Archives for posts with tag: Hammer of Witches

… Ere the bat hath flown
His cloister’d flight, ere, to black Hecate’s summons
The shard-borne beetle with his drowsy hums
Hath rung night’s yawning peal, there shall be done
A deed of dreadful note

William Shakespeare[1]

 [This is Phil again, and I’m tired of writing about witch hunts. Really, the subject is inexhaustible. Deal with one, and five more rise up: different facts of course, or should I say “alleged” facts? But the pattern is always the same. Attack a politician’s reputation, imply [but don’t prove] that bad things have happened, and trot out some secret witnesses to relate the one to the other. But of course the witnesses aren’t really “trotted out.” They’re quoted and characterized as heroic leakers, but not identified. That’s to protect them from hostile questioning by, say, the folks they’ve been maligning.

So we the public never get anything solid to look at; only gossip and rumors; and, of course, because today there’s a 24 hour news cycle, we hear the g & r over and over … and over. Of course, the victim of the hunt can always deny guilt but so what? After all that rumor mongering the victim will have such a bad reputation that many will think he [she] must be guilty of something![2] The legally inclined might decide that no real case has been made against the victim but the undecided, no doubt, will check the “don’t know” box in any survey. But really, with lousy evidence no one polled will have a sound basis to form any opinion other than “don’t know.”

Of course, I’m talking about political witch hunts, not the supernatural kind. Political witch hunts deal with philosophy, doctrine, economics, social theory and power. A supernatural witch hunt is grounded in religion, faith, fear and the need to counter occult threats. The two are different in principle, if not in practice. This time let’s venture into the supernatural, to check our roots, as it were. Let’s look at bats – filthy creatures – what they do and whether they should be tolerated in our modern age. There are many questions.]

Witches operate at night, and bats come out at night, so are they in collusion and if so, how? You may think that’s an idle question, but I’m not so sure. Bats aren’t human, but back in the Middle Ages people weren’t afraid to try animals for violating human law. We wrote a blog about that not too long ago.[3] So perhaps bats were equally culpable with humans in witchcraft and should have been tried along with them. Or perhaps they were the real culprits, and the witches should have been excused.

Let’s put aside the question of how to catch the bats to bring them to human justice and apply instead the ancient three part test to see if they’re guilty of something. If they are, then we can formulate the details of an anti-bat campaign.


There’s no denying that bats hang in evil places and with evil things. First, of course, they come out at night and sleep in dark spaces during the day, usually with each other. And look at what Shakespeare said about them! The bat flies his cloistered flight around the same time the beetle, at Hecate’s order, sounds “night’s yawning peal.” Hecate, as we all know, is an ancient goddess of the night, and now of witches.[4] The beetle makes a sound, not like a bell, but a buzzing, so when night “yawns” it makes us drowsy. Other poets confirm this. “Now air is hushed, save where the weak-eyed bat, [w]ith short shrill squeak flits by on leathern wing, [o]r where the beetle winds [h]is small but sullen horn …”[5] And obviously the night is dangerous to humans; it makes us drowsy, so we’re not alert to its threats. So when we hear a bat, “the dry whisper of [its] unseen wings,[6]” we know definitely it’s not the sound of an angel.

And if you need more proof, just think of how relieved we are when night and its bat companions leave us for a time. Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote about that. “Come into the garden, Maud,” he wrote, “[f]or the black bat, night, has flown … [a]nd the woodbine spices are wafted abroad, [a]nd the musk of the rose is blown.”[7] It was dawn, and the bats were gone, and he was awake and ready to get on with life.

Indications of the Deed

Well, what about sorcerous deeds? Do we have any indications of bat involvement in such things? The literature is full of relatively minor examples of bat complicity. Who can forget, for example: “Eye of newt and toe of frog, [w]ool of bat and tongue of dog … For a charm of powerful trouble, [l]ike a hell-broth boil and bubble”?[8] That’s some powerful spell-casting straight from Macbeth, and bats contributed to the potion. Then there’s Shakespeare’s other observation, that bats keep company with sprites and other magical beings. “On the bat’s back I do fly, [a]fter summer merrily; Merrily, merrily shall I live now, [u]nder the blossom that hangs on the bough.” That’s from The Tempest.[9]

But those are old examples, and I’m more interested in the here and now, and how bats may affect us today. And really, I didn’t worry much about that until I did some research. Did you know that it’s possible to believe bats will be there at the start of the next major war? Consider this:

Ponderous and uncertain is that relation between pressure and resistance which constitutes the balance of power. The arch of peace is morticed by no iron tendons …. One night a handful of dust will patter from the vaulting: the bats will squeak and wheel in sudden panic: nor can the fragile fingers of man then stay the rush and crumble of destruction.[10]

That’s from a 20th Century diplomat.[11] Frankly I’m speechless. If bats are correlated with the next Big War, will they be the cause of it, or an effect, or both? And if we don’t know, shouldn’t we just exterminate them to be safe? What would today’s witch hunting media recommend? Are there leaker-witnesses out there to support drastic action?


Well, we have plenty of witnesses in literature, Shakespeare, Tennyson, William Collins and the like, but they’re not likely to appear in person at a trial; and I haven’t found much current, say on YouTube, that’s really negative on bats. Instead there seem to be videos that portray bats as useful, cute, or at least valuable partners in maintaining the balance of nature. For one of the cute ones, take a look at Baby Bat Burritos, cite given below.[12] And so far I’ve found nothing that relates bats in a causal way to war. But that’s now; you never know what or who will turn up later. Perhaps Congress should sponsor an official inquiry into the question. People need to know if they are safe.


Bats are occult for sure and their reputation isn’t good; but they haven’t caused any harm recently; and the available You Tube witnesses mostly testify in favor of bats. So absent a new and spectacular bat expose’ there’s not a strong basis for mounting a bat witch hunt.

It’s a tough call, but I would defer any drastic action for now. You should do the same. After all, this is the 21st Century. We can always generate a mob via social media whenever we need one. There’s no need to act until circumstances favor us.

And by all means, don’t brood about occult things after the sun sets. As Francis Bacon once said, “Suspicions amongst thoughts are like bats amongst birds, they ever fly by twilight.”[13] Have a good dinner and forget about bats, and war, and turn off the TV. That alone may be a liberating experience. Bacon didn’t know about TV but, if he had, I’m sure he would have said the same.


[1] This is from Macbeth, Act 3, scene 2, lines 44-49. You can find it online at . Or, if you have a copy of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, see Knowles (editor), Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (6th Edition, 2004) [hereafter, ODQ at __] go to it at Shakespeare, p.705, n. 22.

[2] Or should I have said: “he, she [or they] are” guilty of something? With all the gender confusion these days, it’s getting harder to write a sentence. How does one keep the gender option open for one person but at the same time connect him or her [or whatever] to a verb of some sort? When do he or she [or whatever] become a “they,” or should gender confused people be called “it” just to get on with the narrative?  These are questions. I don’t know the answers. If you do, please write!

[3] See the Elemental Zoo Two blog of 02/032013, Animal Rights in History, available at

[4] If you want to know more see the Wikipedia piece on her, at .

[5] That’s from William Collins, an 18th Century poet. See ODQ at William Collins, p. 235, n. 11.

[6] See ODQ at R. S. Thomas, p. 790, n. 23:  “Or the dry whisper of unseen wings, Bats not angels, in the high roof.” For more information on him, take a look at .

[7] See ODQ at Alfred, Lord Tennyson, at p. 781, n. 23. The full quote is: “Come into the garden, Maud, [f]or the black bat, night, has flown. Come into the garden, Maud, I am here at the gate, alone. And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad, [a]nd the musk of the rose is blown.”

[8] It’s from Macbeth, Act 4, scene 1, line 14. See ODQ at Shakespeare, p. 706, n. 12

[9] The quote is from The Tempest, Act 5, scene 1, line 88. If you don’t have Shakespeare handy you can find the quote in ODQ at Shakespeare, p. 719, n. 6.

[10] That’s a quote by Harold Nicolson, a 20th Century diplomat. See ODQ at Harold Nicholson, p. 563, n. 10 For more information on him, take a look at the Wikipedia entry at .

[11] See n. 10.

[12] See Baby Bat Burritos, a video incorporated in Huffington Post, Dicker, Baby Bats Swaddled Like Little Burritos Are Way Cuter Than You Might Expect (Dec. 01, 2014), available at

[13] See ODQ at Francis Bacon, p. 429, n. 5.


I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director. Witch Hunt!

Trump Tweet, circa June 16, 2017[1]

The President claims he’s the victim of a witch hunt. We know something about those things, don’t we? At least that’s what you’ve said, from time to time. So dig back in your files, and find out what people actually did when they hunted witches. You don’t need to cover the whole process. I know it’s arduous and violent. Just tell me what’s needed to start one. And stay away from the dictionary! I don’t want to hear what some modern lexicographer thinks. I want to know what the old guys really did. We have a book about that, don’t we?

G. Sallust, by phone, June 16, 2017[2]

This is Phil, erstwhile blog philosopher and today’s lecturer. G. Sallust called me the other day, and said what I quote at the top of this piece. And he’s right. We do have a book. It’s from the 15th Century and is called the Malleus Maleficarum, or, in English, The Hammer of Witches.[3] [Actually it’s a modern and complete translation of the old Latin.] We spent a lot of time in 2011 reading and writing about it to see how the jurisprudence worked, and how ancient wisdom might be adapted to today. Not surprisingly, we found parallels between the ‘enhanced interrogation” used on suspected terrorists after 9/11 and the tactics of the witch hunters.

This was important, at least in my view, because the old witch hunters were really good at getting confessions. By one account many thousands of witches were burned in Europe, and around four thousand were hanged in England.[4] Why? Because they confessed to flying; striking livestock and fields barren with a curse; having sex with the devil; causing a man’s penis to disappear with magic; or other improbable things. The hunt didn’t seem to yield truth; only fabricated stories. So why did the accused ‘fess up’ to things that were, basically, impossible?

Why, indeed? I would say it was the torture that did it, coupled with the brainwashing, but that’s not our topic for today. G Sallust has asked a more preliminary question. What really was necessary to get that juggernaut of madness rolling? What legal process was involved? The answer: Not much.

You see, according to the old hunters there were three ways to start a witch hunt. One person could denounce another by filing a paper with some court specifying what the other had done, and offering to testify as to the specifics; or one could simply denounce another without offering to testify, apparently on the ground that everybody knew so-and-so was a witch; or the authorities could open a general investigation [an ‘inquisition’] of witchcraft in an area, because there were rumors of it all over the place. In that last situation it would be up to the authorities to bring the accusations.[5]

The witch-hunters really didn’t like option 1, by the way. The problem with laying charges is that the charging party has to justify them. There could be penalties if the facts didn’t hold up, and who knew what might happen once the lawyers got involved?[6] Instead they vastly preferred an approach where the accuser didn’t have to prove anything, or an independent party took on the burden of making the case. If a person denounced someone else to protect the Faith or the common good, the witch hunters thought he should not “become subject to penalty even if he fails in his proof.”[7] And, of course, if someone is tried by inquisition, then no individual is responsible for that. The judge [or whoever] instituted those proceedings “not at the insistence of some party, but by virtue of his office.”

Speaking of lawyers, in the 15th Century defendants in witchcraft trials didn’t get to choose their own advocates. The judge did that. And in doing it he was instructed to avoid “litigious, evil spirited persons” who might be “fussy about legal niceties.”[8] So the defendant got a limp lawyer to protect him [or her] from the torture chamber.

Does any of this sound familiar? Well, let’s see:

  • So far no one has sued Donald Trump for being “too close to” the Russians, or for firing the FBI Director, or for anything like that. At least I don’t know of any such litigation, civil or criminal. So, so far nobody has proved anything in court.
  • The 15th Century Witch Hunters would have approved. They felt that people who denounced others for the “public good” should be able to do so without repercussions. The witnesses especially needed to be protected from the accused. They were scary people, the accused – probably witches – and were dangerous to cross. So obviously if a witness didn’t want to be known, he [or she] wouldn’t be.
  • And how do today’s hunters protect accusers? Well, one way is by allowing them to anonymously leak information, or allegations really, to the media, with a pledge that their identity won’t be revealed. You may have noticed that there’s a lot of that going on, especially in the Washington Post and the New York Times.
  • And is there an inquisition out there? Well, if by that you mean an official inquiry prompted by rumor, innuendo and anonymous sources, there might be several. We have, of course, numerous Congressional committees looking into this or that, plus now a special counsel building a fiefdom over in the Department of Justice.

So in my opinion – and it’s only an opinion – President Trump is correct in part. What we have here is the start of a traditional witch hunt, an auspicious beginning that even the hunters of the 15th Century would have appreciated. We have rumor and innuendo, anonymous sources insulated by their anonymity, vague allegations that come and go, and now official inquiries [including one by a special counsel] that can go on until somebody or something breaks. For a witch hunter those are good things.

But it’s not perfect. This is America and a big part of the political class has taken on some wealthy people, so everybody has lawyers. The 15th Century witch hunters really didn’t like lawyers. Lawyers could be evil spirited and overly fussy about legal niceties. And that’s the way they are today for sure. Also law enforcement here is limited in the way it treats prisoners. Currently no torture is allowed.

So I guess we don’t have a full-blown witch hunt, yet; defendants are better protected than in the 15th Century, and nobody has confessed to improbable things; but it’s a good start, and the future is bright … for the media.

[1] This is currently reported by Twitter at .

[2] That’s what was on my voicemail, sanitized a bit for language. You’ll have to take my word for it. I don’t save voicemails.

[3] See Christopher S. Mackay (translator], The Hammer of Witches, A Complete Translation of the Malleus Maleficarum (Cambridge 2006, 2009) (hereafter cited as Hammer at p. __). The book was written by two [apparently crazed] Dominican friars, Jacobus Sprenger and Henricus Institoris. See Hammer at Introduction, p.2 – 3.

[4] See Sargant, Battle for the Mind (Doubleday, 1957) at p. 198 – 199.

[5] See Hammer at p. 502 – 503: “The three methods … consist of denunciation and inquisition. The first is when someone accuses someone else before a judge with a charge of heresy or abetting it, offers to prove this and writes himself down for the penalty of retribution if he does not prove it. The second method is when someone denounces someone else without offering to prove it or being  willing to participate, and instead states that he is making a denunciation through his zeal for the Faith or on account of [penalties imposed by religious or secular authorities] . The Third is the method by inquisition, that is, when there is no accuser or denouncer, but the general rumor in a certain city or place about there being sorceresses.  In that case, the judge has to institute proceedings not at the insistence of some party but by virtue of his office. “

[6] See Hammer at p. 503: “It should be noted that the judge really should not allow the first method of proceeding, because this method is not customary in a case involving the Faith … because it is quite dangerous for the accuser on account of the penalty of retribution that is imposed when he fails to make good the proof, and because it is quite subject to legal disputation.”

[7] Id. at p. 504.

[8] See Hammer at p. 530 – 531: “As for the first point, it is noted that an advocate is not assigned according to the pleasure of the denounced person, for instance because he was inclined to have one particular person. What judges should make every provision against is granting a litigious, evil-spirited person, who could easily be corrupted by money as such people often are found to be. Rather he should grant to the accused an upright person who is not suspected of being fussy about legal niceties.”


For when all is said and done, we are in the end absolutely dependent on the universe; and into sacrifices and surrenders of some sort, deliberately looked at and accepted, we are drawn and pressed as into our only permanent positions of repose … In the religious life… surrender and sacrifice are positively espoused: even unnecessary giving -up are added in order that the happiness may increase. Religion thus makes easy and felicitous what in any case is necessary; and if it be the only agency that can accomplish this result, its vital importance as a human faculty stands vindicated beyond dispute. It becomes an essential organ of our life, performing a function which no other portion of our nature can so successfully fulfill. From the merely biological point of view, so to call it, this is a conclusion to which … we shall inevitably be led, and led moreover by following the purely empirical method of demonstration …. Of the farther office of religion as a metaphysical revelation I will say nothing now.

William James[1]

[This is Phil, blog philosopher, and I’m here to discuss the spells, curses, etc., worked against President Trump last week and what, if anything, we should do about them. If you want to see spell-casting in action, there are lots of videos available on You Tube. For my current favorite, check out the one at: [2]  Who threw this bag of whatever into the internet? Well, the video is supposed to be from “white witches,” i.e. from Wiccans who reject any connection with dark or evil forces. Other videos come from out-and-out Satanists, totally committed to the left-hand path.[3] The dramaturgy varies but their mutual objectives are pretty much the same. The Wiccans want to “bind” Trump and his people, so they basically can’t do anything, including feed themselves. The Satanists will settle for destroying him. This is not to say that Wiccans and Satanists are unified on all Trump issues. I don’t know many of them, or their issues, so I really can’t say].

But there was a time, before this country was founded, when witchcraft was highly illegal, and punishable by death. Exodus 22:18[4] said, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” and once upon a time folks took that as gospel; well, maybe not gospel, since it’s Old Testament, but they took it seriously. So seriously that they had teams hunting down witches in Europe, and a procedures manual to boot. That book, in case you haven’t read our earlier blogs, was called The Hammer of Witches.[5]

Witches, or sorcerers were formidable, or so it was thought. They could entice new converts; require a ‘sacrilegious avowal’ of loyalty; move people through the air; subordinate themselves to incubus demons [i.e., have sex with them]; prevent men from having sex with women; impede procreation in humans and animals; take away the male member; change humans into the shape of wild beasts; cause demons to inhabit human bodies; inflict “every kind” of illness on people; kill babies, or offer them to demons with a curse; inflict harm on domestic animals; and stir up hailstorms, rain and lightning.” [6] No wonder ordinary people were afraid!

And apparently the witch hunters were really effective, because they got lots of convictions. By one account many thousands of witches were burned in Europe, and around four thousand were hanged in England.[7] This is extraordinary, because even today we can’t do some of the things the accused back then routinely confessed to. So why were the ancient gumshoes so successful in getting witches to confess to these things? Did the free use of torture have something to do with it? The Hammer authorized and encouraged that. Would tortured people admit to just about anything just to make the torture stop? Or were those ancient witches telling the truth about secret knowledge we no longer possess?

It’s perfectly clear that the early settlers on this side of the Atlantic also took their Bible seriously. The Salem witch trials[8] of 1692 – 1693 pretty much proved that. Twenty people were executed before the trials were over, and five others died in prison.  The intelligentsia in and around Boston were fully on board with the result. Cotton Mather, for one, celebrated it: “If in the midst of the many Dissatisfaction among us, the publication of these Trials may promote such a pious Thankfulness unto God, for Justice being so far executed among us, I shall Rejoyce that God is Glorified…”[9]

But attitudes gradually changed over here, until by the mid-18th Century Benjamin Franklin openly mocked the idea of witch trials[10], and Thomas Jefferson wanted to change the laws of Virginia to prosecute witches for fraud. “All attempts to delude the people,” he proposed, “or to abuse their understanding by exercise of the pretended arts of witchcraft, conjuration, enchantment or sorcery, or by pretended prophecies, [should] be punished by ducking and whipping, at the discretion of a jury, not exceeding fifteen stripes.”[11]

Of course Jefferson’s proposal was made before our nation had a Constitution, or a Bill of Rights. Today people might object to punishing witches [or Satanists] simply because of their beliefs. After all, the First Amendment[12] says our Government must be religion-neutral. It says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….”

 And that brings us around to William James, the psychologist from the turn of the last century who opened this piece. Professor James was of the opinion that an experience is “religious” only insofar as it draws us into “surrender and sacrifice,” and acceptance of the world as it is, rather than as we want it to be. Of course that was his opinion [or my interpretation of it]; but if he and I are correct, then Wicca and Satanism most definitely are not religions! You can tell that simply from the videos. Those people aren’t resigning themselves to anything. They’re reaching out and trying to manipulate events from a distance, to punish their enemies! They’re trying to work magic, not to pray and meditate on God’s plan.

Of course none of this is important if you agree with Thomas Jefferson that witchcraft, etc. is a fraud. But what if instead the witch hunters of yesterday were right? What if the witches really are powerful? What should the Government do? Think of it this way. Suppose there was a church in your neighborhood whose members were known radicals, and you knew they were storing small arms and other weapons in the church basement. Wouldn’t you want the Government at least to keep an eye on the situation? If witches are accumulating real powers, why exempt them from the same kind of scrutiny.

And what do I think? I’m not losing any sleep over the problem.  Jefferson was right. This witchcraft business is all claptrap. But if you think otherwise[13], you might want to take precautions.





[1] See James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, A Study in Human Nature (Longmans, Greene & C.) (11the Impression, 1905) at p. 51-52, available from Google [for free] at

[2] There’s a related one flacking a new song at

[3] See Knights Templar International, Satanists and witches launch ‘spirit war’ against Trump! So it WASN’T ‘fake news’ about Hillary and the Forces of Darkness! (March 1, 2017)   available at Or perhaps Satanists are just totally committed to science. Sometimes I just don’t understand these things. See LA Weekly, Swan, Is a Trump Presidency the Satanic Temple’s Chance to Go Mainstream? (February 27, 2017), available at .

[4] Want to look it up? There are lots of online sources, among them King James Version Online, Exodus 22.18, available at .

[5] The original book was written in Latin. Our Latin’s not all that good here at Elemental Zoo Two, so we use a modern translation.  See Christopher S. Mackay, The Hammer of Witches, A Complete Translation of the Malleus Maleficarum (Cambridge 2006, 2009) [hereafter cited as Hammer at p. __].

[6] See generally, Hammer, Part Two at p. 93A –147A (p. 275 -386 of the text.)

[7] See Sargant, Battle for the Mind (Doubleday, 1957) at p. 198 – 199.

[8] Want to know more about them? It’s not a pretty story. For openers check out the Wikipedia write-up on Salem witch trials at . It’s a well covered subject, so there’s plenty to follow-up, if you want to.

[9] The quote appears in the Wikipedia entry on Cotton Mather, at

[10] See Franklin, Silence Dogood, The Busy-Body and Early Writings (LOA 1987, 2002) at A Witch Trial at Mount Holly, p. 155 – 157.

[11] See Jefferson, Writings (LOA, 1984), at A Bill for Proportioning Crimes and Punishments, p. 362

[12] We use the National Archives as our source for the wording of the Constitution, its Amendments, etc. It’s accurate and free. You can find the 1st Amendment there, at  The full quote is: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

[13] I’m not one who thinks that the people who disagree with Thomas Jefferson on this are necessarily irrational. For some respectable opinion on the other side, take a look at: the Wikipedia piece on Gabriele Amorth, the [now deceased] Vatican Exorcist, at ; and the 1908 Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Demonology, available at