How do Witches Fly?

Chapter 3 of Heinrich Kramer’s Malleus Mallificarum is fun read: its all about how witches transport themselves from one place to another, transvection.

And why do witches go anywhere, for what reason? Kramer asks.

To consort with Incubi, the devil, and practice their own fowl Sabbat. Kramer refutes witches meet with the pagan goddess Diana or other such entities. No, whomever these entities are, they are merely Satan in disguise!

Then he delves theories about sleepwalking, whether God would allow witch to transport herself or use levitation. What about changelings–Why do some children never seem to be satisfied, even though they are well-fed? Or could a man be carried by devil against his will?

Well, according to Kramer, all of these questions are, at least, tangentially related. While he dismisses the night-time phantasies of sleepwalkers, he believes changelings and stories of men being carried off into to night to be true.

For Vincent of Beauvais relates a story told by St Peter Damian of a five-year-old son of a nobleman, who was for he time living in a monastery; and on night he was carried out of the monastery into a locked mill, where he was found in the morning. And when he [the boy] was questioned, he said that he had been carried by some men to a great feast and bidden to east; and afterwards he was put into the mill through the roof.

Kramer, Heinrich and Jacobus Sprenger. The Malleus Mallificarum. Montague Summer, trans. The Folio Society, London: 1968. Page

Meanwhile, from another account, Kramer writes, a scholar sent to fetch more beer was carried through the air by strange cloud of smoke in front of his drinking buddies.

How is this possible? And can good men resist such power? The answer, according to Kramer, is no.

Since angels possess superior powers over humans, therefore angels can transport humans (good or bad) as they see fit or with God’s will. For example, in the apocryphal Book of Daniel, Chapter 14, Kramer cites, an angel took the prophet Habakkuk from Judea to Chaldeas into the lion’s den with Daniel, in an instant.

Witches can accomplish similar feats by giving themselves over to fallen angels and the Devil. They take an unguent, created from the body parts of children killed before they are baptized, which they anoint on themselves or their broomsticks. When the witch flies, visibly or invisibly, this is called transvection.

(The anointment ritual, to myself, sounds like an inverted form of baptism. This unguent signifies the witch has dedicated herself to the Devil. As opposed, say, using holy Oil of Catechumens to dedicate oneself to God.)

Once a witch has completed this ritual, she may summon other powers besides flight.

In the town of Waldshut on the Rhine, Kramer writes, a witch inflicted her vengeance on a wedding, to which she wasn’t invited, by asking a devil to summon a hailstorm to drive away the wedding guests. Some nearby shepherds had watched this devil raise her into the air and invoke the storm. Afterward, she was burned at the stake because of the shepherds’ account and her own confession.

Lastly, Kramer warns that witch transvection is spreading. Indeed, some witches can transport themselves phantasmically (Astral Projection). This method and the mischief is causes is even harder for inquisitors to prove, unless the witch confesses.

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