Page:Witch-Cult in Western Europe (1921).djvu/175

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175
THE RITES

Sexual ritual occurs in many religions of the Lower Culture and has always horrified members of the higher religions both in ancient and modern times. In fertility cults it is one of the chief features, not only symbolizing the fertilizing power in the whole animate world, but, in the belief of the actors, actually assisting it and promoting its effects.

Such fertility rites are governed by certain rules, which vary in different countries, particularly as to the age of girls, i.e. whether they are over or under puberty. Among the witches there appears to have been a definite rule that no girl under puberty had sexual intercourse with the Devil. This is even stated as a fact by so great an authority as Bodin: 'Les diables ne font point de paction expresse auec les enfans, qui leurs sont vouëz, s'ils n'ont attaint l'aage de puberté.'[1] The details of the trials show that this statement is accurate. 'Magdalene de la Croix, Abbesse des Moniales de Cordoüe en Espaigne, confessa que Satan n'eust point copulation, ny cognoissance d'elle, qu'elle n'eust douze ans.'[2] Bodin and De Lancre both cite the case of Jeanne Hervillier of Verbery in Compiègne; she was a woman of fifty-two at the time of her trial in 1578. She 'confessa qu'à l'aage de douze ans sa mere la presenta au diable, en forme d'vn grand homme noir, & vestu de noir, botté, esperonné, auec vne espée au costé, et vn cheual noir à la porte, auquel la mere dit: Voicy ma fille que ie vous ay promise: Et à la fille, Voicy vostre amy, qui vous fera bien heureuse, et deslors qu'elle renonça à Dieu, & à la religion, & puis coucha auec elle charnellement, en la mesme sorte & maniere que font les hommes auec les femmes.'[3] De Lancre also emphasizes the age: 'Ieanne Haruillier depose qu'encore sa mere l'eust voüée à Satan dés sa naissance, neantmoins qu'il ne la cognut charnellement qu'elle n'eust attainct l'aage de douze ans.'[4] De Lancre's own experience points in the same direction; he found that the children were not treated in the same way as

  1. Bodin, p. 465.
  2. Id., p. 465. The trial was in 1545, Magdalene being then forty-two. See also Pleasant Treatise, p. 6.
  3. Id., p. 227.
  4. De Lancre, Tableau, p. 183.