Weyer, Johan (also known as John Wier or Wierus) (1515-1588)

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Weyer, Johan (also known as John Wier or Wierus) (1515-1588)

Protestant physician and demonologist, born in Basel, Switzerland, who compiled an inventory of devils published in 1568, in which he estimated that the devil 's kingdom consisted of an army of 7,405,926 devils and demons, organized in 1,111 divisions of 6,666 each. During the Reformation, this total was raised by the Lutherans, who calculated that the true figure was 2,665,866,746,664 devils.

However, in his major work De Praestigiis Daemonum et Incantationibus ac Veneficiis (Basel, 1568), Weyer denounced witch hunters for extracting confessions under torture, pointing out that extreme hardships would force even the most innocent to confess themselves guilty. Weyer offered a voice of reason, claiming mental disease rather than demonic possession. Unfortunately his book went unheeded and heavily criticized.

For a summary of Weyer's comprehensive book, see H. C. Lea, Materials Toward a History of Witchcraft.

(See also demonology )


Lea, H. C. Materials Toward a History of Witchcraft. Edited by Arthur C. Howland. 3 vols. Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1939. Reprint, New York: T. Yoseloff, 1957.

Weyer, Johannes. Witches, Devils and Doctors in the Renaissance: Johann Weyer, De Praestigiis. Edited by George Mora. Binghamton, N.Y.: Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1991.