In the thirteenth-century, a group of people called Luciferians attracted papal attention for Devil worship, and this time there can be little doubt that this is exactly what was going on. The Pope sent Conrad of Marburg, a gentleman described as a “sadistic fanatic who had been spiritual director of St. Elizabeth of Thuringia and had delighted in beating and humiliating her,” to Germany in order to squash the heresy taking place there.
These Luciferians believed that Lucifer and his host of demons had been unfairly expelled from heaven. Someday, they claimed, he would return and overthrow the Christian God at which time he would reign forever.
They did everything they could to offend God, since their reward would be an everlasting paradise with Lucifer. At least half a dozen contemporary sources give details of the Luciferians, and confessions by those accused were not made under torture.
Elements in the story of the Luciferians show further progress toward the conception of Devil worship that has been handed down to us through history. Initiates were made to kiss a toad, or sometimes a duck or goose, in either of two distasteful areas.
New members also kissed a pale man who was icy cold, and in this instant, they were supposed to have lost their Christian faith. There was a large feast with a huge black cat present, and those worthy of the honour kissed the cat’s rear end. The candles were then extinguished, and a massive orgy ensued. After they were through with that portion of the ceremony, a man appeared from a dark comer whose bottom half was like a cat. He was given a piece of the initiate’s clothing, and before he disappeared, he commended the leader of the group for his service.
There are two opinions stemming from this story concerning the Luciferians. The first is this: “This account of an initiation carries a certain conviction and it could have been stage-managed without too much difficulty.”
The second is: “Where a source contains untrustworthy or demonstrably false statements it should be treated with scepticism throughout; and that is the case with all the sources that tell of a Luciferian doctrine.”
That seems to be a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. The entire thesis behind the book that includes the latter statement is that witchcraft probably never existed in medieval times except for the inside of the imaginations of hysterical Christians. That, according to a modem Pagan and expert in the field of witchcraft is because the author has a limited conception of what is possible in reality.
She gives as example that author’s opinion that all accounts of ceremonial orgies are false, and counters with the assertion that “Orgiastic practices were a part of religious rites in many cultures of the ancient world, and are fairly widespread today.” The deductive reasoning behind this being that if there were orgies in ancient rites, as well as in present-day rites, there were most probably also orgies in medieval ceremonies, especially in light of the profuse reports of their occurrence.
Now that the Luciferians have been established with some credibility as genuine devil worshippers, we can see that there is some reason for the steadily increasing alarm with which the Church met cases of heresy. This next case, however, is somewhat different than the ones previously discussed; it is the persecution of the Knights Templar.
The origin of the Templars lies in the Holy Land around 1118. Inspired by the example of the Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem (who supplied pilgrims with medical care and other forms of charity), a Champagnois knight called Hugues de Paynes began the Templars as an order to defend pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem.
They took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience just as monks did, and in 1128, they were recognised as a holy order at the suggestion of St. Bernard.
Soon the Templars became well known throughout Christendom as the defenders of pilgrims in need. King Louis VII was one of the recipients of their aid during the Second Crusade, and in return for it, he granted them a large tract of land outside of Paris which became their European headquarters.
Other monarchs, including the Pope, were assisted by them and showed their gratitude with money or other gifts.
The Templars soon had outposts throughout Europe which sent their surplus funds to aid in the struggle of their colleagues in the Middle East.
Tithes and money collected for the Holy Land began to be entrusted solely to the Templars, and eventually, they went into banking. (Trade was increasing at this time, so there was a need for a credit system.)
At the beginning of the fourteenth-century, Hugues de Pairaud, treasurer of the Paris temple, was made treasurer of the French king. Many other members of the order were employed in similar positions around the continent and enjoyed great privileges.
Aside from the political and financial prerogatives that the Templars had, they enjoyed a great degree of religious autonomy.
In 1163, Pope Alexander was so grateful for their support of his candidacy for papal office that he issued a bill making the Order subject to the pope alone in all matters.
They were permitted to appoint their own confessors, and to exclude all outsiders from their meetings. For the Templars, this secrecy would spell disaster.
The first accusations of bizarre practices were levelled against the Templars in 1305 by a Frenchman, Esquiu de Floyran. He first sought the ear of James II of Aragon, but this proved fruitless because the Templars in his kingdom were extremely devoted to the king.
On returning to France, he saw King Philip and told his story once again. He said that he had been imprisoned with an ex-Templar who told him stories of such shocking activities within the order that he, de Floyran, felt it was his duty to inform the proper authority.
Word reached the pope by the winter of that year. Philip the Fair pursued the subject, and in 1307, the pope, Clement V, opened an investigation. Without first waiting for the results of this inquiry, Philip had an arrest order drawn up that detailed the supposed offences of the Temple.
These offences include many stock accusations that characterise Devil worship such as the denial of Christ, the Virgin Mary and God; abuse of the Eucharist; and traditional osculum infame, or obscene kiss that plays such a significant role in many anti-Christian ceremonies.
They were said to conjure the Devil and various other demons, pay homage to idols, and make powders out of the corpses of their illegitimate children as well as dead Templars. These and many other variations common to the accusations of Devil worship at the time were levelled at the Templars, many of whom confessed under torture.
Later, most recanted their confessions, but it was usually too late. Many Templars ended up dying at the stake.
The order remained under persecution until the pope dissolved it in 1312. Their property was confiscated, with healthy chunks taken by monarchs and the pope to offset charges incurred during prosecution.
The importance of this experience in the history of witchcraft is, according to a historian of that area of study, “that its extent and political importance fixed its characteristics in the public consciousness for generations.”
These trials were a model upon which later developments in the area of persecution of Satanists and witches alike, as well as other heretics, were based.
Were the Templars actually guilty of Devil worship? Probably not.
Some members of the society may have indulged in unsavoury acts, but this is to be expected in any group this size. The consensus of scholarly opinion on the matter seems to be that the possessions and power of the Templars were objects of envy to many in Europe at the time.
This, compounded by the facts that they were cloaked in secrecy and that the Crusades were over for all practical purposes and they were no longer necessary, made the Templars an excellent target for attack.
These examples of Devil worship provide a background for what would occur in Europe over the next several hundred years. Two reasons for this second outbreak are the circulation of accounts of previous heresies involving Devil worship, and the assault on Europe by the Black Death.
Since the plague was seen by many as God’s punishment for their sins, it follows that people would be very interested in discovering any kind of behaviour that would anger Him. With the widespread availability of theologically based discourses on how to root out possession, such as the Malleus Maleficarum (c. 1494), it was now possible for these people to be discovered and dealt with.
Although the Malleus was written somewhat late to serve as an example for plague-inspired heretic elimination discourses, it is the best example of the way in which Christian authorities viewed their duties in relation to this manner of heresy.
The examples of the Paulicians, Catharists, Waldensians, and the others show how the concept of Devil worship in the Christian world grew and spread.
With each new heresy, elements such as the osculum infame, Devil in the form of an animal, and the ritual orgy became part of the legend, and possibly practice, of Devil worship. It is almost impossible to ascertain at this late date exactly what did happen in the Devil worship rites of the Middle ages.
These people did not keep records, possibly in the interest of preserving their sacred rituals, but more probably for fear of persecution.