Pacts with the Devil

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Pacts with the Devil

Throughout history there have been documentations of individuals making agreements with the Devil. An agreement said to have been entered into between Louis Gaufridi and the Devil follows:

"I, Louis, a priest, renounce each and every one of the spiritual and corporal gifts which may accrue to me from God, from the Virgin, and from all the saints, and especially from my patron John the Baptist, and the apostles Peter and Paul and St. Francis. And to you, Lucifer, now before me, I give myself and all the good I may accomplish, except the returns from the sacrament in the cases where I may administer it; all of which I sign and attest."

On his side, Lucifer made the following agreement with Louis Gaufridi: "I, Lucifer, bind myself to give you, Louis Gaufridi, priest, the faculty and power of bewitching by blowing with the mouth, all and any of the women and girls you may desire; in proof of which I sign myself Lucifer."

Accounts of pacts with the devil emerged after Satan became an important figure in Christian theology and an image of the devil began to spread abroad in popular preaching. It was given a biblical basis from a reading of Isaiah 28:15, "We have entered into a league with death; we have made a covenant with hell." Thus Origen (185-254 C.E.) and, more important, St. Augustine (354-430 C.E.) could speak of a pact with demons.

The earliest Christian legend involving a pact with the devil is a story concerning St. Basil (ca. 329-379 C.E.). The most important was that of Theophilus, bursar of the church of Adam in Northern Cilicia (ca. 538 C.E.). After his bishop withdrew his employment, Theophilius sold his soul to the devil to recover the position. This story, translated into Latin in the eighth century by Paul the deacon, became a popular tale and was used as the basis of the drama Le Miracle de Théophile, by Ruteboeuf of Arras.

It was not until the medieval period however, that numerous accounts of pacts with the devil appear in literature. From the sixteenth century, the pact included homage and reverence to the devil and was thus considered a form of apostasy and heresy, crimes pursued by the Inquisition.

The first extended description of a pact with the devil seems to have been published in 1435 by Johannes Nider in his bookFormicarius. Then in 1486 the Malleus Maleficarum (The Witches' Hammer)the main text used by the Inquisition and Protestant witch-hunters over the next centuriestied the worship of Satan to witchcraft. Witches were branded as evil for, among other reasons, having made a pact with the devil and then having intercourse with him. The publication of The Witches' Hammer launched the great era of witch-hunts that culminated in the incidents at Salem Village, Massachusetts, three centuries later. Overwhelmingly, accounts of pacts with the devil are tied to witchcraft persecution.

In 1587 the first book appeared recounting the story of Johannes Faust, the legendary magician who made the most famous pact with a devil figure, the demon Mephistopheles. In exchange for his soul, Mephistopheles agreed to serve Faust for 24 years. He was granted every wish for that period, only to be killed by the demon when the 24 years ended. Faust has inspired a number of literary reflections upon the individual's relationship with evil.

Signs of the Devil's Presence

F. Pierre Crespet described the mark with which Satan brands his own:

"It may be assumed that it is no fallacy but very evident that Satan's mark on sorcerers is like leprosy, for the spot is insensitive to all punctures, and it is in the possession of such marks that one recognizes them as true sorcerers for they feel the puncture no more than if they were leprous, nor does any blood appear, and never indeed, does any pain that may be inflicted cause them to move the part.

"They receive, with this badge, the power of injuring and of pleasing, and, secretly or openly, their children are made to participate in the oath and connection which the fathers have taken with the devil. Even the mothers with this in view, dedicate and consecrate their children to the demons, not only as soon as born but even when conceived, and so it happens that, through the ministrations of these demons, sorcerers have been seen with two pupils in each eye, while others had the picture of a horse in one eye and two pupils in the other, and such serve as marks and badges of contracts made with them, for these demons can engrave and render in effigy such or similar lines and features on the bodies of the very young embryo."

Jacques Fontaine writes, "These marks are not engraved on the bodies of sorcerers by the demons for recognition purposes only, as the captains of companies of light-horse know those of their number by the colour of their coats, but to imitate the creator of all things, to show his power and the authority he has gained over those miserable beings who have allowed themselves to be caught by his cunning and trickery, and by the recognition of these marks of their master to keep them in his power. Further, to prevent them, as far as possible, from withdrawing from their promises and oaths of fidelity, because though breaking faith with him the marks still remain with them and serve, in an accusation, as a means of betraying them, with even the smallest amount of evidence that may be brought forward.

"Louis Gaufridi, a prisoner, who had just been condemned to be burnt was marked in more than thirty places over the body and on the loins especially there was a mark of lust so large and deep, considering the site, that a needle could be inserted for the width of three fingers across it without any feeling being shown by the puncture."

The same author claimed that the marks on sorcerers were areas that had mortified from the touch of the devil's finger.

"About 1591, Leonarde Chastenet, an old woman of eighty, was taken up as a sorceress while begging in Poitou. Brought before Mathurin Bonnevault, who deponed to having seen her at the meeting of witches, she confessed that she had been there with her husband, and that the devil, a very disgusting beast, was there in the form of a goat. She denied that she would have carried out any witchcraft, but nineteen witnesses testified to her having caused the death of five labourers and a number of animals.

"Finding her crimes discovered and herself condemned she confessed that she had made a compact with the devil, given him some of her hair, and promised to do all the harm she could. She added that at night in prison the devil had appeared to her, in the form of a cat, to which she expressed the wish to die, whereupon the devil presented her with two pieces of wax telling her to eat them and she would die, but she had been unwilling to do it. She had the pieces of wax with her, but on examination their composition could not be made out. She was then condemned and the pieces of wax burnt with her."

An Exorcism

According to French Catholic Bible scholar Dom Augustin Calmet at the Jesuit Chapel of St. Ignatius in Molsheim, a well-known inscription gave the history of a young German nobleman named Michel Louis, of the family of Boubenhoren. He was sent as a youth to the court of the duke of Lorraine to learn French, and there lost all his money at cards. Reduced to despair, he decided to give himself to the devil if that spirit would give him good money, for he was afraid that the devil would be able to supply him only with counterfeit.

While Louis was thinking this over, a young man his own age, well built and well clothed, suddenly appeared before him. Asking him the cause of his distress, the young man put out a handful of money and invited him to prove its worth, telling Louis to look him up again the next day. Louis returned to his companions, who were still playing, won back all he had lost, and won all his companions' money as well.

Then he called on his Devil who asked in return three drops of blood, which he collected in an acorn shell. Offering a pen to Louis, the devil told him to write his dictation. This consisted of unknown words, written on two different contracts, one of which the Devil retained. The other was put into Louis's arm, in the place from which the blood had been taken. The Devil then said, "I undertake to serve you for seven years, after which you belong to me without reserve."

The young man agreed, though with some dread, and the Devil appeared to him day and night in various forms, inspiring him to various strange deeds, always with a tendency to evil.

The fatal period of seven years began drawing to an end when Louis was about 20 years old. He went home, where the Devil inspired him to poison his father and mother, burn the castle, and kill himself. He tried to carry out all these crimes, but God prevented their successthe poison failed to act on his parents, and the gun with which he would have killed himself misfired twice.

Becoming more and more uneasy, he revealed his plight to some of his father's servants and begged them to get help. The Devil seized him, twisting his body around and stopping very short of breaking his bones. His mother was forced to put him in the care of monks. He soon left them and escaped to Islade, but was sent back to Molsheim by his brother, canon of Wissbourg, who again put him into the hands of the monks.

It was then that the demon made the most violent efforts against Louis, appearing to him in the form of wild animals. In one attempt the demon, in the form of a wild man covered with hair, threw on the ground a contract different from the original, trying by this false show to get Louis out of the hands of those who were looking after him and to prevent his making a full confession.

Finally, October 20, 1603, was set aside for proof in the Chapel of St. Ignatius, and for reproduction of the true contract containing the deal made with the demon. The young man made profession of the orthodox Catholic faith, renounced the demon, and received the Holy Eucharist. Then with terrible cries he said that he saw two goats of immense size standing with their forefeet in the air, each holding between its hoofs one of the contracts.

But when the exorcism began and the name of St. Ignatius was invoked, the two goats disappeared and there issued from the arm or left hand of the young manpractically without pain and leaving no scara contract, which fell at the feet of the exorcist. There remained the contract that had been retained by the demon. The exorcisms began once more. St. Ignatius was invoked and a mass was promised in his honor. A stork appearedlarge, deformed, and ill-shapenand dropped from its beak the second contract, which was found on the altar.

Of Magic and Medicine

There is frequent mention among ancient writers of certain demons that showed themselves, especially at midday, to those with whom they were on familiar terms. They visited such persons in the form of men or animals or allowed themselves to be enclosed in a letter, account, or vial, or even in a ring, wide and hollow within. "Magicians are known," states Pierre Le Loyer, "who make use of them [demons], and to my great regret I am forced to admit that the practice is only too common."

Housdorf in his Théâtre des exemples du 8e commandement, quoted by Simon Goulart, states,

"A doctor of medicine forgot himself so far as to form an alliance with the enemy of our salvation whom he called up and enclosed in a glass from which the seducer and familiar spirit answered him. The doctor was fortunate in the cure of ailments, and amassed great wealth in his practice, so much so that he left his children the sum of 78,000 francs. Shortly before his death, when his conscience began to prick him, he fell into such a frenzy that he never spoke but to invoke the devil or blaspheme the Holy Ghost and it was in this unfortunate condition that he passed away."

A Priest's Pact

In the celebrated case of Urbain Grandier and the Nuns of Loudon, the diabolical pact between Grandier and the devils was produced as evidence in his trial in 1634. It survives today in the Bibliothèque Nationale in France. This extraordinary document is handwritten in looking-glass letters in Latin (presumably devils did everything in reverse) and bears the signatures (also reversed) of Satanas Beelzebub, Elimi Leviathan, and Astaroth. Urbain Grandier's pact, in his own handwriting and signed, states his allegiance to Lucifer and his renunciation of the Christian faith. In return, the pact promises Grandier the love of women, wealth, and worldly honor. There are, of course, doubts as to the authenticity of this document, which the prosecution at Grandier's trial claimed had been stolen by the demon Asmodeus from Lucifer's private files.

Charges of a pact with the devil were also entered in the trials of Jeanne D'Arc and Gilles de Laval.

Modern Satanism

With the revival of occultism in the nineteenth century and the emergence of Satanism in France, a new set of modern accounts of pacts with the devil began to appear. Such pacts were discussed at length by Paul Christian in his monumental History and Practice of Magic (1870). Montague Summers, for example, describes an incident reported in 1929 by Maurice Garcon, who claimed to have watched a sorcerer invoke Satan in a secluded location near Fontainebleau. At the peak of the midnight ceremony, the sorcerer offered the devil a pact written in his own blood. He offered his soul and another soul to the devil for every wish he was granted in life. However, the devil did not appear.

Gracon said he believed that the devil refused to become visible because he (Gracon) was spying upon the sorcerer.


Christian, Paul. The History and Practice of Magic. N.p., 1870. Revised edition, New York: Citadel Press, 1969.

Robbins, Rossell Hope. The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology. New York: Crown Publishers, 1959.

Russell, Jeffrey Burton. Witchcraft in the Middle Ages. Ithaca,N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1972.

Summers, Montague. A Popular History of Witchcraft. New York: Causeway Books, 1973.