Sinistrari, Lodovico Maria
Franciscan theologian whose contribution to Demonology is his work Demoniality, in which he examines sexual acts with Demons. Lodovico Sinistrari likened Demons more to the LUTIN, or mischievous hobgoblin, than to evil servants of Satan.
Sinistrari had an illustrious career as a theologian. He was born on February 26, 1622, in Ameno, a small town in Piedmont, Italy. He was educated at the esteemed University of Pavia, and in 1647 he entered the Order of Reformed Minors of the Strict Observance of St. Francis. He became a professor of philosophy at Pavia and taught theology. Students from all over Europe traveled to hear him lecture. Sinistrari also was popular as a preacher throughout Italy. Good-looking and personable, he was well liked by royalty and the general public. Sinistrari served as consultant to the Supreme Tribunal of the Most Holy Inquisition; as vicar-general to the archbishop of Avignon, France; and as theologian to the cardinal-archbishop of Milan. By 1688, Sinistrari was in retreat at the Franciscan sanctuary of Sacro Monte, where he wrote poetry. He compiled the statutes of the order and wrote other works. He died on March 6, 1701, at age 79. His manuscript Demoniality (De Daemonialitate, et Incubis et Succubis ) remained unknown until 1872, when the original was discovered in a London bookshop by Isidore Lisieux, a bibliophile. The shop had acquired part of the collection of a man who had died in Florence; Demoniality was among the manuscripts. It was only 86 pages in length, handwritten in Latin on Italian parchment. Lisieux translated it into French and published it in 1875. It was then translated into English. A 1927 edition includes an introduction and notes by Montague Summers. Demoniality concerns the nature of Demons. Sinistrari uses the term Incubus to describe spirits that are more lutinlike rather than evil. He confirms opinions of his contemporary Demonologists, especially Francesco-Maria Guazzo. Witches and wizards are physically present at Sabbats and copulate with the Devil and Demons as part of their infernal Pact. Demons also have intercourse with people, appearing to them at night and impersonating human lovers. Some of these copulating Demons are different from the antireligious Demons who possess people, according to Sinistrari; they simply want to satisfy carnal lusts and harass people.
The Incubus of Hieronyma
Sinistrari relates one such case he was involved in himself. About 25 years prior to the time he wrote the manuscript, he was a lecturer on theology in the convent of the Holy Cross in Pavia. A married woman named Hieronyma, of “unimpeachable morality,” was pestered by such an Incubus. Her problems started with a mysterious cake. One day she kneaded bread and took it to a baker for baking. When he gave her back her loaves, there was a large cake of peculiar shape among them, made of butter and Venetian paste. Hieronyma said it was not hers, but the baker insisted it was, and she had just forgotten about it. She took it home and shared it with her husband, threeyearold daughter, and maid.
The next night, she was awakened by a hissing voice that asked whether “the cake had been to her taste.” The voice went on, “Be not afraid, I mean you no harm; quite the reverse: I am prepared to do anything to please you; I am captivated by your beauty, and desire nothing more than to enjoy your sweet embraces.” Hieronyma then felt kisses upon her cheeks. She crossed herself and invoked Jesus and Mary repeatedly, and after about half an hour, the invisible tempter departed.
The following morning, she went straight to her confessor, who advised her to continue resistance and surround herself with relics. The Incubus returned night after night, wearing her down. She had herself exorcised in case she was possessed. But the priests could find no evidence of an evil spirit in her, so they blessed the house, the bedroom, and the bed and ordered the Incubus to stop pestering her.
The Demon started appearing to her in the form of a handsome young man with golden hair and beard, sea-green eyes, and beautiful Spanish clothing. He approached her even when she was with others, and no one else could see him. He attended her as an ardent lover, cooing and kissing her hands.
After months of rejection, the Incubus became angry. He spirited away her silver cross and Agnus Dei, which she always wore. Silver and gold jewelry went missing from her locked jewelry box. The Incubus also started beating Hieronyma, causing ugly bruises on her face, arms, and body that mysteriously disappeared after a day or two. He snatched her daughter away from her and hid the child. He upset furniture and smashed crockery and in an instant restored everything to its original condition.
The Demon continued to visit Hieronyma at night. Enraged at her resistance, one night he took huge roofing flagstones to the bedroom and built a wall around the bed that was so high, Hieronyma and her husband could not get out without a ladder.
One evening, when the couple had guests for dinner, the dining room table, set with plates and utensils and loaded with food, abruptly disappeared. Just as the guests were leaving—without their meal—a crash sounded in the dining room. They found the table restored, and on it a huge array of fine foods and foreign wines that had not been there before. Everyone sat down and enjoyed the meal. They adjourned to sit by the fire, and the table once again disappeared, then reappeared with the original food that had been prepared.
After months of these wearying annoyances, Hieronyma went to the Church of St. James and prayed to Blessed Bernadine of Feltre whose body was incorrupt. She promised to wear a shapeless frock with a cord, like those worn by the Franciscans, for an entire year, if the saint would intercede and expel the Incubus. The day after she donned the frock was Michaelmas Day, and Hieronyma went to mass. As soon as she set foot on the threshold of the church, a gust of wind hit her and her clothing fell off and disappeared, leaving her naked and embarrassed. Two cavaliers covered her with their cloaks and took her home. Six months went by before the Incubus returned the clothing.
Sinistrari wrote that the Incubus harassed Hieronyma for years. She never gave in, and at last he gave up and went away for good. Such are many Incubus attacks: The Demons attempt no act against religion but merely assail chastity. “Consequently, consent is not a sin through ungodliness, but merely through incontinence,” he said. It is on the same level as bestiality and sodomy. These acts differ, he said, from intentional intercourse with Demons, such as attributed to witches at sabbats and those who had made pacts with the Devil.
Traits of Incubi and Succubi
Sinistrari agreed with his peers that Demons could be invisible and take corporeal form for the purpose of intercourse, and women could become impregnated by them. However, he argued, their passion had to spring from the senses, and one could not have senses without physical organs through a combination of body and soul. Therefore, incubi are perfect, rational animals with rational souls. They are not the same as the possessing evil spirits, who flee at the signs of holiness or entice witches into pacts, he said. Their behavior indicates they only desire sex, and, as any rational animal does, they become frustrated and angry when they do not get it. As further evidence to support this argument, Sinistrari pointed to the case of animals sexually harassed by incubi. Since animals do not have souls, he said, the incubi cannot have a purpose of ruining and damning their souls. Again, the only purpose is sex. Incubi do not cause illness but mistreat people by beating them. They do not require the direction of a witch or wizard to harass people; they undertake it of their own choice and volition.
As evidence to support his assertions, Sinistrari cites two cases of Incubus attacks. One, related to him by a confessor of nuns whom he trusted, concerned a young noble maiden who lived in a convent. An Incubus began appearing to her day and night, making earnest and impassioned pleas for sex with her. She resisted and, as the attacks continued, sought help from Exorcisms, relics, blessings, prayer, and candles kept lit all night long. The Incubus persisted and kept appearing in the form of a handsome young man.
The solution was discovered by an unnamed but eminent theologian, who observed that the young woman had a watery humor. Since like attracts like, according to the prevailing views at the time, the Demon had to be watery in nature as well. The theologian prescribed a continual suffumigation of the girl’s room. An earthenware and glass vessel was filled with sweet calamus, cubeb seed, roots of both aristolochies, great and small cardamom, ginger, long-pepper, caryophylleae, cinnamon, cloves, mace, nutmeg, calamite storax, benzoin, aloes-wood and roots, one ounce of fragrant sandal, and three quarts of half-brandy and half-water. The vessel was set on hot ashes to cook, and the room was sealed.
When the Incubus arrived, he would not enter the room, repelled by the fumes. However, he still assaulted the maiden if she went elsewhere, such as for a walk in the garden. He hugged her and kissed her and remained invisible to others.
The theologian prescribed that she carry on her person pills and pomanders made of perfume from musk, amber, civet, Peruvian balsam, and other exotic essences. This threw the Incubus off, and he permanently departed in a black rage.
Sinistrari himself was involved in the second example he cites. In the Carthusian monastery in Pavia, a deacon named Augustine was attacked by a Demon. All spiritual remedies, including exorcism, failed. Sinistrari prescribed the same fumes and perfumes that had been effective in the earlier case. The Demon continued to appear, taking the forms of a skeleton, pig, ass, angel, bird, another monk, and even the prior of the monastery. As the prior, the Demon completely fooled Augustine. It heard his confession, genuflected, blessed his room and bed with holy water, ordered the Demon to desist, and then vanished into thin air, betraying his real identity. He then went to the vicar, appeared as the prior, and asked for musk and brandy, saying he was very fond of them.
Sinistrari deduced the Demon had a fiery nature and so prescribed the opposite, herbs that were “cold”: water lily, agrimony, spurge, mandrake, house-leek, plantain, henbane, and others. These were knit into two bundles, one hung in the window of Augustine’s cell and one hung in the door. Herbs were strewn on the floor. When the Incubus next appeared, he would not enter the cell. He grew angry, hurled abuse, and left, never to return. Sinistrari said that incubi are on a spiritual path and, like humans, capable of salvation and damnation. They are born, live, and die. They, have their own sperm and can reproduce themselves and impregnate human women on their own, he said, refuting the prevailing view that in order to impregnate a woman, a Demon had to become a succubus to seduce a man and then change into an Incubus to seduce a woman. However, the offspring of incubi and humans are barren, he said, and do not reproduce on their own.
Sinistrari would have been in a minority in his time concerning his views on copulating Demons. By the 17th century, there were other skeptics about sabbats, Devil pacts, and other infernal activities; Reginald Scot had been vocal in the century before. It is not known why Sinistrari’s manuscript remained unknown for 171 years after his death. There is no record of his attempting to publish it.
- Sinistrari, Lodovico Maria. Demoniality. New York: Dover, 1989.