Like his teacher Agrippa, he called Kramer a 'bloodthirsty monk'. Weyer, the author of what was to become the most influential early modern book against witch persecutions, viewed so-called witches as melancholic females who needed leniency, love, and medical care to cure their mental illness. These 'witches' were not strong and dangerous, but weak, deceived, and tricked by demons into believing that they could indeed do harm or fly through the air. But these poor women were not evil, but sick, and they did not need punishment, but love. Killing them could not be justified under any circumstances as this would be a 'massacre of the innocents'.4 What Weyer did was to alter fundamentally the discourse on witchcraft. Nevertheless, his massive demonology of almost 600 pages in folio format on The Deceits of the Devils is structured in the traditional way. The first book is on the origins, the nature, and the intentions of demons. The second book deals with those sorcerers who voluntarily conjure up demons. However, in the third and largest book Weyer writes about witches. He claims that even if these women admit to performing harmful magic, they should not be considered evil, but insane, and therefore physically and mentally incapable of bearing any legal responsibility for their supposed deeds. Weyer explains how it is impossible to class witchcraft as a crime, drawing on arguments from juridical, theological, and medical sources as well as from ancient philosophy, and supported this with evidence from experience and experiments. However, the scores of examples of demonic interference into worldly affairs that he provides in the remaining books - the fourth on the devils' activities, the fifth on possession, and the sixth on dealing severely with sorcerers, witches, and poisoners - tend to undermine his more liberal arguments. Weyer concludes that women accused of witchcraft are not guilty of a crime and therefore may not be burned to death. Finally, he states that burning witches is a heinous crime in itself. Weyer's publication signifies a paradigm shift on the side ofthe opponents ofwitchcraft persecution. His hidden agenda was to protect women against judges influenced by the Malleus Maleficarum, and to change the legal system by introducing medical arguments in general, and the insanity defence in particular. In order to popularize his point of view, Weyer translated his volume into the German vernacular.5 The strong demand for this text is witnessed by the fact that there were two more unauthorized translations into German, and frequent reprints of the Latin original.
Weyer's second book on demonology triggered a similarly strong reaction (De lamiis liber; Basel, 1577). The European denial of witchcraft is
4 Weyer, De praestigiis daemonum, Preface.
5 Weyer, De praestigiis daemonum. Von Zauberey, woher sie ihren Ursprung hab [. . .]. Trans. from Latin byJohann Weyer.
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