Gaufridi to be the perfect example, concluding that if he indeed was guilty of sexual crimes, he certainly was not a Satanist (see Satanism).
Nevertheless, Father Gaufridi was convicted by his own confession following torture and the accusations of two nuns: Sister Madeleine Demandolx de la Palud and Sister Louise Capel. Gaufridi recited his Devil's pact for the inquisitors, in which he renounced all spiritual and physical goodness given him by God, the Virgin Mary and all the saints, giving himself body and soul to Lucifer. Sister Madeleine also recited her pact, renouncing God and the saints and even any prayers ever said for her.
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