Canon Episcopi


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Canon Episcopi

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

An early religious document of unknown origin, the Canon Episcopi was for many centuries taken to be the official Roman Catholic view of witchcraft. The canon was quoted by Regino of Prüm, Abbot of Treves, about the tenth century CE. It was incorporated into the Corpus Juris Canonici in the twelfth century by Gratian of Bologna, becoming part of Canon Law.

It is an early ecclesiastical statement to the effect that a belief in witchcraft was heretical. Only God, it said, possessed supernatural power, so such things as flying through the air on broomsticks and blasting crops were impossible. Later Church theorists were to reverse this position, leading to the extremes of the persecutions.

The Canon Episcopi describes witches as being "deluded by illusions and phantasms of demons, (they) believe and openly profess that, in the dead of night, they ride upon certain beasts with the pagan goddess Diana, with a countless horde of women, and in the silence of the dead of night fly over vast tracts of country, and obey her commands as their mistress, while they are summoned to her service on other nights. . . whoever believes such things or similar things loses the faith, and he who has not the right faith in God is not of God."

It was decided, therefore, that witchcraft was a fiction and that to subscribe to that fiction was to be heretical.

C A R M O N E Y W I T C H see IRISH WITCHCRAFT C AT see FAMILIAR