Saducismus Triumphatus: or, Full and Plain Evidence Concerning Witches and Apparitions/The Postscript


THis Letter lying by me some time before I thought it opportune to convey it, and in the mean while meeting more than once with those that seemed to have some Opinion of Mr. Webster's Criticisms and Interpretations of Scripture, as if he had quitted himself so well there, that no Proof thence can hereafter be expected of the Being of a Witch, which is the scope that he earnestly aims at; and I reflecting upon that Passage in my Letter, which does not stick to condemn Webster's whole Book for a weak and impertinent piece, presently thought fit, (that you might not think that Censure over-rash or unjust) it being an endless task to shew all the weakness and impertinencies of his Discourse, briefly by way of Postscript, to hint the weakness and impertinency of this part which is counted the Master-piece of the Work, that thereby you may perceive that my Judgment has not been at all rash touching the whole.

And in order to this, we are first to take notice what is the real scope of his Book; which if you peruse, you shall certainly find to be this: That the Parties ordinarily deemed Witches and Wizzards, are only Knaves and Queans, to use his Phrase, and arrant Cheats, or deep Melancholists; but have no more to do with any Evil Spirit or Devil, or the Devil with them, than he has with other Sinners or wicked Men, or they with the Devil. And Secondly, we are impartially to define what is the true Notion of a Witch or Wizzard, which is necessary for the detecting of Webster's Impertinencies.

As for the Words Witch and Wizzard, from the Notation of them, they signifie no more than a wise Man, or a wise Woman, In the Word Wizzard, it is plain at the very first sight. And I think the most plain and least operose deduction of the name Witch, is from Wit, whose derived Adjective might be Wittigh or Wittich, and by contraction afterwards Witch; as the Noun Wit is from the Verb to weet which is, to know. So that a Witch, thus far, is no more than a knowing Woman; which answers exactly to the Latine word Saga, according to that of Festus, Sagæ dictæ anus quæ multa sciunt. Thus in general: But Use questionless had appropriated the Word to such a kind of skill and knowledge as was out of the common road, or extraordinary. Nor did this peculiarity imply in it any unlawfulness. But there was after a further restriction and most proper of all, and in which alone now adays the words Witch and Wizzard are used. And that is, for one that has the knowledge or skill of doing or telling things in an extraordinary way, and that in vertue of either an express or implicite sociation or confederacy with some Evil Spirit. This is a true and adequate definition of a Witch or Wizzard, which to whomsoever it belongs, is such, & vice versa. But to prove or defend, that there neither are, nor ever were any such, is, as I said, the main scope of Webster's Book: In order to which, he endeavours in his sixth and eighth Chapters to evacuate all the Testimonies of Scripture; which how weakly and impertinently he has done, I shall now shew with all possible brevity and perspicuity.

The Words that he descants upon, are Deut, 18. 10, 11. There shall not be found among you any one that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an Enchanter, or a Witch, or a Charmer, or a consulter with familiar Spirits, or a Wizzard, or a Necromancer. The first Word or Name in the Hebrew is קיסם קסמים [Kosem Kesamim] a Diviner. Here because קסם sometimes has an indifferent sence, and signifies to divine by natural Knowledge or humane Prudence or Sagacity; therefore nothing of such a Witch as is imagined to make a visible League with the Devil, or to have her Body fuck'd by him, or have carnal copulation with him, or is really turned into a Cat, Hare, Wolf or Dog, can be deduced from this Word. A goodly inference indeed, and hugely to the purpose, as is apparent from the foregoing definition. But though that cannot be deduced, yet in that, this Divination that is here forbidden, is plainly declared abominable and execrable, as it is v. 12. it is manifest that such a Divination is understood that really is so; which cannot well be conceived to be, unless it imply either an express or implicite inveaglement with some evil invisible Powers who assist any kind of those Divinations that may be comprehended under this general Term. So that this is plainly one Name of Witchcraft according to the genuine definition thereof. And the very Words of Saul to the Witch of Endor, are, קםומי נא לי באוב that is to say, Divine to me I pray thee by thy familiar Spirit. Which is more than by natural Knowledge or humane Sagacity.

The next Word is מצובו [Megnonen] which though our English Translation renders (from [Gnon] Tempus) an observer of Times; (which should rather be a Declarer of the seasonableness of the time, or unseasonableness of the time, or unseasonableness as to success; a thing which is enquired of also from Witches) yet the usual sense rendred by the learned in the Language, is Præstigiator, an imposer on the Sight, Sapientes prisci, says Buxtorf, a ציו [Gnajin, Oculus] deduxerunt & םציבו [Megnonen] esse eum dixerunt, qui tenet & præstringit oculos, ut falsum pro vero videant. Lo another Word that signifies a Witch or a Wizzard, which has its name properly from imposing on the sight, and making the By-stander believe he sees Forms or Transformations of things he sees not. As when Anne Bodenham transform'd her self before Anne Styles in the shape of a great Cat; Anne Styles her sight was so imposed upon, that the thing to her seem'd to be done, though her Eyes were only deluded. But such a delusion certainly cannot be performed without confederacy with evil Spirits. For to think the Word signifies Præstigiator in that sense we translate in English, Juggler, or an Hocus-Pocus, is so fond a conceit, that no Man of any depth of Wit can endure it. As if a merry Juggler that plays tricks of Legerdemain at a Fair or Market, were such an abomination to either the God of Israel or to his Lawgiver Moses; or as if an Hocus-Pocus were so wise a weight as to be consulted as an Oracle: For it is said v. 14. For the Nations which thou shalt possess they consult מצובבים [Megnonenim] What, do they consult Jugglers and Hocus-Pocusses? No certainly they consult Witches or Wizzards, and Diviners, as Anne Styles did Anne Bodenham. Wherefore here is evidently a second name of a Witch.

The third Word in the Text, is מבחש [Menachesh] which our English Translation renders an Enchanter. And with Mr. Webster's leave, (who insulteth so over their supposed ignorance) I think they have translated it very learnedly and judiciously: For Charming and Enchanting, as Webster himself acknowledges, and the Words intimate, being all one, the Word מבחש [Menachesh] here, may very well signifie Enchanters or Charmers; but such properly as kill Serpents by their charming, from בחש [Nachash] which signifies a Serpent, from whence comes בחש [Nichesh] to kill Serpents or make away with them. For a Verb in Pihel, sometimes (especially when it is formed from a Noun) has a contrary signification. Thus from שרש radix is שרש radices evulsit, from רשו Cinis רשו removit Cineres, from חטא peccavit חטא expiavit à peccato; and so lastly from בחש Serpens is made בחש liberavis â serpentibus, nempe occidendo vel fugando per incantationem. And therefore there seems to have been a great deal of skill and depth of Judgment in our English Translators that rendred מבחש [Menachesh] an Enchanter, especially when that of Augur or Southsayer, which the Septuagint call Όιωνιζόωνον (there being so many harmless kinds of it) might seem less suitable with this black List: For there is no such abomination in adventuring to tell, when the wild Geese fly high in great Companies and cackle much, that hard weather is at Hand. But to rid Serpents by a Charm is above the power of Nature; and therefore an indication of one that has the assistance of some invisible Spirit to help him in this exploit, as it happens in several others; and therefore this is another name of one that is really a Witch.

The fourth Word is, מבשף [Mecasseph] which our English Translators render, a Witch; for which I have no quarrel with them, unless they should so understand it that it must exclude others from being so in that sense I have defin'd, which is impossible they should. But this, as the foregoing, is but another term of the same thing; that is, of a Witch in general, but so called here from the Prestigious imposing on the sight of Beholders. Buxtorf, tells us, that Aben Ezra defines those to be מבשפים [Mecassephim] qui mutant & transformant res naturales ad aspectum oculi. Not as Jugglers and Hocus-Pocusses, as Webster would ridiculously insinuate, but so as I understood the thing in the second name: For these are but several names of a Witch, who may have several more Properties than one Name intimates. Whence it is no wonder that Translators render not them always alike. But so many names are reckoned up here in this clause of the Law of Moses, that, as in our Common-Law, the sence may be more sure, and leave no room to evasion, And that here this name is not from any tricks of Legerdemain as in common Jugglers that delude the sight of the People at a Market or Fair, but that it is the name of such as raise Magical Spectres to deceive Mens sight, and so are most certainly Witches, is plain from Exod. 22. 18. Thou shalt not suffer מבשפה [Mecassephah] that is, a Witch to live. Which would be a Law of extreme severity, or rather cruelty, against a poor Hocus-pocus for his tricks of Legerdemain.

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For I have made my Postscript much longer than my Letter, before I was aware; and I need not enlarge to you, who are so well versed in these things already, and can by the quickness of your Parts presently collect the whole measures of Hercules by his Foot, and sufficiently understand by this time it is no rash Censure of mine in my Letter, That Webster's Book is but a weak impertinent piece of Work, the very Master-piece thereof being so weak and impertinent, and falling so short of the Scope he aims at, which was really to prove that there was no such thing as a Witch or Wizard, that is, not any mention thereof in Scripture, by any Name of one that had more to do with the Devil, or the Devil with him, than with other wicked Men; that is to say, of one who in virtue of Covenant, either implicit or explicit, did strange things by the help of evil Spirits, but that there are many sorts of Deceivers and Impostures, and divers Persons under a passive Delusion of Melancholy and Fancy, which is part of his very Title-page.

Whereby he does plainly insinuate, that there is nothing bun Couzenage or Melancholy in the whole Business of the Feats of Witches. But a little to mitigate or smother the grossness of this false Assertion, he adds, And that there is no corporeal League betwixt the Devil and the Witch; and that he does not suck on the Witches Body, nor has carnal Copulation with her, nor the Witches turned into Dogs or Cats, &c. All which things as you may see in his Book, he understands in the grossest imaginable, as-if the Imps of Witches had Mouths of Flesh to suck them, and Bodies of Flesh to lie with them, and at this rate he may understand a corporeal League, as if it were no League or Covenant, unless some Lawyer drew the Instrument, and Engrossed it in Vellum or thick Parchment, and there were so many Witnesses with the Hand and Seal of the Party: Nor any Transformation into Dogs or Cats, unless it were Real and Corporeal, or grosly Carnal; which none of his Witch mongers, as he rudely and slovenly calls that Learned and Serious Person, Dr. Casaubon and the rest, do believe. Only it is a disputable Case of their Bodily Transformation, betwixt Bodinus and Remigius; of which more in my Scholia. But that without this Carnal transmutation, a Woman might not be accounted a Witch, is so foolish a Supposition, that Webster himself certainly must be ashamed of it.

Wherefore if his Book be Writ only to prove there is no such thing as a Witch that Covenants in Parchment with the Devil by the Advice of a Lawyer, and is Really and Carnally turned into a Dog, Cat, or Hare, &c. and with carnal Lips sucked by the Devil, and is one with whom the Devil lies Carnally; the Scope thereof is manifestly impertinent, when neither Dr. Casaubon, nor any one else holds any such thing. But as for the true and adequate Notion of a Witch or Wizard, such as at first I described, his Arguments all of them are too too weak and impertinent, as to the disproving the Existence of such a Witch as this, who betwixt his Deceivers, Impostors and Melancholists on one Hand, and those gross Witches he describes on the other Hand, goes away shere as a Hare in a green Balk betwixt two Lands of Corn, none of his Arguments reaching her, or getting the sight of her, himself in the mean time standing on one side amongst the Deceivers and Impostors, his Book, as to the main Design he drives at being a meer Cheat and Impostor,

C. C. C. May 25,