Bodin, Jean (1529–1596)
A jurist and student of demonology who died of the plague
in 1596. An Angevin by birth, he studied law, classics, philosophies,
and economics in his youth and became professor of
Roman law at the University of Toulouse. In 1561 he went to
Paris, where he served the king, but lost royal favor on publication
of his book Republique, which contained concepts of monarchy
that were ahead of his time. His most famous work was
De la demonomanie des sorciers (Demonomania of witches), which
played a large part in the growth of witchcraft persecutions,
because it defined witchcraft and laid down methods of interrogation,
torture, and execution.
His Colloquium heptaplomeron de abdites rerum sublimium varcanus,
aroused very unfavorable opinions regarding his religious
views. In it Bodin discussed the theological opinions of
Jews, Moslems, and deists to the disadvantage of the Christian
faith, and although he died a Catholic, he professed in his time
the tenets of Protestantism, Judaism, sorcery, atheism, and
deism.
The Demonomanie was published in Paris in 1580 and again
under the title Flèau des demons et des sorciers at Wiort in 1616.
In its first and second books Bodin demonstrated that spirits
have communication with mankind, and he traced the various
characteristics and forms that distinguish good spirits from
evil. His topics include the methods of diabolic prophecy and
communication; evocation of evil existences; of pacts with the
devil; of journeys through the air to the sorcerers’ Sabbath; of
infernal ecstasies; of spells by which one may change himself
into a werewolf, and of carnal communion with an incubus or
succubus. The third book explains how to prevent the work of
sorcerers and obviate their charms and enchantments, and the
fourth divulges the manner in which sorcerers may be known.
He concluded his study by refuting the work of Johan Weyer,
or Wierus, who, he asserted, was in error in believing that sorcerers
were fools and people of unsound mind. Bodin recommended
that Weyer’s books should be burned ‘‘for the honour
of God.’’
Bodin participated in many witchcraft trials as judge and
was responsible for the torture of many suspected witches, including
children and invalids. He advised using hot irons to
cauterize the flesh so that putrefaction could be cut out. One
of his precepts was that presumption and conjecture of witchcraft
ranked as proof.
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Bodin, Jean
199
Sources
Robbins, Rossell Hope. The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology.
New York Crown Publishers, 1959.
Weyer, Johannes. Witches, Devils, and Doctors in the Renaissance
Johann Weyer, De Praestigiis. Edited by George Mora.
Binghamton, N.Y. Medieval and Renaissance Texts and
Studies, 1991.