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FROM PAGANISM TO CHRISTIANITY
SEEING that it affects ourselves so considerably, we are in the habit of proclaiming the introduction of Christianity as the greatest revolution in history — a claim which will be more capable of demonstration when a few more thousand years have passed, and a few more religions have waxed and waned. At least, the mind of the cultured "Christian" of to-day varies little in its outlook — save in so far as it is affected by modern material discoveries — from that of the cultured "Pagan" of Imperial Rome, much less, indeed, than do either of them from the earnest Early Christian. The ovine tendency of human nature makes it inevitable that a few sincere believers — whatever their belief — will always attain a comet-like tail of followers, hypnotised by their earnestness, and themselves understanding very little about it. However it may have been with the small band of early Christians — whose belief was given reality by their sufferings in its cause — one may be sure that the ideas of the sixth century Christian in the village street upon Heaven, Hell, and their denizens, differed only in the change of a few names, and the addition of some intolerance from those of his pagan ancestor six centuries before. His spiritual advisers bade him worship the names of Christ, St. John, and St. Peter, in place of Apollo, Mercury, or Mars, and he, troubling his head about very little but his means of daily livelihood, accepted the change without demur. Meanwhile his mind — such as it was — worked along its old lines. As in all great religious movements, we find no sudden or violent change — except, of course, in individual cases — the older ideas were abandoned, in name, though only very slowly, and the change from Diana to Christ, so far as it affected the great bulk of worshippers, was mentally imperceptible.
There were many Christians before Christ, just as there were many pagans after the death of Paganism. For centuries the new ideas, afterwards called Christian, had been fermenting in the minds of thoughtful pagans. The spirit of the age called for their crystallisation in a leader and the call of the West again received its answer from the East. But just as Naaman, a believer in the God of Israel, was yet permitted to bow down in the house of Rimmon — or as the theory and practice of modern Socialism are time after time directly contrary — so, save for martyrs and enthusiasts — the Tolstoys of their age — the general public accepted Christianity as filling up awkward gaps in their earlier beliefs rather than as superseding them altogether.
Roman witchcraft — continually reinforced from the Orient — grew in importance as faith in the greater gods decreased. Frowned upon by the police, as being contrary to public order, it was thus liable to be confounded with Christianity — which was forbidden on similar grounds — both alike being practised in secret and penalised if brought too prominently into public notice. Christianity, as being the more aggressive, was more severely repressed — and was accordingly destined to more success. And it was reserved for the successful Christian to prove upon his former companions in misfortune the utter uselessness of persecution. Just as we may thank the pagan persecutor that we now live in the Christian era, so the mediaeval — and modern — witch owed much of her existence to the persevering efforts of the early Christian towards the suppression of witchcraft and the witch. It was natural — and indeed praiseworthy — that the prominent features of paganism should be relegated to the realms of darkness by the successors to the pagan empire — the god of one religion inevitably becomes the devil of its supplanter. But whereas it was easy enough to lump together satyr, faun, centaur and siren, as varieties of demon, the witch was on different footing. She really existed, for one thing — in so far as that she was of flesh and blood at any rate — and she exercised more personal functions than any number of divinities. Everyone was ready to acclaim reforms which did not interfere with his own comfort — and the witch was a fireside necessity. She was family doctor, lawyer, and spiritual director — and payer-off of your old scores to boot — a factor in your life the loss of which could be compensated by no amount of religion. Also she stood for tradition, "the good old times," the respectability of unchanging conservatism. Christianity — novel and iconoclastic — might make head among the inconstant townsfolk, always ready for some new thing; the provinces, the village, the lonely farmhouse or the fishing hamlet clung tenaciously to what had been good enough for their grandfathers — as, indeed, they have been doing ever since.
Nevertheless, from the great cities the creed of Christ spread slowly to the villages — suffering many modifications before it reached them. Delivered straight from the lips of a Church father, Christian doctrine might be rigid and direct enough. Passed from mouth to mouth, ignorant, or understanding, they might reach the distant flock so diluted as to have opportunity for compromise with time-honoured precedent — and what more so than witchcraft. You might — if you were an open-minded husbandman — conceive that you had been mistaken in seeing fauns dancing where the sunlight glinted down through tossing leaves, or in hearing the voices of nymphs in the chattering of a brook; but a witch — whom you could see, touch, hear, who had cured your toothache and revenged you on your dishonest neighbour — she took a great deal of explaining away. Wicked she might be, getting her power from unholy compact with the Evil One — burn, slay, persecute her by all means — if it would please Heaven — but to disbelieve in her altogether, that were asking too much of a plain man. How, indeed, could you expect it of him when the very Emperors proved by their edicts the openness of their minds. A Marcus Aurelius not only studied magic, but persecuted Christians — slaying, among others, the venerable Polycarp. An Augustus might feel called upon to take police measures against witches; an Aurelian rebuked the Senate for not consulting the Sibylline books when the barbarians threatened the gates of Rome. "One might imagine," he said, "that we were assembled in a Christian church, rather than in the temple of all the gods." Where an Elagabalus renewed old superstitions and introduced yet others, a Constantine executed his favourite for seeking to influence the weather.
The personal predilections of the Emperors did but reflect the many and involved influences at work during the first four centuries after Christ.
Apart from the enduring influx of Eastern practices and superstitions, Neo-Platonism was responsible for the revival of belief in the supernatural as apart from the divine. The Alexandrian school, discarding the old systems of philosophy, converted its study into that of magic. The barbarians, again, were everywhere astir. The long warrings between Rome and the Germans culminated in the 9th year of the new era when the German Herman by his great victory over Varus brought about the eventual liberation of his country. In 259 A.D. the Emperor Gallienus married a barbarian princess and before the close of the third century A.D. the Empire had become largely "barbarised" by the Goths and Vandals who did it military service, and who, incidentally, served to bolster up paganism and to introduce new features into it. The Teutonic witch met her Roman sister, and introduced her to darker, grimmer, and more vigorous conceptions of her art. The dreadful pestilence which, in the third century, ravaged the Empire gave a new popularity to the black arts, and the Roman witch was never more sought after than in the years preceding the last and most violent persecution of the Christians at the hands of Diocletian.
Persecuted or petted, the witch was never able to progress in the good opinion of the Christian, whose protest against her existence was steady and constant whatever his own fate or condition.
As soon as the last of his own persecutors had laid aside the sword, he at once seized it and set to harassing the witch with a deserving vigour which has never altogether relaxed.
Whereas the pagan had chastised the witch with rods for injuring man, the Christian set about her with scorpions as an enemy of God. Nor was the exalted testimony of the Fathers lacking to inspire his energies. Tertullian, in the second century, declared the world to be over-run with evil spirits, including among them all heathen gods, whether amiable or the reverse, from Hebe to Hecate. Origen, in his third book on Job, mentions that enchantments are sometimes of the devil. Saint Augustine, in "De Civitate Dei," has no doubt that demons and evil spirits have connection with women. The earliest ecclesiastical decree bearing on the subject is that of Ancyra, in 315 A.D., by which soothsayers are condemned to five years' penance. In 525 the Council of Auxerre prohibited all resort to soothsayers. Witchcraft, which thus took upon its shoulders all the enormities of paganism, attained an importance it had never before possessed. The plain man began to realise that his family witch was a more important person than he had hitherto believed. If not herself of semi-infernal birth, he had it on Saint Augustine's authority, as aforesaid, that she was in all probability the mistress of a sylvan, faun, or other variety of devil, and that her offspring were themselves no less diabolical. Naturally enough they increased and multiplied, so that between corporeal and spiritual devils the world was over-populated. The Messalians, indeed, went so far as to make spitting a religious exercise — in the hope of casting out the devils inhaled at every breath; and the common superstition concerning sneezing has the same origin. It might almost be said, indeed, that in those early days devils filled, and to admiration, the part now played by the microbe in every-day life.
It is to be feared that, except by those who seriously studied the question, the existence of so many devils of one kind or another did not cause such general uneasiness as the clergy might desire — very much as now happens when the medical world is appalled by the discovery of some new microbe in strawberry, telephone receiver, or shirt-cuff. The plain man accepted them, and having after some centuries discovered that they made little practical difference to his life, ceased to feel more than a languid interest in even the most appalling new varieties discovered by saintly specialists. Their constant insistence upon the inherent wickedness of humanity and the almost insuperable dangers which assail the Christian on all sides lost something of their freshness in time, one may suppose, and were succeeded by a certain weariness. Granted that Christianity was the one sure road to salvation in the next world, it was so difficult to follow without stumbling that few, if any, could hope to arrive at the goal, save by some such lucky accident as a martyrdom. Christianity was thus bound, in practice, if not in theory, to come to some working agreement with the old, comfortable pagan customs it had superseded. Certain of the more popular pagan customs and festivals found their way into Christian observance, certain popular deities were baptised and became Christian saints. A familiar instance of this occurs in the case of Saint Walpurg. In Christian hagiology she occurs as a virgin saint, and as having accompanied Saint Boniface upon his missionary travels — all of which would seem to show that pious scandal-mongering was less rife in contemporary religious circles than is the case to-day. In folk-lore we find many wells and springs associated with her and thus acquiring valuable medicinal qualities. The oil exuded from her bones upon Walpurgis-nacht was valued as relieving the pangs of toothache and of childbirth. Potent in the cure of hydrophobia, the dog is included among her pictorial attributes, while she is also represented as bearing in her hand either oil or ears of corn — the symbols of agricultural fertility. The festivals and rejoicings which took place upon Walpurgis-nacht, with their special connection with witchcraft, would further seem to show that Walpurg before she became a Christian saint had a long history as a mother-goddess. In the same manner in the cult of the Virgin may be found traces of that worship of Diana which for 600 years persisted side by side with Christianity, and is far from being altogether extinct in Italy even to-day.
As may readily be understood, these paganising tendencies were not favourably regarded by the fathers. In the year 600 A.D. St. Eligius felt called upon to forbid dancing, capering, carols, and diabolical songs upon the festival of Saint John. A statute of Saint Boniface forbids choruses of laymen and maidens to sing and feast in the churches. As the Church increased in power, many such practices — as, for example, the dancing of women round sacred trees and wells, with torches or candles in their hands, the common meal, the choral song and sacrifice — were roundly forbidden as witchcraft, the uprooting of which the Church at last felt capable of taking seriously in hand. This was indeed become a matter almost of life and death, for the Church found itself in many ways in acute competition with the witch, the one attaining by lawful means similar results to those achieved by the other through the assistance of Satan. And just as Adam, upon learning that the apple was forbidden to him, immediately hungered after it to the exclusion of all other fare, so the public showed itself more eager to obtain the forbidden services of the witch than those of the legitimate practitioner. So much was this the case that the Church was sometimes forced to resort to other means than persecution to show itself capable of competing against the witch with her own weapons. Occasionally, it must be confessed, these methods suggested rather the American Trust magnate than the fair competitor, as, for instance, the case of the Blocksberg. This hill was a place of considerable importance to witches, providing a large choice of magical herbs as the raw material for their trade in weather-charms. These could, however, be gathered only upon the eve of Saint John and during the ringing of the neighbouring church-bells. The ecclesiastical authorities, becoming aware of this, gave orders that the bells should be rung only for the shortest possible period on that date — a proceeding the unfairness of which could only have been exceeded by not ringing the bells at all.
Another story of the kind, quoted by Mr. Lecky, shows that, even in fair and open competition, holy water could hold its own against the most powerful of black magic. A certain Christian, Italicus by name, was addicted to horse-racing at Gaza. One of his most dangerous and constant competitors was a pagan Duumvir. This latter, being versed in the black arts, therewith "doped" his horses so successfully that he invariably won. Italicus, being prohibited from following his example, at last appealed to Saint Hilarion, exhorting him to uphold the honour of the Church by some signal display of supernatural power. The saint, after some hesitation, complied, and presented Italicus with a bowl of specially consecrated holy-water. At the start of the next race Italicus liberally besprinkled his team, whereupon they drew his chariot to the winning-post with supernatural rapidity. The Duumvir's horses, on the other hand, faltered and staggered, as though belaboured by an unseen hand — and, needless to say, lost the race. Whether the Duumvir appealed to the contemporary Jockey Club to disqualify the winning team, and, if so, with what result, we are not informed.
Considering the vast and ever-increasing population of witches and demons, it seemed an almost hopeless task to exterminate them altogether. Nor indeed was it until after the thirteenth century that the Church attempted the task on any universal scale. If an individual witch was unlucky enough to fall into priestly hands, her fate was likely to be unhappy — but in the early days of the faith the priest felt himself capable of triumphing over her by less material weapons. Only, as priests could not be everywhere, and the number of witches so largely exceeded their own, means were provided whereby even the layman might withstand them. Thus burning sulphur was very efficacious in the driving out of devils, the subtlety (!) of its odour having great power of purification. The gall of a black dog put in perfume was another acknowledged recipe, as was the smearing of his blood upon the walls of the infested house.
It is noteworthy, and a fact that vouches strongly for the sincerity of the early Church, that although she thus practised what was nothing less than sanctified witchcraft, she never attempted one of the most frequent and popular of witchpractices — the foretelling of the future, so far, at any rate, as this world was concerned. It is true that the Christian's earthly future, being but an uncomfortable preliminary to posthumous joys, might be more happily left unforetold. Yet many of them did not altogether despise the pleasures of this life, and were very willing to pay for an anticipatory glimpse of any likely to be encountered.
Familiarity in some measure breeding contempt, the public in these early days thus regarded neither witch nor demon with the dread and hatred so manifest in the fifteenth century and onwards. For one thing, faith in the power of the Church was more implicit. To dally with the forbidden had all the fascination of a sport with a spice of danger in it, when you knew that at any time a power vastly greater than those of evil was ready to step in to protect you from the consequences of your over-rashness. Before the name of a fairly efficient saint the most powerful demon must bend his head, especially with holy water anywhere in the neighbourhood. If you fell under the power of a witch it could only be through neglecting to take proper precautions or to employ someone else to do so for a moderate fee. Our own Anglo-Saxon forefathers showed a very nice spirit of prudence in such matters — as in the famous meeting between Ethelbert King of Kent and Saint Augustine, held, by royal command, in the open air, lest the missionary, being under a roof, might practise unlawful arts upon the King. The witch, in a word, was everywhere, but so were the necessary antidotes — some of them of the simplest. Thus, in the story of Hereward we learn how the Wise Woman of Brandon, near Ely, anathematised the hero from a wooden scaffolding. To be really efficacious her curses must be thrice repeated, but before she had time to do this the scaffold was set on fire by Hereward's followers, and the Wise Woman perished miserably. The witch, in fact, like her gossip the Devil, always comes off second best in folk-lore where she is matched against the truly virtuous — a comforting reflection for everybody, however ominous for their friends.
She was still to some extent a shadowy personality, of shifting and indefinite attributes. Although in 696 the Council of Berkhampstead decreed that any person sacrificing to the Devil should be punished — a clear enough reference to witches — it was not until some centuries later that the conception of the witch definitely crystallised into its modern form of a woman carrying out an actual compact with Satan, working miracles by his power, and frequently transported through the air to pay him homage at Sabbath gatherings. Until then the Church may be said to have been obtaining and sifting evidence, building up a formidable mass of precedent and tradition, to be employed with deadly effect when witchcraft was definitely branded as heresy.
Whether or no the sins of witch and sorcerer be definitely codified, it is the duty of the lawgiver to provide for all contingencies; and just as Justinian devoted part of his code to dealing with witchcraft, so Charlemagne, two centuries and a half later, enacted new and stringent laws for the abatement of sorcery — as in the Capitular of 789, wherein supernatural meteorology is forbidden. More direct, though perhaps less efficacious, were such deterrent methods as those of the pious Bishop Barbatus, who in the seventh century cut down and uprooted a certain nut-tree famous as a meeting place for witches. It may here be noted that trees were at all times much favoured by the evil sisterhood, more especially as meteorological offices. Numerous witch-oaks throughout Germany served for this purpose — one, at Buckenhofen, was used as a swing by witches attending the Walpurgis-nacht. It is something of a paradox that while a grove of oaks — the sacred tree of the Teutons, as is the linden of the Slavs — is a protection against magic, particular trees should be famous as gathering-points for witches.
As the year 1000 approached, the generally optimistic outlook upon things in general suffered a decline. Famine and pestilence grew always more commonplace; the price of corn increased unprecedentedly; starvation became the normal condition of millions throughout Europe; cases occurred in which children were killed and devoured by their famished parents; dead bodies were disinterred and used for food. Old prophecies had placed the end of the world in the year 1000, and to the miseries of hunger and disease were added those of universal terror. The forward movement in the Church seemed to have died away, and Christian fervour gave place to increased insistence on forms and ceremonies, regarded by the commonalty as tiresome, if necessary, duties. Small wonder that they sought for something which, instead of the hopeless contemplation of inherent sin, should provide some ray of present comfort. Here was the opportunity of the witch, the sorcerer, and the alchemist — and here also began the bitterest contest between priesthood and witchcraft. Hitherto the Church had been able to regard such rivals, if not with tolerance, at least with contempt. Now it had to fight against weapons forged in its own furnaces, appealing to that abysmal ignorance ordained by the priest upon his flock. If the monopoly in knowledge be power, its application is double-edged; the Church was forced to seek some new means of inspiring the fear of celestial wrath to come into those who could imagine no circumstances more dreadful than what they already daily endured. The time had come to prove that those who tampered with the forbidden must expect a double share of punishment — in this world as well as the next — and that the earthly penalty was quite as much to be dreaded as the best infernal efforts.
In 1025, Burckhard of Worms inserts the significant question in the confessional: — "Have you believed that there are women who can turn love into hate and hatred into love, or who can harm their neighbours and seize their goods for themselves? Have you believed that godless women blinded by the Devil ride abroad at night with the demon Holda, obeying her as goddess?" Followed in due course Ethelred's decree of banishment against witches, soothsayers, and magicians, and that of Canute, which included love-witchcraft as a branch of heathendom.
Though the anathemas of the Church might for a time stem the increasing tide of witch-popularity, they were fundamentally only incentives towards a cult which did not include anathemas or persecution — except, indeed, those within the control of the humblest individual. In the twelfth century, moreover — the century of the Crusaders — many new influences were at work. To counteract the general lethargy into which the Church was sinking, the Popes availed themselves of their knowledge of human nature. Epidemical frenzy was aroused by remission of penance, absolution of all sins, past, present, and to come, and the assurance of eternal felicity for all who took the cross. Sham miracles and prophecies stimulated the popular enthusiasm, and more potent than either was the knowledge among millions that any change they might experience must be for the better. But however promising at the time, the great "revival" was fraught with danger to the Church that provoked it. New conditions evolved new ideas. Asia provided greater luxury for body and mind than any hitherto known to its European invaders. The new world thus opened before them might be sinful; it was at least very pleasant. Future damnation presents few terrors to the well-fed, and the discovery that millions existed, and in comfort, who had never taken off their hat to a priest in their lives — however shocking it might seem at first — was bound to give furiously to think.
Among the forbidden institutions upon which the Crusader found reason to reconsider his ideas, witchcraft took a prominent place. Anathema though it might be, it had a multitude of Oriental exponents, who, whatever they might have to look for in the next world, had little cause to complain of this. Such abominations cried for intelligent investigation, if only that they might be refuted, with the result that the Crusader returned home with the knowledge of many novel features that might be profitably added to the Western ritual of magic. Meanwhile in his absence his own native practitioners had not been idle. Faithful wives were anxious to know something of their lords' whereabouts, safety, or, it may be, fidelity. Those who were not faithful had even more need of tidings as to his probable return and of means for delaying it. In such emergencies the services of the witch were indispensable — and priestly prohibitions only served to advertise her powers and to increase the number of her suppliants. These various causes, and more particularly the last, combined to give witchcraft an importance in social life hitherto denied to it, and to draw down upon it more and more the wrath of Mother Church. She had, indeed, other no less pressing calls upon her attention. The long slumber of orthodoxy was at an end; many heresies disturbed the minds of the faithful. The revival of Latin literature stirred thoughts and feelings long blurred by Church teaching. The Crusaders were not the sole importers of Oriental ideas; Greek traders also, along with the drugs and perfumes of the East, brought new doctrines, received with dangerous tolerance. The vigorous Innocent III. quickly perceived the danger, and entered upon a systematic persecution of heretics. In 1208 a Papal Legate having been murdered by Raimond of Toulouse — against whom the Church had already serious cause of complaint, Innocent at once proclaimed a crusade, and the heretical Albigenses were involved in the ruin of their most powerful protector, suffering a persecution of almost unprecedented severity. The establishment of the Inquisition now became a logical necessity if the spread of heresy was to be saved, and little time was lost in its creation.
By this time Satan had assumed a definite form and personality in the public mind, and the idea that the witch obtained her powers through a compact with him, long sedulously inculcated, had taken root. It is true that even yet the "Sabbath" was but a harmless servile carnival, frowned upon, indeed, and discouraged wherever possible. Coincidentally with the rise of the general heresy hunt, Europe was overrun by a number of devastating epidemics. Leprosy, epilepsy, and every form of skin disease raged almost unchecked. They were attributed to many causes, from lack of faith to the consumption of various Eastern drugs introduced by home-faring Crusaders — though lack of food and cleanliness were doubtless the most active agents in spreading them abroad. Dirt had long been accounted almost a mark of holiness — and one so easy of attainment that few cared to disregard it and arouse suspicion as to their orthodoxy by too frequent ablutions. Medical science was at its lowest ebb; the priests, with keen common sense, declared skin eruptions to be divinely-inflicted punishments, and therefore not amenable to holy water. In despair the unhappy sufferers turned to the witch for aid, who, by her knowledge of herbs and simples, was qualified to alleviate, if not to cure. Everything seemed to conspire in thrusting forward the witch into dangerous prominence.
The ecclesiastical measures of repression grew always more severe. Canon Law decreed that soothsayers be subjected to excommunication, and enjoined upon the bishops to leave no stone unturned for their repression. By the fourteenth century the Sabbaths, under the penetrating eye of the Inquisition lost their harmless character and became forcing grounds of the Black Mass. The practice of medicine by women, however beneficial, grew more and more into disfavour, and year by year the attributes of the witch grew more infernal as the material Devil became more and more familiar in men's minds. No doubt the increase of witches was real as well as theoretical. Love of notoriety is of no modern growth — and the reputation of possessing infernal powers satisfactorily filled the position of the modern newspaper paragraph. This in more senses than one — for not only could you obtain notoriety for yourself, as does the modern Apache who murders for the reclame it will bring him, you could also satisfy a grudge against a neighbour, with no risk to yourself, by anonymously accusing her to the local clergy. Witchcraft, again, was open to all, without licence, examination, or entrance fee. Poverty, the desire of solitude, a nice taste in invective, and a black cat or so were all the stock-in-trade required to start in business.
The convenience, from the Church point of view, of catching witch and heretic in the same net was too obvious to be disregarded. By the fourteenth century their connection was well established in the eyes of church and law. In France, so early as the thirteenth century, prosecution took place for "vauderie," an omnibus-word which covered at once witchcraft and the heretical practices of those Vaudois from whose name it was derived. In Ireland, in 1324, proceedings for witchcraft taken against Dame Alice Kyteler and others in the Court of the Bishop of Ossory, brought about a conflict between Church and State, such cases, according to English law, being tried by a secular tribunal.
The substitution of linen for wool in dress was an efficient factor in abating the ravages of skin-diseases, but their place was taken by the more terrible Black Death, and, in 1350, epileptic dancings, known as the Dance of Saint Guy, broke out with especial virulence in Germany and Flanders. These and other diseases, constant wars, bad harvests, and other troubles brought about a series of class-wars, the Jacquerie in France, and Wat Tyler's insurrection in England, for example; the Devil and the witch between them shared the blame in the eyes of respectable Europe. The greater pestilences were attributed to the Devil's personal intervention, while minor diseases, and especially poisonings, fell to the witch's share — this latter accusation being, perhaps, not altogether without cause. The public — or that portion whose lives were cast in places sufficiently pleasant to prevent them desiring such consolation as magic might afford them — were now fully aroused to their iniquity. Against the agents of so grisly a horror as the mediaeval devil no measures could be too severe, no torture too dreadful. Scholasticism vied with the Church in deploring the increasing evil; John XXII.'s publication of the first Bull against witchcraft was capped by the University of Paris, which, in 1398, laid down rules for the judicial prosecution of witches, expressing at the same time regret that the crime of sorcery should be growing more common than in any former age. In England, from the Conquest onwards, commissions were issued from time to time empowering the Bishops to seek out sorcerers. In 1406 such a mission was delegated to the Bishop of Lincoln. It was not, however, until 1542 that penalties more severe than fine and imprisonment were inflicted by the Ecclesiastical Courts.
The ever-increasing prestige of witchcraft in time raised it to a point where it could be made an apt weapon for political intrigues. The burning of Jeanne d'Arc as a witch is a case in point, her tormentors by their choice of indictment dimming for long centuries the halo which surrounded her efforts towards the freeing of her country, while at the same time it provided ample opportunity for those who, having been among the first to hail the rising popular star, are also first to enjoy her fall from greatness. Another case, even more definitely political, was that of Eleanor Duchess of Gloucester, in which the charge of witchcraft proved a serviceable weapon in the hands of Cardinal Beaufort. The Duchess, although accused of no less a crime than procuring a wax image of Henry VI., manufactured by the Witch of Eye, with nefarious intent, escaped the death penalty indeed, but was condemned to public penance, followed by life-long banishment.
As the Reformation grew nearer, public opinion veered round to some slight extent in the direction of leniency. The Inquisition was itself becoming so unpopular that its victims were bound to excite some secret sympathy. The Renaissance, throwing wide the door to all the intellect of classical days, already shook the dominion of the Church to its foundations. The time had come for desperate measures if Orthodoxy was to hold her own. In 1484 the Witch-Bull of Innocent VIII. definitely handed the witch over to the care of the Inquisitors — and thus gave the signal for a series of persecutions of unexampled horror, enduring through more than two centuries, and the last echoes of which have scarcely died away even to-day.