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
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 Sabbat; Witchcraft)
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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