The Nature and Powers of Witches and Sorcerers

Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy: 

“Nero and Heliogabalus, Maxentius, and Julianus Apostata, were never so much addicted to magic of old, as some of our modern princes and popes themselves are nowadays. Erricus, King of Sweden, had an enchanted cap, by virtue of which, and some magical murmur or whispering terms, he could command spirits, trouble the air, and make the wind stand which way he would, insomuch that when there was any great wind or storm, the common people were wont to say, the king now had on his conjuring cap. But such examples are infinite. That which they can do, is as much almost as the devil himself, who is still ready to satisfy their desires, to oblige them the more unto him. They can cause tempests, storms, which is familiarly practised by witches in Norway, Iceland, as I have proved. They can make friends enemies, and enemies friends by philters; Turpes amores conciliare, enforce love, tell any man where his friends are, about what employed, though in the most remote places; and if they will, bring their sweethearts to them by night, upon a goat’s back flying in the air. Sigismund Scheretzius, part. 1. cap. 9. de spect. reports confidently, that he conferred with sundry such, that had been so carried many miles, and that he heard witches themselves confess as much; hurt and infect men and beasts, vines, corn, cattle, plants, make women abortive, not to conceive, barren, men and women unapt and unable, married and unmarried, fifty several ways, saith Bodine, lib. 2. c. 2. fly in the air, meet when and where they will, as Cicogna proves, and Lavat. de spec. part. 2. c. 17. steal young children out of their cradles, ministerio daemonum, and put deformed in their rooms, which we call changelings, saith Scheretzius, part. 1. c. 6. make men victorious, fortunate, eloquent; and therefore in those ancient monomachies and combats they were searched of old, they had no magical charms; they can make stick frees, such as shall endure a rapier’s point, musket shot, and never be wounded: of which read more in Boissardus, cap. 6. de Magia, the manner of the adjuration, and by whom ’tis made, where and how to be used in expeditionibus bellicis, praeliis, duellis, &c., with many peculiar instances and examples; they can walk in fiery furnaces, make men feel no pain on the rack, aut alias torturas sentire [or experience other tortures]; they can stanch blood, represent dead men’s shapes, alter and turn themselves and others into several forms, at their pleasures. Agaberta, a famous witch in Lapland, would do as much publicly to all spectators, Modo Pusilla, modo anus, modo procera ut quercus, modo vacca, avis, coluber, &c. Now young, now old, high, low, like a cow, like a bird, a snake, and what not? She could represent to others what forms they most desired to see, show them friends absent, reveal secrets, maxima omnium admiratione, &c. And yet for all this subtlety of theirs, as Lipsius well observes, Physiolog. Stoicor. lib. 1. cap. 17. neither these magicians nor devils themselves can take away gold or letters out of mine or Crassus’ chest, et Clientelis suis largiri, for they are base, poor, contemptible fellows most part; as Bodine notes, they can do nothing in Judicum decreta aut poenas, in regum concilia vel arcana, nihil in rem nummariam aut thesauros, they cannot give money to their clients, alter judges’ decrees, or councils of kings, these minuti Genii cannot do it, altiores Genii hoc sibi adservarunt, the higher powers reserve these things to themselves.”

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