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Remy, Nicolas (1530-1612)

Remy, Nicolas (1530-1612)

Nicolas Remy, a French demonologist, was the author of the frequently reprinted Demonolatry (1595), a standard reference for witch-hunters in the next centuries. He was born around 1530 at Charmes, Vosges Department, in Lorraine. His father, Gérard Remy, was provost of Charmes and his uncle held a prominent position in the department. Following their lead, he also became a lawyer. He studied at the University of Toulouse where fellow demonologist Jean Bodin (1529-1596) also studied and later taught. He married Anne Marchand with whom he had seven children. In 1563 Remy relocated to Paris where his career blossomed. In 1570 he was appointed lieutenant general of Vosges, succeeding his retiring uncle. Five years later he was also named privy councilor to the Duke Charles III of Lorraine. In 1591 he became attorney general of Lorraine.

Remy traced his interest in witchcraft to his childhood, when he first witnessed a trial of an accused witch. Once placed in a position of power in Lorraine, he persecuted them mercilessly, and bragged that he had been responsible for the condemnation of over 900. In 1582 he personally prosecuted one woman on charges of working malevolent magic after his eldest son had died, believing she was responsible for his death. In 1592 the plague hit Nancy, and he retired to the country to write his book, concerned that all should know the power of witches. He wrote in haste, and the volume was unorganized and abruptly changed subjects.

Demonolatry covers two broad subjects, the nature of Satanism and the activities of witches, especially their sexual lives. Following the lead of the Witches Hammer, the fountainhead of witch-hunting books, Remy assumed that witches are worshipping Satan. He also assumed that a sexual relationship with His Infernal Majesty was essential to the witchcraft rites as were illicit relationships with other members of the secret witchcraft fraternity. The strength of Remy's text was the material he brought from his personal involvement with numerous cases. His own personal reflections gave the volume an air of authority that previous witch-hunting volumes had lacked, which accounts for its widespread acceptance as a standard authority on the subject. Remy argued that the influence of Satan was everywhere, in fact that whatever was out of the normal was probably due to the devil. There are no unexplained facts, hence whatever is unknown is of the realm of demons.

Remy remained at his post until his death in April of 1612. As attorney general he was able to prioritize witchcraft cases and alter decisions in instances where local magistrates had, in his opinion, been too lenient on witches. It was noted that he retained his hatred and fear of witches to the very end.

Sources:

Robbins, Russell Hope. The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology. New York: Crown Publishers, 1970.

Shumaker, Wayne. The Occult Sciences in the Renaissance: A Study in Intellectual Patterns. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972.

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