The Pacts with the Devil in Witchcraft and Black Magic
In the Aare-Thompson typological catalogue, in category AT 756B lays the contract- usually known as the Devil’s Contract. Mephistopheles - the German demon whose contract with an over-reaching Faustus became a legend, has been considered by many names in classical literature, the most common being Satan.
Usually an oral pact by summoning demons or invocations is used to attract the evil forces. The person offering his/her soul is portrayed as overly ambitious, having materialistic priorities... In the 15th century, when inquisition and witch hunts were prevalent this contract is said to have been actually existing. But the demon or the witch apparently never left a physical proof of the deal. Instead a witches’ mark was made by raking the claws on the conjurer’s flesh.
Sometimes it was thought to be sort of an invitation. Around the 16th century, some reports have been found stating that there have been several proofs of a written pact between a human and a witch or a devil. The human promises to give away his soul in exchange for the thing he wants the most.
The so-called written document was usually created using the conjurer’s blood. These documents which are said to have existed are also rumoured to be consisting of the devil’s signature. In books like ‘The lesser key of Solomon’, these signs are called the ‘diabolical signature’.
This mythical pact with the devil was brought into significance mainly in Elizabethan period, through Marlowe’s epic masterpiece, Dr. Faustus. This play catapulted this dramatic deal into prominence especially within the common folks. But the predecessor of Faustus, Theophilus, the depressed cleric, who sells his soul to the devil, is ultimately according to theological sources, redeemed by the Virgin Mary.
This is suggestive of the Christian acknowledgement of the mythical theory. This also indicates how important this notion is in Paganism and witchcraft. The Malleus Maleficarum discusses several alleged instances of pacts with the devil... Usually these pacts always had a satanic influence which takes the condition to a whole new sphere of witchcraft. Satanic elements in witchcraft are considered elevated and are almost worshipped and essentially analysed.
Witchcraft does not hide its historical past which has strong allusions to association with Satan. Around the 10th century, the text of Paulius Draconius was adapted for a narrative poem which elaborates Theophillus’ story. In this narration the element of necromancy is brought out to bring out its connection with the dead. Also Johann Georg Faust, who was the influence behind the creation of Marlowe’s Dr. Faust and Urbain Grandier, a French priest were both burnt at the stake. But surprisingly, Urbain is usually considered to be Satan himself, not a conjurer.
The contrast between human hamartia and diabolical wit is reminiscent to Goethe’s works. Now, every such tale of soul exchange has a didactic ending with eternal damnation in the fate of the conjurer. In witchcraft though, the devil’s deal was not considered to be punishable or sinful.
It has always been portrayed in dark magic as a previously existing clause; a past practice which was relevant up-till the 17th century. Literature has of course been a huge motivation behind highlighting the motif of the devil’s contract. Besides, Dr. Faustus, Gothic novels like William Beckford’s ‘Vathek’, ‘The Monk’ by Matthew Gregory Lewis, and ‘St. John’s Eve’ by Nikolai Gogol have upheld the contract with the devil motif.
In cinema too ‘Bedazzled’, ‘The Mephisto Waltz,’ ‘Belladona’, etc have done the same. Demonology suggests that there are specific months of the week and a separate hour to summon each demon. A ninth century Miraculum Sancte Marie de Theophilo infuses a Jew with diabolus, his patron provided the prototype. Jonathan Moulton, an eighteenth century brigadier as rumours have it exchanged his soul with the devil so he could earn gold coins every few weeks.
The sign of selling one’s soul to the devil is simply recognition of power, an acknowledgement of the master. It is a very strong symbol of surrendering to the dark forces. But then again in witchcraft, the deal with the devil is nothing wrong or treacherous; it is a valid historic option. The documents pertaining to witchcraft trivia also have claimed this ritual to be perfectly common.