THERE are one or two points to be
noted with regard to what we have just written. First, that witches
should be questioned on the more Holy Days and during the
solemnization of the Mass, and that the people should be exhorted to
pray for Divine help, not in any specific manner, but that they
should invoke the prayers of the Saints against all the plagues of
Secondly, as we have said before, the Judge should wear round his neck Consecrated Salt and other matters, with the Seven Words which Christ uttered on the Cross written in a schedule, and all bound together. And he should, if he conveniently can, wear these made into the length of Christ's stature against his naked body, and bind other Holy things about him. For it is shown by experience that witches are greatly troubled by these things, and can hardly refrain from confessing the truth. The Relics of the Saints, too, are of especial virtue.
Having taken these precautions, and after giving her Holy Water to drink, let him again begin to question her, all the time exhorting her as before. And while she is raised from the ground, if she is being tortured in this way, let the Judge read or cause to be read to her the depositions of the witnesses with their names, saying: “See! You are convicted by the witnesses.” Also, if the witnesses are willing to confront her face to face, the Judge shall ask her if she will confess if the witnesses are brought before her. And if she consents, let the witnesses be brought in and stand before her, so that she may be contrained or shamed into confessing some of her crimes.
Finally, if he sees that she will not admit her crimes, he shall ask her whether, to prove her innocence, she is ready to undergo the ordeal by red-hot iron. And they all desire this, knowing that the devil will prevent them from being hurt; therefore a true witch is exposed in this manner. The Judge shall ask her how she can be so rash as to run so great a risk, and all shall be written down; but it will be shown later that they are never to be allowed to undergo this ordeal by red-hot iron.
Let the Judge also not that when witches are questioned on a Friday, while the people are gathered together at Holy Mass to await our Saviour, they very often confess.
But we must proceed to the extreme case, when after every expedient has been tried the witch still maintains silence. The Judge shall then loose her and, using the precautions which follow, shall take her from the place of punishment to another place under a strong guard; but let him take particular care not to release her on any sort of security; for when that is done, they never confess the truth, but always become worse.
But in the first place let him cause her to be well treated in the manner of food and drink, and meanwhile let honest persons who are under no suspicion enter to her and talk often with her on indifferent subjects, and finally advise her in confidence to confess the truth, promising that the Judge will be merciful to her and that they will intercede for her. And finally let the Judge come in and promise that he will be merciful with the mental reservation that he means he will be merciful to himself or the State; for whatever is done for the safety of the State is merciful.
But if he promises her her life, as we showed in Question XIV that he can do in three ways, let it all be written down by the Notary in what words and with what intention mercy was promised. And if the accused begs for mercy in this way, and discovers her crime, let her be promised in a vague and general way that she will receive even more than she has petitioned for, so that she may speak with the greater confidence.
As a second precaution in this case, when she refuses altogether to reveal the truth, the Judge should, as we have said before, examine her friends and associates without her knowledge; and if these have deposed anything which might lead to her conviction, this must be diligently investigated. Also, if any instruments or unguents or boxes have been found in her house, they should be shown to her, and she should be asked for what purposes they have been used.
A third precaution can be taken when she still persists in her obstinancy after her associates have been examined and borne witness against her, and not for her. If she has no friends, let some other trustworthy man who is known to be congenial to the accused and to some extent a patron of hers, enter to the witch one evening and engage her in a protracted conversation. And then, if he is not an accomplice, let him pretend that it is too late for him to return, and stay in the prison with her, and continue talking during the night. And if he is an accomplice, let them eat and drink together, and talk to each other about the things they have done. And then let it be arranged that spies should stand outside in a convenient place, and listen to them and take note of their words, and if necessary let the have a scribe with them.
As a fourth precaution, if she then begins to tell the truth, let the Judge on no account postpone hearing her confession, even in the middle of the night, buy proceed with it to the best of his ability. And if it is in the day-time, let him not care if he delays his luncheon or dinner, but persist until she has told the truth, at least in the main. For it is generally found that, after postponements and interruptions, they return to their vomit and will not reveal the truth which they began to confess, having thought worse of it.
And let the Judge take note that, after she has confessed the injuries done to men and animals, he shall ask her for how many years she has had an Incubus devil, and how long it is since she abjured the faith. For they never confess to these matters unless they have first confessed to these matters unless they have first confessed their other deeds; therefore they must be asked concerning these last of all.
As a fifth precaution, when all the above have failed, let her, if possible, be led to some castle; and after she has been kept there under custody for some days, let the castellan pretend that he is going on a long journey. And then let some of his household, or even some honest women, visit her and promise that they will set her entirely at liberty if she will teach them how to conduct certain practices. And let the Judge take note that by this means they have very often confessed and been convicted.
Quite lately a witch was detained in the Castle of Königsheim near the town of Schlettstadt in the Diocese of Strasburg, and could not be induced by any tortures or questions to confess her crimes. But at last the castellan used the method we have just described. Although he was himself present in the castle, the witch thought he was away, and three of his household came in to her and promised they would set her free if she would teach them how to do certain things. At first she refused, saying that they were trying to entrap her; but at last she asked what it was that they wanted to know. And one asked how to raise a hailstorm, and another asked about carnal matters. When at length she agreed to show him how to raise a hailstorm, and a bowl of water had been brought in, the witch told him to stir the water with his finger, and herself uttered certain words, and suddenly the place which he had named, a wood near the castle, was visited by such a tempest and storm of hail as had not been seen for many years.
It yet remains to show how the Judge is to proceed in pronouncing sentence in a case where all these means have failed, or what is further to be done even when she has confessed her crimes, that the whole process may be brought to an end; and we shall complete this Last Part of this work with a consideration of these matters.