An Antidote Against Atheism/Book III/Chapter IV
1. The Supernatural Effects observed in the bewitched Children of Mr Throgmorton and Mris Muschamp. 2. The general Remarkables in them both. 3 The possession of the Religious Virgins of Werts, Hessimont, &c. 4. The story of that famous Abbatess Magdalena Crucia, her useless and ludicrous Miracles. 5. That she was a Sorceress, and was thirty years married to the Devil. 6. That her story is neither any Figment of Priests, nor delusion of Melancholy.
1.We will now pass to those supernatural Effects which are observed in Persons that are bewitch'd or possess'd. And such are, Foretelling things to come; telling what such and such persons speak or doe as exactly as if they were by them, when the party possess'd is at one end of the Town and sitting in a house within doors, and those parties that act and confer together are without at the other end of the Town; to be able to see some and not others, to play at Cards with one certain person, and not to discern any body else at the table besides him; to act, and talk, and goe up and down, and tell what will become of things, and what happens in those fitts of possession, and then, so soon as the possessed or bewitched party is out of them, for him to remember nothing at all, but to enquire concerning the welfare of those whose faces he seemed to look upon but just before, when he was in his fitts. All which can be no symptoms nor signs of any thing else but the Devil got into the body of a man, and holding all the Operations of his Soul, and then acting and speaking and sporting as he pleases in the miserable Tenement he hath crouded himself into, making use of the Organs of the Body at his own pleasure, for the performing of such pranks and feats as are far above the capacity, strength or agility of the party thus bewitched or possessed.
All these things are fully made good by long and tedious observations recorded in The discovery of the Witches of Warbois in Huntingtonshire, Anno 1594. the memory whereof is still kept fresh by an Anniversary Sermon preach'd at Huntington by some of the Fellows of Queens College in Cambridge.
There is also lately come forth a Narration how one Mris Muschamp's Children were handled in Cumberland, which is very like this of Mr Throckmorton's Children of Warbois.
2. That which is generally observed in them both is this. That in their fitts they are as if they had no Soul at all in their Bodies, and that whatsoever operations of Sense, Reason or Motion there seems to be in them, it is not any thing at all to them, but is wholly that Stranger's that hath got into them. For so soon as their fitts are over, they are as if they had been in so profound a sleep that they did not so much as dream, and so remember nothing at all of what they either said or did, or where they had been, as is manifest by an infinite number of Examples in the forenamed relations.
3. Of the truth of which passages here at home we being very well ascertain'd, we may with the more confidence venture upon what is recorded concerning others abroad. As for example, The possession of the Religious Virgins in the Monastery of WertsSee Wierus, de Præstig. Dæmon. l. 4. c. 10., others in Hessimont, others also not far from Xantes, and in other places, where there were Eye-witnesses enough to take notice how strangely they were handled, being flung up from the ground higher then a mans head, and falling down again without harm, swarming upon Trees as nimbly as Cats, and hanging upon the boughs; having their flesh torn off from their bodies without any visible hand or instrument; and many other mad pranks, which is not so fit to name, but they that have a minde may read at large in Wierus.
4. I would pass now to other Effects of Witchcraft, as the conveying of Knives, Balls of hair and Nails into the bodies of them that are bewitched; but that the mention of these Nuns puts me in mind of that famous story in Wierus of Magdalena CruciaDe Præstigiis Dæmon. l. 6. c. 6., first a Nun, and then an Abbatesse of a Nunnery in Corduba in Spain. those things which were miraculous in her were these; That she could tell almost at any distance how the affairs of the world went, what consultations or transactions there were in all the Nations of Christendome, from whence she got to her self the reputation of a very Holy woman and a great Prophetess. But other things came to pass by her, or for her sake, no less strange and miraculous; as that at the celebrating of the holy Eucharist the Priest should always want one of his round Wafers, which was secretly conveyed to Magdalen by the administration of Angels, as was supposed, and she receiving of it into her mouth ate it in the view of the people, to their great astonishment and high reverence of the Saint. At the elevation of the Host Magdelen being near at hand, but yet a wall betwixt, that the wall was conceived to open, and to exhibite Magdalen to the view of them in the Chappel, and that thus she partaked of the consecrated bread. When this Abbatesse came into the Chappel her self upon some special day, that she would set off the solemnity of the day by some notable and conspicuous Miracle: for she would sometimes be lifted up above the ground three or four cubits high; other sometimes bearing the Image of Christ in her arms, weeping savourly, she would make her hair to increase to that length and largeness that it would come to her heels, and cover her all over and the Image of Christ in her armes, which anon notwithstanding would shrink up again to its usual size; with a many such specious, though unprofitable, Miracles.
5. But you'l say that the Narration of these things is not true, but they are feigned for the advantage of the Roman Religion, and so it was profitable for the Church to forge them and record them to posterity. A man that is unwilling to admit of any thing supernatural would please himself with this general shuffle and put-off. But when we come to the Catastrophe of the Story, he will finde it quite otherwise: for this Saint at last began to be suspected for a Sorceress, as it is thought, and she being conscious, did of her own accord, to save her self, make confession of her wickedness to the Visiters of the Order, as they are called, viz. That for thirty years she had been married to the Devil in the shape of an Æthiopian; that another Devil, servant to this, when his Master was at dalliance with her in her Cell, supplied her place amongst the Nuns at their publick Devotions; that by virtue of this Contract she made with this Spirit she had done all those Miracles she did. Upon this confession she was committed, and while she was in durance, yet she appear'd in her devout postures praying in the Chappel as before at their set hours of Prayer: which being told to the Visiters by the Nuns, there was a strict watch over her that she should not stir out. Nevertheless she appeared in the Chappel as before, though she were really in the Prison.
6. Now what credit or advantage there can be to the Roman Religion by this Story, let any man judge. Wherefore it is no Figment of the Priests or Religious persons, nor Melancholy, nor any such matter (for how could so many spectators at once be deluded by Melancholy?) but it ought to be deem'd a reall Truth: And this Magdalena Crucia appearing in two several places at once, it is manifest that there is such a thing as Apparitions of Spirits. But I must abstain as yet from touching that argument, I having not dispatch'd what I propounded concerning the vomiting up of Nails, the conveying of Knives and pieces of Wood into the Bodies of men, and the like. Which things are so palpable and uncapable of delusion, that I think it worth the while to insist a little upon them.