General

In the ceremonies for admission, as in all the other ceremonies of the cult, the essentials are the same in every community and country, though the details differ. The two points which are the essence of the ceremony are invariable: the first, that the candidates must join of their own free will and without compulsion; the second, that they devote themselves, body and soul, to the Master and his service.

The ceremonies of admission differed also according to whether the candidate were a child or an adult. The most complete record of the admission of children comes from the Basses-Pyrénées in 1609:

'Les Sorcieres luy offre{n}t des petits enfans le genouil en terre, lui disant auec vne soubmission, Grand seigneur, lequel i'adore, ie vous ameine ce nouueau seruiteur, lequel estre perpetuellement vostre esclaue: Et le Diable en signe de remerciement & gratification leur respond, Approchez vous de moy: à quoy obeissant, elles en se trainant à genouil, le luy presentent, & luy receuant l'enfant entre ses bras, le rend a la Sorciere, la remercie, & puis luy recommande d'en auoir soing, leur disant par ce moyen sa troupe s'augmentera. Que si les enfans ayans attainct l'aage de neuf ans, par malheur se vouent au Diable sans estre forcez ny violentez d'aucun Sorcier, ils se prosternent par terre deuant Satan: lequel iettant du feu par les yeux, leur dit, Que demandez vous, voulez vous estre à moy? ils respondent qu'ouy, il leur dict, Venez vous de vostre bonne volonté? ils respondent qu'ouy, Faictes donc ce que ie veux, & ce que ie fay. Et alors la grande maistresse & Royne du Sabbat qui leur sert de pedagogue, dict à ce nouueau qui se presente, qu'il die à haute voix, Ie renie Dieu premierenment, puis Iesus Christ son Fils, le S. Esprit, la vierge, les Saincts, la Saincte Croix, le Chresme, le Baptesme, & la Foy que ie tiens, mes Parrain & Marraine, & me remets de tout poinct en ton pouuoir & entre tes mains, ne recognis autre Dieu: si bien que tu es mon Dieu & ie suis ton esclaue. Aprés on luy baille vn crapaud habillé auec son capot ou manteau, puis il commande qu'on I'adore; si bien qu'obeyssans & estants mis 'a genouil, ils baisent le Diable auprés de l'pil gauche, A la poitrine, la fesse, à la cuisse, & aux parties honteuses, puis leuant la queue ils luy baisent le derriere.'[1]

The novice was then marked by a scratch from a sharp instrument. but was not admitted to the 'high mysteries' till about the age of twenty.[2] As no further ceremonies are mentioned. it may be concluded that the initiation into these mysteries was performed by degrees and without any special rites.

At Lille. about the middle of the seventeenth century. Madame Bourignon founded a home for girls of the lowest classes. 'pauvres et mal-originees. la plus part si ignorantes au fait de leur salut qu'elles vivoient comme des betes'.[1] After a few years. in 1661. she discovered that thirty-two of these girls were worshippers of the Devil. and in the habit of going to the Witches' Sabbaths. They 'had all contracted this Mischief before they came into the House'.[4] One of these girls named Bellot. aged fifteen. said 'that her Mother had taken her with her when she was very Young. and had even carried her in her Arms to the Witches Sabbaths'.[5] Another girl of twelve had been in the habit of going to the Sabbath since she also was 'very Young'. As the girls seem to have been genuinely fond of Madame Bourignon. she obtained a considerable amount of information from them. They told her that all worshippers of the Devil 'are constrained to offer him their Children. When a child thus offered to the Devil by its Parents. comes to the use of Reason. the Devil then demands its Soul. and makes it deny God and renounce Baptism. and all relating to the Faith. promising Homage and Fealty to the Devil in manner of a Marriage. and instead of a Ring. the Devil gives them a Mark with an iron awl [aleine de fer] in some part of the Body.'[6]

It is also clear that Marguerite Montvoisin[7] in Paris had

7. Ravaisson (the years 1679-81).]

been instructed in witchcraft from an early age; but as the trial in which she figures was for the attempted poisoning of the king and not for witchcraft. no ceremonies of initiation or admission are recorded.

In Great Britain the ceremonies for the reception of children are not given in any detail. though it was generally acknowledged that the witches dedicated their children to the Devil as soon as born; and from the evidence it appears that in many cases the witches had belonged to that religion all their lives. It was sometimes sufficient evidence against a woman that her mother had been a witch.[1] as it presupposed that she had been brought up as a worshipper of the Devil.

The Anderson children in Renfrewshire were all admitted to the society at an early age.[2] Elizabeth Anderson was only seven when she was first asked to swear fealty to the 'black grim Man'. James Lindsay was under fourteen. and his little brother Thomas was still 'below pupillarity' at the time of the trial. where he declared that he had been bribed. by the promise of a red coat. to serve 'the Gentleman. whom he knew thereafter to be the Devil'.[3] At Forfar in 1661 Jonet Howat was so young that when Isabel Syrie 'presented hir to the divell. the divell said. What shall I do with such a little bairn as she?' He accepted her. however. and she was evidently the pet of the community. the Devil calling her 'his bonny bird'.[4] At Paisley. Annabil Stuart was fourteen when. at her mother's persuasion. she took the vows of fidelity to the Devil.[5]

Elizabeth Frances at Chelmsford (tried in 1556) was about twelve years old when her grandmother first taught her the art of witchcraft.[6] Elizabeth Demdike, the famous Lancashire witch, 'brought vp her owne Children, instructed her Graund-children, and tooke great care and paines to bring them to be Witches'.[7] One of her granddaughters, Jennet Device, was aged nine at the time of the trial.

[1. Reg. Scot., Bk. II, p. 36 (quoting from C. Agrippa).

2. Narrative of the Sufferings of a Young Girle, p. xxxix.

6. Philobiblon Society, viii, p. 24.

In Sweden the children were taken regularly to the assemblies,[1] and in America[2] also a child-witch is recorded in the person of Sarah Carrier, aged eight, who had made her vows two years before at her mother's instigation.

The ceremony for the admission of adults who were converts to the witch religion from Christianity follow certain main lines. These are (1) the free consent of the candidate, (2) the explicit denial and rejection of a previous religion, (3) the absolute and entire dedication of body and soul to the service and commands of the new Master and God.

The ceremonies being more startling and dramatic for adults than for children, they are recorded in Great Britain with the same careful detail as in France, and it is possible to trace the local variations; although in England, as is usual, the ceremonies had lost their significance to a far greater extent than in Scotland, and are described more shortly, probably because they were more curtailed.

The legal aspect of the admission ceremonies is welt expressed by Sir George Mackenzie, writing in 1699 on the Scotch laws relating to witchcraft in the seventeenth century:

'As to the relevancy of this Crime, the first Article useth to be, paction to serve the Devil, which is certainly relevant, per se , without any addition. . . Paction with the Devil is divided by Lawyers, in expressum, & tacitum, an express and tacit Paction. Express Paction is performed either by a formal Promise given to the Devil then present, or by presenting, a Supplication to him, or by giving the promise to a Proxie or Commissioner impowered by the Devil for that effect, which is used by some who dare not see himself. The Formula set down by Delrio, is, I deny God Creator of Heaven and Earth, and I adhere to thee, and believe in thee. But by the journal Books it appears, that the ordinary Form of express Paction confest by our Witness, is a simple Promise to serve him. Tacit Paction is either when a person who hath made no express Paction, useth the Words or Signs which Sorcerers use, knowing them to be such ... Renouncing of Baptism is by Delrio made an effect of Paction, yet with us it is relevant, per se . . . and the Solemnity confest by our Witches, is the putting one hand to the crown of the Head, and another to

2. Howell, vi, 669; J. Hutchinson, Hist of Massachusetts, ii, p. 44.]

the sole of the Foot, renouncing their Baptism in that posture. Delrio tells us, that the Devil useth to Baptize them of new, and to wipe off their Brow the old Baptism: And our Witches confess always the giving them new Names . . . The Devil's Mark useth to be a great Article with us, but it is not per se found relevant, except it be confest by them, that they got that Mark with their own consent; quo casu, it is equivalent to a Paction. This Mark is given them, as is alledg'd, by a Nip in any part of the body, and it is blew.'[1]

Reginald Scot,[2] writing considerably earlier, gives a somewhat similar account of the English witches, though couched in less legal phraseology:

'The order of their bargaine or profession is double; the one solemne and publike; the other secret and priuate. That which is called solemne or publike, is where witches come togither at certeine assemblies, at the times prefixed, and doo not onelie see the diuell in visible forme; but confer and talke familiarlie with him. In which conference the diuell exhorteth them to obserue their fidelitie vnto him, promising them long life and prosperitie. Then the witches assembled, commend a new disciple (whom they call a nouice) vnto him: and if the diuell find that yoong witch apt and forward in renunciation of christian faith, in despising anie of the seuen sacraments, in treading upon crosses, in spetting at the time of eleuation, in breaking their fast on fasting daies, and fasting on sundaies; then the diuell giueth foorth his hand, and the nouice joining hand in hand with him, promiseth to obserue and keepe all the diuell's commandements. This done, the diuell beginneth to be more bold with hir, telling hir plainlie that all this will not serue his turne; and therefore requireth homage at hir hands: yea, he also telleth hir, that she must grant him both hir bodie and soule to be tormented in euerlasting fire: which she yeeldeth vnto. Then he chargeth hir, to procure as manie men, women, and children also, as she can, to enter into this societie . . . Sometimes their homage with their oth and bargaine is receiued for a certeine terme of yeares; sometimes for euer. Sometimes it consisteth in the deniall of the whole faith, sometimes in part. The first is, when the soule is absolutelie yeelded to the diuell and hell-fier: the other is, when they haue but bargained not to obserue certeine ceremonies and statutes of the church; as to conceale faults at shrift, to fast on sundaies, etc. And this is doone either by oth, protestation of words, or by obligation in writing, sometimes sealed with wax, sometimes signed with bloud.'

Forbes says that

'an express Covenant is entred into betwixt a Witch, and the Devil appearing in some visible Shape. Whereby the former renounceth God and his Baptism, engages to serve the Devil, and do all the Mischief he can as Occasion offers, and leaves Soul and Body to his Disposal after Death. The Devil on his part articles with such Proselytes, concerning the Shape he is to appear to them in, the Services they are to expect from him, upon the Performance of certain Charms or ceremonious Rites. This League is made verbally, if the Party cannot write. And such as can write, sign a written Covenant with their Blood.'[1]

The general order of the ceremony of admission can be gathered from the evidence given at the trials, though no one trial gives the order in its entirety. The ceremony might take place privately, at a local meeting, or in full Sabbath; it was the same for either sex, except that the men were not usually introduced, the women were sometimes introduced, sometimes not. If there were any sort of introduction, it was by some one who was acquainted with the candidate; usually the person who had induced her to join. She was brought before the Devil, who asked her if she would be his faithful servant, and if she would renounce her previous religion, and dedicate herself to his service, taking him as her God. After the renunciation and vows, the Devil baptized her in his own great name, and among the Scotch witches gave her a new name by which she was known afterwards at the Sabbaths and other meetings. The ceremony concluded by (riving the witch a mark or 'flesh-brand' on some part of the body.

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