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Tales of Sex Among Witches, Demons, and the Devil, From Classic Christian Demonology Handbooks
Father Ludovico Maria Sinistrari, expert advisor during the 1600s to the Catholic Church’s Inquisition on matters pertaining to sexual relations between witches, demons, and the Devil, never saw his manuscript Demoniality published by any Church organization. Rather, it was first published posthumously in 1875, translated from the original Latin into French by Isidore Liseux, who would later gain renown as the first translator and publisher into English of Donatien Alphonse François, the Marquis de Sade.
Why would the work of a Catholic priest find its world premiere on publisher’s list next to the most famous pornographic novel in history, The Memoirs of Fanny Hill, a Woman of Pleasure (another of Liseux’s translations, into French) and Justine by Sade, a book which features graphic descriptions of monks engaged in orgies in a monastery?
The word “prurient” is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as a state of being “too interested in the details of another person’s sexual behavior.” By that definition, among the most prurient people on the planet are—ironically—those who seek to censor or censure the sexual behavior of other consenting adults.
Though there were no polls on the matter, I feel confident that the vast majority of 17th-century Italian commoners had more pressing worries than the quality and quantity of demons’ ejaculate. For Father Sinistrari, however, the characteristics of demon semen were a matter of urgent concern. In Demoniality, he cites numerous experts on the matter, one of whom tells us that
what incubi [male demons who have sex with women] introduce into the womb is not just any type or amount of semen, but abundant, very thick, very warm, rich in spirits and free from serosity. This moreover is an easy thing for them, since they have but to choose ardent, robust men, and those with much semen, to whom they may submit, and then women of a like constitution, upon whom they may lie, taking care that both shall enjoy greater pleasure than usual, for the more abundant the semen is emitted, the greater the pleasure with which it is released.
Father Sinistrari, pledged to celibacy, seems to have had plenty of time to allow his sexual imagination to run wild; it was as though he was writing fanfic related to witches, incubi, and succubi. (Succibi are female demons who have sex with men.)
Priests cannot write or talk publicly in sexually-graphic ways except in the context of condemning the sexual behavior described. This is perhaps part of why priests spend so much time pruriently concerned with what happens in the sex lives of others (including others who don’t even exist, such as demons): sticking one’s nose in the business of where others stick their privates is a surefire way to spend plenty of time writing, thinking, talking, and reading about graphic sex, in an otherwise-prudish social milieu.
Father Sinistrari’s writing about the sex lives of witches and demons was so vivid and graphic, that the first person who thought this work worthy of publication was a French publisher and translator of erotica.
In this two-part series leading up to Halloween, I share stories of sex among witches, demons, and the Devil, selected from classic Christian demonology handbooks from the 1500-1600s.
My purpose in sharing these selections, aside from marveling at their absurd luridness, is to highlight how Christian prudes project fantastical sexuality—likely the product of their own repressed eroticism—onto imagined “others.” They then tarnish this externalized and “othered” sexuality as evil, rather than acknowledging and accepting their own eroticism.
This unfortunate trend continues among religious prudes unto this day. Perhaps seeing the fantastical psychology of religious prudery in its historical context can help as call out the absurdity of its present-day manifestations.
by Father Ludovico Maria Sinistrari
written circa late 1600s
(Project Gutenberg edition; I added the subheaders and bolding.)
The purpose, both of witches and wizards, in the nightly revels that take place after feasting and dancing, is none other but that infamous intercourse; otherwise there can be no witness of that crime, since the Devil, visible to the witch, escapes the sight of others. Sometimes, it is true, women have been seen in the woods, in the fields, in the groves, lying on their backs, naked up to the navel, positioned for sexual activity, their legs spread and brought together, shaking their buttocks. . . . In such a case there would be a very strong suspicion of such a crime….
Now, several authors profess, and it is confirmed by numerous experiments, that the Demon has two ways of copulating carnally with men or women: the one which it uses with Witches or Wizards, the other with men or women entirely foreign to witchcraft.
In the first case, the Demon does not copulate with Witches or Wizards until after a solemn profession, in virtue of which such wretched human beings yield themselves up to him. . . . [T]hat profession consists of eleven ceremonials:
The 11 Steps Before the Devil Has Sex With Initiated Witches or Wizards…
Firstly, the Novices [initiates] have to conclude with the Demon, or some other Wizard or Magician acting in the Demon’s place, an express compact by which, in the presence of witnesses, they enlist in the Demon’s service, he giving them in exchange his pledge for honours, riches and carnal pleasures.
Secondly, they abjure the catholic faith, withdraw from the obedience to God, renounce Christ and the protection of the most blessed Virgin Mary, and all the Sacraments of the Church.
Thirdly, they cast away the Crown, or Rosary of the most blessed Virgin Mary, the girdle of S. Francis, or the strap of S. Austin, or the scapular of the Carmelites, should they belong to one of those Orders, the Cross, the Medals, the Agnus Dei, whatever other holy or consecrated object may have been about their person, and trample them all under foot.
Fourthly, in the hands of the Devil they vow obedience and subjection; they pay him homage and vassalage, laying their fingers on some very black book. They bind themselves never to return to the faith of Christ, to observe none of the divine precepts, to do no good work, but to obey the Demon alone and, to attend diligently the nightly conventicles.
Fifthly, they promise to strive with all their power, and to give their utmost zeal and care for the enlistment of other males and females in the service of the Demon.
Sixthly, the Devil administers to them a kind of sacrilegious baptism, and after abjuring their Godfathers and Godmothers of the Baptism of Christ and Confirmation, they have assigned to them a new Godfather and a new Godmother, who are to instruct them in the arts of witchcraft; they drop their former name and exchange it for another, more frequently a scurrilous nickname.
Seventhly, they cut off a part of their own garments, and tender it as a token of homage to the Devil, who takes it away and keeps it.
Eighthly, the Devil draws on the ground a circle wherein stand the Novices, Witches and Wizards, and there they confirm by oath all their aforesaid promises.
Ninthly, they request the Devil to strike them out of the book of Christ, and to inscribe them in his own. Then comes forth that very black book on which, as has been said before, they laid hands when doing homage, and they are inscribed therein with the Devil’s claw.
Tenthly, they promise the Devil sacrifices and offerings at stated times: once a fortnight or at least each month, the murder of some child, or an homicidal act of sorcery, and other weekly misdeeds to the prejudice of mankind, such as hailstorms, tempests, fires, cattle plagues, etc.
Eleventhly, the Demon imprints on them some mark, especially on those whose constancy he suspects. That mark, moreover, is not always of the same shape or figure: sometimes it is the image of a hare, sometimes a toad’s leg, sometimes a spider, a puppy, a dormouse. It is imprinted on the most hidden parts of the body: with men, under the eye-lids, or the armpits, or the lips, on the shoulder, the fundament, or somewhere else; with women, it is usually on the breasts or the privy parts….
The Demon, in exchange, engages to give them always prompt assistance; to fulfil their desires in this world and to make them happy after their death. The solemn profession being thus performed, each has assigned to himself a Devil, called Magistellus or Assistant Master, with whom he retires in private for carnal satisfaction; the said Devil being, of course, in the shape of a woman if the initiated person is a man, in the shape of a man, sometimes of a satyr, sometimes of a buck-goat, if it is a woman who has been received a witch.
How Does the Devil Have Sex With Humans?
If the authors be asked how it comes to pass that the Demon, who has no body, yet has carnal intercourse with man or woman, they unanimously answer that the Demon assumes the corpse of another human being, male or female as the case may be, or that, from the mixture of other materials, he shapes for himself a body endowed with motion, and by means of which he is united with the human being; and they add that when women are desirous of becoming pregnant by the Demon (which only occurs by the consent and express wish of the said women), the Demon is transformed into a female demon, and joined to a man, she receives semen from him; or else he procures pollution from a man during his sleep, and he preserves the extracted semen in its natural warmth, and with vital spirit, and by incubating he inserts it into the womb of the woman, whence follows impregnation….
At other times also the Demon, whether Incubus or Succubus, copulates with men or women from whom he receives none of the sacrifices, homage or offerings which he is wont to exact from Wizards or Witches, as aforesaid. He is then but a passionate lover, having only one desire: the carnal possession of the loved ones. . . .
We read likewise of numerous women incited to coition by the Incubus Demon, and who, though reluctant at first of yielding to him, are soon moved by his entreaties, tears and endearments; he is a desperate lover and must not be denied. And although this comes sometimes of the craft of some Wizard who avails himself of the agency of the Demon, yet the Demon not infrequently acts on his own account….
Now, it is undoubted by theologians and philosophers that carnal intercourse between mankind and the demon sometimes gives birth to human beings; that is how the Antichrist is to be born. . . . They further observe that, from a natural cause, the children thus begotten by incubi are tall, very hardy and bold, very proud and wicked.
As for the cause: “What incubi introduce into the womb is not just any type or amount of semen, but abundant, very thick, very warm, rich in spirits and free from serosity. This moreover is an easy thing for them, since they have but to choose ardent, robust men, and those with much semen, to whom they may submit, and then women of a like constitution, upon whom they may lie, taking care that both shall enjoy greater pleasure than usual, for the more abundant the semen is emitted, the greater the pleasure with which it is released.”
I don’t know… the Devil sounds like a passionate lover to me! No wonder so many witches fell for him!
In Part 2 of “Infernal Seductions,” on Halloween day, read a sixteenth-century Catholic priest’s tale of witches and warlocks having sex with the Devil, including their partaking of the notorious osculum infame, the “kiss of shame,” an initiation into Devil worship involving…. well…. it’s illustrated below…
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