Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/178

This page has been validated.

possession of the devil in hell. As for myself, I have the authority of two bishops."

It was formerly held by both Catholics and Protestants that unbaptized children were in the power of the devil, and the Catholic ritual still prescribes the following formula of exorcism, to be used before baptism: "I exorcise thee, unclean spirit, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, that thou departest and goest forth from this servant of God; for he who walked on the sea, and extended his right hand to the sinking Peter, commands thee, O damned one! Therefore, accursed devil, know thy doom, and give honor to the living and true God, give honor to Jesus Christ and to the Holy Ghost, and go out of this servant of God, whom God and our Lord Jesus Christ have deigned to call by his grace and mercy to the fountain of baptism. [Here the priest makes the sign of the cross on the child's forehead with his thumb.] And this sign of the cross which we place on his forehead, thou accursed devil shalt never dare to violate."

It is stated on good authority that ninety-nine out of one hundred of the peasants in Wernding and the adjacent country believe in witchcraft, and are wont to attribute murrain and marasmus and all kinds of pestilence to this cause. To their minds epidemiology finds its simple and satisfactory solution in demonology. It is also an interesting fact illustrating the local persistence of superstition that the people of this region were notorious three centuries ago for the zeal and cruelty with which they persecuted and prosecuted witches. Thirty-five old crones were burned as witches in Nördlingen between 1590 and 1594, and equal ardor was shown in Neuburg and other towns on the Danube. One "witch," Maria Holl, was put to the torture fifty-six times without extorting a confession, and escaped further racking only through the intervention of Ulm, her native city. Had the woman Herz lived in those times she would have been unquestionably the food of fagots. She has the reputation of being an estimable person, and her husband has brought a suit for slander before the court at Anspach.

The author of the pamphlet in which Father Aurelian's report is embodied does not maintain that Michael Zilk was actually possessed; on the contrary, he is inclined to think that Father Aurelian may have been deceived. What he strenuously insists upon, however, is the reality of demoniacal possession, which, he affirms, can not be questioned by any Catholic or Protestant or Jew who believes in the truth of his Holy Scriptures. "It is an incontestable fact, confirmed by the traditions of all nations of ancient and modern times, by the unequivocal testimony of the Old and New Testaments, and by the teaching and practice of the Catholic Church." The criterion, quod semper, quod ubique, quod