Witchcraft and the Occult, 1400-1700
Fra Francesco Maria Guazzo

title page of the 2nd edition (Milan, 1626)   larger image
Francesco Maria Guazzo was a brother of the Ambrosiani, an order based in and around Milan.  In 1605, he was sent to the court of Duke Johann Wilhelm of Cleves (1562-1609), to help in lifting the enchantment cast on the Duke by an aged magician.  The Catholic Duchy had been the scene of a moderate degree of witchcraft prosecution, and the clerical demonologist Franz Agricola had dedicated his 1596 tract to the Duke.  In 1608, having been asked by Cardinal Federico Borromeo, the Archbishop of Milan, to compile such a work, Guazzo dedicated his Compendium Maleficarum to Cardinal Orazio Maffei, the protector of his Order.

Guazzo is not the most distinguished of demonologists by any means, although his work was compiled out of a vast array of sources.  He is interesting on the means whereby the Devil induces diseases, and for his appeal to medical authorities.  He adopts the usual line on the sabbat, that everything was absurdly performed, in an inversion of normal practice.  He claimed to be moderate rather than credulous, and denied that werewolves were actually transformed.  Like many other demonologists, he neglected the issue of the gender of witches.

Guazzo was not much cited by later writers, partly because Italy did not experience many severe prosecutions, because the Inquisition regarded the crime as under its jurisdiction, and inquisitors were inclined to be more sceptical than lay judges about many of the central beliefs.  Guazzo was also writing relatively late in the day, compiling the works of the classic demonologists.  By the time his second edition appeared, the major Western European prosecutions were mostly over.  However, his work is much cited today, for two reasons.  An English translation was published in 1929, with an introduction by the ubiquitous Montague Summers, and this has been available in paperback until recently.  [Used copies are easily obtainable.]  Secondly, the book was illustrated with attractive woodcuts, which have been much used by modern authors.  Unfortunately, these circulate detached from the accompanying text, so their original meaning is often lost or significantly distorted.  Indeed, they are often used in totally different contexts.

Guazzo's book is too long to be summarized in its entirety here, but it seems worthwhile to show the images and explain the context of each of them, although the extent to which Guazzo influenced their content and placing is unknown.  However, the printshop was that of the Ambrosian College at Milan, so they are presumably in accord with Guazzo's wishes.  However, commercial considerations may have shaped the decision to use prints and, although these are newly commisioned illustrations, economy dictated their re-use, as will be seen.  Images are used over and over again in different contexts, yet the meanings ascribed to them when they are reproduced by modern authors frequently have no connection with anything in Guazzo's text.

The images below are taken from the expanded second edition, to which the page numbers refer.  I have not yet been able to consult a copy of the first edition, so I am not clear whether Summers followed the first edition or merely mangled the two together.  He speaks of having "to prepare a definitive recension" out of the two editions, but large slabs of the second edition are not to be found in his translation.

The title page above reads thus:
Compendivm Maleficarvm, Ex quo nefandissima in genus humanum opera venefica, ac ad illa vitanda remedia conspiciuntur. Per Fratrem Franciscum Mariam Guaccium Ord. S. Ambrosij ad Nemus Mediolani compilatum. In hac autem secunda æditione ab eodem authore pulcherrimis doctrinis ditatum, exemplis auctum, & remedijs lo eupletatum. His additus est Exorcismus potentissimus ad soluendum omne opus diabolicum; nec non modus curandi febricitantes, ad Dei gloriam, & hominum solatium. Mediolani Ex Collegij Ambrosiani Typographia. 1626.

 Book 1, Chapter 6: pp.34, 36: The witches' pact with the Devil.  The witches deny their Christian faith and insult the Virgin Mary.  A literal trampling on the Cross is not mentioned in the text, although it is implied later.  Secondly, they are rebaptized.  Thirdly, they are renamed.  Fourthly, they deny their godparents and are given new ones.

pp.37, 38a: Fifthly, they give the Devil a piece of their clothing, as a sign of their acquired goods being as much devoted to the Devil as their spiritual goods.  Sixthly, they swear allegiance within a circle.

pp.38b, 40:   Seventhly, they pray to be struck out of the book of life, and written in the black book of death.  Eighthly, they promise to sacrifice to the Devil.

pp.41, 42: Ninthly, they must make an annual gift of something black to their demonic masters, to avoid being beaten.  Tenthly, the Devil places his mark on them.  These marks vary.  Eleventhly, they must make various vows, such as promising never to adore the Eucharist, to revile the Virgin Mary, to abstain from making the sign of the Cross, and so forth.  In return for their loyalty, the Devil promises that their prayers in this world will be fulfilled and he will bring them happiness in the world hereafter.

p.48: Book 1, Chapter 7: Witches produce rain and hail by their deeds and words.  Witches can even produce lightning, when God permits.  According to Andrea Cesalpino, in his Daemonum Investigatio Peripatetica,such men as could raise storms have confessed that they could only injure those whom God had forsaken.  Examples are provided, from the Malleus Maleficarum and from Nicolas Rémy for example, but Guazzo also provides cases from Trier and Swabia, which are not attributed to published sources.  The former involves a man discovering that his daughter could make rain by urinating in a trench.  She told him that her mother had taught her how to do it, so he handed them both over to the judge in a neighbouring town, to which he had lured them by pretending he had been invited to a wedding feast.  The Swabian example, taken from the Malleus, also involved a young daughter, this time helping her peasant father whose fields were drought-stricken.

pp.51, 53: Book 1, Chapter 8: The power of witches over external objects.  Witches have to show that they have done evil since the previous sabbat, so the Devil instructs them in how to create crop infestations, how to bewitch cattle, how to use poisons.  This is clear from the confessions of Lorraine witches, produced by Rémy.  They can conjure up feasts, either illusory ones which leave the eaters hungry or real ones composed of bad food, since God will not permit the conjuring of good food.  These generally lack salt and bread, associated with baptism and eucharist, unless God permits.  Various examples are provided, of a witch stealing milk with the aid of a demon, of a garden wrecked with slugs after a sabbat, and other tales.

pp.68, 70: Book 1, Chapter 12: Whether witches are really transported to their nocturnal assemblies.
Followers of Luther and Melanchthon have claimed that witches are only transported to the sabbat in their imagination, by diabolical illusion.  However, the devil can clearly place a likeness of a man's wife in bed to deceive her husband, as Rémy's cases prove.  The Devil in the shape of a goat or some other animal really does transport witches, as many citations prove.  The witches anoint themselves with filthy unguents before going, and sometimes walk to the sabbat.  The Devil presides, sitting on a throne in the shape of a goat or a dog.  They bend the knee or kick their legs high, pointing their chins skyward.

pp.71, 73: They offer black candles or infants' navel strings to the Devil, and kiss his buttocks.  According to Rémy, they meet at one or two hours before midnight.  Classical authors give this as the time of ghosts and evil spirits walking the world.  For some reason, they must depart before cockcrow.

pp.76, 77: According to Rémy, great numbers meet at sabbats and there are far more women than men present.  There are tables laid, but the food is foul, badly cooked and bitter in taste.  The wine is black.  There is plenty of everything except bread and salt.  All is confused to the eyes, and sometimes the Devil deludes witches into believing they are at the sabbat when actually they are fast asleep at home.  There is dancing in circles, but always to the left, and they are not for pleasure but are tiring work.

pp.78, 79: When they approach the demons to venerate them, they approach backwards.  When they speak, they face the ground.  All things that they do are contrary to other people's usage.  The desire for wanton dancing always leads by evil example to lust and sin.  Sometimes they dance before eating and sometimes afterwards.  Three or four tables are set aside for the richest or most honoured witches.  They each sit with their familiar demons, sometimes side by side and sometimes face to face.  Afterwards, demons and witches join in frenzied dancing and obscene songs.  Finally, the witches copulate with their demon lovers.  Those who assert that all of this is a dream or an illusion are guilty of sin against our mother, the Church, for the Catholic Church does not punish any crime that is not evident and manifest, and counts no one a heretic unless caught in patent heresy.  Whoever says the Church is in error over a matter of faith is Anathema Maranatha.  Many pages of examples are provided, mainly from recent demonologists.

p.97: Book 1, Chapter 13: Whether witches can transmute bodies.  Guazzo is certain that this cannot be done, and that it is dangerously close to heresy to believe in actual transformation.  A human soul cannot inhabit the body of a beast.  Rather, this is an illusion created by the Devil.  "Sometimes, in accordance with the pact of the magus, he surrounds a witch with an aerial effigy of a beast [aeream circundat effigiem beluæ], each part of which fits on to the correspondent part of the witch's body, head to head, mouth to mouth, belly to belly, foot to foot, and arm to arm; but this only happens when they use certain ointments and words... and then they leave the footprints of a wolf upon the ground."  This is why the witch can be found wounded after the wolf has been attacked.  If, however, the witch is not bodily present at all, it is the Devil who wounds the body in the part where the beast was wounded.

pp.141, 142: Book 2, Chapter 1: Of soporific malefices.  Sorcerors and witches put people to sleep in order to poison them, steal their children, rob them, or pollute them with filth and adultery.  This can be done with a wide variety of natural drugs, but demons have perfect knowledge of the effects of such potions and can also, with the permission of God, perform such things without external aids.  Demons also give witches the power to turn into mice or cats or locusts, as the witches believe, to enable them more easily to insinuate themselves into houses for this purpose.  Witches also use strange lights, parts of corpses, and human fat to induce sleep.  All those who go to sleep should therefore recite a psalm and prayer, such as "Qui habitat in adiutorio Altissimi" or "In te Domini speravi".  They should cross themselves, recite the "Salve Regina Mater misericordiae", the Paternoster, and the Ave Maria.  They should also have a wax Agnus Dei blessed by the Pope or some holy relics by their bed to be safe.

p. 149: Book 2, Chapter 2: Witches use human corpses to kill men.  [This scene of exhumation, dismemberment, and the cutting down of a hanged man is followed in the Summers edition by a scene of babies being spit-roasted and boiled, which does not appear in the second edition.  See above for hand-coloured version.]  Witches dig up corpses to use them for murderous purposes, especially the bodies of those condemned to death.  They also use the executioner's implements.  Others cook the whole body to ashes and mix it into a lump.  Various examples of this are provided, with witches using human remains for murder and for rendering vines and fruit trees barren.

p.152: Book 2, Chapter 3: Of witches' poisons.  The poisons are mixed from many substances, from leaves and stalks and roots of plants, from animals, fishes, venemous reptiles, stones and metals.  Sometimes they are administered to be swallowed and sometimes as an ointment to be applied externally.  In the first instance, they mix a powder into food or drink; in the second, they bewitch their victim while asleep by anointing various parts of the body, so that the poison is absorbed by the heat of the body, causing great pain.  A third method is by inhalation, which is the worst kind because it is quickly drawn through the mouth and so to the heart.  Various examples provided, including one from Girolamo Cardano's De Rerum Varietate xv. 80, concerning a hermaphrodite who crept about the houses of Saluzzo at night in 1536, as part of a poisoning conspiracy involving some forty men, including a hangman.

p.156: Book 2, Chapter 4: Of the malefice of binding [ligaminis].  Learned men give seven causes of impotence.  The first is if a couple is made hateful to one another, by slander or disease.  The second is when a couple are kept apart, in separate places or by a phantasm coming between them.  The third is when the vital spirit is prevented from flowing to the male genitals.  The fourth is when the semen is dried up.  The fifth is when the male member becomes flabby [flacida].  The sixth is through the application of natural drugs which deprive a woman of the power to conceive.  These are the commoner causes. The seventh is rarer, when the female genitals are closed up or narrowed, or when the male genitals are retracted, hidden or removed.  The Malleus and Rémy are cited, though not Bodin.  Several examples given, but none of them are ligatures, in the strict sense.  Perhaps that form of witchcraft was not widely feared in the regions known to Guazzo.

p.161: Book 2, Chapter 5: Of incendiary witchcraft.  Witches not only inflame souls but also set fire to bodies, houses, and whole towns.  They are evidently fuel for the eternal fire.  Examples from Rémy and from Konrad Lycosthenes' Prodigiorum ac Ostentorum Chronicon.  p.164: Book 2, Chapter 6: The Devil wishes to perpetuate the race of witches.  The infection of witchcraft [sortilegii lues] is spread to children by a sort of contagion [veluti contagione].  One of the sure proofs of witchcraft is that the parents of the accused were guilty of the crime.  The Devil urges and compels his servants to corrupt their children.  Several examples drawn from Rémy.

p.171: Book 2, Chapter 7: Of the witchcraft of love and hatred.  [This chapter does not appear in the Summers edition.  Hereafter, chapter numbers differ by one.]  A standard treatment, drawing especially on classical authors, such as Virgil, Lucan and Ovid, more than the demonologists.  Only one example, from the thirteenth century, which is striking in view of the predominance of such cases before the Roman and Venetian Inquisitions.  p.174: Book 2, Chapter 8: The various forms of witches' vindictiveness against the human race.  Witches are everywhere to be feared, although they do not have an infinite capacity to harm whoever they wish, as no one is altogether safe from them.  Although there are stories on this subject elsewhere in this book, it may be profitable and not altogether displeasing [non omnino iniucunda] to lay some out in detail.  Many examples, apparently all from Rémy.

p.185: Book 2, Chapter 9: Of the different diseases brought by demons.  Argues against the naturalistic position of many Galenists and Aristotelians, that natural diseases cannot be induced by demons.  Among others, he cites Codronchi, Jean Fernel and Cesalpino against this position.  Examples of prodigious vomiting and other recent witchcraft material.  p.194: Book 2, Chapter 10: Why God permits the Devil thus to act by witchcraft.  [The image not in the Summers edition at this point.]  God permits it so that  glory may be increased in us, because he permits man to sin, as a proof of divine benevolence in allowing free will even to the Devil, to show mercy to the human race by restraining the harm done, to show wisdom in causing the Devil to be overcome by mere mortals, to show power in not allowing the Devil to accomplish various things, to show justice in punishing sin even in this life.

p.210: Book 2, Chapter 11: Of vain practices and superstitions.  [This chapter is not in the Summers edition.]  This chapter deals with various forms of idoltry and divination, mainly from classical sources.
p.217: Book 2, Chapter 13 [sic]: Of oracles [de sortibus]. [This chapter is not in the Summers edition.]  This chapter deals with various forms of divination and necromancy.  [The Summers edition here contains two short chapters located elsewhere in the 1626 edition: 10, "The Laws Observed by Witches in Causing and in Curing Sickness", and 11, "Witches Use something of Religion in Healing Sickness".]

p. 219: Book 2, Chapter 12 [sic]: Striking fear into witches by word and deed is the best remedy for the ills they inflict.  [Due to the misnumbering, this is also 2.12 in Summers.]  The fear of prison can cause witches to remove their spells.  The external cures used by witches have no efficacy but merely act as a cover for witchcraft.  The demons do not remove a disease from one person without transferring it to another.  Examples from Rémy.  p.227: Book 2, Chapter 14: Of dreams, revelations, visions, and apparitions. [Not in Summers.]  Citations mainly classical and biblical but plenty of modern examples of the activities of the Devil, finishing with the tale of a wretched English heretic girl, Elizabeth Croft.

p.247: Book 2, Chapter 15: What rules witches have in their inflicting and removing of diseases. [2.10 in Summers, without the image.]  The Devil is quick to harm but witches find many obstacles in their path when they try to heal.  Several brief examples from Rémy.  p.255: Book 2, Chapter 19: After the many impieties accomplished by witches, the Devil tries to induce them to take their own lives. [2.13 in Summers.]  The harsh bondage in which the Devil keeps his servants induces despair.  When they try to kill themselves, they are instantly beyond help.  The Devil thus drives them to their eternal death but, if they will confess with penitential joy, voluntarily and without torture, God will grant them the chance to save their souls, at the modest cost of their most wretched lives [leui miserrimæ vitæ dispendio].

p.278: Book 3, Chapter 1: Whether it is lawful to remove a spell in order to cure the bewitched.  It is indeed permitted to burn, untie, dig up, or otherwise destroy the physical instruments of the curse in order to break the Devil's hold.

The rest of Book 3 deals with the diagnosis of possession and bewitchment and with the lawful Catholic sacraments and sacramentals that can be used to cure such afflictions.  It is worthy of note that Guazzo does not distinguish between direct possession and obsession caused by a witch.  He acknowledges only two categories: possession caused by a witch and bewitchment.  Thus, any strange afflictions are presumably to be attributed to the agency of a witch and none to the sins of the afflicted or the independent activity of the Devil.

All the other illustrations in Book 3 of the Summers edition are clearly quite different from the Guazzo illustrations, and from one another, and have been inserted by the editor.