Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Satan in the form of a duck, c.1635

From Thomas Gage’s New Survey of the West-Indies (1648, 1677 edition used here), chapter 20, p. 379 ff .

Gage, born into a Surrey recusant family c.1603, educated at St Omer and Valladolid, disowned by his father when he became a Dominican rather than a Jesuit, travelled to the Philippines in 1625, embarking by being hidden in barrel of dry biscuit (for English friars were designated for missions to England). He was in various parts of the Spanish New World until 1637; accruing plenty of money. On his voyage home, pirates took £8,000 in coin and jewels off him. Finally back in England, he converted to the Church of England 1642, and informed against Catholic priests, sending three to the gallows. As the ODNB life says, his The English-American his Travail by Sea and Land, or, A New Survey of the West Indias (1648) was “the first book by an English writer—in fact, the first book not by a Habsburg subject—portraying daily life in Spanish America. He died in 1656.
Gage seems to have been very much in conflict about his church, his mission, and his aims in life. His account of his travels is very vivid, whether describing earthquakes or being infested with jiggers in the soles of your feet. But when it came to a witchcraft matter, he sounds very much to have responded as a true Dominican, in an inquisitorial fashion:


In Pinola [Gage acted as priest for two towns, Mixco and Pinola in Guatemala, c.1635]  there were some who were much given to Witchcraft, and by the power of the Devil did act strange things; amongst the rest there was one old woman named Martha de Carillo, who had been by some of the Town formerly accused for bewitching many; but the Spanish Justices quitted her, finding no sure evidence against her; with this she grew worse and worse, and did much harm; when I was there, two or three died, withering away, declaring at their death that this Carillo had killed them, and that they saw her often about their beds, threatning them with a frowning and angry look. 

The Indians for fear of her durst not complain against her, nor meddle with her; whereupon I sent word unto Don Juan de Guzman the Lord of that Town, that if he took not order with her, she would destroy his Town. He hearing of it, got for me a Commission from the Bishop and another Officer of the Inquisition to make diligent and private inquiry after her life and actions, which I did, and found among the Indians many and grievous complaints against her, most of the Town affirming that certainly she was a notorious witch, and that before her former accusation she was wont whithersoever she went about the Town to go with a Duck following her, which when she came to the Church would stay at the door till she came out again, and then would return home with her, which Duck they imagined was her beloved Devil and familiar Spirit, for that they had often set dogs at her and they would not meddle with her, but rather run away from her. This Duck never appeared more with her, since she was formerly accused before the Justice, which was thought to be her policy, that she might be no more suspected thereby. 

This old woman was a widow, and of the poorest of the Town in outward shew, and yet she had always store of Money, which none could tell which way she might come by it. Whilst I was thus taking privy information against her (it being the Time of Lent, when all the Town came to Confession) she among the rest came to the Church to confess her sins, and brought me the best present and offering of all the Town; for whereas a Riall is Common, she brought me four, and besides, a Turky, Eggs, Fish, and a little bottle of hony. She thought thereby to get with me a better opinion than I had of her from the whole Town. I accepted of her great offering, and heard her Confession, which was of nothing but trifles, which could scarce be judged sinful actions. 

I examined her very close of what was the common judgment of all the Indians, and especially of those who dying, had declared to my self at their death that she had bewitched them, and before their sickness had threatned them, and in their sickness appeared threatning them with death about their beds, none but they themselves seeing her To which she replyed weeping that she was wronged. I asked her, how she being a poor widow without any sons to help her, without any means of livelyhood had so much mony as to give me more than the richest of the Town; how she came by that Fish, Turkey, and Hony, having none of this of her own about her house? to which she replyed, that God loved her and gave her all these things, and that with her mony she bought the rest. I asked her of whom? She answered that out of the Town she had them. 

I persuaded her to much repentance, and to forsake the Devil and all fellowship with him; but her words and answers were of a Saintly and holy Woman; and she earnestly desired me to give her the Communion with the rest that were to receive the next day. Which I told her I durst not do, using Christs words, Give not the childrens bread unto dogs, nor cast your pearls unto swine; and it would be a great scandal to give the Communion unto her, who was suspected generally, and had been accused for a Witch. This she took very ill, telling me that she had many years received the Communion, and now in her old age it grieved her to be deprived of it, her tears were many, yet I could not be moved with them, but resolutely denied her the Communion, and so dismissed her. 

At noon when I had done my work in the Church, I bad my servants go to gather up the offerings, and gave order to have the fish dressed for my dinner which she had brought, but no sooner was it carried into the Kitchen, when the Cook looking on it found it full of Maggots, and stinking; so that I was forced to hurl it away; with that I began to suspect my old Witch, and went to look on her hony, and pouring it out into a dish, I found it full of worms; her eggs I could not know from others, there being near a hundred offered that day, but after as I used them, we found some rotten, some with dead chickens in them; the next morning the Turkey was found dead; As for her four Rials, I could not perceive whether she had bewitched them out of my pocket, for that I had put them with many other, which that day had been given given me, yet as far as I could I called to memory who and what had been given me, and in my judgment and reckoning I verily thought that I missed four Rials; 

At Night when my servants the Indians were gone to bed, I sat up late in my chamber betaking my self to my books and study, for I was the next morning to make an exhortation to those that received the Communion. After I had studied a while, it being between ten and eleven of the clock; on a sudden the chief door in the hall (where in a lower room was my chamber, and the servants, and three other doors) flew open, and I heard one come in, and for a while walk about; then was another door opened which went into a little room, where my saddles were laid; with this I thought it might be the Black-Moor Miguel Dalva, who would often come late to my house to lodge there, especially since my fear of Montenegro, and I conjectured that he was laying up his saddle, I called unto him by his name two or three times, from within my chamber, but no answer was made, but suddenly another door that went out to a Garden flew also open, wherewith I began within to fear, my joynts trembled, my hair stood up, I would have called out to the servants, and my voice was as it were stopped with the sudden affrightment; 

I began to think of the Witch, and put my trust in God against her and encouraged my self and voice, calling out to the servants, and knocking with a Cane at my door within that they might hear me, for I durst not open it and go out; with the noise that I made the servants awaked, and came out to my chamber door; then I opened it, and asked them if they had not heard some body in the hall, and all the doors opened, they said they were asleep, and heard nothing, only one boy said he heard all, and related unto me the same that I had heard; I took my candle then in my hand and went out with them into the hall to view the doors, and I found them all shut, as the servants said they had left them. 

Then I perceived that the Witch would have affrighted me, but had no power to do me any harm; I made two of the servants lie in my chamber, and went to bed; in the morning early I sent for my Fiscal the Clerk of the Church, and told him what had happen'd that night, he smiled upon me, and told me it was the Widdow Carillo, who had often played such tricks in the Town with those that had offended her, and therefore he had the night before come unto me from her, desiring me to give her the Communion, lest she should do me some hurt, which I denied unto him, as I had done to her self; the Clerk bad me be of good cheer, for he knew she had no power over me to do me any hurt. After the Communion that day, some of the chief Indians came unto me, and told me that old Carillo had boasted that she would play me some trick or other, because I would not give her the Communion. But I, to rid the Town of such a Limb of Satan, sent her to Guatemala, with all the evidences and witnesses which I had found against her, unto the president and Bishop, who commanded her to be put in Prison, where she died within two months.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Tips for 17th century living: how to revenge yourself on an "impudent anus"

It was clearly one of the hazards of urban living in early modern London that, if the door of your house offered even the shallowest of entryways, offering partial concealment from the street, someone might avail themselves of this, and in the absence of public toilets, unload on your doorstep.

The astrologer John Lilly lived in a house with an advertisement on the wall outside, which proclaimed it to be the house of Merlinus Verax, the Truth-telling Merline. But one of the stories told in mockery of Lilly (being out-prognosticated by a dun cow, incapable of foreseeing that a whore will pick his pocket, etc.) was a much-repeated tale of a countryman, robbed in London, who was advised to consult Lilly (for astrologers would describe thieves to allow their clients to reclaim stolen goods). In this yarn, the doorstep of Lilly’s well-advertised house proves to have been defiled with excrement. When Lilly answered the door, he forgets his proper role and exclaimed: ‘If he did but know who did him that nasty trick, he would make them Examples to all such Roagues so long as they liv’d; Nay, quoth the Countreyman, if he cannot tell who beshit his door, he can as well be hang’d as tell me who had my Purse’ (Lil-lies Lamentations, or Englands feigned Prophet Discovered, p. 6-7).

Lilly forgot himself. He had also forgotten that there was a useful recourse for any householder so offended, a piece of sympathetic magic given in Jean Baptiste van Helmont’s A ternary of paradoxes the magnetick cure of wounds, nativity of tartar in wine, image of God in man / written originally by Joh. Bapt. Van Helmont and translated, illustrated and amplified by Walter Charleton.

“Hath any one with his excrements defiled the threshold of thy door, and thou intendest to prohibit that nastiness for the future, do but lay a red-hot iron upon the excrement, and the immodest sloven shall, in a very short space, grow scabby on his buttocks; the fire torrifying the excrement, and by dorsal Magnetism driving the acrimony of the burning, into his impudent anus. Perchance, you will object, that this action is Satanical, in regard the end of it is revenge, and the laesion of the party, which offended us; but assuredly, the abuse of such powers depends on the liberty of mans will, and yet the use is no whit the less natural.”

I love the expression ‘impudent anus’, and the dignified riposte to the view that this constitutes taking a Satanical revenge: this is just natural magic, which could be abused, but not in this case.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Can't get enough of those late medieval kings? Henry VII's bed

Jonathan Foyle with his royal bed

After the hoopla about Richard III's putative bones (hmm, he was a blue-eyed blonde, was he, and his DNA also indicates a break in the male Plantagenet line? - but surely there's another possible explanation for those awkward details) comes another instance of our insatiable need for relics (but as we have been a Protestant nation, royal relics rather than saintly ones).

Making a stir today is Jonathan Foyle, with his highly authentic looking Tudor bed, and the pamphlet presenting his research and iconographic deductions generously posted at: 

And the press adores it, with the Daily Mail, always keen on anything royal with a procreative aspect to it, giving one of the more substantial accounts.

The pdf is slightly difficult to read (not as a fault of Foyle's prose, I mean that it doesn't display well, and on my PC it's slow to scroll through). This is a snip of the page that I find most worrying:

Now what I would like him to be clearer about is how that banderole that folds across Adam and Eve's genitals acquired its inscription. It is clearly part of the original design to have the scroll there for text. These are among the best images, from Foyle and others:

Now, I haven't seen the bed at all, I am passing judgement from photographs: such is the dubious wonder of the internet. Foyle argues that this bed design is from 1486, and in it, Adam and Eve are meant to be somehow both recognisable as a younger Henry VII and Elizabeth of York and, at another level of symbolism, be understood as Christ and his mother trampling on sin. 

Foyle apparently wants one to believe that the scroll had been left un-incised in 1486, and the later Protestant owner took advantage of that: "the carved band on the headboard was inscribed with the 1537-49 Bible text he [Stanley] used: "The Stinge of Death is Sinne; the Strengthe of Sinne is the Lawe (I Corinthians 15: 56)". I suppose this could have been done, if the bed were taken apart and this section laid flat, for carving into such a lattice unsupported would have been risky.

*** To update, I have just found this further image on Jonathan Foyle's Twitter account: it gives his argument about the text:

As Foyle perhaps knows, but opts not to mention, that seems to be a text from Tyndale's 1534 translation (no point, of course, in looking for an earlier vernacular version). Now, that's making it very Protestant indeed, from such a classic passage in his New Testament that it seems amazing that the banderole accommodated it so nicely - almost as if it had been designed to do so. Foyle merely remarks that this later addition of text "simplified the subject as Adam and Eve sinning, as acceptable to Protestants".

But is it 'simplifying' to quote from this passage: "When this corruptible hath put on incorruptibilite & this mortall hath put on immortalite: then shalbe brought to passe the sayinge that is written. Deeth is consumed in to victory. Deeth where is thy stynge? Hell where is thy victory? The stynge of deeth is synne: and the strength of synne is the lawe. But thanks be unto God which hath geven us victory thorow oure Lorde Jesus Christ"?

The message on the bed head recollects in its universally familiar iconography that the first marriage led to original sin. Such disobedience should not be repeated. This, with Tyndale's knotty verse makes for some bracing sentiments for a matrimonial bed. The passage cited went from Tyndale into Coverdale's Bible, and thence into the Book of Common Prayer, in the service for the Burial of the Dead. I take it to mean something along the lines of 'sin makes us know the sting of death; what is strong over death is observance of God's law' - so far, so very Protestant, and then the redemption itself mentioned in the next sentence.

In short, there's one major objection to Foyle's interesting and elaborate interpretation that "Henry and Elizabeth are shown as Christ and the Virgin, saviours who rescued mankind from evil", and that's the text incised on the banderole. Foyle notes the similarity to Speed's frontispiece in his Genealogies of Holy Scriptures, 1611. Protestants just loved Adam and Eve. The design seems made to incorporate the inscription and to give it central importance, and so it's hard to imagine the banderole was ever blank.

[A SECOND UPDATE: Jonathan Foyle, vigilant about his splendid find, has visited this now rather intermittent and obscure blog, and posted the explanatory comment below - the banderole would have had a painted text. I simply hadn't thought of that. I leave my final paragraph below, which imputed too much eagerness to believe, but I should say that I too am now ready to believe.]

It's a wonderful object, convincingly Tudor. But I think it looks more Protestant Tudor than Catholic, and that Foyle has used great scholarly skill to over-interpret the bed design as proving it was made for Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. The Daily Mail is delighted with it, Hever Castle has a new royal attraction, and every newspaper account I have read about it so far accepts Foyle's scholarship as proof of something we perhaps want to believe too much.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

At the Harry Price Library again

A reading cushion full of witchcraft sceptics:
A first edition Weyer, Scot from 1584 and 1651, John Webster, Francis Hutchinson
A visit yesterday to Senate House to look at a selection of items from the Harry Price Library. This year, the curator, Karen Attar, had the 20 or so books I had suggested arranged by topics: Demonologists, Sceptics, Victims, Astrology, the last English witchcraft conviction, and some miscellaneous.

What a collection it is! I had been in Toby English's Antiquarian bookshop over in Wallingford two weekends ago, and had casually asked him what he thought a 1520 edition of the Malleus Maleficarum might fetch on the open market. His first guess was for prices that might start at £10,000. Karen indicated that the collection preferred not to think in such terms. I wanted, I admit in rather a crude-minded way, to stress to my students just what treasures they were handling.
Karen Attar explains who Harry Price was.
A briefing before beginning
Rose and Rebecca look at sceptics
 I had never seen a copy of Webster's 1677 book, The Displaying of Supposed Witchcraft, and was interested to see that it was so handsome a volume. But Webster was a bibliophile who assembled a very large library of his own (where did he get the money for those atlases he bought?), so one might have expected that he would not have cheap job done when he finally achieved permission for the work.
Jane, one of our visitors from Shanghai, and Priyanka look at the collection's pristine copy of Scot, 1584

How to use your magic powers to make one dance naked (suborn a poor boy to do it, stop him before the company take offence)

Some of Scott's exposures of juggler's tricks: the decollation of John Baptist.

An early owner added a motto in Greek. I didn't make a transcript, and have no idea. I will find a classicist.
Gemma, Taneth and Christine are looking at Lilly's defiant 'Christian Astrology', 1647.

Gemma is looking at one of my 'must get round to reading' texts, Addison's 'The Drummer'. Rebecca has pencil and paper out to take notes, in the proper research collection fashion. Bottom left is a copy of 'Monsieur Oufle' in the English translation: one of my 'well, I tried to read it' texts.
More or less everyone in view
Karen gave us generous and up close access to these wonderful books, and whole-heartedly encouraged student readers to come and use the collection.

After this, I briefly showed a smaller group of the students the English Literature open shelves, after that, we strolled up the road to ULU, the University of London student union, with me pointing out that for a complete mind-and-body day, it has a swimming pool in the basement. There seemed to be some thought that a young male reader who had escaped my attention, but who was in the library in a suit, might make a worthwhile tertium quid. I left my students as they headed for the ULU cafe, and thought that at the very least, they'd feel a bit more members of this huge university, and might even seek out another experience of research.

My thanks again to Karen Attar - a favourite moment for me was one of the students asking about printers using the long s - and finding out that one of Karen's publications was an entry on the duration of long s type in British printing.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Henry Holland's 'Treatise of Witchcraft' 1590: "I may speake truely as another doeth"

Henry Holland is the most comprehensible of the English demonologists. His methodology is clearly apparent, his continental sources consistent and thoroughly cited. There is no specific case that has set him off, so his discussion is general, without those typical plunges into unaccountable allegations about the behaviour of accused witches or reporting of bizarre court evidence. His initial position, Calvinism, is obvious, a starting place that makes sense of what follows. But above all else, Holland is interesting because he mixes together utter conviction (witchcraft and worship of the devil follows quite logically from his Calvinistic thinking about the corrupt human state) with a use of dialogic form. This risky combination, while not extending to pro et contra argument about the very existence of witchcraft, allows his own doubts plenty of room. While, in the end, an ideology speaks loudest in his Treatise against Witchcraft, he has confronted problems that other writers avoided, and evidently believes that he has banished them.

I am interested in the use of dialogue in demonological works: Daneau, King James, George Gifford, Samuel Willard come to mind as other examples, Matthew Hopkins risked a question and answer format for his rabid convictions. Gifford, Willard and Holland use the format more honestly than King James (for instance). Though it may aim at producing augmented conviction, a demonstration of how misguided doubts about the veracity of witchcraft are, there is at least the chance of reverse conviction. These are the passages of dialogue that the dramatists of the period could only glance at, in those rare moments when a gentleman expresses scepticism.

A Treatise against Witchcraft is a dialogue between ‘Theophilus’, the god-loving, and ‘Mysodaemon’, the devil-hating. One could not expect – at least from 1590 - a dialogue between a demonologist and an outright sceptic about witchcraft, but Holland gives us the next best thing. Mysodaemon is obviously named to suggest that his basic opinions are sound: but he has been reading Scot’s Discovery of Witchcraft, published six years before. To refute Scot’s scepticism, Holland has to read him carefully. Allowing two voices in his work gives scepticism a near-convert in Mysodaemon, who is at times simply voicing confrontational passages from the Discovery. Dialogic form means that Holland isn’t just arguing or haranguing his way through Scot, giving authorial refutation of what he considered to be Scot’s errors: as a separate character in the dialogue, Mysodaemon means that scepticism gets a decent airing.

Holland must have been confident of success. He was committed to catechising as his basic method, using a question and answer format in other works: in the catechistic model, an instructor elicits the right answers from the instructee. This should be the effect here: Mysodaemon’s wobblings straightened out by the firm assurance of Theophilus.

What emerges, though, always tends to suggest that Holland is in dialogue with himself, for Theophilus is an authority under pressure, who resorts to hectoring and bullying. Nor does Holland seem to have anticipated that Mysodaemon, voicing Scot’s compassionate scepticism, simply appears more sympathetic than Theophilus, who is too obviously keen for Christian magistrates to be punishing sins, and continuously resorts to a set of bible texts that, try as he might, do not in fact stretch to cover this new crimen exceptum of witchcraft, with its dogma of sabbat, transvection, shape-shifting, and diabolic pact. As such things are not in the bible’s otherwise comprehensive listing of anathema, Theophilus keeps producing continental demonologists as his authorities, which reduces him to proving the existence of something by reference to those who asserted its existence.

No doubt Holland considered that he had won this argument with himself: Mysodaemon’s citations from Scot dwindle away and finally cease. The eagerly orthodox Theophilus forces the debate on to new areas, however: it shifts from the reality of witchcraft to the depravity of those who consult witches and sorcerers (this was a common development in such texts, and Mysodaemon is simply too indoctrinated, too elite, to make a general defence of the lower classes in their unaccountable failure to follow the pious example of Job and suffer in silence). Finally, the zealous minister in Theophilus embarks on detailing the preservatives (Holland was fond of expounding ‘preservatives’, against plague in Spirituall Preservatives Against the Pestilence and here against witchcraft), sketching out a household of such formidable godliness and obedience that witchcraft can gain no purchase, and the assaults of Satan, if they come, are accepted as trials ordained and permitted by God. 

Mysodaemon does express some incredulity about these prescriptions, but Theophilus huffily says that he knows some local households that sustain such godly ideals.

Because he sees the world as a battleground between faith and Satan, the local effect of Holland’s writing is of frightening moral precariousness. It is best caught in a snatch of dialogue from his History of Adam:
“Next, for the manner of Sathans working in men. As the holy Ghost works invisibly and spiritually … even so the operation of wicked spirits in unbelievers is by an invisible and secret breathing and suggestion…”
~ Here, an authoritative voice coolly describes a peril that seems irresistible. The supposed interlocutor then blurts out:  “Quest. 29. I feel often many strong motions within me, which cause me to tremble, and I know not whence they come, for I strive against them & I fear even to name them.

The question isn’t really a question at all, but a confession. To what extent are we diabolically impelled? The comfort offered is thin: “Ans. All Gods people are so troubled in like manner, much or little.” Such motions and thoughts are not the product of original sin, nor are they from God (because they are evil), but “such strange and sodaine motions must come into us by the secret working of Sathan. Let us then rejoice that we do not entertain them but pray and strive ever against them.”
You would think that if he saw Christians as exposed to such impossibly demanding conditions, witchcraft might erode away in the face of a moral relativism. But of course not: those who by witchcraft take advantage of the circumstances God is pleased to permit (of Satan being busy everywhere) simply must be punished.

The first part of Holland’s short witchcraft treatise consists of Theophilus doing his best to make the Bible sound to be full of eight distinct types of witchcraft: “If there were no such sin, wherefore then are there so many kinds named and distinguished?” It is very learned, but beside the point: none of the cases match up to witchcraft in its recent definition. This is the basic challenge Holland (as Mysodaemon) sets himself (as Theophilus):

“There are many things which are said to be in the witches of our time, which were never heard of in these old witches, mentioned in Scripture, as namely these points: their transportations, their bargain with the Devil, their Sathanical sabaoths, their ointments of the fat of young children, their transformations, and such like miracles or wonders (as you say, Theophilus.) now prove all these, or any of these points true in our witches, by Scripture, or any good reason, or authoritie, and I will believe that we have also in our time right diabolical witches indeed.”

Theophilus cannot answer these particulars with particulars: he has to explain away, or generalise away from the point. He wants the devil to be allowed formidable power by God, but, despite that large divine permission, only capable of delusions, supernatural in power, but not miraculous:
I will not denie, Mysodaemon, but the devil may delude his witches many ways in these transportations, & that many fabulous pamphlets [Note: Faustus. Drunken Dunstan. art. & in p. 156. Drunken Dunstan seems to be a lost work about the magic-practising saint] are published, which give little light and less proof unto this point in controversie. This first understand, that whatsoever is said of transportations, contrarie to the nature of our bodies, as to ride on the moon to meet Herodias, &c. all such things are indeed but mere delusions.”

But the delusiveness of witches’ ‘experience’ is no excuse for the witch: Theophilus finds that there are always other grounds for the punishment they deserve: “true it is, manie of the common sort (I believe well) are not right witches indeed, notwithstanding they are guiltie of other most vile sins, and most worthie of death.”

As Mysodaemon pushes his instructor hard for authority, Theophilus keeps wriggling away to prove witchcraft out of those who described witchcraft. He tries to open up a space in which those incredible acts and implausible delusions may in fact be truths – flying ointment and transvection:
“we must not imagine that all are but fables … Neither must we reject all the late Inquisitors, which by the accusations, confessions, condemnations and executions of innumerable magitians, have learned and gotten some credible experience of the truth of transportations. Bodin and Danaeus have also sundrie late examples, when thou hast opportunity, Mysodaemon, thou mayest read them.”
But Mysodaemon very properly rejects this: But I cannot so like, Theophilus, of all these, as of one probable argument of Scripture.”

Holland evidently thought that Scot had to be taken seriously, and formally repudiated with convincing arguments. This was the service he thought he was giving. But Mysodaemon, invented to be persuaded, starts to deliver Scot in Scot’s own voice:

I will not hear, I tell you, neither of Bodins* [Dis. in the praeface. ] bables, nor Sprengeus fables: I pray you shew me one example out of some credible Author, if you can.”

Mysodaemon-as-Scot makes Theophilus tie himself in knots to come up with answers to challenges: “But you have not one syllable in all the Scriptures of God, to prove any such league or covenant between Sathan and witches.”

Theophilus concedes: “We have not indeed any such words or phrases, and yet may we truly conclude, that there are such things, by Scripture; for the Scripture shewing us the great readiness and acquaintance of Sathan, with the enchanters of Egypt, the Pythonist of Endor and Philippi: do therein significantly give us to understand, that there was some precontract and confederacie between them: for Sathan will never work in such manner, but with whom he hath some league and acquaintance.”

The assertion that Satan will only operate with those with whom he has a contract is derived from contemporary positions: it is then read back into scripture as something we must infer was happening, and this provides a scriptural basis for the truth of it happening now.

Holland is making the best of it, and he is at least being honest in the outright concessions Theophilus has to keep making:

(Mysodaemon) “[Disco. epist. to the Reader.] Our witches, strigae, lamiae, our witches are not once mentioned in Scripture: our old woman, &c. you shall not reade in the Bible of any such Witches.
(Theophilus) “Albeit the Scripture giveth us no such historical relations of the witches of our time: yet are they mentioned there both in general and special manner: in general, where all the sins of idolatrie … and blasphemie are condemned; in special, where the like sins are named.”

Theophilus needs the authority of scripture, but puts strain on the divine text to get it, making analogies and resorting to category shifts: “And had not Sathan also a real communication with Eve & many others? To be short, I cannot see, but he that can do the greater, may do the less”.

As one recourse, Theophilus has intimidation: the arguments of Scot (or Holland’s argument with himself) constitute a slighting of the divine word:
“If any man consent not to the wholesome words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is puffed up and knoweth nothing, but doteth about questions and strife of words.”

To contradict demonology is a step on the slippery slope to disregard of the bible’s teachings:
“You are over bold now Mysodaemon with good writers, and I could somewhat bear with this boldness, but take heed lest you be found insolent also against God in the abuse of his blessed word, for that kind of pride is most dangerous.”

In the end, even though he is losing this particular argument with himself, Henry Holland /Theophilus’ Calvinism has just too much need of evil, it relies on the existence of a powerful devil: to subtract witchcraft threatens the system. Mysodaemon cites Scot on the cessation of miracles and of oracles: “Oracles (as you know) are ceased, and no doubt whatsoever hath affinitie with such miraculous actions, as witchcraft, conjuration, &c. it is knocked on the head, and nailed on the cross with Christ, who hath broken the power of the devils. What say you to this, Theophilus?”

Theophilus is brought entirely into the open by this challenge. To make such a deduction is in his mind ‘black divinity’: for in his system, the redemption was never meant to be universal. The elect are secure in their election; for the rest, the power of devils continues unchecked: “Surely I can but wonder, Mysodaemon, that any should teach you by speech or by writing, such black divinity in this bright shining light of the Gospel. For babes in Christianitie, understand that Christ on his cross, hath so far forth broken the power of sin, as that it shall never have strength to the condemnation … of his elect. But he never meant so to take away sin, as that it should have no being in the world, much less to knock in the head (as thine Author saith) the sins of Sathan & reprobates”.

Theophilus goes on to denounce this reasoning in Scot as “impious & Anabaptisticall”, which is either just broad abuse or a more specific insight into Reginald Scot, who was some way along the route towards an allegorical rather than literal understanding of the devil.

Mysodaemon also tries out Scot’s legal argument, the view (famously cited by Sir Robert Filmer in his Advertisement to the jurymen of England touching witches) that in law accessories cannot be convicted if the principal in a case has neither been convicted nor outlawed:
“I pray you give me leave to speak what I can for our old women, for I am greatly aggrieved to see the rude multitude so cruel against them, and some Judges so merciless, as to put these poor innocents to death. I reason thus by law against this unjust crueltie: I say she is injuriouslie dealt withall if she be the devils [Dis. in epist. ] instrument, in practising his will, my reasons are. 1. She is put to death for anothers offence. 2. Actions are not judged by instrumental causes: and therefore I conclude these old women may not dye for Witchcraft. This is Lawyers Logic I tell you … Theophilus, what can you say to this?”

Theophilus has none of it: “as for thine argument, if it be lawyers inventions, I tell thee truelie, they be bad advocates in an evil cause. They reason as if they would have the Honourable Judges to hang the devil, and to suffer the witches to escape. The same reason may serve anabaptisticallie applied for a libertie unto all sin …” His general point seems fair, though I don’t understand why he uses ‘anabaptistically’ to characterise blaming all sins on the devil.

The next argument taken from Scot’s series of trenchant challenges is that in our judgements, we should imitate the example given by Christ of forgiveness:
“Christ did [Dis. p. 39. A gross error. ] clearly remit Peter, though his offence were committed both against his divine and humane [Divine and humane nature he would have said. ] person: yet afterwards he did put him in trust to feed his sheep, &c. and therefore we see not but we may shew compassion upon these poor souls, if they show themselves sorrowful for their misconceits and wicked imaginations.”

Theophilus refutes this by generalising it into an absurdity:
“This reason is unsufficient and very anabaptistical, for it wrings out of the civil Magistrate’s hand all his power and jurisdiction. Shall every penitent malefactor be delivered from a temporal punishment, farewell then all execution of justice.” Of course extraordinary forgiveness does not mean universal forgiveness – but Theophilus especially seems to want ‘execution of justice’, there’s a relish for punishment. He continues with the assertion that the civil Magistrate cannot be “remiss in bodily punishment and justice, except he have an extraordinary warrant and revelation from God, for his direction. The law is, Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live: unless the judge have warrant to repeal this law from Jesus Christ (as Peter had) all witches lawfully convicted must have their punishments answerable to their demerits. Again, thou dost not well to call our witchcraft misconceit & wicked imagination, for I tell thee, it is more.”

The precise meaning of the notorious Exodus 22: 18 had been debated between the two earlier, with Mysodaemon citing, after Scot, the translation of mĕkaššēpâ as a ‘poisoner’ rather than ‘witch’. Theophilus had blandly smoothed this over by asserting that as witches most commonly killed by poison, as instructed by Satan, both senses applied to the word in the text. Here, he just uses the sense he wants, without his earlier admission of a wider meaning. A disputed law from the Old Testament should be carried out in the Christian world without worrying about any unhelpful example of Christ’s own forgiveness. A witch is, in essence, a chance for the Christian magistrate to show that he is never “remiss in bodily punishment and justice”. Until Jesus himself issues a repeal, a message delivered - god knows how - of ‘Thou shalt suffer a mĕkaššēpâ to live’, all the saved can do is carry on executing.

In the end, Theophilus’ best answer to Scot’s Discovery of Witchcraft is to burn it. In the final stages of their discussion, Mysodaemon has simply become a stooge to Theophilus, obtuse enough to cite Scot’s exposure of conjuring tricks as ‘profane’, ‘wicked’, ‘blasphemous’:

“First, I would know what your judgement is of some big volumes of witchcraft, which (as far as I can see) contain sundrie intolerable prophane and wicked Treatises and forms of idle and vain jugglings and blasphemous conjurations.”

Theophilus is pleased to be asked, and says that a certain type of reader will only go to Scot for the wrong reasons, he then produces a piece of Roman Law 
(co-opted in the early Christian era against heresies of all kinds, see http://www.academia.edu/622782/Roman_law_Forensic_Argument_and_the_Formation_of_Christian_Orthodoxy_III-VI_centuries_ ): 
“Surely this I think, Mysodaemon, all the godly learned men, who tenderly regard the good state of the Saints of God, are no doubt aggrieved in heart to see such horrible impieties suffered to be broached in the open face of the Church of God: for young wits are more apt to practise these wares of Sathan which are thus put to sale, then to search for any good purpose in them, which is most hard to be found. Again, this in a word I add, that the Lawyers tell us such authors are overtaken by Law: for the Law saith: Libros magicae artis apudse nemini habere licet, [The Dis. must be commended to Vulcan.] et si penes quoscunque reperti sunt, bonis ademptis, ambustis{que} ijs publice, in insulam deportantur, humiliores capite puniuntur. It is lawful for no man to have the books of Magic, and with whomsoever they are found, their goods confiscate, and their books openly burnt, they are banished, and the poorer sort are punished with death. Avoid therefore, Mysodaemon, such dreadful impieties, I warn thee.”

It might be said against Holland that there is a tacit admission of failure in this: if you can’t answer the book, and say, ‘let it be printed, but printed only when bound up with my answer’, you have to ‘commend [The Discovery of Witchcraft] to Vulcan’, as he rather coyly puts it (did he not want to spell it out directly?).

Holland’s book is a tribute to Reginald Scot’s effectiveness. He did not de-convince himself (if you have swallowed double predestination, you are not going to worry about a few reprobates getting rough justice). But an objective reader – if such a person did exist in late 16th century England – might well have been more struck by the case against the veracity of witchcraft than the elasticised, self-referential and hectoring case for belief.