Sex in history, by Gordan Rattray Taylor

Naturally, persons of all ages, from eight to eighty, and of both sexes, were accused, though the biggest group consists of young girls from fourteen up. The idea that the persecutions were confined to a number of half-crazed old women is completely false, and the victims included many persons of prominence in public life. To take but a single instance, in the mass persecutions in Bamberg between 1609 and 1633, when 900 persons were burnt, one of those killed was Johannes Junius, a burgomaster of the city. Under torture, he confessed to witchcraft; asked to name accomplices, he denied having any, but, tortured again, named some. Afterwards, before his execution, he was allowed to write to his daughter. He told her not to believe what he had confessed —

“It is all falsehood and invention…. They never cease the torture until one says something.” (249)

In short, every case of impotence or sexual fantasy which came to the attention of the Inquisitors was bound, if pursued, to lead to a burning; hence the number of executions provides no index of the number of persons actually believing in witchcraft: if it is an index of anything, it is of the number of cases of sexual psychopathy occurring. The expression “witchcraft trials” is, in fact, quite misleading as to the aims and motives’ involved. The Church wished to suppress certain sexual, phenomena, and, just as we do today, it chose to make use of the existing machinery for the purpose — in this case, the machinery of the Inquisition.

Sprenger and Kramer, though their own observations were often accurate and describe phenomena which we can readily recognize as forms of sexual pathology, were always ready to accept, at second hand, wild stories which supported their preconceptions, however extraordinary. Thus, though they quite accurately distinguish loss of potency due to lack of semen from that due to inability to obtain an erection, they also describe a third form in which the penis becomes invisible and intangible — caused by a woman casting a “glamour” (it is to this power of bewitching that we refer today when we speak of the glamour of film stars).