Reginald Scot
The Discovery of Witchcraft
(London, 1584)

Edited from the original text by Frank Luttmer.
The spelling has been modernized.

Book I

Chapter 3.

Who they be that are called witches, with a manifest declaration of the cause that moveth men so commonly to think, and witches themselves to believe that they can hurt children, cattle, &c. with words and imaginations: and of cozening witches.

One sort of such as are said to be witches, are women which be commonly old, lame, blear-eyed, pale, foul, and full of wrinkles; poor, and sullen, superstitious, and papists; or such as know no religion: in whose drowsy minds the devil hath gotten a fine seat; so as, what mischief, mischance, calamity, or slaughter is brought to pass, they are easily persuaded the same is done by themselves; imprinting in their minds an earnest and constant imagination hereof. They are lean and deformed, shewing melancholy in their faces, to the horror of all that see them. They are doting, scolds, mad, devilish; and not much differing from them that are thought to be possessed with spirits; so firm and steadfast in their opinions, as whosoever shall only have respect to the constancy of their words uttered, would easily believe they were true indeed.

These miserable wretches are so odious unto all their neighbors, and so feared, as few dare offend them, or deny them any thing they ask: whereby they take upon them; yea, and sometimes think, that they can do such things as are beyond the ability of human nature. These go from house to house, and from door to door for a pot full of milk, yeast, drink, pottage, or some such relief; without the which they could hardly live: neither obtaining for their service and pains, nor by their art, nor yet at the devils hands (with whom they are said to make a perfect and visible bargain) either beauty, money, promotion, wealth, worship, pleasure, honor, knowledge, learning, or any other benefit whatsoever.

It falleth out many times, that neither their necessities, nor their expectation is answered or served, in those places where they beg or borrow; but rather their lewdness is by their neighbors reproved. And further, in tract of time the witch waxeth odious and tedious to her neighbors; and they again are despised and despited of her: so as sometimes she curseth one, and sometimes another; and that from the master of the house, his wife, children, cattle, &c. to the little pig that lieth in the sty. Thus in process of time they have all displeased her, and she hath wished evil luck unto them all; perhaps with curses and imprecations made in form. Doubtless (at length) some of her neighbors die, or fall sick; or some of their children are visited with diseases that vex them strangely: as apoplexies, epilepsies, convulsions, hot fevers, worms, &c., which by ignorant parents are supposed to be the vengeance of witches. Yea and their opinions and conceits are confirmed and maintained by unskillful physicians: according to the common saying; Inscitiae pallium maleficium & incantatio. Witchcraft and enchantment is the cloak of ignorance: whereas indeed evil humors, and not strange words, witches, or spirits are the causes of such diseases. Also some of their cattle perish, either by disease or mischance. Then they, upon whom such adversities fall, weighing the fame that goeth upon this woman (her words, displeasure, and curses meeting so justly with their misfortune) do not only conceive, but also are resolved, that all their mishaps are brought to pass by her only means.

The witch on the other side expecting her neighbors mischances, and seeing things sometimes come to pass according to her wishes, curses, and incantations (for Bodin himself confesseth, that not above two in a hundred of their witchings or wishings take effect) being called before a justice, and due examination of the circumstances is driven to see her imprecations and desires, and her neighbors harms and losses to concur, and as it were to take effect: and so confesseth that she (as a goddess) hath brought such things to pass. Wherein, not only she, but the accuser, and also the justice are foully deceived and abused; as being through her confession and other circumstances persuaded (to the injury of God's glory) that she hath done, or can do that which is proper only to God Himself.

Another sort of witches there are, which be absolutely cozeners. These take upon them, either for glory, fame, or gain, to do any thing, which God or the devil can do: either for the foretelling of things to come, bewraying of secrets, curing of maladies, or working of miracles. But of these I will talk more at large hereafter.

Chapter 5.

A confutation of the common conceived opinion of witches and witchcraft, and how detestable a sin it is to repair to them for counsel or help in time of affliction.

But whatsoever is reported or conceived of such manner of witchcrafts, I dare avow to be false and fabulous (cozenage, dotage, and poisoning excepted:) neither is there any mention made of these kind of witches in the Bible. If Christ had known them, he would not have pretermitted to inveigh against their presumption, in taking upon them his office: as, to heal and cure diseases; and to work such miraculous and supernatural things, as whereby He Himself was specially known, believed, and published to be God; His actions and cures consisting (in order and effect) according to the power of our witchmongers imputed to witches. Howbeit, if there be any in these days afflicted in such strange sort, as Christ's cures and patients are described in the new testament to have been: we flee from trusting in God to trusting in witches, who do not only in their cozening art take on them the office of Christ in this behalf; but use his very phrase of speech to such idolaters, as come to seek divine assistance at their hands, saying; "Go thy ways, thy son or they daughter, &c. shall do well, and be whole."

It will not suffice to dissuade a witchmonger from his credulity, that he seeth the sequel and event to fall out many times contrary to their assertion; but in such case (to his greater condemnation) he seeketh further to witches of greater fame. If all fail, he will rather think he came an hour too late; than that he went a mile too far. Truly I for my part cannot perceive what is to a whoring after strange gods, if this be not. He that looketh upon his neighbors wife, and lusteth after her, hath committed adultery. And truly, he that in heart and by argument maintaineth the sacrifice of the mass to be propitiatory for the quick and the dead, is an idolater; as also he that alloweth and commendeth creeping to the cross, and such like idolatrous actions, although he bend not his corporal knees.

In like manner I say, he that attributeth to a witch, such divine power, as duly and only appertaineth unto GOD (which all witchmongers do) is in heart a blasphemer, an idolater, and full of gross impiety, although he neither go nor send to her for assistance.

Chapter 6.

A further confutation of witches miraculous and omnipotent power, by invincible reasons and authorities, with dissuasions from such fond credulity.

If witches could do any such miraculous things, as these and other which are imputed to them, they might do them again and again, at any time or place, or at any man's desire: for the devil is as strong at one time as at another, as busy by day as by night, and ready enough to do all mischief, and careth not whom he abuseth. And in so much as it is confessed, by the most part of witchmongers themselves, that he knoweth not the cogitation of man's heart, he should (me thinks) sometimes appear unto honest and credible persons, in such gross and corporal form, as it is said he doth unto witches: which you shall never hear to be justified by one sufficient witness. For the devil indeed entereth into the mind, and that way seeketh man's confusion.

The art always resupposeth the power; so as, if they say they can do this or that, they must show how and by what means they do it; as neither the witches, nor the witchmongers are able to do. For to every action is required the faculty and ability of the agent or doer; the aptness of the patient or subject; and a convenient and possible application. Now the witches are mortal, and their power dependeth upon the analogy and consonancy of their minds and bodies; but with their minds they can but will and understand; and with their bodies they can do no more, but as the bounds and ends of terrene sense will suffer: and therefore their power extendeth not to do such miracles, as surmounteth their own sense, and the understanding of others which are wiser than they; so as here wanteth the virtue and power of the efficient. And in reason, there can be no more virtue in the thing caused, than in the cause, or that which proceedeth of or from the benefit of the cause. And we see that ignorant and impotent women, or witches, are the causes of incantations and charms; wherein we shall perceive there is none effect, if we will credit our own experience and sense unabused, the rules of philosophy, or the word of God. For alas! What an inept instrument is a toothless, old, impotent, and unwieldy woman to fly in the air? Truly, the devil little needs such instruments to bring his purposes to pass.

It is strange, that we should suppose, that such persons can work such feats: and it is more strange, that we will imagine that to be possible to be done by a witch, which to nature and sense is impossible; specially when our neighbors life dependeth upon our credulity therein; and when we may see the defect of ability, which always is an impediment both to the act, and also to the presumption thereof. And because there is nothing possible in law, that in nature is impossible; therefore the judge doth not attend or regard what the accused man saith; or yet would do: but what is proved to have been committed, and naturally falleth in man's power and will to do. For the law saith, that to will a thing unpossible, is a sign of a mad man, or of a fool, upon whom no sentence or judgement taketh hold. Furthermore, what jury will condemn, or what judge will give sentence or judgement against one for killing a man at Berwicke; when they themselves, and many other saw that man at London, that very day, wherein the murder was committed; yea though the party confess himself guilty therein, and twenty witnesses depose the same? But in this case also I say the judge is not to weigh their testimony, which is weakened by law; and the judges authority is to supply the imperfection of the case, and to maintain the right and equity of the same.

Seeing therefore that some other things might naturally be the occasion and cause of such calamities as witches are supposed to bring; let not us that profess the Gospel and knowledge of Christ, be bewitched to believe that they do such things, as are in nature impossible, and in sense and reason incredible. If they say it is done through the devil's help, who can work miracles; why do not thieves bring their business to pass miraculously, with whom the devil is as conversant as with the other? Such mischiefs as are imputed to witches, happen where no witches are; yea and continue when witches are hanged and burnt: why then should we attribute such effect to that cause, which being taken away, happeneth nevertheless?

Chapter 7.

By what means the name of witches becometh so famous, and how diversely people be opinioned concerning them and their actions.

Surely the natural power of man or woman cannot be so enlarged, as to do any thing beyond the power and virtue given and engrafted by God. But it is the will and mind of man, which is vitiated and depraved by the devil: neither doth God permit any more, than that which the natural order appointed by him doth require. Which natural order is nothing else, but the ordinary power of God, powered into every creature, according to his state and condition. But hereof more shall be said in the title of witches's confessions. Howbeit you shall understand, that few or none are throughly persuaded, resolved, or satisfied, that witches can indeed accomplish all these impossibilities: but some one is bewitched in one point, and some is cozened in another, until in fine, all these impossibilities, and many more, are by several persons affirmed to be true.

And this I have also noted, that when any one is cozened with a cozening toy of witchcraft, and maketh report thereof accordingly verifying a matter most impossible and false as it were upon his own knowledge, as being overtaken with some kind of illusion or other (which illusions are right enchantments) even the self-same man will deride the likely proceeding out of another man's mouth, as a fabulous matter unworthy of credit. It is also to be wondered, how men (that have seen some part of witches's cozenage detected, and see also therein the impossibility of their own presumptions, and the folly and falsehood of the witches's confessions) will not suspect, but remain unsatisfied, or rather obstinately defend the residue of witches's supernatural actions: like as when a juggler hath discovered the slight and illusion of his principle feats, one would fondly continue to think, that his other petty juggling knacks of legerdemain are done by the help of a familiar: and according to the folly of some papists, who seeing and confessing the pope's absurd religion, in the erection and maintenance of idolatry and superstition, specially in images, pardons, and relics of saints, will yet persevere to think, that the rest of his doctrine and trumpery is holy and good.

Finally, many maintain and cry out for the execution of witches, that particularly believe never a whit of that which is imputed unto them; if they be therein privately dealt withall, and substantially opposed and tried in argument.

Chapter 8.

Causes that move as well witches themselves as others to think that they can work impossibilities, with answers to certain objections: where also their punishment by law is touched.

Cardanus writeth, that the cause of such credulity consisteth in three points; to wit, in the imagination of the melancholic, in the constancy of them that are corrupt therewith, and in the deceit of the judges; who being inquisitors themselves against heretics and witches, did both accuse and condemn them, having for their labor the spoil of their goods. So as these inquisitors added many fables hereunto, least they should seem to have done injury to the poor wretches, in condemning and executing them for none offense. But since (sayeth he) the springing up of Luther's sect, these priests have tended more diligently upon the execution of them; because more wealth is to be caught from them: insomuch as now they deal so loosely with witches (through distrust of gains) that all is seen to be malice, folly, or avarice that hath been practiced against them. And whosoever shall search into this cause, or read the chief writers hereupon, shall find his words true.

It will be objected, that we here in England are not now directed by the pope's inquisitors Haereticae pravitatis. I answer, that in times past here in England, as in other nations, this order of discipline hath been in force and use; although now some part of old rigor be qualified by two several statutes made in the fifth of Elizabeth, and thirty-third of Henry the eight. Nevertheless the estimation of the omnipotence of their words and charms seemeth in those statutes to be somewhat maintained, as a matter hitherto generally received; and not yet so looked into, as that it is refuted and decided. But how wisely so ever the parliament house hath dealt therein, or how mercifully soever the prince beholdeth the cause: if a poor old woman, supposed to be a witch, be by the civil or canon law convented; I doubt, some canon will be found in force, not only to give scope to the tormentor, but also to the hangman, to exercise their offices upon her. And most certain it is, that in what point soever any of these extremities, which I shall rehearse unto you, be mitigated, it is through the goodness of the Queen's Majesty, and her excellent magistrates placed among us. For as touching the opinion of our writers therein in our age; yea in our own country, you shall see it doth not only agree with foreign cruelty, but surmounteth it far. If you read a foolish pamphlet dedicated to the lord Darcy by W.W. 1582 you shall see that he affirmeth, that all those tortures are far too light, and their rigor too mild; and that in that respect he impudently exclaimeth against our magistrates, who suffer them to be but hanged, when murderers, and such malefactors be so used, which deserve not the hundredth part of their punishments. But if you will see more folly and lewdness comprised in one lewd book, I commend you to Ri. Ga. a Windsor man; who being a mad man hath written according to his frantic humor: the reading whereof may satisfy a wise man, how mad all these witchmonger's dealings be in this behalf.

Chapter 9.

A conclusion of the first book, wherein is fore-shewed the tyrannical cruelty of witchmongers and inquisitors, with a request to the reader to pursue the same.

And because it may appear unto the world what treacherous and faithless dealing, what extreme and intolerable tyranny, what gross and fond absurdities, what unnatural and uncivil discourtesy, what cankered and spiteful malice, what outrageous and barbarous cruelty, what lewd and false packing, what cunning and crafty intercepting, what bald and peevish interpretations, what abominable and devilish inventions, and what flat and plain knavery is practiced against these old women; I will set down the whole order of the inquisition, to the everlasting, inexcusable, and apparent shame of all witchmongers. Neither will I insert any private or doubtful dealings of theirs; or such as they can either deny to be usual, or justly cavil at; but such as are published and renewed in all ages, since the commencement of popery established by laws, practiced by inquisitors, privileged by princes, commended by doctors, confirmed by popes, councils, decrees, and canons; and finally be left of all witch mongers; to wit, by such as attribute to old women, and such like creatures, the power of the Creator. I pray you therefore, though it be tedious and intolerable (as you would be heard in your miserable calamities) so hear with compassion, their accusations, examinations, matters given in evidence, confessions, presumptions, interrogatories, conjurations, cautions, crimes, tortures, and condemnations, devised and practiced usually against them.

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Book XV

Chapter 1.

The exposition of Jidoni, and where it is found, whereby the whole art of conjuration is deciphered.

This word Iidoni is derived of Iada, which properly signifieth to know: it is sometimes translated, Divinus, which is a diviner or soothsayer, as in Deut. 18. Levit. 20: sometimes Ariolus, which is one that also taketh upon him to foretell things to come, and is found Levit. 19, 2 Kings. 23. Esai. 19. To be short, the opinion of them that are most skillful in the tongues, is, that it comprehendeth all them, which take upon them to know all things past and to come, and to give answers accordingly. I always followeth the word Ob, and in the scriptures is not named severally from it, and differeth little from the same in sense, and do both concern oracles uttered by spirits, possessed people, or cozeners. What will not cozeners or witches take upon them to do? Wherein will they profess ignorance? Ask them any question, they will undertake to resolve you, even of that which none but God knoweth. And to bring their purposes the better to pass, as also to win further credit unto the counterfeit art which they profess, they procure confederates, whereby they work wonders. And when they have either learning, eloquence, or nimbleness of hands to accompany their confederacy, or rather knavery, then (forsooth) they pass the degree of witches, and entitle themselves to the name of conjurors. And these deal with no inferior causes: these fetch devils out of hell, and angels out of heaven; these raise up what bodies they list, though they were dead, buried, and rotten long before; and fetch souls out of heaven or hell with much more expedition than the pope bringeth them out of purgatory. These I say (among the simple, and where they fear no law nor accusation) take upon them also the raising of tempests, and earthquakes, and to do as much as God himself can do. These are no small fools, they go not to work with a baggage toad, or a cat, as witches do; but with a kind of majesty, and with authority they call up by name, and have at their commandment seventy and nine principal and princely devils, who have under them, as their ministers, a great multitude of legions of petty devils; as for example.

Chapter 4.

The form of adjuring or citing of the spirits aforesaid to arise and appear.

When you will have any spirit, you must know his name and office; you must also fast, and be clean from all pollution, three or four days before; so will the spirit be the more obedient unto you. Then make a circle, and call up the spirit with great intention, and holding a ring in your hand, rehearse in your own name, and your companions (for one must always be with you) this prayer following, and so no spirit shall annoy you, and your purpose shall take effect. And note how this agreeth with popish charms and conjurations.

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ the father and the son and the Holy-ghost holy trinity and inseparable unity, I call upon thee, that thou maist be my salvation and defense, and the protection of my body and soul, and of all my goods through the virtue of thy holy cross, and through the virtue of thy passion, I beseech thee O Lord Jesus Christ, by the merits of thy blessed mother St. Mary, and of all thy saints, that thou give me grace and divine power over all the wicked spirits, so as which of them soever I do call by name, they may come by and by from every coast, and accomplish my will, that they neither be hurtful or fearful unto me, but rather obedient and diligent about me. And through thy virtue straightly commanding them, let them fulfill my commandments, Amen. Holy, holy, Lord God of sabbath, which wilt come to judge the quick and the dead, thou which art alpha and omega, first and last, King of kings and Lord of lords, Ioth, Aglanabrath, El, Abiel, Anathiel, Amazim, Sedomel, Gayes, Heli, Messias, Tolimi, Elias, Ischiros, Athanatos, Imas . . . .

Chapter 5.

A confutation of the manifold vanities contained in the precedent chapters, specially of commanding of devils.

He that can be persuaded that these things are true, or wrought indeed according to the assertion of cozeners, or according to the supposition of witchmongers and papists, may soon be brought to believe that the moon is made of green cheese . . . .

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