“Shew me in all the scriptures where Witchcraft went without Idolatry.” (Thomas Ady’s "Candle in the Dark", first published in 1656)
April 17, 2011
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The following quotes, concerning “good Witches” are all taken from Thomas Ady’s 1656 work A Candle in the Dark: or, A Treatise Concerning the Nature of Witches and Witchcraft: Being Advice to Judges, Sheriffes, Justices of the Peace, and Grand-Jury-men, what to do, before they passe Sentence on such as are Arraigned for their Lives as Witches. (here is a link to full, searchable text at The Witchcraft Collection at Cornell)
The bottom line is that Ady is in no doubt about the reality of either Witches or Witchcraft. He does, however, think the wrong people are being put to death. Instead of executing people mistakenly accused of malefic magic, Ady argues that it is those who practice beneficial magic, such as healing and divination, who are the real Witches, and that these women and men should “dye”. Ady makes it perfectly clear that he does not question the existence of such healers, diviners, etc (and Ady is considered to be a “skeptic”!). Ady also tells us that these practitioners of beneficial magic are commonly referred to by the general public (wrongly as Ady sees it) as “good Witches” (as well as “Cunning men”).
Ady’s logic is as simple as it is chilling. As a good Protestant, Ady follows the Reformation doctrine of sola scriptura (“by scripture alone”), which requires that all genuine Christian theology be based solidly on “scripture”. And the Christian Bible says nothing about the kind of malefic magic that people were being accused of, convicted of, and executed for during the Burning Times. But the Bible does explicitly condemn to death all those who practice beneficial forms of magic, such as divination and healing, for they are truly in league with Satan.
All occurrences of either “good witch” or “good witches” in Thomas Ady’s Candle in the Dark:
The First Book
- It being demonstrated what a Jugler is in the Scripture sense, let every one consider seriously who be the Juglers, of this and former Ages, that ought to be put to death by the Law of Moses, we might think that no man were so silly and foolish to think that it is meant common Juglers, who play their Tricks on Fayres and Markets, nor Gentlemen who sometimes in imitation of them, so in sport, play Tricks of slight of hand, or legerdemain, with confederates or without, for it si most certain and true, that if it bee rightly understood, that these do a great deal fo good, that recreation tending rightly to the illumination of people of all sorts, to whew them the vanity and ridiculousness of those delusions and lying Wonders, by which men were so easily deluded in old times by Pharaoh’s Magicians, by Simon Magus, and Elimas the Sorcerer, and now adays by our professed Wizzards, or Witches, commonly called Cunning Men, or good Witches, who will undertake to shew the face of the Thief in the Glass, or of any other that hath done his Neighbors wrong privily, when as they do all by Jugling delusions, are themselves right Witches, that cause men to seek to the Devil for help, that will undertake and promise to unwitch people that are (as fools commonly say) bewitched …
- Yet in Queen Elizabeth’s time, as appeareth in Mr. [Reginald] Scot’s Discovery of Witchcraft, in the fifteenth Book, Chap. 42 there was a Master of Arts condemned only for using himself to the study and pracice of the Jugling craft, how justly I will not controvert; but this I say, That if a man may not study and practice the discovery of Cheats without being a Cheater, nor the discover of Witchcraft without being accounted a Witch, it is the way for Witches and Cheaters to play their pranks, and no man able to tax them or accuse them, or to say who they are that are Witches; and this foolish nice censuring, and ignorant condemning hath bred great and general ignorance of this subject of Witchcraft; with God himself describeth so often in the Scriptures, for people to know and avoyd the practice of seducing, or being seduced by it, but for that Master of Arts before named, the Lord of Leicester having more wisdom in some things than some had, did protect him for a time after he was condemned, but what became of his is not mentioned, but yet if he had been a Jugler, or a practicer of that Craft to this end, to withstand the Prophets when they wrought true Miracles, as Pharaoh’s Juglers withstood Moses, of if he were one that practiced it to seduce the people after lying delusions, to magnifie himself as a false Prophet, like Simon Magus in the Acts, or to cause people to ascribe miraculous power to him, or to seek to the Devil as our common Deceivers, called good Witches, do, he was deservedly condemned; but to study Witchcraft, and actually to demonstrate it by practice, to shew how easily people were and may be deluded by ti (seeing God hath commanded Witches to be put to death, and what they are, is not now adays fully understood (no not by the Learned) is no more deserving death than for Master Scot to write a book in the discovery of it, or for a Minister to discover to the people the danger of an Idol; to which Witchcraft is necessarily joyned as an upholder and companion, or for a Minister to shew the secret and dangerous nature, and serveral windings of Sin and Satan; for the essence of a Witch is not in doing false Miracles, or any other Witchcraft by demonstration of discovery, but in secucing people from God, and his Truth …”
The Second Book
- Shew me in all the Scriptures where Witchcraft went without Idolatry (Isa.19.3), and had not a necessary dependence on Idolatry (Nahum 3.4). Look again (Deut. 18.10, 11) where all sorts of Witches are spoken of, why were they to be cut off and destroyed? The reason is immediately given, verse 14, because they defiled the Nations, in seducing them unto Spiritual Whoredom, and the Nations were destroyed for seeking, and making inquiry after their Divinations, or South-sayings, or Oracles, whereas inquiries ought to be to God’s Prophets, verse 15. Was not this Saul’s Idolatry, when he sought the Witch of Endor? (I Chro. 10.13,14). Was not this the sin of Manasses, where he is blamed for using Witchcrafts, when he made Juda and Jerusalem go astray to Idols? (2 Chron. 33.9) Were not the Witchcrafts and Whoredoms of Jesabel set down as two inseparable companions, her Witchcraft being the upholding of the Idol Priests of Baal, that by Witchcraft seduced the people to Idolatry? Were not Pharaoh’s Magicians seducers of Pharaoh, and the people, from God? Was not Simon Magus the like? But alas, how, and where have those poor souls that are commonly hanged for Witches seduced the people to Idolatry? Who hath been led after them for Divinations, and Southsayings; many indeed have been led after Southsayers, but they are termed good Witches, and whereas they as Witches ought to dye, many have been put to death by their devillish false accusations, and if the Witch of Endor were now living amongst us, we should call her a good Witch, so blinde are the times.
- Also the Scripture saith, the Lord killeth and maketh alive, I Sam. 2.6 maketh poor, and maketh rich; and in Deut. 32: There is no God with me, I kill and give life, I wound and make whole; but they say, God permitteth an old Witch to send the Devil to kill, and make poor, and wound, and a good Witch can heal again by unwitching.
- Christ gave the Disciples power of Devils, to cast ehm them out. ( Luke 9. 1) They say, a Witch can send a Devil into men and cattel to afflict them, and a good Witch can cast them out by unwitching.
- … they say, that is done by consent of the Devil, when a good Witch unwitcheth a man; thus do they make the words of Christ of none effect by their tradition.
- It is said in Isa. 41 Shew what is to come after, that we may know yee are gods; They say, a Witch can truly foretell things to come by her spirit of Divination (which they call a Familiar) and can by the same familiar tell what is done in another Town, or House, or Country, and can tell a man where are his Goods that are lost, as well as Samuel could tell Saul of his Fathers Asses when they were lost, and such they call good Witches.