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Demonology and Witchcraft - “Less we forget”

Johann Weyer

Written and compiled by George Knowles

Johann Weyer (1515–1588) was German physician who argued against the witch hysteria and the alleged workings of the Devil through people and pacts.  Weyer accepted the existence of demons and their ability to wreak evil and cause possession, but he opposed the torture and execution of accused witches during the Inquisition and refuted the belief that the Devil recruited people to cause harm.

Weyer was born the middle of three sons to a Protestant family in Brabant, in the Netherlands.  His father was a hops merchant who could afford to give his sons a good education.  Weyer was 15 when he went to study in the household of Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, a prominent physician, philosopher, and occult scholar.  Agrippa taught Weyer Platonic and Neoplatonic philosophy and introduced him to the occult works of Abbot Johannes Trithemius of Sponheim.

The seeds of Weyer’s skepticism about the witch hysteria that gripped the 16th century may have been planted by Agrippa, who once defended an old woman accused of witchcraft, arguing that she was feeble-minded, not diabolical.

Weyer’s apprenticeship with Agrippa lasted for about four years, after which he studied medicine at the University of Paris in 1534, and at the University of Orléans from 1534 to 1537.  He learned the prevailing medical doctrine, still in force from ancient times, that health depends on the balance of four humors in the body: blood, phlegm, bile, and black bile, or melancholy.

After graduation, Weyer returned to Brabant and nearby Ravenstein to work as a physician.  In 1545, he became the municipal physician for Arnhem, a much bigger city.  At about the same time, he married Judith Wintgens, with whom he had four sons and a daughter.  In 1550, Weyer was appointed to a prestigious post that he held for most of the rest of his career, as personal physician to Duke William V of Julich-Berg-Cleves in Dusseldorf.  Though Catholic, the duke was liberal-minded, and Weyer enjoyed a comfortable relationship with him.  He pursued scholarly studies and writing.  In 1578, he retired from his post with the Duke, and was succeeded by one of his sons, Galenus, named after the famous Roman physician Galen.  Weyer continued to write and practice medicine until his death in Tecklenburg on the 24th February 1588.

Weyer wrote mainly on medicine and philosophy; but of importance to the subject of demonology is his work called De praestigiis daemonum, et incantationibus, ac venefi ciis (On the illusions, spells and poisons of demons), published in 1563, in which he attacked many of the prevailing beliefs of inquisitors.  Weyer revised and added to the work several times up to 1583.

De praestigiis daemonum

In 1577, he added an appendix, Pseudo-Monarchia (The false kingdom of the demons), to De praestigiis daemonum.  It is an inventory and description of 68 principal demons, their characteristics, and how they may be conjured.  Reginald Scot, a contemporary who agreed with Weyer, translated Pseudo-Monarchia and included it in his own book:  The Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584).

The magical grimoire the Lemegeton, also called The Lesser Key of Solomon, lists the same 68 spirits and adds four more, and gives Seal’s for their conjuration.  The 72 are also known as Spirits of Solomon.

Weyer wrote De lamiis liber (On Witchcraft) in 1577.  He used the term Lamiae to describe female witches who thought they had pacts with the Devil.

Weyer rejected the Aristotelian view that demons did not exist in reality.  He believed in the Devil and his legions of demons, but did not believe that witches were empowered by the Devil to harm humankind.  Nor did he believe stories of their flying through the air and attendance at Sabbats in which the Devil was worshipped and babies were eaten.  He thought that belief in witchcraft was caused by the Devil and that the church ironically served the cause of the Devil by promoting belief in the evil power of witches.

In De praestigiis daemonum, Weyer refuted the idea of the demonic pact because there was no basis for it in the Bible.  He gave a rational analysis of reports of alleged witch activity and concluded that most witches were deluded and mentally disturbed old women, the outcasts of society, who were fools, not heretics.  Some might wish harm on their neighbors, but could not carry it out.  If harm occurred coincidentally, they believed in the delusion that they had brought it about.  He did believe that some witches served Satan and did harm people, but not through supernatural means.  He urged the church to forgive those who repented or, at most, to levy fines upon them.

Weyer believed that demons could possess people; however, he advocated ruling out all medical and natural explanations and causes before looking for the supernatural.

Weyer successfully discouraged witch hunting in much of the Netherlands for a while, but was forced out by the Catholic governor, the Duke of Alba.  His book had almost the opposite effect from the one he intended.  He was savagely denounced by critics such as Jean Bodin and King James I of England, both of whom favored the extermination of witches.  King James even authored his own antiwitch treatise, Daemonologie, in response to the works by Weyer and Reginald Scot.  James Bodin urged that copies of Weyer’s book be burned.  Others wrote books refuting Weyer, and these helped to stimulate more witch-hunts.  At one time Weyer himself was accused of being a witch but was not formally charged.  However, his arguments did persuade many witch-hunters in Germany to consult physicians more often to rule out medical causes.

He retired from his post in 1578 and was succeeded by his son, Galenus Wier (1547-1619).  After retirement he completed a medical work on a subject unrelated to witchcraft.  He died at the age of 73 on the 24th February 1588 in Tecklenburg, Germany, while visiting an individual who had fallen ill.  He was buried in the local churchyard, which no longer exists.



First published on the 24th February 2019 © George Knowles



Best wishes and Blessed Be



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IncenseCandlesColours Magickal Days Stones and Gems Elements and Elementals




Traditions Part 1  -  Alexandrian Wicca /  Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) /  Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) /  Blue Star Wicca /  British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) /  Celtic Wicca /  Ceremonial Magic /  Chaos Magic /  Church and School of Wicca /  Circle Sanctuary /  Covenant of the Goddess (COG) /  Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) /  Cyber Wicca /  Dianic Wicca /  Eclectic Wicca /  Feri Wicca /


Traditions Part 2 Gardnerian Wicca /  Georgian Tradition /  Henge of Keltria /  Hereditary Witchcraft /  Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) /  Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) /  Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition /  Nordic Paganism /  Pagan Federation /  Pectic-Wita /  Seax-Wica /  Shamanism /  Solitary /  Strega /  Sylvan Tradition /  Vodoun or Voodoo /  Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /


Other things of interest:


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" /    


Sabbats and Festivals:


The Sabbats in History and Mythology /  Samhain (October 31st)  /  Yule (December 21st)  /  Imbolc (February 2nd)  /  Ostara (March 21st)  /  Beltane (April 30th)  /  Litha (June 21st)  /  Lammas/Lughnasadh (August 1st)  /  Mabon (September 21st)


Rituals contributed by Crone:


Samhain / Yule Imbolc Ostara /  Beltane Litha Lammas Mabon




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




Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar and Totem Animals) /  AntelopeBatsCrow Fox Frog and Toads Goat / HoneybeeKangarooLion OwlPhoenix Rabbits and HaresRaven Robin RedbreastSheep Spider SquirrelSwansUnicornWild Boar Wolf /  Serpent /  Pig /  Stag /  Horse /  Mouse /  Cat /  Rats /  Unicorn




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


Sacred Sites:


Mystical Sacred Sites  -  Stonehenge /  Glastonbury Tor /  Malta - The Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni /  Avebury /  Cerne Abbas - The Chalk Giant /  Ireland - Newgrange /


Rocks and Stones:


Stones - History, Myths and Lore


Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:


Apophyllite  / Amber Amethyst Aquamarine Aragonite Aventurine Black Tourmaline Bloodstone Calcite Carnelian Celestite Citrine Chrysanthemum StoneDiamond  /  Emerald / Fluorite Garnet /  Hematite Herkimer Diamond Labradorite Lapis Lazuli Malachite Moonstone Obsidian Opal Pyrite Quartz (Rock Crystal) Rose Quartz Ruby Selenite Seraphinite  /  Silver and GoldSmoky QuartzSodalite Sunstone ThundereggTree AgateZebra Marble


Wisdom and Inspiration:


Knowledge vs Wisdom by Ardriana Cahill I Talk to the TreesAwakening The Witch in YouA Tale of the Woods I have a Dream by Martin Luther King /


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:

(Our Ancestors)


Pliny the ElderHesiodPythagorasParacelsus /  Abramelin the Mage Archimedes AgrippaSocrates  /  AristotleAlbertus Magnus - “Albert the Great” /  



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

(Ancient, Past and Present)


Remembered at Samhain

(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)


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 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 KramerIdries ShahIsaac Bonewits Israel RegardieIvo Domínguez Jr. /  Jack Whiteside Parsons - Rocket Science and Magick /  James "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches /  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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