|James I... Malleus Maleficarum|
Intellectual Beliefs behind DemonologyWitchcraft was constructed in binary terms of what it was not. It used previous terminology only it inverted the concepts associated with the terms involved. "Presented as a natural and unchanging truth, demonism became so dependent on particular linguistic strategies-particularly, binary oppositions-that it came to be seen as the product, rather than the subject-matter, of its own language." (Clark, 10)
Early Modern Worldview of Opposites.If there is a supreme good than their must be a supreme bad, ie. The Devil. Everything that God had, mass, Angels, rituals, the Devil had the opposite of, exemplifying how the languages were uses similarly. Witches were again, examples of inversion in various ways, mainly in terms of the household and gender conceptions. "Each detailed manifestation of demonism presupposed the orderliness and legitimacy of its direct opposite in normal life-normality and its inversion being, as I have insisted all along, bound together by looking-glass logic." (Clark, 91).
Inversion of ChristianityDemonology was an inversion of Christianity. Witchcraft culture "can be seen to rely extensively on a system of dual classification that represents cosmological and social order as the maintenance of hierarchical oppositions between superior and inferior things-persons, places, activities, and so on." (Clark, 70) "Invertibility was the universal idiom of disorderly experience." (Clark, 72) Inversion was prominent in early modern European thought and was the third thought process that completed the acceptability of the belief in witchcraft.
Witchcraft and ScienceDemonology and science were intricately linked and "we shall see that the need to reconsider the validity of preternatural phenomena of every kind, and the rules for categorizing them, became especially urgent." (Clark, 156) Demonology did not stand in the way of reason or progress.
"Cut off from divine revelation, the demonic intellect could only be exercised by the light of nature." (Clark, 163) No matter what massive power and knowledge demons possessed, they had to obey the laws of nature, only the creator of nature could break its rules. The Devil can only produce wonders while God creates miracles, but the Devil was a trickster and could sometimes fool humans into thinking he created miracles.
Eschatology, or the Study of the End of DaysThe prevalence of witchcraft and demonism in the early modern period was seen as a signifier that the end of days was coming, the world had reached a height of wickedness and was about to be cleansed. The prophetic books of scripture helped authors to prove these ideas. It comforted churchmen to believe that witches were not performing their wicked deeds simply out of a huge desire to harm others, but were also acting in accordance with the divine will and design of God.
The Antichrist was one of three themes addressed that link eschatology and demonology into a single schema of ideas. Eschatology worked with the ideas of inversion and misrule that were associated with witchcraft and the Antichrist was the largest bringer of disorder and inversion. They invented a life of the Antichrist that parodied the life and times of Christ, allowing for further example of inversion. The history of the Antichrist was written in the language of demonology.
The witch as portent is a theme that links eschatology and demonology together with the idea that "witchcraft could be seen as merely one item in an extensive repertoire of literally portentous happenings-wayward events that were widely held to signify the coming of disaster, dissolution, and judgment." (Clark, 346) Marvels and monsters were so popular in early modern Europe because they were an integral part of apocalyptic history. Since witches signified the end of time and the coming of the antichrist, they became signs that people should repent and return to the folds of their respective churches.
Copyright © 2007 Shannon L. Meyer, University of Nebraska, Lincoln