13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
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I have read several of Montague Summers' translations of old witchcraft documents, and this was by far the most readable .. as well as the most infuriating. Summers himself (in the 1920s) maintained the rather odd belief that witchcraft was real, still posed a threat to society, and still should be considered a crime. So he has produced here an extremely sympathetic translation of Nicolas Remy's infamous treatise.
This book is not really a witchfinder's manual, as are the _Malleus Maleficarum_ of Kramer and Sprenger, and the _Compendium Maleficarum_ of Guazzo. It is instead sort of a collection of curiosities and stories about the villainous activities of witches, with feeble arguments "proving" that witches are indeed capable of working such evil with the help of their attendant demons. Lots of particulars are cited from cases over which Remy himself had presided as a civil magistrate. Remy was not a churchman, nor an officer of the Inquisition. Typically the Church prosecuted witches for heresy and tried them in the ecclesiastical courts, after which they were turned over to the civil authorities for more tangible crimes (usually murder, committed by magical means.) Sentencing and execution was usually left to the civil court. Remy boasts of having personally condemned more than 200 witches during his career up to the time of writing. His prose style is conversational, almost casual. It is easy to read and is full of sensational and salacious detail which lend it a certain grim fascination.
What is alarming about this book is Remy's unashamed credulity and his obvious unintelligence. He appears to be extremely well-read, but without any critical or analytical faculty whatsoever. With Kramer and Sprenger and Guazzo, I got the impression that these were intelligent men under the grips of a delusion; they arrived at false conclusions because they started with false information, but their reasoning was essentially valid. Remy's conclusions are illogical. His statements defy common sense. He contradicts himself from chapter to chapter, sometimes from page to page. His logic is flawed; his syllogisms tend to combine an A and B which do NOT imply C. Even in Summers' translation it is painfully clear that the author has willfully ignored the obvious in favor of his pre-formed assumptions. What's terrifying is the thought that this buffoon was a JUDGE ... he had the power of life and death over people in the district of Lorraine. He seems quite pleased with himself as he smugly relates stories of how poor old women were frightened and browbeaten and tortured into confessing all kinds of grotesque and imaginary crimes, then delivered to "divine justice" aka burning at the stake. Especially horrifying is Book 3, chapter 6 in which he tells how the Devil urges his disciples to suicide when they are in prison, in order to deny the Church its victory and to secure the witches' souls away from any chance of Redemption. It does not occur to our author that an innocent person, wrongly arrested and tortured, knowing that a person accused of witchcraft has virtually no chance of escape, may choose a quick death rather than face further torture followed by the pain and humiliation of public execution as a witch. Suicide is a desperate act of one who has lost all hope, condemned by the very Church which was supposed to PROTECT them from evil, not perpetrate it upon them. Remy sees his victims' suicides only as conclusive proof of their guilt. So much for Christ's teachings about mercy and compassion.
Remy's _Demonolatry_ is a testament of madness, and a reminder that such madness ruled the "civilized" world only a few centuries ago. Should be required reading for students of history, law, and politics. We should keep history's mistakes before our minds as an example, lest we end up repeating them.
I would also like to go on record as saying: the 2008 Dover edition has one of the ugliest cover designs I have ever seen. Honestly, it's atrocious. But as the saying goes, I can't judge the book by it. This is an ugly but a significant work, well worth having.
on March 7, 2015
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Very detailed books on views toward witchcraft . Written in same style as the Witches Hammer but like this book better with its numerous examples behind the beliefs at the time . A prejudiced but historical look back at the Inquistion
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2012
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Well, talk about preachy. No true information about the subject, only the moral and spiritual pitfalls of those who don't follow the popular christian concepts. While the book's contents were quaint, its information was rather lacking. Nice work of fiction.