The First Section: An Appeal to the Mighty (fols. 17r-49v)


The Alberta manuscript, fol. 7v

The first section of the treatise offers a shrill, even breathless, appeal to Christians, calling on them to repulse and oppress a “new” sect of devil-worshippers—a “venomous brood” of evildoers who are bringing the long history of human temptation and sin to its culmination. (To view the original Middle French version of this vile call to arms, access the digital version of the text, start at the beginning of the table of contents, and click ten times on the right-hand pane. This brings you to fol. 17r.)

In Tinctor’s eyes, these sinners, the vaudois or witches, are more malevolent and misguided in their sins than are pagans (fols. 17r-23v), Christian heretics (fol. 23v; much of this section, which appears on the excised fol. 24, is missing from the Peel library’s copy), or Muslims (fols. 25r-26r). Each of these forms of “sin,” he writes, contains a germ of goodwill or an element of error; but the witches sin “by a mad obstinacy in error, seeing and knowing what they [are] doing, and rebelling against the divine light of the Holy Faith” (fol. 22r).

They do so by worshipping the ultimate font of evil, a Devil who “by presumptuous arrogance arises against the Creator…; they sacrifice their sons and daughters to him and at the same time spill the blood of innocents…, and boast of themselves as being marked with the sign and character of the Beast” (fols. 23r-23v). Indeed, he writes, the continued existence of this sect is bound to bring the coming of Antichrist and of the End Times—an era when “friends and neighbours will harm each other; children will rise against the old and the wise, and peasants will attack nobles: one will see in the cities nothing but execrable evil, rebellions and defiance” (fols. 31r-38r).

Faced with this almost incomprehensible danger, Tinctor writes, Christians must rise up to suppress the vaudois. After a brief appeal to commoners (fols. 38r-38v), he focuses his rhetorical energy on exhortations to prelates (fols. 38v-42r) and princes (fols. 42r-49v)—those best capable of “purging the vile, diseased and corrupt yeast of this error, engrained in the polluted hearts of the abominable witches” (fol. 38v).

Next: The Second Section: A Primer on Witchcraft