Open main menu

Page:Earth-Hunger and Other Essays.djvu/48

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

folly, and cruelty was turned against them. If we try to form an idea of the amount of suffering which resulted, our hearts stand still with horror.

Now there are some strong reasons for the faith in witchcraft. Everybody believed that witches existed, that they could enter into contracts with demons, and could get supernatural aid to carry out their purposes in this world. All the accused witches believed this. It was held to be wicked to make use of witches or demons, but it was believed that there were possible ways of accomplishing human purposes by employing them. Consequently when men or women wanted wealth, or office, or honor, or great success, or wanted to inspire love, or to gratify hate, envy, and vengeance, or wanted children, or wanted to prevent other people from having children, this way was always supposed to be open. No doubt very many of them tried it, at least in homely and silly ways—when put to the torture they confessed it. Then, too, somnambulism, dreams, and nightmare took forms which ran on the lines of popular superstition, and many a woman charged with witchcraft did not know but she had been guilty of it to some extent and without conscious knowledge. Again, the Scripture argument for demonism and witchcraft was very strong. It was this pitfall which caught the Protestants; how could they deny that there are any witches when the Bible says: "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Witches were persons who had gone over to the side of Satan and his hosts in their war on God; they were enemies of the human race. The deductions from the primary fantastic notion of demons were all derived on direct and indisputable lines, and those deductions ruled the thought of Christian Europe for five hundred years.

What was wanted to put a stop to the folly and wicked-