Montague Summers (1880-1948)
Written and compiled by George Knowles.
Summers was not a witch, far from it, he was a Catholic Priest and devoutly
against witchcraft, however one feels that his contribution to the literature
of witchcraft deservedly earns him a mention in any roll call of witches.
He was an eminent scholar and author who wrote extensively about the
darker sides of witchcraft, demonology, vampirism and lycanthropy.
He believed adamantly that witches were evil servants of the devil 'Satan' who throughout history deserved all the punishments they received.
Summers was born Alphonsus Joseph-Mary Augustus
Montague Summers in Clifton near Bristol, England on the 10th of
April 1880. The youngest of seven
children, his father was a prominent banker and justice of the peace.
He was raised as an Anglican but later converted to Catholicism.
Educated at Trinity College Oxford, he also studied at Litchfield
Theological College and by the time he was 26 had earned both Bachelor and
Master of Arts degrees.
Summers entered the Roman Catholic Church and became
a priest in 1909, but his standing and position within the church has never
really been made clear. He was
commonly known as the “Reverend Montague Summers”, but lived much of his
time as a private civilian and was never attached to any particular church or
religious foundation. Some
reports have hinted that he had a special brief from high up in the Catholic
hierarchy to write about and denounce witchcraft and the occult.
He taught at various schools and wrote books on literature and drama, but
much of his time seems to have been devoted to academic studies on the darker
side of witchcraft and demonology.
He was a strange and mysterious man, who when
dressed in his clerical garb looked a distinguished and striking figure.
He had long silvery hair and fine soft hands that sparkled with jeweled
rings. Although he wasn’t tall in
stature, he had a strong and powerful presence and people stood in awe of him.
The author Dennis Wheatley in his book “Gunmen, Gallants and Ghosts”, in his chapter on black magic states quite frankly
that “Summers inspired him with fear”.
Wheatley also used his physical appearance as a model for his sinister
character Canon Copely-Syle in his black magic story “To
the Devil-a Daughter”.
One story about Summers claims that he had an
unnatural interest in small boys. Allegedly
during the early stages of his priesthood and while working as a curate in
Bath, he and another clergyman were charged with pederasty (one who practices
anal intercourse with a boy). However
Summers was acquitted and all charges were dropped.
Through his researches into witchcraft and the
occult, Summers naturally came into contact with some of the leading occultists
of his day. This lead to a curious
friendship with the notorious Aleister Crowley, as described by the author
Charles Richard Cammell in his book “Aleister
Crowley”. In it he reveals
that Crowley and Summers not only knew each other but also shared a mutual
admiration. At one time both
Crowley and Summers lived in Richmond, Surrey, as did Mr. Cammell, who tells us
that they used to meet in his flat and discuss their many interests in an
atmosphere of friendship and wit. Strange
indeed as they both advocated extreme opposite practices, although both had
singularly brilliant minds in their knowledge of the occult.
Summers devoted more than 30 years to an intense
academic study of witchcraft and demonology, subjects he felt many serious
historians had neglected. As well
as writing his own books on witchcraft, he studied and wrote a whole series of
translations and editing’s on the subject.
He reviewed the works of some of the pasts leading demonologists, men
such as Jean Bodin, Nicholas Rémy and Francesco-Maria Guazzo.
He also translated and edited into English other demonologists works,
including the works of Henri Boguet, Reginald Scott, Richard Bovet and Ludovico
His most famous piece of work was the English
translation of the “Malleus Maleficarum”,
written by Heinrich Kramer and Jacob
Sprenger, first published in 1486.
Through the Middle Ages and Renaissance and the entire time that
witchcraft hysteria reigned, “Malleus Maleficarum” was the most influential guide for the
persecution, torture and execution of witches. Summers called it: “One of the most important, wisest and
weightiest books in the world”. During
its time it was second only to the Bible in sales, until John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s
Progress” was published in 1678 and exceeded it.
A meticulous scholar and researcher, Summers
disagreed with and ridiculed the theories of anthropologist Margaret A
in that witchcraft was an organized religion in the Middle Ages.
He is reported to have said: “That is a most ingenious suggestion, but
a wholly untenable hypothesis”. In
his own book “The History of Witchcraft and Demonology” (1926), he maintains
that witchcraft, while not necessarily a product of the Middle Ages; it did
raise up at that time with sufficient force to threaten the very peace and
salvation of mankind.
Summers sincerely believed that witches deserved all
the punishments they received, he also believed that the confessions of many
witches tortured and persecuted, were not the products of hysteria and
hallucinations as many would advocate, but to be in the main: "hideous and
horrible fact”. He embraced every
belief about the evils and vileness of witches, and in the introduction of
his book “The History of Witchcraft and
Demonology” he tells his readers:
the following pages I have endeavored to show the witch as she really was – an
evil liver: a social pest and parasite: the devotee of a loathly and obscene
creed: an adept at poisoning, blackmail, and other creeping crimes: a member of
a powerful secret organization inimical to Church and State: a blasphemer in
word and deed, swaying the villagers by terror and superstition: a charlatan and
a quack sometimes: a bawd: an abortionist: the dark counselor of lewd court
ladies and adulterous gallants: a
minister to vice and inconceivable corruption, battening upon the filth and
foulest passions of the age".
Aside from writing about witchcraft, Summers also
had a deal of knowledge and interest in the theatre, and the dramatists of his
day. On one occasion in 1921, he
combined his two interests and directed a revival of the seventeenth century
play “The Witch of Edmonton”.
It was staged at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith with the great Sybil
Thorndike playing the part of the witch.
As a devout Roman Catholic, Summers completely
accepted the proposition that the devil 'Satan' was a real and fearfully
dangerous entity, and that witches were his servitors.
All his books about witchcraft, while brilliantly written and readable,
reflect this viewpoint. Perhaps the
most outstanding of his books are: “The History of Witchcraft and Demonology” (first published in 1926,
reprinted by Routledge and Kegan Paul in 1969, and again by Bristol Park Books
(New York) in 2010), “The Geography of Witchcraft” (London, 1927), “A Popular History of Witchcraft” (Kegan Paul, London, 1937), and
“Witchcraft and Black Magic”
(Riders, London, 1946).
Summers also wrote with equal verve, colour and
total belief about vampires and werewolves, a phenomenon that he regarded as
being allied to witchcraft, or at least associated with the activities of
witches. His books on vampires and
werewolves are say some critics filled with unsubstantiated old wives tales,
they include: “The Vampire.
His Kith and Kin” (1928), “The
Vampire in Europe” (1929) and “The
Montague Summers died on the 10th of August 1948. That same year a new edition of his most notable work, the translation of “Malleus Maleficarum” was issued. His contribution to the literature of witchcraft has been a most valuable one and while many today might decry his views, none can doubt the meticulous scholarship that he brought to bare on the subject.
His biographer is the late Carmelite (a member of the Roman Catholic mendicant Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, founded in the 12th century) Father Brocard Sewell.
The Encyclopedia of Witches &Witchcraft - by Rosemary Ellen Guiley.
An ABC of Witchcraft Past and Present - by Doreen Valiente.
His own books -
His own books -Malleus Maleficarum - By Jacobus Sprenger and Heinrich Kramer (A Translation) - The Geography of Witchcraft - The History of Witchcraft and Demonology - Witchcraft and Black Magic.
have recently receive a correction via my 'Guest Book', which I am happy to
append here having verified it's veracity. My many thanks to whoever
posted it :-)
have recently receive a correction via my 'Guest Book', which I am happy to append here having verified it's veracity. My many thanks to whoever posted it :-)
First published on the 23rd June 2001, 17:09:38 © George Knowles
Best wishes and Blessed Be
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esoteric guide to visiting London / Satanism
Unitarian Universalist Association / Numerology: Part 1
/ Part 2 / Part
3 / A
history of the Malleus Maleficarum: includes: Pope
Innocent VIII /
papal Bull /
Malleus Maleficarum /
An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum
/ The letter of approbation
Nider’s Formicarius /
Heinrich Kramer /
/ Montague Summers /
/ The Albigenses
The Hussites / The
/ Shielding (Occult
and Psychic Protection) /
Sabbats and Rituals:
Sabbats in History and Mythology / Samhain (October 31st) / Yule (December 21st) / Imbolc (February 2nd) / Ostara (March 21st) / Beltane (April 30th) / Litha (June 21st) / Lughnasadh (August 1st) / Mabon (September 21st)
Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) / Antelope / Bats / Crow / Fox / Frog and Toads / Goat / Honeybee / Kangaroo / Lion / Owl / Phoenix / Rabbits and Hares / Raven / Robin Redbreast / Sheep / Spider / Squirrel / Swans / Unicorn / Wild Boar / Wolf / Serpent / Pig / Stag / Horse / Mouse / Cat
In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar. For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following: Birch / Rowan / Ash / Alder / Willow / Hawthorn / Oak / Holly / Hazel / Vine / Ivy / Reed / Elder. Also see: The Willow Tree (Folk Music)
Rocks and Stones:
Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin: / Apophyllite / Amber / Amethyst / Aquamarine / Aragonite / Aventurine / Black Tourmaline / Bloodstone / Calcite / Carnelian / Celestite / Citrine / Chrysanthemum Stone / Diamond / Emerald / Fluorite / Garnet / Hematite / Herkimer Diamond / Labradorite / Lapis Lazuli / Malachite / Moonstone / Obsidian / Opal / Pyrite / Quartz (Rock Crystal) / Rose Quartz / Ruby / Selenite / Seraphinite / Silver and Gold / Smoky Quartz / Sodalite / Sunstone / Thunderegg / Tree Agate / Zebra Marble
Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:
Murder by Witchcraft / The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch / The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) / Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife / The Story of Jack-O-Lantern / The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost / Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) / The Two Brothers - Light and Dark
Old Masters of Academia:
(Ancient, Past and Present)
(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)
Abramelin the Mage / Agrippa / Aidan A. Kelly / Albertus Magnus “Albert the Great” / Aleister Crowley “The Great Beast” / Alex Sanders "the King of the Witches” / Alison Harlow / Amber K / Anna Franklin / Anodea Judith / Anton Szandor LaVey / Arnold Crowther / Arthur Edward Waite / Austin Osman Spare / Biddy Early / Bridget Cleary / Carl Llewellyn Weschcke / Cecil Hugh Williamson / Charles Godfrey Leland / Charles Walton / Christina Oakley Harrington / Damh the Bard (Dave Smith) / Dion Fortune / Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki / Dorothy Morrison / Doreen Valiente / Edward Fitch / Eleanor Ray Bone “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” / Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelly / Dr. Leo Louis Martello / Eliphas Levi / Ernest Thompson Seton / Ernest Westlake and the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry / Fiona Horne / Friedrich von Spee / Francis Barrett / Gerald B. Gardner / Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca / Gwydion Pendderwen / Hans Holzer / Helen Duncan / Herman Slater "Horrible Herman" / Israel Regardie / James "Cunning" Murrell / Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone / Jessie Wicker Bell “Lady Sheba” / John Belham-Payne / John George Hohman / John Gerard / John Gordon Hargrave (the White Fox) / John Michael Greer / John Score / Johannes Junius the Burgomaster of Bamberg / Joseph John Campbell / Karl von Eckartshausen / Laurie Cabot "the Official Witch of Salem" / Lewis Spence / Margaret Alice Murray / Margot Adler / Marie Laveau the " Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" / Marion Weinstein / Matthew Hopkins “The Witch-Finder General” / Max Ehrmann and the Desiderata / Monique Wilson the “Queen of the Witches” / Montague Summers / Nicholas Culpeper / Nicholas Remy / M. R. Sellers / Mrs. Grieve "A Modern Herbal" / Oberon and Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart / Old Dorothy Clutterbuck / Old George Pickingill / Paddy Slade / Pamela Colman-Smith / Paracelsus / Patricia Crowther / Patricia Monaghan / Patricia “Trish” Telesco / Philip Emmons Isaac Bonewits / Philip Heselton / Raymond Buckland / Reginald Scot / Robert Cochrane / Robert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and "The White Goddess" /Rudolf Steiner / Rosaleen Norton “The Witch of Kings Cross” / Ross Nichols and The Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids / Sabrina - The Ink Witch / Scott Cunningham / Selena Fox / Silver Ravenwolf / Sir Francis Dashwood / Sir James George Frazer / S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” / Starhawk / Stewart Farrar / Sybil Leek / Ted Andrews / The Mather Family - includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather, Cotton Mather / Thomas Ady / Vera Chapman / Victor Henry Anderson / Vivianne Crowley / Walter Brown Gibson / William Butler Yeats / Zsuzsanna Budapest
Many of the above biographies are brief and far from complete. If you know about any of these individuals and can help with aditional information, please cantact me privately at my email address below. Many thanks for reading :-)
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