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A Skeptic Looks at Witch Hunting – Friedrich von Spee (1631)

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27. Then even confessors, even regular clergy, call that dying obstinate and impenitent. She did not want to repent or abandon her concubine, but wanted to remain faithful to him.

28. But if it should happen that someone yields up her spirit after such torture, they say that the devil broke her neck, and they prove it with this irrefutable argument, which you may take if you wish to use it: there is not a single person who was not killed by the devil in this way, as I showed above.

29. Therefore, of course, her body may be taken out and deservedly buried beneath the gallows by the executioner.

30. But if Gaia does not die, and some scrupulous people do not dare either to torture her further without new evidence or burn her without her confession, then they keep her in prison bound in tight chains, and there she is to be tormented for up to a whole year until she is overcome.

31. But she can never clear herself through torture and wash away the crime once tainted with it, as the law wishes. To let her go once she has been arrested would disgrace the inquisitors. Once the chains have embraced her, she must be guilty by hook or by crook.

32. Meanwhile, as well as before and after, ignorant, impetuous priests are sent to her who are more troublesome than the torturers. Their purpose is to harass the unfortunate in every way possible to the point that she finally confesses that she is guilty, whether she is or not. If she does not confess, they shout that she cannot be saved nor fortified with the sacraments.

33. The judges take very particular care that calmer and more learned priests who carry hay in their horns and salt in their hearts are not admitted to her. Similarly, no one else who could defend her or instruct the princes may enter the prison. For the judges fear nothing so much as that somehow something might be revealed by which the prisoners’ innocence could come to light. So inquisitors take this opportunity to remove from the prisoners’ consciences the kinds of men into whose care the princes entrust not only the youth of this world but even their own consciences, no matter how much the prisoners ask for them. And recently, inquisitors even dared to claim at noblemen’s tables that such men should deservedly be expelled from the land as disturbers of justice.

34. While Gaia is still kept in the dungeon in the way I said and is harassed by those who ought to do it the least, there is no shortage of beautiful discoveries with which diligent judges may not only find new evidence against the witch but also prove (God save us!) her guilt to her face, so that they may proclaim that she may be burned alive in accordance with the ruling of the academies of doctors, as has been discussed earlier.

35. Some men, however, order that Gaia be exorcised to excess, transferred to another place, and then tortured again, as if perhaps by this purging and change of location her spell of silence can be broken. But if they can make no progress this way, then finally they commit her living to the flames. Since she dies whether she confesses or not, I would like to know, may God love me, how she can ever escape, no matter how innocent she may be? You miserable woman! What are you hoping for? Why did you not declare yourself guilty when you first entered the prison? Why, you foolish and insane woman, do you wish to die many times when you can do it just once? Follow my advice, and before any torture just say that you are guilty and die. You will not escape, for this, after all, is the catastrophe of Germany’s zeal.

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