Who was Johan Weyer? What did his life say about his character? Most importantly, what influenced him in his publication of the Praestigiis Daemonum, and the Pseudomonarchia Daemonum?
After having learned more about him, I can be sure of one thing: His actions, magical career, and political activism made it possible for the proceeding generations to practice the esoteric arts.
So what about Weyer himself?
Johann Weyer was three things: A physician, a magician, and advocate.
When he was fourteen, he became a student of Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, whose name you might recognize as the author of the ever popular Three Books on Occult Philosophy.
Agrippa himself was set against social norms, the most notable example being ‘Declamation on the Nobility and Preeminence of the Female Sex‘ which, reportedly, is less about the liberation of women and more about creating controversy against the prevailing Roman Catholic Church’s extremism.
Being Agrippa’s student made enough of an impression on him to do the same. He did not hide the fact that he used the witch hunts as a tool against the Catholic Church. His De Praestigiis Daemonum was quite literally a point by point criticism of The Malleus Maleficarum, the Inquisition’s guidebook to it’s persecution of supposed witches. Weyer denounced the practice of accusing “silly old women”, concluding that anyone that confessed to witchcraft was mentally ill. For this reason, Johann Weyer was considered by Freud as an important voice in the development of modern psychology.Understandably, after having been so vocal , he had to seek protection as a physician to Duke William V of Julich-Cleve-Berg.
Weyer was a Lutheran, and it is likely he still believed in demonic posession. However, with his experience as a magician & alchemist, he probably had no desire to perpetuate silly superstitions of associating these spirits in his grimoire or any other as evil or ‘Satanic’. In fact, he made a point to describe the actions of people being wicked and worthless – not the Goetic spirits themselves – hence the metaphorical introduction to the Pseudomonarchia Daemonum:
“… In this age, where the kingdom of Christ is so attacked by by the immense and unpunished tyrrany of those who openly perform the sacrament of Belial, who will no doubt recieve their just reward.”
Now, lets not mistake this for saying that these people are worshipping some anthropomorphic deity. The language used here does not depict that. Keep in mind that, in Hebrew, the term ‘belial’ means worthless. Neither is Weyer literally depicting Christ literally being attacked, but the earth itself. Kabbalistically speaking, Kingdom, Malkuth, is represented by earth. I say in full confidence, taking Weyers words and deeds concerning the persecuton of witchcraft, that these entities were never intended to be demons.
So, let’s get something straight.
The Goetic spirits aren’t aides of Satan. Are they demons, though? In the English translation of the Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, the spirits are given legions of ‘divels’. However they are also freely given legions of angles, who answer only to God. Jehova is the one whom the magician appeals to, since, according to this theology, created and has power over them.
The Pseudomonarchia Daemonum does give distinctions between ‘daemons’ and ‘spirits’ in regard to the entities within the legions. The simple conjuration – which, really, would better be described as a prayer – also mentions ‘give me grace and divine power over all the wicked spirits, so as which of them soever I doo call by name, they may come by and by from everie coast, and accomplish my will…’ but in the introduction to said prayer, does not call them ‘wicked spirits’ or ‘daemons’. ‘When you will have anie spirit,you must know his name and office; you must also fast, and be cleane from all pollusion, three or foure daies before; so will the spirit be the more obedient unto you.‘
In their descriptions, the spirits are not themselves called daemons which would lead me to assume that they were not to be considered that. If Weyer truly believed these spirits were demonic, they would be described as such. Weyer was still a Christian, which is why he included a generic appeal to God as a conjuration, and any Christian in that era would have every reason to call these spirits demons. Yet he didn’t. He even took out the bit in the original document explicitly saying that these spirits were evil.
So are they demons? No.
Are they working for Satan in a secret plot to overthrow Christianity? No
I’m looking at you, Joy of Satan. But then again, you think pretty much anything not Christian or Jewish is Satanic. So, go on, get your rocks off. Just know that the evidence points to you being wrong.
A small mention must be made to the notion of the Goetic spirits coming from the 72 companions of Seth. This would be illogical seeing as the number 72 is used in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam as well as ancient Egypt. The original number of the spirits were much less than 72 until the advent of magical systems more influenced by Kabbalah.