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.


The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism © 2002 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Concerns over the reality of night flight and the Sabbath were, in part, motivated by the status of a single legal canon, the Canon Episcopi. The Canon Episcopi was supposedly promulgated at the fourth-century Council of Ancyra.
(49) Although demonic illusions may occur, the Canon Episcopi is directed against the worship of false gods like Diana who are in reality demons.
First, the meetings and actions of the fascinarii are a demonic illusion; second, this assertion is supported by the Canon Episcopi; third, God does not allow demons or thefascinarii the power to work maleficia, since he is all-powerful and good; and fourth, the evidence of accused fascinarii should be inadmissible since it may be brought about by demonic illusion.
(65) According to Jacquier, those who argue that the synagogue is an illusion draw on the Canon Episcopi. From this position, the Canon's supporters go on to assert that demons are not given the power to carry out maleficia at the invocation of thefascinarii.
(73) This mode of deception is that described in the Canon Episcopi. Those women who believe that they ride on beasts with Diana or Herodias are deluded by such interior apparitions.
A description of something similar is to be found in the Canon Episcopi, a piece of canon law dating from c.906.
The Canon Episcopi itself calls such stories hallucinations and figments of the imagination.