Inflating the prestige of demons: Johan Wier's role-playing

Hans de Waardt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


In the sixteenth century, witchcraft was generally thought to be a grave danger. Specific people, a majority of them women, were believed to threaten the world as servants of the Devil. In his De praestigiis daemonum, published in 1563, the Dutch / German physician Johan Wier argued that human beings were unable to perform witchcraft and that the women who were accused were innocent but often deluded by demons into believing that they were guilty. In his plea for tolerance Wier was inspired by his brother Matthias and the spiritualist prophet David Joris. In order to convince his readers he used their prejudices, that he himself rejected, about the power of demons and the intellectual capacities of women.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)234-262
Number of pages29
JournalChurch History and Religious Culture
Issue number2-3
Early online date21 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Special Issue: Spiritualism in Early Modern Europe.

Publisher Copyright:
© hans de waardt, 2021

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • De praestigiis daemonum
  • Demonic power
  • Johan Wier
  • Matthias Wier
  • Tolerance
  • Witchcraft


Dive into the research topics of 'Inflating the prestige of demons: Johan Wier's role-playing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this