Malleus Maleficarum

Malleus Maleficarum Part 1

Question III

Whether Children can be Generated by Incubi and Succubi.

        At first it may truly seem that it is not in accordance with the Catholic Faith to maintain that children can be begotten by devils, that is to say, by Incubi and Succubi: for God Himself, before sin came into the world, instituted human procreation, since He created woman from the rib of man to be a helpmeet unto man: And to them He said: Increase, and multiply,


ii, 24. Likewise after sin had come into the world, it was said to Noe: Increase, and multiply,


ix, 1. In the time of the new law also, Christ confirmed this union: Have ye not read, that he who made man from the beginning,

Made them male and female?



xix, 4. Therefore, men cannot be begotten in any other way than this.

        But it may be argued that devils take their part in this generation not as the essential cause, but as a secondary and artificial cause, since they busy themselves by interfering with the process of normal copulation and conception, by obtaining human semen, and themselves transferring it.
        Objection. The devil can perform this act in every state of life, that is to say, in the matrimonial state, or not in the matrimonial state. Now he cannot perform it in the first state, because then the act of the devil would be more powerful than the act of God, Who instituted and confirmed this holy estate, since it is a state of continence and wedlock. Nor can he effect this in any other estate: since we never read in Scripture that children can be begotten in one state and not in another.

        Moreover, to beget a child is the act of a living body, but devils cannot bestow life upon the bodies which they assume; because life formally only proceeds from the soul, and the act of generation is the act of the physical organs which have bodily life. Therefore bodies which are assumed in this way cannot either beget or bear.
        Yet it may be said that these devils assume a body not in order that they may bestow life upon it, but that they may by the means of this body preserve human semen, and pass the semen on to another body.
        Objection. As in the action of angels, whether they be good or bad, there is nothing superfluous and useless, nor is there anything superfluous and useless in nature. But the devil by his natural power, which is far greater than any human bodily power, can perform any spiritual action, and perform it again and again although man may not be able to discern it. Therefore he is able to perform this action, although man may not be able to discern when the devil is concerned therewith. For all bodily and material things are on a lower scale than pure and spiritual intelligences. But the angels, whether they be good or whether they be evil, are pure and spiritual intelligences. Therefore they can control what is below them. Therefore the devil can collect and make use as he will of human semen which belongs to the body.
        However, to collect human semen from one person and to transfer it to another implies certain local actions. But devils cannot locally move bodies from place to place. And this is the argument they put forward. The soul is purely a spiritual essence, so is the devil: but the soul cannot move a body from place to place except it be that body in which it lives and to which it gives life: whence if any member of the body perishes it becomes dead and immovable. Therefore devils cannot move a body from place to place, except it be a body to which they give life. It has been shown, however, and is acknowledged that devils do not bestow life on anybody, therefore they cannot move human semen locally, that is, from place to place, from body to body.
        Moreover, every action is performed by contact, and especially the act of generation. But it does not seem possible that there can be any contact between the demon and human bodies, since he has not actual point of contact with them. Therefore he cannot inject semen into a human body, and therefore since this needs a certain bodily action, it would seem that the devil cannot accomplish it.
        Besides, devils have no power to move those bodies which in a natural order are more closely related to them, for example the heavenly bodies, therefore they have no power to move those bodies which are more distant and distinct from them. The major is proved, since the power that moves and the movement are one and the same thing according to Aristotle in his Physics. It follows, therefore, that devils who move heavenly bodies must be in heaven, which is wholly untrue, both in our opinion, and in the opinion of the Platonists.
        Moreover, S. Augustine, On the Trinity, III, says that devils do indeed collect human semen, by means of which they are able to produce bodily effects; but this cannot be done without some local movement, therefore demons can transfer semen which they have collected and inject it into the bodies of others. But, as Walafrid Strabo says in his commentary upon Exodus vii, II: And Pharao called the wise men and the magicians: Devils go about the earth collecting every sort of seed, and can by working upon them broadcast various species. See also the gloss on those words (Pharao called). And again in Genesis vi the gloss makes two comments on the words: And the sons of God saw the daughters of men. First, that by the sons of God are meant the sons of Seth, and by the daughters of men, the daughters of Cain. Second, that Giants were created not by some incredibly act of men, but by certain devils, which are shameless towards women. For the Bible says, Giants were upon the earth. Moreover, even after the Flood the bodies not only of men, but also of women, were pre-eminently and incredibly beautiful.

        Answer. For the sake of brevity much concerning the power of the devil and his works in the matter of the effects of witchcraft is left out; for the pious reader either accepts it as proved, or he may, if he wish to inquire, find every point clearly elucidated in the second Book of Sentences, 5. For hw will see that the devils perform all their works consciously and voluntarily; for the nature that was given them has not been changed. See Dionysius in his fourth chapter on the subject; their nature remained intact and very splendid, although they cannot use it for any good purpose.
        And as to their intelligence, he will find that they excel in three points of understanding, in their age-long experience, and in the revelation of the higher spirits. He will find also how, through the influence of the stars, they learn the dominating characteristics of men, and so discover that some are more disposed to work witchcraft that others, and that they molest these chiefly for the purpose of such works.
        And as to their will, the reader will find that it cleaves unchangeably to evil, and that they continuously sin in pride, envy, and gross covetousness; and that God, for his own glory, permits them to work against His will. He will also understand how with these two qualities of intellect and will devils do marvels, so that there is no power in earth which can be compared to them: Job xli. There is no power on the earth which can be compared with him, who was created that he should fear no one. But here the gloss says, Although he fears no one he is yet subject to the merits of the Saints.
        He will find also how the devil knows the thoughts of our hearts; how he can substantially and disastrously metamorphose bodies with the help of an agent; how he can move bodies locally, and alter the outward and inner feelings to every conceivable extent; and how he can change the intellect and will of a man, however indirectly.
        For although all this is pertinent to our present inquiry, we wish only to draw some conclusion therefrom as to that nature of devils, and so proceed to the discussion of our question.
        Now the Theologians have ascribed to them certain qualities, as that they are unclean spirits, yet not by very nature unclean. For according to Dionysius there is in them a natural madness, a rabid concupiscence, a wanton fancy, as is seen from their spiritual sins of pride, envy, and wrath. For this reason they are the enemies of the human race: rational in mind, but reasoning without words; subtle in wickedness, eager to hurt; ever fertile in fresh deceptions, they change the perceptions and befoul the emotions of men, they confound the watchful, and in dreams disturb the sleeping; they bring diseases, stir up tempests, disguise themselves as angels of light, bear Hell always about them; from witches they usurp to themselves the worship of God, and by this means magic spells are made; they seek to get a mastery over the good, and molest them to the most of their power; to the elect they are given as a temptation, and always they lie in wait for the destruction of men.
        And although they have a thousand ways of doing harm, and have tried ever since their downfall to bring about schisms in the Church, to disable charity, to infect with the gall of envy the sweetness of the acts of the Saints, and in every way to subvert and perturb the human race; yet their power remains confined to the privy parts and the navel. See Job xli. For through the wantonness of the flesh they have much power over men; and in men the source of wantonness lies in the privy parts, since it is from them that the semen falls, just as in women it falls from the navel.
        These things, then, being granted for a proper understanding of the question of Incubi and Succubi, it must be said that it is just as Catholic a view to hold that men may at times be begotten by means of Incubi and Succubi, as it is contrary to the words of the Saints and even to the tradition of Holy Scripture to maintain the opposite opinion. And this is proved as follows. S. Augustine in one place raises this question, not indeed as regards witches, but with reference to the very works of devils, and to the fables of the poets, and leave the matter in some doubt; though later on he is definite in the matter of Holy Scripture. For in his De Ciuitate Dei, Book 3, chapter 2, he says: We leave open the question whether it was possible for Venus to give birth to Aeneas through coition with Anchises. For a similar question arises in the Scriptures, where it is asked whether evil angels lay with the daughters of men, and thereby the earth was then filled with giants, that is to say, preternaturally big and strong men. But he settles the question in Book 5, chapter 23, in these words: It is a very general belief, the truth of which is vouched for by many from their own experience, or at least from heresay as having been experienced by men of undoubted trustworthiness, that Satyrs and Fauns (which are commonly called Incubi) have appeared to wanton women and have sought and obtained coition with them. And that certain devils (which the Gauls call Dusii) assiduously attempt and achieve this filthiness is vouched for by so many credible witness that it would seem impudent to deny it.
        Later in the same book he settles the second contention, namely, that the passage in Genesis about the sons of God (that is Seth) and the daughters of men (that is Cain) does not speak only of Incubi, since the existence of such is not credible. In this connexion there is the gloss which we have touched upon before. He says that it is not outside belief that the Giants of whom the Scripture speaks were begotten not by men, but by Angels or certain devils who lust after women. To the same effect is the gloss in Esaias xiii, where the prophet foretells the desolation of Babylon, and the monsters that should inhabit it. He says: Owls shall dwell there, and Satyrs shall dance there. By Satyrs here devils are meant; as the gloss says, Satyrs are wild shaggy creatures of the woods, which are a certain kind of devils called Incubi. And again in Esaias xxxiv, where he prophesies the desolation of the land of the Idumeans because they persecuted the Jews, he says: And it shall be an habitation of dragons, and a court for owls. The wild beasts also of the desert shall meet . . . The interlinear gloss interprets this as monsters and devils. And in the same place Blessed Gregory explains these to be woodland gods under another name, not those which the Greeks called Pans, and the Latins Incubi.
        Similarly Blessed Isidore, in the last chapter of his 8th book, says: Satyrs are they who are called Pans in Greek and Incubi in Latin. And they are called Incubi from their practice of overlaying, that is debauching. For they often lust lecherously after women, and copulate with them; and the Gauls name them Dusii, because they are diligent in this beastliness. But the devil which the common people call an Incubus, the Romans called a fig Faun; to which Horace said, “O Faunus, love of fleeing nymphs, go gently over my lands and smiling fields.”