De Rio, 1603

The witch-hunter’s handbook of Martin Del Rio. (Del Rio, 1603)

Scholars of the occult by and large regarded themselves as God-fearing Christians. They were not dabblers in the Dark Arts but people seeking to understand the world in which they were living and the world to come. However, their motives were liable to be misunderstood and in times of religious and political crisis they made good scapegoats.

Disquisitionum Magicarum is a witch-finders guide. It sets out those arts and practices that were acceptable to the Catholic Church and those that were to be considered the devil's work. Two sections describe how confessions should be extracted and what punishments should be inflicted. The author argues that crimes of witchcraft are so heinous that normal burdens of proof need not apply, although he was moderate in his recommendation that suspects be tortured on no more than three separate occasions.

Tengler, 1527

This is the kind of torture someone suspected of witchcraft could expect. The image is from Ulrich Tengler’s Der Neü Layenspiegel, originally edited and published by the great humanist author Sebastian Brant. (Tengler, 1527)

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