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Title: Witchcraft
Original Title: Sorcellerie
Volume and Page: Vol. 15 (1765), p. 368
Author: Louis, chevalier de Jaucourt
Translator: Steve Harris [San Francisco State University, sharris@steveharris.net]
Subject terms:
Magic
Original Version (ARTFL): Link
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URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0000.726
Citation (MLA): Jaucourt, Louis, chevalier de. "Witchcraft." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Steve Harris. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2010. Web. [fill in today's date in the form 18 Apr. 2009 and remove square brackets]. <http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0000.726>. Trans. of "Sorcellerie," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 15. Paris, 1765.
Citation (Chicago): Jaucourt, Louis, chevalier de. "Witchcraft." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Steve Harris. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2010. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0000.726 (accessed [fill in today's date in the form April 18, 2009 and remove square brackets]). Originally published as "Sorcellerie," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 15:368 (Paris, 1765).

Witchcraft. A magical, scandalous or ridiculous activity, foolishly attributed by superstition to the invocation and power of demons.

Spells and curses are never spoken of except in ignorant regions or eras. That is why witchcraft was at its strongest among us during the 13th and 14th centuries. According to Voltaire, the children of Phillip the Fair made a written agreement promising mutual aid against those who would attack them by witchcraft . A witch was condemned to burn at the stake for having conspired with the devil to help Robert d’Artois. The illness of Charles VI was attributed to a spell and he sought a magician to heal him.

Once, in London, the Duchess of Gloucester was accused of attempting to cast a fatal spell on Henry VI. Her supposed co-conspirators, an unhappy soothsayer and a demented and sclerotic priest, who was accused of being a witch, were burnt alive. The Duchess was relieved that she was not condemned and was only required to make a public confession and was sentenced to life in prison. The spirit of light and philosophy which has established its dominance on that flourishing island, has continued since then.

The madness associated with casting spells made new progress in France under Catherine de Medici; it was one of the fruits of her country which she transplanted to this kingdom. There was a famous medal on which this queen was portrayed as a nude between the constellations of Aries and Taurus, with the name of Ebulle Asmodai (a demon of lust) on her head and a sting in one hand and a heart in the other. The name of Oxiel was engraved near the rim. The question was also put to Count Reggieri of Florence, who was accused of casting a spell to kill Charles IX. In 1606 a group of witches were condemned by order of the Parlement of Bordeaux. The famous priest Gaufrédi was burnt at Aix in 1611, having confessed and convinced the judges that he was a witch.

Finally, it was nothing but the awakening of common sense towards the end of the last century, which led Louis XIV in 1672 to prohibit simple accusations of witchcraft in the royal courts; and if, since then, there has been, from time to time, some accusations of curses, judges have not condemned the accused except as profaners or confessed users of poison.

La Peyrere, author of Préadamites (but also of a good study of Greenland) was asked why witches were spoken of more frequently in the North than one might suppose. He said that it is because part of the property of all the supposed witches that were killed was confiscated for the benefit of their judges.

No one pays any attention to the story of one freed slave of ancient Rome except that he was accused of being a witch, who, for that reason, asked to be tried by the Roman people. The fertility of the little plot of land which his master had left him and which he cultivated with care had attracted the envy of his neighbors. Sure of his innocence and not being alarmed at the indictment of Curule the Edile, who had convened an assembly of the people, he appeared accompanied by his daughter. He was a plump peasant, well-fed and well-dressed, bene curatam & vest itam . He brought to the assembly his large fat cattle, his well-maintained and equipped plow and all his tools in very good repair. Then, turning to the judges, he said: “Romans, here are my spells, veneficia mea, quirites, haec sunt.” The decision was unanimous, he was absolved by acclamation and his revenge on his enemies was the praise he received.