Stacking Stones

In light of my previous post regaurding the varrious methods of torture that were often used during the Middle Ages and by the Inquisition to abstract confussions from the guilty, I thought I would dicuss one of the methods that was most comonly used during the Salem witch trails in order to abstract a confussion.

The accusued would be laid down upon thier back on the ground, and a have stone slab placed acorss thier chest. They would be questioned if they were in leauge with the devil, and asked to give the names of others whom were pleged to Satan, and if they refused and debyed the charge a rock would be placed upon the slab.

Thus it would continue, each time the woman, or in Salem, in some cases it was a man, denyed thier guilt, another stone would be addded, untill they would be forced to either confess reguardless of geuined guilt or not, or to accuse another to free themsles, or being crushed to death by the weight of the stones.  

Methods of Torture

Some of the impliments used to abstract confession from accused witches. In many cases once a woman was accused her only salvation was to admit to guilt, even if it was a false accusation. No matter how much a woman tried to deny it, they would continue to torture untill at last she said she was guilty.

Walpurga Hausmännin


In 1587, the German witch Walpurga Hausmännin was put to “kindly questioning” and torture. Here is the report from Fugger News-Letters:

The herein mentioned, malefic and miserable woman, Walpurga Hausmännin, now imprisoned and in chains, has, upon kindly questioning and also torture, following on persistent and fully justified accusations, confessed her witchcraft and admitted the following. When one-and-thirty years ago she had become a widow, she cut corn for Hans Schlumperger, of this place, together with his former servant, Bis im Pfarrhof by name. Him she enticed with lewd speeches and gestures, and they convened that they should, on an appointed night, meet in her, Walpurga’s, dwelling, there to indulge in lustful intercourse. So when Walpurga in expectation of this sat awaiting him at night in her chamber, meditating upon evil and fleshly thoughts, it was not the said bondsman who appeared unto her, but the Evil One in the latter’s guise and raiment and indulged in fornication with her. Thereupon he presented her with a piece of money, in the semblance of half a thaler, but no one could take it from her, for it was a bad coin and like lead. For this reason she had thrown it away. After the act of fornication she saw and felt the cloven foot of her whoremonger, and that his hand was not natural, but as if made of wood. She was greatly affrighted thereat and called upon the name of Jesus, whereupon the Devil left her and vanished.

On the ensuing night the Evil Spirit visited her again in the same shape and whored with her. He made her many promises to help her in her poverty and need, wherefore she surrendered herself to him body and soul. Thereafter the Evil One inflicted upon her a scratch below the left shoulder, demanding that she should sell her soul to him with the blood that had flowed therefrom. To this end he gave her a quill and, whereas she could not write, the Evil One guided her hand. She believes that nothing offensive was written, for the Evil One only swept with her hand across the paper. The script the Devil took with him, and whever she piously thought of God Almighty, or wished to go to church, the Devil reminded her of it.

Further, the above-mentioned Walpurga confesses that she oft and much rode on a pitchfork by night with her paramour, but not far, on account of her duties. At such devilish trysts she met a big man with a grey beard, who sat in a chair, like a great prince, and was richly attired. That was the Great Devil to whom she had once more dedicated and promised herself body and soul. Him she worshiped and before him she knelt, and unto him she rendered other suchlike honours. But she pretends not to know with what words and in what fashion she prayed. She only knows that once she heedlessly pronounced the name of Jesus. Then the above-mentioned Great Devil struck her in the face and Walpurga had to disown (which is terrible to relate) God in heaven, the Christian name and belief, the blessed saints and the Holy Sacraments, also to renounce the heavenly hosts and the whole of Christendom. Thereupon the Great Devil baptized her afresh, naming her Höfelin, but her paramour-devil, Federlin….

Since her surrender to the Devil, she had seemingly oft received the Blessed Sacrament of the true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, apparently by the mouth, but had not partaken of it, but (which once more is terrible to relate) had always taken it out of her mouth again and delivered it up to Federlin, her paramour. At their nightly gatherings she had oft with her other playfellows trodden underfoot the Holy and Blessed Sacrament and the image of the Holy Cross. The said Walpurga states that during suchlike frightful and loathsome blasphemies she at times truly did espy drops of blood upon the said Holy Sacrament, whereat she herself was greatly horrified…. She confesses, also, that her paramour gave her a salve in a little box with which to injure people and animals, and even the precious fruit of the field. He also compelled her to do away with and to kill young infants at birth, even before they had been taken to Holy Baptism. This she did, whenever possible….

She rubbed with her salve and brought about the death of Lienhart Geilen’s three cows, of Bruchbauer’s horse, three years ago of Duri Striegel’s cow, two years ago of Hans Striegel’s cow, of the cow of the governor’s wife, of a cow of Frau Schötterin, and two years ago of a cow of Michel Klingler, on the village green. In short, she confesses that she destroyed a large number of cattle over and above this. A year ago she found bleached linen on the common and rubbed it with her salve, so that the pigs and geese ran over it and perished shortly thereafter. Walpurga confesses further that every year since she has sold herself to the Devil she has on St. Leonard’s Day exhumed at least one or two innocent children. With her devil-paramour and other playfellows she has eaten these and used their hair and their little bones for witchcraft.

She was unable to exhume the other children she had slain at birth, although she attempted it, because they had been baptized before God.

She had used the said little bones to manufacture hail; this she was wont to do once or twice a year. Once this spring, from Siechenhausen, downwards across the fields. She likewise manufactured hail last Whitsun, and when she and others were accused of having held a witches’ revel, she had actually held one near the upper gate by the garden of Peter Schmidt. At that time her playfellows began to quarrel and struck one another, because some wanted to cause it to hail over Dillingen Meadows, others below it. At last the hail was sent over the marsh towards Weissingen, doing great damage. She admits that she would have caused still more and greater evils and damage if the Almighty had not graciously prevented and turned them away.

Ater all this, the Judges and Jury of the Court of this Town of Dillingen, by virtue of the Imperial and Royal Prerogative and Rights of his Right Reverance, Herr Marquard, bishop of Augsburg, and provost of the Cathedral, our most gracious prince and lord, at last unanimously gave the verdict that the aforesaid Walpurga Hausmännin be punished and dispatched from life to death by burning at the stake as being a maleficent and well-known witch and sorceress, convicted according to the context of Common Law and the Criminal Code of the Emperor Charles V and the Holy Roman Empire. All her goods and chattels and estate left after her to go to the Treasury of our most high prince and lord. The aforesaid Walpurga to be led, seated on a cart, to which she is tied, to the place of her execution, and her body first to be torn five times with red-hot irons. The first time outside the town hall in the left breast and the right arm, the second time at the lower gate in the right breast, the third time at the mill brook outside the hospital gate in the left arm, the fourth time at the place of execution in the left hand. But since for nineteen years she was licensed and pledged midwife of the city of Dillingen, yet has acted to vilely, her right hand with which she did such knavish tricks is to be cut off at the place of execution. Neither are her ashes after the burning to remain lying on the ground, but are thereafter to be carried to the nearest flowing water and thrown thereinto. Thus a venerable jury have entrusted the executioner of this city with the actual execution and all connected therewith (Ashley 162-165).

The Masses of the Abbé Guibourg and His Associates


From Der dunkle Gott: Satanskult und Schwarze Messe, by Gerhard Zacharias, 1964
Translated from the German by Christine Trollope, 1980


Bastille Archives, Interrogation of Lesage, Vincennes, 28 November 1679.
(Ravaisson VI, pp. 55ff)

He met the priest Davot for the first time at the house of La Voisin….

When Madame de Vivien was at the house of La Voisin, and asked him to pass a note in which she demanded the death of her husband and the friendship of a certain abbé, Davot promised the lady that when he said Mass he would put the note under the corporal and under the chalice; but he [Lesage] kept the note in his hands and did not give it to Davot. The lady gave Davot a gold crown or gold louis….Davot and La Voisin both told him that he had said Mass in La Voisin’s private room on the belly of a girl or woman whom he would be able to remember in the course of time, and Davot also said that he had had carnal knowledge of her, and that while saying Mass he had kissed her private parts, and that he was not the only one to do such things, and that Gérard, priest of Saint-Sauveur, Davot’s friend, with whom he [Lesage] had eaten and drunk at Davot’s house, had also said Mass on the belly of a shopkeeper’s daughter from the Rue Saint-Denis, in the parish of Saint-Sauveur, whom he had debauched and whom he had persuaded that when he performed the ceremony and some conjurations on her belly, she would not become pregnant, but the girl, after remaining hidden for some time at Gérard’s in a garret, did become pregnant, and Gérard was worried about it, and disappeared after remaining hidden for a time in Davot’s house at Saint-Benoit….

(Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal)

Interrogation of La Voisin’s daughter, Vincennes, 28 March 1680.
Marie-Marguerite Montvoisin, aged twenty-one.
ibid., p. 194

Lesage and her mother sent her one day, she could not say whether it was in Lent, to buy a live white pigeon, which she did with a 15-sou piece; after she had done this, and brought it to them, they cut its throat and collected its blood in a glass goblet. They kept this blood, and sent her out of the garden-house where this was going on, so that she does not know what they did with it….

She does not know whether the blood and heart of the pigeon were mixed with holy water; but it is true that he [Lesage] in these ceremonies used incense, salt, sulphur and holy water which he mixed together; and it is also true that a cross which was at her [her mother's] house, and in which there is some of the True Cross of Jerusalem, was used in the ceremonies carried out by Lesage and her mother; and she does not know if it was used that time – this was after Lesage came back from the galleys – and this was done for the marriage of the Desmarets woman, for Madame Brisard’s affairs, and for other affairs which they had….

(Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal)

Interrogation of La Filaster, Vincennes, 26 May 1680
ibid., pp. 211ff

…-Was it not true that suffering the pains of childbirth, she placed herself in a circle around which there were candles lit, holding in her hand a black candle, also lit?

-Simon made her sit down on the edge of the circle, telling her that the spirits were within, and that one of the candles was for Lucifer, and another for another devil, whose name she does not remember, and so on with the other candles, and she did not hold the candle of black pitch in her hand, although it was lit. Simon made her say among other things, that Briziol [God of dream interpretation and soothsaying] was to come in the name of Picart and Simon, and made her renounce the chrism, baptism, and the Church; after that she said some more words which she does no remember. And the conjuration was written by the hand of Picart….

-Did Simon not make her say some other words as well, and, among others: in the name of the great living God and of the Holy Trinity, by St Peter and by St Paul, and that the Devil must appear?

-Yes, but she does not remember that these words St Peter and St Paul were written down in the conjuration; and there were many other more disgusting words, and, among others, renunciations of the Holy Sacrament, the Mass, the sacred host, holy water, and her baptism; Simon made her learn these words by heart, and then burnt the paper; and after teaching them to her, Simon made her say them three and a half months after her confinement, in a church to which she took her, near the Louvre on the side nearest the river; and this went on for nine days, and when she said them, she made her turn towards the holy water basin, and enter and leave the church several times….

-Is it not true that she attended some Masses which were said at night in Maître Jean’s house?

-It is true that Cotton, priest of St Paul’s and schoolmaster, came about five or six years ago, on a Maundy Thursday, to the house of Maître Jean, who was then porter at the Quinze-Vingts [hospital in Paris]; and in the night between Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, at midnight, Cotton, dressed in priest’s robes, said Mass in a little room over the porter’s room. Present at the Mass were herself and Lalande, who said the responses, while Lecourt, who had brought Cotton, was outside with Maître Jean, who had brought the vestments and the altar furniture to his room for use at the Mass, at which Cotton consecrated a host, performed the elevation and invoked the three princes of the demons in unintelligible words; and Cotton had the invocation, which consisted of few words, in writing on the altar, which had been set up for the purpose, and after the invocation he finished the Mass in this place, and wrapped the consecrated host in a corporal-cloth he had brought. And she had never since asked him what he had done with the host….

She has heard tell that the Dufayet woman had had some strange things done by Lepreux, and that while celebrating Mass he had consecrated snakes for use in secret love-potions, and that Duplessis was present at the time….

Declaration by Voisin’s daughter, 20 August 1680.
ibid., pp. 294ff

…She saw Guibourg celebrate two Masses in the room where her mother slept, and one at Delaporte’s house, where she, Montvoisin, arrived at the moment when he was finishing; she saw the altar set up, with a cross and lighted candles. The three Masses were said for the same affair, this last one between two and three in the afternoon, two months before her mother was arrested. Guibourg said Masses on ladies’ bellies at her mother’s house. The first to her knowledge was more than six years ago; she helped her mother to prepare the things necessary for it – a mattress on chairs, two stools, one at each side, where the candlesticks with candles stood; when this was done, Guibourg came out of the little side room dressed in his chasuble, and after that La Voisin brought into the room the woman on whose belly Mass was to be celebrated, and sent her, Montvoisin, out.

When she was older her mother was no longer cautious with her, and she was present at this sort of Mass, and saw that the lady was placed completely naked on the mattress, with her head hanging back supported on a pillow on an overturned chair, her legs hanging down, a towel on her belly, and on the towel a cross at the level of her lower ribs, and the chalice on her belly.

Madame de Montespan had a Mass of this sort said for her by Guibourg at La Voisin’s house about three years ago. She came at about ten at night and did not leave until midnight.

And when La Voisin told the lady that she must fix a time for the other two Masses that had to be said if her affair was to succeed, the lady said that she could not find the time, and that she would have to do without her whatever had to be done for the success of her affair; she [La Voisin] promised this, and that she would have the two Masses celebrated on herself, on behalf of her Madame de Montespan.

Some time later she attended a Mass which Guibourg celebrated in the same way on her mother’s belly, and at the elevation he spoke the name of Louis de Bourbon and that of the lady, which consisted of two or three names, and he did not say that of Montespan.

The woman Laporte attended the first [Mass] with her and her mother, and spoke the responses; she slept at her house and knew very well who the lady was, although she bore witness that she did not know her.

Laporte, for the same purpose, made a conjuration to the soul of a hanged man; her mother had given her the names in writing in order to do it, and when she had done it she came to give an account in the presence of her father and brothers. The father silenced Laporte.

And the second [Mass], celebrated by proxy, Laporte and the Pelletier woman attended with her.

The third was celebrated at Delaporte’s house and in her presence; she [Voisin's daughter] did not arrive until it was all over. The candles were of new yellow wax, fat from a hanged man, and a note was put into them, the invention of Papillon, and at both Masses at her [Delaporte's] house, Guibourg put powders under the chalice, and said they were for love, and afterwards gave them to her mother.

La Voisin had other priests working for the same business, as well as Guibourg….

(Bibliothèque Nationale)

Interrogation of Voisin’s daughter, Vincennes, 9 October 1680
ibid., p. 333f

…She remembered that Pelletier brought two afterbirths to Saint-Denis, on two different occasions, to Guibourg, priest, one of which was later distilled by Pelletier and the other by Dumesnil. It is also true that a midwife who lived at the corner of the Rue des Deux-Portes, also distilled the entrails of a child which the mother had borne there, brought by Voisin, her mother, for an abortion. Before the distillation, the child’s entrails and the mother’s afterbirth had been taken to Saint-Denis, to Guibourg, by her mother, the midwife, and the child’s mother, on whose belly her mother on her return said Guibourg had celebrated Mass, and that the woman was then still all covered with blood….

Guibourg baptised at her mother’s a child of a girl whom Lepère aborted. She saw three or four children burnt up in the oven. A child that appeared to have been prematurely born was presented at Madame de Montespan’s Mass by order of her mother, and Guibourg put it into a basin, cut its throat, poured the blood into a chalice and consecrated it with the host, finished his Mass, then took out the child’s entrails; the next day mother Voisin took to Dumesnil, to be distilled, the blood and the host in a glass phial which Madame de Montespan took away. The child’s body was burnt in the stove by mother Voisin….

…She believes that Dumesnil had brought the child for Madame de Montespan’s Mass.

At the consecration, Guibourg said the names of the King and those of Madame de Montespan.

(Bibliothèque Nationale)

Extract from the interrogation of the Abbé Guibourg, Vincennes, 10 October 1680.
ibid., p. 335f

Leroy, governor of the pages of the petite écurie, first spoke to him about working for Madame de (Montespan) and promised him 50 pistoles and a benefice of 2,000 pounds. The first Mass he said with this intention was at Le Ménil near Monthlhéry, on the belly of a woman who had come with another great personage; at the consecration he recited the conjuration:

(Bibliothèque du Corps Législatif)

‘Astaroth, Asmodeus, princes of friendship, I conjure you to accept the sacrifice I offer you of this child for the things I ask of you, which are that the friendship of the King and Mgr le Dauphin may continue towards me, and that I may be honoured by the princes and princesse of the court, and that nothing I ask of the King may be denied me, either for my relatives or servants.’

(Bibliothèque Nationale)

And he named the names of the King and those of Madame de Montespan, which were in the conjuration.

He had bought for a crown the child that was sacrificed at this Mass; it was presented to him by a grown girl. Having drawn blood from the child, whose throat he pierced with a penknife, he poured some into the chalice, after which the child was removed and taken to another place, and its heart and entrails were brought back to him for a second [Mass]; according to what Leroy and the noble lord said, they would serve to make powders for the (King) and Madame de (Montespan). The lady for whom he said Mass always had the veils of her headdress pulled low, covering her face and half her breast. He said the second Mass in a hovel on the ramparts of Saint-Denis, on the same woman with the same ceremonies and Pelletier was there. He celebrated the third in Paris, at La Voisin’s house, on the same woman, perhaps eight or nine years ago; later he said thirteen or fourteen years. He also declares that five years ago he said a similar Mass at La Voisin’s on the same person, who, he was always told, was (Madame de Montespan), for the same intention, and Laporte was present; and after it was al over he went to pick up his cloak from a chair and found on the chair a document which must have been a copy of a pact – since it was only on paper, and pacts must be written on virgin parchment – where he read these words:

(Bibliothèque du Corps Législatif)

‘I…daughter of…I ask for the King’s friendship and that of Mgr le Dauphin, and that I may continue to have it, that the Queen may be barren, that the King may leave her bed and table for me, that I may obtain from him all I ask for myself and my relatives, that my servants and my household may please him [that I may be] loved and respected by great lords, that I may be summoned to the King’s council and know what happens there, and that this friendship may increase more than in the past, so that the King leaves La Vallière and pays no more attention to her, and that the Queen may be repudiated so that I can marry the King….

(Bibliothèque Nationale)

And when he got to this point in his reading this paper was snatched from his hands; he always left the host and the consecrated blood of the children in vessels that were given him, the host being cut into small pieces.

At La Voisin’s, dressed in alb, stole and maniple, he made a conjuration in the presence of Des Œillets, who wanted to make a charm for the (King) and who was accompanied by a man who gave him the conjuration, and, as it was necessary to have sperm from both sexes, Des Œillets who was menstruating could not give any, but she poured some of her menstrual blood into the chalice, and the man accompanying her passing into the alcove behind the bed with him, Guibourg, dropped some of his sperm into the chalice, On top of all this, Des Œillets and the man each put a powder of bat’s blood and flour to give a firmer consistency to the whole compound, and after reciting the conjuration he took it all out of the chalice and it was put into a little vessel which Des Œillets or the man took away.

(Bibliothèque du Corps Législatif)

Notes for a report from M. de la Reynie to the King (November 1680).
ibid., pp. 371f

…La Voisin’s daughter, questioned again on the further Mass which, as she said, Madame de Montespan had celebrated by this same Guibourg at her mother’s only three or four years ago, declared all the circumstances:

That it was she who had presented the child to Guibourg, that the woman Delaporte was present, and that after the oblation, when the blood had been put into the chalice, Guibourg had gone into another room and opened the breast and torn out the heart and entrails.

Guibourg, who had denied opening the child’s body, agreed that he had torn out the heart and entrails and had cut open the child’s heart after the Mass to take out the clotted blood that was inside the heart and put it into a vessel prepared for that purpose; and with it he also put fragments of the consecrated host, and what was in the chalice, and it was taken away by the lady on whose belly he had celebrated Mass, whom he believed to be Madame de Montespan, as La Voisin told him…

(Bibliothèque Nationale)

Autograph notes by M. d’Argenson (1665).
ibid., VII, pp. 172f

Marianne Charmillon, aged 22, daughter of Charmillon, practician [assistant to an advocate] in Paris, and of Mme Quenneville, at present a voluntary penitent at Sainte-Pélagie, said, in the presence of the Mother Superior and a commissioner at the Châtelet, that she had been seduced and corrupted by J. B. Sebault, subdeacon of the diocese of Bourges, who lodged at her father’s house, and by whom she has had two children, still alive; that two years ago this same Sebault proposed that she should make a pact with the Devil, and took her for that purpose into the cellar of a house on the outskirts of Paris, where the invocation, the apparition and the conclusion were to take place; that she had been in this same cellar on six different occasions and that Mass was said there between midnight and one o’clock; that the first time a beggar girl aged 13 was brought there and died of fright, and was buried with her clothes by the said Guignard, vicar of Notre-Dame de Bourges, and another private individual; that Guignard said Mass in priest’s vestments; that he celebrated it once on the body of the penitent, naked, without a shift, and that the subdeacon Sebault, who was naked as she was, said the responses to the Mass, As often as the altar had to be kissed, Guignard kissed Charmillon’s body, and consecrated the host on her private parts, into which he inserted a fragment of the host; when the Mass was at last ended, the subdeacon Sebault entered into her, and meanwhile Guignard and his friend also copulated with a woman called Lefebvre. When the Mass was over, Sebault plunged his hands into the chalice and washed his private parts and the woman’s. Guignard, this other individual and Lefebvre did the same. After this Guignard put what remained in the chalice into a little phial which he carried away carefully….

(Bibliothèque Nationale)

Navajo Witches

Navajo witches differ greatly from the European variety and can’t be recognized with the same methods. Unlike main stream European black-witchcraft there are no warning signs for the presence of a witch at work if they are in human form [i.e. blue flame, spoiled milk, etc., a la Warlock]. It would behoove you to know the behavior of a Navajo witch in order to spot and stay clear of this maleficent being.

All Navajo witchcraft categories, with one exception (see notes below bibliography), are associated with the dead and death. A couple of generations back this association was the easiest way to identify a witch. With the proliferation of weirdness in the Navajo youth population a witch can no longer be spotted by a person’s romance with the ghastly things in life. If black clothing decorated with skulls were enough to designate witchcraft then a large chunk of the Navajo population, the writer of this paper included, would be labeled as a witch.


A person who has just become a witch’s apprentice can be identified by new strange habits or a peculiar event. A common event is the murder of a close relative, usually a sibling, for his or her required initiation. Somebody with a relative buried with less than a whole body, with no plausible explanation, should cause a red flag to go up.

A common new habit for the novice is to take off in the middle of the night. It is believed that the local witches convene in an underground room littered with corpses. At these meetings they may make a sand-painting of the new victim with colored ash and mar it with human excretions. In this case getting drooled over is not a good thing. The members of this sect may also practice necrophilia with their latest female victim or prepare corpse powder with a male victim’s flesh.

Shape Shifters

Skinwalkers are another type of witch closely associated with underground gatherings. They are “wer-animals” and own an animal skin that is used to transform them into these animals. Any real animal can see through the skinwalker’s disguise but even a human can recognize the unnatural creature. For some unexplainable reason even a well seasoned skinwalker cannot obtain the perfect animal gait or leave the proportionally correct sized animal tracks.

Methods of Sickness

A strange habit that indicates witchcraft is the burying of stolen objects due the use of these personal items as props in spell castings. It might be hair, nail clippings, clothing, and favorite objects that are filched. These items are put into a bundle, sung over with a prayer that has been twisted into perversion and ending in the bundle’s burial. Waking up with a bad hair cut or more chipped nails than before is a bad sign.

A witch who shoots “arrows” to cause harm are hard to spot. They might be recognized by the instruments used to infect victims with. Small objects such as pebbles, bone fragments, or shell shards along with the possession of a blow gun may be an indication of a witch.

Wild Kingdom

Some wild animals have the ability to use witchcraft. It is an inherent ability in the species and is not considered evil, even if it kills you. Even the ants are able to cause illness in humans so it’s best to leave any wild animal alone, no matter how harmless they may appear to be.

The usual effect of any witching, left untreated, is a gradual loss of the ability to function in society, either physically or mentally [insanity]. In each case it is considered an “illness” to be treated by a prescribed ceremony that should restore the victim to full function.

Urbain Grandier


On June 2, 1630, Father Urbain Grandier, the parish priest of St.-Pierre-du-Marché of Loudun, France, was accused of witchcraft by a group of Ursuline nuns. Grandier, a politically-influential priest with a worldly lifestyle, scandalous affairs, and romantic adventures, had made many enemies. In 1618, Grandier had written a sarcastic discourse about Cardinal Richelieu. By 1630, Richelieu had become one of the most powerful men in France, and would play an important role in the Loudun case.

The nuns, while throwing convulsions and wild fits, said Grandier had sent demons to possess them. The role of exorcist was taken by Father Mignon, one of Grandier’s enemies. Rather than attempting to cure them, Mignon encouraged the nuns in their antics.

For a short while, the machinations against Grandier were put to rest as Archbishop Soudis of Bordeaux forbade Mignon from further exorcisms. Unfortunately, a little while later, one of Richelieu’s henchmen by the name of Laubardemont, a relative of one of the possessed nuns, arrived in Loudun. He was there to oversee the tearing down of the town’s fortifications. This was part of Richelieu’s programme of eliminating Huguenot strongholds by destroying local bastions.

Both the Protestant and Catholic contingencies of Loudun were against this. The removal of their battlements and defensive walls would leave them unprotected against mercenary armies. By citing the King’s promise that Loudun’s walls should not be demolished, Grandier prevented Laubardemont from destroying the fortifications. Hindered by the priest and aware of the demonic allegations against Grandier, Laubardemont made a report to Richelieu.

Richelieu saw this an a prime time both to avenge himself on Grandier (whose insulting writing had not been forgiven) and to display his political might. Without delay, Richelieu appointed an investigative committee and set aside large amounts of money for the hiring of exorcists and to provide care for the demon-possessed nuns.

The Capuchin Tranquille, the Franciscan Lactance, and the Jesuit Surin were among the expert exorcists at Loudun. By employing dramatic commands, threats, and rituals, these zealous priests directed and encouraged the nuns in their accusations against Grandier. Because the exorcisms were made public, the situation was transformed into a bizarre circus. By making the spectacle public, the citizens of Loudun could hear the accusations against Grandier. At times, up to 7,000 spectators attended the public exorcisms (Sidky 159-161).

In 1634, Des Niau wrote the following description in his The History of the Devils of Loudun:

[The nuns] struck their chests and backs with their heads, as if they had their necks broken, and with inconceivable rapidity; They twisted their arms at the joints of the shoulder, the elbow, or the wrist, two or three times around. Lying on their stomachs, they joined the palms of their hands to the soles of their feet; their faces became so frightful one could not bear to look at them; their eyes remained open without winking. Their tongues issued suddenly from their mouths, horribly swollen, black, hard, and covered with pimples, and yet while in this state they spoke distinctly. They threw themselves back till their heads touched their feet, and walked in this position with wonderful rapidity, and for a long time. They uttered cries so horrible and so loud that nothing like it was ever heard before. They made use of expressions so indecent as to shame the most debauched of men, while their acts, both in exposing themselves and inviting lewd behavior from those present would have astonished the inmates of the lowest brothels in the country (Sidky 161).

The public spectacles set the citizens of Loudun against Grandier. He was arrested on November 30, 1633, and imprisoned in the Castle of Angers. Investigators promptly set about looking for the “Devil’s mark.” NIcholas Aubin’s 1693 The Cheats and Illusions of Romish Priest and Exorcists Discovered in the History of the Devils of Loudun describes what happened next:

They sent for Mannouri the surgeon, one of [Grandier's] enemies, and the most unmerciful of them all; when he [came] into the chamber, they stripped Grandier stark naked, blinded his eyes, shaved him every where, and Mannouri began to search him. When he would persuade them that the parts of his body which had been marked by the Devil were insensible, he turned that end of the probe which was round, and he guided it in such a manner, that not being able to enter into the flesh, nor to make much impression, it was pushed back into the palm of his hand; the patient did not then cry out, because he felt no pain; but when the barbarous surgeon would make them see that the other parts of his body were very sensible, he turned the probe at the other end, which was very sharp pointed, and thrust it to the very bone; and then the abundance of people [outside] heard complaints so bitter, and cries so piercing, that they [were] moved…to the heart” (Sidky 161, 163).


Grandier was denied the normal procedure of trial by a secular court. This would have given him the possibility of an appeal to the Parliament of Paris. Instead, Richelieu’s committee took charge of the legal proceedings. A document was produced, allegedly written and signed by Grandier. This document was supposed to be Grandier’s contract with Satan, signed by Lucifer, Astaroth, Beelzebub, Leviathan, and other popular infernal beings.

Some of the nuns took pity on Grandier and tried to retract their accusations. The officials, however, would not allow them to, asserting this was the ploy of Satan to save Grandier. Laubardemont announced that any citizens who testified in favour of Grandier would be arrested and have their possessions confiscated.

Grandier was convicted on all counts. The sentence was pronounced on August 18, 1634:

We have ordered and do order the said Urbain Grandier duly tried and convicted of the crime of magic, maleficia, and of causing demoniacal possession of several Ursuline nuns of this town of Loudun, as well as of other secular women, together with other charges and crimes resulting therefrom. For atonement of which, we have condemned and do condemn the said Grandier to make amende honorable, his head bare, a rope round his neck, holding in his hand a burning taper weighing two pounds, before the principle door of the church of St. Pierre-du-Marché, and before that of St. Ursual of this town. There on his knees, to ask pardon of God, the King, and the law; this done, he is to be taken to the public square of St. Croix, and fastened to a stake on a scaffold, which shall be erected on the said place for this purpose, and there to be burned alive…and his ashes scattered to the wind. We have ordered and so do order that each and every article of his moveable property be acquired and confiscated by the King; the sum of 500 livres first being taken for buying a bronze plaque on which will be engraved the abstract of this present trial, to be set up in a prominent spot in the said church of the Ursulines, to remain there for all eternity. And before proceeding to the execution of the present sentence, we order the said Grandier to be submitted to the first and last degrees of torture, concerning his accomplices (Sidky 163).

All details of the sentence were carried out.

The torture was supervised by Tranquille, who subjected him to the boots. This torture was administered by the priests themselves:

The Recollect and [Capuchins] who were present to exorcise the wedges, the planks, and the hammers for the torture, fearing that the exorcism had not effect enough, and lest the Devils should have the power to resist the blows of a profane man, such as the hangman was, they themselves took the hammers and tortured the unhappy man (Sidky 165).

The torture was excruciating. Marrow and blood flowed from Grandier’s legs, and he cried out to God. The tormentors, however, claimed he was actually calling out to Satan, his true god.

Although Tranquille subjected Grandier to horrible pain, Tranquille was able to receive neither a list of accomplices from Grandier nor a confession. Crippled by his tortures, Grandier was dragged to his place of execution. Some sources claim the exorcists drenched him with huge quantities of Holy Water so that his last words could not be heard.

Grandier was shown no mercy, and was burned without being strangled first. “Cardinal Richelieu’s power had been demonstrated in a very tangible and horrifying manner” (Sidky 166).

The Ursuline Nuns continued their demonical antics until Richelieu cut off their funding, thus ending one of the most infamous cases of demonic possession in Europe. The Loudun affair was considered by many as concrete proof of both witchcraft and possession by demons. A few townspeople even converted to Catholicism as a result of this event, although in the long run the clearly fraudulent elements of the case contributed to skepticism regarding the reality of witchcraft (Sidky 166).

Isobel Gowdie


Isobel Gowdie, the renowned “Queen of Scottish Witches” (Wedeck 202), confessed in 1662 she had frequent dealings with faeries. Gowdie claimed to have often journeyed to Faerieland, entering through various mounds and caverns. The entrance of the land of Faerie was populated by elf-bulls, whose “roaring and skoilling” always left her frightened. Gowdie met often with the Queen and King of Faerieland. They were always finely dressed and offered her more meat than she could eat.

Together with other witches and faeries, Gowdie would amuse herself by changing into animal form and destroying the homes of mortals. Faeries taught her to fly by climbing beanstocks and cornstraws and shouting, “Horse and Hattock, in the Devil’s name!” The faeries and the Devil worked together in making poisonous elf-arrows (Guiley 1989 119).

Gowdie claimed to have used her broom for an atypical reason. Instead of using it for travelling, she used it to deceive her husband. Before going to a sabbat, Isobel substituted her broom for herself in bed. She said he never knew the difference, “which might have been more of a comment on their marriage than a confession of witchcraft” (Guiley 1989 37-38).

She also claimed to be able to turn herself into a cat. To change into a cat, she would say the following three times:

I shall goe intill ane catt,
With sorrow, and sych, and a blak shott;
And I sall goe in the Divellis nam,
Ay will I com hom againe.

To change back into her human form, she would say the following three times:

Catt, catt, God send thee a blak shott.
I am in a cattis liknes just now,
Bot I sal be in a womanis liknes ewin now.
Catt, catt, God send thee a blak shott (
Wedeck 165).

Louis Gaufridi


Known as the Prince of Sorcerers (Wedeck 202), Father Louis Gaufridi was executed in 1611 for sending demons into the Ursuline nuns of Aix-en-Provence.

Gaufridi’s trial and execution were known of by the persecutors of Father Urbain Grandier.

The following is Gaufridi’s story as told by Eric Maple in Man, Myth, and Magic:

 In the first 25 years of the 17th century the witchcraft delusion in France reached its high peak of intensity. A characterisitc feature of the period was the prevalence of cases of demonic possession, involving priests and nuns. Demons were believed to be attacking the human race, obsessing the minds and controlling the bodies of victims into whom they had entered through the bodily orifices. In a reign of terror against every form of demonism, the Inquisitors attemtped to withstand what they believed to be a mass assault levelled at Church and society by the Devil, working through his agents–sorcerers and witches.

In the year 1609 signs of diabolical invasion appeared at Aix-en-Provence in southern France, the victim being Madeleine de Demandolx de la Palud, a girl who had a history of emotional instability. In 1605 she had been admitted to the Ursuline convent at Aix but had been returned to the care of her parents, a well-established Provencal family, to recover from the attacks of depression which afflicted her when away from home. Unfortunately she fell under the influence of Father Louis Gaufridi, parish priest of Accoules in Marseilles and a friend of the family.

Like so many clerics of that age Gaufridi was far from ascetic in his way of life. Several women were known to be infatuated with him, and his services as a confessor were in particular demand amongh the wives of the citizens. The disparity between the ages of Gaufridi and Madeleine (he was 34, she was 13) was apparently no barrier to the priest. His visits became ever more frequent and he was often closeted alone with her for long periods. Inevitably, perhaps, she fell violently in love with him, and possibly he with her.

The story soon reached the ears of Catherine de Gaumer, head of the Ursuline convent at Marseilles, who warned the child’s mother of the dangers to which her daughter was exposed. A hint was conveyed to the priest Gaufridi that he should cease his attentions at once.

In the following year Madeleine was admitted to the Ursuline convent at Marseilles under the direct control of Mother de Gaumer, to whom she revealed the full story of her relations with Gaufridi, which she said involved sexual intercourse since her childhood.

Hordes of Demons

It was considered wise to move Madeleine out of danger of any further association with the priest by transferring her to the distant convent at Aix. The affair might have been forgotten had not Madeleines, two years later at the age of 16, suddenly fallen victim to what in contemporary eyes was unmistakably demonic possession. Her body became contorted, hordes of demons surrounded her and in a fit of rage she destroyed a crucifix.

Such states of mind were not uncommon in convents and were usually cleared up very quickly by exorcism–a 17th century equivalent of modern psychiatric treatment. This case proved more obstinate, however, as the Jesuit Father Romillon discovered when his attempts to drive out the possessing demons failed.

Exorcism was an extremely complex ritual, requiring infinite patience and skill. It involved a violent verbal assault on the devil in possession, as well as prayers and the liberal use of holy water. The patient was often made to breathe in noxious fumes, to accelerate the departure of the devil from so inhospitable a habitation.

Father Gaufridi was questioned about his sexual relations with Madeleine and insisted that his association with her had been proper in every respect. Further exorcisms, however, brought from the mouth of the possessed girl damning accusations that Gaufridi was a devil worshipper and had copulated with her since she was 13. The situation at the convent was now getting out of hand, for three more nuns were possessed by devils; and by the end of the year the number had risen to eight. The most severly afflicted of these was Sister Louise Capeau whose ravings and contortions were, if anything, even more hideous than Madeleine’s.

Reduced to desperation, Father Romillon sought the aid of one of the most famous witch-hunters of the age, the Grand Inquisitor Sebastian Michaelis. The Flemish exorcist, Father Domptius, was also called in and managed to produce from the mouth of Louise the harsh, blaspheming howls of three terrifying devils, by name Grésil, Sonnillon and Vérin, each of whom was high in the hierarchy of hell.

It was Vérin who accused Gaufridi of causing Madeleine’s condition, revealing to the amazed exorcist that no less than 6666 ferocious evil spirits were now in possession of her body, the most eminent of these being the devils Leviathan, Ballberith, Asmodeus, Astaroth and the mighty Beelzebub, second only in authority and infamy to Lucifer himself.

Cannibalism and Perversion

Father Gaufridi was summoned from his parish and ordered to exorcize Louise Capeau. No expert in this highly specialized treatment, he failed miserably and heard himself denounced as a sorcerer and cannibal by the very demons he was struggling to expel. Typical of their dununciations was: “Louis Gaufridi outside makes believe that he is a saint; however, inside he is full of iniquity. He feighns to abstain from flesh; nevertheless he makes himself drunk with the flesh of little children…whome he has eaten, the others whom he has suffocated and afterwards dug up all cry before God for vengeance upon crimes so execrable.” Gaufridi’s reply to the dangerous charge of sorcery was not only curious but also damning, for he said: “If I were a witch I would certainly give my soul to a thousand devils.” This statement was regarded as a confession of guilt by the Inquisitors, who flung Gaufridi into prison.

Meanwhile, the possessed nun Louise attempted to outdo Madeleine by loudly insisting that Gaufridi had committed every imaginable sexual perversion. The alarmed authorities immediately ordered the priest’s rooms to be searched for magical objects or books but were surprised and disappointed to discover nothing of an incriminating nature. They learnt from those who knew him that he was well regarded in his parish. They released him and let him return to his parish. Here he clamoured for the vincication of his good name, and demanded that his accusers be punished.

Throughout this period the nun Madeleine never ceased to be wracked in body and spirit by the tormenting devils and the convent was in complete disarray as the result of her ravings, obscenities and accusations against Gaufridi. Overwhelmed by the 6666 furious demons within her, she sometimes neighed like a horse, while her bones creaked and groaned like a tree bending before a mighty storm.

The case of the possessed nuns of Aix was now rocking France. On the one side stood Gaufridi, insisting upon vindication, and on the other the Grand Inquisitor Michaelis, victor of a thousand battles with Satan, determined to bring Gaufridi to trial. The result was predictable. In 1611 the case came before a court in Aix and although he could not at first have realized it, the priest’s doom was sealed.

The behaviour in court of the two nuns, Madeleine and Louise, was by 17th century standarts typical of an advanced state of diabolical possession. Madeleine in particular was often demented, shrieking, crying, and alternating between violent denunciations of Gaufridi as a devil worshipper and wizard, and the complete retraction of the same accusations. Then she would return to the charge of cannibalism. “Much he cares for your salt fish or your eggs. He eats good smoking flesh of little children which is brought to him invisibly from the synagogue” (the meeting of the witches). Then she would expose her passion for him by pleading for a single word of kindness from his lips. Sometimes she would be overcome by the wildest lust and it became painfully obvious to those in court that the girl was experiencing an orgasm before their eyes, her convulsions “representing the secual act with violent movements of the lower part of her body”.

In a frenzied reaction against life itself she twice attempted suicide. During the course of the trial it was discovered that she possessed “Devil’s marks” on her body, the secret brands by which Satan recognized his own. These marks later vanished in a mysterious fashion.

The Pact With Satan

Gaufridi was brought into court shattered by the mental anguish and physical tortures he had suffered in prison. His body had been shaved and searched for Devil’s marks, three of which had been found as further evidence against him. To complete his misery, a pact with Satan signed in his own blood was produced in court, under the terms of which all women were to be made subject to his will.

It was common knowledge that the pact with the Devil required the surrender of the body and soul of a witch or sorcerer at the end of 20 years. But with true legalistic formality it was conceded that should the pact be written on virgin parchment or prepared outside the magic circle, the agreement was null and void. Such contracts between a sorcerer and Satan were sometimes written, and invariably signed, in blood. In return for his soul the sorcerer would receive some specific gift or power. There is no evidence that the agreement afforded any protection against the Inquisition, however, for Satan only rarely intervened on behalf of his dupes. The production of such a document in court was usually sufficient to secure a verdict of guilty from the witch-fearing judges of the 17th century.

Gaufridi’s Confession

Gaufridi’s confession, which he had signed in prison, reflected the morbid state of mind of his accusers rather than that of the accused. He said he had eaten babies and celebrated a black mass at the sabbath, where he held the rank of Prince of the Synagogue, sprinkling the witches with consecrated wine, and he had exercised his magical power over women. “More than a thousand persons have been poisoned by the irresistable atraction of my breath which filled them with passion. The Lady of la Palud, the mother of Madeleine, was fascinated like so many others. But Madeleine was taken with an unreasoned love and abandoned herself to me both in the Sabbath and outside the Sabbath…I was marked at the Sabbath of my contentment and I had Madeleine marked on her head, on her belly, on her legs, on her thighs, on her feet…”

In court Gaufridi strenuously repudiated the confession, declaring it to consist of fantasies in the minds of the Inquisitors, extorted from him by torture. But protest was useless; the signed confession and the pact were sufficient to damn any man in the eyes of 17th century Christians, and Gaufridi was found guilty and condemned to suffer death by fire. He was to be burned slowly over a pyre of bushes instead of logs, so that his anguish would be prolonged. His tormentors gave him no peace, and even after his sentence he was pestered with demands for the names of his accomplices.

Exquisite Torments

On 20 April his spirit weakened and his mind gave way to despair. He cried out to his tormentors that since nobody would listen to the truth he might as well admit everything. On 30 April 1611, with head and feet bare and with a rope around his neck, he went through the official mummery of asking pardon of God. He was handed over to the torturers again to undergo certain exquisite torments that had been reserved for him–the strappado and squassation….

After the torture, the shattered body of the still living Gaufrid was dragged on a hurdle through the streets for five hours, escorted by archers. Arriving at the place of execution, the priest was granted the unexpected mercy of strangulation before the fire was lit, thus escaping the ultimate horror of the original sentence. His lifeless body was then burned to ashes.

As if by the influence of a magic charm, the nun Madeleine suddenly became free of her tormenting devils, thus disposing of any doubts that may have remained about Gaufridi’s guilt. Madeleine’s fellow demoniact, Lousie Capeau, was less fortunate, for she was harassed by demons to the end of her days, while the devil mania itself spread to the nuns of other convents before it finally subsided. Madeleine, however, never escaped from the watchful eyes of the Inquisition. Once the taint of diabolic possession had become associated with an individual, no one really knew waht infamies the devils might venture on next.

A generation after Gaufridi’s execution, the year 1642 saw her defending herself with difficulty against a charge of witchcraft. Ten years later she was prosecuted again and this time, incriminated by the Devil’s marks which had reappeared on her body, was sentenced to perpetual imprisonment; she was released, at an advanced age, into the custody of a relative. Still under the eye of the Inquisition, Madeleine de Demandolx found freedom at last in death, in 1670 at the age of 77.

The Faerie Witch


In the 1600s in the North of England, a man was brought into court on charges of witchcraft. He claimed to use a powder to heal sicknesses, and offered to lead the judge to the faerie hill where he obtained the medicine. Although the judge was harsh, the jury refused to convict him.

“Durant Hotham in the introduction to his Life of Jacob Behmen is the first to mention the case in 1654″ (K. Briggs 409):

There was (as I have heard the story cribly reputed in this Country) a man apprehended of suspition of Witchcraft, he was of that sort we call white-witches, which are such as do Cures beyond the Ordinary reasons and deducing of our usual Practitioners, and are supposed (and most part of them truly) to do the same by the ministrations of Spirits (from whence, under their noble favour, most Sciences first grew) and therefore are upon good reason provided against by our Civil Laws as being waies full of danger and deceit, and scarce ever otherwise obtain’d than by a devilish Compact of the Exchange of ones Soul to that assistant Spirit for the honour of its Mountebankery. What this man did was with a white powder, which he said, he receiv’d from the Fayries, and that going to a hill he knocked three times, and the hill opened, and he had access to, and converse with, a visible people; and offer’d, that if any Gentleman present would either go himself in person, or send his servant, he would conduct them thither, and show them the place and persons from whence he had his skill (K. Briggs 409).

In 1677, Webster commented on the case. He was present at the man’s examination:

To this I shall only add thus much, that the man was accused for invoking and calling upon evil spirits, and was a very simple and illiterate person to any mans judgment, and had been formerly very poor, but had gotten some pretty little meanes to maintain himself, his Wife and diverse small children, by his cures done with this white powder, of which there were sufficient proofs, and the Judge asking him how he came by the powder, he told a story to this effect. ‘That one night before the day was gone, as he was going home from his labour, being very sad and full of heavy thoughts, not knowing how to get meat and drink for his Wife and Children, he met a fair Woman in fine cloaths, who asked him why he was so sad, and he told her that it was by reason of his poverty, to which she said, that if he would follow her counsel she would help him to that which would serve to get him a good living; to which he said he would consent with all his heart, so it were not by unlawful ways: she told him that it should not be by any such ways, but by doing of good and curing of sick people; and so warning him strictly to meet her there the next night at the same time, she departed from him, and he went home. And the next night at the time appointed he duly waited, and she (according to promise) came and told him that it was well he came so duly, otherwise he had missed of that benefit, that she intended to do unto him, and so bade him follow her and not be afraid. Thereupon she led him to a little Hill and she knocked three times, and the Hill opened, and they went in, and came to a fair hall, wherein was a Queen sitting in great state, and many people about her, and the Gentlewoman give him some of the white powder, and teach him how to use it; which she did, and gave him a little wood box full of the white powder, and bad him give 2 or 3 grains of it to any that were sick, and it would heal them, and so she brought him forth of the Hill, and so they parted. And being asked by the Judge whether the place within the Hill, which he called a Hall, were light or dark, he said indifferent, as it is with us in the twilight; and being asked how he got more powder, he said when he wanted he went to that Hill, and knocked three times, and said every time I am coming, I am coming, whereupon it opened, and he going in was conducted by the aforesaid Woman to the Queen, and so had more powder given him.’ This was the plain and simple story (however it may be judged of) that he told before the Judge, the whole Court and the Jury, and there being no proof, but what cures he had done to very many, the Jury did acquit him: and I remember the Judge said, when all the evidence was heard, that if he were to assign his punishment, he should be whipped thence to Fairy-hall, and did soom to judge it to be a delusion or Imposture (K. Briggs 410, 411).

Bessy Dunlop


On November 8, 1576, Bessy Dunlop, a wise woman healer of Ayrshire, was charged with witchcraft. Dunlop testified she had been taught healing and second sight by a phantom faerie named Thome Reid or Thorne. On September 10, 1547, Thorne had been killed in battle and had gone on to become a faerie who served under the Queen of Elfhane.

Years before, when Dunlop was in the throes of childbirth, the Queen of Elfhane had appeared to Dunlop as a stout woman. She asked Dunlop for a drink and was given one. In thanks, the Queen had later ordered Thorne to be Dunlop’s attendant.

Sometimes Dunlop saw Thorne in town, but he was invisible to everyone else. He always appeared if Dunlop summoned him three times. Over four years, Thorne appeared before Dunlop many times, begging her to deny the Christian faith or to go away with him to Faeryland. She always refused, sometimes putting him in a bad temper.

Although Dunlop only used her new powers for good, she was still condemned to death. Her testimony that her benefactor was a faerie and not the Devil was not enough to prevent her being burnt at the stake (Guiley 1989 119)