The profundity of theologians and jurists constantly developed new theories as to the modes of diabolic entrance into the "possessed." One such theory was that Satan could be taken into the mouth with one's food—perhaps in the form of an insect swallowed on a leaf of salad. Another theory was that Satan entered the body when the mouth was opened to breathe, and there are well-authenticated cases of doctors and divines who, when casting out evil spirits, took especial care lest the imp might jump into their own mouths from the mouth of the patient. Another theory was that the devil entered human beings during sleep; and, at a comparatively recent period, the King of Spain was wont to sleep between two monks, to keep off the devil.
The monasteries were frequent sources of that form of mental disease which was supposed to be caused by bewitchment. From the earliest period it is evident that monastic life tended to develop insanity. Such cases as those of St. Anthony and St. Augustine are typical of its effects upon the strongest minds; but it was especially the convents for women that became the great breeding-beds of this disease. Among the large numbers of women and girls thus assembled, many of them forced into confinement against their will, for the reason that their families could give them no dower, subjected to the unsatisfied longings, suspicions, bickerings, petty jealousies, envies, and hatreds, so notorious in convent-life, mental disease was not unlikely to be developed at any moment. Hysterical excitement in nunneries took shapes sometimes comical, but more generally tragical. Noteworthy is it that the last places where executions for witchcraft took place were mainly in the neighborhood of great nunneries, and the last famous victim—of the hundreds of thousands executed in Germany for this imaginary crime—was Sister Anna Renata Sänger, sub-prioress of a nunnery near Würzburg.
The same thing was seen among young women exposed to sundry fanatical Protestant preachers: insanity, both temporary and permanent, was thus frequently developed among the Huguenots of France, and has been thus produced in America, from the
- As to the devil's entering into the mouth while eating, see Calmeil, as above, ii, 105 106. As to the dread of Dr. Borde lest the evil spirit, when exorcised, might enter his own body, see Tuke, as above, p. 28. As to the King of Spain, see the noted chapter in Buckle's "History of Civilization in England."
- Among the multitude of authorities on this point, see Kirchhoff, as above, p. 337; and, for a most striking picture of this dark side of convent-life, drawn, indeed, by a devoted Roman Catholic, see Manzoni's "Promessi Sposi." On Anna Renata there is a striking essay by the late Johannes Scherr, in his "Hammerschläge und Historien." On the general subject of hysteria thus developed, see the writings of Carpenter and Tuke; and, as to its natural development in nunneries, see Maudsley, "Responsibility in Mental Disease," p. 9. Especial attention will be paid to this in the next chapter of this series—"Diabolism and Hysteria."