Sex in history, by Gordan Rattray Taylor

It is not necessary for our purpose, fortunately, to give a full account of witchcraft, and only one further point need be made. Accusations of witchcraft invariably ended with the charge that the accused had committed sodomy with the Devil “despite his freezing coldness“. It seems fairly definite that at sabbats, those taking part had intercourse with the leader, who was in all probability equipped with an artificial phallus for the purpose, but I know of no evidence of sodomy. We may suppose, therefore, that this was simply a further instance of the Inquisitors projecting their own unconscious desires upon their victims.

It is often said that the Holy See declared witchcraft to be a heresy simply for the convenience of bringing it under the Inquisition. Where by the word witchcraft was meant the activities of the worshippers of Cernunnos, it is evident that no special effort was needed to prove them heretical; but where the psychopathies were in question, clearly some justification had to be devised. Recourse was had to the argument that witchcraft was performed by aid of the devil: but this alone was not enough to prove the case, for heresy consisted in obstinately rejecting the official teaching of the Church. Hence, if a man invoked the devil, believing it to be a sin, he might be guilty of sin, but could not be guilty of heresy. Only if he held that it was not a sin to invoke the devil, could he be handed to the secular arm for burning. Hence it was always necessary to prove that a person accused of witchcraft was a worshipper of Satan. It was, therefore, argued that to invoke the devil implied that one believed the devil could tell the truth, that to believe this was heretical, and hence even those who felt it to be a sin should still be treated as heretics.

Thus it was held heretical to be chaste or to fast in hones of the devil; but it was not heretical to invoke devils to seduce women, since this was a function granted to devils by God , and did not imply adoration. Earlier ages had distinguished between good and bad magic; the Church abandoned this distinction in favour of magic worked by the aid of the devil as against magic worked by the aid of God, and roundly declared that even to employ magic for good ends was a sin and a heresy if the devil was the agency, and merited death. Means, in fact, became more important than ends. By the same methods it was argued that it was not heretical to make use of the Host to divine the love of a woman, but it was heretical to do so by magic. (249)

Even these few examples make it pretty clear that the Church was not concerned with stopping evil activity, but with heresy. It did not deny the power of the devil to do these things, it admitted it; but protected itself by the claim that he could only do so by God’s permission.