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Demonology and Witchcraft - "Less we forget"

Anton Praetorius

Written and compiled by George Knowles

Anton Praetorius was a German Calvinist pastor and one of the few men of his time brave enough to speak out against the persecution of Witches and the ensuing Witch-hunts and Witch-trials of the late 1500’s.  He was particularly critical against the need for torture during Witch-trails stating that:  In God’s Word one does not find anything from torture, embarrassing cross-examines [or] confession by force and pain”.

Praetorius was born in 1560, in Lippstadt, Germany, the son of Matthes Schulze.  He later changed his name to the Latin Praetorius.  Initially raised in the Lutheran faith, he was sent to a Latin school in Kamen, Westphalia, for his early education, before returning home to studying Theology at the Latin School in Lippstadt gaining a detailed knowledge of the Bible.  It was also in Lippstadt during 1573, at just 13 years of age, he witnessed and experienced his first Witch-trial, that left a lasting impression on the young man.

In 1581 at the age of 21, Praetorius completed his training as a teacher and was called into service teaching at his old Latin School in Kamen.  In 1584 he married his first wife Maria, and in the spring of 1585 she gave birth to his son Johannes.  A year later in 1586 he was made Rector/principal of the same School in Kamen.

Praetorius was next made a deacon in Worms, in 1587, responsible for the Kirchkasten (the Churchbox) and social affairs, and then in 1592, deacon at the Katharinenkirche (St. Catherine’s Church) in Oppenheim Palatinate.  It was during this time period that Praetorius changed his loyalies from the Lutheran religion and joined the reformed Calvinist religion, and by 1592 he had become the first reformed Calvinist pastor in the Palatine community parish of Dittelsheim.

A year later in 1593 he visited nearby Herrnsheim in Worms with the large castle of the Dalberger.  There he witnessed the “Dalberg (Hessloch)witch-trial (regular witch-trials had been taking place there from 1593 to 1614 and in all some 236 accused were killed).  Under terrible tortures, women confessed to being witches.  Praetorius later writes that “Men and women have been burnt, and for their final judgment the City Hall read from a window such nefarious and foolishly deceitful things of diabolical communion and weather making that I would not listen to it and be ashamed of chaste ears to tell the same.”

While still at Dittelsheim, in October of 1595 Praetorius made a trip to Heidelberg, the centre of Calvinist theology in Germany.  There he was so impressed by the “Great Wine Barrel” in Heidelberg Castle that he published a poem with the title “Vas Heidelbergense”, praising its size as apparent proof of the superiority of the Calvinist religion.  The poem (written in Latin) is thought to contain the oldest news illustration/description of the great Heidelberg barrel.


Great Wine Barrel at Heidelberg Castle - then and today

In 1596 Praetorius moved again this time to Offenbach am Main in the county of Ysenburg-Büdingen.  Here he published a work “De Pii Magistratus officio” (Of the duty of the godly authority) in which he demanded from the ruling princes a faithful renewal of Church and nation according to the teachings of Calvin.  However, the rigorous reformer Jean Calvin (1509-1564) had also called for the detection of witches and the interrogation of them and possible witnesses under torture.  Sadly that same year his first wife Maria, died of the plague.  A year later on the 08th February 1597 he married again, this time to Sibylle a daughter of Hermann Pistorius, a pastor from Muschenheim in the city of Lich, Hesse, but shortly after their wedding in Dalberg Castle his second wife also succumbed to the plague and died.

A year later in 1597 Praetorius was appointed court preacher and pastor to Wolfgang Ernst I, Count of Isenburg Büdingen of Bierstein.  During his time as pastor for the Earl in his castle at Birstein, as part of his duties Praetorius witnessed the torture of Anna Dietrich and 3 other women accused of witchcraft.  This event greatly impressed itself upon him and affected much of his future life work.  A court record states, “As the pastor has violently protested against the torture of women, it has therefore been stopped at this time.” But by the time the torture had been stopped, only one of the women survived.  Anton’s interference incurred the wrath of the Earl who dismissed him from his post as pastor within a year of his arrival.

During his time in Birstein, Praetorius published Church songs, a catechism, and a book for families about Christian education in 1597.  He also wrote a poem about Count Wolfgang Ernst von Ysenburg-Büdingen called “De pii magistratus officio”, in which he asked the Christian governments for a reformation of nation and Church along the principles of the Bible and the Calvinist faith.  In 1602, he made a contribution to the discussion about the interpretation of the “Last Supper and Sacraments” in his theological masterpieceDe Sacrosanctis novi foederis Jesu Christi”.

After leaving Birstein in 1598 and moving to a new parish in Laudenbach near Heidelberg, Praetorius wrote a book “Gründlicher Bericht über Zauberey und Zauberer” (Thorough Report about Witchcraft and Witches) to further protest against the torture and prosecution of witches.  Using arguments and evidence from the Bible, he turned against Luther’s and Calvin’s calls for witch-hunts, stating that in God’s words nothing is said about the use of torture and embarrassing interrogations or extorting confessions by violence and pain.  The book was first published in 1598 under the name of his son Johannes Schulze, then in 1602 he dared to publish the book again under his own name.  Much later the book was re-published in 1613 and posthumously in 1629.

More writings followed in which he publicly objected to the prevailing attitude in the Church on the torture and burning of witches (a view held by Roman Catholics as well as Protestants such as Martin Luther and John Calvin).  He criticized the conditions in the prisons at the time, as well as general grievances in the criminal justice system and demanded the right of the accused to an adequate defense.  He was naturally met with fierce criticism, but he also found numerous well-known advocates who expressed their support for him, and which he included in his writings. 

Sadly for Praetorius his private life was marked by many fatalities.  His first wife Maria had died of the plague in the late 1580’s, they had one child called Johannes.  He then survived three other wives and ten of his eleven children.  Anton Praetorius died on the 06th December 1613 in Laudenbach, Bergstraße.


The Church of Laudenbach displays a plaque in memory of Praetorius: 


Pastor Anton Praetorius

(* around 1560 in Lippstadt, + 1613 in Laudenbach)

Fighter against witch trials and torture

Lived and worked 15 years until his death as a reformed pastor in Laudenbach. Through his courageous advocacy he was able to rescue four women from the torture chamber in 1597. He therefore lost his position as court preacher and found refuge in Laudenbach. Here he wrote from 1598 his sensational book "Thorough Review of Zaubery and magicians," which he brought in 1602 for the first time under his own name to the public. The book against witchcraft, torture and violence had a total of four editions until the year 1629 and contributed much to put an end to the witch burnings gradually.

As recently as the 07th May 2015 the city of Lippstadt named a path in his honor.




Written and compiled by George Knowles  © 06th December 2020


Best wishes and Blessed Be




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Gods and Goddesses (Greek Mythology) /  Esbats & Full Moons Links to Personal Friends & Resources Wicca/Witchcraft Resources What's a spell? Circle Casting and Sacred Space  Pentagram - Pentacle Marks of a Witch The Witches Power The Witches Hat An esoteric guide to visiting London SatanismPow-wowThe Unitarian Universalist Association /  Numerology:  Part 1  Part 2  /  Part 3A history of the Malleus Maleficarum:  includes:  Pope Innocent VIII  /  The papal Bull  /   The Malleus Maleficarum  /  An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum  /  The letter of approbation  /  Johann Nider’s Formicarius  /  Jacob Sprenger  /  Heinrich Kramer  /  Stefano Infessura  /  Montague Summers  /  The Waldenses  /  The Albigenses  /  The Hussites /  The Native American Sun DanceShielding (Occult and Psychic Protection)  The History of ThanksgivingAuras  - Part 1 and Part 2 Doreen Valiente Witch” (A Book Review) /  Max Ehrmann and the "Desiderata" /    


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Rituals contributed by Crone:


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Tools of a Witch  /  The Besom (Broom) /  Poppets and DollsPendulums / Cauldron Magick Mirror Gazing




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In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar.  For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following:  Birch /  Rowan / Ash /  Alder /  Willow Hawthorn /  Oak /  Holly /  Hazel /  Vine /  Ivy /  Reed /  Elder


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Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:


Murdered by Witchcraft The Fairy Witch of Clonmel A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) /  Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife /  The Story of Jack-O-Lantern The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) /  The Two Brothers - Light and Dark


Old Masters of Academia:

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A "Who's Who" of Witches, Pagans and other associated People

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Remembered at Samhain

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Pagan Pioneers:  Founders, Elders, Leaders and Others


Aidan A KellyAleister Crowley - “The Great Beast” /  Alex Sanders - “King of the Witches” /  Alison Harlow /   Allan Bennett - the Ven. Ananda MetteyyaAllan Kardec (Spiritism) /  Alphonsus de SpinaAmber KAnn Moura /  Anna FranklinAnodea JudithAnton Praetorius /  Anton Szandor LaVey /  Arnold CrowtherArthur Edward Waite /  Austin Osman SpareBalthasar Bekker /  Biddy EarlyBarbara Vickers /  Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel /  Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke Cecil Hugh WilliamsonCharles Godfrey Leland /   Charles WaltonChristopher PenczakChristina Oakley Harrington Cornelius Loos /  Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" /  Dion Fortune /  Dolores Aschroft-NowickiDonald Michael Kraig Doreen ValienteDorothy MorrisonDr. John Dee & Edward Kelly /  Dr. Leo Louis Martello /  Edain McCoy /  Edward FitchEleanor Ray Bone - “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” Eliphas Levi /  Ernest Thompson Seton /  Ernest Westlake /  Fiona Horne /   Frederick McLaren Adams - Feraferia Friedrich von Spee /  Francis Barrett /  Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca /  Gerald B. Gardner - The father of contemporary Witchcraft /  Gwydion Pendderwen Hans HolzerHelen DuncanHermann Löher /  Herman Slater - Horrible Herman /  Heinrich Kramer and the Malleus MaleficarumIdries ShahIsaac Bonewits Israel RegardieIvo Domínguez Jr. /  Jack Whiteside Parsons - Rocket Science and Magick /  James "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches /  James Sprenger and the Malleus Maleficarum” /  Janet Farrar and Gavin BoneJean Bodin Jessie Wicker Bell - “Lady Sheba” / Johann Weyer  / Johannes Junius - "The Burgomaster of Bamberg" /   Johann Georg Fuchs von Dornheim  -  the “Hexenbrenner” (witch burner) /  John Belham-Payne John George Hohman - "Pow-wow" /  John Gerard /  John Gordon Hargrave and the Kibbo Kith Kindred /  John Michael Greer /  John Score /  Joseph “Bearwalker” Wilson /  Joseph John Campbell /  Karl von Eckartshausen Lady Gwen Thompson - and "The Rede of the Wiccae" /  Lambert Daneau /  Laurie Cabot  - "the Official Witch of Salem" /  Lewis SpenceLodovico Maria Sinistrari Ludwig LavaterMadeline Montalban and the Order of the Morning Star /  Margaret Alice MurrayMargot AdlerMichael Howard and the UK "Cauldron Magazine" /  Margaret St. Clair - the “Sign of the Labrys” /  Marie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" /  Marion WeinsteinMartin Antoine Del Rio Matthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” /  Michael A. Aquino - and The Temple of Set /  Monique WilsonMontague Summers /  Nicholas CulpeperNicholas RemyM. R. SellarsMrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" /  Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning GloryOld Dorothy Clutterbuck /  Old George PickingillOlivia Durdin-Robertson - co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis /  Paddy SladePamela Colman-SmithPatricia CrowtherPatricia Monaghan /  Patricia “Trish” TelescoPaul Foster Case and the “Builders of the Adytum” mystery school /  Peter Binsfeld /  Philip HeseltonRaven GrimassiRaymond Buckland /  Reginald Scot /  Richard BaxterRobert CochraneRobert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and the "The White Goddess" /  Rosaleen Norton - “The Witch of Kings Cross” /  Rossell Hope Robbins /   Ross Nichols and the " Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids" (OBOD) /  Rudolf SteinerSabrina Underwood - "The Ink Witch" /  Scott CunninghamSelena Fox - founder of "Circle Sanctuary" /  Silver RavenwolfSir Francis Dashwood /  Sir James George Frazer and the " The Golden Bough"S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” /  Starhawk /  Stewart Farrar /  Sybil LeekTed Andrews The Mather Family - (includes:  Richard Mather, Increase Mather and Cotton Mather ) /   Thomas AdyT. Thorn CoyleVera ChapmanVictor & Cora Anderson and the " Feri Tradition" /  Vivianne CrowleyWalter Brown GibsonWalter Ernest ButlerWilliam Butler YeatsZsuzsanna Budapest /  



Many of the above biographies are briefs and far from complete.  If you know about any of these individuals and can help with additional information, please contact me privately at my email address below.  Many thanks for reading  :-)



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