Beliefs and Proceedings in the Affairs of European Witchcraft. A short thesis by Adam "Absinthe" Prout
By the time the Roman Catholic church was the dominating power in Europe, there were already three types of witches commonly believed in by the public and the government. These three witch types either came in the form of the Malefica, the Striga, or what was called The Ladies of the Night. Both Christian Canon laws and earlier Barbarian codes clearly recognized an issue with witches and witch beliefs. While there were common elements shared, they differed in how they viewed the reality of the beliefs and the punishment of the participants. The differences by the church, ushered in a completely new paradigm shift that would alter the future of witchcraft affairs and proceedings in Europe for centuries to come.
The three main witch beliefs were very distinct from each other before melding together later around the 13th century in the eyes of the church and the European populations. The Malefica was a female witch who would do harm or maleficium to their neighbors. She was usually blamed for any dreadful occurrences that happened in life that were beyond one’s control. She often took on the archetype of an old woman and it was usually a neighbor that was unpopular or disliked by the small village as mentioned in the Lombard Code and Salic Laws in Italy and France.
The Striga was the term used for the second type of witch, meaning screech owl. The term comes from the Greek word Strix meaning to screech. The Striga were cannibalistic and since they were bird archetypes, they could fly in the night to devour children and eat men people from the inside out. The last type of witch was less nefarious and threatening. The Ladies of the Night were viewed as a Dianic cult based on pagan beliefs. Diana was a Roman goddess interchangeable with Hecate who was said to ride at night. They were not viewed as evil but rather closer to something like a fairy.
Romans and Germanics had a distinct way of looking at the witches that would later be different from the Roman Catholic Church. There is evidence in the early medieval period of secular legislation about witches. The earliest Germanic Law appears in the 6th century, AD. Salic Law or Lex Salica, treats the Striga as a real being. “It hints at assemblies of witches with cauldrons; it fixes fines to be paid ‘if a stria shall devour a man and it shall be proved against her’; and it also fixes the fine in the event that ‘anyone shall call a free woman a stria and shall not be able to prove it’.”  This passage allows the researcher to observe that not only did they view the Striga as a reality, they also had a Wergeld system, translated; man-money or in other words, a penalty of fines for both falsely accusing or being guilty of the witchcraft. This source had to be written to deal with the popular belief of a witch problem.
Later in 643 AD, the last of the Germanic Codes called the Laws of the Lombards also show a fine for witch slander. It takes it further by saying “Let nobody presume to kill a foreign serving-maid or female slave as a Striga, for it is not possible, nor ought to be believed by Christian minds that a woman can eat a man from within.”  Here, we begin to see a departure of believing in folklore and its place more of a superstitious view. The key difference in the two passages is that the word “Christian” is introduced.
As time goes on and the Christian influence starts to take hold of Rome, the ways of viewing and dealing with witchcraft began to radically change. In the Lex Salica we see the Night Witch as a reality but there is no record of Roman Law doing the same.  In 789 Charlemagne’s Capitulary for the Saxons appears in Germany stating that the crime is now death rather than a monetary fee. The church view again shows up comparing its cultural law against old Pagan beliefs. “If anyone, deceived by the Devil, shall believe, as is customary amongst Pagans, that any man or woman is a Striga, and eats men, and shall on that account burn that person to death or eat his or her flesh, or give it to others to eat, he shall be executed.” 3 It is important to note, that the Church is claiming the Striga to be imagined by Pagans, but blames the Devil for it. This scapegoat for anything viewed as heretical is still in effect today although the consequences are not.
A primary source for wisdom on how the Church dealt with the belief in the Striga in the 11th century was the The Buchard of Worms, Corrector of Rustics. Over two hundred years earlier there were death penalties for believing in witchcraft, but in Buchard of Worms, we now see Church Law turning into a penitential canon. Like Charlemagne’s Capitulary, it differs greatly from the earlier Barbaric Codes which show belief in Striga as a reality. Whereas previously both law enforcement and townsfolk shared a common belief, law does not, and is punishing townsfolk who do. Instead of a belief in a supernatural being and a Barbaric punishment of fining, it has punishment for penance for simply believing in anything preternatural outside of God. “Buchards penitential shows that some women assimilated the belief so completely that they imagined themselves to be night-witches. It condemns such women not for doing harm to others but for indulging in a pagan superstition.” 
What is ironic is that the churches insistence on these being superstitions and not a reality, is something that seems counter-intuitive to what people are being punished for. This is especially true when we see that they blame these visions and beliefs on the devil. The mixed messages convey an illegal superstition, that is not possible because only God is supernatural except in this case the devil is, and he is causing all of this. We begin to see for the first time hints at the three types of witch beliefs coming together as one and the scapegoat becoming the devil.
“Have you believed or participated in this infidelity, that some wicked woman, turned back after Satan, seduced by illusions of phantoms and demons, believe and affirm: that with Diana, a goddess of the Pagans…ride on beasts and traverse the earth at night? For the multitude deceived by this false opinion, believe these things to be true…turn aside from faith…when they think there is any divinity or authority except the one God. But the devil transforms himself into…form and likeness…while only the spirit suffers this, the unfaithful mind thinks these things to happen.” 
It is interesting to note that the laws state that ones spirit can go through these visions and supernatural dream like states, but the body sins when it believes with the mind. It is an unfaithful mind that is “so foolish and stupid to suppose things that take place in spirit also take place in the body.” 6 It finally finishes the entry by stating the punishment for this is a penance for 2 years on appointed fast days. The same goes true for the women who believed they were witches. “Have you believed what many women, turning back to Satan believe...you can go out and slay persons who have been baptized…and eat their flesh and put straw and wood…in the hearts place to make them alive again...”  The penance for believing in this was another fast for a total of seven years and forty days.
The culmination of these beliefs over time show the development of society once believing in the 3 types of witches, later seeing the power of the Churches laws changing them to superstition and sins by the 11th century. There were common threads binding Barbarian Laws to later Christian beliefs and Canon Laws as seen in Buchards Corrector of Rustics. They were in similar scope until they were transformed into work of the devil, and in doing so, the mere belief in what was formerly thought to be common place realism became a sinful crime paid for by penance.
By: Adam "Absinthe" Prout
 Cohn, Norman. Europe's inner demons: the demonization of Christians in medieval Christendom. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000, 162.
 Cohn, Norman. Europe's inner demons: the demonization of Christians in medieval Christendom, 164.
 Cohn, Norman. Europe's inner demons: the demonization of Christians in medieval Christendom. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000, 164.
 Cohn, Norman. Europe's inner demons: the demonization of Christians in medieval Christendom, 166.
 Cohn, Norman. Europe's inner demons: the demonization of Christians in medieval Christendom. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000, 166.
 Kors, Alan Charles., and Edward Peters. Witchcraft in Europe, 400-1700: a documentary history. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania, 2001, 65.
 Kors, Alan Charles., and Edward Peters. Witchcraft in Europe, 400-1700: a documentary history. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania, 2001, 67.
Let them come who wish to come, And let them go who wish to go, And do not harm to me or mine. -Ancient Icelandic Invitation Formula for the Elven Folk
Prince of Brats