Church endeavoured to discountenance as pagan certain popular seasonal festivals at which masquerade was worn. This is common knowledge, and is true of the Eastern Church no less than of the Western.
With regard to the trial of Alice Kyteler, who is stated to have been accused both of operative and of ritual witchcraft, the charges were neither more nor less ritual than those brought against Apuleius or Piso. I can find no evidence in the records of the alleged cult organisation associated with sixteenth century witchcraft.
The difficulty raised by Miss Murray on p. 16, as to how the inquisitors could arrive at a systematic theory of what witches were supposed to do except from the facts elicited at trials, is less real than it appears. Long before the handbooks for inquisitors were put into circulation at the end of the fifteenth century, there existed a quite definite conception of the nature of witches and their activities which was generally accepted throughout Europe. The civilisation of the Middle Ages was an international European civilisation, the common views of which found expression mainly in a common language, Latin. The various ingredients of its superstitions, among which those ultimately derived from classical literature and tradition predominated, were fused in the crucible of medieval thought and given definite shape and system by the voluminous if misdirected learning of scholasticism. Thanks to the work of such writers as John of Salisbury, Gervase of Tilbury and their fellows, medieval demonology was systematised, and an established doctrine became current throughout Western Europe.
It is true that certain features of sixteenth century witchcraft, to which Miss Murray draws attention, do not belong to this tradition. Their source is probably to be found in the
- For cock sacrifice, cf. Apuleius, Apologia, 47. It is, of course, a frequent feature of classical magic.
- Tacitus, Annals, ii. 69; iii. 13.
- The Malleus Malificarum of Sprenger was first published in 1492. This, the Formicarium of Nider and a number of less famous tracts, are collected in a volume entitled Malleorum quorundam maleficarum tam veterum quam recentiorum authorum published at Frankfort in 1582.