The Devil appeared to MARTIN LUTHER in the form of a monk with bird claw hands, according to an account written by Georgius Godelmannus in 1591. Godelmannus relates that while he was studying law at the University of Wittenberg, Germany, he heard a story from several of his teachers about a monk who appeared and knocked hard upon the door of Luther. He was invited in and began to speak of papist errors and other theological matters. Luther grew impatient and said his time was being wasted, and the monk should consult a Bible for answers. At that point, he noticed that the monk’s hands were like bird claws. Luther showed the monk a passage in Genesis that says, “The seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent.” Exposed, the Devil went into a rage, threw about Luther’s ink and writing materials, and fled, leaving behind him a stench that lasted for days.
From childhood, Luther felt attacked by DEMONs and evil spirits; attacks increased as he grew older and reached great intensity while he was exiled at Wartburg and was at work on translating the Bible into German. He attributed his mood swings and depressions to the operations of demons, as well as his on going health problems. He said he combated them with prayer and “happy song.” Reportedly, he was pestered one night by the Devil and drove him away by throwing his inkwell at him. An ink stain remained in his room at the castle for a long time. He also said that he drove the Devil away with ink, which may have been a reference to his writings.
He was completely believing of the evil nature and powers of witches and their allegiance to the Devil, stating, “I should have no compassion on these witches; I would burn all of them. We read in the old law that the priests threw the first stones at these malefactors. . . . Does not witchcraft, then, merit death, which is a revolt of the creature against the Creator, a denial to God of the authority which it accords to the demon?”
Luther said his mother had been harassed by a witch, who had cursed him and his siblings to cry themselves to death. The CURSE was broken by a preacher who collected the witch’s footprints and threw them into a river. Luther believed that witches shape shifted into animal forms and flew through the air to SABBATs. The Devil caused diseases, he said, by making them appear to have natural causes. Many physicians do not realize this, he said, and should add faith and prayer to their medical treatments. All mentally ill people are under POSSESSION by the Devil, Luther said, and are possessed with God’s permission. They are capable of blasting crops, brewing tempests and storms, and causing pestilence, fires, fevers, and severe diseases. He said people do engage in pacts with the Devil to further their selfish gains, but there is always a heavy price to pay. He related a case of a sorcerer in Erfurt who tried to escape his poverty by making such a pact. The Devil gave him a crystal for divination, which the sorcerer used to become rich. But he accused innocent people of theft and was arrested. He confessed to his pact and repented but was burned at the stake anyway. Luther also said the Devil raped maidens bathing in water and impregnated them, then took their infants and exchanged them for others, much as in lore of the FAIRIES and their changelings. The changelings never lived beyond 18 or 19 years of age.
According to one story, the Devil himself visited Luther while he was studying at the University of Wittenberg. He arrived disguised as a monk and asked for Luther’s advice on “papal errors.” The “monk” continued interrogating Luther, who grew impatient. Then Luther saw that his visitor had hands like bird talons, and he ordered him to depart. The Devil gave out a great stinking fart and left. The stench lasted for days. Luther performed at least one EXORCISM, on a pastor from Torgau who went to him for advice. The Devil had been tormenting him for a year, the pastor said, by throwing around pots and dishes, breaking them, and laughing at him while remaining invisible. The pastor’s wife and children wanted to move. Luther told him to have patience and to pray. He ordered the demon to depart.
Luther also believed that as one advances in faith, the Devil increases attacks upon him. He felt this in his own life, enduring physical distress, poltergeist disturbances, and mental interferences that he attributed to the Devil. He considered the pope to be the ANTICHRIST.
After the start of the Reformation, tales circulated that Luther had been born of the Devil, a common accusation levied against religious and political enemies of all kinds. According to one, the Devil disguised himself as a merchant of jewelry and went to Wittenberg, where he encountered Margarita, his mother, and seduced her. After Luther’s birth, the Devil counseled him in how to advance himself in the world. He did well at school, became a monk, ravished a nun, and then rejected his monastic life. He went to Rome, where he was treated poorly by the pope and his cardinals. He asked his father how to exact revenge and was told to write a commentary upon the Lord’s Prayer. The commentary vaulted him into the spotlight, and he became the chief purveyor of the heresy that became Protestantism.
Guazzo, Francesco-Maria (17th century) Italian friar and demonologist. Francesco-Maria Guazzo is best known as the author of Compendium Malefi carum (Handbook of Witches), a leading inquisitor’s guide published in 1608. Little is known about Guazzo’s life. He joined the Brethren of St. Ambrose ad Nemus and St. Barnabas in Milan. He wrote the Compendium over a three-year period in response to a request from Cardinal Federico Borromeo, the archbishop of Milan. The book, published in 1608, draws upon the works of other demonologists and repeats some of the superstitions of the time, including the assertion that MARTIN LUTHER was born from the union of the DEVIL and a nun.