Religious Roots

Demonologists looked to the Bible to provide the theological underpinnings of witchcraft. The Bible offered ample “evidence” of the existence of the devil and just enough mention of witches to draw a link between the two. Although silent on the topic of who witches were and what they did, the Bible affirmed their existence and made it abundantly clear what should be done about them. The most famous admonition comes from Exodus: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” Other references to sorcerers, soothsayers, and spirits appear in Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and elsewhere, and these brief mentions were also used as proof of the evils of witchcraft.

First published in 1493, The Nuremberg Chronicle is an illustrated history of the world that helped render Biblical stories into a popular historical narrative. It is a celebrated example of early printing and book design, noted for its integration of text with 1,809 woodcut illustrations. Included are several images depicting human engagement with devils and demons—most famously the “Witch of Berkeley” woodcut—that would preoccupy southern Germany.

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