NicholasRémy (1530–1616)was a French lawyer, Demonologist and determined witch-hunter who claimed to have sent 900 witches to their deaths over a 10-year period in Lorraine. So convinced was Rémyof the evil and doings of witches that he compiled his “facts” into a book, Demonolatry, which became a leading handbook for witch-hunters.
Rémywas born in Charmes to a family of distinguished lawyers. He followed the family tradition and studied law at the University of Toulouse. He practiced in Paris from 1563 to 1570, when he was appointed Lieutenant General of Vosges, filling a vacancy created by his retiring uncle. In 1575 he was appointed secretary to Duke Charles III of Lorraine. Besides being a lawyer, Rémyalso was a historian and poet and wrote several works on history.
As a youth, Rémyhad witnessed the trials of witches, which may have shaped his later opinions. It was not until 1582 that he took up his own personal crusade against witches. Several days after refusing to give money to a beggar woman, his eldest son died. Rémywas convinced the woman was a witch and successfully prosecuted her for bewitching his son to death. Like his contemporary JeAn bodIn, rémy believed in Devil ’s pACts, wild Sabbats and maleficia against men and beasts. He was credulous, believing the most fantastic stories about Demons raising mountains in the blink of an eye, making rivers run backwards, putting out the stars and making the sky fall. Like Bodin and other authorities, he also believed that witches should suffer and be burned as punishment.
In 1592, after a decade of prosecuting witches, Rémyretired to the countryside to escape the plague. There he compiled Demonolatry, which was published in 1595 in Lyons. The book includes notes and details from his many trials and his assertions about witches’ black Magic and spells, the various ways in which they poisoned people (see poIsons) and their infernal escapades with Demons and the Devil. He devoted much space to describing satanic pacts and the feasting, dancing and sexual orgies that took place at sabbats. He described how the Devil threw people into his service, first with cajoling and promises of wealth, power, love or comfort, then by threats of disaster or death. He backed up his statements with “evidence” obtained from confessions, such as the following:
At Guermingen, 19th Dec., 1589, Antoine Welch no longer dared oppose the Demon in anything after he threatened to twist his neck unless he obeyed his commands, for he seemed on the very point of fulfilling his threat . . . Certainly there are many examples in pagan histories of houses being cast down, the destruction of the crops, chasms in the earth, fiery blasts and other such disastrous tempests stirred up by Demons for the destruction of men for no other purpose than to bind their minds to the observance of some new cult and to establish their mastery more and more firmly over them. Therefore we may first conclude that it is no mere fable that witches meet and converse with Demons in very person. Secondly, it is clear that Demons use the two most powerful weapons of persuasion against the feeble wills of mortals, namely, hope and fear, desire and terror; for they well know how to induce and inspire such emotions.
Rémy’s claim of sending 900 witches to their deaths cannot be corroborated by existing records; he cites only 128 cases himself in his book. Nevertheless, his accumulated “facts” seemed reasoned and beyond refute to the audience of his day. Demonolatry was an immediate success and was reprinted eight times, including two German translations. It became a leading handbook of witchhunters, replacing the Malleus Maleficarum in some parts of Europe.
While he influenced the unhappy fate of countless innocent victims, Remy continued in the comfortable service of the Duke until his death in 1612, secure in the righteousness of his work.
Further Reading :
- Baroja, Julio Caro. The World of the Witches. 1961. reprint, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975.
- Lea, Henry Charles. Materials Toward a History of Witchcraft. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1939.
- Rémy, Nicolas. Demonolatry. Secaucus, N.J.: University Books, 1974.
The Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft and Wicca – written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley – Copyright © 1989, 1999, 2008 by Visionary Living, Inc.