King James sits down to writes a book about witchcraft

King James was King James the fourth of Scotland, and then in 1603 became King James the First of England [ref] [/ref]. He ruled in a time of political and religious intrigue. During his time he authorized an official version of the bible, the King James bible, which was in use for more than 250 years. But he also personally sat down to write a guide so people could better understand spirits and witchcraft.

Originally published in 1597, Daemonologie saw a re-release when he ascended the throne of England [ref] [/ref]. Written in the form of a dialogue, two speakers, Philomathes, who believes in it all and the skeptic Epistemon are engaged in conversation. Fortunately, Philomathes is able to win over his skeptical colleague and educate him not only of witches and magic, but succubae and other demons.

Illustration of witches, perhaps being tortured before James VI and I, from his Daemonologie (1597)

In his play, Macbeth, Shakespeare drew heavily on the imagery of witches provided by King James in the Demonology [ref]n [/ref]. This included the potions the witches made, their ability of vanishing and invisible flight, and the ability to raise storms. In fact, King James believed he had been personally affected by a storm raised by witchcraft. In the North Berwick witch trials, a confession was extracted about a cat thrown out at sea to stop the King’s safe journey to Denmark. [ref] [/ref]

Unfortunately, Daemonologie, and the Kings belief in witchcraft would help lead to over 2500 women being executed in Scotland over the next two hundred years. Not that the King was solely responsible, but his rigour and zeal saw witch hunts in Scotland far more common than they would otherwise be. [ref] [/ref]

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