[dropcap]A[/dropcap] pact is a binding agreement with a Demon or the Devil for gain and services beyond the power of nature, usually in exchange for one’s soul.
The Devil’s pact is implied in biblical passages. In the book of Isaiah, the prophet Isaiah says, “For you have said: We have entered into a league with death; we have made a covenant with hell” (28:15). Matthew 4 tells about the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness, and the Devil’s promises of glory and power in return for worship: “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me’ ” (4:8). Jesus refuses and the Devil leaves.
Informal pacts with Demons and the Devil exist in legend and folklore tales about individuals seduced into selling their souls, often to obtain treasure, love, or power. The Devil’s pact is based on a long history of assumption among theologians that any practice of magic, or even divination had to involve a Demonic pact. (See SIMON MAGUS.) Such assertions were made by Origen (185–254), who condemned divination. St. Augustine (354–430), one of the most important fathers of the early church, gave weight to the concept of Devil’s pacts in De Doctinia Christiana. Formal pacts with the Devil appeared for the first time in the writings of St. Jerome in the fifth century. Jerome’s story involves St. Basil. A man who wishes to seduce a pretty girl goes to a magician for help. For payment, he agrees to renounce Christ in writing. The magician writes a letter to the Devil to advise him of his conquest. The magician tells the man to take his renunciation and go out at night and thrust it up into the air. The man does as told and calls upon the powers of darkness. He is taken to the presence of Lucifer and undergoes a parody of a Baptism in which he reaffirms his renunciation of Christ. Lucifer insists that he sign a pact in writing. The man does so, and the Devil causes the girl to fall in love with the man. Her father refuses to allow her to marry him, for he desires his daughter to become a nun. The girl gives in to her lover. St. Basil learns about the pact, helps the man repent, and saves the girl from going to Hell.
Another of the earliest Christian stories of a pact with the Devil concerns THEOPHILUS, treasurer of the church of Adana, who allegedly sold his soul to the Devil around 538 in order to become a bishop. The story of Theophilus was told in many variations throughout Europe and became the basis for the legend of FAUST. It also boosted the cult of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for it is she who often appears in the stories to save the person. In the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas (ca. 1227– 74), the church’s greatest theologian, stated in Sententiae, “Magicians perform miracles through personal contracts made with Demons.”
Stories of Devil’s pacts were common in the Middle Ages, and particularly in the 16th and 17th centuries during the witch hysteria. The victim usually was not a witch, but an ordinary person who was vulnerable to temptation. (See MAILLOT, THOMAS.) Satan or a Demon would appear, sometimes as a man and sometimes as an animal, and offer to help. The pact would last for a specified number of years, at which time Satan would collect: The victim would die and his soul would go to Hell. In the legend of Faust, a scientist and alchemist sells his soul to MEPHISTOPHELES in exchange for youth and lust. A female version of the Faust legend is MARY OF NEMMEGEN. These moralistic stories were publicized through pamphlets and portrayed Satan as a trickster. The victim, despite supernatural favours, usually had a dreadful demise. Sometimes the Virgin Mary would intercede for the victims and snatch the pacts away from the Devil.
According to JACQUES COLLIN DE PLANCY, “The angel of darkness is not hard to deal with, provided of course that he receives the soul as a pledge.”
Pacts in Witchcraft and Possession
During the Inquisition, Devil pacts became a deadly matter. European witch hunters believed that all witches entered into a Devil’s pact, pledging to serve the Devil or one of his satellite Demons, not so much for their personal gain but expressly for the power to harm others. The pact was said to be sometimes oral but traditionally was written on virgin parchment and signed in Blood. If witches bewitched people into becoming possessed, their victims also might enter into Devil pacts.
The first appearance of a Devil’s pact in Witchcraft trials occurred in Toulouse, France, in 1335. The trials also were significant for being the first to feature the diabolical Sabbat. The accused witch Catherine Delort, a married woman, said a shepherd with whom she had a tryst had forced her into a Devil’s pact. According to her deposition quoted by Julio Caro Baroja in The World of Witches:
This loathsome ceremony took place at midnight at the edge of a wood at a place where two roads meet. She let some blood from her left arm and allowed it to flow on to a fire made of human bones which had been stolen from the parish cemetery. She pronounced certain strange words which she no longer remembers and the Devil Berit appeared to her in the form of a violet flame. Since then she has made certain harmful concoctions and potions which cause men and beasts to die. After that, Delort said, she attended obscene sabbats every Friday night.
Demonologists said there are two types of diabolical pacts: explicit and implicit. The explicit pact is a solemn vow of fidelity and homage made to a visible form of the Devil in the presence of witnesses. The implicit pact involves a written petition offered to the Devil, either in person or through a proxy such as a witch. The Malleus Maleficarum (1487), the leading inquisitors’ handbook, emphasized the importance of the Devil’s pact in recruiting witches and coercing them to evil acts. Sometimes pacts were made in lewd rites at Sabbats, at which the initiates cooked and ate babies, kissed the anus of the Devil, signed his book in their own blood, copulated with him and his Demons, and promised fealty to him. The pact required them to renounce Christianity, trample on the cross, and deny the Eucharist. The Malleus describes other ways pacts were made, according to tortured accused witches. One man from Berne said that the Devil required him to go to church and before Mass was said, in the presence of the priests, deny his faith, Christ, baptism, and the church. Then he pledged himself to the “Little Master,” as the Devil was called. He was burned at the stake.
If pacts were not made at sabbats or in public displays, they were made privately. The Devil, usually in the form of a man dressed in black, approached a candidate with an offer he could not refuse. The enticements started with a small price, such as fealty for a certain number of years, but always had a catch, such as the cost of one’s soul, according to the Malleus.
Sometimes, pacts were made spontaneously, according to witchcraft trial testimonials. The Devil, it seems, seldom passes up an opportunity. Nicholas Remy, a French Demonologist, wrote of a case in 1587 in which a woman told of a Demonic pact made by her mother and her. They were out gathering rushes one day when a shoemaker appeared. His belt was stained with pitch. The mother seemed to be expecting him, according to the daughter. He made the women swear allegiance to him and marked them on the brow with his nail. He had sex with the daughter and then the mother and then danced in a ring with them, holding hands. He gave them money and vanished into the air. The money crumbled to dust.
Francesco-Maria Guazzo, a leading Italian Demonologist of the 17th century, said that people who enter into any pacts, explicit and implicit, share the same 11 characteristics:
1. They deny the Christian faith, withdraw allegiance from God, repudiate the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and deny their Baptism. The Devil places a claw on their brow to rub off the Holy Chrism and destroy the mark of their baptism.
2. They undergo a mock baptism administered by the Devil.
3. They forswear their old name and are given a new name.
4. The Devil forces them to deny their godfathers and godmothers, both of baptism and of confirmation, and assigns them new ones.
5. They give the Devil a piece of their clothing as a symbol of the acquired goods that now belong to him.
6. They swear allegiance to the Devil within a circle traced upon the ground. The circle is a symbol of divinity, and the earth is “God’s footstool.” This Demonstrates that the Devil is their God of heaven and Earth.
7. They pray to the Devil to strike them out of the book of life and write their names in the book of death.
8. They vow to sacrifice to him on a regular basis, such as offering up children they murder.
9. They make annual gifts to their Demons in order to avoid being beaten by them. The gifts must be black.
10. The Devil brands them with his mark on some part of their body, especially those he suspects will lose their faith in him.
11. After being marked, they make many vows. In return, the Devil promises to stand by them, fulfill all their prayers in this world, and award them happiness after death. The vows are
• never to adore the Eucharist
• to insult and revile in both word and deed the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints continually
• to abstain from making the sign of the cross and from using anything consecrated by the church, including holy water and blessed salt and bread
• never to make confessions again to a priest
• to maintain silence concerning their pact with the Devil
• to participate in sabbats when they can
• to recruit others into the service of the Devil
Guazzo agreed with other Demonologists that these elaborate pacts were empty, for the Devil never keeps his word.
Inquisitors tortured accused witches to force confessions of devil’s pacts, which were important to securing convictions. There was no need to produce an actual document; an oral confession was sufficient to sentence the accused to death, often by burning at the stake. In two famous trials in 17th-century France, Devil’s pacts were produced, one orally and one in writing. In 1611, Father Louis Gaufridi was tried in the Aix-en-Provence Possessions involving bewitched nuns. Under torture he recited his pact verbally for the inquisitors: I, Louis Gaufridi, renounce all good, both spiritual as well as temporal, which may be bestowed upon me by God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, all the Saints of Heaven, particularly my Patron St. John-Baptist, as also S. Peter, S. Paul, and S. Francis, and I give myself body and soul to Lucifer, before whom I stand, together with every good that I may ever possess (save always the benefits of the sacraments touching those who receive them). And according to the tenor of these terms have I signed and sealed.
One of Gaufridi’s victims was a woman named Madeleine de la Palud, who also confessed orally to making a Devil’s pact:
With all my heart and most unfeignedly and with all my will most deliberately do I wholly renounce God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost; the most Holy Mother of God; all the Angels and especially my Guardian Angel, the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, His Precious Blood and the merits thereof, my lot in Paradise, also the good inspirations which God may give me in the future, all the prayers which are made or may be made for me. Father Gaufridi was convicted and burned alive at the stake. Sister Madeleine was convicted and banished from the parish.
In 1633, Father URBAIN GRANDIER, a parish priest of St.-Pierre-du-Marche in Loudun, France, in 1633, was brought to trial in the Loudun Possessions, also involving bewitched nuns. A written pact was introduced as evidence. It was written backward in Latin and signed in blood. It read:
We, the all-powerful Lucifer, seconded by Stana, Beelzebub, Leviathan, Elimi, Astaroth, and others, have today accepted the pact of alliance with Urbain Grandier, who is on our side. And we promise him the love of women, the flower of virgins, the chastity of nuns, worldly honors, pleasures, and riches. He will fornicate every three days; intoxication will be dear to him. He will offer to us once a year a tribute marked with his blood; he will trample under foot the sacraments of the church, and he will say his prayers to us. By virtue of this pact, he will live happily for twenty years on earth among men, and finally will come among us to curse God. Done in hell, in the council of the devils.
(Signed by) Satan, Beelzebub, Lucifer, Elimi, Leviathan, Astaroth.
“Notarized the signature and mark of the chief devil, and my lords the princes of hell.
(Countersigned by) Baalberith, recorder.
Grandier was convicted and burned alive at the stake. In England in the mid-17th century, the famous “witch finder” Matthew Hopkins tortured many accused witches into confessing Devil pacts.
Johann Weyer, an influential physician and writer on Demons and witchcraft in the 16th century, acknowledged in his work De praestigiis daemonum (On the Illusions of Demons) that there were witches who made pacts with Satan but said that Satan, not the witches, caused harm. If such a witch killed cattle, she did so by poison, not by supernatural means. He acknowledged that there were sorcerers who entered into Demonic pacts for their own personal gain, but they were not the same as those who were being persecuted by the church. He argued for forgiving accused witches if they renounced Satan and repented.
As for the pacts themselves, Weyer said they were “illusory,” a fabrication of mind that had “no weight.” Legally, there could be no contract between a human and a Demon, he said: “The deception occurs when an apparition of Satan’s choice is cunningly imposed upon the optic or visual nerves by the disturbing of the appropriate humors and spirits, or when whistling, or whispering, or murmuring, corresponding in form to the corrupt image, is aroused in the organs of hearing by the evil spirit’s art. . . . Satan needs the help of no second creature in displaying his power and declaring his actions, he who is constrained by the will or command of none but God and God’s good ministers.”
Weyer was one of the first authoritative voices to speak out against the witch hysteria and Devil pacts.
Pacts in Satanism
In some practices of modern SatanISM, followers pledge to serve Satan, a form of pact. The Church of Satan holds that a formal pact is not necessary to become a satanist. The church founder, Anton Szandor LaVey, states in The Satanic Bible (1969) that the Devil’s pact was a threat “devised by Christianity to terrorize people so they would not stray from the fold.”
Pacts in Magic
Magical Grimoires give instructions for making pacts with Demons for procuring favours. There are two types of pacts: a unilateral pact, in which a Demon agrees to serve without condition, and a bilateral pact, in which a Demon agrees to conditional service, on penalty of forfeiture of one’s body and soul. According to grimoires, some spirits bind easily and some do not; the latter are dangerous and not to be trusted.
The most important grimoire, the Key of Solomon, mentions “penal bonds” and “pacts” only in connection with magic for love and favours. It states that pentacles—magical inscriptions of words and symbols—are sufficient to protect the magician from Demons.
The Grand Grimoire states that if the magician cannot master a magic circle and a blasting rod, a magical wand feared by every Demon, then a pact is an absolute necessity. Even with those two instruments of magic, a pact is advisable. A pact cannot be made directly with major Demons such as Lucifer, Beelzebub, and Astaroth, but only with one of their lieutenants. The grimoire provides a lengthy pact for commanding LUCIFUGE ROFOCALE, the prime minister of Lucifer.
One magical formula for conjuring the Devil for a pact calls for sacrificing a cock at the center of a Crossroads and letting its blood drip into the center while reciting a spell. The Devil will appear and offer a pact to be signed in the blood of the magician.
Another formula calls for composing a pact and signing it in one’s own blood. The pact must be written on virgin parchment, which is made from the first calf borne by a cow, while standing or sitting in a magic circle. The pact should read, “I promise GREAT Demon to repay him in seven years for all he shall give me. In witness thereof, I sign my name.”
The pact is held while the following incantation in recited:
Lucifer, Emperor, Master of All Rebellious Spirits, I beseech thee to be favourable to me in calling upon thy GREAT MINISTER which I make, desiring to make a pact with him.
Beelzebub, Prince, I pray thee also, to protect me in my undertaking.
Astaroth, Count, be propitious to me and cause that this night the GREAT Demon appear to me in human form and without any evil smell, and that he grant me, by means of the pact which I shall deliver to him, all the treasures of which I have need.
GREAT Demon, I beseech thee, leave thy dwelling, in whatever part of the world you may be, to come speak with me; if not, I shall thereto compel thee by the power of the mighty words of the Great Key of Solomon, whereof he made use to force the rebellious spirits to accept his pact. Appear then instantly or I shall continually torment thee with the mighty words of the Key: AGLON, TETRAGRAMMATON, VAYCHEON, STIMULAMATHON, EROHARES, RETRASAMMATHON, CLYORAN, ICION, ESITION, EXISTIEN, ERYONA, ONERA, ERASYN, MOYN, MEFFIAS, SOTER, EMMANUEL, SABAOTH, ADONAI. I call you. AMEN.
Pacts with the Devil are not necessarily irrevocable, and redemption is always possible. In moral tales, appeals are made to the Virgin Mary or Jesus, who intercede. (In some versions of the Faust legend, however, there is no salvation once the pact is made). St. Alphonso Maria de Liguori, who founded the Redemptorist order in the 18th century, gave advice for breaking Demonic pacts. He said that one must renounce and abjure the pact, burn it if in writing, or declare it to be rejected; destroy all Charms, talismans, and writings connected with black magic; and make whatever restitution is possible.
According to modern Demonologists, humans always have free will to revoke a diabolic pact. Repenting will render a pact useless.
See Haizmann, Christopher.
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