Demonology: Nicholas Remy

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 Nicholas Remy

 

(portrait of Nicholas Remy as found in Robbins 408)

  •  1530 - 1616
  • French lawyer and historian who also wrote poetry
  • claimed to have convicted over 900 witches
  • complied Demonolatry, which was first published in 1595, from his trial notes
 
 
Nicholas Remy was an ardent demonologist who is said to have convicted over 900 witches. However, this figure cannot be confirmed because the court records for this time period have not survived and Remy himself only gives the names of 128 witches. Regardless of the actually numbers though, Remy's work prosecuting witches and his book Demonolatry substantially influenced the witch craze, both in France and the rest of Europe.

 
 

Before prosecuting witches and studying demonology, Remy was a lawyer and historian and was appointed Privy Councilor to Duke Charles III of Lorraine in 1575. Although he had been exposed to witches and witch trials from an early age, Remy's interest in demonology seems to stem from a more personal encounter with the occult. In 1582, Remy refused to give money to a local beggar woman and a few days later his eldest son died. Remy believed the old woman had cursed his son and he prosecuted her as a witch. (Guiley 281)

Remy wrote his Demonolatry after relocating to the French countryside in 1592 to escape the plague. Like the Malleus Maleficarum and other demonological works, Demonolatry lays out the basic beliefs and practices of witches with the goal of convincing the reader of the imminent danger of the devil and the need for all pious citizens to work to rid the world of the influence of demons and witches. Demonolatry also draws from Remy's experience as a lawyer in its discussion of the correct methods of prosecuting witches.

 

(Title page to the German translation of Demonolatry [1693] as found in Robins 407)



 

Remy's Demonolatry is divided into three sections which, according to Rossell Hope Robbins' The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology, are organized by the following subjects:

  1. A study of Satanism.
  2. An account of the activities of witches, stressing their sex life.
  3. Examples of witchcraft and practical conclusions one can draw about witches.

 
 
 

In Demonolatry, Remy focuses heavily on the belief in the sabbat, the midnight gatherings of witches with the devil where evil plots are designed. In particular, Remy devotes much time to describing the wild sexual orgies that were said to take place at the sabbat. It was commonly believed that witches were often forced to have sex with the Devil and his demons. Remy describes in gruesome detail this horrid experience:

"Didatia of Niremont...also said that, although she had mane years' experience of men, she was always so stretched by the huge swollen member of her Demon that the sheets were drenched with blood. And nearly all witches protest that it is wholly against their will that they are embraced by Demons, but that is is useless for them to resist." (Remy 14)

(F.M. Guazzo, The Sabbath Feast, from his Compendium Maleficarum, 1610)






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