Rémy was a fierce prosecutor of witches, hearing hundreds of cases during his career. Moreover, there was nowhere outside the Duchy of Lorraine for convicted witches to take their appeals, so his activities were unchecked by the sort of judicial scepticism that was exercised by the parlements of France. "In Lorraine, during the sixteen years in which I have judged prisoners charged with this crime, no less than eight hundred have been clearly proved guilty, and condemned to death by our Duumviri [the Provosts]; besides nearly as many more who have saved their lives by flight or by a stubborn resistance of the torture."
The Daemonolatreiae contains citations from a great many authors, ancient and modern, including Johann Weyer who is cited as an authority as if there were no differences between his position and that of Rémy. More importantly, however, the book is also based on cases from the archives, but unfortunately Rémy seems never to have returned the cases that he used, so it is impossible to check his account of any particular case against the original records. However, plenty survive and they have been the basis of work by Etienne Delcambre, Jean-Claude Diedler, and Robin Briggs. Briggs has published essays on the Lorraine cases and has a major study forthcoming. The Lorraine cases mentioned by Briggs in his Witches and Neighbours derive from this source. Rémy's work remained influential until the end of the seventeenth century, being frequently cited by learned authors, but it is an especially major influence on the work of Francesco Maria Guazzo.
The demonic pact, here seen in the 1693 reprint of the German translation of the Daemonolatreiae, was central to Rémy's account, but he repeatedly insists on the lack of profit to the witches. He starts by saying that witches are often induced into the Devil's service by threats rather than promises. The gold offered turns out to be dung or else a common stone that dissolves to powder. Copulation with demons is "cold, joyless, vain and barren". Witches are instructed to avoid all washing, especially of the hands. They are punished by demons for failing to attend the sabbat, healing diseases without permission, suffering an injury to be unavenged, failing to do evil, stubbornness, dissuading another from wrongdoing, confessing their guilt to a judge, using their spells without success, and many other shortcomings. The witches are also bound by oaths to one another, not to reveal the identities of other witches under interrogation by a judge, as Rémy is able to demonstrate from his own caseload. Their transportation through the air is painful and wearisome, unlike the scriptural instances of transportation by angels.
Rémy refused to take sides in the great debate over whether witches experienced actual transportation to the sabbat, or transvection. He cited Bodin on both sides of the case, that witches lay abed and imagined their flight and that they really flew to the sabbat. He piled up examples to show that both positions were reasonable. Great numbers attended these gatherings - he cites one witch as talking of five hundred being present - and they were mainly women, although Rémy does not dwell on this point. The food is tasteless and mean, lacking in salt and bread, and not of a kind to satisfy hunger, which encourages the notion that these gatherings are imaginary. On occasion, human flesh is consumed, or carrion. Like Pierre de Lancre, Rémy saw the sabbat as a scene of frenzied dancing and utter disorder, inverting normal Christian conduct: "they love to do everything in a ridiculous and unseemly manner. For they turn their backs towards the Demons when they go to worship them, and approach them sideways like a crab; when they hold out their hands in supplication they turn them downwards; when they converse they bend their eyes toward the ground; and in other ways they behave in a manner opposite to other men." Even though the songs and dancing are joyless, the witches must give thanks for them.
Witchcraft often ran in families, so that a clear proof against an accused is being the child of parents who were convicted of the crime. For Rémy, the appearance of piety was no guarantee that a woman was not a witch, for witches were the greatest of hypocrites. He provides an example of a woman in Metz, about whose arrest her parish priest protested to the magistrate. She constantly attended church, crossed herself, used the rosary, and was noted for her humble and holy life. Yet she was found guilty and justly sentenced to be burned. "And, as far as I have hitherto been able to understand from their confessions, nearly all women convicted of this crime have always cloaked the abomination of their lives under a similar cover of false and pretended piety."
In the view of Rémy, the powers of demons were vast and almost untrammelled, although the German edition depicts a poltergeist in chains. After citing some of the marvellous things seen in nature, he remarks, "there is nothing to hinder a Demon from raising up mountains to an enormous height in a moment, and then casting them down into the deepest abysses; from stopping the flow of rivers, or even causing them to go backwards; from drying up the very sea (if we may believe Apuleius); from bringing down the skies, holding the earth in suspension, making fountains solid, raising the shades of the dead, putting out the stars, lighting up the very darkness of Hell, and turning upside down the whole scheme of this universe." He also argued that many of the remarkable powers attributed to demons were actually relatively unsurprising, given their nature. For example, they could not really know the mind of God so as to be able to predict the future fully, but they were so old, and so powerful in memory and reasoning, that their knowledge far surpassed that of human astrologers and physicians, whose experience could suggest some future events. They could therefore seem to predict the future in order to impress or terrify their human servants, in part because of their "perfect knowledge of the secret and hidden properties of natural things". Rémy used the works of natural magicians, such as Girolamo Cardano, to show what was humanly possible, and then depicted demons as superefficient natural magicians.
Rémy, like Jean Bodin, was one of those extreme demonologists prepared to believe that almost any tale of witchcraft and the demonic was within the realm of the possible. He stood at the opposite end of the spectrum from Reginald Scot, for example, who was prepared to credit hardly any such tales. However, he insisted that demons could not procreate by copulating with humans, as this would be against the laws of nature. Monsters such as the famous monster of Ravenna were the product of human parents, and proceeded from natural causes. To believe otherwise was "a deception, a contrivance, a fallacy and a delusion." Moreover, demons cannot recall the souls of the dead to their bodies, although they pretend to do so, by entering the bodies themselves. Equally, he did not believe that the transmutation of sorcerors into animals, as in the case of the werewolf, was consonant with the divinely ordained laws of nature. "It is, therefore, absurd and incredible that anyone can truly be changed from a man into a wolf or any other animal." He decided that the belief was founded on demonic illusions, and that such authors as Olaus Magnus were mistaken.
The magistrate was charged with a noble, almost divine, task in the combatting of the Devil. As Rémy reminded the advocats of Lorraine in his Remonstrance of 1597, Ulpian had refused to allow blind lawyers to plead, as only the awesome sight of the judge could induce a proper reverence for his quasi-divine authority. At the opening of the Daemonolatreiae, he tells of the immunity of judges from the poisons and other wiles of demons, as revealed in the confessions of witches. "See how God defends and protects the authority of those whom He has given the mandate of His power upon earth, calling them Gods even as Himself (Ps. lxxxii): so that without doubt they are sacrosanct and, by reason of their duty and their office, invulnerable even to the spells of witches...Therefore let the Magistrate undertake his duties with confidence, knowing that he is pursuing a vocation in which he will always have God as his champion and protector." He also quoted Psalms 82.6 to the lawyers, when he insisted that they should respect magistrates as Gods, and described the law courts as "temples" and "sanctuaries". Towards the end of his account of his witch-hunting activities, Rémy insisted that judicial leniency towards witches was a form of blasphemy. Echoing the Malleus, he wrote, "This is to delay the coming of His Kingdom; for nothing can so firmly establish it as the routing, overthrow and destruction of all His enemies, together with Satan, who is their Captain."
Meric Casaubon on Rémy and Lancre, 1659
Robin Briggs, Communities of Belief: cultural and social tension in early modern France (Oxford, 1989) HN 39 .F8 B75 1989
Robin Briggs, "Dangerous Spirits: Shapeshifting, apparitions, and fantasy in Lorraine witchcraft trials"
Jean-Claude Diedler, Démons et Sorcières
en Lorraine : le bien et le mal dans les communautés rurales de
1550 à 1660 (Paris, 1996) BF 1517 .F5 D543