Sunday, May 3, 2009

Witchcraft, Demonology and the Inquisition

The Rare Book Library, University of Sydney, contains a significant collection of works on witchcraft, demonology, exorcism and the occult. Here also may be found related works on canon and civil law, reports of trials, the Inquisition, torture, prophecy and alchemy, and more modern texts on occult practices by writers such as A. E. Waite and Aleister Crowley.
The collection focuses on European, British and American witchcraft, looking at its theological and heretical aspects rather than at the level of folklore or anthropology. Here may be found many early texts from the 16th and 17th centuries, the period when the theories of the heretical aspects of witchcraft were being formulated. Among these are four editions of one of the more sinister works on demonology, the Malleus Maleficarum, a book that codified church dogma on heresy for centuries.


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For exemple:

DEL RIO, Martin Antoine
Disquisitionarum magicarum libri sex: quibus continentur accurata curiosum artium, et vanarum superstitionum confutatio.
Coloniae Agrippinae: Sumptibus Hermani Demen, 1679

The Disquisitionem, the most famous work of the Jesuit scholar and theologian Martin Del Rio, was first published in 1599. After about 20 editions it last appeared in 1747. Even so, few copies survive today so heavily was it used. In many ways the most complete of all the works on witchcraft it was renowned in its time as the Malleus Maleficarum.

Under a veil of moderation, Del Rio, for example, permitted legal council for witches, the book revived many of the earlier theories and practices. Much of the thrust of the work is against those who questioned the trials, adopting the line that anyone who opposed the concept was themselves suspect of complicity.

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