Demonology and Witchcraft
|Demonology and Witchcraft by Walter Scott|
From the introduction:
Among much reading of my early days, it is no doubt true that I travelled a good deal in the twilight regions of superstitious disquisitions. Many hours have I lost, " I would their debt was less ! " in examining old, as well as more recent narratives of this character, and even in looking into some of the criminal trials so frequent in early days, upon a subject which our fathers considered as a matter of the last importance.
And, of late years, the very curious extracts published by Mr Pitcairn, from the Criminal Records of Scotland, are, besides their historical value, of a nature so much calculated to illustrate the credulity of our ancestors on such subjects, that, by perusing them, I have been Dinduced more recently to recall what I had read and thought upon the subject at a former period.
As, however, my information is only miscellaneous, and I make no pretensions, either to combat the systems of those by whom I am anticipated in the consideration of the subject, or to erect any new one of my own, my purpose is, after a general account of Demonology and Witchcraft, to confine myself to narratives of remarkable cases, and to the observations which naturally and easily arise out of them, in the confidence that such a plan is, at the present time of day, more likely to suit the pages of a popular miscellany than an attempt to reduce the contents of many hundred tomes, from the largest to the smallest size, into an abridgement, which, however, compressed, must remain greatly too large for the reader's powers of patience.
A few general remarks on the nature of Demonology, and the original cause of the almost universal belief in communication betwixt mortals and beings of a power superior to themselves, and of a nature not to be comprehended by human organs, are a necessary introduction to the subject.
The general, or, it may be termed, the universal belief of the inhabitants of the earth, in the existence of spirits separated from the encumbrance and incapacities of the body, is grounded on the consciousness of the divinity that speaks in our bosoms, and demonstrates to all men, except the few who are hardened to the celestial voice, that there is within us a portion of the divine substance, which is not subject to the law of death and dissolution, but which, when the body is no longer fit for its abode, shall seek its own place, as a sentinel dismissed from his post.
Unaided by revelation, it cannot be hoped that mere earthly reason should be able to form any rational or precise conjecture concerning the destination of the soul when parted from the body; but the conviction that such an indestructible essence exists, the belief expressed by the poet in a different sense, Non-Omnis mortar, must infer the existence of many millions- of spirits, who have not been annihilated, though they have become invisible to mortals, who still see, hear, and perceive, only by means of the imperfect organs of humanity.
Probability may lead some of the most reflecting to anticipate a state of future rewards and punishments; as those experienced in the education of the deaf and dumb, find that their pupils, even while cut off from all instruction by ordinary means, have been able to form, out of their own unassisted conjectures, some ideas of the existence of a Deity, and of the distinction between the soul and body a circumstance which proves how naturally these truths arise in the human mind.
The principle that they do so arise, being taught or communicated, leads to further conclusions. These spirits, in a state of separate existence, being admitted to exist, are not, it may be supposed, indifferent to the affairs of mortality, perhaps not incapable of influencing them. It is true, that, in a more advanced state of society, the philosopher may challenge the possibility of a separate appearance of a disembodied spirit, unless in the case of a direct miracle, to which, being a suspension of the laws of nature, directly wrought by the Maker of these laws, for some express purpose, no bound or restraint can possibly be assigned. But under this necessary limitation and exception, philosophers might plausibly argue, that, when the soul is divorced from the body, it loses all those qualities which made it, when clothed with a mortal shape, obvious to the organs of its fellow men.
The abstract idea of a spirit certainly implies that it has neither substance, form, chape, voice, or anything which can render its presence visible or sensible to human faculties. But these sceptical doubts of philosophers on the possibility of the appearance of such separated spirits, do not arise until a certain degree of information has dawned upon a country, and even then only reach a very small proportion of reflecting and better-informed members of society. To the multitude, the indubitable fact, that so many spirits exist around and even amongst us, seems sufficient to support the belief that they are, in certain instances at least, by some means or other, able to communicate with the world of humanity.
Some of the contents :
Origin of the general Opinions respecting Demonology among Mankind The Belief in the Immortality of the Soul is the main Inducement to credit its occasional re-appeaiance The Philosophical Objections to the Apparition of an Abstract Spirit little understood by the Vulgar and Ignorant The situations of excited Passion incident to Humanity, which teach men to wish or apprehend Supernatural Apparitions They are often presented by the Sleeping Sense Story of Somnambulism The Influence of Credulity contagious, so that Individuals will trust the Evidence of others in despite of their own Senses Examples from the Historia Verdadera of Bernal Dias del Castillo, and from the Works of Patrick Walker The apparent Evidence of Intercourse with the Supernatural World is some- times owing to a depraved State of the bodily Organs Difference between this Disorder and Insanity, in which the Organs retain their tone, though that of the Mind is lost Rebellion of the Senses of a Lunatic against the current of his Reveries Narra- tives of a contrary Nature, in which the Evidence of the Eyes overbore the Conviction of the Understanding Example of a London Man of Pleasure Of Nicolai, the German Bookseller and Philosopher Of a Patient of Dr. Gregory -Of an Eminent Scottish Lawyer deceased Of the same fallacious Disorder are other instances, which have but sudden and momentary Endur- ance Apparition of Maupertuis Of a late illustrious modern Poet The Cases quoted chiefly relating to false Impressions on the Visual Nerve, those upon the Ear next considered Delusions of the touch chiefly experienced in Sleep Delusions of the Taste and of the Smell Sum of the Argument,
Consequences of the Fall on the communication between men and the Spiritual World Effects of the Flood Wizards of Pharaoh Text in Exodus against Witches The word Witch is by some said to mean merely Poisoner Or if in the Holy Text it also means a Divineress, she must, at any rate, have been a character very different to be identified with it The original, Chasapk, said to mean a person who dealt in Poisons, often a traffic of those who dealt with Familiar Spirits But different from the European Witch of the Middle Ages Thus a Witch is not accessary to the temptation of Job The Witch of the Hebrews probably did not rank higher than a Divining Woman Yet it was a crime deserving the doom of death, since it inferred the disowning of Jehovah's Supremacy Other texts of Scripture, in like manner, refer to something corresponding more with a Fortune-teller or Divining Woman, than what is now called a Witch Example of the Witch of Endor Account of her meet- ing with Saul Supposed by some a mere Impostor By others a Sorceress powerful enough to raise the Spirit of the Prophet by her own art Difficulties attending both positions A middle course adopted, supposing that, as in the case of Balak, the Almighty had, by exertion of his will, substituted Samuel, or a good spirit in his character, for the deception which the Witch intended to produce Resumption of the Argument, showing that the Witch of Endor signified something very different from the modern ideas of Witchcraft The Witches mentioned in the New Testament are not less different from modern ideas than those of the Books of Moses, nor do they appear to have possessed the power ascribed to Magicians Articles of Faith which we may gather from Scripture on this point That there might be certain Powers permitted by the Almighty to inferior, and even evil Spirits, is possible ; and, in some sense, the gods of the Heathen might be accounted Demons More frequently, and in a general sense, they were but logs of wood, without sense or power of any kind, and their worship founded on im- posture Opinion that the Oracles were silenced at the Nativity, adopted by Milton Cases of Demoniacs The incarnate Possessions probably ceased at the same time as the intervention of Miracles Opinion of the Catholics Result that Witchcraft, as the word is interpreted in the Middle Ages, neither occurs under the Mosaic or Gospel Dispensation It arose in the ignorant period when the Christians considered the gods of the Mahom- medan or Heathen Nations as Fiends, and their Priests as Conjurers or Wizards Instance as to the Saiacens, and among the Northern Europeans yet unconverted The gods of Mexico and Peru explained on the same system Also the Powahs of North America Opinion of Mather Gibb, a supposed War- lock, persecuted by the other Dissenters Conclusion,.
Creed of Zoroaster received partially into most Heathen Nations Instances among the Celtic Tribes of Scotland Beltane Feast Gudeman's Croft Such abuses admitted into Christianity after the earlier Ages of the Church Law of the Romans against Witchcraft Roman Customs survive the fall of their religion Instances Demonology of the Northern Barbarians Nicksas Bhar-geist Correspondence between the Northern and Roman Witches The Power of Fascination ascribed to the Sorceresses Example from the Eyrbiggia Saga The Prophetesses of the Germans The gods of Valhalla not highly regarded by their Worshippers Often defied by the Champions Demons of the North Story of Assueit and Asmund Action of Ejectment against Spectres Adventure of a Champion with the goddess Freya Conversion of the Pagans of Iceland to Christianity Northern Superstitions mixed with those of the Celt's Satyrs of the North Highland Ourisk Meming the Satyr.
The Fairy Superstition is derived from different sources The Classical Worship of the Silvanus, or Rural Deities, proved by Roman Altars Discovered The Gothic Duergar, or Dwarfs, supposed to be derived from the Northern Laps or Fins The Niebelungen-Lied King Laurin's Adventures Celtic Fairies,a gayer character, yet their pleasures empty and illusory Addicted to carry off Human Beings, both Infants and Adults Adventures of a Butler in Ireland The Elves supposed to pay a Tax to Hell The Irish, Welsh, Highlanders, and Manxmen, held the same belief It was rather rendered more gloomy by the Northern Traditions Merlin and Arthur carried off by the Fairies Also Thomas of Erceldoune His Amour with the Queen of Elfland His re-appearance in latter times Another Account from Reginald Scot Conjectures on the derivation of the word Fairy.