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Devil, The by Almond Philip C

Devil, The by Almond Philip C

Author:Almond, Philip C. [Almond, Philip C.]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: I.B.Tauris
Published: 2014-03-16T16:00:00+00:00


The Devil’s Mark

In Protestant theology, and Calvinist thought in partic­ular, the relationship established between God and man was a covenantal one in which the terms were established by God alone. So it is perhaps a matter of little surprise that in Calvinist demonology, the emphasis was on the covenant made between the Devil and the witch. As the Genevan Calvinist Lambert Daneau put it in 1574, sorcerers work and infect things by their poison through Satan. ‘There is no sorcerer,’ he continued, ‘but he maketh a league & covenant with the Divel, and voweth himselfe unto him.’44 The covenant with the Devil was sealed by his marking the witch either with his teeth or his claws. It was a mark, declared Daneau, that the witch ‘alwayes beareth about him, some under the eye liddes, others betwene their buttocks, some in the roofe of their mouthe, and in other places where it may be hid & concealed from us’.45

Daneau’s commitment to the idea that the pact with the Devil was sealed with the Devil’s mark played little role in the writings of the early demonologists. The Malleus Maleficarum, for example, makes no reference to it. It was on other occasions referred to, if only to be refuted.46 Catholic demonologists only came to it late in the sixteenth century. Nicholas Remy, for example, in his Daemonolatria (Demonolatry) in 1595 had no doubts that the Devil marked those whom he had newly claimed as a sign of his ownership of them. He reminded his readers that these marks could be found by their being insensitive to pain and not bleeding when pricked, however deeply. It was explained for him by the fact that areas exposed to extreme cold lose their sensitivity and, when touched by the talons of the Devil’s icy cold body, they remained permanently affected. Henri Boguet similarly noted that ‘the place where they bear these marks is so insensitive that they do not shrink even if they are probed to the bone in that place.’47

Still, Boguet did not want to make the discovery of marks necessary to a conviction. They are very difficult to find, he said, because they are very inconspicuous. The Devil often effaces them as soon as the witch is arrested. Moreover, some witches are never marked; the Devil only branded those whose loyalty was in most doubt. Thus for Boguet the absence of a mark should not be a conclusive piece of evidence suggesting innocence. ‘[T]hey are wrong,’ he concluded, ‘who are so scrupulous as to be unwilling to condemn a witch to death unless a mark can be found, as is the practice of a certain Republic [Geneva] which I shall not name.’48

The Scottish Reformer John Knox, exiled from his native Scotland from 1553 to 1555, had learned not only his theology but also his demonology from Calvinist Geneva. So it is not surprising that the Devil’s mark, as evidence of the demonic pact, often accompanied by the ‘pricking’ of the witch in search of



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