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Vaulderie

Vaulderie

A term indicating connection with Satanic powers, so called from Robinet de Vaulx, a hermit, one of the first persons accused of the crime. In 1453, the Prior of St. Germain-en-Laye, Guillaume de l'Allive, a doctor of theology, was accused of Vaulderie, and sentenced to perpetual imprisonment. Six years later there was burned at Lille a hermit named Alphonse, who preached heterodox doctrines. During the fifteenth century, many accusations of "witchcraft" were directed against those who followed the heretical sect of the Waldenses or Vaudois.

Such were the preludes of a persecution which, in the following year, the Vicar of the Inquisition, administrator of the Diocese of Arras, seconded by the Count d'Etampes, Governor of Artois, directed at first against loose women, but afterwards against citizens, magistrates, knights, and especially the wealthy.

The procedures against the accused had almost always for their basis some accusation of sorcery (i.e., malevolent magic). Most of the unhappy creatures confessed to having attended the Witch's Sabbat, and the strange revelations wrung from them by torture gave some idea of the ceremonies that, according to the popular tradition, were enacted in the lurid festivals presided over by Satan.

The following are some extracts from the judgment pronounced at Arras in 1460 upon five women, a painter, a poet nicknamed "an abbé of little sense" and aged about seventy, and several others, who all perished in the flames kindled by barbarous ignorance and fed by a cruel superstition:

"And the said Inquisition did say and declare, that those hereinunder named had been guilty of Vaulderie in manner following, that is to say:'That when they wished to go to the said Vaulderie, they, with an ointment given to them by the devil, anointed a small wooden rod and their palms and their hands; then they put the wand between their legs, and soon they flew wherever they wished to go, over fair cities, woods and streams; and the devil carried them to the place where they should hold their assembly, and in this place they found others, and tables placed, loaded with wines and viands; and there they found a demon in the form of a goat, a dog, an ape, or sometimes a man; and they made their oblation and homage to the said demon, and adored him, and yielded up to him their souls, and all, or at least some portion of their bodies; then, with burning candles in their hands, they kissed the rear of the goat-devil. [Here the Inquisitor becomes untranslatable].

". And this homage done, they trod and trampled upon the Cross, and befouled it with their spittle, in contempt of Jesus Christ, and the Holy Trinity, then turned their backs towards heaven and the firmament in contempt of God. And after they had all eaten and drunk well, they had carnal intercourse all together, and even the devil assumed the guise of man and woman, and had intercourse with both sexes. And many other crimes, most filthy and detestable, they committed, as much against God as against nature, which the said Inquisitor did not dare to name, that innocent ears might not be told of such villainous enormites."'

The eagerness displayed by the inquisitor and his acolytes so excited the public indignation that at the close of the year 1460 the judges did not dare any longer to condemn to death the unfortunate wretches accused. It was said that the persecution was only for the purpose of depriving them of their property. As in the case of many great wrongs, a reaction set in favor of justice.

Thirty years later, when the country of Artois had been reunited to the Crown, the Parliament of Paris declared, on May 20, 1491, that these trials were "abusive, void, and falsely made" and condemned the heirs of the duke of Burgundy and the principal judges to an amend of 500 Parisian livres, to be distributed to a reparation among the heirs of the victims. The events as Arras stand behind the formal change of attitude toward witchcraft made by the Roman Catholic Church in 1484 in that it was redefined as Satanism.

(See also Sabbats ; Witchcraft )

Sources:

Robbins, Russell 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.

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