“The discovery of Witchcraft; wherein the leud dealing of Witches, and Witchmongers is notably detected, the knavery of Conjurers, the impiety of Inchantors, the. The Discoverie of Witchcraft (Classic Reprint) [Reginald Scot] on * FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Excerpt from The Discoverie of Witchcraft. Reginald Scot wrote The Discoverie of Witchcraft as a refutation of witchcraft and the inquisition. He argued that witchcraft and spirits were fictional, and caused.
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Human beings are naturally endowed with the ability to reason, but that reason is a far cry from a belief in a world governed by immutable natural laws. This is why I consider scientific education to be very important on a societal level; ignorance and fear combined with credulity can lead to devastating consequences: It is frightening to note that such times are not completely behind us.
In the midst of such times of ignorance and superstition, however, there are always shining pillars of skeptical and rational thought that beat back the darkness, at least temporarily.
On such example is Reginald Scotwho took the incredibly bold step to not only defend accused witches against the charges laid before them, but to also prove once and for all that witchcraft does not exist! His views were presented in his book The Discoverie of Witchcrafta lengthy tome which chronicles the supposed powers of witches and provides devastating arguments against them:. It is an extremely difficult book to read, being written in archaic Early Modern English and using many words and phrases which are outdated and virtually unknown.
I dare say I even found it inspiring. Reginald Scot was born into a noble family with a long lineage and an estate in Brabourne, Kent, where he spent most of his life. He attended college a short time at Hart Hall which would later become Hertford Collegethough he left without a degree.
The Discoverie of Witchcraft – Wikipedia
Nevertheless, he seems to have gained significant legal training and was a Justice of the Peace in Kent; he also worked as a subsidies collector for the government. In14 women were charged with witchcraft in the village of St. At least two were hanged in the outcry which followed, and the case caused a sensation throughout England. Witchcradt before that, likely in his legal capacity, Scot in was involved in another witch trial.
In his own words:.
The Discoverie of Witchcraft
But I will rehearse an example whereof I my selfe am not onlie Oculatus testisbut have examined the cause, and am to justifie the truth of my report: At the assises holden at RochesterAnnoone Margaret Simonsthe wife of John Simonsof Brechlie in Kentwas araigned for witchcraft, at the instigation and complaint of divers disoverie and malicious persons; and speciallie by the meanes of one John Ferrall vicar of that parish: That which he, for his part, laid to the poore womans charge, was this.
His sonne being an ungratious boie, and prentise to one Robert Scotchford clothier, dwelling in that parish of Brenchlie passed on a daie by hir house; at whome by chance hir little dog barked. At the last he returned to his maisters house, and within five or sixe daies fell sicke. Then was called to mind the fraie betwixt the dog and the boie: Yea, he also diecoverie me, that this his sonne being as it were past all cure received perfect health at the hands of another witch.
He proceeded yet further against hir, affirming, that alwaies in his parish church, when he desired to read most plainelie, his voice so failed him, as he could scant be heard at all. Which hee could impute, he said, to nothing else, but to hir inchantment.
When I advertised the poore woman hereof, as being desirous to heare what she could saie for hir selfe; she told me, that in verie deed his voice did much faile him, speciallie when he strained himselfe to speake lowdest. How beit, she said that at all times his voice was hoarse and lowe: Lewen the Ordinarie he had brought fro London a certificat, under the hands of two physicians, that his hoarsenes proceeded from a disease in the lungs. Which certificat he off in the church, in the presence of the whole congregation: And this I knowe to be true by the relation of divers honest men of that parish.
And truelie, witchcravt one of the Jurie had not beene wiser than the other, she had beene condemned thereupon, and upon other as ridiculous matters as this.
For the name of a witch is wwitchcraft odious, and hir power so feared among the common people, that if the honestest bodie living chance to be arraigned thereupon, she shall hardlie escape condemnation. The monumental injustice and foolishness of witch-hunts seems to have discoveri a moral chord in Scot, leading to his book.
He was taking quite a big risk: As we will see, he did make some powerful enemies. The Discoverie of Witchcraft itself is a shotgun blast against the belief in witches and against the credulous and conniving people who promote that belief. Scot by necessity had to rely quite heavily on scripture in his arguments.
Galileo would not publish his work on the heliocentric solar system untiland Isaac Newton would not unveil his groundbreaking work on mechanics and gravity for nearly a hundred years more. Furthermore, Scot needed to protect himself from accusations of heresy himself, and using the Bible as justification for his arguments provided some shelter. He was meeting the supposedly pious on their own terms, and devastated them.
But whatsoever is reported or conceived of such maner of witchcrafts, I dare avow to be false and fabulous coosinage, dotage, and poisoning excepted neither is there any mention made of these kind of witches in the Bible.
If Christ had knowne them, he would not havepretermitted to invaie against their presumption, in taking upon them his office: Howbeit, if there be any in these daies afflicted in such strange sort, as Christs cures and patients are described in the new testament to have been: It will not suffice to dissuade a witchmonger from his credulitie, that he seeth the sequele and event to fall out manie times contrarie to their assertion; but in such case to his greater condemnation he seeketh further to witches of greater fame.
If all faile, he will rather thinke he came an houre too late; than that he went a mile too far. Trulie I for my part cannot perceive what is to go a whoring after strange gods, if this be not.
He that looketh upon his neighbors wife, and lusteth after hir, hath committed adulterie. And truelie, he that in hart and by argument mainteineth the sacrifice of the masse to be propitiatorie for the quicke and the dead, is an idolater; as also he that alloweth and commendeth creeping to the crosse, and such like idolatrous actions, although he bend not his corporall knees. In like manner I say, he that attributeth to a witch, such divine power, as dulie and onelie apperteineth unto GOD which all witchmongers doo is in hart a blasphemer, an idolater, and full of grosse impietie, although he neither go nor send to hir for assistance.
Scot points out that witchhunters are basically attributing to witches the same powers that the Bible describes as the miracles of Jesus himself! This disdain is clearly justified as Scot describes the cruel and unjust techniques by which witchcrwft witch-hunters find suspects and obtain confessions. He notes how the regular process of law does not apply to cases of witchcraft:. Item, the complaint of anie one man of credit is sufficient to bring a poore woman to the racke or pullie.
Itsem, a witch is not to be delivered, though she endure all the tortures, and confesse nothing; as all other are in anie criminall cases. Item, though in other cases wiychcraft depositions of manie women at one instant are disabled, as insufficient in lawe; eiscoverie of the imbecillitie and failtie of their nature or sex: Item, a capitall enimie if the enimitie be pretended to growe by meanes of witchcraft may object against a witch; and none exception is to be had or made against him.
The Discoverie of Witchcraft
Item, although the proofe of perjurie may put wiitchcraft a witnesse in all other causes; yet in this, a perjured person is a good and lawfull witnesse. Item, the proctors and advocats in this case are compelled to be witnesses against their clients, as in none other case they are to be constrained there unto. Item, Bodin saith, that bicause this is an extraordinarie matter; there must heerein be extraordinarie dealing: In other words and ignoring the offensively sexist view of womenScot notes that the witchhunters believe that witchcraft is such a dangerous and deadly crime, that the rule of law must be suspended in such cases.
He that readeth the ecclesiasticall histories, or remembreth the persecutions in Queene Maries time, shall find, that manie good men have fallen for feare of persecution, and returned unto the Lord againe. Withccraft how can dicsoverie in the middest of such horrible tortures and torments, promise witchfraft hir selfe constancie; or forbeare to confesse anie thing?
Or what availeth it hir, to persevere in the deniall of such matters, as are laid to her charge unjustlie; when on the one side there is never anie end of hir torments; on the other side, if she continue in hir assertion, they saie she hat charmes for taciturnitie or silence?
Peter the apostle renounced, curssed, and forsware his maister and our Saviour Jesus Christ, for feare of a wenches manaces; or rather at a question demanded by hir, wherein he was not so circumvented, as these poore witches are, which be not examined by girles, but by cunning inquisitors, who having the spoile of their goods, and bringing with them into the place of judgement minds to maintaine their bloudie purpose, spare no maner of allurements, thretenings, nor torments, untill they have wroong out of them all that, which either maketh to their owne desire, or serveth to the others destruction.
Scot blasts and even mocks the accusations of the witch-hunters and the reasoning behind their extraordinary methods:. If more ridiculous or abhominable crimes disoverie have beene invented, these poore women whose cheefe fault is that they are scolds should have beene charged with them.
In this witchvraft you dooe see is conteined all that witches discoferie charged with; and all that also, which anie witchmoonger surmiseth, or in malice imputeth unto witches power and practise.
Some of these crimes may not onelie be in the power and will of a witch, but may be accomplished by natural meanes: For manie a knave and lf dooth discoveriw commonlie put in execution those lewd actions, than such as are called witches, and are hanged for their labour. Some of these crimes also laid unto witches charge, are by me denied, and by them cannot be prooved to be true, or committed, by any one witch.
Reginald Scot’s collection of magical texts
Othersome of these crimes likewise are so absurd, supernaturall, and impossible, that they are derided almost of all men, and as false, fond, and fabulous reports condemned: If part be untrue, why may not the residue be thought false? For all these things are laid to their charge at one instant, even by the greatest doctors and patrones of the sect of the witchmongers, producing as manie proofs for witches supernaturall and impossible actions, as for the other. So as, if one part of their accusation be false, the other part deserveth no credit.
If all be true that is addedged of their dooings, why should we believe in Christ, bicause of his miracles, when a witch dooth as great wonders as ever he did?
Yea David saith, that among the dead as in this case of Samuel God himselfe sheweth no wonders. I find also that God will not give his glorie and power to a creature. A belief in a non-demon-haunted world is argued throughout the book in a variety of ways. When if their assertions were true concerning the divels usuall taking of shapes, and walking, talking, conferring, hurting, and all maner of dealing with mortall creatures, Christs argument to Thomas had been weake and easilie answered; yea the one halfe, or all the whole world might be inhabited by divels, everie poore mans house might be hired over his head by a divell, he might take the shape and favor of an honest woman, and plaie the witch; or of an honest man, and plaie the theefe, and so bring them both, or whome he list to the gallowes: For then the divell might in the likenes of an honest man commit anie criminal offense; as Lavater in his nineteenth chapter De spectris reporteth of a grave wise magistrate in the territorie of Tigurie, who affirmed, that as he and his servant went through certeine pastures, he espied in a morning, the divell in the likenes of one whome he knew verie well, wickedlie dealing with a mare.
Upon the sight whereof he immediatlie went to that fellowes house, and certeinlie learned there, that the same person went not out of his chamber that daie. In a side note, Scot comments: This suggests yet another reason why the religious order would have an interest in keeping witch belief alive:.
You shall read in the legend, how in the night time Incubus came to a ladies bed side, and made hot loove unto hir: Oh excellent peece of witchcraft or cousening wrought by Sylvanus! Further discussing the real purpose of the Incubus legend, he writes. Thus are lecheries covered with the cloke of Incubus and witchcraft, contrarie to nature and veritie: On a more serious note, Scot takes time to address the claims of those people who truly believe that they are witches and have supernatural powers.
The result is a fascinating look at the views on mental illness of the time:. If anie man advisedlie marke their words, actions, cogitations, and gestures, he shall perceive that melancholie abounding in their head, and occupieng their senses: I meane not of coosening witches, but of poore melancholike women, which are themselves deceived.
For you shall understand, that the force which melancholie hath, and the effects that it worketh in the bodie of a man, or rather of a woman, are almost incredible. For as some of these melancholike persons imagine, they are witches and by witchcraft can worke woonders, and doo what they list: Some, that they are monarchs and princes, and that all other men are their subjects: And further, in tract of time the witch waxeth odious and tedious to hir neighbors; and they againe are despised and despited of hir: Thus in processe of time they have all displeaseed hir, and she hath wishes evill lucke unto them all; perhaps with cursses and imprecations made in forme.
Doubtless at length some of hir neighbors die, or fall sicke; or some of their children are visited with diseases taht vex them strangelie: The witch on the other side exspecting hir neighbours mischances, and seeing things sometimes come to passe according to hir wishes, cursses, and incantations for Bodin himselfe confesseth, that not above two in a hundred of their witchings or wishings take effect being called before a Justice, by due examination of the circumstances is driven to see hir imprecations and desires, and hir neighbors harmes and losses to concurre, and as it were to take effect: Wherein, not onelie she, but the accuser, and also the Justice are fowlie deceived and abused; as being thorough hir confession and other circumstances persuaded to the injurie of Gods glorie that she hath done, or can doo that which is proper onelie to God himselfe.
Self-delusion can be a powerful force, and sometimes even a beneficial one.