Haizmann, Christopher (Christoph) Joseph
Minor Bavarian painter who announced in 1677 that he had signed a Pact with the Devil and was tormented by Demons for the rest of his life. Christopher Haizmann was seized with an “unnatural convulsion” on August 29, 1677. He went to the police and asked for protection, claiming that nine years earlier, he had sold his soul to Satan. The police granted his request.
Haizmann wrote and illustrated the story of his infernal pact. He stated that the Devil one day had appeared to him as a burgher with a large black dog and asked him why he was distressed and sad. “He would help me out of my distress if I were willing to subscribe myself in ink to him to be his son; he would assist and help me in every possible way,” Haizmann wrote.
The painter agreed to a nine-year contract. A pact was drawn up and signed in Haizmann’s Blood. Over the ensuing years, the Devil appeared to him many times in various grotesque shapes, including that of a dragon with breasts and talons. Satan also sent him visions of Hell, which Haizmann described as “filled with burning flames and terrible stench. In it there was a large cauldron from which came heart-rending moans and groans of human beings; on its edge sat a hellish devil who did nothing but pour flaming resin, sulphur and pitch over them.”
When the end of his contract approached, Haizmann grew anxious about his own fate. Sent by the local police to a holy shrine at Mariazell, Haizmann underwent several days of Exorcism, during which the Virgin Mary recovered the pact from the Devil. Less than a year later, Haizmann, complaining of continuing torment by the Devil, reappeared at the shrine and underwent another exorcism. This time, the Virgin Mary ripped up the pact. Haizmann committed himself to a Bavarian monastery but still could not live in peace. He spent the rest of his life tormented by visions of the Devil and his Demons. He died in 1700.
A noted Viennese librarian and researcher, the court councilor Dr. Rudolf Payer-Thurn found a document prepared at Mariazell that described Haizmann’s exorcism. He showed the document to Sigmund Freud and asked for Freud’s analysis of the case. Originally appearing in Imago in 1923, Freud’s “Eine Teufelsneurose im Siebzehnten Jahrhundert” (“A devil neurosis of the seventeenth century”) is considered a key document in Freudian psychoanalysis.
The Mariazell papers, including paintings made by Haizmann during his possession, led Freud to believe the following:
1. Rather feminine self-depictions of Haizmann in his paintings show Haizmann as suppressing homosexual tendencies.
2. Multiple breasts in the paintings show Haizmann’s sexual associations with the Devil.
3. The number 9—there is a nine-year gap between Haizmann’s pact with the Devil and its implementation, and nine days in which Haizmann resisted the Devil—represents pregnancy fantasies.
4. A penis is painted on the Devil in every picture. This, along with the pregnancy fantasies, show that Haizmann “recoiled from a feminine attitude toward his father which has its climax in the fantasy of giving birth to his child. Mourning for the lost father, heightened by yearning for him, [Haizmann’s] repressed pregnancy fantasy is reactivated, against which he must defend himself through neurosis and by degrading his father.”
5. Freud found that Haizmann’s selling of himself to the Devil bought him peace of mind: “His father had died, he had become melancholy, and the devil, who came along and asked him why he was upset and mournful, promised to help him. . . . Here we have someone who gives himself to the devil in order to be free of an emotional depression.”
6. Ultimately, then, Freud reasoned, the Devil is a father figure.
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