"Seventeenth-Century Demonological Neurosis, A"

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In this work Sigmund Freud examined the case of Christopher Haitzmann, a painter whose story he had learned from documents preserved in the sanctuary at Mariazell (in Lower Austria).

According to these documents, in 1668 Haitzmann wrote and signed in his own blood a pact with the Devil, thereby becoming his son and, in addition, vowing to belong to him body and soul nine years later. In 1677, when the nine years were almost up, Haitzmann was seized with remorse and terror, asked for help from monks, and was freed from his promise through the intercession of the Virgin Mary. Among the documents preserved at Mariazell are his diary, relating the apparitions of Satan, paintings by Haitzmann himself illustrating these scenes, and texts written by monks who witnessed or were commenting on the miracle. These documents were the basis for Freud's analysis.

Freud emphasized the evidence of the psychopathological problems afflicting this man. He further noted that the "pact with the Devil" had been concluded at a time when Haitzmann, having no commissions and suffering from serious inhibitions in his work, had been reduced to poverty. This distress grew more acute at the death of his father, and shortly thereafter he declared himself to be Satan's son, thus instituting Satan as a father substitutealthough in Haitzmann's paintings Satan was depicted with monstrous breasts. Referring back to the Schreber case, published twelve years earlier, Freud interpreted this "demonological neurosis" as stemming from Haitzmann's homosexual position in relation to his father, and from the castration anxiety linked to such a position (cf. Malcapaine and Hunter; Urtubey).

Roger Perron

See also: Castration complex; Neurosis; "Psycho-Analytic Notes on an Autobiographical Account of a Case of Paranoia (Dementia Paranoides)."

Source Citation

Freud, Sigmund. (1923d [1922]) Eine Teufels-neurose im siebzehnten Jarhundert. Imago 9, 1-34; GW, XIII, 317-53; A seventeenth-century demonological neurosis. SE, 19, 72-105.


Macalpine, Ida, and Hunter, Richard. Schizophrenia 1677. London: William Dawson: 1956.

Urtubey, Luisa de. Freud et le Diable. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1983.

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"Seventeenth-Century Demonological Neurosis, A"

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"Seventeenth-Century Demonological Neurosis, A"